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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Joshua 24



Verses 1-28



Joshua 24:1

To Shechem. The LXX. and the Arabic version read Shiloh here, and as the words "they presented themselves (literally, took up their station) before God" follow, this would seem the natural reading. But there is not the slightest MSS. authority for the reading, and it is contrary to all sound principles of criticism to resort to arbitrary emendations of the text. Besides, the LXX. itself reads συχέμ, in Joshua 24:26, and adds, "before the tabernacle of the God of Israel," words implied, but not expressed in the Hebrew. We are therefore driven to the supposition that this gathering was one yet more solemn than the one described in the previous chapter. The tabernacle was no doubt removed on this great occasion to Shechem. The locality, as Poole reminds us, was well calculated to inspire the Israelites with the deepest feelings. It was the scene of God's first covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:6, Genesis 12:7), and of the formal renewal of the covenant related in Genesis 35:2-4 (see note on Genesis 35:23, Genesis 35:26), and in Joshua 8:30-35, when the blessings and the curses were inscribed on Mount Gerizim and Ebal, and the place where Joseph's bones (Joshua 8:32) were laid, possibly at this time, or if not, at the time when the blessings and curses were inscribed. And now, once again, a formal renewal of the covenant was demanded from Israel by their aged chieftain, before his voice should cease to be heard among them any more. Rosenmuller reminds us that Josephus, the Chaldee and Syriac translators, and the Aldine and Complutensian editions of the LXX. itself, have Sichem. Bishop Horsley makes the very reasonable suggestion that Shiloh was not as yet the name of a town, but possibly of the tabernacle itself, or the district in which it had been pitched. And he adds that Mizpeh and Sheehem, not Shiloh, appear to have been the places fixed upon for the gathering of the tribes (see 10:17; 11:11; 20:1 (cf. 20:27); 1 Samuel 7:5). See, however, 21:12, as well as Joshua 21:2; Joshua 22:12. Some additional probability is given to this view by the fact noticed above, that it is thought necessary to describe the situation of Shiloh in 21:19, and we may also fail to notice that the words translated "house of God" in 20:18, 20:26 in our version, is in reality Bethel, there being no "house of God" properly so called, but only the "tabernacle of the congregation." The tabernacle in that ease would be moved from place to place within the central district assigned to it, as necessity or convenience dictated. Hengstenberg objects to the idea that the tabernacle was moved to Shechem that it would have led to an idea that God was only present in His Holy Place, to which it is sufficient to reply,

The Samaritan woman, for instance, supposed the Jews to believe that in Jerusalem only ought men to worship (John 4:20). When Hengstenberg says, however, that the meeting in the last chapter had reference to Israel from a theocratic and religious, and this one from an historical point of view, he is on firmer ground. The former exhortation is ethical, this historical. He goes on to refer to the deeply interesting historical traditions centering round this place, which have been noticed above. The oak in 20:26, Hengstenberg maintains to be the same tree that is mentioned in Genesis 12:6 (where our version has, erroneously, "plain"), and which is referred to both in Genesis 35:4 and here as the (i.e, the well known) terebinth in Shechem (see note on Genesis 35:26). He has overlooked the fact that the tree in Genesis 12:6 is not an אֵלָה but an אֵלוֹן. He goes on to contend that the terebinth was not merely "by" but "in" the sanctuary of the Lord, which he supposes to be another sanctuary beside the tabernacle, perhaps the sacred enclosure round Abraham's altar. But he is wrong, as has been shown below, (verse 26), when he says that בְּ never signifies near (see Joshua 5:1-15 :25). The question is one of much difficulty, and cannot be satisfactorily settled. But we may dismiss without fear, in the light of the narative in Genesis 22:1-24; Knobel's suggestion that an altar was erected here on this occasion. If there were any altar, it must have been the altar in the tabernacle. Other gods. That the family of Nahor were not exactly worshippers of the one true God in the same pure ritual as Abraham, may be gathered from the fact that Laban had teraphim (Genesis 31:19, Genesis 31:30). But recent researches have thrown some light on the condition of Abraham's family and ancestors. If Ur Casdim be identified, as recent discoverers have supposed, with Mugeyer, which, though west of Euphrates as a whole, is yet to the eastward of one of its subordinate channels, its ruins give us plentiful information concerning the creed of its inhabitants. We may also find some information about this primeval city in Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1.15, and in Smith's 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 233. The principal building of this city is the temple of the moon god Ur. One of the liturgical hymns to this moon god is in existence, and has been translated into French by M. Lenormant. In it the moon is addressed as Father, earth enlightening god, primeval seer, giver of life, king of kings, and the like. The sun and stars seem also to have been objects of worship, and a highly developed polytheistic system seems to have culminated in the horrible custom of human sacrifices. This was a recognised practice among the early Accadians, a Turanian race which preceded the Semitic in these regions. A fragment of an early Accadian hymn has been preserved, in which the words "his offspring for his life he gave" occur, and it seems that the Semitic people of Ur adopted it from them. A similar view is attributed to Balak in Micah 6:5, Micah 6:6, and was probably derived from documents which have since perished. Hence, no doubt the Moloch, or Molech, worship which was common in the neighbourhood of Palestine, and which the descendants of Abraham on their first entrance thither rejected with such disgust (see also Genesis 22:1-24; where Abraham seems to have some difficulties connected with his ancestral creed). Other deities were worshipped in the Ur of the Chaldees. Sumas, the sun god, Nana, the equivalent of Astarte, the daughter of the moon god, Bel and Belat, "his lady." "In truth," says Mr. Tomkins, in the work above cited, "polytheism was stamped on the earth in temples and towers, and the warlike and beneficent works of kings. Rimmon was the patron of the all-important irrigation, Sin of brickmaking and building, Nergal of war." A full account of these deities will be found in Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1.

Joshua 24:2

All the people (see note on Joshua 23:2). The Lord God of Israel. Rather, Jehovah, the God of Israel (see Exodus 3:13). Until the vision to Moses, the God of Israel had no distinctive name. After that time Jehovah was the recognised name of the God of Israel, as Chemosh of the Moabites, Milcom of the Ammonites, Baal of the Phoenicians. Our translation, "the Lord," somewhat obscures this. Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood. Rather, of the river. Euphrates is meant, on the other side of which (see, however, note on last verse) lay Ur of the Chaldees. It is worthy of notice that there is no evidence of the growth of a myth in the narrative here. We have a simple abstract of the history given us in the Pentateuch, without the slightest addition, and certainly without the invention of any further miraculous details. All this goes to establish the position that we have here a simple unvarnished history of what occurred. The manufacture of prodigies, as every mythical history, down to the biographies of Dominic and Francis, tells us, is a process that cannot stand still. Each successive narrator deems it to be his duty to embellish his narrative with fresh marvels. Compare this with the historical abridgment before us, and we must at least acknowledge that we are in the presence of phenomena of a very different ruder. Professor Goldziher has argued, in his 'Mythology among the Hebrews,' that Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob are solar myths, such as we find in immense abundance in Cox's 'Aryan Mythology.' Abraham (father of height)is the nightly sky. Sarah (princess) is the moon. Isaac (he shall laugh) is the smiling sunset or dawn. It would be difficult to find any history which, by an exercise of similar ingenuity, might not be resolved into myths. Napoleon Bonaparte, for instance, might be resolved into the rushing onset of the conqueror who was never defeated. The retreat from Moscow is a solar myth of the most obvious description. The battle of Bull's Run is clearly so named from the cowardice displayed there by the sons of John Bull. It is remarked by Mr. Tomkins that Ur, the city of the moon god, lends itself most naturally to the fabricator of myths. There is only one objection to the theory, and that is the bricks, still in existence, stamped with the words Urn, which compel us to descend from this delightful cloud land of fancy to the more sober regions of solid and literal fact. In old time. Literally, from everlasting, i.e, from time immemorial, ἀπ ἄρχης. The Rabbinic tradition has great probability in it, that Abraham was driven out of his native country for refusing to worship idols. It is difficult to understand his call otherwise. No doubt his great and pure soul had learned to abhor the idolatrous and cruel worship of his countrymen. By inward struggles, perhaps by the vague survival of the simpler and truer faith which has been held to underlie every polytheistic system, he had "reached a purer air," and learned to adore the One True God. His family were led to embrace his doctrines, and they left their native land with him. But Haran, with its star worship, was no resting place for him. So he journeyed on westward, leaving the society of men, and preserving himself from temptation by his nomad life. No wandering Bedouin, as some would have us believe, but a prince, on equal terms with Abimelech and Pharaoh, and capable of overthrowing the mighty conqueror of Elam. Such an example might well be brought to the memory of his descendants, who were now to be sojourners in the land promised to their father. Guided by conscience alone, with every external influence against him, he had worshipped the true God in that land. No better argument could be offered to his descendants, when settled in that same land, and about to be bereft of that valuable support which they had derived from the life and influence of Joshua.

Joshua 24:5

And I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them. This verse implies that the Israelites possessed some authentic record which rendered it unnecessary to enter into detail. Add to this the fact that this speech is ascribed to Joshua, and that the historian, as we have seen, had access to authentic sources of information, and we cannot avoid the conclusion that the hypothesis of the existence of the written law of Moses at the time of the death of Joshua has a very high degree of probability. The word rendered "plagued" is literally smote, but usually with the idea of a visitation from God. And afterward I brought you out. The absence of any mention of the plagues here is noteworthy. It cannot be accounted for on the supposition that our author was ignorant of them, for we have ample proof that the Book of Joshua was compiled subsequently to the Pentateuch. This is demonstrated by the quotations, too numerous to specify here, which have been noticed in their place. We can only, therefore, regard the omission made simply for the sake of brevity, and because they were so well known to all, as a sign of that tendency, noticed under verse 1, to abstain from that amplification of marvels common to all mythical histories. Had Joshua desired to indulge a poetic imagination, an admirable opportunity was here afforded him.

Joshua 24:6

Unto the Red Sea. There is no unto in the original. Perhaps the meaning here is into the midst of, the abruptness with which it is introduced meaning more than that the Israelites arrived at it. But though without the He locale, it may be no more than the accusative of motion towards a place.

Joshua 24:7

And when they cried unto the Lord. This fact is taken, without addition or amplification, from Exodus 14:10-12. The original has unto Jehovah, for "unto the Lord." He put darkness (see Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:20). The occurrence, which there is most striking and miraculous, is here briefly related. But the miracle is presupposed, although its precise nature is not stated. You. This identification of the Israel of Joshua's day with their forefathers is common in this book. A long season. Literally, many days. Here, again, there is no discrepancy between the books of Moses and this epitome of their contents. If both this speech and the Pentateuch were a clumsy patchwork, made up of scraps of this narrative and that, flung together at random, this masterly abstract of the contents of the Pentateuch is little short of a miracle. Whatever may be said of the rest of the narrative, this speech of Joshua's must have been written subsequently to the appearance of the books of Moses in their present form. But is there any trace of the later Hebrew in this chapter more than any other?

