Author: John Whitmarsh
It is evident that Joshua knew that he was about to die. Change was going to take place. It was inevitable. They had been used to Joshua leading them for at least the last twenty five years (some would say longer than that) but now his time was at an end. Some change has to be. It cannot be avoided. The clock cannot be turned back. Time marches on and the address of chapter 23 shows that there was no one more aware of this than Joshua himself. He wanted the people to go on with the Lord but he was conscious that they may not have been inclined to do so.
Thus these final three chapters of the book of Joshua raise questions as to if and (if so) how the people were to move forward. The last chapter contains the words of Joshua that he spoke to the people. They were his own words, his thoughts on the situation that the people faced. In chapter 24 we are told as early as the first verse that the people presented themselves before God. Joshua relayed the word of the Lord ('thus saith the Lord') to the people in verses 2-13. There is an abundant use of the personal pronoun 'I' in this section (17 times). Each time that it is used it is God speaking of Himself via Joshua. He conveys God's words in the first part of this chapter.
In verses 14 and 15 Joshua appeals to the people to serve the Lord based on His faithfulness to them. He recognised that there was a possibility of them turning their back on the Lord and so the warning of verse 15 is given. Joshua stated some well known words, 'As for me and my house we will serve the Lord'. It was not a tribal thing. It was not a national thing. It was a personal and family stance that he took. The people gave an answer to Joshua that is not too dissimilar to that said to Moses in Exodus 19. However, in verse 19 Joshua declared that they were unable to serve the Lord. The retort is that the people would serve the Lord. A stone was raised (yet another stone) to act as a witness to the fact that the people had pledged themselves to the Lord. The final part of the chapter recounts the death of Joshua at 110 years of age. Not only was Joshua buried but Joseph's bones (he also died at the age of 110) were buried. Eleazar, the son of Aaron, also died and was buried at the same time.
24:1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
This is a similar introduction to the chapter as that found at the beginning of chapter 23. There every party was called. Here the tribes of Israel are gathered and the rest are called. The assembling place was not specified in the previous chapter but here we know where the people gathered. There was no mention of presenting themselves before God in chapter 23. They were about to hear what God had to say to them via Joshua.
Shechem was the meeting place. Whether this was associated with some ceremony we are not told. We have read of Shechem elsewhere in Joshua:
Joshua 17:2 There was also a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh by their families; for the children of Abiezer, and for the children of Helek, and for the children of Asriel, and for the children of Shechem, and for the children of Hepher, and for the children of Shemida: these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph by their families.
07928 // Mkv // Shekem // sheh'-kem // for 07926 ; n pr m AV - Shechem 3; 3 Shechem = "back" or "shoulder" 1) son of Gilead and grandson of Manasseh 2) a Manassite, son of Shemida
Joshua 17:7 And the coast of Manasseh was from Asher to Michmethah, that lieth before Shechem; and the border went along on the right hand unto the inhabitants of Entappuah.
07927 // Mkv // Sh@kem // shek-em' // the same as 07926 , Greek 4966 // sucem // ; TWOT - 2386b AV - Shechem 61, Sichem 1, Strong's synonym for consent 1; 63 Shechem = "back" or "shoulder" n pr m 1) son of Hamor, the chieftain of the Hivites at Shechem at the time of Jacob's arrival n pr loc 2) a city in Manasseh; located in a valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, 34 miles (54 km) north of Jerusalem and 7 miles (10.5 km) south- east of Samaria Joshua 20:7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah. Joshua 21:21 For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs, Joshua 24:1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. Joshua 24:25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. Joshua 24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
To this can surely be added the incident in chapter 8 which took place on the slopes of Mount Ebal. There are three places that are mentioned in connection with the children of Israel in the book of Joshua Gilgal, Shiloh and Shechem. Gilgal was close to where the children of Israel crossed the Jordan. Shiloh was associated with worship and became the place where the tabernacle was set up. But Shechem why Shechem? Does Shechem take them right back to their fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob? It is interesting to note that this chapter speaks of Shechem as being the home of the sanctuary of the Lord (verse 26).
