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JOSHUA’S FAREWELL ADDRESS AT SHECHEM, Joshua 24:1-24.
1. All the tribes By their representatives. See Joshua 23:2, note. We have no means of determining the date of this transaction. Some suppose that a considerable period had elapsed after the speech recorded in the last chapter, when Joshua, seeing his life was unexpectedly prolonged, resolved on another farewell to his people of a more solemn and formal character. Others hold that there was but one assembly and but one address, begun, perhaps, at Shiloh, and concluded at Shechem, to which place the assembly adjourned for the renewal of the covenant. The Septuagint version has the assembly at Shiloh; but there are good reasons for regarding the Hebrew as the correct version. At Shechem Abraham built his first altar in Canaan. Genesis 12:7. Here Jacob had “sanctified” his family, and exhorted them to “put away the strange gods,” (Genesis 35:2-4;) and Joshua, following the command of Moses, had visited the same sanctuary to inscribe the law on a stone monument, and to exact an oath of allegiance to Jehovah with the impressive sanctions of the blessings and the curses. Joshua 8:30-35.
[ Presented themselves before God As the expression before God, or before Jehovah, frequently means before the Ark of the Covenant, many expositors have supposed that the Ark was brought from Shiloh to Shechem at this time. But Hengstenberg and Keil have abundantly shown that the words do not always imply the presence of the Ark. “If before Jehovah could only refer to the ceremonies at the sanctuary, Jehovah would be present only there, shut up in his holy place; an absurd idea, destructive of the divine omnipresence, and one which can never be found in the Holy Scriptures.” Hengstenberg. Rather does the expression mean that the assembly met as in the presence of God, whose holy name Joshua doubtless invoked. All present realized that the eye of Jehovah was upon them.]
2. On the other side of the flood Rather, the river; that is, the Euphrates. It was Ur in Chaldea, beyond the Euphrates, whence Abraham was called from an idolatrous family. Terah, with Abram his son, removed from Ur westerly to Haran, where he died aged two hundred and five years. Genesis 11:29-32. That he was a maker of images is a mere legend.
[ They served other gods “It is not said distinctly of Abraham that he served other gods, on which account we agree with Knobel, who says: Whether, according to our author, Abraham also was originally an idolater, is rather to be denied than affirmed; comp. Genesis 31:53. But dangerous even for him were the idolatrous surroundings; wherefore God took him and caused him to wander through Canaan.” Fay. But a love and reverence for the teraphim seemed rooted in the descendants of Terah. See note on Joshua 24:14.]
3. And I took your father Abraham There was nothing coercive in this taking. Abraham’s experience was like that of modern Christians who follow the Holy Spirit: “He drew me, and I followed on.” With this understanding we may adopt Calvin’s comment: “It is not said that he sought God of his own accord, but that he was taken by him and led to another place.”
4. Mount Seir is a rugged ridge extending along the east side of the Valley of Arabah, from the Dead Sea to the Elanitic Gulf. It was afterwards called Edom. Compare marginal references.
5. Afterward I brought you out The nation is contemplated as having a continuous life, so that the word you does not refer to the Hebrews then alive, as the term fathers in the next verse sufficiently indicates.
7. Ye dwelt in the wilderness This was true of the adults of the nation, many of whom were born there. Joshua gives no hint of the painful cause of their long sojourn in the wilderness.
8. Amorites Joshua 2:10, note. The other side Jordan, here means, east of the Jordan.
9. Balak, king of the Moabites, wished to injure and destroy Israel, but there is no account of an actual attack by him. Numbers 23:24; Judges 11:25.
10. I delivered you out of his hand Balak’s hand. He designed to harm by Balaam’s curses; but God, in a manner wholly miraculous, and not in harmony with his usual dealings with free agents, interposed, and changed his imprecations to benedictions. This constrained act did not keep Balaam from suffering a violent death while acting with the Midianites against Israel. Numbers 31:8.
11. The men of Jericho Hebrews, lords or property-holders.
Fought No active warfare is intended, but a standing on the defensive, with closed gates.
