A Farewell Charge
The final three chapters all deal with farewells of sorts: (1) Joshua bade farewell to the Transjordan tribes, dismissing them to their inheritances east of the Jordan (chap. 22); (2) he bade farewell to the entire nation in a speech urging them to follow the Lord (chap. 23); and (3) he again bade farewell to the nation and led them in a covenant renewal ceremony, at a different place and with different emphases (chap. 24).
Joshua’s First “Last Address”
He was 110 years old when he died (24:29), and, if he was anywhere near Caleb’s age of eighty-five when the land was distributed (see 14:10), then his farewell speeches would have come about twenty-five years after the main events in the book.
Reminder of God’s Work
God’s ownership of the land is emphasized in this speech. Ultimately, the land belonged to God, not Israel. These warnings saw their most dramatic fulfillment when Judah was carried into Babylonian captivity because of its repeated transgression of the covenant (2 Kings 25). But they also were relevant almost immediately, during the period of the judges, when Israel began to do precisely what was warned against here (see esp. Judg 2:16–23, 3:1–6).
Reassurance of God’s Power
Responsibility for Obedience
Keep the Law
Warning against idolatry
Thus, while Joshua’s speech was warm-hearted and hortatory in tone, it nevertheless contained ample warnings and signs of the troubles that were to come, troubles that would be caused by Israel’s associations with the nations that remained among them (Josh 23:4, 7, 12–13).
Stay Close to God
For example, Hezekiah, a good king par excellence in Judah, is commended in terms of his trusting and “holding fast” (dbq) to God (2 Kgs 18:5–6).
These words about the Israelites’ prowess echo the words in Moses’ song in Deut 32:30:
How could one man chase a thousand,
or two put ten thousand to flight,
unless their Rock had sold them,
unless the LORD had given them up?
Love Your God
6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses
Joshua’s Final “Final Address”
The most significant difference between chaps. 23 and 24 is that the latter contains a covenant renewal ceremony, in which the people actually committed themselves to serving the Lord.
Joshua summed up most of the important motifs introduced throughout the book, passionately urging Israel to be steadfast in loving God, in obeying his law, and in keeping themselves uncontaminated by the religious practices of their neighbors.
The Goodness of God
The review of God’s gracious actions on Israel’s behalf goes back to Terah, Abraham’s father, and continues up to the taking of the land. It begins with a reminder that Israel’s ancestors had served other gods (v. 2), and it is followed by an exhortation not to serve these or any gods (vv. 14–15). It ends with yet another reminder that the land was God’s gift to Israel (vv. 12–13; cf. Deut 6:10–11).
That this was God’s work is emphasized in the final statements of the historical review portion of Joshua’s address. Essentially everything they now possessed had been given to them by God. They had not worked the land, built the cities, or planted the vineyards and olive groves that they now were enjoying.
The Example of Joshua
In his famous words at the end of the verse, Joshua took his stand clearly and unambiguously on the Lord’s side. Joshua stands as a good example of a leader willing to move ahead of his people and commit himself, regardless of the people’s inclinations. His bold example undoubtedly encouraged many to follow what he pledged to do, in their affirmations of vv. 16–18.
Normally, God was the one who did the choosing, having chosen Israel from among the nations to be his people (see, e.g., Deut 4:37; 7:6–7; 10:15; 14:2). But now, Israel was being asked to choose its loyalties, something the pagan nations did not have to do because they could embrace all the gods. The Israelites were being asked to do what Rahab had done, namely, to embrace this one God and, by doing so, to reject all others
The Warning by Joshua
God is a Holy God
The key to understanding these statements comes in two other statements that Joshua made, which affirmed two of God’s defining characteristics: he is a holy God and also a jealous God (v. 19). Both of these characteristics are part of God’s very nature and set him apart from all other gods and from his people. In Lev 19:2 the Israelites are urged to be holy because of God’s own holy nature: “Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”
God is a Jealous God
God’s jealous nature also set him apart from other gods. They were jealous among themselves, displaying endless petty rivalries. However, God’s jealousy played itself out with the consequences being visited on his own people when they were unfaithful. This was (and is) part of God’s very nature: he would not brook any competition for his people’s loyalties
The Renewal by the People
Three Funeral Services
It is right for God’s people to remember godly leaders and to imitate their faith (Heb. 13:7–8).
Joshua’s full name is given for a final time, and now, for the first time, he is called “the servant of the LORD.” The book carefully avoids calling him by this label until now—as opposed to Moses, who is called this fourteen times in the book (and only four more times in the entire Old Testament). Yet by now, Joshua had clearly “grown into the job” that Moses had vacated. God had exalted him
Joseph’s brothers had promised to bury his remains in Canaan (Gen. 50:25), so the Jews had carried his coffin out of Egypt (Ex. 13:19). This is a picture of our future resurrection, for just as Joseph’s body was redeemed from Egypt, so our bodies will be one day not only at rest in their rightful home, but also transformed to be like the body of Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20–21)
The Book of Joshua ends with a series of reflections on what has transpired up to this point. More than most Old Testament books, it ends on a settled, peaceful, and harmonious note. Almost every loose end has been tied up, and things have come to a satisfactory conclusion.