Matthew Poole's Commentary
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.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 said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.Unto all the people, i.e. that people which were present, to wit, to the elders, &c., by whom it was to be imparted to all the rest, and to as many of the people as came thither.
The flood, or, the river, to wit, Euphrates, as all agree; so called by way of eminency.
They served other gods, i.e. both Abraham and Nahor were no less idolaters than the rest of mankind. This is said to prevent their vain boasting in their worthy ancestors, and to assure them that whatsoever good was in or had been done by their progenitors, was wholly born God’s free grace, and not for their own merit or righteousness, as the Jews were very apt to conceit.
And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.I took your father; I apprehended him by my grace, and snatched him out of that idolatrous and wicked place, and took him into acquaintance and covenant with myself, which was the highest honour and happiness he was capable of.
Led him throughout all the land of Canaan, i.e. I brought him after his father’s death into Canaan, Genesis 12:1, and I conducted and preserved him in safety in all his travels through the several parts of Canaan.
Multiplied his seed, i.e. gave him a numerous posterity, not only by Hagar and Keturah, but even by Sarah and by Isaac, as it follows.
Gave him Isaac, by my special power and grace, to be the heir of my covenant, and all my promises, and the seed in or by which all nations were to be blessed, Genesis 12:3 21:2.
And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.I gave unto Esau Mount Seir to possess it, that he might leave Canaan entire to his brother Jacob and his posterity, Genesis 36:7,8.
Jacob and his children went down into Egypt, where they long lived in grievous bondage; which God having delivered us from, I shall now pass it over.
I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.According to that which I did, i.e. in such manner, and with such plagues as I inflicted, and are recorded.
And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.He speaketh this to the elders, Joshua 24:1, who were so, not only by power and dignity, but many of them by age; and there being now not sixty years past since those Egyptian plagues, it is very probable that a considerable number of those here present had seen those things in Egypt, and being not twenty years old, were exempted from that dreadful sentence of destruction, passed upon all who were then of more years standing, Num 14.
And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.No text from Poole on this verse.
Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:Balak warred against Israel.
Quest. How is this true, when
Balak did never fight against Israel, Judges 11:25?
Answ. One prince may commence a war against another, though he never come to a battle, nor strike one stroke; so Balak warred, though not by open force, yet by crafty counsel and warlike stratagems, by magical arts, by wicked devices, by making bate betwixt them and God their confederate; or by warlike preparations, in case Balaam’s charms had succeeded, as may be gathered from Numbers 22:11; or at least by design or intention; things being oft said to be done both in Scripture and other authors which were only designed or intended, as here. Joshua 24:11 Genesis 37:21 Ezekiel 24:13 Matthew 5:28 John 10:32,33. And the old lawyers note,
That he is rightly called a thief or an adulterer, & c., who wanted nothing but occasion to be so.
But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.I would not hearken unto Balaam, who hereby appears to have desired of God leave to curse Israel; and therefore it is not strange that God, who permitted him simply to go, was highly angry with him for going with so wicked an intent, Numbers 22:20,22,32.
Out of his hand, i.e. from Balak’s malicious design against you.
And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.Fought against you; made opposition against you, by shutting their gates, by endeavouring to cut off your spies, &c.; they warred against you, if not by an offensive, yet by a defensive war. In the names of these nations he seems to comprise all their wars, which being so fresh in their memory, he thought it needless particularly to mention.
And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.The hornet; either,
1. Figuratively, i.e. terrors and plagues, or other destroying judgments. Or,
2. Properly so called. See Poole "Exodus 23:28". And this being done before Joshua’s entrance into Canaan, it is not strange if it be not mentioned in this book or record of Joshua’s actions.
Not with thy sword, nor with thy bow; for though thou didst fight with them, and prevail against them in battle, yet this was not because thou hadst more force or courage than they; but because by my hornet, which I sent like a harbinger before thee, I had both broken their spirits, and greatly diminished their numbers, and particularly cut off those giants or others who were like to give time most trouble and difficulty; whence it comes to pass that we read of so few giants in that land,
which was called the land of giants, Deu 3:3.
And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.Cities which you built not. See Poole "Joshua 11:12".
Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.In sincerity and in truth; either these two expressions note the same thing; or sincerity is opposed to the mixture of false gods with the true, as it here follows, or of a false and corrupt worship of God with that which God appointeth; and truth is opposed to dissimulation and falseness, and instability of heart.
Put away the gods; whereby it appears, that although Joshua had doubtless prevented and purged out all public and manifest idolatry, yet there were some of them who practised it in their private houses and retirements. See Joshua 24:23 Amos 5:25,26 Ac 7:42,43. Your fathers, Terah, and Nahor, and Abraham, as Joshua 24:2, and others of your ancestors.
On the other side of the flood, and in Egypt: see Ezekiel 23:3,8,19,21,27. Under these particulars no doubt he comprehends all other false gods, which were served by the nations amongst whom they were, as appears from Joshua 24:15, but only mentions these, as the idols which they were in more danger of worshipping than those in Canaan; partly because those of Canaan had been now lately and palpably disgraced by their inability to preserve their worshippers from total ruin; and partly because the other idols came recommended unto them by the venerable name of antiquity, and the custom of their forefathers. See Jeremiah 44:17 Ezekiel 20:18.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.If it seem evil; unjust, unreasonable, or inconvenient.