24:2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
The words that Joshua spoke (certainly from verses 2 to 13) were the words of God.
There is one son left out in this list. Genesis 11.27 says, 'Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.' Nahor is the Nachor of Joshua 24.2. The phrase 'other side of the flood' is important as it is used some 4 times in this chapter (verse 2, 3, 14 and 15). On three of the four occasions that the phrase is mentioned it is connected with the gods that were served by Terah or 'your fathers'. The use of the word 'side' implies place as opposed to time. Were time the subject of the verse then he would have before the flood or some such phrase. Moreover the term 'other side of the flood' cannot mean time for the flood took place before Abraham was born. The word used for flood here is:
05104 // rhn // nahar // naw-hawr' // from 05102 ; TWOT - 1315a; n m AV - river 98, flood 18, streams 2, Aramnaharaim 0763 1, river side 1; 120 1) stream, river 1a) stream, river 1b) (underground) streams
The word used for flood in Genesis 6.17 (first mention referring to the flood in Noah's time) is another word:
03999 // lwbm // mabbuwl // mab-bool' // from 02986 in the sense of flowing; TWOT - 1142; n m AV - flood 13; 13 1) flood, deluge. 1a) Noah's flood that submerged the entire planet earth under water for about a year
The flood of Joshua 24 is a river and, no doubt, the river Euphrates is in mind. It is still true to say that Abraham came from the other side of Jordan for that is the way that Jacob came back into the land on his return from uncle Laban. The fact that Abraham served other gods cannot be found from the narrative in Genesis 12 but it is stated here. Notice that Genesis 12 starts with the words, 'Now the Lord had said unto Abram' Acts 7 explains that the God of glory appeared to father Abraham while he was yet in Ur of the Chaldees.
This part of the story of Abraham is well known. It is interesting to note that it says that his seed was multiplied before it says that he was given Isaac. It was to be through Isaac that his seed was to be multiplied, that his seed was to be blessed.
Abraham was on the move. God led him through the land. He was a pilgrim. The fact that he went down into Egypt resulted in trouble and perhaps he should have remained in the land despite the famine and found out in Canaan how God was going to provide for him. It doesn't say that God led him to Egypt.
Both Jacob and Esau (note the order) were gifts from God in the same way that Isaac was a gift from God. We no doubt remember that all the patriarchs' wives were all barren at the start. We are told that God gave Esau mount Seir in Joshua 24. We were not sure that this information was given in the book of Genesis. Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. The whole story giving the reason for Jacob going down into Egypt is not mentioned here. All that is given is the movements of the patriarchs. The AV of Exodus 12.40 refers to them as the sojourning of the children of Israel. As a people (and the timing is from the moment that Abraham left Haran even though the term children of Israel, which did not come until later, is used) their dwelling had been 430 years. The word for sojourning is only ever translated this way on this one occasion in Exodus 12.40.
The children of Israel were in Egypt and they multiplied in Egypt. This was despite the oppression. The way that Exodus 1 describes things suggests that the oppression only made them multiply the more. Aaron was the older man and the one who was to be the spokesman when Moses protested that he was unable to speak. It is quite clear that Moses found his voice. These two were sent. It was not just Moses. Moses is undoubtedly the principle character but God did not leave Aaron out in this review of the nation's history. Aaron was responsible for the golden calf but God did not leave him out. That is encouraging for we, like Aaron, fail though it may not be in so spectacular a way. We, like Moses, fail and yet God still takes note of the tenor of these lives of ours.
The Lord God sent Moses and Aaron and it was He that plagued Egypt. After the plagues God brought them out.
The last phrase of verse 5 is repeated in verse only this time with emphasis on the people of the time and not on the people to whom He spoke at the time. I brought your fathers out of Egypt and ye came to the sea. The first part refers to those who were present as the chariots chased them but the next clause of the sentence links the then present hearers with the ones who stood at the edge of the sea. The last clause refers to the fathers again.
