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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 23

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. A long time About fourteen years after the conquest and seven years after the allotment of Canaan, in the one hundred and tenth year of his life, Joshua uttered this speech.

Stricken in age Literally, as in the margin, come into days; that is, far gone in years.

Verses 1-16


[“The closing records of the history of Joshua show us a solemn pause and crisis in the career of Israel. They had now attained that first success which is always a trial of human power and endurance, and which, in their case, was the test of their faithfulness to Jehovah. In Joshua they had a leader equal to the crisis. He lived long after God had given them rest from their enemies, and he was now going the way of all the earth. His last care was to set clearly before the people their true position, and to bind them to Jehovah by another solemn covenant.” Smith’s O.T. Hist. ]

Verse 2

2. And for their elders The and is not in the Hebrew. It should be for the elders, the representatives of Israel. This restriction is sometimes not expressed but implied. Hence Bishop Colenso’s numerical impossibilities exist nowhere but in his own imagination. All Israel could not stand before the narrow front of the tabernacle, nor could they listen to the feeble words of an infirm old man in any other way than representatively. Probably this assembly was at Timnath-serah, the residence of Joshua; possibly at Shiloh. We have no data for determining the place. As death approaches, the national founder feels a special solicitude for his people. The farewell words of such men have great weight with succeeding generations. The Farewell Address of George Washington to the American people has exerted an incalculable influence upon the nation.

Verse 3

3. All that the Lord… hath done Here is a marked magnifying of the Divine interposition in all the victories of Joshua. True piety always exclaims, “Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the praise and glory.”

Verse 4

4. These nations “The nations are mentioned instead of the land which they possessed, because they were given into the hands of the Israelites to be destroyed.” Keil.

I have cut off After ascribing the conquest to Jehovah, the truth of history requires mention of the human instrumentality. The frequent review of God’s mercies is a powerful incentive to gratitude and fidelity to him. It is noticeable how this passage assumes that all the Canaanite nations are cut off and subdued, but not yet exterminated or expelled. This explains the discrepancy often alleged between Joshua 11:23, and Joshua 13:1.

Verse 6

6. Very courageous This is the same exhortation that God gave to Joshua at the death of Moses. See Joshua 1:7, notes.

Verse 7

7. Neither make mention This not only forbids the admiring mention of the names of the pagan gods, but, as we believe, it commands the literal abstinence from uttering their names, as defiling the tongue. As the name of Jehovah was in Jewish estimation too holy to be pronounced, so the names of the Canaanite gods were too vile.

Nor cause to swear by them Since swearing by them implied their existence, this also was forbidden.

[He who swears and he who administers an oath in the name of a false god virtually recognize and worship the false deity. Thus may a Christian state prostitute itself to idolatry, superstition, and even utter irreligion, by allowing in its courts of justice a careless, irreverent, or superstitious use of the oath. Better dispense with the civil oath entirely than prostitute the State to either idolatry, superstition, or atheism.] Neither serve, by external worship, nor bow yourselves, that is, enthrone them over yourselves as authorities to be revered in your hearts. Here is a fourfold prohibition of idolatry, which was rendered necessary by the uncultivated state of the Hebrews, by the strong influence of all the surrounding nations, and especially by that possessed by the idol-worshippers within their own borders whom they had failed to drive out.

Verse 8

8. Cleave unto the Lord Cling unto him with a grip which no force can loosen. Fidelity to God always costs strenuous effort. “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.”

As ye have done As a nation, with individual exceptions.

Verse 9

9. The Lord hath driven out Or, as the margin, then the Lord will drive. In this way this sentence becomes the apodosis of the previous verse For if ye cleave… then the Lord will drive. No man hath been able to stand whom ye have courageously confronted, trusting in God.

Verse 10

10. One shall chase a thousand An enlargement of the promise in Leviticus 26:8, and nearly identical with Deuteronomy 32:30, signifying that a few shall vanquish a great multitude. See the night attack of Gideon. Judges 7:22. Also the acts of David’s worthies, one of whom lifted his spear against eight hundred and slew three hundred. 2 Samuel 23:8; 2Sa 23:18 ; 1 Chronicles 11:11.

Verse 11

11. Take good heed This is the condition of the foregoing promise. “Such is the slothfulness of the flesh that it always needs to be stimulated by threats.” Calvin. The depravity of men compels a resort to fear when an appeal to hope has been ineffectual.

Verse 12

12. Make marriages This most intimate form of alliance was forbidden in Exodus 34:12-16, as a precaution against temptation. Thus Christians are forbidden to wed infidels or pagans. 2 Corinthians 6:14. The affections largely determine religious opinions and practice. The heart makes theology.

Verse 13

13. Snares, traps, scourges, thorns This mixing of metaphors vividly portrays the trouble, sudden disaster, wasting captivity, and destruction which idolatry would bring upon their nation.

Until ye perish from off this good land The Jews are strangers to that land to-day, so wonderfully has God scattered them, and so marvelously has he preserved their nationality in order that they may be a monument of his truthfulness.

Verse 14

14. This day I am going The expression this day is used here, as in Deuteronomy 9:1, to denote what is about to take place shortly.

Verse 15

15. As all good… so all evil things The threatenings are as sure as the promises; both alike are grounded on the divine veracity. The sophistry which would explain away the former must destroy the latter. “The pillars of heaven are no firmer than the foundations of hell.” Whedon. These words of Joshua are of universal application. They belong to all peoples and to all generations. Before each individual of the human race there lies the path of obedience, ending in the promises, and the path of disobedience, ending in the threatenings of the Almighty. “Knowing therefore the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 23". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/joshua-23.html. 1874-1909.
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