Jos 24:1 Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.
This chapter records the renewal of the covenant at Shechem (which is also the place for covenant-making in 8:30-35). It shares a number of common features, not only with other biblical covenants, but also with ancient Near Eastern treaties:-
1. Introduction, v2b
2. Historical Prologue, vv2c-13.
3. Stipulations, vv14-24
4. Deposit of text, v26
5. Witness, v26f
6. Curses for disobedience and blessings for obedience are implicit in v20
‘The covenant was similar to ancient Near Eastern treaties in which a superpower (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Hatti) entered into a relationship with a weaker nation (Ugarit and Amurru Amorite, to name just two). This kind of treaty, known as a ‘vassal treaty’, typically had six parts: a preamble identifying the Great King (2a); a historical prologue reciting the King’s kindnesses to the vassal (2b-13); stipulations, the basic one being to serve only the King and his kingdom (14); curses and blessings (19); witnesses (22, 27); and deposit of the treaty document (25-26). Any individual treaty could vary slightly from this outline, but the basic pattern can be discerned.’ (cf. Ex 19-24 1 Sam 12) (NBC)
‘For the Christian, regular presentation before God in worship is an essential feature of a life of faith. (Heb 10:25) In gatherings for worship, Christ provides the opportunity to receive the new covenant as represented by his blood shed upon the cross.’ (Mt 26:28; Mk 14:24; Lk 22:10; 1 Cor 11:25) (Hess)
Shechem – ‘There was much to recommend that place. It lay a few miles to the northwest of Shiloh, and was not only distinguished (as we have already said) as Abraham’s first resting-place in the country, and the scene of the earliest of the promises given in it to him; but likewise as the place where, between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim, the blessings and curses of the law had been read out soon after Joshua entered the land, and the solemn assent of the people given to them. And whereas it is said (Jos 24:26) that the great stone set up as a witness was “by the sanctuary of the Lord,” this stone may have been placed at Shiloh after the meeting, because there it would be more fully in the observation of the people as they came up to the annual festivals. (see 2 Sam 1:7,9) Shechem was therefore the scene of Joshua’s farewell address. Possibly it was delivered close to the well of Jacob and the tomb of Joseph; at the very place where, many centuries later, the New Testament Joshua sat wearied with his journey, and unfolded the riches of Divine grace to the woman of Samaria.’ (Expositor’s Bible)
Before God = before the ark.
Jos 24:2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your forefathers, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the River and worshiped other gods.”
“This is what the Lord, the God is Israel, says…” – and throughout the summary which follows, the emphasis is on what the Lord has done. ‘Focusing on “Bible characters” does have merits, but the danger exists that in doing so one overlooks the fact that the aim of biblical historiography is not to focus on the human agents of the redemptive drama, or to exploit their good and evil deeds for purposes of moral example or deterrant…Throughout this summary the emphasis is on what God, the covenant Lord, has done. It is this emphasis, not that of moral example, that causes the people to respond with an expression of loyalty to their Lord and demonstrate their willingness to serve only him.’ (Woudstra, 3f)
In the ancient treaties, the historical prologue outlined the benefits the vassal had received from the lord in the past. ‘The prologue formed the argument for faithfulness on the part of the vassal to the present treaty. The same happens in vv2-13. God reviews Israel’s history and his dealings with the nation from its beginnings. The purpose of this review is to show the people how their faithfulness in the past has brought about God’s blessings. Further, God initiated his gracious acts of salvation for Israel and has continued them without abatement up to the present generation.’ (Hess)
‘Note, The word of God is to be received by us as his, whoever is the messenger that brings it, whose greatness cannot add to it, nor his meanness diminish from it.’ (MHC)
“Long ago…” – There is great importance in calling to mind the historic saving acts of God. ‘In the April 15, 1978 issue of Saturday Review, the late author and editor Norman Cousins called history “a vast early warning system;” and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” A knowledge of their roots is very important to the Jews because they are God’s chosen people with a destiny to fulfill in this world.’ (Wiersbe)
“Terah…Nahor” – The gods worshipped by these relations of Abraham are mentioned in Gen 31:53, where Laban swears by them.