24:7 And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
It was noted that in all these verses where God speaks in the first person that here is a verse in which He is the third person. It should be noted as well that the personal pronoun changes here to 'they cried unto the Lord'. Then he reverts to 'you'. 'He put darkness between you and the Egyptians.' All the other parts of this verse that refer to the children of Israel have the then present hearers in mind. And yet they were not there at the Red sea. All apart from Joshua and Caleb perished in the wilderness. They did not come into the land. And yet the scripture says, 'Your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt' and 'ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season'. The hearers on that day were identified with those who witnessed God's wondrous acts at the Red Sea and in the wilderness as though they were actually present.
24:8 And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
Verse 8 speaks of the children of Israel being in someone else's land. The reader needs to see Numbers 21 for the narrative describing the events. They were in the land of the Amorites who dwelt on the east side of Jordan. He referred to Og and Sihon. They fought but, though this was a people who had been wandering in the wilderness for many years and did not know war, the Lord fought for them and He won. He gave them (the Amorites) into their (the children of Israel's) hand. The children of Israel possessed the land because the Amorites were destroyed before them.
For the details of this incident the reader should turn to Numbers 22-24.
There is no commentary on the foolishness of greedy Balaam. All that is stated here is that the Lord won and Balaam and Balak lost. In verse 10 the last phrase is 'I delivered them out of your hand'. In verse 11 the last phrase is, 'I delivered them into your hand'.
24:11 And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.
There is an interesting take on the events at Jericho in this verse. It says that they fought against them. Chapter 6 did not describe a struggle once the walls fell down.
It is also interesting to note that the seven nations seem to be linked with the Jericho incident. Surely these were spread throughout the land? (see notes on 3.10)
Exodus 23.28 says, 'And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.' Deuteronomy 7.20 says, 'Moreover the Lord thy God will send the hornet among them, until they that are left, and hide themselves from thee, be destroyed.' Joshua 24.18 is the only other verse in the scriptures that mentions the word hornet/s. What the hornet refers to is not clear. It is closely linked with the word that is translated leprous.
The suggestion presented at the Bible reading was that the hornet represented the sting of fear. The mention of the two kings of the Amorites takes the reader back to the time before they came into the land for this, no doubt, refers to kings Sihon and Og on the east side of the river. Both these kings were prepared to attack the children of Israel. There does not appear to be the same sort of fear as was evidently present in the people at Jericho. The fear that gripped the men of Jericho was because they had heard what had happened to these two kings and their people (see chapter 2).
The two kings were not destroyed with sword and bow. It was not the children of Israel's sword or their bow (did they have them in the wilderness?) that put them to flight.
In the same that it not their effort that gave them the victory over kings on the east side of Jordan and as they came into the land itself so all that they possessed (or should have possessed) was not built through their own efforts. Someone else had done the work for them. They did not have to labour for the land or build up cities (apart from Jericho perhaps but Joshua had said that this city was not to be reestablished see the end of chapter 6). Everything was provided for them. They did not have to start with a large area of land and establish farms and build cities. They were there already.
From verse 14 onwards we have the record of Joshua's own words. In the light of what God had said through him he wanted to add some words knowing full well that he was about to die. The simple message that he had given in chapter 23 was obey, to cling and to love. To this he added two simple commands that were, if followed, to keep them on the right track. The instructions were fear (revere) and serve the Lord. The word for sincerity means 'completely'. Fear the Lord and fully serve Him and serve Him in truth. If the Lord was revered then there would be no reverence for the gods. If the Lord was fully served there would be no service of the gods as there had been down in Ur of the Chaldees and in Egypt. If their service was in truth then they would have to serve the Lord. Service of gods was false service. 'Serve ye the Lord' is the message at the end of the verse. This crystallizes the statements made in the earlier part of the verse. This was Joshua's great desire as he faced death.
