The character of Joshua in the Bible is often described as courageous, faithful, loyal and influential. All these things are true about Joshua but he also had some weaknesses too.
In this post we will look at how the Bible describes Joshua. We will discuss Joshua’s character strengths and weaknesses as well as explore Joshua’s leadership qualities.
Who is Joshua in the Bible?
Joshua is known in the Bible as one of the bravest most successful warriors in Israel. He was the second person to lead the Israelites after the death of Moses.
Prior to becoming the leader of the Israelites, he was the second in command, leading beside Moses.
Joshua was born in Egypt and was quite young, maybe about 20 years old, at the time God allowed the Israelites to be released from Egyptian bondage.
The story of Joshua in the Bible summary
Most of Joshua’s story is told in the Old Testament in the book named after him. However, we first meet Joshua in Exodus 17:8.
While in the wilderness, the Israelites came under attack. Moses called Joshua to quickly put an army together to fight off the Amelikites. The occasion of war is our first introduction to Joshua.
After this, it seems Joshua became Moses’ assistant, playing an important role in leading the Israelites. Joshua was pretty much with Moses everywhere he went.
He was on Mount Sinai when Moses received the 10 commandments from God. Whenever Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to talk with God, Joshua always stood outside the tent and waited.
Joshua did whatever Moses told him to do.
When it was time to enter the promised land, Joshua was among the 12 spies whom Moses sent to spy out the land. Joshua was also one of the two spies who came back with a good report.
Throughout the wilderness journey, Joshua led right alongside Moses, especially through the 40 years of wilderness life.
After Moses died, Joshua was confirmed by God as the new leader in Israel. After his confirmation, Joshua fought many battles to secure land for the Israelites to settle.
He led the Israelites to victory over Jericho, Ai, the Amorites and a number of other people groups.
He was responsible for helping Israel to claim the lands that God had promised. Joshua also made sure the land was divided properly among the tribes so that everyone could settle down and live a good life.
Joshua led Israel with Moses for 40 years in the wilderness and for 30 years on his own after Moses died. Joshua died at the age of 110 years old.
Characteristics of Joshua
Studying the life of Joshua, reveals many qualities about him. Here is a list of the character traits of Joshua in the Bible.
Strength and weaknesses of Joshua in the Bible
- Joshua trusted God absolutely.
- Joshua had a keen ear for the voice of God.
- Joshua was obedient.
- Joshua was an excellent military strategist.
- Joshua was faithful to God.
- Joshua was fiercely loyal to the point of jealousy.
- Joshua struggles with fear, doubt, and inadequacy.
Character strengths of Joshua in the Bible
Now let’s dive deeper into Joshua’s character strengths. Of course, this post only briefly covers the qualities of this Bible character.
Joshua trusted God absolutely
There were many instances in Joshua’s story where his trust in God was demonstrated.
One of the most popular is his attitude after going to spy out the land of Canaan with 11 other men.
Although 10 of the men were too afraid to approve attacking the inhabitants of the land, Joshua and Caleb were all for moving forward.
Why were they not afraid?
Because they believed that God was with them and that counted for something.
As impossible as it looked to gain victory over people who looked bigger and stronger, Joshua trusted that the God who delivered Israel from the mighty Egyptian army would also deliver them from this situation.
Joshua was confident in God’s promise and power:
If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey…And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” Numbers 14:8-9 ESV
Because he trusted God so much, he was a positive thinker, even in the midst of what looked like an impossible situation.
Joshua had a keen ear for the voice of God.
The Israelites lost the second battle that Joshua led in trying to claim their promised land.
This was the war against Ai. Joshua was quite surprised. Shocked even.
Afterall, this loss does not in any way line up with God’s promise of victory. But there was a reason for the terrible defeat…
Sin. There was sin in the Israelite camp.
And how was Joshua going to figure this out among over 2 million people?
God had told the Israalites not to touch the devoted things in Jericho. This was their first battle.
But Achan could not resist it. He brought back items from the Jericho war and hid them in his tent.
When Israel lost against Ai, God revealed to Joshua that sin was in the camp. In a remarkable process, Joshua was led to the tribe then the clan then the family then the exact man who had committed sin.
Imagine Joshua walking through the camp. There is no visible person talking to him but his movements are steady and sure.
No human being told Joshua which clan to visit and which family to zoom in on but he heard God’s voice.
What a relationship he had with God that made him hear God so clearly!
Joshua was obedient
When Moses was leading Israel, Joshua recognized that Moses was being led by God. He followed Moses closely, being obedient to his instructions.
