Joshua 24:1
And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
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(1, 2) Joshua gathered all the tribes . . .—At the former address the rulers alone appear to have been present; on this occasion all Israel was gathered. And what is spoken is addressed to the people in the hearing of the rulers. In the speech that now follows Joshua briefly recapitulates the national history; he had not thought this necessary for the rulers. To them he had said, “Ye know;” but “the people” embraced many persons of but little thought and education, whom it was necessary to inform and remind and instruct, even as to the leading events of their national history. The simple lesson which Joshua’s words are intended to enforce is the duty of serving Jehovah, and serving Him alone. It is the first great lesson of the old covenant. “I am Jehovah, thy God; thou shalt have no other gods beside Me.” The ark of this covenant had brought them over Jordan into the promised land.

(2) Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood.—The flood, i.e., the river—probably Euphrates, though it may be Jordan, or both. Flood in our English Bible has been used for river in several places: e.g., Job 22:16, “whose foundation was overflown with a flood,” i.e., a river; Psalm 66:6, “He turned the sea into dry land: they went through the flood (the river, i.e., Jordan) on foot;” Matthew 7:25; Matthew 7:27, “The rain descended, and the floods (i.e., the rivers) came.”

They served other gods.—They, i.e., Terah, Abraham, and Nachor.

Joshua 24:1. Joshua gathered — It is likely that Joshua, living longer than he expected when he delivered the foregoing discourse to the Israelites, called the people together once more, that he might give them still further advice before he died; as Moses addressed them in several pathetic speeches before his departure from them. Or perhaps it was Joshua’s custom to assemble them frequently, in order that he might remind them of their duty, and enforce it upon them. All the tribes of Israel — Namely, their representatives, or, as it follows, their elders, their heads, their judges, and officers. To Shechem — To the city of Shechem, a place convenient for the purpose, not only because it was a Levitical city, and a city of refuge, and a place near Joshua’s city, but especially for the two main ends for which he summoned them thither. 1st, For the solemn burial of the bones of Joseph, and probably of some others of the patriarchs, for which this place was designed. 2d, For the solemn renewing of their covenant with God; which in this place was first made between God and Abraham, (Genesis 12:6-7,) and afterward renewed by the Israelites at their first entrance into the land of Canaan, between the two mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, (chap. Joshua 8:30, &c.,) which were very near Shechem: and therefore this place was most proper, both to remind them of their former obligations to God, and to engage them to a further ratification of them. Before God — As in God’s presence, to hear what Joshua was to speak to them in God’s name, and to receive God’s commands from his mouth. He had taken a solemn farewell before: but as God renewed his strength, he desired to improve it for their good. We must never think our work for God done till our life be done.

24:1-14 We must never think our work for God done, till our life is done. If he lengthen out our days beyond what we expected, like those of Joshua, it is because he has some further service for us to do. He who aims at the same mind which was in Christ Jesus, will glory in bearing the last testimony to his Saviour's goodness, and in telling to all around, the obligations with which the unmerited goodness of God has bound him. The assembly came together in a solemn religious manner. Joshua spake to them in God's name, and as from him. His sermon consists of doctrine and application. The doctrinal part is a history of the great things God had done for his people, and for their fathers before them. The application of this history of God's mercies to them, is an exhortation to fear and serve God, in gratitude for his favour, and that it might be continued.Shechem, situated between those mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, which had already been the scene of a solemn rehearsal of the covenant soon after the first entry of the people into the promised land Joshua 8:30-35, was a fitting scene for the solemn renewal on the part of the people of that covenant with God which had been on His part so signally and so fully kept. The spot itself suggested the allusions to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, etc., in Joshua's address; and its associations could not but give special force and moving effect to his appeals. This address was not made to the rulers only but to the whole nation, not of course to the tribes assembled in mass, but to their representatives. CHAPTER 24

Jos 24:1. Joshua Assembling the Tribes.

1. Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem—Another and final opportunity of dissuading the people against idolatry is here described as taken by the aged leader, whose solicitude on this account arose from his knowledge of the extreme readiness of the people to conform to the manners of the surrounding nations. This address was made to the representatives of the people convened at Shechem, and which had already been the scene of a solemn renewal of the covenant (Jos 8:30, 35). The transaction now to be entered upon being in principle and object the same, it was desirable to give it all the solemn impressiveness which might be derived from the memory of the former ceremonial, as well as from other sacred associations of the place (Ge 12:6, 7; 33:18-20; 35:2-4).

they presented themselves before God—It is generally assumed that the ark of the covenant had been transferred on this occasion to Shechem; as on extraordinary emergencies it was for a time removed (Jud 20:1-18; 1Sa 4:3; 2Sa 15:24). But the statement, not necessarily implying this, may be viewed as expressing only the religious character of the ceremony [Hengstenberg].Joshua assemble all the tribes at Shechem, Joshua 24:1. A brief history of God’s benefits from Terah: he exhorts them faithfully to serve the true God, Joshua 24:2-13. Reneweth a covenant between them and God; promising for himself and his house; the people four several times promising for themselves, Joshua 24:11-25. He writes this in the book of the law, and sets up a stone for a witness, Joshua 24:26-28. His age, death, and burial, Joshua 24:29-31. The burying of Joseph’s bones, Joshua 24:32. The death and burial of Eleazar, Joshua 24:33.

Gathered all the tribes of Israel, to wit, by their representatives, as Joshua 23:2. To Shechem; either,

1. To Shiloh, where the ark and tabernacle was; because they are here said to

present themselves before God; and because the stone set up here is said to be set up in or by the sanctuary of the Lord; of both which I shall speak in their proper places. And they say Shiloh is here called Shechem, because it was in the territory of Shechem; but that may be doubted, seeing Shiloh was ten miles distant from Shechem, as St. Jerom affirms. And had he meant Shiloh, why should he not express it in its own and proper name, by which it is called in all other places, rather than by another name no where else given to it? Or rather,

2. To the city of Shechem, a place convenient for the present purpose, not only because it was a Levitical city, and a city of refuge, and a place near to Joshua’s city, but especially for the two main ends for which he summoned them thither.

1. For the solemn burial of the bones of Joseph, as is implied here, Joshua 24:32, and of the rest of the patriarchs, as is noted Acts 7:15, Acts 7:16, for which this place was designed.

2. For the solemn renewing of their covenant with God; which in this place was first made between God and Abraham, Genesis 12:6,7, and afterwards was there renewed by the Israelites at their first entrance into the land of Canaan, between the two mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, Joshua 8:30, &c., which were very near Shechem, as appears from Judges 9:6,7; and therefore this place was most proper, both to remind them of their former obligations to God, and to engage them to a further ratification of them.

Before God; either,

1. Before the ark or tabernacle, as that phrase is commonly used; which might be either in Shiloh, where they were fixed; or in Shechem, whither the ark was brought upon this great occasion, as it was sometimes removed upon such occasions, as 1 Samuel 4:3 2 Samuel 15:24. Or,

2. In that public, and venerable, and sacred assembly met together for religious exercises; for in such God is present, Exodus 20:24 Psalm 82:1 Matthew 18:20. Or,

3. As in God’s presence, to hear what Joshua was to speak to them in God’s name, and to receive God’s commands from his mouth. Thus Isaac is said to bless Jacob before the Lord, i.e. in his name and presence, Genesis 27:7; and Jephthah is said to utter all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh, i.e. as in God’s presence, calling him in to be witness of them.

And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem,.... The nine tribes and a half; not all the individuals of them, but the chief among them, their representatives, as afterwards explained, whom he gathered together a second time, being willing, as long as he was among them, to improve his time for their spiritual as well as civil good; to impress their minds with a sense of religion, and to strengthen, enlarge, and enforce the exhortations he had given them to serve the Lord; and Abarbinel thinks he gathered them together again because before they returned him no answer, and therefore he determined now to put such questions to them as would oblige them to give one, as they did, and which issued in making a covenant with them; the place where they assembled was Shechem, which some take to be Shiloh, because of what is said Joshua 24:25; that being as they say in the fields of Shechem; which is not likely, since Shiloh, as Jerom says (u), was ten miles from Neapolis or Shechem. This place was chosen because nearest to Joshua, who was now old and infirm, and unfit to travel; and the rather because it was the place where the Lord first appeared to Abraham, when he brought him into the land of Canaan, and where he made a promise of giving the land to his seed, and where Abraham built an altar to him, Genesis 12:6; where also Jacob pitched his tent when he came from Padanaram, bought a parcel of a field, and erected an altar to the Lord, Genesis 33:18; and where Joshua also repeated the law to, and renewed the covenant with the children of Israel, quickly after their coming into the land of Canaan, for Ebal and Gerizim were near to Shechem, Joshua 8:30;

