The book of Joshua has one dominant theme: God was fulfilling His promise to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, that He would give unto their descendants the land of Canaan (Gen. 12:6-7). As Joshua begins, Israel had recently conquered the transjordan territories of Sihon and Og, which would become the possession of Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh (Num. 21:21-35). Though the eastern territory was given to Israel by God, the land of Canaan proper did not include the transjordan, but rather was the land west of the Jordan River. (See discussion on this by Todd Bolen here.
The book of Joshua is named after its prominent character, Joshua, the successor of Moses. Following Moses’ death (Deut. 34) and a 30-day period of mourning (v.8), Joshua sent out two spies across the Jordan. They were told “Go, view the land, especially Jericho” (Josh. 2:1).
One can see that from their location in Shittim (Acacia Grove, NKJV, CSB) that the first city that must be taken in the Conquest was Jericho, believed to be the world’s most ancient city. It was a fortress city and guarded entrance into Canaan from the east. Located in the Jordan Valley, it is 670 feet below sea level, and was one the first cities in Israel to be excavated. The record of Jericho’s destruction by Israel is found in Joshua 6.
From the standpoint of military strategy, Israel would first conquer the central territory (Josh. 7-8), then the southern (Josh. 10), and finally the northern territory (Josh. 11).
I always enjoy seeing Jericho. This past October Jericho was included on our itinerary for my group, though it was later in the day than what is ideal for photos.
Recommended reading: see Biblical Archaeology Review, “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho? A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence,” by Dr. Bryant G. Wood (16:02, March/April 1990).
Click images for larger view.