For example, in the first attack against the Israelites as they made their way through the wilderness, Moses told Joshua to get an army together and fight. Joshua did so. (Exodus 17:8 – 16)
When Joshua became the leader, it was time to hear God for himself. Joshua obeyed whatever God told him to do.
After crossing the Jordan, God told Joshua to destroy Jericho. Joshua received very specific instructions about how to execute the battle.
Joshua carried out God’s instructions just as they were given to him.
In the battle against Ai, in the midst of warfare, God spoke to Joshua about exactly what to do and when. Again, Joshua followed God’s lead and they won the battle.
It was because of Joshua’s faith and obedience why he survived the wilderness. Nearly all of those in his age group died and did not make it to the promised land. (Numbers 32:10 – 12)
Joshua was an excellent military strategist
After defeating Jericho, the next conquest that Joshua took up was the battle against Ai.
In the battle against Ai he came up with a master plan to attack the city. Because the Ai army had beaten the Israelites in a previous war, Joshua used this previous defeat to his advantage.
With a stroke of genius, he divided the Israelite army. Some he put up front to fight and others were left in hiding.
When those in the front were being chased, the city of Ai was left without its army. The Israelite soldiers who were in hiding attacked the unprotected Ai city, burned it to the ground, and plundered it.
Joshua was no ordinary army general! You can read this story in Joshua 7 – 8. This is just one of many battles that Joshua won.
Joshua was faithful to God to the very end of his life
In his last speech to the Israelites, Joshua recounted the entire history of the birth of the nation of Israel, from the time God called Abraham.
He reminded them of their journey from Egypt to Canaan. And he encouraged them to stay faithful.
You might be familiar with the popular Bible quotation “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.
It was on this occasion of him bringing the curtains down on his leadership that Joshua said these words.
Character weaknesses of Joshua in the Bible
Joshua was a stellar warrior and a faithful man but he was not perfect. There were character qualities that show us he was just an ordinary man like us.
Joshua was fiercely loyal to the point of jealousy
When Moses became overwhelmed with the leadership of Israel, he cried out to God. In an effort to provide relief, God instructed Moses to gather 70 elders from Israel.
God was going to share the power that he had given to Moses. When that power was manifested in these men, Joshua had a problem with it.
Joshua became jealous on behalf of Moses.
And Joshua the son of Nun, the assistant of Moses from his youth, said, “My lord Moses, stop them.” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put his Spirit on them!” (Number 11:28-29)
Joshua was a young man then. Because he spent so much time with Moses he became very protective of and loyal towards Moses.
But Moses was able to correct his thinking and point him in the right direction.
Although we know Joshua to be a fearless warrior and stellar leader, we often miss his struggle. Remember how God told him constantly “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid”
God says this a number of times as recorded in the book of Joshua.
Why do you suppose God needed to say this to Joshua repeatedly?
You see, Moses had died. Joshua was now in charge. In terms of leadership, the one person he could really talk about these things with was gone.
For 40 years, Moses had been there. He was accessible and Joshua could get guidance. He no longer had this luxury. Now, it was just him and God and the very stubborn Israelites.
And while he is grieving the loss of Moses, he’s also having to undertake the mammoth task of leading Israel to the next stage of their lives.
Joshua was rightly struggling with fear. The task of leading Israel into the new age was big. There were so many unknowns.
But God assured him that he did not need to fear the unknown because He would be with Joshua.
Joshua as a leader in the Bible
This discussion would be incomplete if we did not talk about the characteristics of Joshua as a leader. There are so many we could explore but here five leadership qualities of Joshua to think on:
- Joshua was a good follower and had a teachable spirit
- Joshua obeyed the directions of his mentor
- Joshua was an encouraging and inspiring leader
- Joshua was decisive in his leadership
Joshua was a good follower and had a teachable spirit
Aristotle said, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.” This means good leaders are first good followers. This was one of Joshua’s finest leadership qualities.
When Joshua was quite young, Moses took Joshua under his wings in order to train him. Joshua basically became Moses’ shadow. When Moses went up into the mountain for 40 days to get the 10 Commandments. Joshua was with him.
When Moses went to the Tent of Meeting to talk with God, Joshua was there. Following Moses around was the way Joshua observed what leadership should look like.
By doing this Joshua was building his own skills in leadership. Moses was able to train Joshua on how to think as a leader and what to do when the time came for him to lead Israel himself.
Joshua submitted himself to the mentorship of Moses.
Joshua obeyed the directions of his mentor
Before Moses died, he gave Joshua specific instructions on what to do when he started the conquest of conquering nations and occupying their land. Joshua did just what he was told to do.
