Chapter 24


The Covenant Renewed at Schechem

  • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “In both form and content, this statement of covenant resembled an ancient Near Eastern suzerain-vassal treaty. It beings with a preamble (24:2) and continues with a historical prologue relating to the suzerain’s (God’s) gracious acts on behalf of the people (24:3-13), followed by a list of stipulations (24:14-15) and curses and blessings (24:19-20). It then notes where the text was to be deposited for periodic reading and renewal (implied, 24:26) and lists witnesses to the covenant (24:22, 27).”

    • Joshua summoned all the tribes of Israel together including their elders, leaders, judges, and officers, at Schechem, and they presented themselves before God. Then Joshua told the people, “The Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah (Abraham’s and Nahor’s father), lived on the other side of the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But, I took your ancestor Abraham from the land on the other side of the river, led him through all the land of Canaan, and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac, I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.’”

      • Guzik writes, “This was a dramatic last gathering of Israel before the passing of Joshua. It may or may not be part of the same farewell described in Joshua 23. No specific place of gathering is mentioned in Joshua 23, so it could have been part of this same meeting at Shechem…Shechem was a place of rich history for Israel. There were at least four notable events there in lives of the patriarchs. In the first two instances we see Shechem was a place of calling and commitment. In the second two we see Shechem was a place of shame…Abraham came into the Promised Land and first camped at Shechem. There God appeared to Abraham and confirmed His promise; Abraham built an altar to the Lord there (Genesis 12:6-7)…When Jacob came back into the Promised Land, he first camped at Shechem. He purchased land at Shechem and built an altar there, calling the place, El Elohe Israel (God, the God of Israel, Genesis 33:16-20)…Jacob’s sons Simeon and Levi deceptively lured the men of Shechem into a massacre, murdering all the men of the city (Genesis 34)…In a season of recommitment to God in Jacob’s life, God told him to go to Bethel. Jacob did so and commanded all in his household to put away their idols. Jacob took those idols and buried them at the terebinth tree near Shechem (Genesis 35:1-5).”

      • Guzik continues, “There are some who believe that they presented themselves before God means that they did this before the tabernacle, which seems at this time to have been at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). Either they presented themselves before God without the tabernacle, or it was moved to Shechem for this occasion.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Abraham lived at Haran in Mesopotamia beyond the Euphrates with his father Terah (Genesis 11:31-32)… The mountains of Seir stood at the heart of Edom, the homeland of Esau’s descendants (Genesis 36:8-9).”

    • ‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and plagued Egypt by what I did there, and afterwards I brought you out. When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and you reached the Red Sea, the Egyptians chased your ancestors to the Red Sea with chariots and horsemen. Your ancestors cried out to the Lord, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea over the Egyptians, engulfing them. You saw with your own eyes what I did in Egypt. Then, you lived in the wilderness for a long time.’”

      • Guzik says, “There were still many among the leaders and elders of Israel who were children when Israel came out of Egypt, and who saw God destroy the Egyptian army at the Red Sea.”

    • ‘Then I brought you into the Amorites’ land on the east side of the Jordan River. They fought against you, but I handed them over to you. You took possession of their land and I destroyed them before you. Then the king of Moab, Zippor’s son Balak, set out to fight against Israel. He sent for Beor’s son, Balaam, to curse you, but I wouldn’t listen to him. Instead, he blessed you, and I delivered you from him.’”

      • Guzik clarifies, “Numbers 21-24 makes it clear that the war Balak made against Israel was spiritual in nature. He wanted to destroy them either through Balaam’s curse (which did not work) or through the seduction and idolatry of the Moabite women (which worked somewhat). Though it wasn’t a war fought with swords and spears, it was a war nonetheless.”

    • ‘Then you crossed the Jordan River and came to Jericho. The people of Jericho fought against you, along with the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites. But, I handed them all over to you. I sent the hornet ahead of you and it drove out the two Amorite kings before you. Your victory was not achieved by your sword or bow. I gave you land didn’t work on, and cities you didn’t build- and you live in them. You eat fruit of vineyards and olive groves that you didn’t plant.’

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Israel’s successes were not because of their swords or bows or other military advantage; all were God’s doing…The Israelites received wealth, including land…towns and food, that they had not earned or created.”

      • What about the “hornet”? ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “Some interpreters understand this as a literal reference to divine intervention using insects. However, the text says ‘the hornet’ (singular) rather than “hornets” (plural). Others take this as a reference to Egypt (the ‘hornet’ being a symbol of Lower Egypt), but no mention of Egypt is found here or in related narratives. Therefore it seems best to take this as a figurative expression, with ‘hornet’ as a metaphor for the sting of fear the Lord inflicts on His enemies; see Exodus 23:28, where ‘hornet’ (singular in Hebrew) is paralleled in the preceding verse by ‘my terror’ (cf also Deuteronomy 7:20). The focus in all three contexts where ‘hornet’ appears is on the Lord’s driving out Israel’s enemies.”

    • Therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and faithfulness. Get rid of the gods that your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But, if it is disagreeable to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: the gods your ancestors served on the other side of the Euphrates River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

      • Guzik writes, “This was not a blind leap of faith. They saw God’s works and experienced His blessings, so it made sense for them to exclusively serve a God who had done so much for them…In the review of Israel’s history, we might say that God contrasted His great work with three sets of gods, associated with three waters. Joshua 24:2-4 shows that on the other side of the Euphrates were the gods of Sumerian and Babylonian culture – gods of heritage. Joshua 24:5-7a shows that on the other side of the Red Sea were the gods of ancient Egypt – gods of upbringing. Joshua 24:7b-13 and 24:15 shows that as they crossed the Jordan there were the gods of the Amorites – gods of your culture. Joshua applied the principle. The Lord God of Israel is greater than all these… therefore, serve the LORD!”

    • The people replied, “We will not abandon the Lord to worship other gods! The Lord our God brought us and our ancestors out of slavery in Egypt, and performed great signs which we saw with our own eyes, and protected us everywhere that we went, and among all the people whose land we traveled through. The Lord drove out all the people ahead of us, including the Amorites who lived in the land. So, we will serve the Lord, because He is our God.”

    • But, Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the Lord, because He is a holy and jealous God. If you abandon Him and serve foreign gods, He will not forgive your sins or transgressions. He will turn against you, harm you, and destroy you, after He has been good to you.”

      • Guzik says, “ Joshua is not trying to discourage their faith but trying to discourage a light commitment to following the LORD. They need to be reminded that they are serving God under a covenant that promised they would be cursed for disobedience…Jesus expressed the same kind of warning, explaining that following Him took total commitment (Luke 14:25-33). It wasn’t that Jesus didn’t want followers, but He did not want lightly made and easily broken commitments.”

    • But the people answered, “No! We will serve the Lord!” So, Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “They said, “We are witnesses.” Joshua replied, “Then get rid of the foreign gods that are among you and turn your hearts toward the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey His voice.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Some Israelites had continued to worship idols since they left Egypt and after experiencing forty years of God’s love and power. Joshua directed them to destroy the idols and turn their hearts to the Lord to serve Him alone.”

    • So, Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and established decrees and laws for them at Schechem. Joshua recorded these words in the Book of the Law of God. He took a large stone and set it up under the oak that was beside the Lord’s sanctuary. Then Joshua said to the people, “Look, this stone has heard all the words the Lord spoke to us, so it will be a witness against you, so that you don’t deny your God.” Then Joshua dismissed the people to return to their own inheritances.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The title ‘Book of the Law of God’ occurs elsewhere only at Nehemiah 8:18, where it is explicitly identified with the ‘Book of the Law of Moses’ (Nehemiah 8:1) and ‘Book of the Law’ (Nehemiah 8:3). Those same titles are also found in Joshua (‘Book of the Law’ [1:8] and ‘Book of the Law of Moses’ [8:31]).”

Joshua’s Death and Burial

    • After this, the Lord’s servant, Nun’s son, Joshua, died at the age of 110. They buried him in the land that he had been allotted, at Timnath-serah in Ephraim’s hill country, north of Mount Gaash. Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetimes of Joshua as well as the elders who outlived him- those who had personally experienced all the things the Lord had done for Israel.

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “Now at the end of his life, for the first time Joshua is called the servant of the Lord, an appellation Moses received at the end of his life (Deuteronomy 34:5) and by which he is often referred to in the book of Joshua…”

      • HCSB adds, “…However, after the passing of that generation- the group that had known Moses’ leadership in the wilderness and had followed Joshua in the conquest of Canaan- fell once again into idolatry.”

    • Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought with them from Egypt, were buried at Schechem in the parcel of land that Jacob bought from the children of Hamor, the father of Schechem, for 100 quesitahs. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Israel had carried the bones of Joseph out of Egypt, through the years of their journeys, and into Canaan to honor Joseph’s last request to be buried in the land God had promised Israel (Genesis 50:25; Exodus 13:19). Schechem was part of the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants, at the border between Ephraim and Manasseh. Jacob had purchased it centuries before…”

    • Aaron’s son, Eleazar, died. They buried him at Gibeah, in Ephraim’s hill country, which had been given to his son Phinehas.

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “Given the prominence of Eleazar in both the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua (cf 14:1), his death notice serves as one more sign of the passing of an era.”

      • Guzik remarks, “…Now Phinehas was High Priest.”