OT History Part 1 – Joshua 22-24

Then Joshua summoned the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh and said to them, “You have done all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded, and you have obeyed me in everything I commanded. For a long time now—to this very day—you have not deserted your fellow Israelites but have carried out the mission the Lord your God gave you. Now that the Lord your God has given them rest as he promised, return to your homes in the land that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan. But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to keep his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Then Joshua blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their homes. (To the half-tribe of Manasseh Moses had given land in Bashan, and to the other half of the tribe Joshua gave land on the west side of the Jordan along with their fellow Israelites.) When Joshua sent them home, he blessed them, saying, “Return to your homes with your great wealth—with large herds of livestock, with silver, gold, bronze and iron, and a great quantity of clothing—and divide the plunder from your enemies with your fellow Israelites.”
So the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh left the Israelites at Shiloh in Canaan to return to Gilead, their own land, which they had acquired in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.
When they came to Geliloth near the Jordan in the land of Canaan, the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an imposing altar there by the Jordan. And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.
So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. With him they sent ten of the chief men, one from each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.
When they went to Gilead—to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh—they said to them: “The whole assembly of the Lord says: ‘How could you break faith with the God of Israel like this? How could you turn away from the Lord and build yourselves an altar in rebellion against him now? Was not the sin of Peor enough for us? Up to this very day we have not cleansed ourselves from that sin, even though a plague fell on the community of the Lord! And are you now turning away from the Lord?
“‘If you rebel against the Lord today, tomorrow he will be angry with the whole community of Israel. If the land you possess is defiled, come over to the Lord’s land, where the Lord’s tabernacle stands, and share the land with us. But do not rebel against the Lord or against us by building an altar for yourselves, other than the altar of the Lord our God. When Achan son of Zerah was unfaithful in regard to the devoted things, did not wrath come on the whole community of Israel? He was not the only one who died for his sin.’”
Then Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh replied to the heads of the clans of Israel: “The Mighty One, God, the Lord! The Mighty One, God, the Lord! He knows! And let Israel know! If this has been in rebellion or disobedience to the Lord, do not spare us this day. If we have built our own altar to turn away from the Lord and to offer burnt offerings and grain offerings, or to sacrifice fellowship offerings on it, may the Lord himself call us to account.
“No! We did it for fear that some day your descendants might say to ours, ‘What do you have to do with the Lord, the God of Israel? The Lord has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you—you Reubenites and Gadites! You have no share in the Lord.’ So your descendants might cause ours to stop fearing the Lord.
“That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar—but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the Lord at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the Lord.’
“And we said, ‘If they ever say this to us, or to our descendants, we will answer: Look at the replica of the Lord’s altar, which our ancestors built, not for burnt offerings and sacrifices, but as a witness between us and you.’
“Far be it from us to rebel against the Lord and turn away from him today by building an altar for burnt offerings, grain offerings and sacrifices, other than the altar of the Lord our God that stands before his tabernacle.”
When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community—the heads of the clans of the Israelites—heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the Lord is with us, because you have not been unfaithful to the Lord in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the Lord’s hand.”
Then Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, and the leaders returned to Canaan from their meeting with the Reubenites and Gadites in Gilead and reported to the Israelites. They were glad to hear the report and praised God. And they talked no more about going to war against them to devastate the country where the Reubenites and the Gadites lived.
And the Reubenites and the Gadites gave the altar this name: A Witness Between Us—that the Lord is God.

  • Joshua 22:1-34

After a long time had passed and the Lord had given Israel rest from all their enemies around them, Joshua, by then a very old man, summoned all Israel—their elders, leaders, judges and officials—and said to them: “I am very old. You yourselves have seen everything the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake; it was the Lord your God who fought for you. Remember how I have allotted as an inheritance for your tribes all the land of the nations that remain—the nations I conquered—between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea in the west. The Lord your God himself will push them out for your sake. He will drive them out before you, and you will take possession of their land, as the Lord your God promised you.
“Be very strong; be careful to obey all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, without turning aside to the right or to the left. Do not associate with these nations that remain among you; do not invoke the names of their gods or swear by them. You must not serve them or bow down to them. But you are to hold fast to the Lord your God, as you have until now.
“The Lord has driven out before you great and powerful nations; to this day no one has been able to withstand you. One of you routs a thousand, because the Lord your God fights for you, just as he promised. So be very careful to love the Lord your God.
“But if you turn away and ally yourselves with the survivors of these nations that remain among you and if you intermarry with them and associate with them, then you may be sure that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you. Instead, they will become snares and traps for you, whips on your backs and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land, which the Lord your God has given you.
“Now I am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. But just as all the good things the Lord your God has promised you have come to you, so he will bring on you all the evil things he has threatened, until the Lord your God has destroyed you from this good land he has given you. If you violate the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and you will quickly perish from the good land he has given you.”

