The Book of Joshua (Hebrew: ספר יהושע Sefer Y'hoshua) is the sixth book in the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Old Testament. Its 24 chapters tell of the entry of the Israelites into Canaan, their conquest and division of the land under the leadership of Joshua, and of serving God in the land. Joshua forms part of the biblical account of the emergence of Israel which begins with the exodus of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, continues with the book of Joshua, and culminates in the Judges with the conquest and settlement of the land. The book is in two roughly equal parts, the story of the campaigns of the Israelites in central, southern and northern Canaan and the destruction of their enemies, followed by the division of the conquered land among the twelve tribes; the two parts are framed by set-piece speeches by God and Joshua commanding the conquest and at the end warning of the need for faithful observance of the Law (torah) revealed to Moses.
Almost all scholars agree that the book of Joshua holds little historical value for early Israel and most likely reflects a much later period. Rather than being written as history, the Deuteronomistic history – Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings – was intended to illustrate a theological scheme in which Israel and her leaders are judged by their obedience to the teachings and laws (the covenant) set down in the book of Deuteronomy.
Although tradition holds that the book was written by Joshua, it is probable that it was written by multiple editors and authors far removed from the times it depicts. The earliest parts of the book are possibly chapters 2–11, the story of the conquest; these chapters were later incorporated into an early form of Joshua written late in the reign of king Josiah (reigned 640–609 BCE), but the book was not completed until after the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians in 586, and possibly not until after the return from the Babylonian exile in 539.
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