Joshua 23


Joshua, being old, calls for the rulers and different heads of

the Israelites, 1, 2,

to whom he relates how God had put them in possession of the

promised land, 3, 4;

from which all their remaining enemies should be expelled, 5.

Exhorts them to be faithful to God, and to avoid all connections

with the idolatrous nations, 6-8.

Encourages them with the strongest promises, that no enemy

should ever be able to prevail against them, if they continued

to love the Lord their God, 9-11.

Lays also before them the consequences of disobedience, 12, 13.

Shows them that as all God's promises had been fulfilled to

them while they were obedient, so his threatening should be

fulfilled own them if they revolted from his service; and

that if they did so, they should be utterly destroyed from

off the good land, 14-16.


Verse 1. A long time after that the Lord had given rest] This is

supposed to have been in the last or one hundred and tenth year of

the life of Joshua, about thirteen or fourteen years after the

conquest of Canaan, and seven after the division of the land among

the tribes.

Verse 2. Joshua called for all Israel] There are four degrees of

civil distinction mentioned here: 1. zekenim, the elders

or senate, the PRINCES of the tribes. 2. rashim or

rashey aboth, the CHIEFS or HEADS of families. 3.

shophetim, the JUDGES who interpreted and decided according to

the law. 4. shoterim, the OFFICERS, serjeants, &c., who

executed the decisions of the judges. Whether this assembly was

held at Timnath-serah, where Joshua lived, or at Shiloh, where the

ark was, or at Shechem, as in Jos 24:1, we cannot tell. Some

think that the meaning here, and that mentioned in Jos 24:1, were

the same, and if so, Shechem was the place of assembling; but it

is more likely that the two chapters treat of two distinct

assemblies, whether held at the same place or not.

Verse 3. For the Lord your God is he that hath fought for you.]

There is much both of piety and modesty in this address. It was

natural for the Israelites to look on their veteran, worn-out

general, who had led them on from conquest to conquest, with

profound respect; and to be ready to say, "Had we not had such a

commander, we had never got possession of this good land." Joshua

corrects this opinion, and shows them that all their enemies had

been defeated, because the Lord their God had fought for them.

That the battle was the Lord's, and not his; and that God alone

should have the glory.

Verse 4. I have divided-these nations that remain] The whole of

the promised land had been portioned out, as well those parts

which had not yet been conquered, as those from which the ancient

inhabitants had been expelled. The Canaanitish armies had long ago

been broken in pieces, so that they could make no head against the

Israelites, but in many districts the old inhabitants remained,

more through the supineness of the Israelites, than through their

own bravery.

From Jordan-unto the great sea] All the land that lay between

the river Jordan, from Phiala, where it rose, to the southern

extremity of the Dead Sea, and to the Mediterranean Sea, through

the whole extent of its coast, opposite to Jordan.

Verse 5. And drive them-out-and ye shall possess] The same

Hebrew word yarash is used here to signify to expel from an

inheritance, and to succeed those thus expelled. Ye shall

disinherit them from your sight, and ye shall inherit their land.

Verse 6. Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do, &c.]

It requires no small courage to keep a sound creed in the midst of

scoffers, and not less to maintain a godly practice among the

profane and profligate.

That is written in the book] By the word of God alone his

followers are bound. Nothing is to be received as an article of

faith which God has not spoken.

Verse 7. Come not among these nations] Have no civil or social

contracts with them, (see Jos 23:12,) as these will infallibly

lead to spiritual affinities, in consequence of which ye will make

honourable mention of the name of their gods, swear by them as the

judges of your motives and actions, serve them in their abominable

rites, and bow yourselves unto them as your creators and

preservers; thus giving the whole worship of God to idols: and all

this will follow from simply coming among them. He who walks in

the counsel of the ungodly will soon stand in the way of sinners,

and shortly sit in the seat of the scornful. Nemo repente fuit

turpissimus. "No man rises to the highest stages of iniquity but

by degrees." NERO himself, under the instructions of Seneca, was a

promising youth.

Verse 10. One man of you shall chase a thousand] Do not remain

inactive on the supposition that you must be much more numerous

before you can drive out your enemies, for it is the Lord that

shall drive out nations great and strong; and under his direction

and influence one of you shall chase a thousand.

Verse 11. Take good heed-unto yourselves that ye love the Lord]

lenaphshotheychem, Take heed TO YOUR SOULS, literally;

but nephesh and [Arabic] nefs, both in Hebrew and

Arabic, signify the whole self, as well as soul and life;

both soul and body must be joined in this work, for it is written,

Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, mind,

and strength.

Verse 12. Else if ye do-go back] The soldier who draws back when

going to meet the enemy, forfeits his life. These were the Lord's

soldiers, and if they drew back they drew back unto perdition,

their lives being forfeited by their infidelity.

Verse 13. They shall be snares] lephach, a net or gin,

set by the artful fowler to catch heedless birds.

And traps] mokesh, any snare, toil, or trap, placed on

the ground to catch the unwary traveller or wild beast by the


Scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes] Nothing can be

conceived more vexatious and distressing than a continual goad in

the side, or thorn in the eye. They will drive you into

obedience to their false gods, and put out the eyes of your

understandings by their idolatries. And God will preserve them

merely to distress and punish you.

Verse 14. The way of all the earth] I am about to die; I am

going into the grave.

Not one thing hath failed, &c.] God had so remarkably and

literally fulfilled his promises, that not one of his enemies

could state that even the smallest of them had not had its most

literal accomplishment: this all Israel could testify.

Verse 15. So shall the Lord bring upon you all evil things] His

faithfulness in fulfilling his promises is a proof that he will as

faithfully accomplish his threatenings, for the veracity of God is

equally pledged for both.

Verse 16. Ye shall perish quickly from off the good land] The

following note from Mr. John Trapp is very judicious: "This

judgment Joshua inculcates Jos 23:13, 15, and here, because he

knew it would be a very grievous thing to them to forego so goodly

a land, so lately gotten, and so short a while enjoyed. In the

beginning of a speech ταηθη, the milder affections, suit best;

but towards the end ταπαθη, passionate and piercing passages;

according to the orator. This rule Joshua observes, being Ex

utroque Caesar; no less an orator than a warrior."

In all this exhortation we see how closely Joshua copies the

example of his great master Moses. See Le 26:7, 8, 14, &c.;

De 28:7; 32:30. He was tenderly concerned for the welfare of

the people, and with a deeply affected heart he spoke to their

hearts. No people ever were more fairly and fully warned, and no

people profited less by it. The threatenings pronounced here were

accomplished in the Babylonish captivity, but more fully in their

general dispersion since the crucifixion of our Lord. And should

not every Christian fear when he reads, If God spared not the

natural branches, take heed that he spare not thee? Surely a

worldly, carnal, and godless Christian has no more reason to

expect indulgence from the justice of God than a profligate Jew.

We have a goodly land, but the justice of God can decree a

captivity from it, or a state of bondage in it. The privileges

that are abused are thereby forfeited. And this is as applicable

to the individual as to the whole system.

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