Bible Commentaries
Joshua 24

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Joshua 24:0


The Tribes Gather at ShechemThe Covenant at ShechemThe Covenant at ShechemJoshua Speaks to the People at ShechemThe Great Assembly at Shechem
Joshua 24:1-13Joshua 24:1-13Joshua 24:1-13Joshua 24:1-7aJoshua 24:1-2a
Joshua 24:2-10
Joshua 24:7-13
Joshua 24:11-13
“We Will Serve the Lord”Israel Chooses YHWH
Joshua 24:14-15Joshua 24:14-25Joshua 24:14-15Joshua 24:14-15Joshua 24:14-15
Joshua 24:16-18Joshua 24:16-18Joshua 24:16-18Joshua 24:16-18
Joshua 24:19-28Joshua 24:19-28Joshua 24:19-20Joshua 24:19-24
Joshua 24:21
Joshua 24:22a
Joshua 24:22b
Joshua 24:23
Joshua 24:24
Joshua 24:25-28Joshua 24:25-28
Joshua 24:26-28
Joshua DiesDeath of Joshua and EleazarFinal NotesJoshua and Eleazar DieThe Death of Joshua
Joshua 24:29-31Joshua 24:29-33Joshua 24:29-30Joshua 24:29-30Joshua 24:29-31
Joseph's Bones BuriedJoshua 24:31Joshua 24:31The Bones of Joseph and the Death of Eleazar
Joshua 24:32-33Joshua 24:32Joshua 24:32Joshua 24:32-33
Joshua 24:33Joshua 24:33

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Joshua 24:1-13 is a summary of YHWH's activity toward the man Abraham and his seed.

B. The Hittite treaties of the second millennium B.C. offer us an ancient, historically contemporary parallel to the structure of Deuteronomy (as well as Exod. - Lev. and Joshua 24:0). This treaty pattern changed by the first millennium B.C. This gives us evidence for the historicity of the Pentateuch and Joshua. For further reading in this area, see G. E. Mendenhall's Law and Covenants in Israel and the Ancient Near East and John Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context, pp. 95-107.

C. The Hittite treaty of the second millennium B.C. and its parallels in Deuteronomy

1. preamble (Deuteronomy 1:1-5, introduction of speaker, YHWH)

2. review of the past acts of the King (Deuteronomy 1:6-49, God's past acts for Israel)

3. treaty terms (Deuteronomy 5-26)

a. general (Deuteronomy 5-11)

b. specific (Deuteronomy 12-26)

4. results of treaty (Deuteronomy 27-29)

a. benefits (Deuteronomy 28:0)

b. curses/consequences (Deuteronomy 27:0)

5. witness of deity (Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:19, also 32, Moses' son functions as a witness)

a. a copy in the temple of the deity

b. a copy with the vassal to be read annually

c. the uniqueness of the Hittite treaties from the later Assyrian and Syrian treaties were:

1) the historical review of the past acts of the king

2) the cursing section was last pronounced

D. The Hittite treaty pattern of the second millennium and its parallels in Joshua:

1. identification of the King (Joshua 24:2)

2. narrative of the King's great acts (Joshua 24:2-13)

3. covenant obligations (Joshua 24:14, Joshua 24:23)

4. instructions for depositing the treaty in the sanctuary (Joshua 24:25-26)

5. the deities of the parties involved invoked as witnesses (Joshua 24:22)

6. blessing of fidelity; curses for violation (Joshua 24:20)

Verses 1-13

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 24:1-13 1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God. 2Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. 3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. 4To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. 5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst; and afterward I brought you out. 6I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7But when they cried out to the LORD, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them and covered them; and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness for a long time. 8Then I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan, and they fought with you; and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land when I destroyed them before you. 9Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel, and he sent and summoned Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. 10But I was not willing to listen to Balaam. So he had to bless you, and I delivered you from his hand. 11You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho; and the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Thus I gave them into your hand. 12Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, but not by your sword or your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.'“

Joshua 24:1 “Shechem” This was a sacred site for the patriarchs (cf. Genesis 12:6-7; Genesis 33:18-20; Genesis 35:2-4). Also it is mentioned later in Deuteronomy 27:0 and Joshua 8:30-35. See NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1213-1216 or ABD, vol. 5, pp. 1174-1186. Shiloh became the dominate sacred site in the period of the Judges because of the presence of the tabernacle.

