Inductive Bible Study on Joshua 11-19 – Free Series for Small Groups or Personal Study
Chapters 11-19 contain many lists and descriptions of the land and inheritances. It is suggested to have your group preview them and then combine them in one study to discuss the highlights.
Discussion Questions for Chapter 11
- Which area of Canaan were the Israelites fighting here in this passage?
- What was their enemy like?
- What did God tell them before the battle? What might God want to tell you before you face great difficulties or battles?
- Why did God say “you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire?” What did this show about their coming victory?
- What can we learn about the attitude we need to have when we face great opposition? What kind of opposition do you face? What do you do when you face that opposition or persecution?
- hat do we learn about Joshua’s character from this chapter?
- How can we imitate these positive character qualities in our lives?
- How long did this war go on? What can we learn from this?
Observations on Chapters 11-19
1. Their enemies were like the sand of the sea (11:4) – Not only were they numerous, but they were well armed with “very many horses and chariots.” From a statistical standpoint, the Israelites were big underdogs. (See Psalms 20:7.) But there was a lot more than statistics at play. As a friend of mine likes to say, one person plus God is already a majority.
Application: Sometimes we believers feel like we are in the minority. The masses of people around us disagree with us. The tide of culture and the principles (or lack thereof) in culture sweep against us, trying to pull us in.
When my family visited Bali, we visited a place called Devil’s Tears. Jagged rocks and cliffs thrust up out of the water and were being hammered by huge waves over and over again, each time plumes of water shooting into the air. It was strikingly beautiful, but also a reminder that sometimes it feels like we are those rocks. The waves of peer pressure smash against us again and again. One wave is just finished slamming into us when another comes. But we have nothing to fear from these things. (See Psalms 46:1-3.)
2. Victory is from the Lord – Just as in past battles, the Lord gave them an affirmation of the coming victory on the eve of battle. He promised a complete victory in which even their weapons of war, the horses and chariots, would be destroyed.
Application: Victory is from the Lord. We may face obstacles and difficulties, even enemies, just as they did. But if we rely on the Lord, we will be victorious.( Deuteronomy 20:4, John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 15:57.)
3. Joshua completely obeyed all the the commands given by Moses (11:8-15) – Wow! Here is really a complimentary statement. Joshua did not just obey half or perhaps 90% or even 99% of the commands. He obeyed all of them. It is not something which just happens by chance. To obey all of these things, he would have had to have paid careful attention to those commands. Perhaps he made a checklist, writing them all down and crossing them off when he finished. But Joshua realized that a follower of God cannot selectively obey certain things. Can you think of any examples in the Bible of people who selectively obeyed God’s commands? He faithfully did all that God had told him to do. He didn’t forget anything. He didn’t skip anything. Why? He realized how important these commands were. He realized his creator and ultimate authority was watching. How could he do less than obey all?
Application: We must strive to be like Joshua. That means we should not selectively obey certain things. Instead we must always strive to obey all that God commanded. Jesus commanded the disciples to “Follow Me…” Ultimately that is our job. Whenever we read the Bible we should approach it with the mindset to ask, “Are there any commands I am not obeying, which I need to start doing?”
4. Joshua waged war a long time with these kings (11:18) – At first glance it looks like these victories and this war was short and quick. The war is described in a couple of short chapters. But this verse shows us it wasn’t quick. Joshua fought these battles for a long time. He surely faced many untold dangers and difficulties. There must have been times of hunger and thirst. At other times they must have faced exhaustion. Wild animals, surprise attacks, dangerous terrain were everyday obstacles. Any who has led groups before knows that leading is not always easy. There are disagreements and different viewpoints to contend with. Sometimes those who are being led complain. Joshua certainly faced some of those difficulties as well. But he didn’t stop. He didn’t give up. He persevered. (See 2 Thessallonians 3:13 and Colossians 1:11-12.)
Application: You might hope that the trials you face will be over quickly. But it may not happen. It might not be the Lord’s will for your trial to end soon. You could face it the rest of your life until you meet the Lord face to face. It is natural to want the painful things we face to go away. Even Paul asked the Lord three times to take away the thorn in his flesh. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10.)
I know one lady who has faced almost constant neck pain and headaches for years. Sometimes the pain is so serious she can hardly not cry. Sometimes it is so serious she has a hard time focusing to finish sentences and forgets what she was going to say. So far no cure or permanent solution has been found. Her family has been praying for healing for years. But God never promises to take away all of our pain this side of heaven. It is an extremely difficult trial for her. Like Joshua she needs to fight this battle for a long time. She needs to maintain a good attitude, be joyful, and continue caring for others and serving the Lord even while in pain. And by God’s grace mostly she does. It is not like most sicknesses we face which last a day or a week. We can kind of grit our teeth and try to sleep more and we know that we will probably be past it soon.
Maybe you are facing a trial like hers or maybe yours is not as serious. Or maybe you aren’t now, but will one day. Maybe that trial will not go away quickly. You will need great perseverance. You will need a deep faith. You will need a solid foundation on God’s Word so that the winds of trial do not blow you away. Remember Joshua trained for yeas before he faced this, his greatest mission and his greatest trial. How will you train and prepare ahead of time so that when you face trials that never seem to end you can still emerge victorious?
