Joshua 24


Joshua gathers all the tribes together at Shechem, 1;

and gives them a history of God's gracious dealings with

Abraham, 2, 3;

Isaac, Jacob, and Esau, 4;

Moses and Aaron, and their fathers in Egypt, 5, 6.

His judgments on the Egyptians, 7.

On the Amorites, 8.

Their deliverance from Balak and Balaam, 9, 10.

Their conquests in the promised land, and their establishment

in the possession of it, 11-13.

Exhorts them to abolish idolatry, and informs them of his and

his family's resolution to serve Jehovah, 14, 15.

The people solemnly promise to serve the Lord alone, and mention

his merciful dealings towards them, 16-18.

Joshua shows them the holiness of God, and the danger of

apostasy, 19, 20.

The people again promise obedience, 21.

Joshua calls them to witness against themselves, that they had

promised to worship God alone, and exhorts them to put away

the strange gods, 22, 23.

They promise obedience, 24.

Joshua makes a covenant with the people, writes it in a book,

sets up a stone as a memorial of it, and dismisses the people,


Joshua's death, 29,

and burial, 30.

The people continue faithful during that generation, 31.

They bury the bones of Joseph in Shechem, 32.

Eleazar the high priest dies also, 33.


Verse 1. Joshua gathered all the tribes] This must have been a

different assembly from that mentioned in the preceding chapter,

though probably held not long after the former.

To Shechem] As it is immediately added that they presented

themselves before God, this must mean the tabernacle; but at this

time the tabernacle was not at Shechem but at Shiloh. The

Septuagint appear to have been struck with this difficulty, and

therefore read σηλω. Shiloh, both here and in Jos 24:25, though

the Aldine and Complutensian editions have συξεμ, Shechem,

in both places. Many suppose that this is the original reading,

and that Shechem has crept into the text instead of Shiloh.

Perhaps there is more of imaginary than real difficulty in the

text. As Joshua was now old and incapable of travelling, he

certainly had a right to assemble the representatives of the

tribes wherever he found most convenient, and to bring the ark of

the covenant to the place of assembling: and this was probably

done on this occasion. Shechem is a place famous in the

patriarchal history. Here Abraham settled on his first coming into

the land of Canaan, Ge 12:6, 7; and here the patriarchs were

buried, Ac 7:16. And as Shechem lay between Ebal and Gerizim,

where Joshua had before made a covenant with the people,

Jos 8:30, &c., the very circumstance of the

place would be undoubtedly friendly to the solemnity of the

present occasion. Shuckford supposes that the covenant was made at

Shechem, and that the people went to Shiloh to confirm it before

the Lord. Mr. Mede thinks the Ephraimites had a proseucha, or

temporary oratory or house of prayer, at Shechem, whither the

people resorted for Divine worship when they could not get to the

tabernacle; and that this is what is called before the Lord; but

this conjecture seems not at all likely, God having forbidden this

kind of worship.

Verse 2. On the other side of the flood] The river Euphrates.

They served other gods.] Probably Abraham as well as Terah his

father was an idolater, till he received the call of God to leave

that land. See on Ge 11:31; 12:1. And for the rest of the history

referred to here, see the notes on the parallel passages in the


Verse 9. Then Balak-arose and warred against Israel] This

circumstance is not related in Nu 22:1-41, nor does it appear in

that history that the Moabites attacked the Israelites; and

probably the warring here mentioned means no more than his

attempts to destroy them by the curses of Balaam, and the wiles of

the Midianitish women.

Verse 11. The men of Jericho fought against you] See the notes

on Jos 3:1-16 and Jos 6:1, &c. The people of Jericho are said to

have fought against the Israelites, because they opposed them by

shutting their gates, &c., though they did not attempt to meet

them in the field.

Verse 12. I sent the hornet before you]

See Clarke on Ex 23:28.

Verse 14. Fear the Lord] Reverence him as the sole object of

your religious worship.

Serve him] Perform his will by obeying his commands.

In sincerity] Having your whole heart engaged in his worship.

And in truth] According to the directions he has given you in

his infallible word.

Put away the gods, &c.] From this exhortation of Joshua we learn

of what sort the gods were, to the worship of whom these

Israelites were still attached. 1. Those which their fathers

worshipped on the other side of the flood: i.e., the gods of the

CHALDEANS, fire, light, the sun. 2. Those of the EGYPTIANS, Apis,

Anubis, the ape, serpents, vegetables, &c. 3. Those of the

CANAANITES, MOABITES, &c., Baal-peor or Priapus, Astarte or Venus,

&c., &c. All these he refers to in this and the following verse.

