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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Joshua 23

Verses 1-2

Introduction

In Joshua 23 and Joshua 24, the last two chapters of the book, the ancient Joshua addresses Israel. He looks back on what the LORD has done to give the people the promised land. Then he tells them how they can continue to enjoy the full blessing of their inheritance. This is first of all by keeping to God’s Word in everything. Secondly, this is by keeping oneself separated from the remnants of the peoples that are still around them.

It is the same for us. Only by listening to God’s Word in obedience in all things and by remaining separated from the world in all things will we be able to continue to enjoy the tremendous blessings given to us in Christ in the heavenly places.

Joshua 23 and Joshua 24 belong together. It is always a striking moment when a man of God says goodbye at the end of his life. We also see such a moment with Moses (Deuteronomy 31:14-Amos :; Deuteronomy 32:45-2 Corinthians :), with Samuel (1 Samuel 12:1-Lamentations :) and with Paul (Acts 20:17-Zechariah :). The farewell address of Paul is the only address in Acts to believers; the other addresses are all for unbelievers. These are the last words of Paul to the elders of Ephesus.

Joshua is a picture of the glorified Lord Who is now with His people in the Spirit to lead it after the death of Moses who is a picture of the Lord Jesus Who led His people through the wilderness. The Spirit dwells in all believers. But there are also leaders in whom the Spirit works to introduce God’s people into the heavenly blessings. The true leaders are those who lead the people of God into the heavenly blessings. What teachers do today is to draw from what the first leaders, who discovered these blessings, the apostles, have passed on.

Joshua Calls All Together

The explanation of these last chapters is not difficult. It is about a time when the leaders and elders are no longer there, but when the Word remains. Leaders may pass away; the words of God they have spoken remain. The Lord Jesus also remains “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. Jesus Christ [is] the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:7-Ruth :). Whoever believes, lacks nothing.

In Joshua and the elders we can see the generation of apostles, who are the founders of the church, and the elders they appointed. There comes a moment when Joshua dies. This is followed by a time when the elders are still there. They are, as it were, the second generation. But this generation will also die. And Joshua shows what will happen then. The people will remain alone. There will be no new leader. They will have to rely completely on God only as their Leader. This is also what Paul points to in connection with his passing away: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build [you] up and to give [you] the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32).

Joshua first speaks to the elders, just as Paul does. Paul commends them to God and to the Word of His grace. He has no successor, no new generation of apostles. But the grace of God does not change, does not pass away, nor does His Word, which always remains with us, as does the Spirit. This allows us to receive and enjoy the inheritance among those who are sanctified. Paul has made known the heavenly blessings. Paul is no longer there, but his words are. So Joshua also wrote everything down (Joshua 24:26).

Verses 3-4

What Is Done for the People

Joshua especially addresses those who have a special responsibility in the midst of God’s people. He first wants to impress them with the great grace with which God has worked for His people.

Verse 5

The LORD Will Continue to Help Them

The history of the conquest of the land is in fact that of the power and faithfulness of God. What they have seen in the past of God’s power and faithfulness, they can count on for the future. Joshua points to the grace that will remain with them in the future.

Verses 6-8

Call to Faithfulness to God

There are also conditions to be fulfilled. Joshua shows how to preserve the inheritance. He points out the dangers from outside, the peoples around them, with which they should not interfere. Thus Paul warns of intruders, and what will come forth from among them: “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-Amos :). There are dangers from outside and inside. We are always surrounded by opponents and we still have the flesh in us.

The involvement with the remaining peoples begins with the naming of their gods. Therefore they should not even mention their names (Psalms 16:4). Mentioning the names means paying attention to them. Thus the demons behind these idols are given the opportunity to exert their influence on the thinking of God’s people. A next step is to swear by it, followed by adhering to it and bowing to it.

Satan always tries to get room for his views first. Once he has been given an opening for this, the practice follows automatically. Therefore the admonition comes to us that certain things are not even mentioned among us as believers (Ephesians 5:3-Numbers :).

Verses 9-10

The LORD Fights for His People

All the victories that the people have achieved are due to God. The enemy is defeated not by his own strength, but by God’s strength. That one was able to pursue a thousand is because God fought for them according to His promise (cf. 1 Samuel 14:6). Without God the strongest army can do nothing, while with God a few can defeat the biggest army.

Verse 11

Appeal to Love the LORD

Here we read for the third time the precept not to deviate from the LORD their God. The first prescription is obedience (Joshua 23:6). What we have seen in God’s Word, we must do, otherwise we will fall. This obedience can only be brought about by observing the second precept, that our soul adheres to the Lord (Joshua 23:8), that is to say, knowing to be one with Him. The adherence to the Lord is again the result of loving Him from the heart, as the third precept says (Joshua 23:11). Love leads to the keeping of God’s commandments (1 John 5:3). Love brings to complete surrender and means life.

Verses 12-13

Warning

There are always enemies left over that they have to drive out and for whom they have to beware that they are not going to serve their gods. Those enemies always want to try to be among God’s people. If they commit to it, it will have great and evil consequences. If they do not use God’s power to drive out the enemy, God will allow the enemy to remain among them and they will not be able to drive him out.

David later subdues the enemies that are still in Israel. Thus, when the Lord Jesus returns to earth, He will subdue the enemies of Israel. We are part of Christianity and constantly have to deal with these enemies, the wolves from outside, which we no longer get rid of. We also have an enemy in us, that is the flesh. We should not fight against this, but keep ourselves dead to it (Romans 6:11).

If we do not treat the enemy as God indicates, he will make us a “snare” that will bring us down. We will be caught in his “trap”, which will prevent us from moving. He will become our “whip”, which means he will oppress us hard and cruelly. Finally, he will become “thorns in your eyes”, which means that he will cruelly and painfully blind us, so that we see nothing more of God’s blessings.

Verse 14

The LORD Has Fulfilled All His Promises

Joshua goes “the way of all the earth”, that is, he leaves the earth by death. Enoch and Elijah are exceptions (Genesis 5:24; 2 Kings 2:11). By emphasizing his death so emphatically, his words will have made an even greater impression.

Joshua honors God before the people by keeping God’s absolute faithfulness to all His promises to the people (Joshua 21:45; Hebrews 10:23). He speaks of “all the good words”. God seeks only the good for His people, all His promises are good and He fulfils them without exception. All the promises that have already been fulfilled are a guarantee for all the promises that remain to be fulfilled.

Verses 15-16

Consequences of Unfaithfulness Announced

What applies to good things also applies to evil things. God is faithful to His Word in everything. Just as He has made good come, so He will also let evil come when His people become unfaithful to Him.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 23". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-23.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.