and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers: See Gill on Joshua 23:2;

and they presented themselves before God; Kimchi and Abarbinel are of opinion that the ark was fetched from the tabernacle at Shiloh, and brought hither on this occasion, which was the symbol of the divine Presence; and therefore the place becoming sacred thereby is called the sanctuary of the Lord, and certain it is that here was the book of the law of Moses, Joshua 24:26; which was put on the side of the ark, Deuteronomy 31:26.

(u) De loc. Heb. fol. 94. I.

And Joshua gathered all the {a} tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before {b} God.

(a) That is, the nine tribes and the half.

(b) Before the ark which was brought to Shechem, when they went to bury Joseph's bones.

Ch. Joshua 24:1-15. The Second Parting Address

1. And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel] that they might listen to his last charge, and be bound by his parting words to an everlasting covenant of faithfulness to the God who had done such great things for them. The former charge had been made to the rulers only and the chiefs, this was addressed to the whole nation. Not that the whole nation was present, but that all the tribes sent representatives to the great and solemn gathering.

to Shechem] The LXX. here has Shiloh, but all other versions and the MSS. read Shechem. No spot could have been more appropriate:—

(a) Here Abraham, “the solitary, childless patriarch, who had listened to the voice that spake at Ur of the Chaldees,” received the first recorded promise of the goodly land (Genesis 12:6-7), and here he built his first altar to the Lord;

(b) Here Jacob had settled after his long sojourn in Mesopotamia, and purified his household from the remains of idolatry by burying their Teraphim under an oak (Genesis 33:18-20; Genesis 35:2; Genesis 35:4);

(c) Here the bones of Joseph were laid (Joshua 24:32; Acts 7:16);

(d) Here, from the heights of Ebal and Gerizim, die blessings and curses of the Law had been solemnly enunciated, and the nation had already bound itself by a covenant to Jehovah (Joshua 8:30-35).

and they presented themselves before God] We saw in Joshua 8:31 that the Hebrew Leader raised an altar on Mount Ebal “of whole stones,” where sacrifices were offered before the building of the Tabernacle. Shechem was thus truly a “sanctuary of the Lord” (Joshua 24:26), and those now assembled there were gathered “before God;” comp. Job 1:6; Job 2:1, or, as it is in the Hebrew, with the article, “the God,” the only true and living Elohim. “How grand a gathering it was! There stood the victor in a hundred battles, now ‘old and stricken in age;’ for it was already ‘a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies.’ Before him was gathered all Israel, ‘their elders, their heads, their judges, and their officers,’ and he opened that mouth from which such words of might, and trust, and prayer had issued in the days of their troubles, and he spake to them what all felt to be his last counsels and commandments.” Bishop Wilberforce’s Heroes of Hebrew History, p. 132.