See Clarke on Jos 24:33.

How astonishing is this, that, after all God had done for them,

and all the miracles they had seen, there should still be found

among them both idols and idolaters! That it was so we have the

fullest evidence, both here and in Jos 24:23; Am 5:26; and in

Ac 7:41. But what excuse can be made for such stupid, not to

say brutish, blindness? Probably they thought they could the

better represent the Divine nature by using symbols and images,

and perhaps they professed to worship God through the medium of

these. At least this is what has been alleged in behalf of a gross

class of Christians who are notorious for image worship. But on

such conduct God will never look with any allowance, where he has

given his word and testimony.

Verse 15. Choose you this day whom ye will serve] Joshua well

knew that all service that was not free and voluntary could be

only deceit and hypocrisy, and that God loveth a cheerful giver.

He therefore calls upon the people to make their choice, for God

himself would not force them-they must serve him with all their

heart if they served him at all. As for himself and family, he

shows them that their choice was already fixed, for they had taken

JEHOVAH for their portion.

Verse 16. God forbid that we should forsake the Lord] That they

were now sincere cannot be reasonably doubted, for they served the

Lord all the days of Joshua, and the elders that outlived him,

Jos 24:31; but afterwards they turned aside, and did serve

other gods. "It is ordinary," says Mr. Trapp, "for the many-headed

multitude to turn with the stream-to be of the same religion with

their superiors: thus at Rome, in DIOCLETIAN'S time, they were

pagans; in CONSTANTINE'S Christians; in CONSTANTIUS'S, Arians;

in JULIAN'S apostates, and in JOVINIAN'S, Christians again! And

all this within less than the age of a man. It is, therefore, a

good thing that the heart be established with grace."

Verse 19. Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is a holy God] If we

are to take this literally, we cannot blame the Israelites for

their defection from the worship of the true God; for if it was

impossible for them to serve God, they could not but come short of

his kingdom: but surely this was not the case. Instead of

lo thuchelu, ye CANNOT serve, &c., some eminent critics read

lo thechallu, ye shall not CEASE to serve, &c. This is a very

ingenious emendation, but there is not one MS. in all the

collections of Kennicott and De Rossi to support it. However, it

appears very possible that the first vau in did not make

a part of the word originally. If the common reading be preferred,

the meaning of the place must be, "Ye cannot serve the Lord, for

he is holy and jealous, unless ye put away the gods which your

fathers served beyond the flood. For he is a jealous God, and will

not give to nor divide his glory with any other. He is a holy God,

and will not have his people defiled with the impure worship of

the Gentiles."

Verse 21. And the people said-Nay; but we will serve, &c.] So

they understood the words of Joshua to imply no moral

impossibility on their side: and had they earnestly sought the

gracious assistance of God, they would have continued steady in

his covenant.

Verse 22. Ye are witnesses against yourselves] Ye have been

sufficiently apprised of the difficulties in your way-of GOD'S

holiness-your own weakness and inconstancy-the need you have of

Divine help, and the awful consequences of apostasy; and now ye

deliberately make your choice. Remember then, that ye are

witnesses against yourselves, and your own conscience will be

witness, judge, and executioner; or, as one terms it, index,

judex, vindex.

Verse 23. Now therefore put away] As you have promised to

reform, begin instantly the work of reformation. A man's promise

to serve God soon loses its moral hold of his conscience if he do

not instantaneously begin to put it in practice. The grace that

enables him to promise is that by the strength of which he is to

begin the performance.

Verse 25. Joshua made a covenant] Literally, Joshua cut the

covenant, alluding to the sacrifice offered on the occasion.

And set then a statute and an ordinance] He made a solemn and

public act of the whole, which was signed and witnessed by himself

and the people, in the presence of Jehovah; and having done so, he

wrote the words of the covenant in the book of the law of God,

probably in some part of the skin constituting the great roll, on

which the laws of God were written, and of which there were some

blank columns to spare. Having done this, he took a great stone

and set it up under an oak-that this might be ed or witness

that, at such a time and place, this covenant was made, the terms

of which might be found written in the book of the law, which was

laid up beside the ark. See De 31:26.

Verse 27. This stone-hath heard all the words] That is, the

stone itself, from its permanency, shall be in all succeeding ages

as competent and as substantial a witness as one who had been

present at the transaction, and heard all the words which on both

sides were spoken on the occasion.

