Joshua assembles the tribes; recounts Gods blessings to them; renews the covenant with them, and afterwards departs this life. The bones of Joseph are buried in Shechem. Eleazar dies.
Before Christ 1434.
Ver. 1. And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel— Calmet thinks, that the discourse in the former chapter is to be considered only as the exordium or introduction to the present: which is nearly the opinion of Calvin. But the two discourses seem very distinct in the text, and we see no reason for putting them together.
To Shechem— Some copies of the LXX, particularly the Roman edition, and Alexandrian manuscript, read here, and in ver. 25 to Shiloh. What renders this reading very probable is, that we find the Israelites assembled before God; that is, before the ark, which certainly resided in the tabernacle; and that, undoubtedly, was at Shiloh. Of this opinion likewise are Grotius, Junius, Wells, and others. In answer to which it is to be considered, 1. That, according to Eusebius and St. Jerome, there were not less than ten or twelve miles distance between these two places. 2. Other copies of the LXX, as well as the Hebrew, Chaldee, and other eastern versions, read Shechem, and not Shiloh; and to these we may add Josephus, Hist. Jud. lib. 5: cap. 1. See Dr. Wall. 3. It is easy to account for this convocation of the assembly at Shechem. For, not to mention that this city was the capital of the tribe of Ephraim, and in the neighbourhood of Timnath-serah, where Joshua resided, who, on account of his great age, might very possibly be unable to go to Shiloh; it is probable, that he thought it proper to renew the divine covenant in the place where Abraham had first settled, and had erected an altar on his entering into the land of Canaan (Genesis 13:6-7.); where the patriarchs were interred, Acts 7:16.; and where Joshua himself had first entered into covenant with the Israelites, chap. Joshua 8:30, &c.; for Ebal and Gerizzim were very near Shechem. See Le Clerc and Calmet. We will presently consider the objection brought by some, that the assembly in question was held before God; observing here, that an able critic thinks, that the several opinions respecting the matter may be reconciled, by supposing the congregation to have met in the fields of Shechem, and that thence the people went in companies to Shiloh, as it were to confirm before God what they had promised to Joshua, who had received the assembly at Timnath-serah, his place of residence, situate between Shechem and Shiloh. See Shuckford's Connection, vol. 3: p. 427.
They presented themselves before God— That is to say, before his tabernacle. "But," say some, "this tabernacle was at Shiloh." It rested there, it is true; but we apprehend, that upon this grand solemnity it was removed from Shiloh to Shechem; and the kings and leaders of Israel certainly had a right to have the ark removed from its usual station to any other place upon extraordinary occasions. See 1 Samuel 4:3-4. 2 Samuel 15:24., and Bertram de Repub. Jude 1:25; Jude 1:15 p. 249. This was such an occasion: The whole nation had been convened at Shechem to renew the divine covenant; Joshua, one hundred and twenty years of age, was come up from Timnath-serah to that city, his strength not allowing him a longer journey: and was not this sufficient to authorise the sending for the ark, that the people might thus assemble before the Lord? We must not, however, pass over the opinion of the learned Mede, who thinks that the Ephraimites had built at Shechem a proseucha, a kind of oratory or chapel, whither the people resorted to divine worship when they could not go so far as the tabernacle; and that it was before this house of prayer that the assembly was held. But for more respecting this ingenious conjecture, see on ver. 26.
Ver. 2. Thus saith the Lord God of Israel— This exordium indicates a prophetical discourse; so that Joshua was no less the prophet than the political head of the nation. It is not, therefore, so much he that speaks, as God by his mouth; and hence it is, that he expresses himself as the mere organ for the delivery of a discourse addressed by the Lord himself to all Israel.
The flood— i.e. The river Euphrates.