  • Joshua 23:1-16

Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God.
Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I assigned the hill country of Seir to Esau, but Jacob and his family went down to Egypt.
“‘Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I afflicted the Egyptians by what I did there, and I brought you out. When I brought your people out of Egypt, you came to the sea, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and horsemen as far as the Red Sea. But they cried to the Lord for help, and he put darkness between you and the Egyptians; he brought the sea over them and covered them. You saw with your own eyes what I did to the Egyptians. Then you lived in the wilderness for a long time.
“‘I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived east of the Jordan. They fought against you, but I gave them into your hands. I destroyed them from before you, and you took possession of their land. When Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, prepared to fight against Israel, he sent for Balaam son of Beor to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you again and again, and I delivered you out of his hand.
“‘Then you crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The citizens of Jericho fought against you, as did also the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites and Jebusites, but I gave them into your hands. I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove them out before you—also the two Amorite kings. You did not do it with your own sword and bow. So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.’
“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”
Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”
But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”
Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”
And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.
“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.”
Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to their own inheritance.
After these things, Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died at the age of a hundred and ten. And they buried him in the land of his inheritance, at Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.
Israel served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had experienced everything the Lord had done for Israel.
And Joseph’s bones, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem in the tract of land that Jacob bought for a hundred pieces of silver from the sons of Hamor, the father of Shechem. This became the inheritance of Joseph’s descendants.
And Eleazar son of Aaron died and was buried at Gibeah, which had been allotted to his son Phinehas in the hill country of Ephraim.

  • Joshua 24:1-33

Noted Biblical Scholars, Teachers, and Preachers Comments

Joshua 22:1-8 ‘Their honorable discharge’: “’In defeat unbeatable; in victory unbearable.’ That’s the way Sir Winston Churchill described a British army officer famous in the Second World War. The first half of the description would apply to Joshua, because he knew how to win victory out of defeat. But the last half doesn’t apply at all; for as commander of the Lord’s army, Joshua was magnanimous in the way he treated his troops after the victory. An Italian proverb says, ‘It’s the blood of the soldier that makes the general great.’ But this general made his soldiers great! This is clearly seen in the way he discharged the tribes who lived on the east side of the Jordan.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 22:5 ‘cannot love the unknown’: “But it is wholly impossible to love the unknown. There must be some degree of experience before there can be any degree of love. Perhaps this accounts for the coldness toward God and Christ evidenced by the average Christian. How can we love a Being whom we have not heard nor felt nor experienced? We may work up some kind of reverence for the noble ideals the thought of God brings to our minds; we may feel a certain awe when we think of the high and holy One that inhabiteth eternity; but what we feel is hardly love. It is rather an appreciation of the sublime, a response of the heart to the mysterious and the grand. It is good and desirable, but it is not love. …
“The heart that mourns its coldness toward God needs only to repent its sins, and a new, warm and satisfying love will flood into it.
“For the act of repentance will bring a corresponding act of God in self-revelation and intimate communion. Once the seeking heart finds God in personal experience there will be no further problem about loving Him. To know Him is to love Him and to know Him better is to love Him more.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous

