Attention!
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

Joshua 24

Verses 1-13

Joshua - Chapter 24

Review of History, vs. 1-13

Chapter 24 seems to be a final gathering of the people of Israel to Joshua in his last days in addition to the gathering in chapter 23. Those said to have been called by Joshua are the same groups as in the earlier call, although here is found "all the tribes of Israel," whereas in the earlier chapter is found "all Israel," which certainly may mean the same thing. Chapter 24 mentions specifically that Joshua called them to Shechem the chief city of Ephraim, though Shechem is not mentioned in chapter 23.

In the following twelve verses is found the Lord’s review of His dealing with Israel beginning with the call of Abraham, whose father was Terah. Israel’s lineage from Abraham back lived "on the other side of the flood."

This had no reference whatever to the deluge of Noah’s day, for Terah and Abraham lived nine and ten generations after the flood. The word translated ’flood" is rendered "river" in other translations, and certainly refers to the Euphrates River, on the other side of which was Mesopotamia and Ur of the Chaldees.

The Lord took Abraham out of a. pagan, idolatrous environment,, his fathers having been worshippers of idols. There is a very old tradition that Terah himself was an idol-maker. The multiplication of Abraham’s seed may be taken to refer to the propagation thereof from his day down to the day on which Joshua spoke.

There is no reference to Abraham’s sons other than Isaac, but there is reference to Esau, the son of Isaac, as well as to Jacob. When the family of Jacob went into Egypt the Lord was already giving Esau a national home in Mount Seir.

As Joshua continued to review Israel’s blessings from the Lord he came to Moses and Aaron and their mission in bringing Israel out of Egypt. Reference is made to the plagues by which the Lord persuaded Pharaoh to allow them to leave. The scene at the Red sea is next mentioned, when Pharaoh reneged on his promise and sought to recapture the Israelites, only to have his army decimated by the waves of the sea which overwhelmed them.

When in their fear Israel cried out to the Lord He protected them, till they could cross the sea to safety, by coming down in the pillar of cloud and fire to stand between Israel and Egypt. Many still living and listening to Joshua’s speech were children and adolescents at that time and were well able to remember this mighty manifestation of the Lord’s miraculous power.

The account next passes on to the long years of wandering in the wilderness, but does not long dwell on that shameful chapter of Israel’s history. At the end of the wilderness wandering they came into the Amorite country east of Jordan There the two mighty kings of the Amorites, Sihon and Og, opposed Israel. But the Lord gave them other spectacular and conclusive victories over those kings.

Opposition arose from Balak, the king of Moab, who sent for the soothsayer and false prophet, Baalam, to curse Israel. He wished to take from them land which he claimed the Amorites had taken from him, but the Lord turned the words of Balaam into blessing instead. Read of these things in Numbers, chapters 21-25.

Finally, Joshua comes down to the conquest of Canaan. From Jericho the Lord gave the Israelites successive victories, with the exception of Ai, which Joshua does not mention. Here in verse 12 is mentioned the Lord’s use of hornets to drive out the Amorite kings before Israel.

This possibility had been stated by the Lord, through Moses, in Exodus 23:28 and Deuteronomy 7:20. Though there is no account of this event, it did occur, according to the words of Joshua at this time.

So now the Israelites found themselves in possession of a land of cities, vineyards, and olive yards for which they did not labor. The Lord had given it to them.

Verses 14-24

Challenge Issued and Accepted, vs. 14-24

The things of this reading include one of the greatest resolutions and challenges in all the Bible. It can be considered in three parts, verses 14-15, 16-18, 19-24.

1) The first consists of Joshua’s challenge to the people and his personal resolution. Joshua has brought the people’s history before them in his previous words. Now he challenges them to have reverent fear toward the Lord and to sincerely and honestly serve Him.

This is a call to them to go beyond mere outward formality and ritual, which they were all likely not doing. Joshua’s words suggest that there had always been idolatry among the people, for they are told to put away the gods they had kept among them since the time of Abraham and his brother, Nahor (see Rachel’s theft of her father’s gods, Genesis 31:19 ff), and the gods some of them had clung to since they had come out of Egypt.

If it should seem to them wrong to serve the Lord it was time for Israel to declare whom they would serve. If they do not intend to serve the Lord God, but will insist on serving the gods of their forefathers, or of Egypt, or the new gods of the Amorites which they found in Canaan, then let them declare it now.

But Joshua rises to his great resolution, "As for me and my house we will serve the Lord. " Not only was Joshua strong to declare his own intent unequivocally, he could also speak, as the head of his house, for all his household. This is as it should be with all Christian men today, (Ephesians 6:4).

2) The second act of the account is the declaration of the people, or of their spokesmen. They recoiled from the suggestion that they might forsake the Lord who had brought them from Egypt and given them this good land of Canaan, in which they were dwelling.

They stood ready to accredit the Lord with having delivered them from the bondage of Egypt; preserved them through all their way by His great signs, which they had seen with their own eyes; and delivered them safely to the Promised Land. How could they turn their backs on Him and turn to idol gods? Therefore, they also resolved, "We will also serve the Lord; for he is our God."