Ver. 14. Now, therefore, fear the Lord, &c.— Here it is no longer Jehovah that speaks; Joshua himself addresses the Israelites, and, after all that he had just represented to them in the name of God, concludes with exhorting them to fear Jehovah; i.e. to open their whole heart to his religion, and to render him, in sincerity and in truth, with right and pure intentions, free from all hypocrisy, the worship due to him; and that without any mixture of idolatry, and according to his law, which is truth itself. "Put away from among you," says he, "those idols, the worship of which your ancestors, Terah, Nahor, Abraham, and others, formerly joined with the worship of the true God, while they remained on the other side of the Euphrates. Remove from you that unhappy propensity to idolatry which you acquired in Egypt: in a word, resolve to serve God, and Him alone." To the idols of the Chaldees and Egyptians, Joshua in the following verse adds the idols of the Amorites; and from the manner of his speaking, both here and in ver. 23 it is easy to discern, that the Israelites, notwithstanding all that the Lord had done for them, were by no means clear from the capital crime of idolatry. St. Augustin could not agree in this opinion; for, struck with the fine testimonies which Joshua himself bears to the faith of the Hebrews; and seeing it nowhere mentioned, that on account of the last exhortations of that holy sage, the people removed from them any idols; and being moreover unable to believe that God, who took vengeance of the Israelites for many lesser crimes, would have left their idolatry unpunished; this learned man has thought proper to interpret the words of Joshua conditionally, as if he had said; "If any one of you hath still the least inclination to idolatry, let him pluck it from his heart, and unreservedly devote himself to the worship of the only true God." See Quaest. 29: in Josh. But it is certainly doing violence to Joshua's discourse: to give it so soft a sense. Besides, what greater difficulty is there in conceiving the Israelites to have given way to idolatry under the government of this general, than under that of Moses their legislator? And how, after all, can we controvert a fact so positively attested by the Holy Spirit in divers other passages of Scripture? Ezekiel, Amos, and St. Stephen warrant the truth of the offence here imputed to the Hebrews. See Ezekiel 3:8; Ezekiel 3:27; Ezekiel 20:6; Ezekiel 20:49. Amos 5:16. Acts 7:41. Without doubt, the whole nation was not tainted with it, nor was the scandal of it yet public; but it appears evident, that among the multitude of the Israelites, there were many superstitious persons who privately joined the idolatrous worship of the people of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the land of Canaan, with the worship of Jehovah.
REFLECTIONS.—Joshua seems, at his last meeting of the congregation, to have expected his dissolution at hand; but, God having spared him a little longer, he is glad to make use of the last moments of his life in one more solemn assembly of the heads of Israel. Note; (1.) Whilst God continues our lives, it is a sign that he has something for us yet to do. (2.) They whose hearts are faithful to God will be pleased with the returning solemnities, when they come to appear before the Lord. (3.) God is still in the midst of his people, whenever or wherever they assemble in his name.
The congregation being collected, Joshua opens his farewel sermon, commissioned from God to speak, and therefore deserving the most profound attention: he begins with a recapitulation of the signal mercies that, from the beginning until that time, God had shewn to their ancestors, and to them. Their ancestors, who dwelt beyond the Euphrates, were sunk, as other Gentiles, into gross idolatry; when God, in his infinite mercy, separated Abraham from them, and brought him out from thence into the land of Canaan, where they now were, multiplied his posterity in Ishmael, and gave him the promised seed in Isaac. When Rebekah's barrenness seemed to restrain the fulfilment of the promise, Jacob and Esau were born. Jacob, their great progenitor, with his increasing household, were driven into Egypt by famine; but when his seed were there multiplied and oppressed, with a mighty arm did God rescue them from thence, protecting them with his pillar of a cloud, and overwhelming their pursuers in the sea. Through the dreary wilderness he led them safely, defeated the plots of their enemies, and turned wicked Balaam's intended curse into a blessing. After this also, he wrought his wonders in the land of Gilead, at Jordan and Jericho, casting out their foes before them, not by their sword or bow, but by his army of hornets, which he sent before them; and now at last he brought them into possession of Canaan, where peace and plenty reigned. In return for which mercies, it was not more their bounden duty, than the dictate of gratitude, 1. That they should fear that God whose wonders they had seen, and with a reverential sense of his majesty and mercy walk before him. 2. That they should serve him in sincerity and truth; for he is a heart-searching God, who cannot be imposed upon, who hateth hypocrisy, and expects the soul in simplicity to be devoted to his service. 3. That they should put far from them strange gods. Note; (1.) God requires the heart in his worship; without this, we can do him no acceptable service. (2.) Neglect of God is not only foul disobedience, but base ingratitude. (3.) That is still our idol, to which our affections cleave more than to the blessed God.
