BIBLE STUDY SERIES #608, 609 and 610

20 July, 2003

JOSHUA 23 - THREAT TO PEACE - PART II

Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which has continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on our last Bible Study, covered the Scriptural record to that which is found as far as the end of Joshua 22.

For new listeners we should mention that we have recently been studying the Biblical record of the entry into The Promised Land by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua. We followed their progress as Jericho was taken, and a setback was encountered at Ai. We saw their leaders snared by the lies of the Gibeonites, and how, eventually that led to the taking of all of South Canaan. We watched as they assembled at the two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal for a service of national acceptance of The LORD's Commandments, and following that, how a confederacy of the northern Canaanites had met disaster in Joshua 12 by confronting Israel. Joshua 13 and 14 listed the sections of Canaan not yet taken, and in Joshua 16 and 17, we saw the chief tribes of the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, assigned their territory by lot. Joshua 18 spoke of the setting up of the Tabernacle for worship at Shiloh, and then the smaller tribes received attention. With each Tribe having received its allotment, the record then explained how six cities of refuge were assigned to the Tribe of Levi, and after that, the various other cities out of the territories of the rest of Israel were given over to the remainder of the Tribe of Levi to accommodate their civil service and religious assignments. At the middle of Chapter 22, we had found that a misinterpretation of events, just as Israel ought to have been feeling relaxed from the difficulties of conquest, had come near to causing a war within Israel itself, before matters were settled, in this situation.

That threat to peace was very real and could have resulted in bloodshed. In the next chapter we find another threat to peace. It is not so obvious, but nevertheless even more dangerous for that very reason, because it brings us to some of those dangers which God's people have faced down the centuries and the millennia, and we are today perhaps even more in need of the warnings which this chapter contains than were understood by those ancestral Israelites of so long ago.

Today, we are reading from Joshua 23, a chapter containing 16 verses. Of this chapter, Keil and Delitzsch write: "After the division of the land among the tribes, Joshua had withdrawn to Timnath-serah, on the mountains of Ephraim (chap. xix. 50), to spend the last days of his life there in the quiet enjoyment of his own inheritance. But when the time of his departure from the earth was drawing near, remembering the call which he had received from the Lord (chap. i. 6-8), he felt constrained to gather the people together once more in the persons of their representatives, to warn them most earnestly of the dangers of apostasy from the Lord, and point out the evils that would follow (chap. xxiii.); and then after that, in a solemn assembly of the nation at Shechem, to review the abundant mercies which the Lord had conferred upon Israel from the calling of Abraham to that day, that he might call upon them to remain stedfast and faithful in the worship of their God, and then solemnly renew the covenant with the Lord." At this point the commentary has a footnote, which should also be noted. This reads "The pious solicitude of Joshua furnishes an example worthy of imitation by all who have the charge of others. For just as a father would not be regarded as sufficiently careful if he merely thought of the interests of his children up to the time of his own death, and did not extend his thoughtfulness on their behalf still further, and as far as was in his power endeavour to provide for their welfare when he himself should be dead; so good rulers ought to look forward that they may not only leave behind them a well-organized state, but may also strengthen and secure its existence for a long time to come." This is a quotation ascribed to Calvin (with special reference to 2 Pet. i. 13-15).

With their focus upon the first two verses of the chapter, they go on to explain of the exhortation to the Tribes of Israel to remain faithful to their calling: "The introduction to the discourse which follows is attached in its first part to chap. xxii. 3, 4, and thus also to chap. xxi. 43, 44, whilst in their second part it points back to chap. xiii. 1. The Lord had given the people rest from all their enemies round about, after the land had been subdued and divided by lot (chap. xxi. 43, 44). Joshua was already an old man at the termination of the war (chap. xiii, 1.); but since then he had advanced still further in age, so that he may have noticed the signs of the near approach of death. He therefore called together the representatives of the people, either to Timnath-serah where he dwelt (chap. xix. 50), or to Shiloh to the tabernacle, the central sanctuary of the whole nation, as the most suitable place for his purpose." We can give attention on the next study to further comments from that source.

1 And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.
2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:
3 And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you.

