Did Joshua serve as a replacement for Moses in the same way that Elisha
served as a replacement for Elijah? Learn more about this question here.
Elijah’s ministry and Elisha’s ministry were very similar, as can be seen by the similarity of the miracles that occurred in their ministries (see "Elijah and Elisha"; this page will open in a new window). So Elisha’s ministry served as a replacement for Elijah’s ministry when Elijah went to Heaven.
Of course, the ministry of Moses had an immense number of miracles as well (see the “Miracles of Moses in …” links on the “Two Witnesses Appendix” page; this page will open in a new window). Did Joshua’s ministry resemble Moses’s ministry as much as Elisha’s ministry resembled Elijah’s ministry?
To answer, we need to make a comparison of the miracles of Moses and Joshua like the comparison on the “Elijah and Elisha” page (this link will open in a new page). The “Miracles of Moses in…” pages list the miracles attributed to Moses. The following is a list of miracles in which Joshua was prominent.
The Book of Exodus
Exodus 17:8-16 Joshua leads the Hebrew army during a miraculous victory over the Amalekites.
Exodus 24:9-18 Joshua, along with Moses, and Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, goes up to meet God at Mount Sinai. All of them see Elohim (God) (note: apparently not His Face; see Exodus 33:20); and all of them eat and drink there.
Exodus 33:7-11 Joshua remains at the “Meeting Tent” (which was the tent to which Moses would go to meet with Yehovah) even after Moses leaves.
The Book of Numbers
Numbers 11:16-29 Two men, Eldad and Medad, are empowered by Yehovah (God) to prophesy without any involvement by Moses. Joshua becomes upset about this; but Moses wishes that Yehovah (God) would put God’s Spirit on all of His people and make all of them prophets.
Numbers 14:26-32 Yehovah (God) tells the people that, except for Caleb and Joshua, no one who is 20 years old or older (those in the first census of the Hebrews) will be allowed to enter the promised land.
Numbers 14:36-38 A plague comes among the men that went into the promised land as spies. Of those men, only Caleb and Joshua were spared: the rest of the men died.
Numbers 26:63-65 The prophecy given in Numbers 14:26-32 is fulfilled.
Numbers 27:15-23 Yehovah (God) calls for the commission of Joshua to replace Moses as the leader of the Israelites.
Numbers 34:16-17 Yehovah (God) gives the primary responsibility for dividing the promised land of Canaan among the tribes of Israel to Joshua, and to Eleazar the priest.
The Book of Deuteronomy
Deuteronomy 1:37-38 and 3:24-28 Moses recalls how Yehovah (God) told Moses to encourage Joshua, since Joshua would become the leader of the Israelites.
Deuteronomy 31:14-32:47 Moses and Joshua meet Yehovah (God) at the Tabernacle, with God appearing in a cloud column above the entrance. God confirms that Joshua will lead the Israelites into the promised land. God also tells Joshua and Moses that in the future the Israelites will rebel against God, in the time after they have finally gone into the promised land. Moses tells the Levites, who are the priests of God, to keep the Law in the Ark of the Covenant; there it will remain as a future witness against the Israelites, when they rebel against God.
Deuteronomy 34:9 It is recorded that Joshua was filled with the spirit of wisdom in the time after Moses had laid his hands on Joshua.
The Book of Joshua
Joshua 1:5 Yehovah (God) tells Joshua that God will be with Joshua just as God was with Moses.
In Joshua chapters 3 and 4, the Israelites cross the Jordan River across the dry river bottom, just as Moses and the Israelites had crossed the dry bottom of the Red Sea about 40 years before (Joshua 4:23). Yehovah (God) ordered this to be done so that the Israelites would know that God was with Joshua just as God had been with Moses (Joshua 3:7-8).
Joshua 5:14-15 Joshua meets the leader of God’s Army. Joshua is told to remove his sandals since he is standing on holy ground.
In Joshua chapter 6, the Bible tells how the Israelites won a miraculous victory against the city of Jericho. The defensive walls of the city fell without any physical attacks against it by the Israelites.
Joshua 8:18 Yehovah tells Joshua to hold out his spear towards the city of Ai so that the Israelites will defeat the city.
Joshua 8:26 Joshua held out his spear against Ai until the city was totally destroyed.
Joshua 10:11 Yehovah (God) attacked and killed many of the Israelites’ enemies with hailstones.
Joshua 10:12-15 Joshua told Yehovah (God) to make the sun stand still in the sky, and God did stop the movement of the sun for one full day.
This completes the list.
Note: In the list, I did not mention most of the battlefield miracles associated with Joshua. I omitted these because, although Israel’s victories were no doubt due to miraculous assistance from God, the precise nature of that assistance is not given for the battles which I omitted (hence, detailed comparison of these miracles with Moses‘s miracles is not possible).
Let us now compare Moses’s and Joshua’s ministries.
To begin the comparison, please note that all of Joshua’s miracles in the books of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy involve both men.
