Bible Commentary: Joshua 24

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Joshua 24

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Joshua’s Farewell Address and Death

One last time, Joshua summons the elders, this time at Shechem, about 10-15 miles north of Shiloh. This was the place the blessings and curses had been pronounced more than two decades earlier (Joshua 8:30-35 Joshua 8:30-35 [30] Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal, [31] As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man has lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings to the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. [32] And he wrote there on the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. [33] And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. [34] And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. [35] There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
American King James Version×
)—and perhaps Joshua chose it now for that reason. He rehearses Israel’s history, much of which occurred within the last two generations. The Exodus had occurred less than 70 years earlier, and Moses had died less than 30 years earlier. God had said He would send the hornet to drive out the inhabitants (Deuteronomy 7:20-23 Deuteronomy 7:20-23 [20] Moreover the LORD your God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from you, be destroyed. [21] You shall not be affrighted at them: for the LORD your God is among you, a mighty God and terrible. [22] And the LORD your God will put out those nations before you by little and little: you may not consume them at once, lest the beasts of the field increase on you. [23] But the LORD your God shall deliver them to you, and shall destroy them with a mighty destruction, until they be destroyed.
American King James Version×
), and here it is related that this did indeed happen. The Israelites were able to take over the cities and orchards without having to start over.

We should notice here Joshua’s words in verse 14: “Now, therefore, fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River [Euphrates, i.e., in Mesopotamia] and in Egypt.” This closely parallels the apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 5: “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (verse 8)—that is, the same “sincerity and truth” mentioned by Joshua. The Feast of Unleavened Bread pictures the putting out of sin and coming out of the sinful ways of this world—coming out of Babylon and Egypt, as Joshua essentially put it, forsaking the following of all affections rivaling the true God—and replacing that with godly purity. And this is, of course, something we should always do throughout our Christian lives.

Then comes Joshua’s declaration of his own direction despite what the people’s might be: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (verse 15). “With his famous words, Joshua clearly and unambiguously took his stand on the side of the living God. Joshua modeled a perfect leader’s actions. A leader must be willing to move ahead and commit himself to the truth regardless of the people’s inclinations. Joshua’s bold example undoubtedly encouraged many to follow with the affirmations of vv. 16-18” (Nelson Study Bible, note on verses 14-15).

Indeed, even after telling the people that they could not fulfill God’s requirements on their own and the seriousness of the obligation they were entering into, Joshua still manages to extract from them strong assurances that they would never forsake God, after which he follows the common practice of setting up a “large stone” as a witness (verse 26; compare Genesis 31:44-52 Genesis 31:44-52 [44] Now therefore come you, let us make a covenant, I and you; and let it be for a witness between me and you. [45] And Jacob took a stone, and set it up for a pillar. [46] And Jacob said to his brothers, Gather stones; and they took stones, and made an heap: and they did eat there on the heap. [47] And Laban called it Jegarsahadutha: but Jacob called it Galeed. [48] And Laban said, This heap is a witness between me and you this day. Therefore was the name of it called Galeed; [49] And Mizpah; for he said, The LORD watch between me and you, when we are absent one from another. [50] If you shall afflict my daughters, or if you shall take other wives beside my daughters, no man is with us; see, God is witness between me and you. [51] And Laban said to Jacob, Behold this heap, and behold this pillar, which I have cast between me and you: [52] This heap be witness, and this pillar be witness, that I will not pass over this heap to you, and that you shall not pass over this heap and this pillar to me, for harm.
American King James Version×
; Joshua 4). He also records these words in “the Book of the Law of God” at the tabernacle.

The book of Joshua concludes with the deaths and burials of Joshua and Eleazar the high priest, both in the land of Ephraim. While God could have inspired Joshua to write this, it is likely that He inspired someone else to add this ending. This last section also records the final burial of Joseph, also in the land of Ephraim, whose bones had been carried out of Egypt at his request (compare Genesis 50:24-25 Genesis 50:24-25 [24] And Joseph said to his brothers, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land to the land which he swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. [25] And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and you shall carry up my bones from hence.
American King James Version×
; Exodus 13:19 Exodus 13:19And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him: for he had straightly sworn the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you; and you shall carry up my bones away hence with you.
American King James Version×
).

The book of Joshua began with the words: “After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant” (1:1). Now notice how the book ends: “Now it came to pass after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord died” (verse 29). “This first reference to Joshua as the servant of the Lord shows clearly how Joshua had ‘grown into the job’ that Moses had vacated. Now the book comes full circle, recalling the references in 1:1 to Moses as the servant of the Lord and to Joshua as merely Moses’ assistant” (Nelson, note on verse 29). Joshua was more than just Moses’ successor. He was himself a type of Christ, a hero of faith leading the people to conquer the Promised Land and thereby give them a home.


Supplementary Reading:“Joshua: God Is Salvation,” The Good News, July-Aug. 1997, pp. 24-27.

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