Joshua 24:8

And I brought you into the land of the Amorites (see Joshua 12:1-6; Numbers 21:21-35; Deuteronomy 2:32-36; Deuteronomy 3:1-17).

Joshua 24:9

Then Balak, son of Zippor. We have here the chronological order, as well as the exact historical detail, of the events carefully preserved. Warred against Israel. The nature of the war is indicated by the rest of the narrative, and this tallies completely with that given in the Book of Numbers. Balak would have fought if he dared, but as he feared to employ temporal weapons he essayed to try spiritual ones in their stead. But even these were turned against him. The curse of God's prophet was miraculously turned into a blessing.

Joshua 24:10

But I would not. The Hebrew shows that this is not simply the conditional form of the verb, but that it means I willed not. It was God's "determinate purpose" that Israel should not be accursed. Blessed yon still. Rather, perhaps, blessed you emphatically. And I delivered you out of his hand. Both here and in the narrative in Numbers 22-30, it is implied that Balaam's curse had power if he were permitted by God to pronounce it. Wicked as be was, he was regarded as a prophet of the Lord. There is not the slightest shadow of difference between the view of Balaam presented to us in this short paragraph and that in which he appears to us in the more expanded narrative of Moses.

Joshua 24:11

And ye went over Jordan. This epitome of Joshua's deals with his own narrative just as it does with that of Moses. The miraculous portions of the history are passed over, or lightly touched, but there is not the slightest discrepancy between the speech and the history, and the miraculous element is presupposed throughout the former. The men of Jericho. Literally, the lords or possessors of Jericho. The seven Canaanitish tribes that follow are not identical with, but supplementary to, the lords of Jericho. Fought against you. The word is the same as that translated "warred" in verse 9. The people of Jericho did not fight actively. They confined themselves to defensive operations. But these, of course, constitute war.

Joshua 24:12

The hornet. Commentators are divided as to whether this statement is to be taken literally or figuratively. The mention of hornets in the prophecies in Exodus 23:28, Deuteronomy 7:20 is not conclusive. In the former passage the hornet seems to be connected with the fear that was to be felt at their advance. The latter passage is not conclusive on either side. The probability is—since we have no mention of hornets in the history—that what is meant is that kind of unreasonable and panic fear which seems, to persons too far off to discern the assailants, to be displayed by persons attacked by these apparently insignificant insects. The image is a lively and natural one, and it well expresses the dismay which, as we read, seized the inhabitants of the land when their foes, formidable rather from Divine protection then from their number or warlike equipments, had crossed the Jordan (see Joshua 2:9-11; Joshua 5:1; Joshua 6:1). Where the figure came from is not far to seek. Joshua was quoting the prophecies of Moses mentioned above. The two kings of the Amorites. Sihon and Og, who were driven out, beside the tribes on the other side Jordan who have just been mentioned.

Joshua 24:13

Labour. The word here used is expressive of the fatigue of labour, and is more equivalent to our word toil. The whole passage is suggested by Deuteronomy 6:10.

Joshua 24:14

Sincerity and truth. These words, rendered by the LXX. ἐν εὐθύτητι καὶ ἐνδικαιοσύνῃ, are not the precise equivalent of those so translated in other passages in the Bible, nor is St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:8, quoting this passage. The word translated sincerity is rather to be rendered perfection, or perfectness. The Hebrew word signifying truth is derived from the idea of stability, as that which can stand the rude shocks of inquiry.

Joshua 24:15

Or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell. There is a reductio ad absurdum here. "Had ye served those gods ye would never have been here, nor would the Amorites have been driven out before you." The reference to the gods of their fathers seems to be intended to suggest the idea of an era long since lost in the past, and thrown into the background by the splendid deliverances and wonders which Jehovah had wrought among them. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Or, Jehovah. Here speaks the sturdy old warrior, who had led them to victory in many a battle. He invites them, as Elijah did on another even more memorable occasion, to make their choice between the false worship and the true, between the present and the future, between the indulgence of their lusts and the approval of their conscience. But as for himself, his choice is already made. No desire to stand well with the children of Israel obscures the clearness of his vision. No temptations of this lower world pervert his sense of truth. The experience of a life spent in His service has convinced him that Jehovah is the true God. And from that conviction he does not intend to swerve. In days when faith is weak and compromise has become general, when the sense of duty is slight or the definitions of duty vague, it is well that the spirit of Joshua should be displayed among the leaders in Israel, and that there should be those who will take their stand boldly upon the declaration," But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

Joshua 24:16

And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord. There could be no doubt of the sincerity of the people at that .moment. The only doubt is that afterwards expressed by Joshua, whether the feeling were likely to be permanent. The best test of sincerity is not always the open hostility of foes, for this very often braces up the energies to combat, while at the same time it makes the path of duty clear. Still less is it the hour of triumph over our foes, for then there is no temptation to rebel. The real test of our faithfulness to God is in most cases our power to continue steadfastly in one course of conduct when the excitement of conflict is removed, and the enemies with which we have to contend are the insidious allurements of ease or custom amid the common place duties of life. Thus the Israelites who, amid many murmurings and backslidings, kept faithful to the guidance of Moses in the wilderness, and who followed with unwavering fidelity the banner of Joshua in Palestine, succumbed fatally to the temptations of a life of peace and quietness after his death. So too often does the young Christian, who sets out on his heavenward path with earnest desires and high aspirations, who resists successfully the temptations of youth to unbelief or open immorality, fall a victim to the more insidious snares of compromise with a corrupt society, and instead of maintaining a perpetual warfare with the world, rejecting its principles and despising its precepts, sinks down into a life of ignoble ease and self indulgence, in the place of a life of devotion to the service of God. He does not east off God's service, he does not reject Him openly, but mixes up insensibly with His worship the worship of idols which He hates. Such persons halt between two opinions, they strive to serve two masters, and the end, like that of Israel, is open apostasy and ruin. For "God forbid" see Joshua 22:29.

Joshua 24:17

For the Lord our God. Rather, for Jehovah our God (see note on Joshua 24:2). The Israelites, we may observe, were no sceptics, nor ever became such. Their sin was not open rebellion, but the attempt to engraft upon God's service conduct incompatible with it, which led in practice to the same result—a final antagonism to God. But they believed in Jehovah; they had no doubt of the miracles He had worked, nor of the fact that His protecting hand had delivered them from all their perils, and had achieved for them all their victories. Nor do we find, amid all their sins, that they ever committed themselves to a formal denial of His existence and authority. To this, in the worst times, the prophets appeal, and though Israelitish obstinacy contested their conclusions, it never disputed their premises. Did those great signs. Here the people, in their answer, imply the circumstances which Joshua had omitted. This remark presupposes the miraculous passage of the Red Sea and the Jordan, and the other great miracles recorded in the books of Moses and Joshua. And among all the people through whom we passed. The Hebrew is stronger, "through the midst of whom." As the destruction of the Amorites is mentioned afterwards, this must refer to the safe passage of the Israelites, not only among the wandering bands of Ishmaelites in the wilderness, but along the borders of king Arad the Canaanite, of Edom, and of Moab (Numbers 20:25). This close, yet incidental, agreement on the part of the writers of two separate books serves to establish the trustworthiness of the writers.

Joshua 24:18

Therefore will we also serve the Lord. There is an ambiguity in our version which does not exist in the Hebrew. There is no "therefore," which only serves to obscure the sense, and which is borrowed from the Vulgate. The LXX; which has ἀλλὰ καί, gives the true sense. After the enumeration of the great things God Jehovah has done for them, the Israelites break off, and, referring to the declaration of Joshua in verse 15, "but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah," reply, "we too will serve Jehovah, for He is our God."

Joshua 24:19

And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord. Calvin thinks that Joshua said this to rouse the sluggish heart of the people to some sense of their duty. But this is quite contrary to the fact, for the heart of the people, as we have seen (Joshua 22:1-34), was not sluggish. As little can we accept the explanation of Michaelis, who paraphrases, "Ye will not be able, from merely human resolutions, to serve God." Joshua was stating nothing but a plain fact, which his own higher conception of the law had taught him, that the law was too "holy, just, and good" for it to be possible that Israel should keep it. He had forebodings of coming failure, when he looked on one side at the law with its stern morality and rigorous provisions, and the undisciplined, untamed people that he saw around him. True and faithful to the last, he set before them the law in all its majesty and fulness, the nature of its requirements, and the unsuspected dangers that lay in their weak and wayward hearts. No doubt he had a dim presentiment of the truth, to teach which, to St. Paul, required a miracle and three years' wrestling in Arabia, that by the deeds of the law "shall no flesh be justified in God's sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). As yet the Spirit of God had barely begun to unveil the figure of the Deliverer who was to declare at once God's righteousness and His forgiveness. Yet none the less did Joshua do his duty, and strove to brace up the Israelites to theirs, not by disguising the nature of the undertaking to which they were pledging themselves, but by causing them to be penetrated with a sense of its awfulness and of the solemn responsibilities which it entailed. St. Augustine thinks that Joshua detected in the Israelites already the signs of that self righteousness which St. Paul (Romans 10:3) blames, and that he wished to make them conscious of it. But this is hardly borne out by the narrative. He is a holy God. The pluralis excellentiae is used here in the case of the adjective as well as the substantive. This is to enhance the idea of the holiness which is an essential attribute of God. He is a Jealous God. The meaning is that God will not permit others to share the affections or rights which are His due alone. The word, which, as its root, "to be red," shows, was first applied to human affections, is yet transferred to God, since we can but approximate to His attributes by ideas derived from human relations. Not that God stoops to the meanness and unreasonableness of human jealousy. His vindication of His rights is no other than reasonable in Him. "His glory" He not only "will not," but cannot "give to another." And therefore, as a jealous man does, yet without his infirmity, God refuses to allow another to share in what is due to Himself alone. The word, as well as the existence of the Mosaic covenant, has no doubt led the prophets to use, as they do on innumerable occasions, the figure of a husband and wife (Jeremiah 2:2; Ezekiel 23:25 : Hosea 2:2, Hosea 2:13, Hosea 2:16 (margin), 19, 20) in describing the relations of God to His Church, and approximate to His attitude towards His people by the illustration of an injured husband towards a faithless wife (see also Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:15). He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins (see Exodus 23:21). There were many words used for "forgive" in Scripture: נשׁא כפר and סלה (see Pearson's learned note in his 'Treatise on the Creed,' Art. 10). The one here used signifies to remove or to bear the burden of guilt, corresponding to the word αἴρω in the New Testament. The word here translated" transgressions" is not the same as in Joshua 7:15, and the cognate word to the one rendered "transgressed" in Joshua 7:11, is here rendered "sins." It signifies a "breach of covenant," while the word translated" sins" is the equivalent of the Greek ἀματία.