Ver. 15. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, &c.— Satisfied that the Israelites, as a nation, are very far from falling into atheism, or being averse from serving God; Joshua cannot think them so blind and ungrateful as to desire to serve any other God than Jehovah. This, and nothing more, is his meaning in this place. He speaks like an orator; he invites them to choose, merely because he supposes the choice already made. Just as if he had addressed the Israelites thus: "Put away from you every object of idolatry, and determine only to serve the Lord. Ah! whom will ye serve, speak candidly, whom will ye serve, if ye refuse Him your homage? Where could you hope to find a god worthy to be compared to him? If the worship of those gods which your ancestors worshipped beyond the Euphrates has the sanction of antiquity, ye know, on the other hand, that Abraham openly abjured that worship; that from his heart he renounced those idols; and that, drawing down the benediction of the Most High, he obtained from his munificence, as his inheritance, the country of which you have now taken possession. As to the gods of the Amorites, I know that you are convinced how despicable those impotent idols are, whose worshippers you have subdued. Make your choice, however. Nothing should be more free than the preference given to a religion. But know, O Israelites! that the choice of Joshua no longer remains to be made; I and my house, I and all my family, if I am master of it, will serve the Lord; and will remain faithful to him even to death."
Ver. 16-18. And the people answered— The whole assembly, which represented the nation, cried out, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, &c.,—"Far be from us so abominable a thought! No; we acknowledge no other God than Jehovah, our Deliverer, our Benefactor, our Protector: our utmost desire is to worship and obey him."
Ver. 19. And Joshua said unto the people, ye cannot serve the Lord, &c.— These words may he understood two ways. 1. They may signify, "you will not serve the Lord; I foresee that ye will not keep your word:" in the same sense as it is said of Jesus Christ, that he could work no miracle at Nazareth, to express that he would not; or, as when he said to the Jews, ye cannot hear my word; i.e. your prejudices and passions hinder you from desiring it. 2. They may signify "the thing is difficult, it requires great courage, and will cost you more than you are aware, by reason of the temptations you will have to conquer in the attaining it." These two senses seem necessary to be united for the proper understanding of the passage. The intention of Joshua is certainly, not to insinuate to the Israelites that it will be impossible for them to serve God; for why then should he have exhorted them to serve him, as he had just done in ver. 14.? His design is evident: it is, to pique the zeal of the Israelites, to engage them seriously to reflect on what they promised, and to stimulate their protestations of fidelity, by seeming to doubt the sincerity of them: as if he had said, "You promise to serve God; but can you do so, whose inclinations to idolatry are so strong? And will you be firm and courageous enough to persevere sincerely in the desire so to do?"
For he is an holy God; he is a jealous God, &c.— As he has no equal, neither can he suffer a rival. To pay to idols that worship which he only deserves, or even to associate them with the homage which is paid to him, is to contest with him, to take from him a part of that perfect holiness which constitutes his glory, and is what the Scripture calls profaning his holy name. See Mede's Discourses, b. 1: disc. 2.
Ver. 21, 22. And the people said—nay, but we will serve the Lord, &c.— To these fresh protestations of fidelity on the part of the whole assembly, Joshua replies, that he receives them as a holy and solemn declaration, which, thus publicly and deliberately made, will for ever witness against the Israelites, and condemn them if they become unfaithful to the Lord. In answer to this, they again express their consent, that if they ever forsake Jehovah their words may bear testimony against them. Thus we have a sacred renewal, an authentic confirmation of the covenant into which their forefathers had entered with God, as their king, Exodus 12:24 :; a covenant, which, after this, they could not again infringe, without being in the higher degree guilty of perjury.
Ver. 23. Now, therefore, put away—the strange gods— See ver. 14. All this evidently shews, that Joshua was a prophet, that he could penetrate the secret intentions of the Israelites, and was certain of their propensity to idolatry. Publicly they worshipped only the true God, but in secret they had their penates (as the Romans termed them), their household gods; idols which they worshipped clandestinely, teraphim, little statues, magical rings, and other such instruments of superstition. See Spencer de Leg. Heb. lib. 3: dissert, 1 cap. 3. Of these we have more than once had occasion to speak.