Joshua 22:9-10 ‘Their Honest Concern’: “As the men of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh made their way east and passed landmarks that brought back memories of the great things God had done, their hearts began to disturb them. Happy as they were to be going home, it wasn’t easy to say good-bye to their brothers and leave behind the nearness of the priesthood and the tabernacle. They were leaving the land that God had promised to bless. Yes, they were going home to the land that they had chosen for themselves, but somehow they began to feel isolated from the nation of Israel.
“When you read and ponder Numbers 32, you discover that there is no record that Moses consulted the Lord about this decision. The thing Moses was most concerned about was that the men of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh do their share in fighting the enemy and conquering the Promised Land, and this they agreed to do. Moses’ first response was that of anger mingled with fear, lest God judge the nation as He had at Kadesh Barnea. Perhaps this first reaction was the right one.
“There’s no question that Canaan was God’s appointed land for His people; anything short of Canaan wasn’t what He wanted for them. The two and a half tribes made their decision, not on the basis of spiritual values, but on the basis of material gain, for the land east of the Jordan was ideal for raising cattle. I’m reminded of the decision Lot made when he pitched his tent toward Sodom (Gen. 13:10-11). In both instances, the people walked by sight and not by faith.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 22:11-14 ‘The alarm’: “The Word traveled quickly that the tribes east of the Jordan had erected an altar. While these Transjordanic tribes had been very sincere in what they did, their action was misunderstood, and the other tribes prepared for possible war. But wisely, they waited while an official delegation investigated what was going on.  ‘He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him’ (Prov. 18:13 NKJV).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 22:15-20 ‘The appeal’: “It’s likely that Phinehas made the speech, but note that his address represented the agreement of all the tribes. Phinehas called what they had done a trespass (vv. 16, 20, 22 [transgression, KJV], 31), Which means ‘an act of treachery.’ Joshua had commended these two and a half tribes for their loyalty, and now they had proved faithless. They had turned away (vv. 16, 18, 23, Z9), which meant they were no longer following the Lord (see v. 5). This word carries the idea of ‘backsliding,’ gradually moving away from the Lord.
“The strongest word used was rebel (vv. 16, 18-19 [twice], 22, 29), which means deliberately resisting God’s will and disobeying His law. In building an unauthorized altar, these two and a half tribes were guilty of apostasy. ‘For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry’ (1 Sam. 15:23).”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 22:21-29 ‘The argument’: “The accused tribes invoked the name of the Lord six times as they replied to the charges, and in so doing, they used the three fundamental names for the Lord: ‘El [the Mighty One], Elohim [God], Jehovah [the Lord].’ It was a solemn oath that their intentions were pure and that the Lord knew their hearts.
“Of course, the fact that the Lord knows our hearts, and that we’ve taken an oath, is no guarantee that our actions are right, because we don’t know our own hearts (Jer. 17:9). All sorts of questionable activities can be shielded by, ‘But the Lord knows my heart!’ Paul gives us the right approach in 2 Corinthians 8:21: ‘For we are taking pains to do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (NIV). When a whole nation misinterprets what is supposed to be a good deed, and it brings them to the brink of war, then there must be something wrong with that deed.
“The accused tribes made it clear that they weren’t setting up a rival religion, because the altar they built wasn’t for sacrifices. Rather, they were putting up a witness that would remind the tribes west of the Jordan that Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were part of the Jewish nation.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 22:30-34 ‘Their Happy Agreement’: “Phinehas was pleased, the delegation was pleased, and the children of Israel across the Jordan were pleased; but was the Lord pleased? The delegation rejoiced that the purpose of the altar was for witness and not sacrifice, and this seemed to settle the matter. They rejoiced that God wouldn’t send judgment to the land (v. 31) and that there would be no civil war in Israel (v. 33). But the nation was divided, in spite of the ‘altar of witness.’ Like Abraham and Lot (Gen. 15), part of the nation had a spiritual outlook while the other part was concerned with material things.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 23:3-4 ‘What the Lord did for Israel’: “From the day that Israel left Egypt, the Lord had fought for His people and delivered them from their enemies. He drowned the Egyptian army in the sea and then defeated the Amalekites, who attacked the Jews soon after they left Egypt (Ex. 17). The Lord defeated all of Israel’s enemies as the nation marched toward Canaan, and He gave His people victory over the nations in the Promised Land.
