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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 24

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2577. B.C. 1427.

Joshua, assembling the people, recounts what great things God had done for them, Joshua 24:1-13 . Exhorts them to serve God, which they engage to do, Joshua 24:14-28 . His age, death, and burial, Joshua 24:29-31 . The burying of Joseph’s bones, Joshua 24:32 . The death and burial of Eleazar, Joshua 24:33 .

Verse 1

Joshua 24:1. Joshua gathered It is likely that Joshua, living longer than he expected when he delivered the foregoing discourse to the Israelites, called the people together once more, that he might give them still further advice before he died; as Moses addressed them in several pathetic speeches before his departure from them. Or perhaps it was Joshua’s custom to assemble them frequently, in order that he might remind them of their duty, and enforce it upon them. All the tribes of Israel Namely, their representatives, or, as it follows, their elders, their heads, their judges, and officers. To Shechem To the city of Shechem, a place convenient for the purpose, not only because it was a Levitical city, and a city of refuge, and a place near Joshua’s city, but especially for the two main ends for which he summoned them thither. 1st, For the solemn burial of the bones of Joseph, and probably of some others of the patriarchs, for which this place was designed. 2d, For the solemn renewing of their covenant with God; which in this place was first made between God and Abraham, (Genesis 12:6-7,) and afterward renewed by the Israelites at their first entrance into the land of Canaan, between the two mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, (chap. Joshua 8:30, &c.,) which were very near Shechem: and therefore this place was most proper, both to remind them of their former obligations to God, and to engage them to a further ratification of them. Before God As in God’s presence, to hear what Joshua was to speak to them in God’s name, and to receive God’s commands from his mouth. He had taken a solemn farewell before: but as God renewed his strength, he desired to improve it for their good. We must never think our work for God done till our life be done.

Verse 2

Joshua 24:2. Joshua said unto all the people To the elders, by whom it was to be imparted to all the rest, and to as many of the people as came thither. He spake to them in God’s name, and as from him, in the language of a prophet. Thus saith the Lord Jehovah, the great God, and the God of Israel, whom you are peculiarly bound to hear. This is an argument that he uttered all that follows by the divine inspiration and impulse. Indeed he was no less the prophet than the political head of the nation. Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood Or, the river, namely, Euphrates, so called by way of eminence. They served other gods That is, both Abraham and Nahor were no less idolaters than the rest of mankind. This is said to prevent their vain boasting in their worthy ancestors, and to assure them that whatsoever good was in, or had been done by their progenitors, was wholly from God’s free grace, and not for their own merit or righteousness.

Verse 3

Joshua 24:3. I took I snatched him out of that idolatrous place, and took him into acquaintance and covenant with myself, which was the highest honour and happiness he was capable of. And led That is, I brought him after his father’s death into Canaan, (Genesis 12:1,) and I conducted and preserved him in all his travels through the several parts of Canaan. And multiplied That is, gave him a numerous posterity, not only by Hagar and Keturah, but even by Sarah and Isaac. Gave him Isaac By my special power and grace, to be heir of my covenant, and all my promises, and the seed in or by which all the nations were to be blessed.

Verse 4

Joshua 24:4. I gave unto Esau mount Seir That he might leave Canaan entire to his brother Jacob and his posterity, Genesis 36:7-8. But Jacob went down into Egypt Compelled by a grievous famine, and because the time was not come when God intended to plant him and his posterity in Canaan. In Egypt they suffered a long and grievous bondage, from which God having delivered us, I shall now pass it over.

Verse 7

Joshua 24:7. Your eyes hare seen what I have done in Egypt He speaks this to the elders, (Joshua 24:1,) who were such not only in power and dignity, but many of them by age; and as there were not sixty years past since the plagues were inflicted on Egypt, it is probable that a considerable number of those present had been witnesses of them, and had seen with their own eyes the Egyptians lie dead upon the sea-shore, Exodus 14:30. And, not being twenty years old at that time, they were exempted from the dreadful sentence denounced and executed upon all that were older.