Ver. 25. So Joshua made a covenant with the people, &c.— The Israelites having a third time repeated that they were resolved only to serve the Lord, and being thereby bound more strictly than ever to obey him, Joshua, in order to bind, in the most indissoluble manner, those ties whereon their happiness depended, proposes to them a solemn renewal of the covenant which they had made first by the ministry of Moses, and afterwards by his own; in consequence of which, the Israelites rigorously swore to worship only the Lord, and to obey only his laws; while on his part, by the mouth of Joshua, God promises to continue the constant protector and benefactor of their nation. Most interpreters are of opinion, from the latter clause, that Joshua read to the Israelites the conditions and laws of the covenant, to which they assented. But it may also signify, that he gave to whatever had been concluded upon, all the force of a perpetual law, and an irrevocable ordinance, which was afterwards called the covenant of Shechem; inasmuch as there the Israelites had renewed their profession of an inviolable attachment to the Lord.
Ver. 26. And Joshua wrote these words in the book, &c.— To perpetuate the memory of this renewal of the covenant; to convince the Israelites of the reverence due to that obligation which they had assembled to enforce; and to leave such an immortal testimony as might witness against them for the Lord, in case they forsook his holy religion; Joshua caused a particular account of all that had passed to be written down, and added to the book of the law which Moses had ordered to be kept in the side of the ark. Deuteronomy 31:26. Possibly, he caused a copy of it to he transcribed at the same time into the book of the law which was to remain in the hands of the princes of Israel for the use of the tribes, ch. Joshua 17:18. To this monument Joshua added a second, to eternize the remembrance of the covenant renewed. He set up a great stone under an oak; and in all probability ordered an inscription to be engraven thereon, referring to the august solemnity, the memory of which he was desirous to perpetuate. People, from the earliest ages of the world, used to rear stones for the like purpose in the case of important events. We find an instance of it in the history of Jacob, Genesis 28:18 and another in the history of Joshua himself, ch. Joshua 6:3; Joshua 6:20-21. But what sanctuary of the Lord was this, placed by, or under an oak? The learned Mede answers, it certainly could not be the tabernacle, by reason of the laws specified so particularly Deuteronomy 16:21-22 and which are too positive for Joshua to have thought of controverting them by placing the tabernacle near an oak, and by setting up by it a pillar or monument of stone. The question then is, to know whether these laws (calculated to divert the Israelites from the delusions of the Gentiles, who thought that the Deity dwelt in forests, and who consequently reverenced the places where the ark had a settled residence) concerned also those places in which the ark was but occasionally deposited, and for a very little while? Be this as it may, our able critic concludes from these laws, that the sanctuary here mentioned was nothing more than an oratory or house of prayer, erected in this place by the Ephraimites; and he apprehends, that they had chosen this spot in preference to any other, as the place of their devotions, because there the Lord had appeared to Abraham, and promised to give the land of Canaan to his posterity. Our author goes on to say, that there were from all antiquity, besides the tabernacle, and, in later time, the temple, two sorts of buildings consecrated to religious worship; namely, synagogues in cities, and oratories in the fields; that the former were regular buildings, covered like houses at the top; but that the others were mere inclosures, commonly formed by trees, or under their shade. But for more on this subject we refer to Mede, b. 1: dis. 18 observing, that, in the original, this is one of those transpositions familiar to the Hebrew language, and probably should be translated thus: And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, which was in the sanctuary of the Lord: and he took a great stone and set it up there under an oak; for an instance of such transposition, see Genesis 13:10 where, instead of translating, and Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered, &c.—as thou comest unto Zoar; it should evidently be translated, and Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, as thou comest unto Zoar, that it was well watered, &c. See Kennicott's Dissert. vol. 2:
Ver. 27. For it hath heard all the words, &c.— "If ever you so far forget yourselves, as to act as if you had not this day chosen the Lord for your God, this stone shall convince you of falsehood, and shall witness as strongly against you, as if it had heard all that I have been saying to you, and all that you have replied in answer; and had assumed a voice to contradict you to your face." How strongly figurative soever this discourse may appear, it is not too much so for the taste of the orientals, with whom it is common to give sentiments to the most insensible creatures, and, as it were, to animate all nature by their expressions. See for instance, Deuteronomy 4:26; Deuteronomy 32:1. Psalms 19:1. Isaiah 1:2. Jeremiah 22:29. Luke 19:40.