“This review of history reminded Israel of two great facts: Those Gentile nations were God’s enemies and therefore must be Israel’s enemies, and the same God who overcame the enemy in the past could help Israel overcome them in the future. God had never failed His people, and, if they would trust Him and obey His Word, He would help them completely conquer the land. “For the LORD your God is He who has fought for you” (Josh. 23:5 NKJV).
“This is a good reminder to God’s people today. As we read the Bible and see what God did in the past for those who trusted Him, it encourages us to trust Him today and face all our enemies with courage and confidence. The Presbyterian missionary leader A. T. Pierson used to say that ‘history is His story,’ and this is true. Prom age to age, God may change His methods; but His character never changes, and He can be trusted.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 23:5-10 ‘What the Lord said to Israel’: “The secret of Joshua’s success, and therefore the reason for Israel’s victories, was his devotion to the Word of God (vv. 6, 14; see 1:7—9, 13-18; 8:30-35; 11:12, 15; 24:26-27). He obeyed God’s commandments and believed God’s promises, and God worked on his behalf. But even more, his devotion to the Word of God enabled Joshua to get to know God better, to love Him, and to want to please Him. It isn’t enough to know the Word of God. We must also know the God of the Word and grow in our fellowship with Him.
“God kept all His promises, and He had every right to expect Israel to keep all His commandments as well. Some of God’s promises are unconditional, but some of them are conditional and depend on our obedience for their fulfillment. Israel entered and conquered the land as the fulfillment of God’s promise, but their enjoyment of the land depended on their obedience to the law of the Lord. God would enable them to claim all their inheritance if they would obey Him with all their hearts.
“The most important thing was that Israel remain a separated people and not be infected by the wickedness of the Gentile nations around them (23:7-8; see Ex. 34:10-17; Deut. 7:2-4). …”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 23:11-16 ‘What the Lord would do to Israel’: “The Word of God is like a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12): If we obey it, God will bless and help us; if we disobey it, God will chasten us until we submit to Him. If we love the Lord (Josh. 23:11), we’ll want to obey Him and please Him, so the essential thing is that we cultivate a satisfying relationship with God.
“Joshua reminded the people that God’s Word never fails, whether it’s the word of promise for blessing or the word of promise for chastening. Both are evidences of His love, for ‘whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth’ (Prov. 5:11-12; Heb. 12:6). Charles Spurgeon said, ‘God will not allow His children to sin successfully.’ ”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 23 ‘Reflections’: “Someone wrote to the godly Macarius of Optino that his spiritual counsel had been helpful.  ‘This cannot be,; Macarius wrote in reply. ‘Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God, His advice that I happened to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.’
“There is an excellent lesson here that we must not allow to go unregarded. It is the sweet humility of the man of God. ‘Only the mistakes are mine.’ He was fully convinced that his own efforts could result only in mistakes, and that any good that came of his advice must be the work of the Holy Spirit operating within him. Apparently this was more than a sudden impulse of self-depreciation, which the proudest of men may at times feel—it was rather a settled conviction with him, a conviction that gave direction to his entire life. His long and humble ministry, which brought spiritual aid to multitudes, reveals this clearly enough.
“In this day when shimmering ‘personalities’ carry on the Lord’s work after the methods of the entertainment world, it is refreshing to associate for even a moment in the pages of a book with a sincere and humble man who keeps his own personality out of sight and places the emphasis on the inworking of God. It is our belief that the evangelical movement will continue to drift further and further from the New Testament position until its leadership passes from the modern religious star to the self-effacing saint, who asks for no praise and seeks no place, happy only when the glory is attributed to God, and he is forgotten.”