As the Lord commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses. Joshua 11:15
Moses was a wise leader. He did a stellar job of succession planning. Long before he died, he prepared the next leader of Israel, Joshua.
Now, Joshua needed to be humble enough to understand the big vision that God had for Israel and be willing to execute the steps to make that plan a reality.
Joshua could have chosen to do his own thing after Moses died, but he remained faithful to what he was taught by Moses. In doing so, Joshua honored the investment that Moses had made in him.
Joshua was an encouraging and inspiring leader
When the Israelites entered the land promised to them by God, they needed to undertake the process of occupying the land. This means they were to divide the land among the tribes.
When the tribe of Joseph received their portion, they complained. One reason for this complaint was that their land allotment was close to the Canaanites.
This meant they would have to fight to claim their land and they doubted their ability to engage in warfare and win against the Canaanites.
You see, the Canaanites had better military resources (like iron) and they were known to be a very strong army.
Joshua encouraged them. He told them they were well able to fight and claim their land.
“You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” (Joshua 17:17-18, ESV)
Joshua expressed full confidence in their strength and ability. And with this encouragement, the tribe was able to do what they needed to do to claim their blessing.
Joshua was decisive in his leadership
After the first five tribes were set with their land allotment in the promised land, Joshua noticed that the other seven tribes were not actively trying to claim their land.
Yes, they had entered the land but they had not occupied the land. They were still moving around like they had been for 40 years through the wilderness.
They had become so comfortable with moving around like nomads that they were quite complacent with the idea of being unsettled. So, for many years they moved from place to place within the land.
Joshua would not have it any longer.
So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me….And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the Lord our God. Joshua 18:3-4, 7
Joshua firmly called them out of complacency. He evaluated the situation and provided direct, specific leadership.
And it worked!
What can we learn from Joshua?
So we have seen that Joshua was a faithful man, courageous warrior, excellent leader and certainly imperfect. How can we allow his life to inspire us to live in the 21st century?
Consider these lessons from the life of Joshua.
Sometimes your blessing will be delayed because of others
At the time when God was ready for the Israelites to take the land he promised, they failed miserably in their faith.
In the story of the 12 spies, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones ready to go up, fight, and claim the land. They believed in God’s promise and power. They were not relying on their own strength.
But the other 10 spies did not feel the same way and they sowed the seed of fear and faithlessness in the Israelite camp.
God turned the whole community back into the wilderness and sentenced them to 40 years of wandering.
Joshua’s life (and Caleb’s too) took 40 years to move forward because this. Four decades of their lives was wasted because of other people’s doubt and fear.
Sometimes, our blessings are delayed because of others. And sometimes we delay the blessings of others because of our faithlessness.
This is a heartbreaking reality. A bitter pill to swallow.
But know that just like God was with Joshua, He will be with you as well.
Which takes me to my next point.
God-allowed delays serve a bigger purpose
Joshua’s life was delayed for decades. That’s what it looked like on the surface.
But you know what? Alot happened in those 40 years.
For starters, Joshua became Moses’ right hand. Those decades in the wilderness was a season of training for Joshua that set him up for 30 years of successful leadership of Israel.
Just like God took 40 years to train Moses through shepherd life, Joshua also received 40 years of training under Moses.
If you are worried that your life is not moving fast enough, submit to the season you are in now. It might feel like a delay but know that God has a purpose for where you are now.
Settle into it and find out from God what you need to be learning throughout this season.
Like Joshua, something bigger might be coming and you are going to need every bit of the lessons you are to be learning right now, right where you are.
There’s a blessing in obedience
One of Joshua’s outstanding characteristics was that he was obedient. He was obedient to Moses. And, most importantly, he was obedient to God.
Especially when it came to fighting various battles, Joshua followed what God told him to do. Above his courage and bravery to run into battle, this is what made him a successful warrior.
You see, Joshua did what he was told to do. Victory was secured in his battles because he was obedient to God.
His prosperity was tied to his obedience:
Above all, be strong and very courageous. Be careful to observe all the law that My servant Moses commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may prosper wherever you go. Joshua 1:7 (emphasis is mine)
When there was sin in the camp that caused them to lose a battle, he followed God’s voice to find the guilty party.
Do you struggle with doing what God tells you to do? If so, you will always find yourself in a losing battle.
You see, God has the big picture of your life in the palm of his hands. He knows what is happening in the camp of the enemy.
If he tells you to do something, it’s because he knows things you do not know. It makes sense to go with the person who has more information than you do. Doesn’t it?
There is hardly anything to lose by being obedient to God.
