Adam Clarke Commentary
Joshua gathers all the tribes together at Shechem, Joshua 24:1; and gives them a history of God‘s gracious dealings with Abraham, Joshua 24:2, Joshua 24:3; Isaac, Jacob, and Esau, Joshua 24:4; Moses and Aaron, and their fathers in Egypt, Joshua 24:5, Joshua 24:6. His judgments on the Egyptians, Joshua 24:7. On the Amorites, Joshua 24:8. Their deliverance from Balak and Balaam, Joshua 24:9, Joshua 24:10. Their conquests in the promised land, and their establishment in the possession of it, Joshua 24:11-13. Exhorts them to abolish idolatry, and informs them of his and his family‘s resolution to serve Jehovah, Joshua 24:14, Joshua 24:15. The people solemnly promise to serve the Lord alone, and mention his merciful dealings towards them, Joshua 24:16-18. Joshua shows them the holiness of God, and the danger of apostasy, Joshua 24:19, Joshua 24:20. The people again promise obedience, Joshua 24:21. Joshua calls them to witness against themselves, that they had promised to worship God alone, and exhorts them to put away the strange gods, Joshua 24:22, Joshua 24:23. They promise obedience, Joshua 24:24. Joshua makes a covenant with the people, writes it in a book, sets up a stone as a memorial of it, and dismisses the people, Joshua 24:25-28. Joshua‘s death, Joshua 24:29, and burial, Joshua 24:30. The people continue faithful during that generation, Joshua 24:31. They bury the bones of Joseph in Shechem, Joshua 24:32. Eleazar the high priest dies also, Joshua 24:33.
Joshua gathered all the tribes - This must have been a different assembly from that mentioned in the preceding chapter, though probably held not long after the former.
To Shechem - As it is immediately added that they presented themselves before God, this must mean the tabernacle; but at this time the tabernacle was not at Shechem but at Shiloh. The Septuagint appear to have been struck with this difficulty, and therefore read Σηλω . Shiloh, both here and in Joshua 24:25, though the Aldine and Complutensian editions have Συχεμ , Shechem, in both places. Many suppose that this is the original reading, and that Shechem has crept into the text instead of Shiloh. Perhaps there is more of imaginary than real difficulty in the text. As Joshua was now old and incapable of travelling, he certainly had a right to assemble the representatives of the tribes wherever he found most convenient, and to bring the ark of the covenant to the place of assembling: and this was probably done on this occasion. Shechem is a place famous in the patriarchal history. Here Abraham settled on his first coming into the land of Canaan, Genesis 12:6, Genesis 12:7; and here the patriarchs were buried, Acts 7:16. And as Shechem lay between Ebal and Gerizim, where Joshua had before made a covenant with the people, Joshua 8:30, etc., the very circumstance of the place would be undoubtedly friendly to the solemnity of the present occasion. Shuckford supposes that the covenant was made at Shechem, and that the people went to Shiloh to confirm it before the Lord. Mr. Mede thinks the Ephraimites had a (proseucha), or temporary oratory or house of prayer, at Shechem, whither the people resorted for Divine worship when they could not get to the tabernacle; and that this is what is called before the Lord; but this conjecture seems not at all likely, God having forbidden this kind of worship.
On the other side of the flood - The river Euphrates.
They served other gods - Probably Abraham as well as Terah his father was an idolater, till he received the call of God to leave that land. See on Genesis 11:31 (note); Genesis 12:1 (note).
Then Balak - arose and warred against Israel - This circumstance is not related in Numbers 22:1-41, nor does it appear in that history that the Moabites attacked the Israelites; and probably the warring here mentioned means no more than his attempts to destroy them by the curses of Balaam, and the wiles of the Midianitish women.
The men of Jericho fought against you - See the notes on Joshua 3:1-16 (note) and Joshua 6:1 (note), etc. The people of Jericho are said to have fought against the Israelites, because they opposed them by shutting their gates, etc., though they did not attempt to meet them in the field.
I sent the hornet before you - See the note on Exodus 23:28.
Fear the Lord - Reverence him as the sole object of your religious worship.
Serve him - Perform his will by obeying his commands.
In sincerity - Having your whole heart engaged in his worship.
And in truth - According to the directions he has given you in his infallible word.
Put away the gods, etc. - From this exhortation of Joshua we learn of what sort the gods were, to the worship of whom these Israelites were still attached.
1.Those which their fathers worshipped on the other side of the flood: i.e., the gods of the Chaldeans, fire, light, the sun.
2.Those of the Egyptians, Apis, Anubis, the ape, serpents, vegetables, etc.
3.Those of the Canaanites, Moabites, etc., Baal-peor or Priapus, Astarte or Venus, etc., etc.