  • A. W. Tozer, This World: Playground or Battleground?

Joshua 24:1-13 ‘Israel’s Past Blessings’: “In the April 15, 1978, issue of Saturday Review, the late author and editor Norman Cousins called history ‘a vast early warning system,’ and philosopher George Santayana said, ‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’ A knowledge of their roots is very important to the Jews because they are God’s chosen people with a destiny to fulfill in this world.
“Shechem was the ideal location for this moving farewell address by Israel’s great leader. It was at Shechem that God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land (Gen. 12:6-7), and there Jacob built an altar (33:20). Shechem was located between Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim, where the people of Israel had reaffirmed their commitment to the Lord (Josh. 8:30-35). Shechem was indeed ‘holy ground’ to the Israelites.
“If nation and land were the key words in Joshua’s first address, then the Lord is the major focus in this second address, for Joshua refers to the Lord twenty—one times. In fact, in 24:2-13, it is the Lord who speaks as Joshua reviews the history of the nation. Another key word is
serve, used fifteen times in this address. Jehovah gave them their land and would bless them in their land if they loved Him and served Him.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 24:4 ‘a challenge of their allegiance’: “This passage, though audibly uttered by the mouth of Joshua, is to be regarded as the immediate voice of God. Joshua said to all the people, ‘This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says.’ Jehovah reminded the tribes, their elders and judges, of all that he had done and of all that he had been to them—and from this he challenged their allegiance, requiring that they should henceforth be loyal to their great Benefactor. The passage now before us, though it reads like a piece of ordinary history such as might have been composed by a common scribe, has about it a vastness of meaning such as can only be found in the language of the infinite God. When God inspires David, or Isaiah, or Paul, he teaches us most graciously, but when he condescends to speak himself, how will we sufficiently reverence the words? We have here not so much a letter dictated by God as the actual autograph of the great Father This text is written with the finger of God. A glory blazes along the lines; the letters are all illuminated. The words glow like the sapphire work of heaven’s pavement. It is not merely that Esau and Jacob were born of Isaac and Rebekah, but the Lord says, ‘To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.’ How plainly does this declare that the hand of God is in human history. At first sight history seems a great tangle, a snarl, a confusion; but on looking at it more closely, we perceive that it is only in appearance a maze—but in fact a marvelous piece of arrangement, exhibiting perfect precision and never-failing accuracy. Our worldly reason sees the wrong side of the carpet, and it appears to be without design or order; but there is another side to history, and looked at from that standpoint it reveals a wonderful pattern of beauty displaying unparalleled wisdom and goodness.”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Joshua 24:14-33 ‘Israel’s Present Responsibilities’: “One of the key words in this section is serve, used fifteen times. To serve God means to fear Him, obey Him, and worship only Him. It means to love Him and fix your heart upon Him, obeying Him because you want to and not because you have to.”

  • Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Strong

Joshua 24:15 ‘other gods’: “Joshua knew that the people who surrounded him, while ostensibly serving Jehovah, were, many of them, secretly worshiping the ancient idols of their Mesopotamian fathers-those household images which were once hidden in Rachel’s tent and were never purged from Jacob’s family. Some of them also harbored the Egyptian emblems, and some had even fallen into the worship of the gods of the people they had displaced and were setting up the images of Baal in their homes. Never in their best days had the children of Israel been divorced from idols, for, as Stephen said of them, even in the wilderness they ‘took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship’ (Ac 7:43). Now Joshua could not endure double-mindedness, and therefore he pushed the people to decision, urging them to serve the Lord with sincerity and to put away all their graven images. He demanded from them a determination for one thing or the other. He shut them up to a present choice between the true God and the idols, and gave them no rest in their halfheartedness. Anticipating the cry of Elijah on Carmel, he demanded, in effect, “How long will you waiver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him. But if Baal, follow him.’ Joshua, like his friend Caleb, ‘remained loyal to the Lord’ (Dt 1:36). He might have taken for his motto the word ‘thorough’; he belonged to Jehovah, heart and soul and mind and strength. As the successor of Moses and the type of the Lord Jesus, he put on zeal as a cloak and girded himself with fidelity as a garment; his appointed duty was fulfilled with martial strictness and unswerving steadiness; he had a single eye and a firm hand; he was strong and of good courage, and the Lord was with him. It was no idle boast when the old warrior and prince in Israel said, ‘As for me and my family, we will worship the Lord.’ ”

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, from sermon notes

Joshua 24:15 ‘One critical decision’: “[God’s] invitation is clear and nonnegotiable. He gives all and we give him all. Simple and absolute. He is clear in what he asks and clear in what he offers. The choice is up to us. Isn’t it incredible that God leaves the choice to us? Think about it. There are many things in life we can’t choose. We can’t, for example, choose the weather. We can’t control the economy.
“We can’t choose whether or not we are born with a big nose or blue eyes or a lot of hair. We can’t even choose how people respond to us.
“But we can choose where we spend eternity. The big choice, God leaves to us. The critical decision is ours.
“That is the only decision which really matters.”

