Biblical Character Review, Joshua.
By Wilson Campbell
Dallas Baptist University
Biblical Servant Leadership
Professor Jason Caillier
March 26, 2016
Leadership Approaches of Joshua
The book of Joshua in the Bible provides the telling of the events of the nation of Israel’s conquering of the land of Canaan. In the opening chapter of the text, we learn that after Moses passes on, God Himself made Joshua into the leader of the people of Israel. He assigned this responsibility to Joshua for the purpose of taking over the Promised Land in fulfillment of God’s promise to the children of Israel. Through out this book we can see many examples of leadership as Joshua guides his people through many battles.
The first aspect of leadership exhibited by Joshua was his willingness to accept the title of leader God had bestowed upon him. Israel was set to initiate war against the people of Canaan. This began with taking the city of Jericho, a great and mighty city (Joshua 6). Even with the knowledge that his people would go to war for the first time against this great city, he was still brave enough to arise to the occasion. His leadership during the battle against the great city of Jericho, which ended in victory for Israel, resulted in Joshua gaining great recognition through out the land. “So the LORD was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.” (Joshua 6:27 NASB).
Through out the first six chapters of the book of Joshua, we can identify certain traits that Joshua displayed. In modern studies of leadership, there has been identified a certain collection of character traits that are shown to be found in great leaders. Studies have come to find that there are about eight traits of character that hold the greatest significance. These are intelligence, alertness, insight, responsibility, initiative, persistence, self-confidence, and sociability (Northouse, Peter, p 20). We can see each of these traits in the model of leadership identified in Joshua.
Joshua’s intelligence is highlighted mostly be the decisions he makes. His ability to think and make decisions and learn from mistakes made him a leader that the people of Israel looked to for understanding. It was actually in the final chapter of Deuteronomy, verse nine, that we find Joshua “…filled with the spirit of wisdom, for Moses had laid hands on him.” We can also see Joshua’s intelligence in his choice to send two spies into Jericho to gather information on the people and the city so that he could make better decisions on a course of action (Joshua 2 NASB).
The ability to act without initial prompting to do so is what initiative describes. Joshua sent out the spies into Jericho without any need to be commanded by God to do so. On several occasions we are told that Joshua “…rose early in the morning.” (Joshua 3:14, 7:16, 8:10 etc.) Joshua had the initiative to be the one who rose early before the people, so when they awoke, they would see their leader ready to go. This set an example for the people, that they should do right, be eager to do so, and to not be lazy in all they do.
During the battle against the people of Ai, after their initial failure, we can see the trait of insight in what Joshua did. He had laid in 5,000 men in ambush on the western side of Ai, between Bethel and Ai. He then attacked the city and pretended to flee from the battle in order to draw out the people of Ai from their city. Once all the people of Ai left the city in pursuit of Israel, Joshua gives the signal to the men in ambush, and those men sacked the city. This resulted in the people of Ai having no where to turn, surrounded by the people of Israel, ending in the demise (Joshua 8). This demonstrated once again the intelligence of Joshua, but the insight he displayed in this strategy also played a prominent role.
With all of these unique character traits found in Joshua, to “Be strong and courageous,” (Joshua 1:9 NASB) were the two traits that God commanded Joshua to maintain in his leadership over God’s chosen people, and were what the people demanded of him as well (Joshua 2:18 NASB). Given that Joshua was to lead the people of Israel in war, we can understand why. Given the reality of the situation, we an now see where the Situational Theory of Leadership ties into the Trait Theory of leadership. The Situational Theory is based on the premise that the situation will tend to dictate what style of leadership is necessary (Northouse, Peter, p. 93). This brings over the Trait Theory in that the traits found in a leader for one situation may not necessarily work in another situation.
Beyond where Trait Theory integrate into Situation Theory, we have what is at the core of Situational leadership. This theory stresses the view that there is a balanced approach between Directive leadership and Supportive leadership. The directive behaviors of a leader result in one-way communication style, where the followers are told directly what is to be done, how, and when. While supportive behaviors generally involve two-way communication, providing comfort to the followers, giving praise and solving problems of conflict. The situation will dictate which behavior will result in the necessary leadership to govern the particular situation (Northouse, Peter, p. 93).
We can see example’s of Joshua’s need to use Directive leadership when Achan took things that were banned from the city of Jericho after they had conquered it (Joshua 7:1 NASB). Israel had been defeated initially by the people of Ai due to this trespass. Joshua was commanded by God to seek out the ones who had committed the crime and to destroy them once they were found. Joshua directed the people of Israel step by step to find the banned items, and to bring Achan before the people to pay for his sin (Joshua 7:24-26 NASB).
When it comes to supportive behavior, Joshua continued on the tradition of Moses in teaching the people. He ensured that all the people were made aware of their history and of the laws. He led them into many battles, and he stayed true to his word. In chapter 24 of Joshua, he reminds all the people of Israel of their history. He provides wisdom and guidance to the people, and challenges them to keep the ways of God through out their lives. As a part of his final address to the people of Israel, he declare, “…but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15).