All these he refers to in this and the following verse. See at the conclusion of Joshua 24:33 (note). How astonishing is this, that, after all God had done for them, and all the miracles they had seen, there should still be found among them both idols and idolaters! That it was so we have the fullest evidence, both here and in Joshua 24:23; Amos 5:26; and in Acts 7:41. But what excuse can be made for such stupid, not to say brutish, blindness? Probably they thought they could the better represent the Divine nature by using symbols and images, and perhaps they professed to worship God through the medium of these. At least this is what has been alleged in behalf of a gross class of Christians who are notorious for image worship. But on such conduct God will never look with any allowance, where he has given his word and testimony.
Choose you this day whom ye will serve - Joshua well knew that all service that was not free and voluntary could be only deceit and hypocrisy, and that God loveth a cheerful giver. He therefore calls upon the people to make their choice, for God himself would not force them - they must serve him with all their heart if they served him at all. As for himself and family, he shows them that their choice was already fixed, for they had taken Jehovah for their portion.
God forbid that we should forsake the Lord - That they were now sincere cannot be reasonably doubted, for they served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and the elders that outlived him, Joshua 24:31; but afterwards they turned aside, and did serve other gods. “It is ordinary,” says Mr. Trapp, “for the many-headed multitude to turn with the stream - to be of the same religion with their superiors: thus at Rome, in Diocletian‘s time, they were pagans; in Constantine‘s Christians; in Constantius‘s, Arians; in Julian‘s apostates, and in Jovinian‘s, Christians again! And all this within less than the age of a man. It is, therefore, a good thing that the heart be established with grace.”
Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is a holy God - If we are to take this literally, we cannot blame the Israelites for their defection from the worship of the true God; for if it was impossible for them to serve God, they could not but come short of his kingdom: but surely this was not the case. Instead of לא תוכלו (lo thuchelu), ye Cannot serve, etc., some eminent critics read לא תכלו (lo thechallu), ye shall not Cease to serve, etc. This is a very ingenious emendation, but there is not one MS. in all the collections of Kennicott and De Rossi to support it. However, it appears very possible that the first ו (vau) in תוכלו did not make a part of the word originally. If the common reading be preferred, the meaning of the place must be, “Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is holy and jealous, unless ye put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the flood. For he is a jealous God, and will not give to nor divide his glory with any other. He is a holy God, and will not have his people defiled with the impure worship of the Gentiles.”
And the people said - Nay; but we will serve, etc. - So they understood the words of Joshua to imply no moral impossibility on their side: and had they earnestly sought the gracious assistance of God, they would have continued steady in his covenant.
Ye are witnesses against yourselves - Ye have been sufficiently apprised of the difficulties in your way - of God‘s holiness - your own weakness and inconstancy - the need you have of Divine help, and the awful consequences of apostasy; and now ye deliberately make your choice. Remember then, that ye are witnesses against yourselves, and your own conscience will be witness, judge, and executioner; or, as one terms it, index, judex, vindex.
Now therefore put away - As you have promised to reform, begin instantly the work of reformation. A man‘s promise to serve God soon loses its moral hold of his conscience if he do not instantaneously begin to put it in practice. The grace that enables him to promise is that by the strength of which he is to begin the performance.
Joshua made a covenant - Literally, Joshua cut the covenant, alluding to the sacrifice offered on the occasion.
And set then a statute and an ordinance - He made a solemn and public act of the whole, which was signed and witnessed by himself and the people, in the presence of Jehovah; and having done so, he wrote the words of the covenant in the book of the law of God, probably in some part of the skin constituting the great roll, on which the laws of God were written, and of which there were some blank columns to spare. Having done this, he took a great stone and set it up under an oak - that this might be עד (ed) or witness that, at such a time and place, this covenant was made, the terms of which might be found written in the book of the law, which was laid up beside the ark. See Deuteronomy 31:26.
This stone - hath heard all the words - That is, the stone itself, from its permanency, shall be in all succeeding ages as competent and as substantial a witness as one who had been present at the transaction, and heard all the words which on both sides were spoken on the occasion.
So Joshua - After this verse the Septuagint insert Joshua 24:31.
Joshua the son of Nun - died - This event probably took place shortly after this public assembly; for he was old and stricken in years when he held the assembly mentioned Joshua 23:2; and as his work was now all done, and his soul ripened for a state of blessedness, God took him to himself, being one hundred and ten years of age; exactly the same age as that of the patriarch Joseph. See Genesis 50:26.
And they buried him - in Timnath-serah - This was his own inheritance, as we have seen Joshua 19:50. The Septuagint add here, “And they put with him there, in the tomb in which they buried him, the knives of stone with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, according as the Lord commanded when he brought them out of Egypt; and there they are till this day.” St. Augustine quotes the same passage in his thirtieth question on the book of Joshua, which, in all probability, he took from some copy of the Septuagint. It is very strange that there is no account of any public mourning for the death of this eminent general; probably, as he was buried in his own inheritance, he had forbidden all funeral pomp, and it is likely was privately interred.