“Beyond the River” – The Euphrates Rivers, referring to the home of Abraham’s ancestors.
Jos 24:3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the River and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac,
“I took your father Abraham” – ‘Abraham and his family were idolaters when God called Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees and go to Canaan. (Ge 11:27-12:9) “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham,” declared Stephen in his own farewell speech, (Ac 7:2) reminding the Jews that their national identity was an act of God’s grace. Abraham didn’t seek after God and discover him; it was God who came to Abraham! There was nothing special about the Jews that God should choose them; (Deut 7:1-11 26:1-11 32:10) and this fact should have kept them humble and obedient.’ (Wiersbe)
‘”You did not choose me,” Jesus told his disciples, “but I chose you and appointed you.” (Jn 15:16, NKJV) Believers were chosen in Christ “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4) and are called “God’s elect.” (Rom 8:33 Tit 1:1) One of my professors in seminary used to say, “Try to explain election and you may lose your mind, but explain it away and you may lose your soul.” No matter what “school” of theology we belong to, all of us must admit that God takes the first step in our salvation.’ (Wiersbe)
Jos 24:4 and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.
‘God states that he was responsible for each generation of the patriarchs. Therefore, the patriarchs are not ancestor deities to be worshipped or venerated. Nor are other deities responsible for the fruitfulness of the patriarchs. God was in control from the beginning and everything went according to his plan, even the descent into Egypt.’ (Hess)
Jos 24:5 “‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out.”
This verse recounts Num 21-24.
Josh 24:6 When I brought your fathers out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea.
Jos 24:7 But they cried to the LORD for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the desert for a long time.
‘The shift from ‘I’ to ‘he’ with reference to an author, as in v 7, is unexceptional in ancient literature.’ (NBC)
Jos 24:8 “‘I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land.”
Notice once again how clear it is that the hero of this book is the Lord, not Joshua.
Josh 24:9 When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you.
The stroy of Balak and Balaam is recounted in Num 22-24. In Jud 11:25, Jephthah denies that Balak ever fought against Israel. ‘Perhaps this is an ironic reference that describes Balak as having “exhausted” his fighting strength through the employment of Balaam to pronounce curses.’ (Hess)
Josh 24:10 But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.
Jos 24:11 “‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands.”
“The citizens of Jerisho fought against you” – An unexpected way of putting it, since there is every indication that Israel initiated these battles.
The list of nations here is the same as in Jos 3:10.
Jos 24:12 I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you-also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow.
“The hornet” – It is not clear what this refers to. ‘Some think the Hebrew word is a more general term for “terror” or “destruction.” These insects are encountered in Ex 23:28 Deut 7:20; and Jos 24:12. They were recognized for their venomous stings and were God’s instruments for driving Israel’s enemies out of Canaan. The reference could be to the hornet as traditional symbol of Egypt or as a symbol of God’s terrifying Israel’s enemies. The emphasis is on God’s powerful action to give Israel the land.’ (Holman)
Jos 24:13 So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’
‘God’s grace gave Israel the land and its riches. Like Deut 6:10f, this verse describes the fulfilment of all God’s promises in the wealth and blessing that Israel received freely from God. For the Christian, it is difficult to read these passages and not reflect upon Eph 2:8-10 and the free gift of God’s grace in the person and work of Christ.’ (Hess)
Jos 24:14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.”
Now follow (vv14-24) the stipulations of the covenant. They take the form of a dialogue between Joshua an dthe people concerning their faithfulness to the Lord. Joshua challenges the people to decide for or against the Lord, vv14f. The people reply by affirming their loyalty to God, vv16-18. Joshua warns the people of the difficulty of following the Lord, and of the consequences of not doing so, vv19f, but the people swear an oath of loyalty, vv21-24.
“Serve” – This is one of the key words of this section (vv14-23), occurring some 15 times.
