Yehoshua (Joshua) is the first book of the Prophets. Though the People of Israel had hundreds of thousands of prophets, almost none of their prophecies are recorded. The rabbis of the Talmud teach that only prophetic words that would be needed for later generations were written down and included in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.
Rabbi Shlomo Aviner notes in his commentary to Yehoshua that this does not mean that every prophecy in Tanakh is needed for every generation. Only the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), given by God Himself, has this eternal quality.
So which post-Joshua generation would need the book that he wrote?
Rabbi Aviner answers that it is surely our generation. The generation that has witnessed the creation, building and flowering of the State of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles and the miraculous victories in war must derive inspiration and instruction from the book of Yehoshua.
The book of Yehoshua has a number of central themes:
- Throughout the book, we are reminded that Joshua was Moses’s loyal student, and that his leadership is a direct continuation of that of Moses. The People of Israel are repeatedly instructed to remain loyal to the Torah of Moses, and we are repeatedly reminded that Joshua’s actions and the nation’s victories are as a result of the promises of the past.
- Throughout the book, we are taught that the entire Land of Israel belongs to the Children of Israel. We learn of the borders of the land, and of many key cities.
- Throughout the book we learn that unlike the life the Israelites led in the desert, in Israel God will not do all the work Himself. Whereas in the desert God fought their battles and sent them manna from heaven, the Children of Israel will have to engage in battles to take possession of the Promised Land and work the land in order to have food to eat. Human actions, in addition to Divine miracles, are necessary to merit and survive in the Land of Israel.
- Throughout the book, we are taught that the proper place for the Children of Israel is the Land of Israel under the rule of the People of Israel. Each tribe has its own inheritance, with the land divided based on divine lots.
Each one of these themes resonates with anyone with a connection to the State of Israel. After more than 2,000 years of bitter exile, the Jewish People has returned home and can serve God as a free people in its own land. This dream of generations throughout Jewish history has become a reality. The Book of Joshua is surely for our generation.