Verses 9-10

Joshua 24:9-10. Balak warred against Israel Not indeed by open force, but by crafty counsels, warlike stratagems, and wicked devices. I would not hearken unto Balaam It appears by this that Balaam had a great inclination to do what Balak desired, and that he asked leave of God to curse Israel; and therefore it is not strange that God, who permitted him simply to go, was highly angry with him for going with so wicked an intent, Numbers 22:22; Numbers 22:32. So I delivered you From Balak’s malicious designs against you.

Verses 11-12

Joshua 24:11-12. I delivered them into your hand Namely, successively; for in these few words he seems to comprise all their wars, which, being fresh in their memories, he thought it needless particularly to mention. I sent the hornet before you This may signify, either that before the Israelites came into those parts, God sent hornets, which so infested the inhabitants, that many of them were compelled to leave their country; or that, when they were actually engaged in battle with their enemies, these dreadful swarms, which first appeared in their war with Sihon and Og, tormented the Canaanites with their stings, and terrified them with their noise, so that they became an easy prey to Israel. God had promised to do this for them, Exodus 23:27-28; and here Joshua reminds them of the fulfilment of the promise.

Verse 14

Joshua 24:14. Put away the gods By this it appears, that although Joshua had doubtless prevented and purged out all public idolatry, yet there were some of them who practised it in their private houses and retirements. Your fathers Terah, and Nahor, and Abraham, as Joshua 24:2, and others of your ancestors. In Egypt See Ezekiel 23:3; Ezekiel 23:8; Ezekiel 23:19; Ezekiel 23:21; Ezekiel 23:27. Under these particulars, no doubt, he comprehends all other false gods which were served by the nations among whom they were, but only mentions these, as the idols which they were in more danger of worshipping than those in Canaan; partly because those of Canaan had been now lately and palpably disgraced by their inability to preserve their worshippers from total ruin; and partly because the other idols came recommended to them by the venerable name of antiquity, and the custom of their forefathers.

Verse 15

Joshua 24:15. Seem evil Unjust, unreasonable, or inconvenient. Choose ye Not that he leaves them to their liberty, whether they would serve God or idols; for Joshua had no such power himself, nor could give it to any other; and both he and they were obliged by the law of Moses to give their worship to God only, and to forbear all idolatry in themselves, and severely to punish it in others; but his words are a powerful insinuation, which implies that the worship of God is so highly reasonable, necessary, and beneficial, and the service of idols so absurd, vain, and pernicious, that if it were left free for all men to take their choice, every man in his right senses must needs choose the service of God before that of idols. And he provokes them to bind themselves faster to God by their own choice. We will serve the Lord But know this, if you should all be so base and brutish as to prefer senseless and impotent idols before the true and living God, it is my firm purpose that I will, and my children and servants (as far as I can influence them) shall be, constant and faithful to the Lord. And that, whatever others do. They that resolve to serve God must not start at being singular in it. They that are bound for heaven must be willing to swim against the stream, and must do, not as most do, but as the best do.

Verse 19

Joshua 24:19. Ye cannot He speaks not of an absolute impossibility, (for then both his resolution to serve God himself, and his exhortation to them, had been vain,) but of a moral impossibility, or a very great difficulty, which he alleges not to discourage them from God’s service, but to make them more considerate in obliging themselves, and more resolved in answering their obligations. The meaning is, God’s service is not, as you seem to fancy, a slight and easy thing, but it is a work of great difficulty, and requires great care, and courage, and resolution; and when I consider the infinite purity of God, that he will not be mocked or abused, and withal your proneness to superstition and idolatry, even during the life of Moses, and in some of you while I live, and while the obligations which God has laid upon you in this land are fresh in remembrance, I cannot but fear that, after my decease, you will think the service of God burdensome, and therefore will cast it off and revolt from him, if you do not carefully avoid all occasions of idolatry. A jealous God In the Hebrew, He is the holy Gods, holy Father, holy Son, holy Spirit. He will not endure a partner in his worship; you cannot serve him and idols together. Will not forgive If you who own yourselves his people and servants shall wilfully transgress his laws, he will not let this go unpunished in you, as he doth in other nations; therefore consider what ye do, when you take the Lord for your God; weigh your advantages and inconveniences together; for as, if you be sincere and faithful in God’s service, you will have admirable benefits by it; so, if you be false to your professions, and forsake him whom you have so solemnly avouched to be your God, he will deal more severely with you than with any people in the world.