Verse 28. So Joshua] After this verse the Septuagint insert

Jos 24:31.

Verse 29. Joshua the son of Nun-died] This event probably took

place shortly after this public assembly; for he was old and

stricken in years when he held the assembly mentioned Jos 23:2;

and as his work was now all done, and his soul ripened for a state

of blessedness, God took him to himself, being one hundred and ten

years of age; exactly the same age as that of the patriarch

Joseph. See Ge 50:26.

Verse 30. And they buried him-in Timnath-serah] This was his own

inheritance, as we have seen Jos 19:50. The Septuagint add here,

"And they put with him there, in the tomb in which they buried

him, the knives of stone with which he circumcised the children of

Israel in Gilgal, according as the Lord commanded when he brought

them out of Egypt; and there they are till this day." St.

Augustine quotes the same passage in his thirtieth question on the

book of Joshua, which, in all probability, he took from some copy

of the Septuagint. It is very strange that there is no account of

any public mourning for the death of this eminent general;

probably, as he was buried in his own inheritance, he had

forbidden all funeral pomp, and it is likely was privately


Verse 31. And Israel served the Lord, &c.] Though there was

private idolatry among them, for they had strange gods, yet there

was no public idolatry all the days of Joshua and of the elders

that overlived Joshua; most of whom must have been advanced in

years at the death of this great man. Hence Calmet supposes that

the whole of this time might amount to about fifteen years. It has

already been noted that this verse is placed by the Septuagint

after Jos 24:28.

Verse 32. And the bones of Joseph] See Clarke on Ge 50:25,

and on Ex 13:19. This burying of the bones of Joseph probably

took place when the conquest of the land was completed, and each

tribe had received its inheritance; for it is not likely that this

was deferred till after the death of Joshua.

Verse 33. And Eleazar-died] Probably about the same time as

Joshua, or soon after; though some think he outlived him six

years. Thus, nearly all the persons who had witnessed the miracles

of God in the wilderness were gathered to their fathers; and their

descendants left in possession of the great inheritance, with the

Law of God in their hands, and the bright example of their

illustrious ancestors before their eyes. It must be added that

they possessed every advantage necessary to make them a great, a

wise, and a holy people. How they used, or rather how they abused,

these advantages, their subsequent history, given in the sacred

books, amply testifies.

A hill that pertained to Phinehas his son] This grant was

probably made to Phinehas as a token of the respect of the whole

nation, for his zeal, courage, and usefulness: for the priests had

properly no inheritance. At the end of this verse the Septuagint


"In that day the children of Israel, taking up the ark of the

covenant of God, carried it about with them, and Phinehas

succeeded to the high priest's office in the place of his father

until his death; and he was buried in Gabaath, which belonged to


"Then the children of Israel went every man to his own place,

and to his own city.

"And the children of Israel worshipped Astarte and Ashtaroth,

and the gods of the surrounding nations, and the Lord delivered

them into the hands of Eglon king of Moab, and he tyrannized over

them for eighteen years."

THE last six verses in this chapter were, doubtless, not written

by Joshua; for no man can give an account of his own death and

burial. Eleazar, Phinehas, or Samuel, might have added them, to

bring down the narration so as to connect it with their own times;

and thus preserve the thread of the history unbroken. This is a

common case; many men write histories of their own lives, which,

in the last circumstances, are finished by others, and who has

ever thought of impeaching the authenticity of the preceding part,

because the subsequent was the work of a different hand? Hirtius's

supplement has never invalidated the authenticity of the

Commentaries of Caesar, nor the work of Quintus Smyrnaeus, that

of the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer; nor the 13th book of AEneid,

by Mapheus Viggius, the authenticity of the preceding twelve, as

the genuine work of Virgil. We should be thankful that an adequate

and faithful hand has supplied those circumstances which the

original author could not write, and without which the work would

have been incomplete.

Mr. Saurin has an excellent dissertation on this grand federal

act formed by Joshua and the people of Israel on this very solemn

occasion, of the substance of which the reader will not be

displeased to find the following very short outline, which may be

easily filled up by any whose business it is to instruct the

public; for such a circumstance may with great propriety be

brought before a Christian congregation at any time:-

"SEVEN things are to be considered in this renewal of the


I. The dignity of the mediator.

II. The freedom of those who contracted.

III. The necessity of the choice.

IV. The extent of the conditions.

V. The peril of the engagement.

VI. The solemnity of the acceptance.

VII. The nearness of the consequence.

"I. The dignity of the mediator.-Take a view of his names, Hosea

and Jehoshua. God will save: he will save. The first is like a

promise; the second, the fulfilment of that promise. God will

save some time or other:-this is the very person by whom he will

accomplish his promise. Take a view of Joshua's life: his faith,

courage, constancy, heroism, and success. A remarkable type of

Christ. See Heb 4:8.