  • Max Lucado, And the Angels were Silent

Joshua 24:15 ‘our freedom’: “God’s sovereignty means absolute freedom, doesn’t it? God is absolutely free to do anything He wants or wills to do—anywhere, anytime, forever. And man’s free will means that man can make any choice he wants to make, even if he makes a choice against the will of God. There is where the theologians lock horns like two deer out in the woods and wallow around until they die. I refuse to get caught on either horn of that dilemma! Here is what I see: God Almighty is sovereign, free to do as He pleases. Among the things He is pleased to do is give me freedom to do what I please. And when I do what I please, I am fulfilling the will of God, not controverting it, for God in His sovereignty has sovereignly given me freedom to make a free choice.
“Even if the choice I make is not the one God would have made for me, His sovereignty is fulfilled in my making the choice. And I can make the choice because the great sovereign God, who is completely free, said to me, ‘In my sovereign freedom I bestow a little bit of freedom on you. Now “choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15). Be good or be bad at your own pleasure. Follow Me or don’t follow Me, come on or go back. Go to heaven or go to hell.’
“The sovereign God has put the decision in your lap and said, ‘This is yours; you must make that choice.’ And when I make a choice, I’m fulfilling His sovereignty, in that He sovereignly wills that I should be free to make a choice. If I choose to go to hell, it’s not what His love would have chosen, but it does not controvert nor cancel out His sovereignty. Therefore I can take John Calvin in one hand and Jacob Arminius in the other and walk down the street. (Neither of them would walk with me, I’m sure, because Calvin would say l was too Arminian and Arminius would say I was too Calvinistic!)
“But I’m happy in the middle. I believe in the sovereignty of God and in the freedom of man. I believe that God is free to do as He pleases and I believe that, in a limited sense, He has made man free to do as he pleases-within a certain framework, but not a very big one. After all, you‘re not free to do very many things. You’re free to make moral choices. You’re free to decide the color of your necktie, what foods you’ll have and whom you‘ll marry—if she agrees, of course. You’re free to do a few things, but not that many. But the things you are free to do are gifts from the God who is utterly free. Therefore, anytime I make a choice, I’m fulfilling the freedom God gave me and therefore I’m fulfilling God’s sovereignty and carrying it out.”

  • A. W. Tozer, The Attributes of God II

Joshua 24:26 ‘Book of the Law’: “Joshua expands the five books of Moses, as the canon of revealed Scripture develops. by the sanctuary. God’s tabernacle, including the ark of the covenant, was at Shiloh (21:2). The stone of witness by the holy place (sanctuary) was at Shechem (24:1). This holy place is not a formal tent or building, but a sacred place by a tree (cf. Gen. 12:6; 35:4), just as other places had significance in the past for worship of God (Gen. 21:33).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

Joshua 24:32 ‘The bones of Joseph’: “These remains had been carried by the Israelites in the Exodus (Ex. 13:19) as Joseph had made them promise (Gen. 50:25). He wanted his bones to lie in the land of covenant pledge. So now his people laid them to rest at Shechem, in the land God had promised to Abraham (Gen. 12:7).”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary (quoted Scripture without bold/italics)

My Thoughts

Rev. Wiersbe covered most of the details.  Joshua 22 talks of the charge to the Transjordan tribes, and it seems in building an altar, they immediately break that trust.  They are charged with rebelling against God, and the other tribes are willing to destroy them to prevent a curse upon themselves, as being cousins of the rebels.  But the altar was built as a reminder for both sides, not for sacrifices.  The Transjordan people are still part of Israel and Israel needs to remember that, as much as the Transjordan people need to remember it.

I have always been uneasy with this passage.  They go after the prime cattle land rather than enjoying the Promised Land.  They are thinking with their minds rather than their hearts.  Establishing a barrier, such as the Jordan River will make it difficult to be an active part with the rest of the Israelites.  I should know since my wife and I have lived far away from either side of the family.  One scholar talks of how it is not recorded if Moses went to the Lord for guidance when he agreed that they could do this, more worried that they are part of the army.  As things develop with this misunderstanding that could have led to Civil War, it does not seem clear whether the Israelites went before God either.