Joshua 24:20

Then he will turn. There is no contradiction between this passage and James 1:17, any more than our expression, the sun is in the east or in the west, conflicts with science. St. James is speaking of God as He is in Himself, sublime in His unchangeableness and bountiful purposes towards mankind. Joshua and the prophets, speaking by way of accommodation to our imperfect modes of expression, speak of Him as He is in relation to us. In reality it is not He but we who change. He has no more altered His position than the sun, which, as we say, rises in the east and sets in the west. But as He is in eternal opposition to all that is false or evil, we, when we turn aside from what is good and true, must of necessity exchange His favour for His displeasure. Do you hurt. Literally, do evil to you. After that he hath done you good. This implies what has been before stated, that it is not God who is inconsistent but man, not God who has changed His mind, but man who has changed his.

Joshua 24:22

Ye are witnesses against yourselves. Joshua has not disguised from them the difficulty of the task they have undertaken. Like a true guide and father, he has placed the case fully and fairly before them, and they have made their choice. He reminds them that their own words so deliberately uttered will be forever witnesses against them, should they afterwards refuse to keep an engagement into which they entered with their eyes open. They do not in any way shrink from the responsibility, and by accepting the situation as it is placed before them, render it impossible henceforth to plead ignorance or surprise as an excuse for their disobedience. And it is well to observe, as has been remarked above, that such an excuse never was pleaded afterwards, that the obligation, though evaded, was never disavowed.

Joshua 24:23

Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you. Keil and Delitzsch notice that the words translated "among you" have also the meaning, "within you," and argue that Joshua is speaking of inward tendencies to idolatry. But this is very improbable. For

The plain provisions of the law demanded obedience. Comparatively little heed was given at first to inward feelings and tendencies. There can be little doubt that the meaning is precisely the same as in Genesis 35:2, and that though the Israelites dare not openly worship strange gods, yet that teraphim and other images were, if not worshipped, yet preserved among them in such a way as to be likely to lead them into temptation. The history of Micah in 17:5 is a proof of this, and it must be remembered that this history is out of its proper place. The zealous Phinehas ( 20:28) was then still alive, and the worship at Micah's house had evidently been carried on for some time previous to the disgraceful outrage at Gibeah. The putting away the strange gods was to be the outward and visible sign, the inclining of the heart the inward and spiritual grace wrought within them by the mercy of God. For it is not denied that God desired their affections, and that those affections could scarcely be given while their heart went secretly after idols. It may be further remarked in support of this view that the Israelites are not exhorted to turn their heart from the false gods, but to put them away. It is a plain, positive precept, not a guide for the inner consciousness. On the other hand, the command to incline the heart to the Lord rests upon the simple ground of common gratitude. St. Augustine thinks that if any false gods were secretly in Israel at this time, they would have been met by a severer punishment than that accorded to Achan. Masius—"pace divini viri"—proceeds to argue that murders, thefts, and adulteries were worse sins than those of Achan, that it were not reasonable to suppose that Israel was free from such sins, and they were not punished like Achan's. He forgets to urge

Joshua 24:24

And the people said unto Joshua. The triple repetition of the promise adds to the solemnity of the occasion and the binding force of the engagement.

Joshua 24:25

So Joshua made a covenant. Literally, cut a covenant, a phrase common to the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin tongues, and derived from the custom of sacrifice, in which the victims were cut in pieces and offered to the deity invoked in ratification of the engagement. The word used for covenant, berith, is derived from another word having the same meaning. This appears more probable than the suggestion of some, that the berith is derived from the practice of ratifying an agreement by a social meal. And set them a statute and ordinance. Or, appointed them a statute and a judgment. The word translated "statute" is derived from the same root as our word hack, signifying to cut, and hence to engrave in indelible characters. The practice of engraving inscriptions, proclamations, and the like, on tablets was extremely common in the East. We have instances of it in the two tables of the law, and in the copy of the law engraven in stones on Mount Ebal. The Moabite stone is another instance. And the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian monarchs seem to have written much of their history in this way (see note on Joshua 8:32). The word rendered "ordinance" is far more frequently rendered "judgment" in our version, and seems to have the original signification of a thing set upright, as a pillar on a secure foundation. In Shechem (see note on verse 1).

Joshua 24:26

And Joshua wrote these words. Or, these things, since the word (see note on Joshua 22:24; Joshua 23:15) has often this signification. Joshua no doubt recorded, not the whole history of his campaigns and the rest of the contents of what is now called the Book of Joshua, but the public ratification of the Mosaic covenant which had now been made. This he added to his copy of the book of the law, as a memorial to later times. The covenant had been ratified with solemn ceremonies at its first promulgation (Exodus 24:3-8). At the end of Moses' ministry he once more reaffirmed its provisions, reminding them of the curses pronounced on all who should disobey its provisions, and adding, as an additional memorial of the occasion, the sublime song contained in Deuteronomy 32:1-52. (see Deuteronomy 21:19, Deuteronomy 21:22). Joshua was present on this occasion, and the dying lawgiver charged him to undertake the conquest of the premised land, and to maintain the observance of the law among the people of God. Hitherto, however, God's promise had not been fulfilled. It seems only natural that when Israel had obtained peaceful possession of the land sworn unto their fathers, and before they were left to His unseen guidance, they should once more be publicly reminded of the conditions on which they enjoyed the inheritance. It may be remarked that, although Joshua's addendum to the book of the law has not come down to us, yet that it covers the principle of such additions, and explains how, at the death of Moses, a brief account of his death and burial should be appended by authority to the volume containing the law itself. The last chapter of Deuteronomy is, in fact, the official seal set upon the authenticity of the narrative, as the words added here were the official record of the law of Moses, having been adopted as the code of jurisprudence in the land. And took a great stone (see notes on Joshua 4:2, Joshua 4:9). An oak. Perhaps the terebinth. So the LXX. (see note on verse 1). The tree, no doubt, under which Jacob had hid the teraphim of his household. This was clearly one of the reasons for which the place was chosen. By the sanctuary. Keil denies that בְּ ever means near. It is difficult to understand how he can do this with so many passages against him (see Joshua 5:13; 1 Samuel 29:1; Ezekiel 10:15). He wishes to avoid the idea of the sanctuary being at Shechem.

Joshua 24:27

A witness (see note on Joshua 22:27). For it hath heard. Joshua speaks by a poetical figure of the stone, as though it had intelligence. The stone was taken from the very place where they stood, and within earshot of the words which had been spoken. Thus it became a more forcible memorial of what had occurred than if it had been brought from far. Ye deny your God. To deny is to say that He is not. The Hebrew implies "to deny concerning Him," to contest the truth of what has been revealed of His essence, and to disparage or deny the great things He had done for His people. The whole scene must have been a striking one. The aged warrior, full of years and honours, venerable from his piety and courage and implicit obedience, addresses in the measured, perhaps tremulous, accents of age the representatives of the whole people he has led so long and so well. Around him are the ancient memories of his race. Here Abraham pitched his tent in his wanderings through Canaan. Here was the first altar built to the worship of the one true God of the land. Here Jacob had buried the teraphim, and solemnly engaged his household in the worship of the true God. Here was the second foothold the children of Abraham obtained in the promised land (see verse 32), a foretaste of their future inheritance. The bare heights of Ebal soared above them on one side, the softer outlines of Gerizim rose above them on the other; and on their sides, the plaster fresh and the letters distinct and clear, were to be seen the blessings and the curses foretold of those who kept and those who broke the law. In the midst, Shechem, in a situation, as we have seen, of rare beauty, bore witness to the fulfilment of God's promise that the land of their inheritance should be "a good land," a "land flowing with milk and honey." No other place could combine so many solemn memories; none could more adequately remind them of the fulness of blessing God had in store for those who would obey His word; none could be fitter to impress upon them the duty of worshipping God, and Him alone.


Joshua 24:1-28

The possession of the inheritance and its responsibilities.

The difference between this address to the children of Israel and the former is that, in the former, Joshua's object was to warn them of the danger of evil doing, whereas in this he designed to lead them, now they were in full possession of the land, to make a formal renewal of the covenant. For this purpose he briefly surveys the history of Israel from the call of Abraham down to the occasion on which he addressed them. Up to that time the covenant had been given them as one which it would be their duty to fulfil when the time arrived. Now, he reminds them, the time had arrived. And just as the Church calls upon those who were dedicated to God in infancy to solemnly affirm, when they are old enough, their obligation to fulfil the engagement that was then contracted for them, so Joshua, now Israel was in a position to carry out fully the terms of the covenant, chooses a place as well as a time most fitting for the ceremony, and obtains from them a full recognition of the duties to which they were bound. In this address there is no appeal to their feelings. It is no question of personal influence to guide them into the right path. They are now simply asked to affirm or deny the position in which, whether they affirm or deny it, they really stand before God.

I. THE CONTRAST BETWEEN THE PAST AND PRESENT CONDITION OF GOD'S PEOPLE. "Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time … and served other gods." So St. Peter tells us, "Ye were as sheep going astray, but are now returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls" (1 Peter 2:25. Cf. 1 Peter 1:14, 1 Peter 1:18; 1 Peter 2:10; 1 Peter 4:3). So St. Paul tells us (Ephesians 2:1-3, Ephesians 2:11, Ephesians 2:12; Titus 3:3, etc). When we entered into covenant with God we crossed the flood, and were placed in the promised land, though not yet to possess the fulness of our inheritance. But if each one of us for himself has to cross the flood and put himself in covenant with Christ, it is because our Head has Himself trodden the same path. Born in "the likeness of sinful flesh," as the representative of sinners not yet fully reconciled to tits Father, "made sin," not for Himself, but for us, He dwelt "on the other side" of the river of death; but that stream once crossed, He ascended into heaven, there to win blessings which we should inherit after Him. We must ever, while rejoicing in the privileges we now enjoy, remember how they were won, and what we once were, "children of wrath even as others," but now, being "made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and in the end everlasting life."

II. THE COVENANT MUST BE RENEWED BY EACH FOR HIMSELF. The promises of God are general, to all mankind. But they are also special, to each individual. They must be applied personally by each man to his own soul, by faith. For this reason the Church of God has always required a profession of faith from each person when they entered into covenant with God at baptism. But this formal profession is practically inoperative, unless each man makes a personal profession of faith, in his own heart, on which he means to act, as soon as he is conscious of his own individual responsibility to God. Thus Israel, when the time had come for the fulfilment of the covenant by reason of his possession of his inheritance, was called upon to avow his readiness so to do. And thus he was the type of all Christians, who cannot appropriate to themselves the blessings of the covenant until they have acknowledged the obligation on their part to fulfil its conditions.