"II. The freedom of those who contracted.-Take away the gods

which your fathers served beyond the flood; and in Egypt, &c.,

Jos 24:14, &c. Joshua exhibits to the Israelites all the

religions which were then known: 1. That of the Chaldeans, which

consisted in the adoration of fire. 2. That of the Egyptians,

which consisted in the worship of the ox Apis, cats, dogs, and

serpents; which had been preceded by the worship even of

vegetables, such as the onion, &c. 3. That of the people of

Canaan, the principal objects of which were Astarte, (Venus),

and Baal Peor, (Priapus.) Make remarks on the liberty of choice

which every man has, and which God, in matters of religion,

applies to, and calls into action.

"III. The necessity of the choice.-To be without religion, is

to be without happiness here, and without any title to the kingdom

of God. To have a false religion, is the broad road to perdition;

and to have the true religion, and live agreeably to it, is the

high road to heaven. Life is precarious-death is at the door-the

Judge calls-much is to be done, and perhaps little time to do it

in! Eternity depends on the present moment. Choose-choose

speedily-determinately, &c.

"IV. The extent of the conditions.-Fear the Lord, and serve him

in truth and righteousness. Fear the Lord. Consider his being, his

power, holiness, justice, &c. This is the gate to religion.

Religion itself consists of two parts. I. TRUTH. 1. In opposition

to the detestable idolatry of the forementioned nations. 2. In

reference to that revelation which God gave of himself. 3. In

reference to that solid peace and comfort which false religions

may promise, but cannot give; and which the true religion

communicates to all who properly embrace it. II. UPRIGHTNESS or

integrity, in opposition to those abominable vices by which

themselves and the neighbouring nations had been defiled. 1. The

major part of men have one religion for youth, another for old

age. But he who serves God in integrity, serves him with all

his heart in every part of life. 2. Most men have a religion of

times, places, and circumstances. This is a defective religion.

Integrity takes in every time, every place, and every

circumstance; God's law being ever kept before the eyes, and his

love in the heart, dictating purity and perfection to every

thought, word, and work. 3. Many content themselves with

abstaining from vice, and think themselves sure of the kingdom of

God because they do not sin as others. But he who serves God in

integrity, not only abstains from the act and the appearance of

evil, but steadily performs every moral good. 4. Many think that

if they practice some kind of virtues, to which they feel less of

a natural repugnance, they bid fair for the kingdom; but this is

opposite to uprightness. The religion of God equally forbids every

species of vice, and recommends every kind of virtue.

"V. The peril of the engagement.-This covenant had in it the

nature of an oath; for so much the phrase before the Lord implies:

therefore those who entered into this covenant bound themselves by

oath unto the Lord, to be steady and faithful in it. But it may be

asked, 'As human nature is very corrupt, and exceedingly fickle,

is there not the greatest danger of breaking such a covenant; and

is it not better not to make it, than to run the risk of breaking

it, and exposing one's self to superadded punishment on that

account?' Answer: He who makes such a covenant in God's strength,

will have that strength to enable him to prove faithful to it.

Besides, if the soul do not feel itself under the most solemn

obligation to live to God, it will live to the world and the

flesh. Nor is such a covenant as this more solemn and strict than

that which we have often made; first in our baptism, and often

afterwards in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper, &c. Joshua

allows there is a great danger in making this covenant. Ye cannot

serve the Lord, for he is a holy, strong, and jealous God, &c. But

this only supposes that nothing could be done right but by his

Spirit, and in his strength. The energy of the Holy Spirit is

equal to every requisition of God's holy law, as far as it regards

the moral conduct of a believer in Christ.

"VI. The solemnity of the acceptance.-Notwithstanding Joshua

faithfully laid down the dreadful evils which those might expect

who should abandon the Lord; yet they entered solemnly into the

covenant. God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, but we will

serve the Lord. They seemed to think that not to covenant in this

case was to reject.