3) The third act of closing words of the passage show the magnitude of Israel’s promise, which Joshua understood better than they. After having just challenged them to serve the Lord alone, he now tells the people they cannot serve the Lord, because He is a holy and jealous God and one who will not forgive them their transgressions and sins.

How can Joshua tell them this when he has just challenged them to turn from false gods and serve the Lord alone? Is he challenging them to do something they cannot do? The sequel will bring out his meaning. Under existing conditions among them they will forsake the Lord, turn to the false gods, and the Lord God will turn upon them, do them hurt and consume them although He has previously done them good, (2 John 1:8).

But the people were insistent that they would, indeed, continue to serve the Lord and would surely not turn from Him to the false gods. Upon this Joshua made them witnesses against themselves that they will adhere to God and shun false gods. Now Joshua can tell them what they must do if they live up to their resolution.

There were already those among them worshipping the idol gods. The people probably thought they were keeping this false worship secret, and the elders were likely pretending that such worship did not exist, but Joshua knew it did. Certainly. the Lord knew it. The reason Joshua told them they could not serve the Lord was because they were harboring this false religion among them. They must reject it and incline their ear to the Lord to hear only His will. They said, "The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey."

Verses 25-28

Covenant Established, vs. 25-28

The ancient city of Shechem was located only a few miles from Shiloh, where the tabernacle had been erected. It is often associated with Shiloh, as it seems to be in this passage. Joshua took the solemn oath of the people, which they had themselves witnessed, to faithfully serve the Lord, and made it an ordinance.

To commemorate it he did two things. He made it a part of the book of the law of God, a probable reference to the writings of Moses (which may include all the Book of Joshua). Second, he set up a great stone under an oak tree by the sanctuary. It is not clear whether the oath of the people was engraved on the stone, but it likely was. Joshua told the people the stone had heard the words of the Lord, which He spoke to them, meaning that it was there at the time of their covenant. Therefore, it would be a witness against them when the time came that they might wish to deny that they had sworn to serve the Lord sincerely and honestly. Here, then, is still another of Israel’s monuments in the land, this one erected to fidelity to their promise to serve the Lord alone.

Verses 29-33

Funeral Hobs, vs. 29-33

The Book of Joshua concludes with notes on the death and burial of three of Israel’s major heroes. 1) First, there is Joshua, who lived to be 110 years of age, the same age as his great forefather, Joseph (Genesis 50:26). Joshua had been given a special inheritance in the tribe of Ephraim, his tribe, when all the land was divided (Joshua 19:49-51).

Timnath-serah was not far from Shechem on the one side and Lydda on the other, although it is not now possible to identify its location exactly. It was a land of brooks and valleys, which is the meaning of Gaash, the hill on which Joshua was buried.

There follows next a wonderful testimony to the life of Joshua. His example of faithfulness to the Lord before the people was such that they did not turn away from God all the days of Joshua. His life was also an encouragement to the other elders, who were able to keep the people steadfast in their worship of the Lord all their lifetime.

These elders were those who could remember the events of the Exodus, sojourn in the wilderness, and conquest of Canaan. What a marvelous testimony to a man of God (Hebrews 13:7)

2) Account is given here of the burial of the bones of Joseph These had been kept in a coffin in Egypt, after that patriarch’s death, until they departed in the Exodus (see Genesis 50:25-26; Exodus 13:19). Although the record of their burial is only given here it should not be thought they were kept until the death of Joshua before they were buried.

It is just that the account, is appended here to round out the record. Joseph’s bones were buried at Shechem, in the field which Jacob bought when he returned from Padan-aram (Genesis 33:18-20), and which he allotted to Joseph’s sons when bestowing the birthright on them (Genesis 48:22).

This land was in the allotment of Ephraim, Joseph’s son. The bones of Joseph had served as a reminder of the faithfulness of the Lord to His promises to give Canaan to Israel through all the centuries from Joseph’s death to his burial.

3) The death of Eleazar is also recorded. Eleazar succeeded his father, Aaron, to become the second high priest of Israel. He served throughout the conquest of Canaan and through the lifetime of Joshua. His son, Phinehas, succeeded him, having become many years before a chief among the priests (note Numbers 25:6; Joshua 22:13 ff).

Eleazar was buried in a plot which had been given to Phinehas, also in the mount of Ephraim. This part of mount Ephraim was in the tribe of Benjamin, where cities had been assigned to the priest families.

Mount Ephraim extended from the tribe of Manasseh in the north southward across Ephraim and having its southern terminus in Benjamin.

Many great lessons are to be gleaned from this final chapter of Joshua, and several have already been stressed. Note that 1) recalling all the great things the Lord has done for His people is good in order to keep them in remembrance of His grace toward them; 2) it is impossible to serve and worship the Lord with hidden and unacknowledged sin in our lives; 3) the Lord will hold us responsible for our vows of service to Him; 4) the death of great servants of the Lord is noteworthy for the exemplary character of their lives in its emphasis to those who survive.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 24". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/joshua-24.html. 1985.