Strengths and Weaknesses of Joshua
Out of all of the characters demonstrated in the Old Testament, it is curious that we find Joshua having no direct mention of his weaknesses. Throughout the book, the focus is not on Joshua so much as it is on the people of Israel as whole. There is not much direct identification of Joshua as leading from his own heart, but he leads through guidance from God throughout the conquest of the Promised Land. Joshua made many decisions through out this conquest, and they were all through either council with the LORD or direct orders from the LORD Himself.
The one area where we might see a weakness in Joshua is found in in Israel’s defeat by Ai in chapter 7 of the book of Joshua. When the spies sent out by Joshua returned and told him that only “…about two or three thousand men,” (Joshua 7:3 NASB), he listened to them and only sent out that number. These men were defeated, but we are told this is due to the sin of Achan in taking of what was banned from Jericho. Perhaps, though, this may be an example of Joshua acting in an arrogant manner. After his victory of the great city of Jericho, he may have made a decision out of pride, resulting in the defeat of this small unit of men to take the city of Ai. However, taking the text at its word, this may not be a display of weakness, but strength on the part of Joshua for following through with God’s commands.
There is a great deal of servant leadership that can be found in Joshua during these times. These features of Joshua’s behavior resulted in great respect for him among all the people. A few of the key aspects of servant leadership include being a follower first, a humble heart, and building a team (Wilkes, Gene pgs. 11-12). These behaviors of Joshua each served as major components of his leadership of the children of Israel. Through out the entire book, we see Joshua constantly deferring to God for wisdom and listening to his commands. In putting into action God’s word, Joshua utilized these behaviors to lead Israel.
Joshua always sought council from God. From Exodus to Deuteronomy, we see examples of Joshua’s honorable following of Moses and of God. After Moses sent Joshua and Caleb with others to spy out the land of Canaan, Joshua proved his worth through his faith in God. After bringing back the report, the other members of the team gave fearful reports. But Joshua said to them “Only do not rebel against the LORD; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey.” (Numbers 14:9 NASB). Even as a follower, he set the example for others to emulate. While all the sons of Israel were frightened by the reports of the others, Joshua stood tall and true to God and corrected the people. He proved himself a worthy follower for sure.
Though there are not many aspects of Joshua portrayed in a personal level, we see many great acts committed by Joshua from numbers through the book of Joshua. After taking charge of the tribes of Israel after their conquest of Canaan, he began to divide up the land for each of the tribes. There is a very unique event that occurs here between Joshua and Caleb. These two men were mighty warriors of their people. As we read through Numbers to Joshua, we can see a form of kinship develop between the two men. Joshua, great as he was, was truly a humble man who remembered his friends and always maintained himself on the level of his men. In chapter 14 of Joshua, Caleb came forward to speak with Joshua as the land was being divided amongst the tribes.
Caleb, a Kenizzite, was not a member of the Israeli families, but he and his people had earned a place amongst the people of Israel. Joshua, humbled by the words of Caleb, who reminded him that “…surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you and your children forever, because you have followed the LORD my God.” (Joshua 14:9 NASB). This was the blessing given to him by Moses for Caleb’s confidence in God, and his honorable service to him. Joshua humbled himself before his kinsman, and honored the word of Moses, giving the land of Hebron to Caleb and his descendants.
Most certainly the strongest trait of servant leadership displayed by Joshua was his ability to keep the people of Israel together as a nation throughout many years of war. Joshua’s leadership carried the entirety of the nation of Israel through out these trying and dangerous times. He built his team through setting the vision for the people as he prepared them for war, that the land of Canaan had been given to them by God. In his farewell address, he gave them their purpose into the future by saying, “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14 NASB). This would be what would carry the people of Israel forward as a united Nation of people under God.
Joshua’s Example for Ministry
Joshua was only a man of the people. He had no unique background or any particularly profound lineage of family. He was just a common man amongst his people. What set him a part form the rest was his willingness to step forward and cat through faith in God when others would not. God acknowledges this after Joshua and his brother in war Caleb return from spying out the land, and are the only ones to tell the people that they can win because God gave their enemies into their hands (Joshua 14:7-9 NASB). He remained faithful again and again across all of his days in being the aide to Moses.
As we work in our ministries, we can not allow ourselves to become down trodden and rebel against God’s mission for us. If we go forward to prepare for what God has set us out to do, and we se that it will be difficult, we must return to tell our people that though it is tough, we will succeed with the LORD. Joshua, due to his great faith in the LORD and his eternal desire to serve Him, was made the leader over al the people. He took responsibility for this, and took command of the people without hesitation. So we must do in our calling to minister to God’s children.
New American Standard Bible (NASB) (2002).. Joshua. The Lockman Foundation. Grand Rapids, MI.
Northouse, Peter, G. (2016). Leadership: Theory and Practice, Sage Publications, Inc. Thousand Oaks, CA.
Wilkes, Gene, C. (1998). Jesus on Leadership. Tyndale House Publishers, inc. Carol Tream, IL.