Joshua 24
Joshua 24 Kingcomments Bible Studies


There is a wonderful structure in Joshua’s speech. In Jos 24:3-13 he presents to the people the great deeds of God. Many times we read there the word ‘I’, which refers to God. With Abraham the election of God comes to the fore. Through Moses and Aaron God shows that He is the Deliverer of the people. When He has brought the people into the land, He is the Conqueror of the enemies. Jos 24:13 rightly says: “I gave you a land.”

After these words, the people are faced with the choice of who they want to serve. We are also faced with this choice, after all the blessings given to us in Christ have been recited to us. Is it a difficult choice?

All the people have said that they will serve the LORD, but very soon it appears what their words are worth. The book of Judges provides the proof. What remains then? A personal choice! Can we repeat Joshua with all our heart: “But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD” (Jos 24:15b)?

Joshua Gathers All the Tribes to Shechem

After Joshua addressed the elders in the previous chapter, he wants to address the whole people. The whole people are close to his heart. He addresses them in Shechem. This is to consider a sanctuary, for there the LORD appeared to Abraham, and there Abraham built an altar to the LORD (Gen 12:6-7). There Jacob also built an altar (Gen 33:18-20) and there he buried all his idols (Gen 35:4).

History makes clear what the value of Shechem is. It is the right place for Joshua to present the history of God’s people once again to the people. He does this by reminding the people of some great events. These events have a spiritual meaning and can be compared to Paul’s service.

Paul speaks in his farewell speech about the four parts of his service:
1. “Solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21); this concerns the forgiveness of sins for unbelievers when they repent toward God and believe in the Lord Jesus.
2. “To testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24); this goes further than the call to repentance and is explained in the letter to the Romans.
3. The preaching of “the kingdom” (Acts 20:25); this is not the kingdom of peace, but that the rejected Christ is now in heaven and reigns as Lord over all who confess Him, Whose power becomes visible in the life of the Christian.
4. The declaration of “the whole purpose of God” (Acts 20:27); this is not what we find in the letter to the Romans, but in the letter to the Colossians and especially in the letter to the Ephesians, which deals with the counsel of God regarding the church.
These four parts are also found in Joshua’s speech.

Previous History

In the history of Abraham we find the truth of repentance and faith. He is called out of idolatry (1Thes 1:9). With him we see faith in the midst of all unbelief. By referring to Abraham’s idolatry Joshua points out that the idols are not only found around them, but that it is in their nature, in their hearts. We are also no better than the people around us. We used to belong to that company as well (Eph 2:3; Tit 3:3).

That God takes Abraham shows His election. Abraham is no better than his surroundings. God grants Isaac as the son in whom He will fulfill His promises. He gives Jacob and Esau to Isaac. He gives Esau Mount Seir as an inheritance, so that the land of Canaan will be entirely for the descendants of Jacob.

What God Has Done for His People

In the deliverance of the people from Egypt we find the truth of redemption. This truth is found in the letter to the Romans, in which the gospel and righteousness are explained. Spiritually speaking, we are led to the plains of Moab. The wilderness journey is behind us. God has shown His faithfulness throughout the journey through the wilderness. We are now able to attack enemies and capture land.

Delivered From the Power of Balaam

In these verses we find the third aspect of Joshua’s service in comparison to Paul’s. Once in the plains of Moab we hear in the blessing of Balaam about the kingship of the LORD and about the people of this King, who reigns supreme over a king like Balak (Num 23:21; Num 24:7; 17). In the midst of God’s people, the power of God’s King, Who for us is our Lord, becomes visible. We rejoice because we go forward in the power of that King and take possession of things He has given us.

God Cleansed the Land for His People

Here we have the fourth and last aspect of the comparison between the service of Joshua and the service of Paul. The land is captured, the enemy is driven out. This is what the LORD does for His people. All they may enjoy is a gift of His grace (Eph 2:8).

