James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
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.Joshua 23:1-24:33
COVENANT RENEWED, JOSHUA’S END
THE GATHERING AT SHILOH (Joshua 23)
“A long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel,” refers to a period elapsing after the distribution of the land. We do not know how long it was, but Joshua is old and his departure is near (Joshua 23:1).
This is a gathering of the leaders presumably at Shiloh, where the central place of worship was (Joshua 23:2).
It is an occasion to exhort the people to faithfulness in their obligations to God, the address of Joshua falling into three parts: (1) He recalls past blessings (Joshua 23:3-4); (2) He rehearses promises yet to be fulfilled (Joshua 23:5-11); and (3) He renews the warnings in the event of disobedience (Joshua 23:12-16). Under the second head, he applies almost the same words to Israel that the Lord spake to him at the beginning (Joshua 23:6). Courage is necessary to drive out the enemy, but it consists in doing the will of God. The enemy will vanish if they do this. Moreover the will of God is their separation from the nations which constitute the enemy, and especially the worship of their gods. How aptly this fits in with the obligations of the Christian. The world is our enemy, but “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). That is, as we believe God and obey Him in the Gospel of His Son, He subdues our enemy and the world loses its power over us. “The Lord your God, He it is that fighteth for you” (Joshua 23:10).
Under the third head, note Joshua 23:12-13, which serve as a text, alas! for the whole story of the book of Judges which follows this.
THE GATHERING AT SHECHEM (Joshua 24)
Just why this gathering was held at Shechem instead of Shiloh is not revealed, but it may have been because this was the locality between Mounts Gerizim and Ebal, where the covenant had been ratified on their entrance into the land (see chap. 8). It may have been desired to give the present occasion the impressiveness of that memory, and of other events which had taken place there (see Genesis 12:6-7; Genesis 33:18-20; Genesis 35:2-4).
God’s past blessings are once more rehearsed (Joshua 24:2-13); the covenant solemnly renewed (Joshua 24:14-25); the words written and the witness recorded (Joshua 24:26-28). Joshua 24:2-13 contain a wondrous recital of God’s grace towards Israel. And it was grace towards all the world, too, when we consider the purpose of Israel in the redemption of the latter. Let not these verses be passed over hastily.
Grace precedes service on our part, but service follows grace, hence the obligations in Joshua 24:14-25. Notice Joshua’s example (Joshua 24:15), and the all too prompt vow of the people. Joshua seems to doubt them (Joshua 24:19-20), but they reiterate their allegiance (Joshua 24:21-24), and the scene closes.
Note the existence of “the book of the law of God” in Joshua’s time and his own addition to it (Joshua 24:26), as a historical fact bearing upon the science of Biblical criticism in our time. This testifies to the early origin of the Pentateuch and points to Moses as the author.
ARCHAEOLOGICAL CORROBORATION OF JOSHUA
Before concluding our lessons in Joshua it will be stimulating to faith to speak of the new light thrown on Canaan during Joshua’s time by the excavation work in southern Palestine under Prof. Sellin.
He tells us that the foundations of the walls built by the Canaanites around their cities can easily be traced. During their occupation by the Israelites these walls were repaired or “pointed,” and as the Canaanites used polygonal stones and the Israelites four-sided ones, the archaeologist is enabled to exactly define the portions of the walls of Israelitish origin.
The ruins of the walls of Jericho are well preserved, and the remnants of house walls over six feet high. The houses of the Israelites were small, and the difference between those occupied by the common people and the princes is largely one of the number of rooms.
These discoveries bear on the religious condition of the people and their development. Under the high altars in the groves, vessels, amulets, and idols, made of clay and bronze, were found. The inscriptions point to the offering of newborn children in these vessels as a votive offering to the goddess, Astarte. Professor Sellin says that the exact truthfulness of the Biblical records receives emphatic corroboration from these discoveries.
Speaking of the walls of Jericho again. A well-defined citadel was unearthed upon the northern boundary having two study towers upon its flanks, one of them with an area of 40 x 16 feet. The inner wall was about twenty-six feet high and afforded protection to various apartments and offices for military and domestic uses. In and about the citadel were remains of the older Canaanite time which preceded the siege of Joshua.
It is doubtful whether the towers existed in Joshua’s time, although they seemed to have preceded the reign of Ahab, during which Hiel of Bethel rebuilt the city. Referring to this rebuilding, a gap is observed by explorers between the early Canaanite remains and those of the Jewish monarchy, and this may corroborate the fact that Jericho lay in ruins for several centuries between its destruction at the hands of Joshua and its rebuilding under Ahab.
Of course the material of these discoveries needs sifting and collocating, and some conclusions may receive modification, but nevertheless they are of great value and likely to become increasingly so.
1. What was the central place of worship in Joshua’s time?
2. Can you quote 1 John 5:4?
3. Name some events that have made Shechem memorable in the history of Israel.
4. What evidence of the Mosaic origin of the Pentateuch does this book afford?
5. How does archaeological science corroborate the historicity of this book?