Verse 20

Joshua 24:20. He will turn and do you hurt That is, he will alter his course, and the manner of his dealing with you, and will be as severe as ever he was kind and gracious. He will repent of his former kindnesses, and his goodness abused will be turned into fury.

Verses 21-22

Joshua 24:21-22. Nay, but we will serve the Lord Namely, him only, and not strange gods. Ye are witnesses against yourselves This solemn profession will be a swift witness against you, if hereafter ye apostatize from God. They said, We are witnesses Here they renew their choice of Jehovah for their God and king, which their forefathers made when they came out of Egypt, Exodus 19:7; Exodus 24:7; and acknowledge they should be self-condemned if they did not make it good.

Verse 23

Joshua 24:23. Put away the strange gods which are among you Meaning those idols which they had either brought out of Egypt, or had taken in Canaan, and which some of them kept, contrary to God’s command, whether for the preciousness of the matter, or rather from some secret inclination to superstition and idolatry.

Verse 25

Joshua 24:25. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day Engaged them to make good this solemn profession, by renewing the covenant they had formerly entered into, both in the days of Moses and in his time, wherein they promised to worship God alone, and be obedient to him. Some think this covenant was now established by sacrifice, as it was when they came out of Egypt, (Exodus 24:4-5,) and when they came into Canaan, Joshua 8:31. But as there is no mention of an altar or any offering, so it is not likely that Joshua would offer any sacrifice but in the place which God had chosen, which was Shiloh.

Verse 26

Joshua 24:26. Joshua wrote these words Namely, this covenant, or agreement of the people with the Lord. In the book of the law of God That is, in the volume which was kept in the ark, (Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:26,) whence it was taken and put into this book of Joshua; this he did for the perpetual remembrance of this great and solemn action, to lay the greater obligation upon the people to be true to their engagement; and as a witness for God against the people, if afterward he punished them for their defection from him, to whom they had so solemnly and freely obliged themselves. Set it up As a witness and monument of this great transaction, according to the custom of those ancient times. Possibly this agreement was written upon this stone, as was then usual; under an oak that was by the sanctuary That is, near the place where the ark and tabernacle then were; for though they were forbidden to plant a grove of trees near unto the altar, as the Gentiles did, yet they might for a time set up an altar, or place the ark, near a great tree which had been planted there before.

Verse 27

Joshua 24:27. It hath heard It shall be as sure a witness against you as if it had heard. This is a common figure, whereby the sense of hearing is often ascribed to the heavens and the earth, and other senseless creatures.

Verse 32

Joshua 24:32. The bones of Joseph Joseph died two hundred years before in Egypt, but gave commandment concerning his bones, that they should not rest in a grave till Israel rested in the land of promise. Now, therefore, they were deposited in that piece of ground which his father gave him near Shechem. One reason why Joshua called all Israel to Shechem, might be to attend Joseph’s bones to the grave. So that he now delivered, as it were, both Joseph’s funeral sermon, and his own farewell sermon. And if it was in the last year of his life, the occasion might well remind him of his own death now at hand. For he was just of the same age with his illustrious ancestor, who died, being one hundred and ten years old, Genesis 50:26.

Verse 33

Joshua 24:33. They buried him in a hill which was given him By special favour, and for his better conveniency in attending upon the ark, which then was, and for a long time was to be, in Shiloh, near this place: whereas the cities which were given to the priests were in Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon, which were remote from Shiloh, though near the place where the ark was to have its settled abode; namely, at Jerusalem. It is probable Eleazar died about the same time with Joshua, as Aaron did in the same year with Moses. While Joshua lived, religion was kept up, under his care and influence; but after he and his cotemporaries were gone, it swiftly went to decay. How well is it for the gospel church that Christ, our Joshua, is still with it by his Spirit, and will be always, even to the end of the world!

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 24". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/joshua-24.html. 1857.
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