And Israel served the Lord, etc. - Though there was private idolatry among them, for they had strange gods, yet there was no public idolatry all the days of Joshua and of the elders that overlived Joshua; most of whom must have been advanced in years at the death of this great man. Hence Calmet supposes that the whole of this time might amount to about fifteen years. It has already been noted that this verse is placed by the Septuagint after Joshua 24:28.
And the bones of Joseph - See the note on Genesis 50:25, and on Exodus 13:19. This burying of the bones of Joseph probably took place when the conquest of the land was completed, and each tribe had received its inheritance; for it is not likely that this was deferred till after the death of Joshua.
And Eleazar - died - Probably about the same time as Joshua, or soon after; though some think he outlived him six years. Thus, nearly all the persons who had witnessed the miracles of God in the wilderness were gathered to their fathers; and their descendants left in possession of the great inheritance, with the Law of God in their hands, and the bright example of their illustrious ancestors before their eyes. It must be added that they possessed every advantage necessary to make them a great, a wise, and a holy people. How they used, or rather how they abused, these advantages, their subsequent history, given in the sacred books, amply testifies.
A hill that pertained to Phinehas his son - This grant was probably made to Phinehas as a token of the respect of the whole nation, for his zeal, courage, and usefulness: for the priests had properly no inheritance. At the end of this verse the Septuagint add: - “In that day the children of Israel, taking up the ark of the covenant of God, carried it about with them, and Phinehas succeeded to the high priest‘s office in the place of his father until his death; and he was buried in Gabaath, which belonged to himself. “Then the children of Israel went every man to his own place, and to his own city. “And the children of Israel worshipped Astarte and Ashtaroth, and the gods of the surrounding nations, and the Lord delivered them into the hands of Eglon king of Moab, and he tyrannized over them for eighteen years.”
I. The dignity of the mediator.
“I. The dignity of the mediator. - Take a view of his names, Hosea and Jehoshua. God will save: he will save. The first is like a promise; the second, the fulfillment of that promise. God will save some time or other: - this is the very person by whom he will accomplish his promise. Take a view of Joshua‘s life: his faith, courage, constancy, heroism, and success. A remarkable type of Christ. See Hebrews 4:8.
“II. The freedom of those who contracted. - Take away the gods which your fathers served beyond the flood; and in Egypt, etc., Joshua 24:14, etc. Joshua exhibits to the Israelites all the religions which were then known:
1. That of the Chaldeans, which consisted in the adoration of fire.
“III. The necessity of the choice. - To be without religion, is to be without happiness here, and without any title to the kingdom of God. To have a false religion, is the broad road to perdition; and to have the true religion, and live agreeably to it, is the high road to heaven. Life is precarious - death is at the door - the Judge calls - much is to be done, and perhaps little time to do it in! Eternity depends on the present moment. Choose - choose speedily - determinately, etc.
1. In opposition to the detestable idolatry of the forementioned nations.
II. Uprightness or integrity, in opposition to those abominable vices by which themselves and the neighboring nations had been defiled.
1. The major part of men have one religion for youth, another for old age. But he who serves God in integrity, serves him with all his heart in every part of life.
“V. The peril of the engagement. - This covenant had in it the nature of an oath; for so much the phrase before the Lord implies: therefore those who entered into this covenant bound themselves by oath unto the Lord, to be steady and faithful in it. But it may be asked, ‹As human nature is very corrupt, and exceedingly fickle, is there not the greatest danger of breaking such a covenant; and is it not better not to make it, than to run the risk of breaking it, and exposing one‘s self to superadded punishment on that account?‘ Answer: He who makes such a covenant in God‘s strength, will have that strength to enable him to prove faithful to it. Besides, if the soul do not feel itself under the most solemn obligation to live to God, it will live to the world and the flesh. Nor is such a covenant as this more solemn and strict than that which we have often made; first in our baptism, and often afterwards in the sacrament of the Lord‘s Supper, etc. Joshua allows there is a great danger in making this covenant. Ye cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy, strong, and jealous God, etc. But this only supposes that nothing could be done right but by his Spirit, and in his strength. The energy of the Holy Spirit is equal to every requisition of God‘s holy law, as far as it regards the moral conduct of a believer in Christ.
1. He caused the word to be written in the book of the law, Joshua 24:26.
There is the same indispensable necessity for every one who professes Christianity, to enter into a covenant with God through Christ. He who is not determined to be on God‘s side, will be found on the side of the world, the devil, and the flesh. And he who does not turn from all his iniquities, cannot make such a covenant. And he who does not make it now, may probably never have another opportunity. Reader, death is at the door, and eternity is at hand. These are truths which are everywhere proclaimed - everywhere professedly believed - everywhere acknowledged to be important and perhaps nowhere laid to heart as they should be. And yet all grant that they are born to die!
Masoretic Notes on Joshua
The number of verses in the Book of Joshua is 656, (should be 658, see on Joshua 21:36 (note), etc.), of which the symbol is found in the word ותרן (vetharon), (and shall sing), Isaiah 35:6.
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