"VII. The nearness of the consequence.-There were false gods

among them, and these must be immediately put away. As ye have

taken the Lord for your God, then put away the strange gods which

are among you, Jos 24:23. The moment the covenant is made, that

same moment the conditions of it come into force. He who makes

this covenant with God should immediately break off from every

evil design, companion, word, and work. Finally, Joshua erected

two monuments of this solemn transaction: 1. He caused the word to

be written in the book of the law, Jos 24:26. 2. He erected a

stone under an oak, Jos 24:27; that these two things might be

witnesses against them if they broke the covenant which they then

made, &c."

There is the same indispensable necessity for every one who

professes Christianity, to enter into a covenant with God through

Christ. He who is not determined to be on God's side, will be

found on the side of the world, the devil, and the flesh. And he

who does not turn from all his iniquities, cannot make such a

covenant. And he who does not make it now, may probably never have

another opportunity. Reader, death is at the door, and eternity

is at hand. These are truths which are everywhere

proclaimed-everywhere professedly believed-everywhere acknowledged

to be important and perhaps nowhere laid to heart as they should

be. And yet all grant that they are born to die!

ON the character and conduct of Joshua, much has already been

said in the notes; and particularly in the preface to this book. A

few particulars may be added.

It does not appear that Joshua was ever married, or that he had

any children. That he was high in the estimation of God, we learn

from his being chosen to succeed Moses in the government of the

people. He was the person alone, of all the host of Israel, who

was deemed every way qualified to go out before the congregation,

and go in: to lead them out, and bring them in; and be the

shepherd of the people, because the Spirit of God was in him.

See Nu 27:17, &c. He is called

the servant of God, as was Moses; and was, of all men of that

generation, next in eminence to that great legislator.

Like his great master, he neither provided for himself nor his

relatives; though he had it constantly in his power so to do. He

was the head and leader of the people; the chief and foremost in

all fatigues and dangers; without whose piety, prudence, wisdom,

and military skill, the whole tribes of Israel, humanly speaking,

must have been ruined. And yet this conqueror of the nations did

not reserve to him self a goodly inheritance, a noble city, nor

any part of the spoils of those he had vanquished. His countrymen,

it is true, gave him an inheritance among them, Jos 19:50. This,

we might suppose, was in consideration of his eminent services,

and this, we might naturally expect, was the best inheritance in

the land! No! they gave him Timnath-serah, in the barren mountains

of Ephraim, and even this he asked Jos 19:50. But was not this

the best city in the land? No-it was even NO city; evidently no

more than the ruins of one that had stood in that place; and hence

it is said, he builded the city and dwelt therein-he, with some

persons of his own tribe, revived the stones out of the rubbish,

and made it habitable.

Joshua believed there was a God; he loved him, acted under his

influence, and endeavoured to the utmost of his power to promote

the glory of his Maker, and the welfare of man: and he expected

his recompense in another world.

Like HIM of whom he was an illustrious type, he led a painful

and laborious life, devoting himself entirely to the service of

God and the public good. How unlike was Joshua to those men who,

for certain services, get elevated to the highest honours: but,

not content with the recompense thus awarded them by their

country, use their new influence for the farther aggrandizement of

themselves and dependents, at the expense, and often to the ruin

of their country!

Joshua retires only from labour when there is no more work to be

done, and no more dangers to be encountered. He was the first in

the field, and the last out of it; and never attempted to take

rest till all the tribes of Israel had got their possessions, and

were settled in their inheritances! Of him it might be truly said

as of Caesar, he continued to work, nil actum reputans, si quid

superesset agendum: for "he considered nothing done, while any

thing remained undone."

Behold this man retiring from office and from life without any

kind of emolument! the greatest man of all the tribes of Israel;

the most patriotic, and the most serviceable; and yet the worst

provided for! Statesmen! naval and military commanders! look

Joshua in the face; read his history; and learn from IT what true

PATRIOTISM means. That man alone who truly fears and loves God,

credits his revelation, and is made a partaker of his Spirit, is

capable of performing disinterested services to his country and to



The number of verses in the Book of Joshua is 656, (should be

658, see on Jos 21:36, &c.,) of which the symbol is found in the

word vetharon, (and shall sing,) Isa 35:6.

Its middle verse is the Jos 13:26.

Its Masoretic sections are 14; the symbol of which is found in

the word yad, (the hand), Eze 37:1.

See the note at the end of Genesis, Clarke "Ge 50:26",

and the Haphtaras at the end of the Pentateuch.

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