Jos 24:15 “But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
“Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” – ‘There is some irony in offering a kind of choice after the Lord is rejected. The choice is between the gods Abraham left behind (Jos 24:2,3) and the gods of the dispossessed Amorites.’ (Jos 24:12) (New Geneva)
‘Entrance into this covenant was a matter for each individual family to decide as seen in Joshua’s famous resolve (15b). Although Israel functioned as a nation, the covenant was essentially a family matter, and still is. (cf. Acts 16:31) As eyewitnesses of the acts recited in the prologue and so able to confirm its accuracy, that generation appropriately formed the foundation for the old covenant relationship with God. After this the covenant will be passed on by the mouth of one generation and received in the heart of the next (Dt. 31:11-14). So also the new covenant community is built on the apostles who were eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus Christ, especially his resurrection, (Ac 1:21-22 1 Cor 15:8) and after that the mouth confesses it and the heart receives it.’ (Rom 10:6-10) (NBC)
“The gods of the Amorites” are the gods of the surrounding nations. Despite Joshua’s warnings and Israel’s resolve, the Israelites did turn to these Canaanite gods, Jud 2:11-13 6:10.
“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” – Joshua and his family represent a minority who would remain faithful. ‘For the Christian, Joshua’s testimony is a model of bearing witness to one’s faith even when it means standing out from the majority. In the New Testament, Stephen (Acts 7) and Paul (Ac 9:20-25) represent Christians who confessed their faith despite its unpopularity.’ (Hess)
‘Joshua’s putting the matter here to this issue plainly intimates two things:-First, That it is the will of God we should every one of us make religion our serious and deliberate choice. Let us state the matter impartially to ourselves, weigh things in an even balance, and then determine for that which we find to be really true and good. Let us resolve upon a life of serious godliness, not merely because we know no other way, but because really, upon search, we find no better. Secondly, That religion has so much self-evident reason and righteousness on its side that it may safely be referred to every man that allows himself a free thought either to choose or refuse it; for the merits of the cause are so plain that no considerate man can do otherwise but choose it. The case is so clear that it determines itself. Perhaps Joshua designed, by putting them to their choice, thus to try if there were any among them who, upon so fair an occasion given, would show a coolness and indifference towards the service of God, whether they would desire time to consider and consult their friends before they gave in an answer, and if any such should appear he might set a mark upon them, and warn the rest to avoid them.’ (MHC)
‘1. “Not my house, without me.” He would not engage them to that work which he would not set his own hand to. As some who would have their children and servants good, but will not be so themselves; that is, they would have them go to heaven, but intend to go to hell themselves.
2. “Not I, without my house.” He supposes he might be forsaken by his people, but in his house, where his authority was greater and more immediate, there he would over-rule. Note, When we cannot bring as many as we would to the service of God we must bring as many as we can, and extend our endeavours to the utmost sphere of our activity; if we cannot reform the land, let us put away iniquity far from our own tabernacle.
3. “First I, and then my house.” Note, Those that lead and rule in other things should be first in the service of God, and go before in the best things. Thirdly, he resolves to do this whatever others did. Though all the families of Israel should revolt from God, and serve idols, yet Joshua and his family will stedfastly adhere to the God of Israel. Note, Those that resolve to serve God must not mind being singular in it, nor be drawn by the crowd to forsake his service. Those that are bound for heaven must be willing to swim against the stream, and must not do as the most do, but as the best do.’ (MHC)
‘Make your choice between these, said Joshua, if you are dissatisfied with Jehovah. But could there be any reasonable choice between these gods andJehovah? It is often useful, when we hesitate as to a course, to set down the various reasons for and against, – it may be the reasons of our judgment against the reasons of our feelings; for often this course enables us to see how utterly the one outweighs the other. May it not be useful for us to do as Joshua urged Israel to do?
