Jos 23:1 After a long time had passed and the LORD had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then old and well advanced in years,
Chapters 23 and 24 are similarly valedictory and hortatory. Ch 23 is more general, while ch 24 is more specific and detailed. Some (e.g. Calvin, Blaikie) consider them to be two accounts of the same meeting.
This chapter records a sermon of Joshua at the end of his life. It is couched in Deuteronomic language, for ‘he had nothing fresh to announce to the people, but could only impress the old truths upon their minds once more.’ (Keil & Delitzsch)
‘Joshua’s ‘last words’ put him in the distinguished company of Moses (Dt. 31:1-13), Samuel (1 Sam 12:1-24) and David (1 Kings 2:1-9) whose last words emphasized covenant fidelity. The address was given shortly after Joshua allotted the land (see 13:1). Both Moses and Joshua, the founders of the theocracy, kept faith until their deaths and were models of the ideal leader, teaching the next generation to keep the covenant.’ (cf. 2 Tim 3:10-4:6 2 Pet 1:12-21) (NBC)
‘Joshua had been a close follower of Moses in many things, and now he follows him by calling the people together to hear his closing words. On the edge of the future life, on the eve of giving in his own account, in the crisis when men are most disposed to utter the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, he calls his children around him to hear his parting words. He knows, as Moses also knew, the impulsive, fitful temper of the people. All the more did he regard it as desirable not to omit such an opportunity of impression. “All pathetic occasions,” it has been well said, “should be treasured in the memory; the last interview, the last sermon, the last prayer, the last fond, lingering look; all these things may be frivolously treated as sentimental; but he who treats them so is a fool in his heart.’ (Expositor’s Bible)
‘The pious solicitude of Joshua is here set forth, for the imitation of all who are in authority. For as the father of a family will not be considered sufficiently provident if he thinks of his children only till the end of his own life, and does not extend his care farther, studying as much as in him lies to do them good even when he is dead; so good magistrates and rulers ought carefully to provide that the well arranged condition of affairs as they leave them, be confirmed and prolonged to a distant period. For this reason Peter writes, (2 Pet 1:15) that he will endeavor after he has departed out of the world to keep the Church in remembrance of his admonitions, and able to derive benefit from them.’ (Calvin)
“The Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies” – This is not incompatible with the idea of Israel being a blessing for the nations, Gen 12:3. Israel was God’s representative on earth, and as such Israel’s enemies were the Lord’s enemies. The destruction of the Lord’s enemies is a significant part of the OT hope, Nu 24:18 Isa 62:8 Ob 17 Mic 5:9, and is also carried through to the NT, Lk 1:71.
‘For the Christian, the message of god’s work of redemption and blessing on behalf of his people resembles God’s work of redemption in Christ and the lbessings of the Christian life. While Christians may enjoy these, they are called to lives which are faithful to the teachings of their master. It is only through faithfulness that Christians can continue to enjoy the divine blessings.’ (Eph 2:8-10) (Hess)
‘Joshua the son of Nun had lived! His long life started in Egyptian bondage and ended in a worship service in the Promised Land. In between those events God had used him to lead Israel in defeating the enemy, conquering the land, and claiming the promised inheritance. With the Apostle Paul, Joshua could sincerely say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith”.’ (2 Tim 4:7, KJV) (Wiersbe)
‘Having assembled the leaders of the nation, Joshua presented them with two scenarios: Obey the Lord, and he will bless you and keep you in the land; disobey him, and he will judge you and remove you from the land. These were the terms of the covenant God had made with Israel at Mt. Sinai, which Moses had repeated on the Plains of Moab, and which Israel had reaffirmed at Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim.’ (Wiersbe)
Jos 23:2 summoned all Israel-their elders, leaders, judges and officials-and said to them: “I am old and well advanced in years.”
“I am old and well advanced in years” – he was approaching 110 years of age.
Jos 23:3 you yourselves have seen everything the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the LORD your God who fought for you.
‘There was already a judicial sentence against the seven nations of which Israel was appointed to be the executioner. Even in Abraham’s time we have abundant proof that they were far gone in corruption, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was but an early stroke of that holy sword which was to come down over a far wider area when the iniquity of the Amorites should become full. We have no elaborate account of the moral and religious condition of the people in Joshua’s time, but we have certain glimpses which tell much. In the story of Baal-peor we have an awful picture of the idolatrous debauchery of the Moabites; and the Moabites were not so sunk in vice as the Canaanites.’ (Expositor’s Bible)
Josh 23:4 Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain-the nations I conquered-between the Jordan and the Great Sea in the west.