12. And I sent the hornet before you The figurative interpretation of the hornet makes it a vivid metaphor for enemies armed with fearful weapons, or for pungent and stinging terrors. But we are inclined to the literal interpretation, which was evidently held by the author of the Wisdom of Solomon, (Joshua 12:8,) that a species of wasp, which swarms in warm climates, became an intolerable plague, and drove many of the Canaanites from their land. The ancient historians Pliny, Justin, and AElian recount instances in which whole tribes have been driven away by frogs, mice, wasps, and other small animals.
Not with thy sword Not with weapons only, but with divine help. The purpose of this review of providential interpositions in behalf of the Hebrews is to awaken emotions of gratitude, and to secure perfect holiness and obedience to the divine law. This duty the dying chieftain now proceeds to enforce.
[ 14. Put away the gods which your fathers served Many expositors hold that these words do not necessarily imply the actual possession of idols by the people, but rather a tendency to idolatry, which was ever too painfully prominent in Israel until after the Babylonish exile. The spirit of the exhortation is, according to this view, well conveyed by Bush: “Keep away, renounce, repudiate, have nothing to do with, idolatry of any sort; being equivalent to a charge to preserve themselves pure from a contagion to which they were peculiarly liable.” Subsequent history shows how they failed. But it is scarcely supposable, that if Joshua meant to warn them merely against tendencies to idolatry he would have used the words here employed, and those still stronger ones, in Joshua 24:23, Put away the strange gods which are among you the very words used by Jacob when his household gave up their strange gods, and he buried them at Shechem. Genesis 35:2. Better, then, to understand that many of the Hebrews had still in their houses teraphim the gods which the ancient fathers worshipped beyond the Euphrates. Laban had them in his family, (Genesis 30:19,) and Rachel carried them off, and they were probably the strange gods buried at Shechem. Genesis 35:2-4. We again meet with them in the days of the Judges, (Judges 17:5, Judges 17:18, Judges 17:20,) and in the time of David, and even in his house, (1 Samuel 19:13;) and also in the time of Josiah, who tried to put them away. 2 Kings 23:24. It is therefore by no means improbable that among many families in Israel these teraphim were zealously kept, and Joshua, knowing the fact and the danger of it, called this assembly and especially urged this matter, in order to abolish, if possible, this evil.
Though the fathers beyond the Euphrates seem to have worshipped or served these teraphim as gods, there is no sure evidence that they were ever worshipped as gods in Israel. But they were images more or less associated with a false worship, and therefore dangerous to the religion of the Hebrews.
In Egypt The fathers had carried these teraphim in their families to Egypt, and during all their captivity they had not lost sight of them. Comp. Ezekiel 20:7-8.]
15. Choose you this day “Joshua releases them from obligation, that, like free men, and of their own accord, they may honestly decide what god they will serve. Liberty of choice is granted to them in order that they might not afterwards plead that they were compelled.” Keil. Joshua assumes an important truth man cannot be godless; if he repudiates the true God, he will fall under the baleful influence of some false religion. He cannot divest himself of his religious nature. Jehovah will not share with any idol the worship of his people; every god must be dethroned before he will reign in their hearts.
19. Ye cannot serve the Lord Joshua utters these discouraging words, based on the waywardness of the people’s hearts, to draw out from them the expression of strong purpose to serve Jehovah. Thereby he elicits their energetic We will, in Joshua 24:21, and their self-pledging witness in Joshua 24:22.
He is a jealous God He demands, like a husband, the undivided affection and service of the people who have avowed their fidelity to him. The word jealous, as applied to God, involves evident anthropomorphism.
He will not forgive This seems to represent God as implacable, in direct contradiction to that wonderful revelation of his attributes made to Moses in Exodus 34:7, as “forgiving iniquity, and transgression, and sin.” But the same revelation declares that he will by no means clear the guilty. The explanation is, that while God is forgiving to the truly penitent through the blood of sprinkling, he vigorously punishes all incorrigible sinners.
20. Then he will turn He will alter his attitude toward you. Strictly speaking, God is unchangeable. He is always toward the wicked a consuming fire. When a man changes from righteous to wicked he runs into this consuming fire.
23. The strange gods The teraphim. See note on Joshua 24:14.
Incline your heart By the free act of your will in the use of the power by God’s grace conferred on all.
THE GREAT STONE OF WITNESS, Joshua 24:25-28.
