How does the book of Joshua emphasize the inclusion of “all Israel” in the Promised Land?
The book of Joshua emphasizes the inclusion of “all Israel,” complete unity in the Promised Land, in various ways. First, this expression, “all Israel,” is repeated many times in the book, either relating to conquering the land or distributing it. And it was very important that the people of Israel be unified in their behavior and in the events that happened, because through their unity the Lord’s victory was assured. So, the unity here was related to wars and their behavior before the Lord. But also, the unity is related to sin. When an Israelite sinned, the consequence was that all the people were affected somehow by this sin. For example, we read in Joshua 7:1:
But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel (Joshua 7:1).
Note here the explanation given by the Scriptures that “the people of Israel” broke faith in regard to the devoted things. Actually, the one who stole and broke faith was Achan son of Carmi, and he was mentioned by name. But it asserts here that the punishment of this sin and its consequences included all Israel — not only in the punishment, but in the sin itself. In the sight of the Lord, all of Israel cooperated in it. For that reason, the people of Israel broke faith, and the anger of the Lord burned against Israel. So, the union here is not only related to conquering and distributing the land, but also to the sinful behavior, in the sight of the Lord, that all Israel cooperated in… The issue also is related to the covenant, because all Israel had a role in their commitment to the covenant before the Lord. That’s why we read, for example, that Joshua gathered all Israel, gathered all the tribes of Israel in 23:2 and 24:1. He gathered all the people, all Israel, to renew the covenant with them before the Lord, and to remind them of the warnings related to the covenant that the Lord had made with them. So, the unity of Israel was part of proclaiming their loyalty to the Lord within the covenant. That is why it was very important that all the people be unified, whether in war, worship, or devotion to the Lord.