On Moses and Joshua

History has a tendency to repeat itself. One might expect that a work of literature intended to portray some type of moral truth might repeat itself as well, so it’s no surprise that there are recognizable patterns in the Bible. Some hold steadfast to a fundamentalist approach to the Bible, while others believe its purpose is to be read as a figurative narrative. Either way, the redundant nature of the stories and characters must be of some significance.

One might expect that Joshua would model himself after Moses. He was raised under Moses’s tutelage and he saw the blessings that God gave to Moses for being obedient. From a literal, fundamentalist standpoint it’s not hard to imagine that Joshua would mimic Moses’s leadership; Joshua would’ve studied Moses and learned about God’s nature through Moses. Joshua could’ve ascertained much about God’s covenant with Israel by observing Moses and the disobedient Israelites. Joshua was clearly modeling his leadership after Moses, but it’s not their similarities that sell this fundamentalist explanation, but their differences.


Moses was a hesitant leader. With a speech impediment and some serious social anxiety, he was the last person that he would expect to be elected to lead God’s people out of Egypt. Joshua watched Moses suffer through hardships and uncertainty, and Joshua would develop into the confident, decisive head of the Israelites that would lead them across the Jordan River into Canaan.


Another idea is that Joshua needed to be like Moses to continue the Israelite tradition of a strong leader who would lead God’s people into the promise land. This accounts for the supernatural intercession of the protagonist alongside Joshua in ways similar to how He did with Moses- such as allowing his people to cross a body of water on dry land. Moses died before he was able to see the Promise Land. This left ancient Israel with a problem: how can this leader, Moses, who was unlike any man described in the Bible not reap the rewards of his work? According to Deuteronomy he sinned. But, because of the petty nature of his transgression along with the mighty consequence he faced it’s likely that the authors of Deuteronomy made his sin an excuse explaining how such a great leader could fall short of his goal.


The leader after Moses had to resemble the icon. Had Joshua not been accredited with a similar narrative, he might’ve overshadowed the original mouthpiece of the protagonist. Joshua also served as a reminder of past events. When the Israelites crossed the Jordan River on dry land, the reader is reminded of how God’s people were delivered out of Egypt. When Joshua raises his javelin, the reader recalls how Moses raised his staff. Deuteronomistic History, a modern theoretical construct dealing with Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, shows a repeated cycle of disobedience and repentance. The similarities in Joshua and Moses embellish the cyclical nature of these books.

This video contains relevant information from the opening until about the 7 minute mark.


The author of the ancient texts I’ve mentioned had a motive. Some would say that they were recording history as they perceived it, and some would say that they embellished it to fit their agenda, but undoubtedly the text that we have today attempts to pound admonitions into the reader’s mind by way of redundancy either in plot or character development. Joshua, clearly a character intended to hearken back to a deceased but beloved leader, becomes a refined version of Moses. It was Joshua that led the Israelites into Canaan, but Moses is never too far out of mind.


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