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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)—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), 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; 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; Exodus 13:19).
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.