III. WE DID NOT GAIN THE BLESSINGS FOR OURSELVES (see verse 15). The Israelites were continually reminded that the good things they enjoyed were not of their own procuring (see Deuteronomy 6:10; Deuteronomy 9:5). And so the Christian is reminded that he owes all to God. The Christian covenant is one of mercy, not of works. Any merits the Christian possesses are not his own, but the gift of God. "What hast thou, that thou hast not received?" If the gift of salvation through Christ, it was not thine by merit, but by God's free gift. If thou hast any bodily or intellectual gifts, they came down "from the Father of lights." If thou possessest any moral or spiritual qualities worthy of praise, they have been the work of God's Spirit within thee. Boast not, then, of anything thou art. Be not highminded, but fear. Take heed to use the gifts that have been given you to God's glow, and to be ever thankful to Him for His mercy, to whom you owe all you have and all you are.

IV. THE COVENANT IS A HARD ONE TO OBEY. The law of Moses was singularly strict and searching. It bound men to a close and minute scrutiny of their lives, and forced them to remember every hour the obligations they lay under. Nor is the Christian covenant one whit less searching. Nay, it is far more so, for it embraces not merely every act and word, but even the "thoughts and intents of the heart." God still punishes those who, even in the least point, offend against His law, and thus forsake Him and serve strange gods. It is still true that we "cannot" in our own strength "serve the Lord." But it is also true that He will forgive us our shortcomings through Jesus Christ, and that He will furnish us with the strength we lack to fulfil the precepts of the wide reaching law which He has set us.


Joshua 24:1

Public worship.

"And they presented themselves before God." Eminent servants of God were remarkable for their solicitude respecting the course of events likely to follow their decease. "When I am gone let heaven and earth come together" is a sentiment with which a good man can have no sympathy. Note the instructions given by Moses (Deuteronomy 31:1-30), David (1 Kings 2:1-46), Paul (2 Timothy 4:1-8), and Peter (2 Peter 1:12-15). As Jesus Christ looked to the future (John 14-17.; Acts 1:3), so did His type Joshua. He was determined that the people should be bound to the service of the true God, if solemn meetings and declarations could bring it about. Nothing should be wanting on his part, at any rate. The gathering of the Israelites may remind us of the purposes for which we assemble every Lord's day. We come—

I. TO MAKE SPECIAL PRESENTATION OF OURSELVES BEFORE GOD. Always in the presence of the Almighty, yet do we on such occasions "draw nigh" to Him. The world, with its cares and temptations, is for a season excluded. We leave it to hold more immediate intercourse with our heavenly Father. We approach to pay the homage that is His due from us. Surely those who plead that they can worship in the woods and fields as well as in God's house, in solitude as in society, forget that the honour of Jehovah demands regular, public, united recognition. We have to consider His glory, not only our individual satisfaction. "I will give Thee thanks in the great congregation." It is our privilege also to proffer our requests, to implore the blessings essential to our welfare.

II. TO LISTEN TO THE WORD OF GOD. We have the "lively oracles," the revelation of God to man. It behoves us to give reverent attention thereto. In business or at home other matters may distract our attention; here we can give ourselves wholly to the "still small voice." It may instruct, inspire, rebuke, and comfort. The utterance of God's messenger claims a hearing as the message from God to our souls. "Thus saith the Lord" (verse 2). The speaker may

III. TO RECONSECRATE OURSELVES TO GOD'S SERVICE. We remain the same persons and yet are continually changing. Like the particles of the body, so our opinions, affections, etc; are in unceasing flux. To dedicate ourselves afresh is no vain employment. It brightens the inscription, "holiness unto the Lord," which time tends to efface. Are not some idols still in our dwellings? some evil propensities indulged, which an exhortation may lead us to check? To keep the feast we cast out the old leaven. Man is the better for coming into contact with a holy Being. The contrast reveals his imperfections and quickens his good desires.

CONCLUSION. If inclined to say with the men of Beth-shemesh, "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?" (1 Samuel 7:1-17 :20) let us think of Christ, who has entered as our Forerunner into the Holiest of all. In His name we may venture boldly to the throne of grace. Some dislike the services of the sanctuary because they speak of the need of cleansing in order to appear before the Almighty. Men would prefer to put aside gloomy thoughts and to stifle the consciousness that all is not right within. But does not prudence counsel us to make our peace with God now, to "seek Him while He may be found," clothed in the attribute of mercy, instead of waiting for the dread day when we must all appear before the judgment seat, when it will be useless to implore rocks and mountains to hide us from the presence of Him that sits upon the throne? Behold Him now not as a Judge desirous to condemn, but as a Father who hath devised means whereby His banished ones may be recalled, who waits for the return of the prodigal—yea, will discern Him afar off, and hasten to meet him in love.—A.

Joshua 24:14, Joshua 24:15

A rightful choice urged.

The most solemn engagement we can make is to bind ourselves to be the servants of Jehovah. Such a bond not even death dissolves, it is entered into for eternity. There are periods, however, when it becomes us to ponder the meaning of the covenant, and to renew our protestations of fidelity. To consider the exhortation of Joshua here recorded will benefit alike the young convert and the aged believer, and may lead to a decision those "halting between two opinions."


II. AN ALTERNATIVE PRESENTED. Notwithstanding all that had been done for the Israelites, some of them might deem it "evil," unpleasant, irksome, laborious to serve the Lord. Hence the option of forsaking Him, and bowing before the gods whom their fancy should select. The alternative suggests that, in the opinion of the speaker,

III. A FIXED RESOLVE. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua set a noble example, which powerfully affected his followers. The expressed determination of a pastor, a teacher, a parent may produce widespread beneficial results upon those under their charge. Joshua showed himself fit to lead men. He did not wait to see what the majority of the people would approve before he committed himself to a particular course of action; but boldly stated his intention to cleave with full purpose of heart unto the Lord. The Ephraimites, slow to come to the rescue in the hour of danger, but swift to claim a place of honour when a victory has been won ( 12:1, 12:2), have found many imitators in every age. Men who wait to see in which direction the current of popular feeling is setting ere they risk their reputation or their safety by taking a decided step. We may dislike isolation, but are not alone if the Father is with us. Joshua's resolve was never regretted. What man has ever been sorry that he became a follower of Christ? Even backsliders confess that they were never happier than when they attended to the commandments of the Lord. True religion furnishes its votaries with self-evidential proofs of its Divine authority in the peace of mind and satisfaction of conscience which they experience. To enjoy the favour of God is felt to be worth more than any earthly friendship or worldly gain.

CONCLUSION. This theme is suitable for the beginning of a year, when untrodden paths invite you to choose a method of travel. Or perhaps some crisis is occurring in your life, when you are entering upon a fresh sphere of employment. Use it as a time to commence a period of devotion to God's service. Young people, decide which is the more honourable, to serve God or the world. Do not spend the finest of your days in a manner which will hereafter pierce you with remorse.—A.


Joshua 24:1-22

The Renewal of the Covenant

Joshua gathers all the tribes together to Shechem, and calls for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and they presented themselves before God. "And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen you the Lord to serve Him. And they said, We are witnesses. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day." There are few more beautiful incidents in the Old Testament than this renewal of the covenant between God and His people, at the moment of their entering into possession of the promised land, and on the eve of the death of Joshua. It seems to us an admirable model of the covenant which ought to be constantly renewed between successive generations of the people of God in all ages, and the Father in heaven.


Joshua 24:1-13

Review of Providence.


(a) grateful for the goofiness of God,

(b) humble in the consciousness of our own failings,

(c) wise from the lessons of experience, and

(d) diligent to redeem the time which yet remains.

II. NO REVIEW OF THE PAST IS COMPLETE WHICH DOES NOT RECOGNISE THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE. The chief value of biblical history is in the fact that it clearly indicates the action of God in human affairs.

(a) material and spiritual good things enjoyed;

(b) providential deliverances in trouble;

(c) solemn acts of judgment;

(d) good thoughts and deeds which all have their origin in God, the source of all good, and

(e) the general onward and upward movement of mankind.

III. A RIGHT REVIEW OF GOD'S ACTION IN THE PAST WILL SHOW THAT THIS IS CHARACTERISED BY GOODNESS AND MERCY. We single out striking calamities for difficulties to the doctrine of Providence. We should remember that these are striking just because they are exceptional. We are often tempted to fix upon the troubles and neglect the mercies of the past. A fair review of the whole will show that the blessings infinitely outnumber the distresses.

IV. THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN HISTORY WILL BE CHIEFLY SEEN IN THE PROMOTION OF THE HIGHEST HUMAN PROGRESS. History in the main is the story of the progress of mankind. This was the case with Joshua's review of Jewish history. It showed progress from idolatry to the worship of the true God, from slavery to liberty, from poverty to a great possession, from homeless wandering to a happy, peaceful, settled life. Thus God is always leading us upwards from darkness to light, from bondage to liberty, from ignorance, superstition, sin, and misery to the golden age of the future (Romans 8:19-23).—W.F.A.

Joshua 24:14

The call to God's service.


(a) because it lays us under a great obligation to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20), and

(b) because it reveals His character as that of a Master worthy of devotion and delightful to serve.



Joshua 24:1-22

The Renewal of the Covenant

Joshua gathers all the tribes together to Shechem, and calls for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and they presented themselves before God. "And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen you the Lord to serve Him. And they said, We are witnesses. So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day." There are few more beautiful incidents in the Old Testament than this renewal of the covenant between God and His people, at the moment of their entering into possession of the promised land, and on the eve of the death of Joshua. It seems to us an admirable model of the covenant which ought to be constantly renewed between successive generations of the people of God in all ages, and the Father in heaven.


Joshua 24:1-13

Review of Providence.


(a) grateful for the goofiness of God,

(b) humble in the consciousness of our own failings,

(c) wise from the lessons of experience, and

(d) diligent to redeem the time which yet remains.

II. NO REVIEW OF THE PAST IS COMPLETE WHICH DOES NOT RECOGNISE THE DIVINE PROVIDENCE. The chief value of biblical history is in the fact that it clearly indicates the action of God in human affairs.

(a) material and spiritual good things enjoyed;

(b) providential deliverances in trouble;

(c) solemn acts of judgment;

(d) good thoughts and deeds which all have their origin in God, the source of all good, and

(e) the general onward and upward movement of mankind.

III. A RIGHT REVIEW OF GOD'S ACTION IN THE PAST WILL SHOW THAT THIS IS CHARACTERISED BY GOODNESS AND MERCY. We single out striking calamities for difficulties to the doctrine of Providence. We should remember that these are striking just because they are exceptional. We are often tempted to fix upon the troubles and neglect the mercies of the past. A fair review of the whole will show that the blessings infinitely outnumber the distresses.

