(b) JOSHUA’S LAST CHARGE TO THE PEOPLE.
(1, 2) Joshua gathered all the tribes . . .—At the former address the rulers alone appear to have been present; on this occasion all Israel was gathered. And what is spoken is addressed to the people in the hearing of the rulers. In the speech that now follows Joshua briefly recapitulates the national history; he had not thought this necessary for the rulers. To them he had said, “Ye know;” but “the people” embraced many persons of but little thought and education, whom it was necessary to inform and remind and instruct, even as to the leading events of their national history. The simple lesson which Joshua’s words are intended to enforce is the duty of serving Jehovah, and serving Him alone. It is the first great lesson of the old covenant. “I am Jehovah, thy God; thou shalt have no other gods beside Me.” The ark of this covenant had brought them over Jordan into the promised land.
(2) Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood.—The flood, i.e., the river—probably Euphrates, though it may be Jordan, or both. Flood in our English Bible has been used for river in several places: e.g., Job 22:16, “whose foundation was overflown with a flood,” i.e., a river; Psalms 66:6, “He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood (the river, i.e., Jordan) on foot;” Matthew 7:25; Matthew 7:27, “The rain descended, and the floods (i.e., the rivers) came.”
They served other gods.—They, i.e., Terah, Abraham, and Nachor.
(3) The flood—i.e., the river, as in Joshua 24:2; and so also in Joshua 24:15.
(9) Warred against Israel.—The sending for Balaam was a distinct act of hostility. Whether Balak himself ever led an army against Israel we are not informed. In the war with the Midianites, Balaam was slain; and there may have been Moabites allied and acting with the Midianites in the war in Numbers 31.
(12) The hornet.—There appears no reason for taking this word in any other than a literal sense. The possibility of what is recorded here has been abundantly illustrated by events reported in our own times.
The two kings of the Amorites.—Apparently, but not necessarily, Sihon and Og are intended. There were kings of the Amorites on both sides of Jordan.
(14) Fear the Lord.—It should be remembered throughout the whole of this passage that Lord stands for JEHOVAH, the covenant God of Israel.
(15) The Amorites.—Here used generically for the inhabitants of Canaan.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.—For Joshua himself the service of Jehovah on earth was nearly over. He pledges his “house” to the same service. What is known of his family? It is a singular fact that no descendant of the great conqueror, no member of his household, is named in the Bible. In the genealogies of Ephraim in 1 Chronicles 7, Joshua’s name is the last in his own line (Joshua 24:27 : “Non his son, Jehoshuah his son”). I cannot but regard the silence of Scripture under this head as profoundly significant. It is one more analogy between the Joshua of the Old Testament and his great Antitype in the Gospel: “whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Hebrews 3:6). The house of Joshua embraces all the faithful servants of the Lord.
(16) God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods.—The feelings of the people are naturally shocked by the bare mention of apostasy. They will not forsake Jehovah on any account. But their answer only betrayed their want of intelligence. They missed the point of Joshua’s argument, as may be seen by his reply.
(19) And Joshua said . . . Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is . . . jealous . . .—Jehovah will not consent to be served as one God among many: the very thing which Israel was doing at the moment, which they meant to do, and did do, with rare intervals, down to the Babylonish captivity, when the evil spirit of (literal) idolatry was expelled for evermore. Israel always maintained the worship of Jehovah (except in very evil times) as the national Deity, but did not abstain from the recognition and partial worship of other national deities of whom they were afraid, and whom they thought it necessary to propitiate. Therefore Joshua’s argument is perfectly intelligible, and was entirely necessary for those times.
(21) Nay; but we will serve the Lord.—Being brought to the point, no other answer was possible. If they must give up Jehovah or the idols, the idols must go first.
(22,23) Ye are witnesses . . . that ye have chosen you the Lord . . . Now therefore put away . . . the strange gods.—This was the practical conclusion to which Joshua desired that they should come. But we do not read that they did anything in obedience to these words. We read of no images being buried or burned, as in the days of Jacob by David (Genesis 35:4; 2 Samuel 5:21). There is only a verbal promise: “The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey.”
(25) So Joshua made a covenant—i.e., a covenant that idolatry should not be tolerated in Israel, or suffered to exist. We read of similar covenants in the reign of Asa (2 Chronicles 15:12-13), in the reign of Joash, by Jehoiada (2 Chronicles 23:16), and of Josiah (2 Chronicles 34:31-32).
(26) And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God.—Primarily “these words” appear to refer to the transaction just recorded. But it must be observed that this is also the second signature among the sacred writers of the Old Testament. The first is that of Moses, in Deuteronomy 31:9 : “Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests,” &c. The next signature after Joshua’s is that of Samuel (1 Samuel 10:25): “Samuel told the people the manner of the kingdom, and wrote it in the [not a] book, and laid it up before the Lord.” We have here a clue to the authorship of the Old Testament, and to the view of the writers who succeeded Moses in what they did. They did not look upon themselves as writers of distinct books, but as authorised to add their part to the book already written, to write what was assigned to them “in the book of the law of God.” The unity of Holy Scripture is thus seen to have been an essential feature of the Bible from the very first.
(28-31) So Joshua let the people depart . . .—This passage is recited in Judges 2:6-9.
(31) Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and . . . of the elders that overlived Joshua.—It cannot surprise us that the personal influence of the man and of the events of his day was so difficult to efface. There was a primitive Church in Canaan as well as in the Roman Empire. The short duration of the one seems to have an analogy in the case of the other.
(32) The bones of Joseph, and also of his brethren, as appears by Acts 7:16. The precedent set by Joseph is exceedingly likely to have been followed.
And it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.—It may be that this fact helped to fix the position of Ephraim and Manasseh in the centre of the country.
(33) And Eleazar the son of Aaron died.—“Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun,” were the Moses and Aaron of this period. It is fitting that the Book of Joshua should close with the death of Eleazar, who was Joshua’s appointed counsellor; for when Joshua was given as a shepherd to Israel, in answer to the prayer of Moses, Eleazar was also given to Joshua for a counsellor (Numbers 27:21). At Eleazar’s word he was to go out and come in, “both he and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” It is rather singular that nothing but this has been recorded of Eleazar’s personal history. Everything stated about him in his lifetime is official. Not a word that he uttered has been preserved.
A hill. . . . given him in mount Ephraim.—The inheritance of Phinehas as a priest would lie within the tribe of Judah (Joshua 21:13, &c.) or Benjamin. This gift to Phinehas in Mount Ephraim, near the seat of government, seems to have been a special grant to him over and above his inheritance. But inasmuch as the tabernacle itself was at Shiloh, in Mount Ephraim, it was altogether suitable and natural that some place of abode should be assigned to the priests in that neighbourhood, where they were compelled to reside.
Although Phinehas himself was “zealous for his God,” he lived to see the tribe of Benjamin nearly exterminated from Israel for repeating the sin of the Canaanites. (See Judges 20:28.) We can hardly say that the people served Jehovah all the days of Phinehas. With Eleazar and Joshua the spirit of strict obedience to the law seems to have, in a great measure, passed away.
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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 24". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Lent