What Does Joshua 1:9 Mean?
Joshua 1:9 is one of the most consulted verses in the entire Bible, but before we consider why that might be, let’s take a look at who wrote the book of Joshua.
Who wrote Joshua 1:9?
There’s a range of scholarly opinion on this. The traditional view is that Joshua wrote the entire book and certainly much of it has the air of a first hand account, however, some episodes, such as the narrative of Joshua’s death were clearly written at a later date, by someone else. The contemporary consensus is that the Book of Joshua was written by a group of anonymous authors and that it belongs to the Deuteronomic tradition of Jewish history and law.
What is the meaning of Joshua 1:9?
‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,
For the Lord your God will always be with you wherever you go.’ NIV
The Book of Joshua tells the story of the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan, under the leadership of Joshua. In this verse, God is speaking directly to Joshua, reiterating what has already been said. In the first nine verses of the Book of Joshua, God commands Joshua to ‘Be strong and courageous’ three times. Note that it is a command, not a request, not a suggestion; absolute faith is a necessity if Joshua is to be successful. In return for obedience God assures Joshua that ‘the Lord your God will always be with you wherever you go’. Christians down the ages have drawn great comfort from this text. It asserts that faith is not something passive, like signing up to a book club; it requires strength and courage in the face of adversity. What sustains Christians in the face of struggle is the knowledge that ‘God will always be with you wherever you go’.
There are, however, some commentators who argue that this verse has been misinterpreted, by Christians, and that God’s promise is specifically to Joshua, not to individuals in the 21st century. What do you think?
Joshua 1:9 King James Version
‘Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage;
be not afraid, neither be though dismayed:
for the Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest.’
The four hundred year old language of the King James Bible stands behind all modern versions and for many Christians its majestic language is still their preferred way to access the word of God. We can see that the text of the New International Version does not deviate from the meaning of the KJV but simply replaces archaic words, such as ‘withersoever’ and ‘goest’ with more familiar contemporary words.
Joshua 1:9 New American Standard Bible
‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous!
Do not be terrified nor dismayed,
For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.’
We might ask ourselves why the authors of the NASB chose to substitute ‘terrified’ for ‘afraid’ but retained the word ‘dismayed’.
Is this just textual change for the sake of textual change? What do you think? As with the NIV, the essential meaning of the verse, as it appears in KJV, is unchanged.
Joshua 1:9 The Message
‘Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage!
Don’t be timid, don’t get discouraged.
God, your God, is with you every step you take.’
The MSG version of the Bible often departs quite radically from the wording of the KJV but with this verse we can see that the MSG version remains close to the earlier text. The word ‘timid’ is a long way in meaning from the NASB ‘terrified’ and neither is it a synonym for KJV’s ‘afraid’. To me it seems to water down the power of the earlier text. What do you think?
Joshua 1:9 in context
In the Jewish canon, Joshua, whose name means Yahweh saves, is the first of the prophets. The Book of Joshua is the sixth book of the Bible and recounts events which span about 25 years after the death of Moses, around 1406 B.C. Scholars are in agreement that the Book of Joshua was written considerably after the events it describes, probably around 550 BC at a time when the people of Israel were in exile in Babylon.
Reflections on Joshua 1:9
Debates over whether the verse is addressed specifically to Joshua, or to Christians in general, seem to me irrelevant. The message that God is always present in the lives of the faithful is reiterated throughout the Bible. I see no objection to Christians taking comfort from this verse. What do you think?
Read next: What Does Isaiah 41:10 Mean? "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."The Book of Isaiah is one to which Christians often turn, for it is full of affirmations that we are in God’s care. An important message in the book is Isaiah 41:10. What is its meaning?
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