25. A statute and an ordinance This was the renewal of the law given on Sinai, imposing no new obligations.
26. Joshua wrote these words A description of all that occurred at Shechem in this solemn renewal of the covenant. This was done in order that a written document might be preserved as a witness against the people should they ever transgress the divine law. This chapter contains, probably, the substance of that ancient document.
A great stone Which long stood a monumental witness of this solemn transaction. See Judges 9:6, note.
Sanctuary of the Lord The holy place first consecrated by Abraham in Canaan. Genesis 12:7. Here he builded an altar and worshipped, by the tree, which was perhaps still standing in the time of Joshua. [Some understand the sanctuary of the Lord to mean, here, the tabernacle and ark, which had been brought from Shiloh for this occasion. Others think it refers to the spot where the ark had formerly stood. But the word rendered sanctuary may mean any holy place, and is not always used of the place where the ark was kept. In Amos 7:13, it is applied to the place of corrupt worship at Bethel.]
27. For it hath heard all the words By a striking figure the stone is spoken of as hearing. In the same sense, as a witness it would testify against their transgressions whenever their eyes should rest upon it or their thoughts revert to it. How interesting the thought that upon this very spot, centuries afterwards, stood THE STONE, THE CORNER STONE, THE TRUE AND FAITHFUL WITNESS. Says Augustine on this passage, “By this stone he certainly signified HIM who was the rock of offence to the unbelieving Jews, and was made the Head of the corner.”
JOSHUA’S DEATH AND BURIAL, Joshua 24:29-30.
[ 29. Joshua… died Probably soon after the events just related above. It is noticeable that no mention is made of Israel’s weeping for Joshua, as they did for Moses. Comp. Deuteronomy 34:8. In Joshua 1:1, Moses is called the servant of the Lord; here that title is given to Joshua. He who was then only Moses’ minister, attained at length the office of his master, and became, like him, the servant of the Lord.
A hundred and ten years old Just the age of Joseph when he died. Genesis 50:26.]
30. Timnath-serah See note on Joshua 19:50. The LXX here add the following legend of the stone knives: “They deposited with him there, in the tomb in which they buried him, the stone knives with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, when he had led them out of Egypt according as the Lord commanded. And there they are unto the present day.” See also on Joshua 21:42.
CONCLUDING STATEMENTS, Joshua 24:31-33.
[ 31. All the days of the elders that overlived Joshua So the holy life and example of a great and good man exerts an influence after he is gone. Though dead he yet speaks, and the surviving generation feels his power.]
32. The bones of Joseph… buried they Since the Hebrew has no pluperfect for the accurate expression of time, this may justly be rendered they had buried, in Shechem previous to the death of Joshua, either at the first solemn convocation at that place, (Joshua 8:30-35,) or at the second, the occasion of Joshua’s valedictory to the nation. The fact is mentioned here because of its association with the spot of Joshua’s last address to Israel. This burial was in obedience to the charge given by Joseph in Genesis 50:25, whose faith grasped the land of promise for his last resting place. Hebrews 11:22. [The traditional site of Joseph’s tomb is marked by a little chapel at the southeastern base of Mount Ebal, and a few rods from Jacob’s well. “There is nothing remarkable in the appearance of this little whited sepulchre,” says Tristram, “yet there seems little reason to question the identity of the spot. It has been preserved from molestation from age to age by the common reverence in which the patriarch is held by Jew, Samaritan, Christian, and Moslem alike, while the fact of his name being the common property of all has prevented any one of them from appropriating and disfiguring by a temple the primitive simplicity of his resting place.
33. Eleazar… died Probably about the same time, (as Josephus says,) and his death and burial are mentioned here because of their association both in time and place with those of Joshua. In a hill Rather, in Gibeah of Phinehas. Josephus says, “His monument and sepulchre are in the city of Gabatha.” Dr. Robinson inclined to locate it at the modern Jibea, about half way between Jerusalem and Shechem. This would be not far from the place of Joshua’s death and burial. The presentation of the place to Phinehas was a token of Israel’s high regard for him and his father.
Beautifully says Wordsworth here: “Eleazar and Joshua together make a type of the union of the priesthood and government in Christ. The types die, because they are types; but the DIVINE ANTITYPE liveth forever; to whom be all praise, and glory, and dominion, world without end.”
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 24". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16