Note; (1.) If the service of God be not our deliberate choice, from conviction of its blessedness, and experience of its comfort, a constrained profession will last but a short time. (2.) Those who count the denial of their corrupt affections hard, and the restraints of religion burthensome, have already rejected the Lord from being their God. (3.) A good and great example is very influential. (4.) They who resolve to serve God themselves, cannot but labour that all who are under their care may do so too. (5.) They, who are faithful to God, fear not to be singular, though all others are ashamed of his religion, or live a dishonour to it; their houses shall be the temples for daily prayer and praise, and their ways unconformed to the wicked world around them. (6.) We can never hesitate whose service to prefer, God or the world, Christ or Belial, if our minds are freed from the delusions of Satan, and the bias of corrupt affections.
Ver. 29. And—after these things—Joshua—died— Most probably within a short time after the holding of the assembly at Shechem. It is difficult to say positively how many years this great man governed the people of God in the land of Canaan. Some Jewish doctors say, that he lived twenty-eight years after the passage over Jordan; others confine his administration to seven or eight; some preserve a medium, and grant him seventeen. This, among others, is the opinion of Bonfrere, to whom we refer the reader.
Ver. 30. And they buried him—in Timnath-serah— This city, which he had built himself, and which had been assigned him by the nation, is elsewhere called Timnath-heres, or, the rest of the sun, Judges 2:9. This name, if we are to believe the Jews, was given it on account of an image of the sun engraved on Joshua's tomb, in memory of that famous day in which he stopped the sun in his course, in order to finish the defeat of the Canaanitish kings. See Hottinger, in Cippi. Heb. p. 32. and in Smegma Orientale, c. viii. p. 523. Thus, in after-times, according to Cicero, the sepulchre of Archimedes was adorned with a sphere and a cylinder. Eusebius says, that the tomb of Joshua was to be seen in his time near Thamna; and Brochard informs us, that there was, in the mountain of Leopards, (Song of Solomon 4:8.) a cavern twenty-six feet long, into which the Saracens were used to go, in memory of this holy man. Gaash is thought to have been a part of mount Ephraim, and to have faced Timnath-serah on the south.
Ver. 31. And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua— So long as this pious general was at the head of the people of Israel, idolatry durst not show itself, and the Israelites in public adored only the true God. Moses did not enjoy the like happiness. Every one knows what a disturbance that depraved taste which the Hebrews had imbibed for idolatry in Egypt, produced in the affair of the golden calf: God, however, remedied it, by condemning the offenders to wander forty years in that wilderness, where, according to St. Chrysostom, all those perished who had been witnesses of that horrible apostacy; that thus there might remain no one among them capable of teaching them again so atrocious a kind of impiety. See Vitae Monastic. Vitup. lib. 1.
Ver. 32. And the bones of Joseph—buried they in Shechem— See Genesis 50:25. Some are of opinion, that Joshua performed this duty soon after the passage over Jordan, immediately after he had built the altar on mount Ebal, near Shechem. Others think that it was not done till the peace which followed the conquest of the land of Canaan. They all conclude, that Joshua would not have longer deferred paying to the patriarch Joseph an honour so frequently enjoined. The reason, say they, that no mention of the ceremony occurs before, is, that it was thought proper to collect together, in this concluding passage, what respected the funerals of three great men. But there seems no difficulty in supposing Joshua to have discharged himself of this tribute to the remains of Joseph in the great assembly of the nation at Shechem. We might even suppose, that it was the design of interring the bones of that patriarch with greater solemnity, which determined Joshua to convene that assembly there, rather than at Shiloh.
In a parcel of ground which Jacob bought, &c.— See Genesis 23:16; Genesis 33:18-19; Genesis 48:22; Genesis 50:25. Joseph was not interred in Shechem, but, according to the ancient custom, in a field adjoining. Probably, the other children of Jacob received the like honour, each tribe taking care to bury its ancestor, either at Machpelah, or elsewhere, in the land of Canaan. Josephus asserts that it was so, upon the credit of an ancient tradition,, Hist. Jud. l. ii. c. 4.; and St. Stephen confirms the relation, Acts 7:16.