Verse 1. - To Shechem. The LXX. and the Arabic version read Shiloh here, and as the words "they presented themselves (literally, took up their station) before God" follow, this would seem the natural reading. But there is not the slightest MSS. authority for the reading, and it is contrary to all sound principles of criticism to resort to arbitrary emendations of the text. Besides, the LXX. itself reads Συχέμ, in ver. 26, and adds, "before the tabernacle of the God of Israel," words implied, but not expressed in the Hebrew. We are therefore driven to the supposition that this gathering was one yet more solemn than the one described in the previous chapter. The tabernacle was no doubt removed on this great occasion to Shechem. The locality, as Poole reminds us, was well calculated to inspire the Israelites with the deepest feelings. It was the scene of God's first covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:6, 7), and of the formal renewal of the covenant related in Genesis 35:2-4 (see note on vers. 23, 26), and in Joshua 8:30-35, when the blessings and the curses were inscribed on Mount Gerizim and Ebal, and the place where Joseph's bones (ver. 32) were laid, possibly at this time, or if not, at the time when the blessings and curses were inscribed. And now, once again, a formal renewal of the covenant was demanded from Israel by their aged chieftain, before his voice should cease to be heard among them any more. Rosenmuller reminds us that Josephus, the Chaldee and Syriac translators, and the Aldine and Complutensian editions of the LXX. itself, have Sichem. Bishop Horsley makes the very reasonable suggestion that Shiloh was not as yet the name of a town, but possibly of the tabernacle itself, or the district in which it had been pitched. And he adds that Mizpeh and Sheehem, not Shiloh, appear to have been the places fixed upon for the gathering of the tribes (see Judges 10:17; Judges 11:11; Judges 20:1 (cf. ver. 27); 1 Samuel 7:5). See, however, Judges 21:12, as well as Joshua 21:2; Joshua 22:12. Some additional probability is given to this view by the fact noticed above, that it is thought necessary to describe the situation of Shiloh in Judges 21:19, and we may also fail to notice that the words translated "house of God" in Judges 20:18, 26 in our version, is in reality Bethel, there being no "house of God" properly so called, but only the "tabernacle of the congregation." The tabernacle in that ease would be moved from place to place within the central district assigned to it, as necessity or convenience dictated. Hengstenberg objects to the idea that the tabernacle was moved to Shechem that it would have led to an idea that God was only present in His Holy Place, to which it is sufficient to reply,

(1) that this does not necessarily follow, and

(2) that such a conception was entertained, though erroneously, by some minds.