IV. THE GOODNESS OF GOD IN HISTORY WILL BE CHIEFLY SEEN IN THE PROMOTION OF THE HIGHEST HUMAN PROGRESS. History in the main is the story of the progress of mankind. This was the case with Joshua's review of Jewish history. It showed progress from idolatry to the worship of the true God, from slavery to liberty, from poverty to a great possession, from homeless wandering to a happy, peaceful, settled life. Thus God is always leading us upwards from darkness to light, from bondage to liberty, from ignorance, superstition, sin, and misery to the golden age of the future (Romans 8:19-23).—W.F.A.

Joshua 24:14

The call to God's service.


(a) because it lays us under a great obligation to Him (1 Corinthians 6:20), and

(b) because it reveals His character as that of a Master worthy of devotion and delightful to serve.



Joshua 24:2, Joshua 24:3

Abraham the heathen.

"Your fathers … served other gods," is an incidental statement of the utmost value. It throws a light on Abraham's antecedents in which we do not always see them, and enhances the significance of his abandonment of home and country, and his clear faith in a living God, in a degree which nothing else does. Observe first of all—

I. THE FACT THAT ABRAHAM WAS ORIGINALLY A HEATHEN. He was not merely born and bred an idolater, as we might have gathered from the story of Bachel's teraphim, but was a pagan in exactly the same condition of belief as many in India or in China are today. Some, in later times especially, and indeed in all times, worshipped the true God, but employed an idol to assist their imagination of Him; that is, they simply sought ritualistic and sensuous aids to religious thought and feeling. But Abraham began life far lower down in the religious scale. His fathers served other gods; the deified powers of nature representing little more than the forces and tendencies of life. Primitive tradition had lost any brightness it ever had. The religious sentiment had lost that reverence and habit of attention which soon begins to perceive God and to feel that the God constantly appealing to it is one and the same. The worship of several deities is always a mark of a superstitious ingredient blending with faith. Terah's family were in this condition. They were not only idolaters but polytheists—without Bible or sacrament, promise, or law. Abraham was precisely in the same sort of spiritual circumstances, and had been taught the same sort of religious ideas, and trained in the same superstitions, as are found in all pagan lands today. Yet with advantages so slight, he became the spiritual father of the religious nation of antiquity—type of all saintliness, of everything bright in faith and unquestioning in obedience. There is some reason to suppose that a god of vengeance was one of those deities most reverently regarded by his people; and yet he finds and worships a God of love! He, like all of us, had Christ, the light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He, unlike most of us, followed the Christ light within him. Following the Divine light, it grew ever clearer, and his vision became stronger to perceive and his heart to follow it. Amongst a multitude of silent deities, One spoke to him through his conscience, with more and more of frequency, and, in the devotee in which He was obeyed, with more and more of clearness, both in the comforts He whispered and the commands He enjoined, till gradually he felt there was but one great God, who governed all, and should receive the homage of all; who was the friendly refuge as well as the omnipotent Creator of men. Gradually his life began to revolve around this unseen Centre, and the outward aspect and inward purpose of his life stood out in palpable difference from that of his fellows. Doubtless he preached his deep conviction, gathered about him some kindred spirits; perhaps had to endure persecution; till at last he got a strong impression borne in upon his conscience that his path of duty and of spiritual wisdom was to leave his native land and seek a new home for what was a new faith amongst men. His coming to Ur of the Chaldees, and then to Canaan, may be compared with the expedition of the Pilgrim fathers. Like them he sought "freedom to worship God," and like them founded a great nation in doing so. In any view of his character, his decision, his devotion, the clearness of his faith, the promptness of his obedience, are marvellous. But they become much more so when we mark the fact that Joshua here brings out, that Abraham began his career in heathen darkness—that the father of the faithful began life as a mere pagan. Observe—

II. SOME LESSONS OF THIS FACT. For evidently it has many. We can only suggest them.

Joshua 24:14, Joshua 24:15

The great appeal.

From the trembling lips of one within a step of death comes the appeal which through all the centuries since has pierced and moved and won the hearts of men. Often urged, it is not always represented accurately. Elijah may address a more degenerate generation with a challenge to serve God or to serve Baal, insisting on this as if the chances of either alternative being adopted were even. Joshua does not say, "Choose ye this day whom ye will serve—God or another," but bids them serve God, urging His claims. In the event of their being unwilling to yield to these claims, he urges with some irony, that shows the keenness of moral energy still in Him, that in that case they should choose amongst the deities whose feebleness they had witnessed the one least helpless. There are several things here worthy of notice. Observe, first, an assumption underlying this appeal, viz.:

I. SOME PLAN OF LIFE SHOULD BE SOBERLY THOUGHT OUT AND FOLLOWED WITH DECISION. Our "miscellaneous impulses" always prove a poor guide. There can be neither progress, peace, strength, nor usefulness if life is desultory. We cannot employ anything to good advantage, much less life, unless we know its nature, what it is made for, what can be done with it, its resources and its proper ends. The first question of the 'Shorter Catechism,' "What is the chief end of man?" stands as the first question of the catechism of life. Until we form some aim and keep to it, tomorrow will be always moving in a different direction from today, will lose what today has won. An aim permits life to be cumulative, always gathering richer force, fuller joys—always completing and rounding off its conquests. Joshua here assumes that a plan of life is essential to the proper pursuit of it, and on this assumption his appeal is based. Take note of this, for a planless is a powerless life. Observe—

II. HE CLAIMS THEIR LIFE FOR GOD. "Now, therefore, serve Him." He does not timorously present any alternative. There is no reasonable alternative to this. One plan, and only one, of life should be entertained by a serious nature. The only wise and only rational plan of life is the service of God. A multitude of reasons concur to commend it.

II. THE CHALLENGE HE GIVES TO THOSE UNWILLING TO SERVE GOD. "If it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose ye whom ye will serve; the gods whom your fathers served, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land ye dwell." Thus he presents them with the discredited deities around them, and bids them choose. Will they choose the gods that Abraham forsook—forsook because power. less to help, degrading in their influence? by forsaking whom he found all his grandeur, all his blessedness, all his reward? or will they take the gods of the Amorites whose powerlessness to protect their servants had been just witnessed, who betrayed those who trusted in them? With what force does the mere form in which he urges his challenge deter men from it! Would that all who reject the Saviour would realise what they are about! If it seems not good to you to serve Christ, whom will ye serve? The gods your fathers left? The gods whose powerlessness to bless men is manifest around you? Such a goddess as Pleasure, which fools think the best to worship, which fritters away all strength of soul, destroys conscience, and heart, and intellect, and body alike—would you choose that? or Money, coyest of all deities? whom he that seeketh rarely findeth, and he that findeth never finds so rich as he had hoped? who seems to be a god that can give everything, but it is found to be unable to give any one of the things most desired by us? Or Power, the deity sought by the ambitious, who never permits any one to say, "He is mine" in anything like the degree he had hoped, and even when possessed is found to be insipid as the insignificance from which men fled? Is it Indulgence? the deity that degrades men? or Self will, the deity that destroys them? Choose which. There ought to be no trifling. We must serve some God. Who is to be the source of all you hope for if you put away the Saviour of Calvary? To use the experience of others is the part of a wise man; to buy experience dearly for yourself is the part of a foolish man. There is none amongst all the deities that clamour for your service which the wise and the good have not forsaken, or the foolish and the worldly have not repented of cleaving to. Betake not yourself to such, but serve the Lord.—G.


Joshua 24:14-16

The grand choice.

Joshua's words derive added force from the historic associations of the place in which he uttered them. Shechem was not only scene of great natural beauty, but one around which lingered memories peculiarly in harmony with the circumstances of the time. Here Abraham first pitched his tent and raised an altar, consecrating that spot to the living God—a witness against the heathen abominations of the Canaanites who dwelt in the laud. Here, probably under the same oak, Jacob buried the "strange gods"—the teraphim and the amulets that some of his family had brought from Padanaram—in token of his resolute renunciation of these sinful idolatries. What more fitting place could be found for a solemn appeal like this to the tribes to remain true to the God of their fathers? Besides which, Joshua's venerable age, the blameless integrity of his character, and the renown of his exploits as their leader, gave such weight to his appeal that they would well deserve the threatened penalties if they failed to profit by it. Certain important principles of religious life are illustrated in this appeal—

I. THE SERVICE OF GOD IS A MATTER OF FREE PERSONAL CHOICE, "Choose you this day," de. The simple alternative they were called on to decide was, either the service of the Lord Jehovah, or the service of the false gods of Egypt and of the Amorites. No middle course was open to them. There could be no compromise. It must be one thing or the other—let them choose. And substantially the same alternative is before every man in every age. There is something to which he pays supreme homage, and it is either to the great invisible King, the only living and true God, or else to the idols, more or less base, of his own self will or of the vain world around him.

II. IT IS A CHOICE DETERMINED BY RATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS. "If it seem evil," etc. Joshua sets the alternative with perfect fairness before them that they may weigh the conflicting claims and judge accordingly. If these gods of the heathen are really nobler, better, more worthy of their gratitude and trust than the Lord Jehovah, then by all means let them follow them! But if the Lord be indeed God, if they owe to Him all that gives sanctity to their national character, and glory to their national history, then let them put these "strange gods" utterly and forever from them, and cleave to Him with an undivided heart. It is a deliberate judgment between contrary and wholly irreconcilable paths to which they are called. Religion is our "reasonable service" (Romans 7:1). It is no blind act of self surrender. It involves the consent of all our powers—the mind embracing divinely discovered truth, the heart yielding to gracious heavenly influence, the conscience recognising a supreme obligation, the will bowing to that higher will which is "holy and just and good." No man is called to declare for God without sufficient reason.

III. IT IS A CHOICE WHICH CERTAIN CRITICAL OCCASIONS MAKE TO BE SPECIALLY IMPERATIVE. "Choose you this day," etc. "This day" above all other days—because the motives to it are stronger today than ever; because the matter is one that it is neither right nor safe to defer to another day. While self consecration to the service of God is a perpetual obligation, there are seasons of life in which it is peculiarly urgent, when many voices combine with unwonted emphasis to say, "now is the accepted time," etc.

IV. IT IS A CHOICE ENCOURAGED BY NOBLE PERSONAL EXAMPLES. "As for me and my house," etc. Here is an example

Such an example has an inspiring effect above that of mere persuasive words. It quickens and strengthens every germ of better thought and feeling in the breasts of men. There is no stronger incentive to religious life than the observation of the exemplary forms it assumes in others (1 Corinthians 4:15, 1 Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 3:17).

V. IT IS A CHOICE THAT MUST LEAD TO APPROPRIATE PRACTICAL CONCLUSIONS. "Now therefore put away," etc. (verse 23). The honesty of their purpose, the reality of their decision, could be shown in no other way. They only have living faith in God who are "careful to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8; James 2:18).—W.