Josh 23:5 The LORD your God himself will drive them out of your way. He will push them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the LORD your God promised you.
Jos 23:6 “Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left.”
‘Joshua knew the nation’s weak spots. Before dying, he called the people together and gave commands to help them where they were most likely to slip: (1) follow all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses without turning aside; (2) don’t associate with the pagan nations or worship their gods; (3) don’t intermarry with the pagan nations. These temptations were right on their doorstep. Our associations and relationships can be temptations to us as wel. It’s wise to identify our weak spots before we break down. Then we can develop strategies to overcome these temptations instead of being overcome by them.’ (Life Application)
Jos 23:7 Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them.
‘He distinctly admonishes them that it will be impossible rightly to discharge their duty if they be not carefully on their guard against all sources of corruption. This it was very necessary to enforce upon them. For they were surrounded on all sides by the snares of Satan, and we know how great their proneness to superstition was, or rather how headlong their eagerness for it.’ (Calvin)
‘Joshua was very emphatic in forbidding inter-marriage and friendly social intercourse with Canaanites. He saw much need for the prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” He understood the meaning of enchanted ground. He knew that between the realm of holiness and the realm of sin there is a kind of neutral territory, which belongs strictly to neither, but which slopes towards the realm of sin, and in point of fact most commonly furnishes recruits not a few to the army of evil. Alas, how true is this still! Marriages between believers and unbelievers; friendly social fellowship, on equal terms, between the Church and the world; partnership in business between the godly and the ungodly – who does not know the usual result? In a few solitary cases, it may be, the child of the world is brought into the kingdom; but in how many instances do we find the buds of Christian promise nipped, and lukewarmness and backsliding, if not apostasy, coming in their room! There is no better help for the Christian life, no greater encouragement to fellowship with God, than congenial fellowship with other Christians, especially in the home, as there is no greater hindrance to these things than an alien spirit there. And if men arid women would remember that of all that concerns them in this life their relation to God is infinitely the most momentous, and that whatever brings that relation into peril is the evil of all others most to be dreaded, we should not find them so ready for entangling connections which may be a gain for the things of this world, but for the things of eternity are commonly a grievous loss.’ (Expositor’s Bible)
‘For the Christian, the avoidance of idolatry and its promise of victory is a theme to which Paul alludes when he asks for whole-hearted dedication to Christ, (Rom 12:1) just as Jesus himself demanded such total and loving commitment in his teaching on discipleship.’ (Mt 16:24 Lk 9:62 14:26,33) (Hess)
‘Religious tolerance is not always a sign of good will. It can be a sign of careless, perhaps hypocritical religious indifference of the most high-handed philosophic relativism. It can also be a mask behind which to hide downright malice.
During the Nazi era, for example, arguments for Christian openness to other perspectives were used by German Christians in an attempt to neuter the church’s protest against the neo-paganism of Hitler and his minions. The Confessing Church in Germany found in John 10 a theological basis to stand against Hitler.
There are times in which the only way to keep alive the non-vindictive, nonjudgmental, self-sacrificing witness of Jesus Christ is to stand with rude dogmatism on the rock that is Jesus Christ, condemning all compromise as the work of the Antichrist.’ (Ronald Goetz) See: 1 Cor 15:58 Php 1:27 2 Pet 3:17.
‘All of us feel the pressures of the world around us, trying to force us to conform; (Rom 12:1-21 1 Jn 2:15-17) and it takes courage to defy the crowd and stay true to the Lord.’ (Jos 23:7) (Wiersbe)
Jos 23:8 But you are to hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have until now.
‘Joshua was dying and so he called all the leaders of the nation together to give them his final words of encouragement and instruction. His whole message can be summarised in this verse, “Hold fast to the Lord your God.” Joshua had been a living example of those words, and he wanted that to be his legacy. For what do you want to be remembered and what do you want to pass on to your children and associates? You can leave them nothing better than the admonition to hold on to God and to the memory of a person who did.’ (Life Application)
Josh 23:9 “The LORD has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you.
Josh 23:10 One of you routs a thousand, because the LORD your God fights for you, just as he promised.
Josh 23:11 So be very careful to love the LORD your God.
