What does Joshua 1:5 mean when God promises, "I will be with you?"

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You know, right at the beginning of the book of Joshua, as he's now taking over new leadership for Moses, you have this wonderful promise being given that God promises his presence, and it says, "as he had been with Moses." And this picks up a really central theme in the Old Testament, beginning, I guess the background really is the loss of the divine presence in the Garden of Eden and they're banished from Eden. And so, you start to have this promise being given to the patriarchs: "I'm going to" — Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — "I'm going to be with you." And of course, if you look at the background with Moses, the divine presence, tabernacle, absolutely central to the whole book and the whole narrative. And especially you see this in the golden calf story when they build the idol and Moses is interceding and the people have been, you know, worshiping this idol. And God says, "Look, I'm just going to destroy you." Moses intercedes and says, "Please, if you don't go with us it's all over." And he says, "Look, okay, I won't destroy you, but I'm going to send my angel." And then Moses says, "No, no. If you're not with us, we may as well not go out from here." So, and of course, God in his grace and mercy promises to be with them, and this then picks up that underlying theme that God had been with Moses in terms of leading the Israelites, and so you have divine presence with Joshua as a leader. And what immediately follows after that is this emphasis on obeying the commandments of the Lord, which really is, they're kind of working in together, that God promises "I'll be with you" — he's going to give them victory — but they need to be following God's law. That's central to entrance into the land and to conquering the land.

Answer by Dr. Carol Kaminski

Dr. Kaminski teaches Old Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston MA.