The Companion Bible notes appended to these opening verses explain that the words "a long time after" are calculated at some eight years, for, according to that reference, Joshua was by now one-hundred and two years of age. The Hebrew expression, it states, could be translated as "old and advanced in (or come into) the days." It would probably be to Shiloh that this call assembled all these elders and leaders of the tribes of Israel.

4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.
5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.
6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;
7 That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:
8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.
9 For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.
10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.
11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.
12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:

The Companion Bible notes on these last verses point out that the Hebrew accent puts the pause or emphasis placed at the word "for" in verse 10. It does so as calling attention to the basis of all blessing and success. At verse 12, in a corresponding note, the reference states at the word "else" that the Hebrew accent puts the pause or emphasis on this word, as marking the solemn alternative.

13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

Here again, at verse 13, The Companion Bible notes the words "any of these", applying to the nations in the vicinity as being translated in some codices, and four early printed editions, by the words "all these." With reference to the next few words, it says that the punctuation ought to read "Behold, this day...", because Joshua lived a further eight years beyond this date.

14 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.
15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.
16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.

We shall pick up the further comments on these verses on our next Bible Study.

27 July, 2003

JOSHUA 23 - THREAT TO PEACE - PART III

Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which has continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on our last Bible Study, covered the Scriptural record to that which is found as far as the end of Joshua 22.

For new listeners we should mention that we have recently been studying the Biblical record of the entry into The Promised Land by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua. We followed their progress as Jericho was taken, and a setback was encountered at Ai. We saw their leaders snared by the lies of the Gibeonites, and how, eventually that led to the taking of all of South Canaan. We watched as they assembled at the two mountains, Gerizim and Ebal for a service of national acceptance of The LORD's Commandments, and following that, how a confederacy of the northern Canaanites had met disaster in Joshua 12 by confronting Israel. Joshua 13 and 14 listed the sections of Canaan not yet taken, and in Joshua 16 and 17, we saw the chief tribes of the two sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, assigned their territory by lot. Joshua 18 spoke of the setting up of the Tabernacle for worship at Shiloh, and then the smaller tribes received attention. With each Tribe having received its allotment, the record then explained how six cities of refuge were assigned to the Tribe of Levi, and after that, the various other cities out of the territories of the rest of Israel were given over to the remainder of the Tribe of Levi to accommodate their civil service and religious assignments. At the middle of Chapter 22, we had found that a misinterpretation of events, just as Israel ought to have been feeling relaxed from the difficulties of conquest, had come near to causing a war within Israel itself, before matters were settled, in this situation.

In the next chapter, chapter 23, we had found another threat to peace. It is not so obvious, but nevertheless even more dangerous for that very reason, because it brings us to some of those dangers which God's people have faced down the centuries and the millennia, and we are today perhaps even more in need of the warnings which this chapter contains than were understood by those ancestral Israelites of so long ago.

While we had read the verses of chapter 23 last week, we might go over their contents briefly. In verses 1-3, we read:

1 And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.
2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:
3 And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you.

Continuing the Keil and Delitzsch comments on Joshua 23, from verse 2, they note: "All Israel" is still further defined by the apposition, "its elders, and its heads, and its judges, and its officers." This is not to be understood, however, as referring to four different classes of rulers; but the term elders is the general term used to denote all the representatives of the people, who were divided into heads, judges, and officers. And the heads, again, were those who stood at the head of the tribes, families, and fathers' houses, and out of whose number the most suitable persons were chosen as judges and officers (Deut. i. 15; ...). Joshua's address to the elders of all Israel consists of two parts, which run parallel to one another so far as the contents are concerned, vers. 2b-13 and vers. 14-16. In both parts Joshua commences with a reference to his age and his approaching death, in consequence of which he felt constrained to remind the people once more of all the great things that the Lord had done for them, and to warn them against falling away from their gracious covenant God." The first portion reads:

4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.
5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.
6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;
7 That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them:
8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.
9 For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.
10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.
11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.
12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:
13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

Then, let us read those remaining verses to see the parallel after we read the Keil and Delitzsch notes, which continue: "Just as Joshua, in this the last act of his life, was merely treading in the footsteps of Moses, who had concluded his life with the fullest exhortations to the people to be faithful to the Lord (Deut. i. 30), so his address consists entirely of reminiscences from the Pentateuch, more especially from Deuteronomy, as he had nothing fresh to announce to the people, but could only impress the old truth upon their minds once more." Keil and Delitzsch further treat of the first portion, verses 2b-13 in details covering two pages, following which they comment on verses 14-16 with notes which cover half a page. That second portion reads thus:

14 And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.
15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.
16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.