Ver. 33. And Eleazar—died— This event, probably, happened soon after the death of Joshua. The Samaritan Chronicle says, that Eleazar called together the elders and heads of the people before his death; and that after having exhorted them to piety, he stripped himself of his vestments, and put them upon Phinehas, his son and successor. We have no proof of this circumstance, but it is very probable.
And they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son— A little hillock, or, according to some, a town: it may be rendered, agreeable to the Vulgate, LXX, and Jonathan, they buried him in Gibeath of Phinehas; this town, or hillock, went by the name of Phinehas, according to the custom in those times of giving the name of the eldest in a family to the possessions which belonged to it.
Which was given him in mount Ephraim.— The Hebrew is doubtful. It does not immediately appear to whom this hill was given, whether to Eleazar or Phinehas: most probably it was to Eleazar; that, as being the high-priest, he might reside nearer to Shiloh, where the tabernacle was erected, and as all the cities assigned to the priests were in the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon, except one only, which lay in the tribe of Ephraim. See ch. Joshua 21:9; Joshua 21:17; Joshua 21:19. But against this there is one great objection; namely, that the priests and Levites certainly received no portion on the division of the land: and therefore the Jews, to obviate this difficulty, are of opinion, that Eleazar, or Phinehas, held this estate in right of his wife as her dowry. See Selden de Success. Heb. c. 18. Grotius is of this opinion likewise; and he produces a similar example from 1 Chronicles 2:21-23. But to this Masius replies, that heiresses could not marry out of their tribe, (Numbers 36:8.) whence he concludes, that the present inheritance had been an extraordinary gift to Eleazar out of respect to him, and to accommodate him more conveniently within reach of Joshua and the tabernacle. The chief-priest, it seems, might receive this distinction, without any infringement of the general law respecting the other ministers at the altar. See Calmet and Le Clerc. To the end of this chapter the LXX add: And the children of Israel took the ark, and carried it about among them; and Phinehas was high-priest till he died; and they buried him in his own hill: and the children of Israel went to their homes. And they fell to worshipping Astarte and Ashtaroth: and the Lord delivered them into the hand of Eglon, king of Moab; and he had the mastery over them eighteen years.
REFLECTIONS.—We have the account of the death of Joshua and Eleazar, and the burying of the bones of Joseph. This is the end of all the glory of man; and the best and greatest of God's saints are not exempt from the common lot of mortality.
1. Joshua's death and burial: soon after he had finished his work, he went to receive his everlasting reward, in a better inheritance than he left at Timnath-serah. He was a hundred and ten years old, and through life had approved himself a faithful servant, of which God bears him honourable testimony: his sepulchre was in Gaash, in a field of his own; for then the public places of assembly, or the house of God, were thought unfit receptacles of the corpses even of the blessed. Pity it is, that worse customs have since obtained.
2. Eleazar quickly followed Joshua; one loss seldom comes alone.
3. As long as these worthies and their cotemporaries lived, who had seen God's wonders, religion flourished among the people; but their sad decays will shortly appear: so much are good ministers missed, and so common is it to see the most flourishing congregations moulder away when their pastors are departed. But the residue of the Spirit is with our divine Joshua; and though one people, or congregation, turn from him, he will revive his work in another, and never want a spiritual seed and a visible church upon earth.
N.B. The last five verses of this chapter are certainly written by a hand subsequent to Joshua. Perhaps Samuel, desirous of bringing down the thread of the history uninterrupted from Joshua to his own time, might think proper to make the addition, after having, in like manner, completed the Pentateuch by the order and under the direction of God. See on Deuteronomy 34:1. This, however, is no argument that Joshua did not write the present book, any more than that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, because the like account given of his death and burial, in the conclusion of it, is given by another hand.
Reflections on the Life and Character of Joshua.
