Bible Commentary: Joshua 23

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Joshua 23

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“Hold Fast To the Lord Your God”

Near the end of his life, Joshua summons Israel, especially the leaders, and admonishes them to remain faithful to God. In verse 8, he specifically exhorts them to “hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have done to this day.” And in verses 12-13, he warns them of the consequences of “clinging” to the remnant of the Canaanites. The Nelson Study Bible notes on verse 12: “The word translated cling is the same word translated hold fast in v. 8, bringing the different instances of clinging into sharp contrast. God wanted His people to cling to Him, not to the Canaanites they were driving out. This required, among other things, that they not make marriages with unbelieving foreigners under any circumstances (Exodus 34:11-16; Deuteronomy 7:1-4). Years later Solomon ignored this command and proved how destructive the sin of intermarriage could be (1 Kings 3:1; 1 Kings 11:1-8 1 Kings 11:1-8 [1] But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites: [2] Of the nations concerning which the LORD said to the children of Israel, You shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in to you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon joined to these in love. [3] And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. [4] For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father. [5] For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. [6] And Solomon did evil in the sight of the LORD, and went not fully after the LORD, as did David his father. [7] Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, in the hill that is before Jerusalem, and for Molech, the abomination of the children of Ammon. [8] And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed to their gods.
American King James Version×
; 2 Corinthians 6:14).”

Joshua concludes by telling the elders that rejection of God will exact a dire penalty: “You shall perish quickly from the good land which He has given you” (verse 16). This, of course, happened in later years, when Israel was taken into captivity and deported by Assyria and Judah was carried away by Babylon. Yet rebellion was not long away, as it would dominate the period of the judges immediately following. Still, Joshua’s warning may have done some good, as the elders seem to have remained faithful (Joshua 24:31 Joshua 24:31And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
American King James Version×
).

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