Joshua 24:23
Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua 24:23. Put away the strange gods which are among you — Meaning those idols which they had either brought out of Egypt, or had taken in Canaan, and which some of them kept, contrary to God’s command, whether for the preciousness of the matter, or rather from some secret inclination to superstition and idolatry.24:15-28 It is essential that the service of God's people be performed with a willing mind. For LOVE is the only genuine principle whence all acceptable service of God can spring. The Father seeks only such to worship him, as worship him in spirit and in truth. The carnal mind of man is enmity against God, therefore, is not capable of such spiritual worship. Hence the necessity of being born again. But numbers rest in mere forms, as tasks imposed upon them. Joshua puts them to their choice; but not as if it were indifferent whether they served God or not. Choose you whom ye will serve, now the matter is laid plainly before you. He resolves to do this, whatever others did. Those that are bound for heaven, must be willing to swim against the stream. They must not do as the most do, but as the best do. And no one can behave himself as he ought in any station, who does not deeply consider his religious duties in family relations. The Israelites agree with Joshua, being influenced by the example of a man who had been so great a blessing to them; We also will serve the Lord. See how much good great men do, by their influence, if zealous in religion. Joshua brings them to express full purpose of heart to cleave to the Lord. They must come off from all confidence in their own sufficiency, else their purposes would be in vain. The service of God being made their deliberate choice, Joshua binds them to it by a solemn covenant. He set up a monument of it. In this affecting manner Joshua took his last leave of them; if they perished, their blood would be upon their own heads. Though the house of God, the Lord's table, and even the walls and trees before which we have uttered our solemn purposes of serving him, would bear witness against us if we deny him, yet we may trust in him, that he will put his fear into our hearts, that we shall not depart from him. God alone can give grace, yet he blesses our endeavours to engage men to his service.Choose - Service of God in sincerity and truth can only result from a free and willing allegiance of the heart. This accordingly is what Joshua invites, as Moses had done before him (Deuteronomy 30:15 ff). 14-28. Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth—After having enumerated so many grounds for national gratitude, Joshua calls on them to declare, in a public and solemn manner, whether they will be faithful and obedient to the God of Israel. He avowed this to be his own unalterable resolution, and urged them, if they were sincere in making a similar avowal, "to put away the strange gods that were among them"—a requirement which seems to imply that some were suspected of a strong hankering for, or concealed practice of, the idolatry, whether in the form of Zabaism, the fire-worship of their Chaldean ancestors, or the grosser superstitions of the Canaanites. The strange gods which are among you; those idols which yon either brought out of Egypt, or have taken in Canaan, which I have too much reason to believe that some of you, contrary to God’s command, do keep, whether for the preciousness of the matter, or rather for some secret inclination to superstition and idolatry, as the following words imply. See Joshua 24:14. Now therefore put away, said he,.... Which last words are rightly supplied, for they are the words of Joshua:

the strange gods which are among you; not their private notions and secret sentiments that some of them had imbibed in favour of idols, and the worship of them, as Ben Gersom thinks; but, as the Targum expresses it,"the idols of the Gentiles;''either such as they had brought out of Egypt, or had found among the plunder of the Canaanites, and had secretly retained; or, as others think, their "penates", or household gods, they had privately kept and worshipped, such as those that were in Jacob's family, which he caused to be delivered to him, and which he hid under an oak in this place where Israel were now assembled, Genesis 35:2; and which Joshua by a prophetic discerning spirit perceived were now among them:

and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel; to love, fear, and serve him; that is, pray that your hearts may be inclined thereunto, and make use of all means that may tend to direct your hearts to him, and his service; so the Targum,"to the worship of the Lord God of Israel.''

Now therefore put away, said he, the strange {k} gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.

(k) Out of your hearts and otherwise.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
23. Now therefore put away] “Now thanne, he said, do зe awey alien goddis fro the middil of зou,” Wyclif. He again reverts to their secret practice of idolatry. Comp. Genesis 35:2; 1 Samuel 7:3.Verse 23. - Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you. Keil and Delitzsch notice that the words translated "among you" have also the meaning, "within you," and argue that Joshua is speaking of inward tendencies to idolatry. But this is very improbable. For

(1) the word is the same as we find translated in ver. 17, "through whom." And

(2) the internal scrutiny which the law demanded was hardly so well understood at this early period as by diligent study it afterwards became. The plain provisions of the law demanded obedience. Comparatively little heed was given at first to inward feelings and tendencies. There can be little doubt that the meaning is precisely the same as in Genesis 35:2, and that though the Israelites dare not openly worship strange gods, yet that teraphim and other images were, if not worshipped, yet preserved among them in such a way as to be likely to lead them into temptation. The history of Micah in Judges 17:5 is a proof of this, and it must be remembered that this history is out of its proper place. The zealous Phinehas (Judges 20:28) was then still alive, and the worship at Micah's house had evidently been carried on for some time previous to the disgraceful outrage at Gibeah. The putting away the strange gods was to be the outward and visible sign, the inclining of the heart the inward and spiritual grace wrought within them by the mercy of God. For it is not denied that God desired their affections, and that those affections could scarcely be given while their heart went secretly after idols. It may be further remarked in support of this view that the Israelites are not exhorted to turn their heart from the false gods, but to put them away. It is a plain, positive precept, not a guide for the inner consciousness. On the other hand, the command to incline the heart to the Lord rests upon the simple ground of common gratitude. St. Augustine thinks that if any false gods were secretly in Israel at this time, they would have been met by a severer punishment than that accorded to Achan. Masius - "pace divini viri" - proceeds to argue that murders, thefts, and adulteries were worse sins than those of Achan, that it were not reasonable to suppose that Israel was free from such sins, and they were not punished like Achan's. He forgets to urge

(1) that the condition of the children of Israel was very different in Achan's time to that of the death of Joshua, and

(2) that Achan's was a special act of disobedience to a very special enactment, considerations which would have materially strengthened his argument. The people responded to this appeal by declaring, with an expression of horror at idolatry, their hearty resolution to serve the Lord, who was their God, and had shown them such great mercies. The words, "that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage," call to mind the words appended to the first commandment (Exodus 20:2; Deuteronomy 5:6), which they hereby promise to observe. With the clause which follows, "who did those great signs in our sight," etc., they declare their assent to all that Joshua had called to their mind in Joshua 24:3-13. "We also" (Joshua 24:18), as well as thou and thy house (Joshua 24:15).
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