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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Joshua 24

 

 

Introduction

Chapter 24 The Great Covenant Ceremony.

The book closes with an account of a great covenant ceremony at Shechem. The chapter begins with an account of the gathering of the tribes by Joshua. There Joshua again addresses the people, rehearses to them the many great and good things YHWH has done for them, from the time of their ancestor Abraham to that day, and then exhorts them to fear and serve YHWH, and reject idols. Then he lays before them the stark choice as to whether they will serve the true God, or the gods of the Canaanites. When they choose the former, he advises them to abide by their choice, and finalises a covenant with them to that purpose. Then he sends them away and the chapter concludes with an account of the death and burial of Joshua and Eleazar, and of the interment of the bones of Joseph.


Verse 1

Chapter 24 The Great Covenant Ceremony.

The book closes with an account of a great covenant ceremony at Shechem. The chapter begins with an account of the gathering of the tribes by Joshua. There Joshua again addresses the people, rehearses to them the many great and good things YHWH has done for them, from the time of their ancestor Abraham to that day, and then exhorts them to fear and serve YHWH, and reject idols. Then he lays before them the stark choice as to whether they will serve the true God, or the gods of the Canaanites. When they choose the former, he advises them to abide by their choice, and finalises a covenant with them to that purpose. Then he sends them away and the chapter concludes with an account of the death and burial of Joshua and Eleazar, and of the interment of the bones of Joseph.

Joshua 24:1

And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and they presented themselves before God.’

Shechem was the place where Joshua had previously written the words of the covenant on stones (Joshua 8:32) and had built an altar in accordance with Exodus 20:24-25, establishing a sanctuary there in response to God’s revelation through Moses (Deuteronomy 27:5), in a great covenant ceremony. It was also the place where Moses had declared that such a covenant ceremony should take place on entering the land (Deuteronomy 27:2-8). It was therefore logical that for this great covenant renewal Joshua should once again gather the people at Shechem on Mount Ebal where they could again see those stones that bore witness to the words of the covenant and were a reminder of their first successful entry into the land. Shechem lay in the valley between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim.

As he grew even more certain of approaching death he felt the need to remind his people of that first great and significant event, and to renew what had been done there so that they would remember it once he was gone. So he called the people together once more and then summoned the leaders of the people, but this time it was not only to an address to the nation but to a solemn covenant ceremony. During it he would recount what YHWH had done for his people (Joshua 24:2-13). Then he would call on them to make a solemn response as to where their loyalties lay (Joshua 24:14-15) which the people immediately did (Joshua 24:16-18), after which he would put his challenge the second time (Joshua 24:19-20) resulting in a second response, thus confirming the certainty of their promise. Joshua would then vocally accept their response, receiving their third and final confirmation, and write the covenant in a written record, and set up a memorial stone at the sanctuary he had previously established there. Thus was the covenant sealed.

We note that this gathering was not at Shiloh. There Eleazar or Phinehas would have been prominent. But this was a gathering re-enacting the earlier covenant ceremony at Shechem at the beginning (Joshua 8:30-35) and it was to the great Servant of YHWH that they all looked. At that ceremony the Shechemites had been incorporated into Israel as worshippers of ‘the Lord of the Covenant’, as partly Habiru, and as being descended in part from the men of Jacob who had settled there to watch over Jacob’s land and had settled the city after its male inhabitants were slaughtered (Genesis 34). (Although Judges 9 reveals that much of their worship was tainted with Canaanite influence and association of ‘the Lord of the Covenant’ with Baal).

“Presented themselves.” The word can mean ‘stationed for a certain purpose’. Compare Exodus 2:4; Exodus 9:13; Exodus 14:13; Exodus 19:17; Numbers 11:16.


Verse 2

And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says YHWH, the God of Israel, ‘Your fathers dwelt in olden days beyond the River, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods.’ ” ’

Joshua now began the preamble to the covenant, the declaring of the acts of YHWH on behalf of His people. He began with Terah the father of Abraham and his brother Nahor, pointing out that Terah and his family were worshippers of false gods. The River was the River Euphrates. Israel were ‘descended’ from Terah through Abraham, and from Nahor through Rebekah.