Choose you this day whom ye will serve: not that he leaves them to their liberty, whether they would serve God or idols; for Joshua had no such power or liberty himself, nor could give it to any other; and both he and they were obliged by the law of Moses to give their worship to God only, and to forbear all idolatry in themselves, and severely to punish it in others; but it is a rhetorical and powerful insinuation, whereby he both implies that the worship of God is so highly reasonable, so necessary and beneficial, and the service of idols is so absurd, and vain, and pernicious, that if it were left free to all men to make their choice, every man in his right wits must needs choose the service of God before that of idols; and provokes them to bind themselves faster to God by their own choice. See such manner of speeches in Ruth 1:8,15 1 Kings 18:21.
But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord; but know this, if you should all be so base and brutish, as to prefer senseless and impotent idols before the true and living God, it is my firm purpose, that I will, and my children and servants (as far as I can influence them) shall, be constant and faithful to the Lord.
And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;No text from Poole on this verse.
For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:No text from Poole on this verse.
And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.Ye cannot serve the Lord: he speaks not of an absolute impossibility, (for then both his resolution to serve God himself, and his exhortation to them to do so, had been vain and ridiculous,) but of a moral impossibility, or a very great difficulty, which he allegeth not to discourage them from God’s service, which is his great design to engage them in; but only to make them more considerate and cautious in obliging themselves, and more circumspect and resolved in answering their obligations. The meaning is, God’s service is not, as you seem to fancy, a slight and easy thing, as soon done as said; but it is a work of great difficulty, and requires great care, and courage, and resolution; and when I consider the infinite purity of God, that he will not be mocked or abused; and withal your great and often manifested proneness to superstition and idolatry, even during the life of Moses, and in some of you whilst I live, and whilst the obligations which God hath laid upon you in this land are fresh in remembrance; I cannot but fear that after my decease you will think the service of God too hard and burdensome for you, and therefore will cast it off, and revolt from him, if you do not double your watch, and carefully avoid all occasions of idolatry, which I fear you will not do, but I do hereby exhort you to do.
He is a jealous God; he will not endure a co-rival or partner in his worship; you cannot serve him and idols together, as you will be inclined and tempted to do.
He will not forgive your transgressions; if you who own yourselves for his people and servants, shall wickedly and wilfully transgress his laws by idolatry or other crimes, he will not let this go unpunished in you, as he doth in other nations; therefore consider what you do when you take the Lord for your God; weigh your advantages and inconveniences together; for as if you be sincere and faithful in God’s service, you will have admirable benefits by it; so if you be false to your professions, and forsake him whom you have so solemnly avouched to be your God, he will deal more severely with you than with any people in the world.
If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.He will turn, i.e. he will alter his course and the manner of his dealing with you, and will be as severe as ever he was kind and gracious.
Consume you, after that he hath done you good; he will repent of all his former kindness, and his goodness abused will be turned into fury.
And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD.To wit, him only, and not strange gods, as was supposed by Joshua, Joshua 24:20.
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.Ye are witnesses against yourselves; this solemn profession will be a swift witness against you, if hereafter you apostatize from God.
Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.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.
And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.No text from Poole on this verse.
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.Either,
1. He set, or propounded, or declared unto them the statute and ordinance, i.e. the sum of the statutes and ordinances of God, which their covenant obliged them to Or,
2. He set or established it, to wit, that covenant, with them, i.e. the people for a statute or an ordinance, to bind themselves and their posterity unto God for ever, as a statute and ordinance of God doth.
And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.These words, i.e. this covenant or agreement of the people with the Lord. In the book of the law of God, i. e. in that volume which was kept in the ark, Deu 31:9,26, whence it was taken and put into this book of Joshua. This he did, partly, for the perpetual remembrance of this great and solemn action; partly, to lay the greater obligation upon the people to be true to their engagement; and partly, as a witness for God, and against the people, if afterwards he severely punished them for their detection from God, to whom they had so solemnly and freely obliged themselves.
Set it up there, as a witness and monument of this great transaction, according to the custom of those ancient times, as Genesis 28:18 31:45 35:14 Exodus 24:4 Deu 27:2 Joshua 4:3 8:32. Possibly this agreement was written upon this stone, as was then usual.
Under an oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord, i.e. near to the place where the ark and tabernacle then were; for though they were forbidden to plant a grove of trees near unto the altar, Deu 16:21, as the Gentiles did, yet they might for a time set up an altar, or the ark, near a great tree which had been planted there before.
And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.It hath heard; it shall be as sure a witness against you as if it had heard. This is a common figure, called prosopopaie, whereby the sense of hearing is oft ascribed to the heavens and the earth, and other senseless creatures, as Deu 32:1 Isaiah 1:2 Jeremiah 2:12.
So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.No text from Poole on this verse.
And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathserah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.No text from Poole on this verse.
And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.In Shechem; not in the city of Shechem, but in a field near and belonging to it, as appears from the following words, and from Genesis 33:18, and from the ancient custom of the Israelites to have their burying-places without cities, in fields or gardens.
And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.By special favour, and for his better conveniency in attending upon the ark, which then was, and for a long time was to be, in Shiloh, which was near to this place; whereas the cities which were given to the priests were in Judah, Benjamin, and Simeon, which were remote from Shiloh, though near to the place where the ark was to have its settled abode, to wit, to Jerusalem.