Chapter 23


Joshua’s Farewell Address (23:1-24:33)

      • HCSB writes, “Reminiscent of the curse ceremony of Dt 28, Joshua warned the people that disobedience would bring disaster and dispossession for Israel. The Lord was faithful to bless obedience and curse disobedience. If Israel repeated the Canaanites’ sin of idolatry, she would experience the same consequence: removal from the land. The entire section of Joshua 23:1-24:24 parallels the book of Deuteronomy, Moses’ ‘farewell address,’ as a ceremony of the renewal of the covenant. It contains the same elements: a rehearsal of the Lord’s deeds in delivering His people (24:2-13); the people’s pledge of loyalty (24:14-26); the reference to witnesses (24:22, 27); mention of the laws of the covenant, ‘a statute and ordinance’ (24:25); and the sanction of judgment to come if Israel abrogates the covenant (23:12-16). The order differs, but all the components are present.”

Joshua’s Final Words

      • Many years passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from their surrounding enemies. Joshua, who was now very old, called all Israel together- its elders, leaders, judges, and officers and said to them:

        • HCSB writes, “Israel had come to a point of ‘rest’ from her enemies. Major conquest operations were completed and Israel controlled the region as a whole. Joshua, now advanced in age, summoned the leaders of Israel and gave his farewell address. The reference to Joshua’s old age confirms that the conquest took a long time.”

        • How long? ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “Specificity is not possible, but probably more than 25 years have elapsed since Israel first crossed the Jordan into the land- assuming that Joshua was similar in age to Caleb (who was nearing 80) at the beginning of the conquest, and in view of Joshua’s age of 110 at death (24:29).”

        • Who is included in “all Israel”? NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible comments, “This is a good example of the use of the term ‘all Israel’ in a context where it is immediately qualified by leadership that represents a nation. Thus…’all Israel’ [does not] imply every man, woman, and child in the nation…”

        • I’m a very old man now. You have seen for yourselves everything that the Lord your God did to all of these nations for your sake, because it was the Lord your God who was fighting for you. See, I have allotted the land of the remaining nations to you as an inheritance for your tribes, as well as the land of the nations that I have already conquered- from the Jordan River westward to the Mediterranean Sea. The Lord your God will drive them out before you, for your sake, and you will take possession of the land just as He promised you.”

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Some of the land that Joshua had assigned tot he various tribes remained unconquered. Israel’s gradual occupation of the land had an ecological reason (see Exodus 23:29-30), a military reason (see Judges 1:19), and a theological reason (see Judges 2:20-3:4). Israel’s ensuing unfaithfulness delayed the settlement process by several centuries; instead of driving out the remaining Canaanites, Israel absorbed them, bringing God’s people even greater temptations to unfaithfulness. Joshua knew this to be a real danger (Joshua 23:15-16).”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “Joshua has obeyed the mandate he received in 13:1-7. With respect to these remaining peoples, Joshua reminds Israel’s leaders of the Lord’s promise to drive them out (‘dispossess’) and their responsibility to possess their land (13:1).”

      • Joshua continued, “So be strong and continue to obey everything that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses so that you won’t deviate from it by turning to the right or to the left, or associate with these nations that remain among you, or mention the names of their gods, or make anyone swear by them, or serve them, or bow down to them. Instead, you are to cling tightly to the Lord your God, just as you have been doing until now.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “Joshua charges the leaders who are to succeed him to be very strong, just as he had been charged three times in 1:5-9. Here he highlights the central, key point: their greatest duty and challenge is to live and lead according to all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses)…The key question facing the generation following Joshua is whom they will serve: the gods of the nations remaining or the true God of Israel. Allegiance to the gods of other nations continued to be the primary threat Israel faced while living among the Canaanites.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “These four actions [do not mention…swear by…serve…or bow down to] describe progressive involvement with idolatry…To cling tightly or passionately to God would render impotent the temptation to stray off toward other gods. This same verb described a man clinging to his wife (Genesis 2:24) and Ruth clinging to Naomi (Ruth 1:14).”

      • Joshua continued, “The Lord has driven out great and powerful nations before you, and to this day no one has been able to stand against you. Just one of you has put 1,000 of the enemy to flight because the Lord your God fights for you, just as He promised. So be very diligent, for your own sake, to love the Lord your God. Because, if you turn and cling to these nations that remain among you, and intermarry with them so that you are in association with one another, you may know for certain the Lord your God will not continue to drive these nations out before you. They will be a snare and a trap for you- a whip on your sides and a thorn in your eyes- until you vanish from this good land that the Lord your God has given you.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Examples of great and powerful nations included the Anakim (11:21-22) and the city of Hazor (11:10).”

        • Guzik adds, “If they do not separate themselves from the ungodly influences around them, those influences will become to them instruments of torture, leading to their destruction.”

      • Continuing, Joshua said, “Look, I’m about to die- to go the way of everything on earth. You know with all of your hearts and souls that not one word has failed from all of the good promises that the Lord your God made to you. They have all been fulfilled for you. But, just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised to you have come to you, so also He will bring all the bad things upon you until He has destroyed you from this good land that the Lord your God has given to you. If you break the covenant of the Lord your God, which He commanded to you, and you go and serve and bow down to other gods, His anger will burn against you, and you’ll quickly vanish from this good land that He gave to you.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “God had blessed the Israelites, and He would also certainly judge them if they turned away from Him. Joshua’s warning against apostasy was prophetic; Israel did turn away, and God did not drive out the remaining Canaanites (Judges 2:20-23).”

        • Guzik ends his commentary on this chapter with the following, “Joshua merely repeats the principle of blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience that was a specific part of Israel’s covenant with God (Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28). He emphasizes that God will be just as faithful to judge as He had been to bless…We relate to God under a different covenant, a new and better covenant (Hebrews 8:6-7), by which Jesus has redeemed us from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:10-14)…Therefore, in Jesus we no longer can experience God’s “faithfulness to curse us” as Israel knew it. Yet we do experience God’s faithfulness to correct us as a loving Father (Hebrews 12:7), and we do experience a lack of appropriated blessing if we do not abide in Jesus.”

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