This worshipping of false gods by Abraham’s relatives is not mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament, but it is a clear assumption from Abraham’s call. He was called out from his family because of his new found faith in YHWH, probably garnered from reading the covenant records in the family archives which make up Genesis 1-11. There are other indications of it. Their connection was with the cities Ur and Haran, connected with Sin the moon god, (one of Terah’s sons was named after Haran), the name Sarai (princess) may connect with Sharratu, the consort of Sin, some have suggested that Milcah may connect with Malkatu, a title of Ishtar (Inanna) (see Genesis 11:27-32). Rachel stole her father’s ‘gods’ (teraphim) - Genesis 31:19. Jacob’s God was ‘the God of your father’ (Genesis 31:29), and the God of Abraham is probably distinguished from the god of Nahor (Genesis 31:53).


Verse 3-4

Joshua 24:3-4 a

“And I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac, and I gave to Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and I gave to Esau Mount Seir to possess it.”

The next statement was what God gave to Abraham and his sons. He brought Abraham from beyond the Euphrates, from Mesopotamia, and into the promised land, who walked throughout it and, by faith, took possession of it, and He gave him Isaac the child of promise. Then He gave to Isaac, Jacob and Esau, and to Esau He gave Mount Seir. This last sums up God’s blessing to Esau and Joshua then goes on to deal with Jacob/Israel.

“Multiplied his seed probably refers to the fact that his household grew rapidly so that he was able to put into the field three hundred and eighteen fighting men ‘born in his house” (Genesis 14:14), although it may have in mind the birth of Ishmael and his many children, and the future multiplication of his actual descendants.

“Mount Seir” is the mountain range of the Arabah from south of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqabah. See Genesis 32:3; Genesis 36:8; Deuteronomy 2:4-5.

Joshua 24:4-5

“And Jacob and his children went down into Egypt, and I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt in accordance with the things which I did among them, and afterwards I brought you out.”

The migration to Egypt to escape famine was then described (see Genesis 46:3-7), followed by a description of YHWH’s deliverance from Egypt with great signs and wonders, which resulted in YHWH bringing them out. It is noteworthy that, apart from the deliverance, what happened in Egypt was not considered of importance. It was not a part of the divine plan of deliverance.

“I sent Moses and Aaron”, the joint deliverers, with Moses to the fore (Exodus 3:10; Exodus 4:27-31; see also 1 Samuel 12:6; 1 Samuel 12:8).


Verse 6-7

And I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers, with chariots and horsemen, to the Sea of Reeds, and when they cried to YHWH he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea on them, and covered them. And your eyes saw what I did in Egypt, and you dwelt in the wilderness many days.”

The scene was now passing to events that some of the elders among them had themselves experienced as children. YHWH declared how he brought their fathers out of Egypt and delivered them through the deliverance of the Sea of Reeds, and He reminds them of the wonders they themselves had seen in Egypt, the darkness he brought to hide them from the Egyptians (Exodus 14:20), and how He destroyed the Egyptians in the sea (see Exodus 14-15). Then they dwelt in the wilderness many days, preserved by YHWH Who gave them their provisions from heaven.

“I brought you out and I brought your fathers out.” This is very telling. The first phrase emphasises that there are eyewitnesses still present among them while the second remembers that they were but children at the time.


Verse 8

And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, who dwelt Beyond Jordan, and they fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you possessed their land, and I destroyed them from before you.”

Now they were reminded of more recent events which all of them could remember, how God had enabled them to defeat the Amorites, who would not let them pass peacefully but had fought with them. And He had enabled them to possess their land (Numbers 21:21-24).


Verse 9-10

Then Balak the son of Zippor, the king of Moab, arose, and fought against Israel, and he sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. But I would not listen to Balaam, therefore he blessed you still, so I delivered you out of his hand.”

Then the King of Moab came against Israel to ‘fight’ with them (Numbers 22:11), but he used different weapons. He called in Balaam, the son of Beor, a famous seer. Many would have considered him more of a threat than all the other armies put together. But even Balaam was subject to YHWH, and when he began to attempt a curse on Israel YHWH refused to listen to him (Deuteronomy 23:5) with the result that Balaam blessed Israel. (Note the implication that there was no god known to Balaam who could do anything about it). Thus were they delivered from the hand of Balaam and from the hand of Moab. Whether any actual fighting took place we were not told in Numbers, but there may well have been. However the gathering of his army by the King of Moab and the ‘assault’ through the activities of Balaam may well have been seen as ‘fighting’.