The Samaritan woman, for instance, supposed the Jews to believe that in Jerusalem only ought men to worship (John 4:20). When Hengstenberg says, however, that the meeting in the last chapter had reference to Israel from a theocratic and religious, and this one from an historical point of view, he is on firmer ground. The former exhortation is ethical, this historical. He goes on to refer to the deeply interesting historical traditions centering round this place, which have been noticed above. The oak in ver. 26, Hengstenberg maintains to be the same tree that is mentioned in Genesis 12:6 (where our version has, erroneously, "plain"), and which is referred to both in Genesis 35:4 and here as the (i.e, the well known) terebinth in Shechem (see note on ver. 26). He has overlooked the fact that the tree in Genesis 12:6 is not an אֵלָה but an אֵלון. He goes on to contend that the terebinth was not merely "by" but "in" the sanctuary of the Lord, which he supposes to be another sanctuary beside the tabernacle, perhaps the sacred enclosure round Abraham's altar. But he is wrong, as has been shown below, (ver. 26), when he says that בְּ never signifies near (see Joshua 5:25). The question is one of much difficulty, and cannot be satisfactorily settled. But we may dismiss without fear, in the light of the narative in ch. 22, Knobel's suggestion that an altar was erected here on this occasion. If there were any altar, it must have been the altar in the tabernacle. Other gods. That the family of Nahor were not exactly worshippers of the one true God in the same pure ritual as Abraham, may be gathered from the fact that Laban had teraphim (Genesis 31:19, 30). But recent researches have thrown some light on the condition of Abraham's family and ancestors. If Ur Casdim be identified, as recent discoverers have supposed, with Mugeyer, which, though west of Euphrates as a whole, is yet to the eastward of one of its subordinate channels (see 'Transactions of the Society of Biblical Arebaeology,' 3:229; Tomkins, 'Studies on the Time of Abraham,' p. 4), its ruins give us plentiful information concerning the creed of its inhabitants. We may also find some information about this primeval city in Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:15, and in Smith's 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 233. The principal building of this city is the temple of the moon god Ur. One of the liturgical hymns to this moon god is in existence, and has been translated into French by M. Lenormant. In it the moon is addressed as Father, earth enlightening god, primeval seer, giver of life, king of kings, and the like. The sun and stars seem also to have been objects of worship, and a highly developed polytheistic system seems to have culminated in the horrible custom of human sacrifices. This was a recognised practice among the early Accadians, a Turanian race which preceded the Semitic in these regions. A fragment of an early Accadian hymn has been preserved, in which the words "his offspring for his life he gave" occur, and it seems that the Semitic people of Ur adopted it from them. A similar view is attributed to Balak in Micah 6:5, 6, and was probably derived from documents which have since perished (see Tomkins, 'Studies on the Time of Abraham,' p 24). Hence, no doubt the Moloch, or Molech, worship which was common in the neighbourhood of Palestine, and which the descendants of Abraham on their first entrance thither rejected with such disgust (see also Genesis 22, where Abraham seems to have some difficulties connected with his ancestral creed). Other deities were worshipped in the Ur of the Chaldees. Sumas, the sun god, Nana, the equivalent of Astarte, the daughter of the moon god, Bel and Belat, "his lady." "In truth," says Mr. Tomkins, in the work above cited, "polytheism was stamped on the earth in temples and towers, and the warlike and beneficent works of kings. Rimmon was the patron of the all-important irrigation, Sin of brickmaking and building, Nergal of war." A full account of these deities will be found in Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1. Joshua 24:1Renewal of the Covenant at the National Assembly in Shechem. - Joshua 24:1. Joshua brought his public ministry to a close, as Moses had done before him, with a solemn renewal of the covenant with the Lord. For this solemn act he did not choose Shiloh, the site of the national sanctuary, as some MSS of the lxx read, but Shechem, a place which was sanctified as no other was for such a purpose as this by the most sacred reminiscences from the times of the patriarchs. He therefore summoned all the tribes of Israel, in their representatives (their elders, etc., as in Joshua 23:2), to Shechem, not merely because it was at Shechem, i.e., on Gerizim and Ebal, that the solemn establishment of the law in the land of Canaan, to which the renewal of the covenant, as a repetition of the essential kernel of that solemn ceremony, was now to be appended, had first taken place, but still more because it was here that Abraham received the first promise from God after his migration into Canaan, and built an altar at the time (Genesis 12:6-7); and most of all, as Hengstenberg has pointed out (Diss. ii. p. 12), because Jacob settled here on his return from Mesopotamia, and it was here that he purified his house from the strange gods, burying all their idols under the oak (Genesis 33:19; Genesis 35:2, Genesis 35:4). As Jacob selected Shechem for the sanctification of his house, because this place was already consecrated by Abraham as a sanctuary of God, so Joshua chose the same place for the renewal of the covenant, because this act involved a practical renunciation on the part of Israel of all idolatry. Joshua expressly states this in Joshua 24:23, and reference is also made to it in the account in Joshua 24:26. "The exhortation to be faithful to the Lord, and to purify themselves from all idolatry, could not fail to make a deep impression, in the place where the honoured patriarch had done the very same things to which his descendants were exhorted here. The example preached more loudly in this spot than in any other" (Hengstenberg). "And they placed themselves before God." From the expression "before God," it by no means follows that the ark had been brought to Shechem, or, as Knobel supposes, that an altar was erected there, any more than from the statement in Joshua 24:26 that it was "by the sanctuary of the Lord." For, in the first place, "before God" (Elohim) is not to be identified with "before Jehovah," which is used in Joshua 18:6 and Joshua 19:51 to denote the presence of the Lord above the ark of the covenant; and secondly, even "before Jehovah" does not always presuppose the presence of the ark of the covenant, as Hengstenberg has clearly shown. "Before God" simply denotes in a general sense the religious character of an act, or shows that the act was undertaken with a distinct reference to the omnipresent God; and in the case before us it may be attributed to the fact that Joshua delivered his exhortation to the people in the name of Jehovah, and commenced his address with the words, "Thus saith Jehovah."

(Note: "It is stated that they all stood before God, in order that the sanctity and religious character of the assembly may be the more distinctly shown. And there can be no doubt that the name of God was solemnly invoked by Joshua, and that he addressed the people as in the sight of God, so that each one might feel for himself that God was presiding over all that was transacted there, and that they were not engaged in any merely private affair, but were entering into a sacred and inviolable compact with God himself." - Calvin.)

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