Only be strong and very courageous; be careful to do according to all the Law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may achieve success wherever you go. Joshua 1:7 NASB
From it – Moses is dead. Moses, the clear leader for more than a generation, the incredible servant of the Most High God, is gone. Now Joshua must step into his shoes. And they’re pretty big shoes.
How does Joshua know that God will show him the same favor? He needs assurance much more than just instruction. He can’t be the leader he needs to be for a people who have endured so much if he’s simply an order-taker, a substitute commander. How will God give him the confidence he needs to take the place of the great Moses? The answer is right here in this text, but unfortunately, it’s completely hidden from us in translation. In fact, it’s almost disguised in Hebrew—unless you’re careful.
The word we want to investigate is מִמֶּנּוּ. In English Bibles, it is translated “from it,” with the assumption that the pronoun refers to the Torah (the instructions from Moses). Unless we pay attention to the Hebrew grammar, this translation makes perfect sense to us. God tells Joshua to follow everything His servant Moses had commanded; not to turn to the right or to the left from “it.” But the Hebrew doesn’t actually say this. The Hebrew word uses the prefixed preposition (מִ) meaning “from” plus the word מֶּנּוּ (me’nu). But מֶּנּוּ is a plural construction. It means “us,” not “it.” The verse should be translated “do not turn from us, to the right or to the left.” How can this be? Why in the world would God say to Joshua, “Don’t turn from us?”
I hear Trinitarian voices in the background, excitedly proclaiming that this is another example of the plural persons of the Godhead. Of course, reading מֶּנּוּ in this way implies that no one really understood the true meaning of the text until Constantine’s council. I don’t think Joshua could wait that long—and I don’t think there’s any linguistic reason to make such a jump. What Joshua needs to know is that God is personally endorsing his leadership. It’s not just Torah instructions. It’s family identity. “Do not turn from us” involves Joshua in the personal connection between Moses and God. Both are involved in his assignment. Joshua will take over as the new godfather under the God Father. The line will continue: God—Moses—Joshua. Family! מֶּנּוּ (me’nu) is like saying, “Remember who you are. Don’t let us down. We’re counting on you to hold up the family name.” It’s the Hebrew version of the movie scene when Michael Corleone stands in his father’s office and the lieutenants gather around him. As the door closes, you hear them say, “Godfather.” The torch has been passed to Joshua, with no reservations.
Topical Index: godfather, me-me’nu, us, Joshua 1:7