Joshua 24:15

Choice and decision.

After exhorting the people to fear and serve the Lord, Joshua calls to them to consider the alternative of rejecting Him, and to make a decisive choice. It is well to be brought to a practical decision in full view of all the issues which face us. These may be clearly seen. Truth does not shun the light. Christianity can well bear comparison with all other systems of worship and modes of life.


(1) We are free to choose. Joshua is the leader of the people, yet he does not command submission to God, and forcibly compel it. He exhorts, but he leaves the choice open. God has left our wills free to choose or to reject Him. This liberty is essential to voluntary service—the only service which is true and spiritual. God would not value forced devotion. The worth of devotion depends on its free willingness. Yet the freedom God accords is not release from obligation, but only exemption from compulsion. Is is still our duty to serve God.


(a) from misunderstanding the character of God's service,

(b) from fear of the inevitable sacrifices and toils which it involves, or

(c) from lingering affection for the evil things which must be abandoned on entering upon it.

III. THE EXAMPLE OF DECISION FOR GOD. Joshua chooses independently of the popular choice. He is not swayed by the opinion of the multitude. Rather he would guide it by example. It is weak to refuse to choose till we see how the world will choose. Truth and right are not affected by numbers. Every man must make the great choice for himself.

Joshua 24:19

The difficulties of God's service.

I. THERE ARE DIFFICULTIES IN THE SERVICE OF GOD. All are freely invited to serve God; all may find ready access to God; there is no need for delay, all may come at once and without waiting to be worthy of Him; after coming through Christ, the yoke is easy and the burden light. Yet there are difficulties. Sin and self and the world must be sacrificed; God cannot be served with a divided heart, hence complete devotion must be attained; the service itself involves spiritual endeavours and tasks and battles, before which the strongest fail. It is impossible to serve God in our own strength. We can only serve Him aright because what is impossible with men is possible with God; i.e, we can only serve Him in His strength and through the inspiration of His Spirit.

II. THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE SERVICE OF GOD ARISE FROM THE DISAGREEMENT BETWEEN OUR CHARACTER AND HIS. God does not willingly make His service hard; it would not be hard if we were not sinful. It is difficult while we have evil habits and affections lingering about us, and it is impossible so long as we cling to these voluntarily.

III. IT IS WELL TO CONSIDER THE DIFFICULTIES IN THE SERVICE OF GOD. Israel was too ready hastily to accept God's service without considering all that it involved. If difficulties exist they must be faced. It is best to count the cost before making choice (Luke 14:28). Those representations of the gospel which are confined to invitations and promises, and ignore the call to repentance and to sacrifice for Christ, are false and unjust. Christ would have the new disciple face the cross (Luke 14:27). Such considerations should not deter us from the choice of God's service. They should make us

Joshua 24:21-25

The covenant.

I. THE TERMS OF THE COVENANT. It was to bind the people to their promise to renounce the old life of sin and idolatry, and to enter upon and remain in the true service of God. Nations are proud of protecting treaties, constitutional pledges, charters of liberty, etc. No nation ever took a more important covenant than this. The chief question for all of us is whether we will live for the world or for God. The gospel brings to us a new covenant. The promises are greater, the terms are more light. Yet we must choose and resolve and yield ourselves in submission to it if we would enjoy the advantages its offers. This covenant has two sides. God pledges His blessings, but we must pledge our devotion. His is the infinitely greater part. Yet if we fail in ours God's promises of blessing no longer apply.




Joshua 24:19-21

A strict master.

Great as was Joshua's anxiety that the Israelites should renew their covenant with the Almighty, he would not secure this end by concealing the rigorous nature of the service it involved. Instead of accepting immediately the people's ready response (verse 18) to his appeal, he proceeded to speak of Jehovah in stern, almost chilling, language. True religion is honest, does not gloss over the requirements which will be insisted on, nor seek to entrap men by fair, smooth promises of an easy rule. Jesus Christ spoke of the necessity of taking up the cross, of leaving home and friends, of enduring hatred, persecution, and trouble, so that none could afterwards complain of being deceived about the requirements and difficulties of discipleship. Men who undertake an enterprise with eyes open are the more likely to persevere; they have already afforded a proof that they are not to be daunted by the prospect of labour and hardship.


1. He is holy, and consequently demands abstinence from sin. There is in Him entire rectitude of attribute, both in essence and in exercise. The seraphim cry, "Holy is the Lord of Hosts." His vesture is spotless, and He expects His servants to attend Him in uniform unstained (see Le Joshua 19:2). Also note the incidents of Moses at the burning bush, Nadab and Abihu consumed for offering unhallowed fire, and the men of Beth-shemesh constrained to exclaim, "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God?" The sinlessness of Jesus proclaims Him Divine, and sometimes evokes the petition, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord." God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and condemns every act that is inconsistent with the relations in which we stand to Himself, to our fellow creatures, and the material world.

2. He is jealous, and therefore exacts whole-hearted allegiance. Annexed to the second commandment was a statement of Jehovah's jealousy, which could not permit His glory to be paid to graven images. When the tables of the law were renewed it was expressly affirmed, "The Lord whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God." The word means, glowing with heat, hence the Almighty is compared to a "consuming fire" that subdues every work of man. Idolatry was the sin to which Israel was prone, and every prostration at the shrine of an idol was a derogation from the honour due to God, and excited His indignation. He is not content with an inferior share of affection, He must be loved and served with all our strength. "He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me." The true disciple is ready to forsake all and follow Christ. The will of the Lord is for him law, his only inquiry being, "Lord, what writ Thou have me to do?"

3. He is immutable, and requires unvarying fidelity. "If ye forsake the Lord, then He will do you hurt after that He hath done you good." He rewards every man according to his doings, and visits transgression with punishment. The Israelites were fickle, moved like water by every passing breeze. God is not the son of man that He should repent. He cannot be false to His nature, and look with pleasure on offenders. Past obedience is no answer to the charge of present guilt. Each day brings its own need of sanctification. It is not possible, in God's service, to work so hard one week as to enable us to spend the next in idleness, nor can we accumulate a store of good works to cover deficiencies in a time of sin. "It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them."


1. Indicates a feeling that only such a Master is worthy of men's service. Conscience testified that worship should not be offered to other than a perfect Being, and that such a Being could rightly claim these high prerogatives. The rock on which the vessel of mythology has been wrecked is the evil character assigned to its deities, proving them the offspring of human imagination in a debased state. The remembrance of the past, and hopes and fears respecting the future incited the Israelites to continue in their position as the Lord's peculiar people. And have not we experienced that to be the happiest day when we have thought most of God, and most frequently lifted our hearts in prayer to Him for guidance and succour? If called to renounce ease or sinful practices, have we not been amply repaid in the consciousness that we have acted rightly, and are walking in the light of God's countenance? To set upon the throne of our hearts one who would be content with meagre devotion and occasional conformity to righteousness might please for a while, but could not durably satisfy our moral aspirations.

2. Intimates a belief that God chiefly regards the sincere endeavours of His servants to please Him. The Israelites could point to Joshua's own demand in verse 14—"serve Him in sincerity and in truth." What is really displeasing to the Most High is wilful violation of His commandments, or hypocritical pretences of loyalty when the heart is estranged. These He visits with severest condemnation. Jehovah declared Himself in the same commandment both a "jealous" God, and one "showing mercy." And though the disciples of Christ had often exhibited a spirit of worldlinesss, of impatience and unbelief, yet their Master looking on His little company at the Last Supper could even after their unseemly dispute concerning precedence, recognise what was good in them and say, "Ye are they who have continued with Me in My temptations." He who knows all our works (Revelation 3:8), appreciates the humblest effort to keep His commandments.

3. Suggests an assurance that imperfections of service can be atoned for by confession, sacrifice, and intercession. Joshua's assertion was quite true. Neither the Israelites nor any other nation could serve the Lord perfectly. Limitations of knowledge and frailties of temper produce at least temporary deviations from the path of obedience. But the people no doubt remembered the provision made in the law for sins of ignorance, the trespass offerings, the day of atonement "to cleanse them that they might be clean from all their sins before the Lord." Nor were they unmindful of the prayers which had been heard on their behalf When Moses pleaded for them, and the gracious forgiveness that had often followed their national repentance. And what was dimly foreshadowed in the Levitical economy now blazes brightly for our instruction and comfort under the Christian dispensation. Jesus Christ hath by one offering perfected them that are sanctified. His perpetual priesthood is a guarantee for the final salvation of those who come unto God by Him. "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." "Ye are complete in Him."

4. Leads us to anticipate a period of perfect service. However the goodness of God may pardon our faults and, beholding us in Christ, take note of the direction rather than of the success of our attempts, it is impossible for us to rest content with our present experience. The spirit cries out for entire emancipation from the thraldom of sin, and longs for the redemption of the body. When shall we be conformed to the image of Christ, and enjoy to the full what now we know only by brief moments of rapture and sudden hasty glimpses? This question is answered by the promise of a manifestation of the sons of God," when, in unswerving obedience to His Father's will, they shall realise truest liberty. You who so delight in Christian work as to wish you could spend all your time and energy therein, look to the years to come! "They serve Him day and night in His temple." "His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face."—A.

Verses 29-33



Joshua 24:29

The servant of the Lord. The theory of some commentators, that this expression is evidence of a later interpolation because "the title only dates, from the period when Moses, Joshua, and others were raised to the rank of national saints," need only be noticed to be rejected. It is a fair specimen of the inventive criticism which has found favour among modern critics, in which a large amount of imagination is made to supply the want of the smallest modicum of fact. What is wanting here is the slightest evidence of such a "period" having ever existed, except at the time when these saints of the old covenant closed their labours by death. All the facts before us go to prove that Moses, as well as Joshua, was held in as high, if not higher, veneration at the moment of his death as at any other period of Jewish history. Died. His was an end which any man might envy. Honoured and beloved, and full of days, he closed his life amid the regrets of a whole people, and with the full consciousness that he had discharged the duties God had imposed upon trim. The best proof of the estimation in which he was held is contained in verse 32.