If you look at the maps from the portions given for the tribes through the time of Solomon, the Transjordan territory remains intact, even expanded a little.  You may not feel that to be the case in that there is so much talk in subsequent history books, such as 1 and 2 Samuel) about the Ammonites to the east of the Transjordan tribes.

Then in Joshua 23 and the first portion of Joshua 24, Joshua gives two speeches.  He dismisses the troops, but he charges the Israelites to stay true to God.  Spurgeon speaks of the idols stolen by Rachel and then idols that may have been taken as spoils of war (not those stolen by Achan as those were destroyed) and Egyptian idols.  In Joshua 24, Joshua charges them to destroy those old idols, naming the specific regions, but all that the Scripture records is the people yelling that they will serve the Lord.  Talk is cheap, especially if you have an idol hidden under your saddle.

In Joshua’s charge, he condemns even to think of false gods or mention their names, I wonder about the people of today who think that astrology, tarot cards, and such are innocent pastimes.  Joshua would not have thought so.  Allow a small transgression that seems innocent and then larger ones do not seem that bad, until you totally ignore God’s commands.

And one last thing about Joshua.  He was one hundred and ten when he passed away.  The army is a young man’s game, but often generals stick around for a long time.  Yet, Joshua had been the military leader since the first battle, when they had just crossed the Red Sea, at about 30 years of age.  He fought that battle before he was selected to be one of the initial spies to enter the Promised Land, and one of only two, along with Caleb, who came back with a positive report – that the land could be taken.

Generals (Admirals) in the US military require an act of Congress to retire.  This is a common figure of speech, but generals literally require that to happen.  My uncle was offered a star (Brigadier General) in the Air Force, and he chose to retire instead.  He did not wish to have his future dictated by a group of politicians.  Sometimes, more pay, more benefits, and more power are not worth the sacrifice.  As for the pay, he went to work for a defense contractor, making about what he would have made as a general, while collecting a handsome sum in military retirement.  And he got to make his own decisions about his career.

As for Joshua, his retirement was short.  He had served God well, and He went home to be with his ancestors.

Some Serendipitous Reflections

Joshua 22: 1. ls there someone near and dear to you, from whom you will soon be parted? What kind of things do you need to say to that person by way of encouragement or challenge?
“2. What lesson do you need to learn from this story: (a) Don’t build new altars until you check them out with others? (b) Find out the facts before you judge anyone? (c) Believe the best, not the worst, about people? (d) Speak directly to people you have a disagreement with?
“3. If someone were to say to you, ‘You have no share in the Lord,’ how would you react? What principles of conflict resolution, gleaned from this story, would you use to defend yourself?
“4. What in your group life is like a ‘Witness Between Us that the Lord ls God’?
Joshua 23: 1. What one piece of advice do you typically give (or receive) on farewell occasions, such as graduation days, going-away parties and the like?
“2. Looking back over your life, what has been the result when you obeyed God? When you disobeyed?
“3. ls there someone or someplace you must stay away from for your own good? What is that taboo? (Or can’t you even mention it?)
Joshua 24: 1. Looking back over your life so far, can you see any special time in it when God made a difference? How?
“2. Are there other gods that you have been tempted to serve? What are they? How are you able to resist that temptation?
“3. What symbols of commitment does your church use to help people count the cost of following the Lord Jesus?
“4. Frankly speaking, are you really serious about serving the Lord? If so, how do you show it? By what symbols of commitment is that evident to others?
“1. Where would you like to be buried? Why?
“2. What one thing do you want people to remember about you when you die?
“3. As your group study comes to an end, give each person a proper ‘send off’: What ‘inheritance’ from your group study will each of you come away with?”

  • Lyman Coleman, et al, The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups

There is one set of questions for Joshua 22 and Joshua 23, with two sets of questions for Joshua 24.

Substitute whatever group for any reference to a small group or ask who could come to your aid.

As for the last question, this is just the end of Joshua.  Next week, we will start Judges.

If you like these Thursday morning Bible studies, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Thursday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.


Add yours →

  1. Praying this morning for your wife’s health. I pray June 3rd would not be an issue with more health challenges

    Liked by 1 person

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