5. Verse 19 – Joshua and the Israelites had learned their lesson. Making a treaty with the people of Gibeon was sinful and disobedient. That was the bad news. They had disobeyed God. The good news is that they didn’t repeat the same mistake. A righteous person falls seven times and rises again. That means we should not let our past sinful mistakes control us. Instead of making the same ones again and again, we need to repent and move on.
6. The Lord hardened their hearts – The case here is much like the case with Pharaoh in Exodus. See Exodus 9:12, “And pharaoh’s heart was hardened” is changed. This time it tells us that the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart. This should not come as a surprise. We already learned way back in chapter three that God would harden Pharaoh’s heart. But in between chapter 3 and chapter 9, we have seen something interesting. See for example 9:7, 8:32, 8:19, 8:15, 7:22, and 7:13. In each of these cases it either says that Pharaoh’s heart was hardened or that he hardened it. In other words, all the previous times, it was his own choice. It doesn’t appear that God took any special action to harden Pharaoh’s heart before now. What can we learn from this?
We learn that Pharaoh was already hard hearted and stubborn. He was responsible for his own decisions and his own response to God’s commands. He himself chose to disobey God’s command and rebel time and time again. It is not like Pharaoh desperately sought to obey God and save His people and God laughed at Him and hardened his heart. It is not like in his mind he wanted to say to the Israelites “Go!”, but only “No!” came out. He made his bed and now he needs to lie in it. At this point when God does harden his heart it is only after he repeatedly did so himself. We should take a warning from this. The warning is that if you willfully sin or reject God’s commands many times, you might cross a line of no return. You might harden yourself to the point where you are unable to turn back to God again. We learn of similar judicial hardening in Romans 3 and Hebrews 6:4-6. We should be very careful to always keep a clear conscience before God, repent of known sins, and be soft hearted to God.”
The people of Canaan also hardened their own hearts multiple times. Although they had heard of God’s greatness and power, they rejected it and refused to repent. The hardening of their hearts had been going on for generations. God had already made a decision to wipe them out for their sin. And now He made sure that they would not change their minds and flee or surrender. We see the phrase “without mercy.” Mercy is something that is undeserved. God sometimes shows it, but not always. In this case his mercy had ran out and justice ruled the day.
Application: We should never presume upon God’s mercy. It is the height of folly to continue sinning again and again and hope that God will do nothing to discipline or punish us.
Chapter 12 – The Israelites defeated 31 kings.
Chapter 13 – The land is divided for the tribes living to the East of the Jordan.
13:1 – Joshua was old and advanced in years. But his work for the Lord had not yet ended. God still had more for him to do before it was time to take him home. Joshua worked for the Lord until the very end of his life. In the world today, many people like to retire. For many, retirement is a time in their life when they can rest from all of their labors and take it easy. Twilight years of their life are spent traveling, playing bingo or mahjong, watching television, gardening, or collecting seashells.
Believers should have a different mentality. Recently someone asked me about my retirement plans. I told them that I will never retire from doing the Lord’s work. Our life is short and we only have this one chance on the earth to serve the Lord. It would be foolhardy to start resting before the proper time, which is when we enter into the final rest God has prepared for us.
The Levites received no share of the land – However, they did receive towns. Also the other tribes were supposed to help provide for the Levites so that they would be free to carry out the priestly service.
Chapter 14 – In this chapter, Caleb is given his inheritance. He had been faithful to the Lord in the face of great opposition and served him for decades. Now he could have his reward!
God rewarded Caleb’s faithfulness and made a promise to keep him alive until they entered the land and to give him and his family an inheritance in the land. Now we see that promise being fulfilled.
Application: God will not forget the good that you have done for Him. He will remember and reward you even if the good that you did for Him was done in secret.
Chapter 15 – Here we see Judah’s allotment and details of how Caleb conquered the land for his
- Hebron was given to Caleb, but he still had to conquer it.
- Three Anakites (giants) lived there.
- Caleb promised to give his daughter in marriage to the man who would conquer Kirath Sephir. There are two ways we can view this:
A. This was a type of test to find a brave man worthy of his daughter. In that case it could be considered a wise character quality test to properly discern the mettle of the person who wanted to win his daughter’s heart.
B. It was rash to guarantee his daughter’s hand to an unknown. What if a man with bad character was the one who conquered the place?
- Do you agree with A or B? Why?
- His daughter asked for and received both a field and springs of water. Caleb was very generous to the new couple.
Chapters 16-19 – The rest of the land is divided and allotted into portions.
What do we learn from these allotments?
A. God provided for all the people, great and small, rich and poor, famous or not.
B. Each person’s inheritance was permanent. God gave them the land so they owned it forever. It could be “sold,” but in the year of jubilee (every 50th year), the land would then be returned.
God had kept His good promises to Abraham to give the land to his descendants. Many obstacles were in the way and had to be removed, but nothing can stop the Lord from fulfilling what He has promised in their lives. In the same way, He will fulfill all the promises He has made for us as well.
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