24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
But then there is a proviso. 'If it seem evil to you to serve the Lord.' Why make such a statement when he had instructed them to serve the Lord? Surely Joshua had fears that they would not serve the Lord. The word for evil carries the thought of doing them harm, hurting them. If they considered that they would be harmed by serving the Lord then they were to choose between the gods of their fathers from down there in Ur or the gods of the Amorites who dwelt among them. That was the choice that Joshua presented to them one set of gods or the other. It is almost as though he considered them to have forsaken the Lord already. Joshua stated his position clearly 'as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord'. This word 'serve' has been used on a number of occasions in this chapter by the end of this verse (8 in all) and there are more to come (another 8 to come and also 'servant'). Service is of great importance in this chapter. There is no complication with the word as it is the same Hebrew word throughout.
There was respect for Joshua. He had been a faithful leader and they acknowledged that. They may not have been as faithful to their God but they did not deny that Joshua deserved a hearing. The words that he spake carried weight as far as they were concerned. What Joshua said provoked a response. One is reminded of Exodus 19 when Moses passed on God's words to the people and their response was, 'All that the Lord hath spoken we will do.' The reaction to the words of the Lord that Joshua had passed on the people and the subsequent appeal to fear and serve the Lord was, 'God forbid that we forsake the Lord, to serve other gods.' It appears that they knew what was in Joshua's heart as he spake and probably in the tone of his voice. Joshua thought that it was highly probable that they would forsake the Lord. The people said that they would not forsake the Lord. That's what they said at Sinai. The law was given and no sooner had it been given than they broke the first commandment by making a golden calf and worshipping that image. 'All that the Lord hath spoken we will do' seemed such hollow words in Exodus 32. Were these words to be as hollow? We need to be so careful when we say 'God forbid'.
24:17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
This all sounds very noble. They stated the truth ahead of the word 'therefore'. The words that came after the word 'therefore' were also the true reaction that should have been shown. But what one says and what one does can be entirely different. They said that along with Joshua and his house they were going to serve the Lord (note the word 'also')
Verse 19 on its own and without its context seems to portray a God who will not forgive, period. That is clearly not the truth conveyed in other areas of scripture. 'But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared.' Psalm 130.4. 'Be it known unto you, therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins.' Acts 13.38. Our God is a forgiving God. We may be characterized by getting and forgetting but our God is characterized by giving and forgiving. Surely the context is teaching that god's forgiveness is conditional. His love is unconditional but His forgiveness is conditional. 'If ye forsake the Lord and serve strange gods' There was forgiveness when they turned to Him but when they turned away there was none. He is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He wants our attention. He wants our devotion. He wants our service (as this is the theme of the chapter). Turn away from Him and he was do as much hurt to them as he had done good. They needed to cling to the Lord to go forward. They needed to cling to the Lord to be preserved as a people.
The people insisted that they were going to serve the Lord.
The people were their own witnesses and they agreed with Joshua's assessment of all that had been said.
There has been no mention of the children of Israel worshipping strange gods in any of the earlier chapters. This verse indicates that the strange gods were already among them. This may well be in the sense that they were in the possession of the inhabitants of the land and had not been destroyed as opposed to the children of Israel being actively involved in the worship of these gods. The gods needed to be put away so that there was no temptation to serve them (see verse 20). There is another simple instruction in this verse. 'Incline your hearts unto the Lord.' Don't lean towards the gods that cannot help but they were to incline their hearts to the Lord.
Again they were very bold and stated their intention. They were going to serve and obey the Lord their God.
The people had said that they were definitely going to obey the Lord. As a result of their positive statement Joshua made sure that this was good enough to record. He made an agreement (a pledge) with the people that same day and placed a statute (an ordinance) and an ordinance (a judgment) in Shechem.