Verse 11

And you went over Jordan, and came to Jericho, and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorite, and the Perizzite, and the Canaanite, and the Hittite, and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, and I delivered them into your hand.”

Here he reminded them of the miraculous, never to be forgotten, passage over Jordan, and the enemies they then faced, first ‘the lords of Jericho’, then the seven Canaanite nations regularly mentioned. But none had been able to resist Israel because YHWH delivered them into their hand.


Verse 12

And I sent the hornet before you, who drove them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites, not with your sword, nor with your bow.’

The ‘two kings of the Amorites’ may be specific, or the word ‘two’ may be used as meaning ‘a few’ as it often does. Compare the ‘two sticks’ of the widow of Zarepath (1 Kings 17:12). These were probably not Sihon and Og but two (or ‘a few’) kings whom they were called on to fight on the west side of the Jordan. We do not know which ones. (‘Amorites’ rather than ‘Canaanites’ is found throughout the speech - Joshua 24:15; Joshua 24:18). Perhaps there is in mind here some striking incident that the people would remember. The point is made that it was achieved without fighting. (LXX has twelve kings but that was probably to remove the seeming difficulty caused by assuming that the two kings were Og and Sihon when such use of numbers was forgotten. But there were a number of kings of the Amorites, and as mentioned above the Canaanites were called Amorites throughout the speech - Joshua 24:15; Joshua 24:18, with those Beyond Jordan eastward being specifically distinguished - Joshua 24:8).

Whether this was a literal attack of hornets on the leaders of an Amorite army that caused them to have to flee, possibly forcing them out of ambush when a hornets’ nest was disturbed, or an attack by insects on their chariot horses which panicked them and had a similar effect, or some other factor that accomplished the same, we will never know. But the reference to sword and bow is from Genesis 48:22. However, the point here is that Israel were more favoured for they did not need sword or bow.

The reference to hornets recalls Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20. It does not mean that the hornets literally went in front of the Israelite army, but that God had prepared them to do this work beforehand. These two references probably have in mind the hornet of fear and anxiety (Exodus 23:27-28) caused by hearing stories of what YHWH had done for Israel, but Joshua here may well have associated them with a particular striking incident of help gained from swarms of insects. Some have connected sir‘ah (hornet) with Assyrian siru (serpent) and have associated it with the sacred serpent on the crown of Pharaoh, with the idea that a preceding Egyptian invasion had prepared the way for Israel’s successes, but this seems less likely. However the meaning of sir‘ah is not certain for it appears only in these contexts.

Some do see it as referring to the Og and Sihon, who are elsewhere called ‘two kings of the Amorites’ (Joshua 2:10; Joshua 9:10; Deuteronomy 3:8; Deuteronomy 4:47), recognising that they might have come into his mind as a result of his mention of Amorites, and that the emphasis here is on the hornet YHWH sent rather than on the kings, with YHWH seeing them as simply part of the whole campaign.


Verse 13

And I gave you a land for which you did not labour, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them. From vineyards and oliveyards, which you did not plant, you eat.”

This was a reminder of the specific promises that it would be so (Deuteronomy 6:10-11). Land already prepared for sowing, cities already built, for living in, and vineyards and oliveyards already planted, for eating from.

So ends the preamble that describes what the Great Deliverer has done for them, and what He has given them. Now will follow his requirements as was normal in a suzerainty treaty of that time. It is noteworthy that what we call the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17); The Book of Deuteronomy; and this passage here are all more or less based on the pattern of Hittite suzerainty treaties, which began with the name and titles of the Suzerain, a preamble declaring what the Suzerain had done for the people (they called their conquest a deliverance), followed with details as to his requirements and the necessity for rejecting his enemies, the writing down of the treaty to be read periodically, and often ending with blessings and cursings.


Verse 14

Now therefore, fear YHWH, and serve him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and you serve YHWH.”

The requirements were simple and yet demanding. They were firstly that they should ‘fear YHWH’, recognise His greatness, His sovereignty and His power, and serve Him without pretence, but truly and honestly. This meant, of course, in accordance with the Law already given to them.

And secondly that they should reject all rivals. It has already been mentioned that their fathers had worshipped other gods beyond the River, and now is added the fact of gods they had worshipped in Egypt. These were probably not the native gods of Egypt, for there is never any hint that they worshipped them, but gods commonly worshipped in Egypt by sojourners (also taken up by many Egyptians), on which for example had possibly been based the golden calves and the teraphim so often mentioned. We must remember that a good proportion of ‘the children of Israel’ were from a mixture of nations and would have worshipped a number of gods (Exodus 12:38), and it is clear that traces of that worship were still among them (compare Genesis 35:2).

