During this past seudah shlishit, I shared with you the debate between Ralbag, on the one hand, and Rashi & Malbim, on the other hand, regarding when Yehoshua sent the spies to Yericho. According to the Ralbag, he sent them on the 7th of Nissan & they returned on the night of the 10th of Nissan and they crossed the Jordan River on the day of the 10th of Nissan. According to Rashi & Malbim, however, Yehoshua sent the spies on the 6th of Nissan, they arrived at Yericho that evening (night of the 7th of Nissan), they hid out in the mountains for three days, returned to Yehoshua on the night of the 10th of Nissan and then crossed with Yehoshua on the day of the 10th of Nissan. According to this approach, the events of Chapter 2 (sending the spies) took place after the events of Chapter 1, when Yehoshua tells his officers to prepare to cross the Jordan River in three days. It was suggested that perhaps the main themes of the Sefer, Yehoshua needing to follow in Moshe’s footsteps, the centrality of observing the Torah & the requirement of courage and faith, are all found in Chapter 1. That is why, perhaps, even though the events are chapter 2 occurred before chapter 1, the author of Yehoshua thought it appropriate to begin Sefer Yehoshua with Chapter 1.
Another issue regarding events recorded in Yehoshua that might be written not in their chronological order is the timing of the Har Gerizim/Har Eival ceremony. The ceremony is recorded in the 8th chapter of Sefer Yehoshua, after the story of the conquest of Ai. It seems from Parshat Re’ey (Devarim 11:29) and Parshat Ki Tavo (27:1-4) that the ceremony should take place immediately after they enter Eretz Yisrael. The Malbim believes that the ceremony indeed took place after the conquest of Ai, whereas Rashi believes that it took place on the day that they crossed the Jordan River, before the conquests of Yericho & Ai. Rashi’s position is based on the gemara in Sota 36a that Bnei Yisrael miraculously reached Har Grizim and Har Eival in one day. The Talmud Yerushalmi (Sota 7:3) cites an opinion that the ceremony took place after conquest & settlement of the land 14 years later. As such, this may be another example (according to both the position of Rashi & the position of the Yerushalmi) when the ceremony was not chronologically but only thematically connected to the conquest of Ai. Perhaps the Navi wishes to connect the ceremony of Har Grizim/Har Eival which challenges Bnei Yisrael to follow the Torah with the one time that they failed to do so during the leadership of Yehoshua, and that was with the sin of Achan when they waged war against Ai. Perhaps the Navi wanted to drive home the point that the success of Bnei Yisrael was entirely dependent upon their following God’s commandments.