Joshua
Introduction 1 Joshua Gathers All the Tribes to Shechem 2-4 Previous History 5-8 What God Has Done for His People 9-10 Delivered from the Power of Balaam 11-13 God Cleansed the Land for His People 14-15 Call to Serve the LORD 16-18 We Will Serve the LORD 19-24 Joshua Warns and the People Promise 25-27 Joshua Makes a Covenant 28 Joshua Sends the People Away 29-30 Death and Burial of Joshua 31 Israel Serves the LORD 32 Joseph’s Bones Buried 33 Death and Burial of Eleazar
Introduction

There is a wonderful structure in Joshua’s speech. In verses 3-133Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac.4To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst; and afterward I brought you out.6I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea.7But when they cried out to the LORD, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them and covered them; and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness for a long time.8Then I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan, and they fought with you; and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land when I destroyed them before you.9Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel, and he sent and summoned Balaam the son of Beor to curse you.10But I was not willing to listen to Balaam. So he had to bless you, and I delivered you from his hand.11You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho; and the citizens of Jericho fought against you, [and] the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Thus I gave them into your hand.12Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, [but] not by your sword or your bow.13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’ he presents to the people the great deeds of God. Many times we read there the word ‘I’, which refers to God. With Abraham the election of God comes to the fore. Through Moses and Aaron God shows that He is the Deliverer of the people. When He has brought the people into the land, He is the Conqueror of the enemies. Verse 1313I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’ rightly says: “I gave you a land.”

After these words, the people are faced with the choice of who they want to serve. We are also faced with this choice, after all the blessings given to us in Christ have been recited to us. Is it a difficult choice?

All the people have said that they will serve the LORD, but very soon it appears what their words are worth. The book of Judges provides the proof. What remains then? A personal choice! Can we repeat Joshua with all our heart: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (verse 15b15If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”)?


Joshua Gathers All the Tribes to Shechem

1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God.

After Joshua addressed the elders in the previous chapter, he wants to address the whole people. The whole people are close to his heart. He addresses them in Shechem. This is to consider a sanctuary, for there the LORD appeared to Abraham, and there Abraham built an altar for the LORD (Gen 12:6-76Abram passed through the land as far as the site of Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. Now the Canaanite [was] then in the land.7The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.). There Jacob also built an altar (Gen 33:18-2018Now Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, when he came from Paddan-aram, and camped before the city.19He bought the piece of land where he had pitched his tent from the hand of the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, for one hundred pieces of money.20Then he erected there an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.) and there he buried all his idols (Gen 35:44So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods which they had and the rings which were in their ears, and Jacob hid them under the oak which was near Shechem.).

History makes clear what the value of Shechem is. It is the right place for Joshua to once again present the history of God’s people to the people. He does this by reminding the people of some great events. These events have a spiritual meaning and can be compared to Paul’s service.

Paul speaks in his farewell speech about the four parts of his service:
1. “Solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:2121solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.); this concerns the forgiveness of sins for unbelievers when they repent toward God and believe in the Lord Jesus.
2. “To testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:2424But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.); this goes further than the call to repentance and is explained in the letter to the Romans.
3. The preaching of “the kingdom” (Acts 20:2525“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face.); this is not the kingdom of peace, but that the rejected Christ is now in heaven and reigns as Lord over all who confess Him, whose power becomes visible in the life of the Christian.
4. The declaration of “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:2727For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.); this is not what we find in the letter to the Romans, but in the letter to the Colossians and especially in the letter to the Ephesians, which deals with the counsels of eternity regarding the church.
These four parts are also found in Joshua’s speech.


Previous History

2Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, [namely], Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. 3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. 4To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt.

In the history of Abraham we find the truth of repentance and faith. He is called out of idolatry (1Thes 1:99For they themselves report about us what kind of a reception we had with you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve a living and true God,). With him we see faith in the midst of all unbelief. By referring to Abraham’s idolatry Joshua points out that the idols are not only found around them, but that it is in their nature, in their hearts. We are also no better than the people around us. We used to belong to that company as well (Eph 2:33Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.; Tit 3:33For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another.).

That God takes Abraham shows His election. Abraham is no better than his surroundings. God grants Isaac as the son in whom He will fulfil His promises. He gives Jacob and Esau to Isaac. He gives Esau the Mountain Seir as an inheritance, so that the land of Canaan will be entirely for the descendants of Jacob.


What God Has Done for His People

5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst; and afterward I brought you out. 6I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7But when they cried out to the LORD, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them and covered them; and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness for a long time. 8Then I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan, and they fought with you; and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land when I destroyed them before you.

In the liberation of the people from Egypt we find the truth of redemption. This truth is found in the letter to the Romans, in which the gospel and righteousness are explained. Spiritually speaking, we are led to the plains of Moab. The wilderness journey is behind us. God has shown His faithfulness throughout the journey through the wilderness. We are now able to attack enemies and capture land.


Delivered from the Power of Balaam

9Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel, and he sent and summoned Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. 10But I was not willing to listen to Balaam. So he had to bless you, and I delivered you from his hand.

In these verses we find the third aspect of Joshua’s service in comparison to Paul’s. Once in the plains of Moab we hear in the blessing of Balaam about the kingship of the LORD and about the people of this King, who reigns supreme over a king like Balak (Num 23:2121“He has not observed misfortune in Jacob;
Nor has He seen trouble in Israel;
The LORD his God is with him,
And the shout of a king is among them.
; 24:7,177“Water will flow from his buckets,
And his seed [will be] by many waters,
And his king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.
17“I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth.
). In the midst of God’s people, the power of God’s King, Who for us is our Lord, becomes visible. We rejoice because we go forward in the power of that King and take possession of things He has given us.