In the two miracles related to the Hebrew spies and Israel’s rebellion (see above at “Numbers 14:26-32”, and “Numbers 14:36-38”), Joshua and Caleb are recognized as being the central figures of the miracles. As Moses never acted as a spy (and thus, could not give a good spy report, as Joshua and Caleb did), there is no miracle of Moses’s that is particularly similar to this miracle of Joshua’s. Therefore, there is nothing about this miracle of Joshua’s to indicate that Joshua’s ministry acts as a replacement for the ministry of Moses.
In the remaining miracles of Exodus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, we find that Moses takes the dominant role as leader of the Israelites, and Joshua takes a subservient role as Moses’s assistant. As a result, Joshua’s ministry is not acting as a replacement for the ministry of Moses; rather, Joshua’s ministry functions in a support role for Moses’s ministry.
Turning to Joshua’s miracles as recorded in the Book of Joshua, we find in Joshua 1:5 that God tells Joshua that God will be with Joshua, just as God was with Moses. Certainly, Joshua took over Moses’s position as the leader of the Israelites following the death of Moses (Numbers 27:15-23; and Deuteronomy 1:37-38 and 3:24-28); and God’s guidance made Joshua a good leader, just as it made Moses a good leader.
However, Joshua’s ministry did not need to be particularly similar to Moses’s ministry for God to be with Joshua, or for Joshua to be a good leader for the Israelites. Therefore, there is nothing about this miracle of Joshua’s to indicate that Joshua’s ministry acts as a replacement for the ministry of Moses (at least, not a complete replacement with regard to miracles).
Chapters 3 and 4 of Joshua tell us of a miraculous crossing of the Jordan River. The Israelites cross the river by walking on its dry bottom, just as the Red Sea was crossed on its dry bottom under the leadership of Moses (e.g. Exodus 13:17-14:31). There are some obvious similarities.
However, there is a clear difference. When Moses simply lifts his hand, the Red Sea splits (Exodus 14:21-22); but when Joshua leads the Israelites across the Jordan River, the priests carry the Ark of the Covenant to the river to split the river (Joshua 3:14-17). Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13:8,16) and not a Kohathite (descendants of Levi‘s son Kohath), and was not even permitted to carry the Ark (Numbers 4:1-20).
Thus, the miracle of the splitting of the Jordan River, as recorded in the Book of Joshua, is at least as attributable to the Kohathites carrying the Ark (and to the Ark itself) as it is to Joshua. For the splitting of the Red Sea, God works through Moses. So, with regard to the miracles of splitting water, there is certainly some resemblance between the ministries of Joshua and Moses, but there is also a substantial difference.
The meeting of Joshua with the leader of God’s Army, recorded in Joshua 5:14-15, has similarities with the meeting of Moses with God at the burning bush (Exodus 3:1-6). Of course, there is a difference between meeting the leader of God’s Army, and meeting God Himself.
Joshua’s miraculous defeat of Jericho in Joshua, chapter 6, is unlike any miracle of Moses’s ministry.
When Joshua holds out his spear in the direction of the city of Ai (Joshua 8:18,26), it is somewhat similar to what Moses did in the battle of the Israelites against the Amalekites at Rephidim (Exodus 17:8-16). However, there are many differences, too.
In Joshua 10:11, when hailstones fall on Israel’s enemies, it somewhat resembled the thunderstorm with hail plague that Moses called upon Egypt (Exodus 9:13-35). However, there is no mention of Joshua calling the hailstorm as Moses had done.
The Miracle of the Long Day (Joshua 10:12-15) may be the most impressive miracle in Joshua’s ministry, and one of the most impressive miracles recorded in the entire Bible. In fact, the Bible itself says “there never was a day like it, before or after” (Joshua 10:14). As this was written after Moses’s death, it is clear that nothing like this happened in Moses’s ministry.
(Please note that, at the time the Book of Joshua was written there had never been another day like this Long Day of Joshua. However, after
the writing of the Book of Joshua there was another similar miracle. In
Isaiah 38:1-8, especially Isaiah 38:8, we read that the sun retreated
ten steps along the staircase of Ahaz.)
After comparing the miracles in the ministry of Joshua with those in the ministry of Moses, it appears that the miracles of the two men do have some similarities; however, the miracles are quite different overall. Certainly, the similarities of the miracles of Joshua and Moses are much less than the similarities of the miracles of Elisha and Elijah.
We have one other piece of evidence which should be considered. In Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (apparently added some time after Moses died) we find the following:
"10 And [as of the time of this writing] no further prophet like Moses arose in Israel, whom Yehovah (God) knew face-to-face,
11 in all of the signs and the miracles which Yehovah (God) sent him to do in the land of Egypt, to Pharaoh, and to all of his servants, and to all of his land;
12 and in all of the powerful hand, and in all of the awesome deeds, which Moses did in the view of all of Israel."
Joshua was certainly alive at the time this passage was written; therefore, we have the Bible itself saying that, as of the time these verses were written, Joshua was NOT a "prophet like Moses".
Joshua did replace Moses as the leader of the Israelites after Moses died, especially militarily. Nevertheless, generally speaking, Joshua did NOT serve as a replacement for Moses in the same way that Elisha served as a replacement for Elijah.
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