So Joshua was now calling on them to renounce these ‘gods’ and serve YHWH only. Syncretism was always a huge danger, but it is noteworthy that at this stage there is no suggestion of their pandering to Canaanite gods, although Joshua was aware of the danger (Joshua 24:15). They had not yet begun to mix with the Canaanites and learn their ways, a remarkable indication of the authenticity of the speech (a later writer would not have been able to resist incorporating such an idea here).


Verse 15

And if it seem evil to you to serve YHWH, choose you this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served who were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH.”

Now that it was the future that was being challenged the gods of Canaan were introduced. Joshua challenged them as to whether they would serve their ancestors’ gods, or the gods of the Amorites (the Canaanites under another name), who had done nothing for them, or YHWH, Who had done so much for them. We can compare 1 Kings 18:21 for a similar challenge. It was an important challenge, and was no light choice. It was choosing between the God Who made righteous demands and expected a strict morality, and gods who made no moral demands and would introduce them to sexual perversions and lascivious living.

“But as for me and my house, we will serve YHWH.” Joshua had no doubt as to where he stood and became the first to make his declaration as an example to the remainder.


Verse 16-17

And the people answered and said, “God forbid that we should forsake YHWH to serve other gods. For YHWH our God, he it is who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way in which we went, and among all the people through the midst of whom we passed.” ’

Note the implied reference to Exodus 20:2, ‘I am YHWH your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage’ demonstrating that those words were rooted in their minds. They protested immediately their horror at the thought that they should forsake YHWH and serve anyone but Him. They had absorbed the words of Joshua and recognised the truth of what he had said about YHWH’s continued deliverance, and they acknowledged the wonders He had wrought, and the way He had preserved them on their journeys, both through ample provision and protection from their enemies. How then could they serve anyone else?


Verse 18

And YHWH has driven out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who dwelt in the land. Therefore we also will serve YHWH, for He is our God.”

They protested that they were too aware of the help that they had received in establishing their present position in the land to turn away from YHWH. They had witnessed how He had enabled them to drive the Canaanites (Amorites) out from many places. Therefore YHWH was their God and they would serve no one else.


Verse 19-20

And Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve YHWH, for he is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. If you forsake YHWH and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after having done you good.” ’

But Joshua wanted no superficial reply. So he challenged them by pointing out the danger of making a covenant with YHWH. This was no God Who would stand by and do nothing. He was holy, set apart by the very nature of His being, unable and unwilling to put up with sin and disobedience. And He was a jealous God, unwilling to share worship with false gods who were no gods. Thus He would not overlook their sin and disobedience. If after swearing loyalty to Him they then pandered to foreign (having nothing to do with Israel) gods, He would bring evil on them and destroy them, even though He had previously done them good.

This was not, of course, a denial of the fact that He was a merciful God, but drew attention to the fact that sin without genuine repentance would reap its deserved reward. YHWH was not One Who could be mocked.

“You cannot serve YHWH.” This was a challenge to face up to their own weakness, revealed time and again in their past. It may contain within it the thought that they could not serve Him as He required because of the pagan influences they still allowed among them (Joshua 24:23). He wanted them to face up to the truth about themselves.

“He is a holy God.” The word for holy is in the plural, matching God (elohim). It is thus a plural of intensity. He is the sum of all that is holy. Isaiah 5:16 brings out something of its meaning. He is exalted as the great and righteous Judge and set apart by His total purity and goodness (compare Isaiah 57:15).

“He is a jealous God.” Not jealous in that He envies and feels sore about what others have and deserve, but aware of His own being and worthiness and unwilling to tolerate anything which puts on a pretence of sharing His uniqueness while being unable to do so. In other words he will not tolerate false gods. See Exodus 20:4; Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 6:15; Nahum 1:2. The use of El (singular) stresses the plural of intensity in the previous phrase. He is El-Qanno’, the God of jealousy, the God so unique that He can have no rivals.


Verse 21

And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve YHWH.” ’

Faced clearly with the consequences of their choice the people replied that whatever Joshua said, they would serve YHWH. He was their God and they would serve and honour Him and Him alone.


