(This is an excerpt from Verse by Verse, the Old Testament by D. Kelly Ogden, Andrew C. Skinner, and Ellis T. Rasmussen.)
Even a cursory reading of the Old Testament reveals that Joshua, able successor to Moses, was also a similitude of Moses and, hence, a similitude of Jesus Christ. Almost everything said about the ways in which Moses stands as a type and shadow of the Messiah is also true of Joshua. He was a lawgiver, a deliverer (spiritually and militarily), and a prophet. He stood in the presence of the Lord and, just like Moses, was told, “Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy” (Joshua 5:15; compare Exodus 3:5).
Joshua was also given control of the waters, just as Moses and Jesus were (compare Joshua 3:13–17; Exodus 14:21–31; Mark 4:39–41). Joshua was magnified at the parting of the Jordan River just as Moses had been magnified by the Lord in the eyes of the people when the Red Sea was parted. The Lord promised Joshua, “This day will I begin to magnify thee in the sight of all Israel, that they may know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee” (Joshua 3:7). As Joshua parted the waters of the Jordan and “all the Israelites passed over on dry ground” (Joshua 3:17), the promise began to be fulfilled. “On that day the Lord magnified Joshua in the sight of all Israel; and they feared him, as they feared Moses, all the days of his life” (Joshua 4:14).
But, as Joshua came to realize, the real lesson to be learned was that he stood in the place of the Lord. What Joshua did was actually what the Lord did working through him, “that all the people of the earth might know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the Lord your God for ever” (Joshua 4:24). Thus, Joshua was a similitude of the Lord in the truest sense, for his hand was the Lord’s hand, according to the Lord’s own decree.
Joshua did what he did through the same means “by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground” (D&C 8:3). It was accomplished through the Lord’s plan and power. Both times Israel passed through water into a new life. Such symbolic association with the concept of baptism in the name of Christ is unmistakable. And what’s more, Joshua, who led the people to a newness of life, bore the name by which the Messiah would be known while he sojourned in mortality. The name Jesus is the Anglicized Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua (or, more particularly, Yeshua). The Hebrew name Yehoshua literally means “Jehovah is salvation.” Just as Christ is the salvation of all people in an eternal sense, so Joshua, son of Nun, was the salvation of his people in a temporal sense. Joshua was the earthly commander-in-chief of the Israelite armies during the conquest of the promised land. He represented Jehovah and was a similitude of him—the heavenly battle master of his people throughout history. As Jehovah said to Moses and Joshua, “The Lord your God which goeth before you, he shall fight for you” (Deuteronomy 1:30; compare Joshua 10:14; 23:10).
Joshua’s great achievement was his constancy in leading God’s people. He was a judge, a mediator, and a beacon to them as they progressed toward an inspired destination. As a similitude of Christ, it may be said with perfect propriety that Joshua led God’s people to the promised land as the Messiah leads the way to the eternal land of promise. The concept of being led to a land of promise as a type, or shadow, of the Messiah’s mission was powerfully articulated in the Book of Mormon when Alma discussed the spiritual significance of the Liahona with his son Helaman: “And now I say, is there not a type in this thing? For just as surely as this director did bring our fathers, by following its course, to the promised land, shall the words of Christ, if we follow their course, carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise” (Alma 37:45). Moses, Joshua, and Jesus were like each other in many profound ways. And the former two pointed to the later great One.