The names of Joshua and Jesus are scarcely more like, than their achievements. This captain, so famous in the sacred history, was nominated to be the successor of Moses, and ordained to this high post by God's command, in the presence of all the congregation of Israel. He received the name of Joshua before, when sent to spy out the land, his former name being Oshea; and he is the first of the typical persons who was called by the very name, by which, in future ages, a greater Saviour than he was commonly known. Perhaps it was not without its meaning, that he was the servant before he was the successor of Moses; for it might signify, that our Jesus was first to become the servant of the law, before he should abolish it. But passing this, let us take a more particular retrospect of the most memorable passages of his marvellous campaign.
The first thing that presents itself to our view is, his passing the Jordan, which was miraculously driven back, to afford a safe passage to the chosen people. In this river God was pleased, for the first time, to magnify his servant Joshua in the sight of all the tribes of Israel; and in this river it pleased God to give the first and most public testimony to Jesus Christ, when the heavens seemed to open at his baptism, and the Holy Ghost descended in the likeness of a dove, and a voice from the excellent glory proclaimed his high character. But the chief thing to be observed here is, the resemblance between the passage of Israel over Jordan into the promised land, under the conduct of Joshua, and the passage of all the redeemed, through death, into the heavenly inheritance. Long had they traversed the vast and howling wilderness, the haunt of ravenous beasts and poisonous serpents, where their hearts, many a time, were like to faint for thirst and hunger; but now the land flowing with milk and honey receives them, and their wanderings in the pathless desart are for ever ended. Though Jordan overflows his banks, their march is not obstructed. O powerful presence of JEHOVAH! "The sea saw it, and fled, and Jordan was driven back." Psalms 114:3. And now that they have taken their farewel of the dreary wilderness, we hear no more of the miraculous cloud which conducted them, nor of the manna which fed them forty years. Such is the safety of all true Israelites, when marching to their promised rest, under the conduct of the Captain of their salvation. Death is the Jordan through which they pass from the wilderness of this world into the blissful regions of immortality. But when they pass through these waters, they shall not overflow them; for he who dries up the waters of the sea by his rebuke, will be graciously present with them, till they gain the safe shore of Immanuel's land. Then shall the ordinances be discontinued, and the Bible superseded, which are so necessary in their wandering state to support their lives, and guide their paths; as the cloud vanished, and the manna ceased to fall, when the fine wheat of Canaan supplied the Israelites with food, according to the promise. It is not Moses, but Joshua, who leads through Jordan. Jesus; thou art the only conqueror of death. What will they do when they come to the swellings of Jordan, who are not under thy auspicious conduct? Thanks be to God, who giveth us this victory over death, not through Moses, or the law, but through Jesus Christ our Lord!
From the banks of Jordan, let us now come to the walls of Jericho, the accursed city. Never was town or garrison besieged in such a manner before or since. No mounts are raised; no battering rams are applied to the walls; no attempts are made to sap the foundations; but, by the direction of the Lord of hosts, the army marches in silent parade round the walls. Their martial music is not the sound of their silver trumpets, but of rams-horns blown by their priests. Ridiculous, weak, and foolish, as this new method of assault might seem to the unbelieving sinners of Jericho, they soon found that the weakness of God is stronger than men, and that the most contemptible means, when God ordains them, shall gain their end, in spite of all opposition. "What ailed thee, O sea, that thou fleddest? Jordan, that thou wast driven back?" Psalms 114:5 and ye walls of Jericho, that ye fell flat to the ground, when compassed seven days? It was not owing to the sword of Israel, nor even to the sound of the trumpets; but to the power of Israel's God accompanying this feeble means, prescribed for the trial of their faith and proof of their obedience. For, O the power of faith! had their walls threatened the clouds, and been harder than adamant, firmer than brass, down must they tumble on the evening of the seventh day. Thus are the strong holds of sin, and every high thing that exalts itself against the New Testament Joshua, cast down by the mighty weapons of the Christian warfare, which are not carnal. The feeble voice of the gospel, when faithfully preached, though not with a silver sound, or with excellency of speech, shall be mighty, through God, to triumph over all opposition: so it was in the days of the apostles; so it has been in every distant age; and so it shall be till the victory is complete. Thus, Babylon, shall thy proud towers be levelled with the ground, though seemingly fearless of assault. "For the day of the Lord shall be on every high wall, and on every one that is proud and lifted up." Isaiah 2:12. Though the kings of the earth should give their strength to the beast, our Joshua shall prevail by the foolishness of preaching, and the sound of the gospel trumpet; and at the appointed time the strong-lunged angel shall cry, "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen." Revelation 14:18.