We can see that Joshua is once again laying stress on the theme of the nearness of his retirement out of life, and the absolute necessity of the Israelites to continue to uphold their commitments concerning dominance of the land, and cleansing it lest they partake of the hidden enticements offered by the pagan religions of the surrounding peoples. If they fail to insist on the nation's service of Their Lord in line with His Commandments, they will be removed from their dominant position. It is a lesson which was not lost on that generation of the Tribes of Israel. The only security of occupancy is that Israel shall be more righteous in obedience to The LORD than the surrounding peoples. After all, we ought to again stress as a fundamental principle that the land which is called The Promised Land belongs not to the residents therein but entirely to The LORD. If that is true, then we can see that a sinful Israel is inexorably destined to be thrown out of that land just as certainly as God permitted the armies of Israel to hold victory and occupancy in their grasp when their valour was buttressed by righteousness. Without that total commitment to being a righteous, Godly, Law-abiding people, they will be made vulnerable to total eviction. It is precisely the point that Joshua is so exercised to stress and convey to his people. He is concerned that they never forget how they were protected on entering the land, and how easily they can be cut down and thrust out if they should fail to adhere to that commitment which the forefathers had made with The Almighty God of all the earth.

This is the lesson for us in conclusion of today's Bible Study. We must ask ourselves this same question. Have we that total national commitment to the Laws of The God of Israel as described in our Old Testament story? Or have we gone in the paths which lead to destruction as a later generation of ancient Israel did, to their disaster and submission to aliens and strangers? It is a very fair and important question which I shall leave with all who hear these words in this present generation. We shall continue with our reviews on the next Bible study.

3 August, 2003

JOSHUA 24 -CLOSING EXHORTATIONS - PART I

Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.

Our present series of Bible Studies, which has continued for a number of years sequentially from the Call of Abram in Genesis 12, had, on our last Bible Study, covered the Scriptural record to that which is found as far as the end of Joshua 23.

For new listeners we should mention that we have recently been studying the Biblical record of the entry into The Promised Land by the Israelites under the leadership of Joshua. We followed their progress at Jericho and Ai. We saw how all of South Canaan was taken, followed by the assembly at Gerizim and Ebal for a service of national dedication and following that, how a confederacy of the northern Canaanites had met disaster in Joshua 12 by confronting Israel. We followed the taking of territory and its distribution to each of the tribes of Israel by lot. Joshua 18 spoke of the setting up of the Tabernacle for worship at Shiloh, and then with each tribe having received its allotment, how six cities of refuge were assigned, and after that, the various other cities given over to the remainder of the Tribe of Levi to accommodate their civil service and religious assignments. At the middle of Chapter 22, we had found that a misinterpretation of events, just as Israel ought to have been feeling relaxed from the difficulties of conquest, had come near to causing a war within Israel itself, before matters were settled, in this situation.

Chapter 23, had shown us another threat to peace, not so obvious, but nevertheless even more dangerous for that very reason, because it brings us to some of those dangers which God's people have faced down the centuries and the millennia, and we are today perhaps even more in need of the warnings which this chapter contains than were understood by those ancestral Israelites of so long ago.

We saw that by this time, Joshua was an elderly man, and much concerned lest, when he passed on, the people might not be ready to take on the stern challenge of life in the context of the newly occupied Promised Land, surrounded as they were by the corrupt religious practices of the neighbouring peoples.

Joshua had called the leaders of the tribes together, in order to make clear what they faced. It is here, at this culminating point in his long life, at the beginning of Joshua 24, that Joshua, now feels compelled to go farther and to call a general assembly of the tribes so that he may review God's dealings with them throughout their past history, and the commitments made by the nation with Yahweh, the God Who has cared for them, and brought them through many trials to their present occupancy of the Land of Promise.