Verse 22

Joshua 24:22 a

‘And Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves Yahweh serve him.”

This was now a solemnising of the solemn covenant. It was like asking response to the marriage vows, the important words that seal the covenant. Once repeated it would be impossible to withdraw. They had stated that they would serve YHWH and Him alone. Now he called on them to act as witnesses to their own declaration.

Joshua 24:22 b

‘And they said, “We are witnesses.”

Their response was a solemn avowal of what they had committed themselves to.


Verse 23

Now therefore put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your hearts to YHWH, the God of Israel.”

The reply in Joshua 24:22 b had been an interjection. Now Joshua continued with his exhortation. In the course of their lives, and in the course of receiving spoils from captured Canaanite cities, many Israelites had accumulated mascots and amulets and suchlike, including possibly images of Baal and Ashtoreth, in which they possibly placed much faith for protection and ‘luck’ without realising that it was derogatory to YHWH. Now he called on them to put them away (compare Genesis 35:2). The phrase ‘foreign gods’ was very significant. Such things were foreign to those who were His people, to those who worshipped YHWH. They had no place in Israel where YHWH was supreme and unique and sole divinity.

“And incline your hearts to YHWH, the God of Israel.” All that they had looked to receive from their charms and amulets they must now look to Him to provide. Their response to Him and worship of Him must be total. Again there is the emphasis that Israel has no God but YHWH.


Verse 24

‘And the people said to Joshua, “YHWH our God we will serve and his voice we will obey.” ’

This was their third response, making the response complete. All would recognise that three specifically signifies completeness. (This threeness was not accidental, it was deliberate). They thereby acknowledged YHWH as God alone, and their responsibility to obey Him fully.


Verse 25

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.’

It must be recognised as almost certain that burnt offerings and peace offerings were slain on the altar built in the place where YHWH had recorded His name (Joshua 8:31 compare Exodus 20:24-25), in order to seal the covenant. The blood of the burnt offerings would be sprinkled on the altar, the peace offerings would provide the sacrificial meal (Exodus 24:5-6; Exodus 24:11).

The solemn covenant ceremony was now over and Joshua was satisfied that he had at least started the people on the right way for when he was gone. His duty as the appointed Servant to YHWH would soon end in death, and now he could die satisfied that the future seemed secure. As Moses had done before him he had established the sacred way in which they must walk. It was no simple covenant renewal. It was a statute and an ordinance, binding for ever (compare Exodus 15:25-26 and 1 Samuel 30:25, although the latter was not with YHWH).


Verse 26

And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and he took a great stone and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of YHWH.’

The book of the Law of God is probably the same as the book of the Law and the book of the law of Moses (Joshua 8:31; Joshua 8:34 compare Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 31:9; Deuteronomy 31:24). It would thus include at least Exodus 20-24 and the basic Deuteronomy. It was kept beside the Ark of the Covenant in the Tabernacle (Deuteronomy 31:26). It is significant that Joshua recorded this solemn covenant in that book. He saw his covenant as part of the law of God. It demonstrates that it was the custom to record such covenants in writing, and we can compare how the main part of Genesis is made up of covenants set in their historical background, suggesting that they too had been so recorded.

“And he took a great stone.” Stones or pillars were regularly set up as memorials of covenants (compare Exodus 24:4; Genesis 28:18) and as a witness to the covenant. It is possible that he wrote the words of the covenant on the stone (compare Joshua 8:32; Deuteronomy 27:2-3).

“Set it up there under an oak that was in (or ‘by”) the sanctuary of YHWH.’ Oaks were seen as having special significance. They were favourite trees under which to sit, presumably for shelter from the sun (1 Kings 13:14) or to bury the dead (Genesis 35:8; 1 Chronicles 10:12), possibly because they were landmarks (1 Samuel 10:3). Abram received a revelation under the oak of Moreh at Shechem (Genesis 12:6-7). Jacob buried the foreign gods of his household under an oak connected with Shechem (Genesis 35:4). But this oak was by (or even possibly ‘in’) the sanctuary of God. It is doubtful if it was Abram’s oak or Jacob’s oak or even the oak of Meonenim (‘the diviner’s oak’ - Judges 9:37), for the sanctuary of God was probably that established on Mount Ebal (Joshua 8:30). It was simply a mark of where the stone was placed (it was not called on as a witness or referred to in any special way. It was only a marker).


