Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.XXIII.
JOSHUA’S LAST CHARGE.
(a) To the rulers (Joshua 23).
(b) To the people (Joshua 24 to Joshua 24:25).
(a) To THE RULERS.
(1) Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.—The same expression employed in Joshua 13:1. It is possible that we ought to translate thus: “It came to pass, a long time after the Lord had given rest . . . and (after) Joshua had grown old, advanced in days, that Joshua called . . .” Or it may be that we have here, as it were, “the two evenings” of Joshua’s life: the early evening, when his sun began to decline—the afternoon; and the late evening, just before its glorious setting in the service of Jehovah on earth, to “serve Him day and night in His temple.”
And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:(2) Joshua called for all Israel (i.e., first). . . for their elders . . . heads . . . judges, and . . . officers.—The first “and” in the English Version of this verse should be omitted.
And said unto them . . .—The address which follows should be contrasted with that in Joshua 24. The first is suited to men of education, authority, and position in Israel, and concerns the duty of the rulers; the second contains one plain lesson for all the people, and makes no demand upon their intellect, nor does it require any position of influence or authority to carry out the instructions which it gives.
Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.(4) Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain.—Here, as in Joshua 13:1-7, and afterwards, in Judges 2:23, the preliminary and partial nature of the conquest achieved by Joshua is distinctly recognised. He gave Israel the land to possess, and gave them the vantage-ground from which they might possess it. In Joshua 23:4-5 he bids them continue the work which he had begun.
Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;(6) Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses.—As Joshua was the servant of the law himself, so must his successors be. No higher position was attainable than this. It has been the same with the successors of the greater Joshua. With them, and with those who follow them, nothing can ever supersede the authority of the written word.
That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:(7) Come not among these nations—i.e., do not mix with them; literally, do not go in unto them. (See on Joshua 13:2-7, for the rules to be observed in dealing with the nations.) It must always be remembered that, in proposing the extermination of the seven nations, Jehovah reserved to Himself the ordering of the details of the conquest and extermination. When the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee, thou shalt smite them and utterly destroy them.” He did not propose to deliver them all to Israel at once, for reasons set forth in Judges 2, 3. Meantime, it was a trial of Israel’s faith and obedience to live among idolaters without making any peace with them, or lending any countenance to their idolatry.
For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.(9) No man hath been able to stand before you.—Comp. Joshua 1:5.
One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.(10) One man of you shall chase a thousand.—See Deuteronomy 28:7.
Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:(12,13) if ye . . . make marriages with them . . . the Lord your God will no more drive out.—The common-sense of this warning is manifest. The God of Israel cannot treat as His enemies those whom Israel has united with itself, unless He also makes war on Israel. It was a long time before Israel learned the lesson how to live in the world without being of the world. It was not learnt until after the Babylonish captivity, and when learnt, it soon developed into a Pharisaical exclusiveness, which produced the very opposite effect to that which the law was intended to have.
And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.(14) Ye know . . . that not one thing hath failed.—These words, as well as the similar statement in Joshua 21:43-45, show that though the conquest of Canaan by Joshua was in one way a limited conquest, yet it fully satisfied the hopes of Israel for the time: i.e., that they understood the Divine promises in that sense in which we see them to have been actually fulfilled.
Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.(15) As all good things are come upon you . . . so shall . . . all evil things.—Comp. Deuteronomy 8:19-20, and Deuteronomy 30:17-18, and Deuteronomy 28 throughout.
The above exhortations are upon matters that lie within the province of the ruler. The law must be forgotten if the magistrates will not enforce it. Marriages and treaties and public worship are matters under the control of the law. What the rulers will not tolerate, the people will find it hard to maintain.
When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.(16) The resemblance between this verse and an exhortation in Deuteronomy should be noticed, Joshua 11:16-17, “Take heed to yourselves, lest . . . ye turn aside and serve other gods and worship them; and then the Lord’s wrath be kindled against you . . . and ye perish quickly from off the good land which the Lord giveth you.”