These words were written in a book. The scripture says that the book was the book of the law of God but there is nothing to this effect elsewhere in scripture. Presumably this was another book that no longer exists. A great stone was also placed under an oak. The stone was to act as a witness. As pointed out earlier in the book the placing of stones is an important feature of the book of Joshua. Many of these stones acted as a witness. The word used for 'oak' (allah) is a variant of the usual word, elah, and it is only ever used here. The sanctuary of the Lord was at Shechem in those days. Joshua 18.1 says that the tabernacle of the congregation was set up at Shiloh. Joshua 19.51 tells us that the tabernacle of the congregation was still at Shiloh. Judges 18.31 mentions the house of the Lord being at Shiloh. But in between these latter references we are told that Shechem had a sanctuary and the AV says 'the sanctuary'. All of this seemed hard to explain and it is recorded here as a open ended discussion point as there were no firm answers to this apparent conundrum.
24:27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.
Verse 27 is clear that the stone acted as a witness. There is a remarkable statement as the stone's listening powers!! It had heard all the words of the Lord (verses 2-13) but there is no mention of it having heard the people's words. God's words were not in question. The people's were (in Joshua's mind at least). The people could return to this spot beneath the oak and remember that they had heard Joshua convey the word of the Lord to them. They should also have been able to remember their own words. In Exodus 24 there is a repetition of the words that the people said in response to Moses as he relayed the words that Jehovah had spoken to him in Exodus 19. 'All that the Lord hath spoken we will do' of Exodus 19.8 becomes 'all the words which the Lord hath said will we do' in Exodus 24.3 in the AV of the scripture. And then there is a book of the covenant mentioned in Exodus 24. Moses wrote the words of the Lord. Sacrifices were made and then Moses read the words of the book of the covenant to all the people. Then he took blood and sprinkled the people with the blood by way of ratification of the covenant. When we read of this same incident in Hebrews 9 we are told that both book and people were sprinkled with blood. There is a similar incident here in Joshua 24 though there is no blood shed. The stone is present to confirm the covenant made that day between Joshua and the people. It was there to stop the people denying their God.
His final act with the people was to get agreement from them that they would listen to God's voice and do what He said. The people went off to their inheritance and, presumably, Joshua went back to his house.
This is the only occasion in the whole book of Joshua that he is called a (the) servant. His service was completed. His journey was done. His course was run and he had been faithful to the very last. We are told the age that he died and this helps in the understanding of the time period of the whole book.
We learnt about Timnathserah at the end of chapter 19 for this was the place that Joshua had as his inheritance. We are given an extra piece of information in this verse in that we are told that Timnathserah was on the north side of the hill called Gaash. Gaash is only mentioned 4 times in scripture. It means 'quaking'. Its location is clear from this chapter.
Joshua was a good leader. Joshua was a respected leader. This respect continued after he died until all the elders who outlived Joshua also died. Out of deference to these men they remained faithful to the Lord but once they had died things were not the same. This passage is repeated in Judges 2 and it is made clear there that they obeyed until such time as these men died. Once the generation that had witnessed the works of the Lord through Joshua had also died, the next generation did evil in the sight of the Lord. The message could not be conveyed to them. They had not seen what God did and they could not believe enough based on what they had heard to remain faithful to the Lord. Surely there is a lesson in there somewhere. It is our responsibility to pass on the things that we know to the next generation so that they can be faithful in their time. Perhaps there was a fault with those who heard. Perhaps there were faults with the ways by which the tales of God's exploits were passed on.
24:32 And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
Not only was Joshua buried. The bones of Joshua were buried down the road at Shechem. Shechem was the last place that Joseph had seen in the land of Canaan as a 17 year old before he was taken down to Egypt. Joseph was 110 when he died. He was sold for 20 pieces of silver. His father purchased a piece of land for a burial ground for 100 pieces of silver.
Eleazar the son of Aaron died. It is necessary to specify which Eleazar died. Moses had a son called Eleazar. This Eleazar was Aaron's son. We have met him before in the book especially in the sections where the lots were distributed. He, too, was buried in Ephraim.
The very simple message that Joshua had passed onto the people in chapter 23 was that they should obey, they should cling and they should love their God. To this set is added three more simple instructions Joshua wanted them to fear and serve the Lord and to incline their hearts unto the Lord. If ever we want to enjoy the blessing of the land (and by that we mean the enjoyment of heavenly things in a hostile world) then these six simple instructions are to be followed.