Verse 27

And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of YHWH which he spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God.” ’

A stone for Jacob (Genesis 31:45) and a heap of stones for his brothers-in-law (Genesis 31:46) stood as a witness between Jacob and Laban, each stone seemingly representing a tribal leader. This stone therefore probably represented Israel. It had ‘heard’ all that was said and stood there as a witness to it and to Israel’s responsibility to keep the covenant. The idea that somehow stones had something to testify about (even though they never did) lies behind the words of Jesus in Luke 19:40.


Verse 28

So Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.’

The covenant having been confirmed and sealed Joshua sent the people home. The last phrase is significant. Each man had an inheritance to go back to. All could look to YHWH with gratitude for the land that they owned. Their entry into Canaan had been a huge success.


Verse 29

And so it happened that after these things Joshua, the son of Nun, the Servant of YHWH, died, being a hundred and ten years old.’

Having accomplished his purpose, given by YHWH, of taking over from Moses and leading the people into the promised land, and then making it possible for each man to receive an inheritance in the land, Joshua died. He was given the title only specifically used by men of two people, Moses and Joshua. He was called ‘the Servant of YHWH’.

“After these things.” After what had been described in the book.

The age is approximate. Most ancient patriarchs who died were aged in round numbers. But one hundred and ten was the age of Joseph when he died (Genesis 50:22), and that in Egypt was considered to be the perfect length of life. In other words Joshua lived a full and complete life.

Moses died at one hundred and twenty. His life was split into approximately three periods of forty years. See Exodus 2:11; Exodus 7:7; Deuteronomy 29:5. As forty years represented a generation that really said that he had lived three full generations.


Verse 30

And they buried him in the border of his inheritance, in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of the mountain of Gaash.’

Joshua was buried in a burial place outside the city which was his inheritance, Timnath-serah (Joshua 19:50). It is possibly Khirbet Tibneh, twenty seven kilometres (seventeen miles) south west of Shechem, which lies on the south side of a deep ravine, which must then be the mountain of Gaash. It was in the hill country of Ephraim. The Wadis of Gaash are mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:30 which would possibly be connected in some way with the mountain.


Verse 31

And the children of Israel served YHWH all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work of YHWH, that he had wrought for Israel.’

This summary verse confirms that during the life of Joshua and his near contemporaries who had seen the great works of YHWH in Egypt and in the wilderness, the people remained faithful. The elders, who remembered the past, were the father figures in the tribes and sub-tribes, and they ruled well. They kept apart from the Canaanites and worshipped YHWH only, maintaining the covenant faithfully, attending at the feasts at the central sanctuary, and living by His Law under the guidance of the priests and Levites, although there were always going to be exceptions. Thus the book finishes with a declaration that Joshua left things in good order, and that things seemed well.


Verse 32

And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, they buried in Shechem in the parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for a hundred pieces of silver, and they became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.’

The parcel of ground that Jacob had bought (Genesis 33:19) was still recognised as belonging to him, and was identifiable. This demonstrated that there were those alive, who were descended from members of the household of Jacob, who were still living there. This burial would have taken place many years earlier, but is mentioned here as a finalising of the deliverance record, demonstrating that the journey from Egypt was finally over. All was at rest.

“The inheritance of the children of Joseph.” Shechem was within the inheritance of Manasseh, the son of Joseph. But this suggests that in a special way the grave and the bones became the inheritance of the two tribes as the sons of Joseph. Joseph himself had requested that his bones be brought there (Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19), and now it was accomplished.


Verse 33

And Eleazar, the son of Aaron, died, and they buried him in the hill of (or Gibeah of) Phinehas his son which was given to him in the hill country of Ephraim.’

Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, also died. Thus the old generation was dying out. This man too had been looked to as one of the greats. The future lay in new hands, but they would not prove capable of sustaining it.

He was buried in the inheritance of his son Phinehas, given to him in the hill country of Ephraim. This was probably in Benjamin, for that was the part of the hill country of Ephraim in which rights to dwell in cities were allotted to the priests (Joshua 21:17-18).

So the book ends with the burial of three men who had lived in Egypt but were buried in Canaan as God had promised Israel. One of them had declared long before his certainty that one day Israel would return to the land promised by God (Genesis 50:24-25). The lives of the other two had witnessed all the events described in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, and they had lived to see downtrodden Israel at rest in the land of promise. It was a fitting end to this triumphant book.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 24:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-24.html. 2013.

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