If we set down the reasons for making God, God in Christ, the supreme object of our worship, against those in favour of the world, how infinitely will the one scale outweigh the other! In the choice of a master, it is reasonable for a servant to consider which has the greatest claim upon him; which is intrinsically the most worthy to be served; which will bring him the greatest advantages; which will give him most inward satisfaction and peace; which will exercise the best influence on his character, and which comes recommended most by old servants whose testimony ought to weigh with him. If these are the grounds of a reasonable choice in the case of a servant engaging with a master, how much more in reference to the master of our spirits! Nothing can be plainer than that the Israelites in Joshua’s time had every conceivable reason for choosing their fathers’ God as the supreme object of their worship, and that any other course would have been alike the guiltiest and the silliest that could have been taken. Are the reasons a whit less powerful why every one of us should devote heart and life and mind and soul to the service of him who gave himself for us, and has loved us with an everlasting love?’ (Expositor’s Bible)
‘Resolved: that all men should live for the glory of God. Resolved second: That whether others do or not, I will.’ (Jonathan Edwards)
‘Nearly 200 years ago there were two Scottish brothers named John and David Livingstone. John had set his mind on making money and becoming wealthy, and he did. But under his name in an old edition of the “Encyclopaedia Britannica” John Livingstone is listed simply as “the brother of David Livingstone.”
And who was David Livingstone? While John had dedicated himself to making money, David had knelt and prayed. Surrendering himself to Christ, he resolved, “I will place no value on anything I have or possess unless it is in relationship to the Kingdom of God.” The inscription over his burial place in Westminster Abbey reads, “For thirty years his life was spent in an unwearied effort to evangelize.”
On his 59th birthday David Livingstone wrote, “My Jesus, my King, my Life, my All; I again dedicate my whole self to thee.”‘
Josh 24:16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods!
Jos 24:17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled.
‘The Christian has also been delivered from slavery to a kingdom of darkness and brought into God’s kingdom of light, with the opportunity of a similar response of worship and service toward Christ.’ (Gal 4:1-20 Eph 2:11-22 5:8-21) (Hess)
Josh 24:18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.”
Jos 24:19 Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins.”
An ordinary leader would have accepted the people’s affirmation of loyalty with open arms. But Joshua knew something of the fickleness of his people, and somethingof the extraordinary temptations that would lay ahead. So he will thrust deeper, trying to get them to think more profoundly about what it means to follow the Lord. ‘Hence he draws a somewhat dark picture of Jehovah’s character. He dwells on those attributes which are least agreeable to the natural man, his holiness, his jealousy, and his inexorable opposition to sin. When he says, “He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins,” he cannot mean that God is not a God of forgiveness. He cannot wish to contradict the first part of that gracious memorial which God gave to Moses, “The Lord, the Lord God merciful and gracious, longsuffering and abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” His object is to emphasise the clause, “and that will by no means clear the guilty.” Evidently he means that the sin of idolatry is one that God cannot pass over, cannot fail to punish, until, probably through terrible judgments, the authors of it are brought to contrition, and humble themselves in the dust before him.’ (Expositor’s Bible)
“You are not able…” – Joshua’s warning was well-founded, in view of subsequent developments. See v15n.
“He is a jealous God” – See also Ex 20:5 Deut 5:9, where it also to the Lord’s intolerance of the worship of other gods. See Ex 34:14n
“He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins” – This has been described as ‘perhaps the most shocking statement in the OT’ (Butler). The plural forms ‘suggest that all Israel is intended. As with the Canaanites, God will not overlook the sins of a nation. Judgement will come to a sinning nation, despite the repentance of some.’ (Isa 6:9-13) (Hess)
Jos 24:20 “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
There is, in v20f, the text of a potential sermon on ‘The Difficulties of Faith’. We are used to putting the truth of God in its best possible light. How would it be to put it in its worst light, to see whether the hearer was, perhaps, a ‘stony-ground hearer’ or a ‘good ground hearers’?
Jos 24:21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”
“No! We will serve the Lord” – ‘For the Christian, Israel represents those who confess their faith, Mt 10:32 Lk 12:8 Rom 10:9. This is the first step of Christianity, however much the true strength of that faith remains to be tested.’ (Hess)
Josh 24:22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
Jos 24:23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.”
“Throw away the foreign gods that are among you” – implying that even then the Israelites were dabbling in idolatry.
