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Ver. 1. And it came to pass a long time after, &c.— That is to say, fourteen years after the conquest of the land of Canaan, and seven after the division of the country among the tribes. See ch. Jos 11:23 Joshua 14:10. Dr. Wells is of opinion, that the assembly here mentioned met at Shiloh before the tabernacle. Joshua is before spoken of as being old and stricken in years, chap. Joshua 13:1. He was now, probably, in the last year of his life.
Ver. 2. Joshua called for all Israel, &c.— That is, he convoked them by their chief men, whose different quality is here specified: the elders, they who composed the great council of the nation, afterwards called the Sanhedrin; the heads of tribes and families; the judges, or city magistrates; and the officers, who executed the sentences pronounced by those magistrates. And, without doubt, all such Israelites as were desirous of assisting at this respectable assembly of the representatives of the nation, had liberty so to do.
And said unto them, I am old, &c.— "Being now grown old amongst you, at the head of your armies, and the helm of the state; nothing remains for me, before my death, but to set before your view, all that the Lord hath done for you, and what you ought to do for him. Receive then this advice of an old man, which his age and experience, far more than his rank, should render dear and valuable to you."
Ver. 7-11. That ye come not among these nations, &c.— "Hold no familiarity; make no marriages with these idolatrous nations: never make the least honourable mention of the name of their false gods in your conversation, nor cause any one to swear by those idols, nor serve them yourselves, by offering victims to them, or by addressing prayers and vows to them in secret; nor shall ye prostrate yourselves before them, or render them any public worship: in a word, let nothing be able to draw you from God, or turn you aside from the execution of those designs, for which that great God has rendered you invincible even unto this day. Acquit yourselves thus of your duty, and ye will certainly engage the Lord ever to grant you victory and success."
REFLECTIONS.—Joshua, now grown old, and having but a short time to live, is solicitous to improve it to the best purposes; his last words, it is to be presumed, would be heard with peculiar attention: wherefore, he summons those on whose carefulness and piety the well-being of the state chiefly depended, and whose examples must be most influential over the people; and thus addresses to them his discourse.
1. He reminds them of what God had done for them, to awaken a grateful return for such transcendant mercies. He had thrust out powerful nations, to make room for them; had given them success in every attack; neither city nor army ever was able to stand before them; and they were now in quiet possession of these valuable conquests. Note; We can never too frequently remember, nor too thankfully acknowledge, what great things God has done for us in our bodies or in our souls.
2. He assures them, that the same mercy and goodness was engaged to attend them in their future attempts; they had enough at present; but when they should be increased, the remaining Canaanites should fall as easy a prey as their neighbours; nor needed they the assembled forces of Israel; one tribe would be sufficient for any conquest, when one Israelite should chase a thousand. Note; It is God who giveth us the victory; though our spiritual enemies appear never so numerous or strong, if God fighteth for us, we must be more than conquerors.
3. Hereupon he exhorts them to courage and faithful obedience. They may confidently go forth under the blessing of Jehovah; only let them take care to secure his favour; and, in order thereunto, they must be, (1.) Obedient to God's commands, careful to observe his instituted ordinances, and faithful in their adherence to him: they had been so, and this was an argument for their perseverance; they had experienced the comfort of it. (2.) They must avoid all connexion with the Canaanites who were among them. Idolatry being their besetting sin, and the most provoking to God, they must keep at the greatest possible distance from it. Note;
They who would keep from evil must avoid temptation, especially in the case of their easily besetting sin.
Ver. 12, 13. Else if ye do in any wise go back, &c.— "But if, on the contrary, ye are capable of starting aside from God, and of giving way in any manner to idolatry; if ye cleave unto these nations, and communicate with them in their errors; if ye enter into any alliances, or mix yourselves with them by the tie of marriage; know, most assuredly, that from thenceforward the Lord will cease to drive out these nations, and to give you their inheritance; nay, they shall be snares and traps in your way. They shall subsist for your punishment, to be to you an occasion of falling and of sin; and continually more and more to draw you into their abominations: they shall be as scourges in your sides, as a whip, as a rod in the hand of Providence, grievously to wound and oppress you; and as thorns in your eyes, to afflict you; while, losing the favour of God, you shall finally draw down upon your heads the utmost inflictions of misery."
In order to preserve them from that state of apostacy from God, which, with prophetic foresight, he justly apprehended,
1. Joshua exhorts them to take heed, and keep themselves in the love of God; carelessness about his service would quickly bring ruin on their souls, and nothing can preserve them from falling away, but a principle of love engaging their hearts to God. Note; (1.) When we are surrounded with Canaanites, temptations on every side, we need constantly watch and pray. (2.) The love of God is the great preservative from all evil.
2. He reminds them of God's faithfulness, as the most powerful motive to engage their love; nothing had failed of all his promises, therefore they were inexcusable if they forsook him. Note; God is faithful, and all who trust in him will find him so.
3. He speaks of his own departure as at hand, when his warning voice would no more be heard among them; therefore the more attentively should it be now heard and pondered. He was going the way of all the earth. Death is the journey that we all must take; the greatest of God's saints must tread this beaten road, in their removal from time into eternity. Happy they who, like Joshua, can speak of it with satisfaction, and are ready for their great change.
4. He warns them of the danger they were in, and the ruin which would ensue, if they joined the Canaanites in their abominations. The gradual steps of their departure from God he describes, in order that, avoiding the snare, they may keep from the danger: intercourse with the Canaanites would introduce more intimate connexions; profane marriages with these idolaters then would follow, and, as the necessary consequence of being yoked with unbelievers, they would serve their idols, and thus violate the sacred covenant established between God and them. The consequence of this must be, that God, in anger, would leave them to be ensnared in their own perverseness and folly; those neighbours whom they cherished would be snakes in their bosom to sting them to death, first leading them into sin, and then bringing wrath upon them; their tempters would turn their tormentors; and God, in just judgment, would give them up to their enemies, to the utter ruin of their church and nation; and the good land, wherein they dwelt so happily, should cast them out. Note; (1.) No snare so fatal as being unequally yoked with unbelievers. (2.) It is just in God, to make them instruments in our punishment, whom we have made instruments of our sin. (3.) The mercy which sinners have rejected will aggravate their misery, and the knowledge of the bliss they have lost increase the torment they feel.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 23". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19