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JOSHUA'S SUMMARY OF ISRAEL'S HISTORY
For the second time, as Joshua neared the end of his life, he called Israel together, primarily the elders, heads, judges and officers (v.1), but including "all the people" (v.2). He then faithfully summarized Israel's history, from her fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob until the then present time. There is a striking similarity between this and the first part of Stephen's address in Acts 7:1-60.
Abraham had dwelt with his father Terah on the east of the Euphrates River, where they were idol worshipers (v.2). This was a humbling reminder for Israel, that they originated from one who had followed false gods. But grace can make a wonderful difference, as it did with Abraham, so that after leaving his native land he was led by God in traversing the land of Canaan, where the Lord also greatly blessed him, multiplying his descendants, though only his one son Isaac is mentioned by name, for Israel was to come from Isaac.
Jacob and Esau were born to Isaac. Esau was born first, but Jacob was God's choice to father a nation separate from all other nations. But while Esau possessed the land of Seir, Jacob and his family went down to Egypt (v.4).
Nothing is said of Moses' birth in Egypt nor of his honor in Pharaoh's court, but rather of God's sending Moses and Aaron to be the means of Israel's deliverance. Briefly too God's plagues on Egypt are mentioned, for it was these that eventually moved Pharaoh to release Israel (v.5). But it was God who brought them out, and God who had directed them to the Red Sea, which Israel would not have naturally chosen. The waters of death were rolled back for Israel to pass on dry ground, and the pursuing Egyptians found darkness while Israel was in the light (v.7).
Then the Lord answered the cries of Israel and the sea came back to its strength, covering all the Egyptians. Such reminders from Joshua ought to have stirred Israel to realize afresh how dependent they were upon the power and grace of God on their behalf. Their wanderings in the wilderness are only mentioned as being "a long time," for these were testings that had to do with their own weakness and failure, not with the sovereign grace and power of God.
But after this God brought them to the land of the Amorites to the east of Jordan, where again the power of God was manifest in Israel's defeating this nation and possessing their land (v.8).
At that time Balak king of Moab enlisted Balaam, a false prophet, with the object of cursing Israel and rendering them powerless before the Moabite army (v.9). But God intervened and Balaam's cursing turned to blessing for Israel, so that they were delivered from Moab (v.10). To be reminded thus that God was for Israel ought to have been a great incentive to them to cling all the more steadfastly to the Lord.
Then the Lord brought Israel over Jordan, where they defeated Jericho, then the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites (v.11). All of these victories were manifestly not because of the superior power of Israel, but the Lord "sent the hornet before you" (v.12). This is figurative of the fact of God's so dealing with the enemies that they were frightened as though attacked by hornets and thus rendered helpless to fight. Two kings of the Amorites are specifically mentioned as defeated without the help of Israel's sword or bow. Thus God had given Israel a land for which they did not labor and cities they had not built, and vineyards and olive groves they had not planted.
EXHORTATIONS BASED ON GOD'S FAITHFULNESS
Having received such blessing from God, it was only right that Israel should wholeheartedly serve the Lord in sincerity and in truth, putting away all those idols that Abraham had served long before (v.14), but had given up when he came to Canaan. It is notorious that people will often return to idols that were popular many years before just as today many people in western nations are returning to idolatrous mysticism that had been given no place when Christianity had a strong voice in these nations.
Joshua calls upon Israel to be decisive as to whom they would serve. Did they think it evil (that is, harmful) to serve the Lord? If so, then let them choose now between the idolatry that Abraham had refused or the idolatry of the Amorites (v.15). Joshua is firmly decisive as to himself and his house, as he says, "we will serve the Lord." He had evidently discerned already a tendency of departure on the part of the people.
The people respond that they will not forsake the Lord to serve other gods (v 16), and speak appreciatively of the things of which Joshua reminded them, God's delivering them from the bondage of Egypt, manifesting His presence by great signs, preserving them through the wilderness and driving out their enemies, to enable them to inherit the land. Therefore they affirm they will serve the Lord, "for He is our God" (v.18).
However, Joshua answered them, "You cannot serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God" (v.19). Joshua knew that Israel was really only expressing their confidence in the flesh, as Peter did when the Lord told him he would deny Him (Matthew 26:31-35). It is impossible for the energy of the flesh to please God (Romans 8:8). On the basis of Israel's claim of righteousness, God would not forgive their transgressions nor their sins (v.19). Thank God He does forgive where there is the honest self-judgment of repentance. but if they were to forsake the Lord and serve other gods, there was no self-judgment in this, and after all God's goodness to them they would experience just the opposite in being consumed by harmful inflictions (v.20). Such is the righteous government of God in discipline.
The people still protest they will serve the Lord (v.21), 50 Joshua tells them they are witnesses against themselves, for in time to come, when they forsook the Lord, the witness of their own words would be against them. They fully agree that they are witnesses, for they did not suspect the treachery of their own hearts, but trusted their own strength (v 22).
However, in verse 23 Joshua tells them to put away the foreign gods that were among them. He knew that idolatry was already present. How could they say they would serve the Lord when they were already entertaining idols? But even today there are professing Christians who speak plainly against unholy practices, yet involve themselves with others who indulge in such practices. They seem unable to realize the inconsistency of such things. But Israel insists they will serve and obey the Lord God of Israel (v.24).
A RENEWED COVENANT
Just as God had made a covenant with Israel on the basis of law in Exodus 19:1-25; Exodus 20:1-26, while knowing full well that Israel would not keep that covenant, so Joshua now makes a covenant with the people, though knowing they would not keep it (v.25). The covenant did not really encourage them to obey, but it would be a testimony against them when they disobeyed. It is not really a new covenant that Joshua makes, but a renewal of the covenant of law, which Israel had already broken, and instead of confessing their guilt, were now making a futile promise of doing better
Joshua wrote the words of the covenant in the book of the law of God, for the covenant only confirmed Israel's responsibility to keep that law (vs.26-27). Then he set up a large stone as a memorial of this covenant and as a standing witness to Israel' S promise. We may well wonder if they totally disregarded this stone in their after history. These were the last recorded words of Joshua to Israel, and the setting up of the stone his last recorded act.
TWO DEATHS AND THREE BURIALS
The time has come for Joshua's death at the age of 110 years, and he was buried within the borders of his own inheritance. His spiritual energy had effect on the elders who outlived him, so that Israel continued to serve the Lord during their lives. They had first hand knowledge of the great works of the Lord on behalf of Israel, but failed to so impress their children as to preserve them from departure.
Verse 32 also tells of the burial of Joseph's bones at Shechem in the plot of ground Jacob had bought (Genesis 33:19). The sons of Joseph had inherited this land. Likely this burial took place before the death of Joshua.
Eleazar had been a faithful priest in the establishing of Israel in the land, a type of Christ in resurrection, but he too passes off the scene, so that the Book of Judges introduces an era much different than that of Joshua. In the main Joshua has been a book of victory, though not without setbacks. Judges deals mainly with Israel's failure, not without grace shining through.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Joshua 24". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16