God Cleansed the Land for His People

11You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho; and the citizens of Jericho fought against you, [and] the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Thus I gave them into your hand. 12Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, [but] not by your sword or your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.’

Here we have the fourth and last aspect of the comparison between the service of Joshua and the service of Paul. The land is captured, the enemy is driven out. That is what the LORD does for his people. All they may enjoy is a gift of His grace (Eph 2:88For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God;).


Call to Serve the LORD

14“Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

All given blessings require a response. We also see this in the letters. After the blessings follows the exhortation to walk in accordance with them (Rom 12:11Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship.; Eph 4:11Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called,). If no choice is made for the LORD, it does not matter which idol they will serve. Again and again they are asked to make a choice (1Kgs 18:2121Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long [will] you hesitate between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people did not answer him a word.; Rth 1:1616But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you [or] turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people [shall be] my people, and your God, my God.; Mt 6:2424“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.). For Joshua the choice is clear. He is an old man, but still as militant as ever, here especially for his house.

If all the people will not participate in the faithful serving of the LORD, then it is certain for him that he and his house will serve the LORD. It applies to himself and to his children. The salvation is ‘for those who believe and for their house. That gospel hears the jailor from Paul’s mouth: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:3131They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”). Serving that follows salvation is also for ‘me and my home’. The ‘household of Stephanas’ is a good example of this (1Cor 16:1515Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints),). Let us follow the example of Joshua and Stéfanas.

All blessings are not only for ourselves, but also for our children. Is it our wish that our children will enjoy the blessings we enjoy? Then we will take them to all kinds of meetings, so that they will learn to enjoy the blessings and not leave them at home while we visit those occasions ourselves.


We Will Serve the LORD

16The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; 17for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. 18The LORD drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.”

Because the people still have the consciousness of the power of God Who blessed them, it declares that they want to serve the LORD alone. The reaction of the people sounds good, but Joshua cannot be deceived. He knows what is in their hearts. Therefore he seriously suggests to them that there is no strength in themselves. The people say they will serve the LORD, but it is like as at Sinai.

Have they removed the gods, as has been said several times in this chapter that they will do? Later it turns out that they did not do that. We cannot serve God in our own power. We should not promise anything, but beg God to help us serve Him. Nobody can say that everything is in order in his life.


Joshua Warns and the People Promise

19Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” 21The people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” 22Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the LORD, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23“Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.”

Joshua does not mean to say that God is not a God of forgiveness. He wants to make it clear that God cannot be served with a halfhearted heart and that leaving Him to serve other gods is a serious sin. Such a sin shall end in disaster.

Joshua addresses the people four times to their responsibility. Each time the people answers that they will serve the LORD. Joshua asks them to prove their sincerity by putting away the strange gods.


Joshua Makes a Covenant

25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.”

Joshua takes the promise of the people seriously. He writes “in the book of the law of God” what has been said. Then he sets up a stone as a testimony to the promises of the people. When Joshua has passed away, the stone remains as a lasting reminder that God has heard everything.

Joshua writes in the book and sets up the stone as a testimony “by the sanctuary of the LORD”. This expression seems to indicate that Joshua brought the ark of the covenant from Shiloh to Shechem for this occasion.


Joshua Sends the People Away

28Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.

Joshua lets the people go. His service is coming to an end. With his last words in their ears they return to their inheritance. How long will his farewell speech resonate in their hearts and have its beneficial effect on the practice of their lives as people of God? The book of Judges gives the answer.


Death and Burial of Joshua

29It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being one hundred and ten years old. 30And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash.

The book ends with three burials. The first is that of Joshua. After a walk of faith in the wilderness and a struggle of faith in the land he dies in faith in a better resurrection. He is called here for the first and also only time “the servant of the LORD”. With this, the Master puts in a simple way a significant mark of approval on his life. Can the Lord also say of us at the end of our lives: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:2121His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’)?

His grave is in his inheritance, in the hill country of Ephraim (Jos 19:5050In accordance with the command of the LORD they gave him the city for which he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. So he built the city and settled in it.). The Ephraimites took possession of this by order of Joshua (Jos 17:14-1814Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me only one lot and one portion for an inheritance, since I am a numerous people whom the LORD has thus far blessed?”15Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.”16The sons of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron, both those who are in Beth-shean and its towns and those who are in the valley of Jezreel.”17Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, “You are a numerous people and have great power; you shall not have one lot [only],18but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron [and] though they are strong.”).


Israel Serves the LORD

31Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel.

As long as the people have good examples, they serve the LORD (cf. 2Chr 24:22Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest.). We may well ask ourselves: do we live from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus or do we merely follow the faith of others who teach us? When the witnesses of the power of the LORD and its influence on the people are gone, a new generation rises that is open to the influences of the peoples around them. The following book, Judges, shows this.


Joseph’s Bones Buried

32Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph’s sons.

The second burial is that of Joseph. The burial of Joseph’s bones makes it clear that the book does not really end with death, because it shows the hope of the resurrection. With this in mind Joseph wanted his bones to be buried in the land (Heb 11:2222By faith Joseph, when he was dying, made mention of the exodus of the sons of Israel, and gave orders concerning his bones.).


Death and Burial of Eleazar

33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him at Gibeah of Phinehas his son, which was given him in the hill country of Ephraim.

The third burial is that of Eleazar. The death and burial of Eleazar indicate that the service of this faithful high priest in connection with taking possession of the land is also coming to an end. In the next book a new time begins in which the people have no eye for this service.

When Christ, of whom Eleazar is a type, is forgotten, decay enters. Fortunately, then, God’s sources have not dried up. In the judges He raises from time to time, He enables His people to enjoy His land again and again.