Take God at His words
When Joshua took over from Moses, it was during a pivotal time in Israel’s history. A 400 year old promise was about to be fulfilled.
This was big!
Since the time of Abraham, God had promised that Abraham’s descendants would occupy a certain area of land. This was a promise all of Israel knew. Now, their faith was becoming visible.
And Joshua was the one with the responsibility of leading Israel into making it happen.
The problem was, Moses had died and Joshua felt like a fish out of water without his leadership mentor.
This is where Joshua was going to need to trust God and take Him at His word. Over and over God said “Do not be afraid” (Joshua 1:7, 9, ; 8:1; 10:8).
God’s command to Joshua to let go of fear was linked to His assurance that God would be with him in everything he did.
And God did just that!
Struggling to move forward in your purpose because of fear? Hear God’s command to Joshua: Don’t be afraid. God called you to it so He will lead you through it.
Take God at His word. He is good for it. Take a step forward. God is not only with you but He has also gone before you to prepare and clear the way.
Trust His words to you!
Leadership lessons from Joshua in the Bible
If you find yourself in need of some practical, Bible-based leadership nuggets, the life of Joshua is a good place to look. Here are some lessons about leadership to take away from Joshua’s 30-year stint.
Find a mentor and coach
If you desire to be an excellent leader, you will not get there on your own. Every successful leader has a mentor or coach or both.
Joshua had Moses. The reason Joshua did so well as a leader was because he had been thoroughly trained for nearly four decades.
He observed Moses. He followed Moses’ instructions. He got opportunities to make errors and get correction from Moses. He had someone to talk to about challenges and work out a path for a solution.
If you truly want to be a cut above the rest in your leadership, find a coach and a community. You will need it to sharpen your skills.
Be decisive in your leadership and clear in your communication
Joshua had to lead a set of people who were wayward, stubborn, and lazy. Earlier I mentioned how the last seven tribes wandered throughout the land.
They were just refusing to claim their land in battle so they could settle down. They had gotten comfortable with the idea of moving around.
Joshua called them out. He saw exactly what the problem was and came up with a solution that had clear and direct steps.
He gave them an assignment to do and then they were to return to him. The elders of the tribes were to get together, work out the land allotments and then tell Joshua what they decided on.
Joshua would then oversee the division of the lands.
And with this, the problem of the seven tribes refusing to settle was solved.
The people you lead need to know the decisions that have been made and next steps need to be communicated so clearly that they know exactly what to do.
Be deliberate about mentoring and training someone else
If there was an area of leadership in which Joshua failed miserably it would be succession planning.
Although Joshua was a stellar leader, he did not do for anyone else what Moses did for him. Moses worked with him for nearly 40 years. In doing this, the future leadership of Israel was secured.
But when Joshua died, there was a period of anarchy in Israel.
There was no leadership and people did whatever they wanted to do (Judges 21:25).
Earlier in his life, Joshua had been so loyal to Moses that he became jealous when Moses’ power was shared with others.
It seems Joshua might not have gotten rid of this weakness. (But this is just my considered opinion). Joshua did not reproduce his leadership skills in anyone else.
If you are a leader, take the time to pour into someone else. You will not always be around. Who will take over after you move to a new job or city, go into retirement, or die?
Whether in your career or at church, seek out a young person who has great leadership potential and pour into them.
Many of our churches are suffering from a lack of good leaders because the current leaders hog the positions and will not let anyone in. This is ungodly.
Help to secure the future leadership of your congregation by teaching someone else the ropes of godly leadership.
Facts about Joshua in the Bible
Here are a few fun facts about Joshua to add to this delicious study.
Joshua meaning in the Bible
Joshua in the Bible means Jehovah is salvation. The name Joshua is the Hebrew form of the name Jesus.
Joshua wife and sons in the Bible
Scripture does not reveal any details about Joshua’s marital status. In Joshua 24:25, he does mention that he has a household but we do not know for sure from the Bible who were the members of this household.
Joshua father in the Bible
The name of Joshua’s father was Nun. (Joshua 1:1)
Joshua first mentioned in the Bible
Joshua is first mentioned in Exodus 17:8 when Moses calls him to wage war against the Amelekites.
Final words on character of Joshua in the Bible
In many ways, Joshua is quite similar to the character of Joseph in the Bible. Brave. Faithful. Bright. Decisive. Influential.
Joshua’s qualities allow us to see how God shapes a man for the work he calls him to. I pray that you will see God’s movement in your life in the same way.
Keep in your heart God’s words to Joshua: Do not be afraid. I am with you.