Jos 23:12 “But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them,”
‘According to the usual method observed in the Law, he adds threatening, in order that if they are not sufficiently allured by the divine goodness, they may be aroused by fear to the performance of their duty. It is, indeed, disgraceful for men, when God graciously condescends to invite them, not at once to run forward and meet the invitation by prompt and alert obedience; but such is the lethargy of the flesh, that it always requires to be stimulated by threats. Joshua, therefore, adopts the usual method of the Law, while he reminds the Israelites of the terrors of the Lord, provided they do not of their own accord embrace his offered favor.’ (Calvin)
‘That the threatening which both Moses and Joshua thus denounced were openly accomplished, is but too plain from the Book of Judges. And yet this promulgation of the divine vengeance was not altogether useless; for after Joshua was dead, they became courageous enough to engage in war. Their ardor, however, proved evanescent, and they shortly after were initiated in nefarious Gentile rites. Hence, we perceive in the human mind an intemperate longing for perverse worship, a longing which no curbs are able to restrain.’ (Calvin)
‘It is now proper to consider how far this doctrine is applicable to us. It is true a special command was given to the ancient people to destroy the nations of Canaan, and keep aloof from all profane defilement’s. To us, in the present day, no certain region marks out our precise boundaries; nor are we armed with the sword to slay all the ungodly; we have only to beware of allowing ourselves to become involved in fellowship with wickedness, by not keeping at a sufficient distance from it. For it is almost impossible, if we mingle with it, spontaneously to avoid receiving some spot or blemish.’ (Calvin)
‘The Garden of Eden was not the only paradise that sin ruined. Here was something like a new paradise for the children of Israel; and yet there was a possibility – more than a possibility – of its being ruined by sin. The history of the future showed that Joshua was right. The Canaanites remaining in the land were scourges and thorns to the people of Israel, and the compliance of Israel with their idolatrous ways led first to invasion and oppression, then to captivity and exile, and finally to dispersion over theface of the earth.’ (Expositor’s Bible)
Jos 23:13 then you may be sure that the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the LORD your God has given you.
‘Moses had warned Israel against compromising with the evil nations in the land, (Ex 23:20-33 34:10-17 Deut 7:12-26) and Joshua reaffirmed that warning. (Jos 23:13) If Israel began to mingle with these nations, two things would happen: God would remove his blessing, and Israel would be defeated; and these nations would bring distress and defeat to Israel. Joshua used vivid words like snares, traps, scourges, and thorns to impress the Jews with the suffering they would experience if they disobeyed the Lord. The final stroke of chastening would be Israel’s removal from their land to a land of exile. After all, if you want to live and worship like the Gentiles, then live with the Gentiles! This happened when God permitted Babylon to conquer Judah, destroy Jerusalem, and take thousands of the Jews into exile in Babylon.’ (Wiersbe)
‘For the Christian, this is an example of the warning not to associate with those who do not repent of their sin.’ (1 Cor 6) (Hess)
Jos 23:14 “Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.”
As the Book of Joshua began with a note of Moses’ death, so it ends with Joshua’s last days. Once again, we are reminded that although God buries his workmen, his work goes on.
“Not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” – ‘Whatever you find there promised count it money in your purse.’ (Gurnall)
‘God’s faithfulness to his purposes, promises, and people is a further aspect of his goodness and praiseworthiness. Humans lie and break their word; God does neither. In the worst of times it can still be said: “His compassions never fail…. Great is your faithfulness” (La 3:22-23 Ps 36:5; cf. Ps. 89, especially Jos 23:1-2,14,24,33,37,49???). Though God’s ways of expressing his faithfulness are sometimes unexpected and bewildering, looking indeed to the casual observer and in the short term more like unfaithfulness, the final testimony of those who walk with God through life’s ups and downs is that “every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” (Jos 23:14-15) God’s fidelity, along with the other aspects of his gracious goodness as set forth in his Word, is always solid ground on which to rest our faith and hope.’ (Packer, Concise Theology)
Josh 23:15 But just as every good promise of the LORD your God has come true, so the LORD will bring on you all the evil he has threatened, until he has destroyed you from this good land he has given you.
Jos 23:16 “If you violate the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”
‘Although the entire book of Joshua describes the occupation and allocation of the land, it will be lost if Israel does not remain faithful to God and worship him alone. Hebrews 6 warns the Christian of the danger of not remaining faithful to God’s covenant in Christ.’ (Hess)