Call to Serve the LORD

All given blessings require a response. We also see this in the letters. After the blessings follows the exhortation to walk in accordance with them (Rom 12:1; Eph 4:1). If no choice is made for the LORD, it does not matter which idol they will serve. Again and again they are asked to make a choice (1Kgs 18:21; Rth 1:16; Mt 6:24). For Joshua the choice is clear. He is an old man, but still as militant as ever, here especially for his house.

If all the people will not participate in the faithful serving of the LORD, then it is certain for him that he and his house will serve the LORD. It applies to himself and to his children. The salvation is ‘for those who believe and for their house’. This gospel the jailor hears from Paul’s mouth: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). Serving that follows salvation is also for ‘me and my household’. The ‘household of Stephanas’ is a good example of this (1Cor 16:15). Let us follow the example of Joshua and Stephanas.

All blessings are not only for ourselves, but also for our children. Is it our wish that our children will enjoy the blessings we enjoy? Then we will take them to all kinds of meetings, so that they will learn to enjoy the blessings and not leave them at home while we visit those occasions ourselves.

We Will Serve the LORD

Because the people still have the consciousness of the power of God Who blessed them, they declare that they want to serve the LORD alone. The reaction of the people sounds good, but Joshua cannot be deceived. He knows what is in their hearts. Therefore he seriously states to them that there is no strength in themselves. The people say they will serve the LORD, but it is like as at Sinai.

Have they removed the gods, as has been said several times in this chapter that they will do? Later it turns out that they did not do that. We cannot serve God in our own power. We should not promise anything, but beg God to help us serve Him. Nobody can say that everything in his life is in order.

Joshua Warns and the People Promise

Joshua does not mean to say that God is not a God of forgiveness. He wants to make it clear that God cannot be served with a halfhearted heart and that leaving Him to serve other gods is a serious sin. Such a sin shall end in disaster.

Joshua addresses the people four times about their responsibility. Each time the people answers that they will serve the LORD. Joshua asks them to prove their sincerity by putting away the strange gods.

Joshua Makes a Covenant

Joshua takes the promise of the people seriously. He writes “in the book of the law of God” what has been said. Then he sets up a large stone as a witness to the promises made by the people. When Joshua has passed away, the stone remains as a lasting reminder that God has heard everything.

Joshua writes in the book and sets up the stone as a witness “by the sanctuary of the LORD”. This expression seems to indicate that Joshua brought the ark of the covenant from Shiloh to Shechem for this occasion.

Joshua Dismisses the People

Joshua dismisses the people. His service is coming to an end. With his last words in their ears they return to their inheritance. How long will his farewell speech resonate in their hearts and have its beneficial effect on the practice of their lives as people of God? The book of Judges gives the answer.

Death and Burial of Joshua

The book ends with three burials. The first is that of Joshua. After a walk of faith in the wilderness and a battle of faith in the land he dies in faith in a better resurrection. He is called here for the first and also only time “the servant of the LORD”. With this, the Master puts in a simple way a significant mark of approval on his life. Can the Lord also say of us at the end of our lives: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master” (Mt 25:21)?

His grave is in his inheritance, in the hill country of Ephraim (Jos 19:50). The Ephraimites took possession of this by order of Joshua (Jos 17:14-18).

Israel Serves the LORD

As long as the people have good examples, they serve the LORD (cf. 2Chr 24:2). We may well ask ourselves: do we live from a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus or do we merely follow the faith of others who teach us? When the witnesses of the power of the LORD and its influence on the people are gone, a new generation rises that is open to the influences of the peoples around them. The following book, Judges, shows this.

Joseph’s Bones Buried

The second burial is that of Joseph. The burial of Joseph’s bones makes it clear that the book does not really end with death, because it shows the hope of the resurrection. With this in mind Joseph wanted his bones to be buried in the land (Heb 11:22).

Death and Burial of Eleazar

The third burial is that of Eleazar. The death and burial of Eleazar indicate that the service of this faithful high priest in connection with taking possession of the land is also coming to an end. In the next book a new time begins in which the people have no eye for this service.

When Christ, of whom Eleazar is a type, is forgotten, decay enters. Fortunately, then, God’s sources have not dried up. In the judges He raises from time to time, He enables His people to enjoy His land again and again.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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