As we read this final summary chapter 24 in the Book of Joshua, we must stay alert to see lessons for our own day. This is particularly so as we become conscious of the fact that the Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples who emerged out of the mists of central Asia migrating towards the west are, with kindred peoples, evidenced to be the descendants of these very same Israelite tribes of that ancient time. Their commitments rest upon us as descendants of the same peoples before our LORD. These commitments are of a tribal and hence of a national and governmental application, not just of a casual church and social application. This is where we may find opposition by those not thus committed. However, the words spoken by Joshua do even yet apply to our people today. We must study them carefully, for there are both blessings and curses bound up in the implications.

The New Bible Commentary gives the heading "b. Second address (xxiv. 1-28)" to those verses, and it says this: "Joshua's second farewell address, given amid the sacred surroundings of Shechem, went further back in its reminders of God's faithfulness. The recapitulation is given in the words of Jehovah Himself: the call of Abraham and the deliverance from Egypt were evidences of His special relationship to His people; in their own experience the defeat of the Amorites and the frustration of Balaam's evil designs, the crossing of the Jordan and the capture of Jericho, and the defeat of the nations of Canaan reinforced what history could teach them of God's mercies." Moving to the words "I sent the hornet before you which drave them out from before you" (12), it says: "In this striking sentence Jehovah stresses the fact that none of Israel's victories was of their own winning. Many commentators have taken the hornet merely as an expressive figure for the terror which Israel's advance inspired in their enemies. But Garstang, who argues for the earlier of the two dates for the exodus ... gives convincing reasons in his book Joshua-Judges for identifying the hornet with the sacred symbol of the Pharaohs, and maintains that earlier spoliation (sic.) of Canaan by the Egyptians had devastated the country. After the sack of Megiddo by Thutmose III in 1479 B.C. Egypt carried on what seems to have been 'a deliberate policy of devastation' for over sixty years, until the accession of Amenhotep III in 1411 B.C. 'Thereafter' says Garstang, 'for fifty years no army was led by the Pharaoh into Syria': internal weakness, it seems, was responsible for this interlude; and it was just at the beginning of it, about 1406 B.C. that Joshua and the Israelites appeared before the walls of Jericho. They advanced on a land which had been softened up for their attack by this strange instrument - Egypt - in Jehovah's hand. An objection to Garstang's view is based on the fact that in Ex. xxiii. 28 and in Dt. vii. 20 (forty years later) the sending of the hornet is still spoken of as future: in Jos. xxiv. 12. The promise has been fulfilled and the hornet has been sent. Therefore the hornet attack must have coincided exactly with the years of the invasion and conquest under Joshua, and could not have been the much earlier softening-up process suggested by Garstang. This objection might be met by considering the consequences of the sending of the hornet as future so far as the children of Israel were concerned in Ex. xxiii. 28 and Dt. vii. 20, even though the event which was to have such consequences had already happened. When the children of Israel entered the land they would find that 'the hornet' had been sent before them; but when it had been sent was of no consequence to them. They would see its effects only when they entered the land, and so the sending of it might be considered as future so far as they were concerned. The alternative is to interpret the passage as a reference to a literal plague of hornets which helped to depopulate areas of the land by driving the inhabitants to other parts. In view of Jehovah's actions in history and in their own experience, Joshua solemnly called the people to loyalty - serve him in sincerity and in truth (14). Then follows the great challenge of verse 15. The other side of the flood is a reference to Ur of the Chaldees, beyond the Euphrates. The people answered their leader in promises that were too glib and too easy, and he reminded them that it was no slight thing which they were binding themselves to do. Ye cannot serve the Lord (19). But the people protested, Nay; but we will serve the Lord (21), and Joshua then bound them in the most solemn way possible. The covenant was solemnly renewed, and a great stone was set up under the famous oak of Shechem as a witness of the nation's dedication of itself to God."

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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.
6. 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.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. 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:
10. But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. 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.
14. 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.
15. 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.

Here, The Companion Bible note explains that in the last two verses, "three systems of idolatry are referred to: Chaldean, Egyptian and Canaanite."

We shall take up the remainder of Joshua 24 on our next Bible Study.

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