How to Read Joshua

The Book of Joshua


Planting a garden requires the right tools. And so does interpreting the Bible. But instead of shovels, rakes, and weeders, we use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application. 

Joshua tells the story of the Israelite invasion of the Promised Land. This video from The Bible Project provides an overview of the book.The goal of this post is not to replace your personal study of the Bible. Rather, it is to help you navigate the story of Joshua, discover what it teaches, dive into how it fits into the rest of the Bible, and look at how it applies to your life. Use the questions below as a guide as you watch this video. 




Now that you have an overview of Joshua in mind, you can apply what you know to interpret specific passages in Joshua. Read the story of the battle of Jericho in Joshua 6:1–17. Utilize observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application to dissect the meaning of this passage. Use the ideas from the videos to inform your answers to the following questions about Joshua 6:1–17.   

Joshua 6:1-17 (ESV)

The Fall of Jericho

1Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in.2And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.3You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days.4Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets.5And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.”6So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord.”7And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the Lord.”

8And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them.9The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually.10But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.”11So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.

12Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the Lord.13And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually.14And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.

15On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times.16And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.17And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Observation asks the basic question: who, what, where, and when. It examines the passage at a surface level—the characters, events, themes, culture, and genre. Observations may seem obvious at first, but they open the door to the meaning of any part of the Bible. Be careful to not jump ahead to interpreting the observations, or assigning them meaning. Just list them. 

Example: The Israelites obeyed God's instructions.


Observe: As you read the passage, what observations did you make about Joshua 6:1–17? (Consider the major characters, plot points, locations, cities, landmarks, time period, background information, cultural aspects, genre, themes, and actions of the characters. Also, take note of any information offered in the video.)
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Where an observation determines what the passage says, interpretation takes the next step to find out what the passage means. We’ve asked what the passage says about God and humanity, and now we ask what that means. Look at the themes and ask what they mean as well.

Example: (Observation) The Israelites obeyed God's instructions. (Interpretation) No matter how strange God's instructions may seem, the people of God should obey Him.


Interpret: What is significant about each of the observations you made above? What is the main message of Joshua 6:1–17? How does its message connect with the main message of all of Joshua? (Think about what this book teaches about God and humanity and what that teaching means, as well as the meaning of the themes. Consider insights from the video as well.)
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Contextualization looks at how the passage fits into the rest of the book and into the story of the Bible. It connects the themes that pop up throughout the story of Scripture and sees how the book fits into the biblical narrative. 

Example: God tells His people to do strange things in many biblical stories. In Joshua alone He had them walk around cities and cross through a river. God told David to slay a giant, instructed Moses to hit a rock for water, and enabled Peter to heal a crippled man.


Contextualize: What themes does Joshua 6:1–17 seem to establish? How do those themes connect with the rest of the book of Joshua? What themes would you say have potential to carry forward into other books of the Bible? What themes connect back to the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy)?
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Application asks, “So what?” It considers how the meaning of this passage applies to our day-to-day lives. The point of reading Scripture isn’t to become puffed up with knowledge, but to be transformed. Ask God to show you how you can specifically put the truths from this book into practice. Brainstorm ways you can live out what you learned throughout your day.

Example: Even if God asked me to do something that seems crazy, like praying for a random stranger, I should seize every opportunity to obey Him. As I go about my day, I can listen for His instructions and obey.


Apply: How does the truth from Joshua 6:1–17 affect you and your relationship with God and others? What are some specific actions you could take to live out the truths found in this book this week? If you're having trouble coming up with an application of this particular passage, how could you apply the main message of Joshua to your life this week?
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The last step in reading the Bible helps wrap everything up. We take the time to summarize the main message and implications of the book. As you summarize what you learned, it solidifies what God taught you through this video.  

Share: Now that you’ve spent time learning about Joshua, how would you explain the main points of this book to a friend? If you were going to explain what you learned to a friend, what would you say? What would you be sure to include? Why?
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Reading the Bible doesn’t have to be like weeding a garden. You can find great joy in learning about God through His Word. Read through Joshua this week. As you study, use observation, interpretation, contextualization, and application as a guide. Take the next step and put what you learn into practice.



To learn more about The Bible Project, click here.