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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

Joshua 23

Verses 1-16

First Concluding Address of Joshua (23:1-16)

The book is now concluded by two addresses of Joshua. The first (ch. 23) is clearly a farewell address (vss. 1-2). In ancient Israel and among the nations of antiquity in general, the parting words of tribal leaders and heads of families were highly regarded. Before death a blessing was pronounced on the immediate children and on descendants yet unborn (often also curses on personal and tribal enemies) and guidance was offered for the future. One thinks, for example, of the last words of Jacob (Genesis 49), Moses (Deuteronomy 32-33), and David (2 Samuel 23:1-7; 1 Kings 2:2-9).

The address in Joshua 23 catches up the main themes of both Deuteronomy and Joshua. It revolves around the familiar three foci: what God has done; what you (Israel) must do; and what God will do.

Joshua first reminds the people of what they have seen with their own eyes—how God has fought for them in the destruction of many peoples (vss. 3-4, 9), how one man has put to flight a thousand because of the Lord’s help (vs. 10), and how the Lord has kept all the promises made to his people (vs. 14). This is the burden of the addresses of Moses in Deuteronomy 1-11. The key word there was "remember." The appeal here is likewise an appeal to remembrance.

Joshua then points out bluntly and explicitly what his hearers must do if God is to continue to fight for them until the land is fully won and the nation permanently established in the land. They must steadfastly obey all the prescriptions of the Law of Moses (vs. 6). These consist basically in exclusive, wholehearted worship of the Lord and the abhorrence of idolatry in any form (vss. 7-8, 16). As a safeguard against being led astray, there is to be no intermarriage with the heathen inhabitants of the land (vss. 12-13; see Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Obedience is to spring out of love for God (vs. 11).

Finally, the consequences of obedience and disobedience are pointed out. Behold what great things the Lord will do for you, if you wholly follow the Lord! He will drive out the remaining nations from the land (vs. 5), and Israel will fully take possession of the promised inheritance (vs. 4). The perils of disobedience are likewise stressed. Intermarriage, leading to idolatry, will result in extinction from the land after untold trouble at the hands of the native peoples. The anger of the Lord will be hot against Israel (vs. 16).

Joshua’s message is identical with that of Moses: Israel stands once more between good and evil and between life and death (vss. 15-16; Deuteronomy 28:1-15). The venerable leader urges the people to choose life.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Joshua 23". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/joshua-23.html.