Joshua 24:30

In the border of his inheritance in Timnath-Serah. Rather, perhaps, within the border. For Timnath-Serah, see note on Joshua 19:50. The burial-place of Joshua has been supposed to be identified by the Palestine Exploration Committee. Lieutenant Conder describes what he saw at Tibneh. Amid a number of tombs he found one evidently, from more than 200 lamp niches on the walls of the porch, the sepulchre of a man of distinction. The simple character of the ornamentation, he thinks, and the entire absence of it in the interior of the tomb itself, not only suggest an early date, but are in harmony with the character of the simple yet noble-minded warrior, whose tomb it is supposed to be. In later papers, however, Lieutenant Conder abandons Tibneh for Kerr Haris, on the ground that Jewish tradition, usually found to be correct, is in its favour. And more mature reflection has induced him to modify his former opinion as to the early date of the tombs. Until these researches commenced, the situation of the hill Gaash was unknown, though it is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:30 ("the brooks" or "valleys of Gaash"), and 1 Chronicles 11:32. Nothing in these places serves to identify it. This passage is copied, with a few minute verbal discrepancies, into the Book of Judges (Joshua 2:6-9), a strong ground, according to all ordinary haws of literary criticism, for concluding that the latter book was written after the former. This is the chain of evidence by which the authenticity of the historical books of the Scriptures is established, not, of course, beyond the reach of cavil or dispute, but to the satisfaction of practical men. The LXX. as well as the Arabic translators have added here the following words: "There they placed with him in the sepulchre, in which they buried him there, the stone knives with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, when he led them out from Egypt, as the Lord commanded, and they are there unto this day." This passage is not found in the Hebrew. And as the Arabic and the LXX. do not altogether agree, the probability seems to be that some apocryphal legend was inserted here at a very early date.

Joshua 24:31

And Israel served the Lord (cf. 2:10). We see here the value of personal influence. Nor is such influence altogether unnecessary among us now. The periods of great religious movements in the Christian Church are in many ways very like to the time of the Israelitish conquest of Palestine by Joshua. They are times when God visibly fights for His Church, when miracles of grace are achieved, when the enemies of God are amazed and confounded at the great things God has done. The successes, so clearly due to the interposition of a Higher Power, have a sobering rather than an intoxicating effect, and the influence of the grave, wise, earnest men at the head of the movement is great with their enthusiastic followers. But with the removal of these leaders in Israel a reaction sets in. The fervour of the movement declines, the era of slackness and compromise succeeds, and a generation arises which "knows not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel." In our times such reactions, living as we do in the full blaze of gospel light, are far more transient and less fatal than in the days of Israel. But in our measure we continue to experience the working of that law by which intense energy is apt to be followed by coldness, and every earnest movement for good needs a continual rekindling at the altar of God of the fire which first set it at work. That overlived Joshua. Literally, that lengthened out their days after Joshua.

Joshua 24:32

And the bones of Joseph (see Genesis 50:24, Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19). Nothing could more fully show the reverence in which the name of Joseph was held in Israel than this scrupulous fulfilment of his commands, and the careful record of it in the authentic records of the country. This passage is another link in the chain of evidence which serves to establish the authenticity and early date of the present hook. For though Joseph's name was always a striking one in Israelitish history, it is unquestionable that as time went on his fame was overshadowed by that of his ancestors. It is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on whom the national mind was fixed. It is their names that the prophets recall, the covenant with them which is constantly brought to mind. But during the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt, and while the departure from Egypt was yet recent, the conspicuous position which Joseph occupied in Egyptian history could not fail to be remembered, and the command he gave concerning his bones, as well as his conviction that the prophecy concerning their departure would be fulfilled, was not likely to be forgotten. The emphatic way in which the fulfilment of Joseph's charge is here recorded affords a presumption for the early date of the book, as well as against the theory that it was a late compilation from early records. We are not necessarily to suppose that the interment of Joseph's remains took place at this period. The Hebrew, as we have seen, has no pluperfect tense (see for this 2:10), and therefore it may have taken place, and most probably did take place, as soon as Shechem was in the hands of Israel. In a parcel of ground. Rather, in the portion of the field (see Genesis 33:19). Our word parcel is derived from particula, and was originally identical with the word particle, a little part. So Chaucer speaks of parcel-mele, i.e; by parts. Shakespere has a "parcel-gilt goblet," that is, a goblet partly gilt. It has now come to have a widely different meaning. Pieces of silver. There can be little doubt that this is the true translation. The cognate word in Arabic, signifying "justice," is apparently derived from the idea of even scales. A kindred Hebrew word signifies "truth," probably from the same original idea. Another kindred Arabic word signifies a balance. It therefore, no doubt, means a coin of a certain weight, just as the word shekel has the original signification of weight. The Rabbinical notion, that the word signified "Iambs," rests upon no solid foundation, though supported by all the ancient versions. Some commentators, however, think that a coin is meant upon which the figure of a lamb was impressed. So Vatablus and Drusius. The LXX. has ἀμνάδων, the Vulgate "centum novellis ovibus."

Joshua 24:33

A hill that pertained to Phinehas his son. The LXX; Syriac, and Vulgate translate this as a proper name, Gibeath or Gabaath Phineas. But it may also mean Phinehas' hill. A city may or may not have been built there. Keil and Delitzsch believe it to be the Levitical town, Geba of Benjamin; but of this we cannot be sure. The tomb of Eleazar is still shown near Shechem, "overshadowed by venerable terebinths," as Dean Stanley tells us. And so the history ends with the death and burial of the conqueror of Palestine, the lieutenant of Moses, the faithful and humble servant of God, and of the successor of Aaron, who had been solemnly invested with the garments of his father before that father's death. A fitting termination to so strange and marvellous a history. With the death of two such men a new era had begun for the chosen people; a darker page had now to be opened. The LXX. adds to this passage, "In that day the children of Israel took the ark and carried it about among them, and Phinehas acted as priest, instead of Eleazar his father, until he died, and was buried in his own property at Gabaath. And the children of Israel went each one to his place and to his own city. And the children of Israel worshipped Astarte and Ashtaroth, the gods of the nations around them. And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Eglon king of the Moabites, and he had dominion over them eighteen years." The passage is an obvious compilation from the Book of Judges. It has no counterpart in the Hebrew, and the mention of Astarte and Ashtaroth as different deities is sufficient to discredit it.


Joshua 24:29-33

The end of the work.

We now reach the conclusion of the narrative. Like every other biography, it ends with death. Well were it for us all if death came at the conclusion of a well spent life like Joshua's.

I. A GOOD MAN'S END. We read in the Book of the Revelation, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord … their works do follow them." Few have been privileged to be "followed" by their works like Joshua. He led the Israelites into the promised land, and left them there. For many hundred years—the seventy years' captivity excepted—they dwelt there. For their rejection of Him of whom Joshua was the type they were cast out. But even now they remain a distinct people, and entertain hopes of a return to the land which, humanly speaking, Joshua gave them. If we ask the cause of this great success, whose results have lasted even to our own day, it is to be found in the unique character of the conqueror. Simple, straightforward adhesion to duty, intense moral earnestness, earnest piety, prompt and unquestioning obedience to God, the highest public spirit, the utter absence of all self seeking and ambition, mark a character altogether without parallel in the history of conquest. Conquest generally is associated with fraud and wrong. It has its origin in the greed and ambition of the conqueror; it is carried out amid injustice and oppression; it leaves its evil results behind it, and is avenged by the hatred of the oppressed, and by the sure and often swift collapse of a power founded in wrong. Cruel, according to our modern ideas, Joshua was, no doubt. But he was centuries in advance of his age; his cruelty was the result of a moral purpose. And we must remember that for our modern notions of cruelty we are indebted to Jesus Christ. It is a fact that God did permit (whether He ought to have done so is a question we cannot discuss here) men to live for thousands of years in ignorance of the true law of mercy. It is not strange, then, if Joshua was not in this respect conformed to an ideal which was not permitted to exist until Christ revealed it. In all other respects, he was the model of what a commander should be, and hence the durability of his work. We cannot hope to become so famous. Yet if we imitate Joshua's obedience, earnestness, piety, unselfishness, we, too, may achieve results as durable, though it may never be known to whom they are owing. For a good deed never dies. It associates itself with the other good influences at work in the world, each of these producing good results on others, and thus steadily working on to the great consummation of all things. What Joshua was it is shame to us if we are not, according to our opportunities. For the Spirit of God is now freely shed forth in all the world, and given to them that ask it.

II. THE MEMORY OF THE JUST IS BLESSED. Joseph's bones were interred in Shechem. Thus we learn

(a) that patriarch's affectionate love for his brethren, in that he desired in death to be among them, and would have his memory cherished as an encouragement to serve God faithfully. And

(b) we learn the duty of commemorating God's saints. The extravagant veneration paid to saints and martyrs by those of another communion has caused us to be somewhat too neglectful of their memory. The martyrs of the Reformation are not commemorated among us. We publish biographies of our good men, and straightway forget all about them. Yet surely we might be greatly cheered and encouraged on our way by the recollection of the triumphs of God's Spirit in our fellow sinners. Surely the pulses of the spiritual life may lawfully be quickened by a sympathy with the great and good who have gone before. Surely all noble examples, all holy lives, are a part of the heritage of the saints designed to advance God's cause. The victories of God's Spirit over the devil, the world, and the flesh, in various ages, among various nations, under various circumstances, will surely best encourage that catholic spirit of sympathy with all that is .great and good, without which no Christian perfection can exist. "Let us then praise famous men, and our fathers that begat us." Let the Josephs and Joshuas of the new covenant be held in the deepest honour among us. And thus we shall rise from the contemplation of their struggles to the vision of the Great Captain of their salvation, by whom alone they had victory in the fight.

III. THE INFLUENCE OF A GOOD MAN LIVES AFTER HIM. As long as the memory of Joshua's personal influence was felt, so long did the children of Israel keep to the right way. Or rather, perhaps, we may better put it thus: the example and influence of Joshua gradually gathered round him a number of men like minded, who were placed in positions of authority, and who were capable, like him, of guiding and directing others. When they died, their places were filled by men whose recollection of Joshua's conduct was less distinct, and who possessed in a less degree His power of ruling. Thus Israel fell into disobedience, and it is worthy of remark that when oppression brought them to their senses, it was Othniel, one of those on whom the example of Joshua may be supposed to have had most effect, that they looked for deliverance. We see these facts

(a) repeated constantly in the history of God's Church.

(b) the same truth meets us in the life of individuals. Whether in a public and private position, either as a minister of Christ, or as a member of a congregation, God is pleased to raise up some one whose life of piety is at once an encouragement and an incentive to others to lead the same kind of life. He dies, and for a long time his name is a household word to those who knew him. From his grave he is a preacher of righteousness to those who live near and where he is known. His example is brought forward, his words are quoted, to those who have never seen him. And so the tradition of his excellence lives on among those who come after him. Yet it grows fainter as the years roll on, until it becomes a tradition of the past. Others come in his place who knew him not. Other influences are at work in the pulpit where he preached, the parish where he laboured, the place where he dwelt. His influence has not really died out—good influence, as we have said, never dies—for the good seed he sowed sprung up in the most unexpected quarters, and in the most unexpected ways. But his own place knows him no more. His name is now but a shadow in the distant past. It is no longer an influence full of power. Very often there is a declension in the neighbourhood when the good man is taken away. Very often the aged who remembered him have too good cause to lament a change which is not for the better. But the good work goes on. The torch of love flames more brightly, now here, and now there. But God does not fail to raise up deliverers for His people. His Spirit does not cease to work powerfully in human hearts. His faithful servants still continue to battle against sin, and shall do so until He come again.