The saving of Rahab and her household is the next remarkable occurrence. Who would have expected to find, in this city of destruction, even a strong believer, whose faith should be celebrated by one apostle, and her works by another, and who should also have the honour to make one of the illustrious line from whence the Messiah should arise? But so it was. Though once a notorious sinner, and called Rahab the harlot to this day, yet she was a believer of the promise that God made to Israel, and proved by her works that her faith was genuine; for, protecting the messengers of Joshua at the hazard of her life, she preferred the interests of the Church of God to those of her country, which she very well knew could not be saved. Though we can by no means justify the dissimulation by which she saved the spies from the pursuivants of the king of Jericho, yet, as God has forgiven her for being once a harlot and a liar, so must we also forgive those blame-able parts of her conduct, of which she has long since truly repented. Well does Joshua answer his name, in saving not the race of Israel only, but Rahab, though a cursed Canaanite, with all her household, though sinners of the Gentiles. Was it not a dark prelude of Jesus Christ, our better Joshua, of his saving the Gentile world from the wrath to come, as well as the preserved of Jacob? Might it not portend, that publicans and harlots, and such notorious sinners, should be received among the first into his heavenly kingdom? and that the harlot Gentiles, who formerly were serving divers lusts, and living in the most abominable idolatries, should be incorporated into the holy society of the church, and espoused as a chaste bride to Jesus Christ, as Rahab became a proselyte to the Jewish religion, and the wife of Naasson an illustrious prince in the chief of their tribes? Perhaps the scarlet thread, which, at the direction of the spies, she hung forth out of her window, as a discriminating signal, by which all under her roof were exempted from the dismal desolation; perhaps, I say, this might be an intimation, though a very obscure one, that the shedding of Christ's red blood should prove the means of salvation to the Gentile world, and of making peace between the Jews and them, who were formerly at variance, and harboured mutual hatred. Red was the colour of salvation to Israel in Egypt, when the sprinkling their doors with blood protected them from the destroying angel's word; and red is the colour of salvation to Rahab in Canaan, when the hanging a scarlet thread over her windows was her security from the destroying sword of Israel. Happy they who have the blood of Christ upon them, not for destruction, (as the Jews who murdered him, and imprecated this dreadful vengeance on themselves, and their posterity,) but for salvation, as all have who believe. Rahab's safety was confirmed by the oath of men; but their's by the oath of God, for whom it is impossible to lie. Destruction approaches not those doors, death enters not those windows where the blood of Christ is found.
In vain did the kings of Canaan conspire to oppose the victorious Joshua after the destruction of Jericho; for at last he bids his captains set their feet upon the necks of the hostile princes, in token of full conquest. Nor was it strange that he should be able to do this, when the very heavens befriended them, by casting down prodigious hailstones to kill his flying enemies; and their most glorious luminaries, the sun and moon were obedient to his voice, and stood still in their habitation, till the vengeance written was executed upon the devoted nations. Such is that complete victory over all the enemies of God and his people, which he shall gain who goes forth conquering, and to conquer! It is the distinguished honour of all the faithful soldiers of Christ, to tread upon the devil, the world, and the lusts of the flesh. These are the dragons and the lions which they trample under their feet; these are the kings that they bind with chains; these are the nations that they shall dash in pieces, as a potter's vessel with a rod of iron. And a time is coming, when the upright shall have dominion over the wicked; for so is his will, whom not only the sun and moon, but all the numerous hosts of heaven and earth obey.
At last, the favoured nation of the Jews are brought into their promised rest, under the conduct of their valiant general. He puts them in quiet possession of that happy country which he had before spied out for them. This Moses could not do. So Jesus Christ has introduced us, not into a temporal rest, like thine, O Joshua, but into a spiritual and eternal rest, an incorruptible and undefiled inheritance, which the law could not do, having become weak through the flesh.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 24". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week of Lent