Sefer Yehoshua, the Book of Joshua, is the first book of the Prophets. Though the people of Israel had many prophets, almost none of their writings are recorded. The rabbis of the Talmud (Megila 14a) teach that only prophetic messages that would be relevant for later generations were written down and included in the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible.
In his commentary to Sefer Yehoshua, Rabbi Shlomo Aviner notes that this does not mean that every prophecy in Tanakh is necessary in every period. Only the five books of the Torah, given by God Himself, have this eternal quality. The other prophecies written in the Bible, while relevant at some point in the future, are not relevant at all times.
Which future generation would need the messages in the book of Yehoshua? Rabbi Aviner answers that it is certainly our generation, which has witnessed the creation, building and flowering of the State of Israel, the ingathering of the exiles and the miraculous military victories. We are the ones who must derive inspiration and instruction from Sefer Yehoshua.
Sefer Yehoshua contais a number of central themes:
1. Throughout the book, we are reminded that Yehoshua was Moshe’s loyal student, and that his leadership is a direct continuation of that of Moshe. The people of Israel are repeatedly instructed to remain loyal to the Torah of Moshe, and we are constantly reminded that Yehoshua’s actions and the nation’s victories are due to the promises of the past.
2. 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.
3. Throughout the book, we learn that unlike the life the Israelites led in the desert, in Israel Hashem will not do all the work Himself. Whereas in the desert, Hashem 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 survive and to thrive in Eretz Yisrael.
4. Throughout the book, we are taught that the proper place for the Children of Israel is the Land of Israel under the reign of the Kingdom of Israel. Each tribe has its own inheritance, with the land divided according to divine lots, and they must all see themselves as sections of one great nation.
Each of these themes resonates with any contemporary person who feels a connection to the State of Israel. After more than two thousand years of bitter exile, the Jewish People have returned home and can serve Hashem as a free people in its own land. This dream of generations of Jewish history has now become a reality. Sefer Yehoshua surely speaks to our generation.