Joshua 24:29

The death of Joshua.

It has been well remarked that "this Book of Joshua, which begins with triumphs, ends with funerals." All human glory ends in the grave. The longest life is soon passed. The most useful men are taken from their work on earth, leaving the unfinished task to other hands. Joshua being dead yet speaketh.


(a) courage,

(b) energy,

(c) independence,

(d) trust,

(e) unselfishness.

He is the type of the soldier of God, the pattern of active and masculine excellence.

II. JOSHUA IS A TYPE OF CHRIST. Jesus is our Joshua, with marks of resemblance and of contrast to the Hebrew leader.

(a) Joshua fought enemies of flesh and blood, Christ fought spiritual foes; and

(b) Joshua used the sword, Christ conquered by submission and suffering and sacrifice.

(a) He delivers from real present enemies. He saves not only from the future consequences of evil, but from our present sins and troubles.

(b) He saves those who trust Him, follow Him, and fight with Him, as Joshua not only fought himself, but led the people to battle.


Joshua 24:29

The Death of Joshua

"After these things Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being a hundred and ten years old." Having thus reached the close of the life of Joshua, it is fitting that we should form a general estimate of Iris character and work. He occupies an honourable place among the great leaders of the people of God. He well deserves to be called a servant of the Lord, for this was the one aim and object of his life. His brow is not crowned with the halo of glory which lighted up that of Moses when he came down from the mount, where he had talked with God as a man talketh with his friend. He is a less sublime type of man, but not, therefore, the less admirable; for in the kingdom of God there is no room for rivalry among those who have fulfilled each his appointed task. First, Joshua was a man of implicit obedience to the Divine behests. He did nothing but that which was commanded him, neither more nor less. Second, he was a very humble man. He never took to himself, in any degree, the glory which belongs to God alone. After the most glorious battles in which he acted as commander, he forgot self in the fervent recognition of the invisible power of which he was but the organ, and his song of gratitude and praise went up to God alone. Third, he was a man of unfaltering faith and courage. His heart never failed him for an instant. He never doubted God; and it was from this confidence that he derived the boldness which he communicated to the children of Israel, to march undaunted against an enemy superior in numbers. Fourth, he united true love for his nation, manifested on repeated occasions, with holy severity when there was just ground for rebuke. Fifth, he was absolutely disinterested in all his service. He never dreamed of handing down his power to his children; his one thought was to do the will of God and to finish His work. When his task was done, he spoke words of solemn warning to his people, and then was gathered to his fathers, or rather to his God. A saintly and noble life truly, and one which teaches us the secret of success in the righteous war with evil. To obey, to be wholly consecrated to God, to believe in the fulfilment of the Divine promises, to fight fearlessly with eye fixed upon the Captain of our salvation, whose strength is perfected in weakness—this is the unfailing secret of success for the Church. Joshua well deserves, not only by his name, but by his faithfulness and devotion to the cause of God, to be the type of our great Leader, "the Author and Finisher of our faith;" the true Joshua, who has conquered for us "a better country, that is an heavenly."—E. DE P.


Joshua 24:16-31

A great decision.

One of the beautiful things about Scripture is the fine endings of all courses in which God has been leader. This book is no exception. The last view we have of Israel shows them entering into a solemn covenant with God, and one which, speaking roundly, all who made it kept. They respond grandly to Joshua's challenge. "God forbid that we should serve other gods." And even when reminded of the difficulty of serving Him, their purpose remains unshaken. In this great decision there are many things worth noting.

I. HE WHO LEADS MEN RIGHTLY WILL NEVER LACK FOLLOWERS, Some say, Go, and men go not. But when they say, "Come with us," they find men responsive. Advice that costs nothing is futile, but example that costs much constrains. Joshua leads grandly, because he moves before the people. "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." It is strange the contagiousness of faith and goodness; the force of unconscious influence. The courage of another wakes courage; the honour of another wakes honour. The faith of others is itself "evidence of the things unseen." A man like Joshua is a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night, that "marshals men the way that they were going." However arduous the calling to which you summon men, if you can say, "As for me, I will serve," you will always be answered by some, "We will serve the Lord." Despair not of holy and saving influences. Every one marching on the Divine way of duty, mercy, faith will have more followers than he dared to hope for. It is the grandest illustration of the influence of man on man that we can guide men even to heaven itself by the constraint of a good example. Note this, the good leader has always good followers. [See a beautiful treatment of this subject in Horace Bushnell's sermon on 'Unconscious Influence.'] Secondly observe—

II. A GREAT DECISION SHOULD BE SOLEMNLY AND FORMALLY MADE. He leads them to make a formal covenant with God. He constrains them at once to give up their idols, and in the spot where Jacob had buried the idols which his family had brought with them from Padanaram he buries them; and he sets up a pillar as a memorial. These several things all tend to fortify and consolidate the resolution to which they had come. Sometimes we make a great decision, but fail to keep it through some neglect to fortify it with special solemnities. One great object of the sacraments ordained by the Saviour, unquestionably, was to give to religious decisions this solemn and formal character. They were meant to bring vague feelings to a point; to detach utterly from the world; to attach strongly to the Saviour. If we mean to serve Christ, the idols should be brought out and buried, and the covenant rites of God entered into. There should be openness, for without confession we remain constantly amid entanglements. There should be thoroughness, for a great change is often more easily made than a gradual one. There should be the sacramental covenant and vows that we may have at once the strength and the constraint which come with the feeling that we belong to God. As here the determination was avowed—carried out thoroughly—solemnised in a covenant—so ours should be. Men do not know what they lose by a secret and uncovenanted sanctity. When we are secret disciples there is a perpetual danger of the secresy destroying the discipleship. We lose the protection of a definite position, the power that lies in fellowship, and much of the usefulness which our goodness might carry if it were not counteracted by our reserve. If you are deciding to serve God, let your decision be thorough, open, sacramental. Observe lastly—

III. THE GRAND RESULTS OF THIS GREAT DECISION. Sometimes good resolves are badly kept. They are like "grass on the house tops, which withereth afore it groweth up." Whether they are well kept or not depends largely on whether they are well made. Generally it will be found where they are broken that there was some defective part: sin not wholly left; the surrender to God not absolutely made. Here the great decision is worthily and thoroughly made, and the grandest results flow from it.

Joshua 24:30, Joshua 24:32, Joshua 24:33

Three graves.

Such is the story of life. The end of it is always in some sepulchre. "They buried Joshua." "They buried the bones of Joseph." "They buried Eleazer." So the land is taken in possession. Every grave becoming a stronger link, binding the people to each other and to the land God gave them. Look at these graves. And observe—

I. EVERY LIFE AT LAST FINDS A GRAVE. However strong the frame and long the conflict, at last the priest must lay down the censer, the statesman resign command, the warrior retire from fields of strife. Immortality is not for earthly surroundings, nor for the imperfect spirit and body we have here. If we are to live forever it must be somewhere where character is perfect, and a frame suited for a perfect spirit is enjoyed. It is well that an existence so faulty is so brief. Out of Eden it is better that we should be out of reach of any tree of life that can give earthly immortality. The average life is long enough for the average power of enjoying it. And it is well that it should be "rounded off by sleep." This destiny is too much overlooked. It may be so contemplated as only to injure us. When we anticipate it with dread, without the light of God's smile upon it or of His home beyond it, when it only shrivels up the warmth and energy of life, then its influence is harmful. But it need not have any such influence. If we remember that God is love and death a Divine institution, we shall feel that there must be some service rendered by even death; and this feeling destroying the dread of it, we shall then be in a condition to profit by its helpful influence. Amongst many wholesome influences these may be noted:

"Brief life is here our portion,

Brief sorrow, shortlived care,

The life that knows no ending,

The tearless life is there."

How many would have fainted utterly but for the thought, that trials were only mortal. If to some death had seemed a great foe, to many others it has seemed the

"Kind umpire of men's miseries,

Which, with sweet enlargement, does dismiss us hence."

If it is a great consoler of the suffering, observe further


"In Santa Croce's holy precincts lie

Ashes which make it holier. Dust which is

Even in itself an immortality;"

So we feel these graves were a leavening consecration which made Palestine indeed a holy land. England is rich in graves. Its soil is rich with the dust of the great and good.

"Half the soil has trod the rest

In poets, heroes, martyrs, sages."

What impulses of courage, of philanthropy, and consecration have come from the graves of Bruce, of Howard, of the Wesleys: of a multitude that none can number? If we have the Divine life within us, death cannot end our usefulness. On the contrary, its touch canonises. Death makes the neglected counsel the revered oracle; and the neglected example the pattern on the mount; and the despised creed the life giving truth. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die it abides alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." Death robs us of rulership over a few things only to give us rulership over many things. Let us live so that, like these, our graves may brighten and bless the land of our burial.—G.


Joshua 24:32

Joseph's bones.

I. THE BURIAL OF JOSEPH'S BONES WAS A JUSTIFICATION OF HIS FAITH. Joseph had been so sure that God would give the promised land to Israel that he had made his brethren swear to bring up his bones with them (Genesis 50:25).

II. THE BURIAL OF JOSEPH'S BONES WAS AN EXAMPLE OF DEFERENCE TO THE WISHES OF THE DEAD. It is well that children should respect the wishes of departed parents. Much good may be learnt by considering the thoughts and purposes of our ancestors. The people which has no respect for its past is wanting in reverence and in depth of national life. Yet there must be a limit to the influence of antiquity. The ancients lived in the childhood of our race; wisdom should grow with enlarged historical experience. At best they were fallible men, and cannot claim to extinguish the reason and responsibility of their descendants. New circumstances often render the rules and precedents of antiquity entirely obsolete.

III. THE BURIAL OF JOSEPH'S BONES WAS AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE ONENESS OF MANKIND. Ages had passed since the death of Joseph. Yet his bones were preserved and buried in the very "parcel of ground which Jacob had bought." There is a family unity, a national unity, a church unity, a human solidarity. The past lives on in the present. Men are insensibly linked and welded together. We are members one of another. Therefore we should consider the good of each other, and of the whole community, and should take note of past experience and future requirements.

IV. THE BURIAL OF JOSEPH'S BONES REMINDS US OF THE DELAY WHICH PRECEDES THE ENJOYMENT OF THE HIGHEST BLESSINGS. There were centuries of delay between the promise and the possession of Canaan. Many ages passed after the first prophecy of redemption and before the coming of Christ. The second advent of Christ has often been anticipated by the Church and longed for by His people, but it is not yet accomplished. The Christian must wait on earth during years of service before receiving his heavenly inheritance. This is occasioned


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 24:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

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