Moses is told to bring Joshua so that God will inaugurate him to take over from Moses.

Deutoronomy 31:14 NKJV

14 Then the LORD said to Moses, “Behold, the days approach when you must die; call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of meeting, that I may inaugurate him.” So Moses and Joshua went and presented themselves in the tabernacle of meeting.

The words spoken during the inauguration are ambiguous in the sense that its not clear who actually spoke to Joshua.

Deutoronomy 31:22-23 NKJV

22 Therefore Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the children of Israel. 23 Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”

The antecedent of "he" in the above text is Moses but the words spoken can only be attributed to the Lord

Is it Moses or the Lord who spoke to Joshua here?

3 Answers 3


The words of verse 22 appear, to me, to be - as it were - in brackets.

The Lord speaks verses verses 16 to 21 and the narrative then states that these words were documented in the song, on the very same day that the Lord uttered those words to Moses.

The the narrative continues ...

The words stated in verse 23 'Be strong and of a good courage ... and I will be with thee' are clearly the words of the Lord. And they clearly have been uttered to Joshua in the presence of Moses.

It is irrelevant, to the narrative, whether the words were spoken directly, in whatever way, to Joshua; or whether those words were spoken, actually, by the lips of Moses.

But I would point out that it is said of Moses that the Lord spake with him as a man speaks with his friend. And this is not said, in such precise words, of Joshua.

Whether or not the Lord spoke in such a way with Joshua is not, specifically, stated in this case. Moses was chosen as a mediator between God and the children of Israel. And Joshua is, by nature, one of those children.

But if the Lord chose to speak directly with Joshua, then it is, as the OP states, ambiguous.

But it is ambiguous for good reason. The reason lies in the fact of two covenants and the necessity of one being set forth, first, before the second is revealed.

  • Reading verse 21 we can see that God is the speaker and Moses and Joshua both there listening.
    – A. Meshu
    Commented Jul 9, 2018 at 17:17
  • @A.Meshu The question is about v23. And the 'he' who gave Joshua the charge is not immediately obvious. I don't see what you mean by 'v 21'. Perhaps you would like to supply your own answer to the question ?
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 7:16
  • Sorry. But both verses 21 and 23 use נשבעתי (swear). Who swore to bring israel to the promise land? It was God speaking and moses and joshua were listen, and at the end moses wrote it.
    – A. Meshu
    Commented Jul 10, 2018 at 11:50

It was the Lᴏʀᴅ who spoke to Joshua. This is why the NKJV capitalizes “He” in verse 23:

Then He inaugurated Joshua the son of Nun, and said, “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall bring the children of Israel into the land of which I swore to them, and I will be with you.”

The general rule-of-thumb for antecedents is that personal pronouns refer back to the last mentioned person, but this is not an absolute rule.

You have already pointed out in verse 14 that it was the Lᴏʀᴅ who had already said He was going to inaugurate Joshua. Additionally, Moses had already told all Israel that he would not cross over the Jordan (v2), but that the Lᴏʀᴅ and Joshua would cross over (v3). So Moses could not say “I will be with you” when he would not even cross over the Jordan with them.


The reason I would agree in addition to the answers provided, that it was G-d who commissioned or inaugurated Joshua is because of the et or eth in the text.

I’ll write it in English rather than Hebrew unless you request Hebrew spelling

tsavah et Joshua son Nun/Non...

I ascribe to the et as not being a direct object pointer as it doesn’t always follow that rule when the text would demand it and it is incorporated into the text when there is no need or sense to add it. Also the et is not written together with Joshua it’s separate. If it were etJoshua then it would have a different meaning but in this case it’s stand alone

I sustain that the et or the AlephTav is the Word or is Jesus in the Tanakh text. So having the et right in that spot to me at least is sufficient to point to G-d speaking and not Moses. This is merely one argument.

If you are not familiar with the AlephTav I would recommend you familiarize yourself with it just a little.

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