‘Probably Joshua called to mind the scene that had occurred at that very place hundreds of years before, when Jacob, rebuked by God, and obliged to remove from Shechem, called on his household: “Put away the strange gods that are among you, and be clean, and change your garments… And they gave unto Jacob all the strange gods which were in the land, and all the ear-rings which were in their ears; and Jacob hid them under the oak which was by Shechem.”‘ (Expositor’s Bible)
‘What a weed sin is, and how it is for ever reappearing! And reappearing among ourselves too, in a different variety, but essentially the same. For what honest and earnest heart does not feel that there are idols and images among ourselves that interfere with God’s claims and God’s glory as much as the teraphim and the earrings of the Israelites did? The images of the Israelites were little images, and it was probably at by-times and in retirement that they made use of them; and so, it may not be on the leading occasions or in the outstanding work of our lives that we are wont to dishonour God. But who that knows himself but must think with humiliation of the numberless occasions on which he indulges little whims or inclinations without thinking of the will of God; the many little acts of his daily life on which conscience is not brought to bear; the disengaged state of his mind from that supreme controlling influence which would bear on it if God were constantly recognised as his Master? And who does not find that, despite his endeavour from time to time to be more conscientious, the old habit, like a weed whose roots have only been cut over, is ever showing itself alive?’ (Expositor’s Bible)
‘Joshua told the Israelites to throw away their foreign gods, or idols. To follow God requires destroying whatever gets in the way of worshipping him. We have our own form of idols – greed, wrong priorities, jealousies, prejudices – that get in the way of worshipping God. God is not satisfied if we merely hide these idols we must completely remove them from our lives.’ (Life Application)
Jos 24:24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.”
The people respond firmly and positively, but without replying to any of the specific matters Joshua has warned them against. There is a suspicion here that, whatever their protests of loyalty, they kept their attraction to other gods. This contrasts with Jacob’s family, who buried all their images and other cultic images at Shechem, Gen 35:2-4. Affirmation of faith needs to be accompanied but appropriate action, for God’s people now as then, Jas 2:14-16.
Jos 24:25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws.
Following the conventional treaty structure, vv25-27 record the deposit of the text and the presence of witnesses.
Jos 24:26 And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD.
The recording of this covenant is written into the Book of the Law of God – evidently the law of Moses. In contrast with earlier parts of the book of Joshua, Moses is not mentioned by name, because an older Joshua stands as God’s messenger in his own right, not requiring the authority of Moses to support his own.
The writing and depositing of the covenant give it a fixed quality, and allow for future reference and study. ‘For the Christian, the Word of God is the written covenant. Its accessibility is essential to its use as a guide for faith and life..’ (See 2 Tim 3:16-17 1 Pet 1:10-12) (Hess)
He took up a large stone – ‘Witnesses of treaties were usually the deities of the nations involved. Since Joshua and the people recognised no gods but the Lord, they could not invoke other deities as witnesses. The stone served as a lasting memorial that would remind future generations of the covenant made at Shechem and its importance.’ (Hess)
Jos 24:27 “See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”
This is the ninth and last memorial mentioned in the Book of Joshua. The nine memorials are:
1. The stones in the midst of the Jordan (Josh 4:9).
2. The stones on the western bank of the Jordan (Josh 4:20-24).
3. The stones in the Valley of Achor (Josh 7:26).
4. The heap of stones at Ai (Josh 8:29).
5. The altar on Mt. Ebal (Josh 8:30).
6. The stones of the law on Mt. Ebal (Josh 8:32).
7. The stones at the cave at Makkedah (Josh 10:27).
8. The altar built by the Transjordanic tribes (Josh 22:10ff).
9. Joshua’s stone of witness (Josh 24:26-28).
Josh 24:28 Then Joshua sent the people away, each to his own inheritance.
Jos 24:29 After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of a hundred and ten.
‘This book, which began with triumphs, here ends with funerals, by which all the glory of man is stained.’ (MHC)
Josh 24:30 And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
Josh 24:31 Israel served the LORD throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the LORD had done for Israel.
Josh 24:32 And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.
Josh 24:33 And Eleazar son of Aaron died and was buried at Gibeah, which had been allotted to his son Phinehas in the hill country of Ephraim.