There are several terms that describe leaders within Israel (cf. Joshua 23:2). Their exact meaning is often speculation:

1. Elders, Joshua 8:33; Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1 - BDB 278

2. Heads, Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1 - BDB 910

3. Judges, Joshua 8:33; Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1 - BDB 1047

4. Officers, Joshua 8:33; Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1 - BDB 1009

Joshua 24:2 “Joshua said to all the people” He obviously spoke through the officers and the elders of Joshua 24:2 because the number of people would be too great for him to speak to them all at once.

“Thus says the LORD the God of Israel” This is the covenant title for deity. Notice the number of “I's” in Joshua 24:1-13. Joshua is speaking directly for YHWH (cf. Joshua 24:3, Joshua 24:4 (twice), 5 (four), 6, 7, 8 (three), 10 (twice); Joshua 1:1, Joshua 1:12, Joshua 1:13)!

“ancient times”'Olam” must be interpreted in light of its context. It is often translated “forever” or “eternal,” but this context shows its fluidity (semantic field). See Special Topic: Forever ('Olam) at Joshua 4:7.

“the River” This refers to the Euphrates.

“they served other gods” Ur and Haran were both centers of the worship of the Moon goddess. Terah's name (wandering, BDB 1076) itself may reflect this worship. Abraham was obviously involved to some extent. God chose him in grace, not because of his theology or unusual merit. The rabbis say he was persecuted by his neighbors because he was against idolatry. The hero in this text (and all other texts) is YHWH, not the human beings. The choice of Abraham was an act of pure grace and redemptive purpose (cf. Genesis 3:15; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28; Luke 22:22).

Joshua 24:3-4 The VERB “gave” (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal IMPERFECT) occurs three times in these verses, emphasizing YHWH's power, control, and eternal purposes.

Joshua 24:4 “Mount Seir” This refers to the land south of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, usually associated with Edom. YHWH gave this land to the descendants of Ishmael (cf. Genesis 16:7-14; Genesis 17:18, Genesis 17:20).

Joshua 24:5 Read Genesis 15:12-21. This was purposeful action on YHWH's part.

Joshua 24:6 “chariots” See Special Topic: Chariots.

Joshua 24:7 “darkness” This cloud represented YHWH's presence, to one, darkness (Egyptians), to the other, light (Israelis, cf. Exodus 14:19-20). This same word (BDB 66) is used of the ninth plague on Egypt (i.e., darkness, cf. Exodus 10:22).

Joshua 24:8 “the land of the Amorites” This refers to the land east of the Jordan River, which became the territory of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (cf. Numbers 21:21ff).

Joshua 24:9 “Balah . . . Balaam” This false prophet's attempt to curse Israel (cf. Numbers 22:0) is alluded to several times (cf. Deuteronomy 23:4-5; Joshua 13:22; here; Nehemiah 13:2; Micah 6:5).

“fought against Israel” The UBS Translators Handbook on Joshua makes the good point that “fought against Israel” seems to contradict Numbers 22:6, Numbers 22:11; Deuteronomy 2:9; Judges 11:25. Therefore, some commentators have suggested

1. “prepared to fight”

2. “stood up against”

3. “opposed”

4. “stood in your way”

The VERB (BDB 535, KB 1086, Niphal IMPERFECT) seems to always mean “fight” (e.g., Joshua 9:2; Joshua 10:25, Joshua 10:29, Joshua 10:31; Joshua 19:47; Judges 1:5; Judges 9:17; Judges 11:8, Judges 11:25).

Joshua 24:10 The term translated “bless” is the Piel IMPERFECT and the Piel INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE of the same root (BDB 138, KB 159), which is a way to express intensification.

Joshua 24:11 “Amorite” This term may mean “highlanders.” It was a collective term for all the tribes of Canaan. See Special Topic: Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine.

“Canaanite” This term may mean “lowlanders.” It was a collective term for all the tribes of Canaan.

See Special Topic: Pre-Israelite Inhabitants of Palestine.

Joshua 24:12 “hornet” This is possibly a metaphor of divine activity causing fear because, although it is mentioned several times (cf. Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20), it is never listed as actually happening. The metaphor is also used in Deuteronomy 1:44.

Joshua 24:13 The Promised Land was an undeserved grace gift from YHWH for the purpose of establishing a people who would reflect His character and love to the nations. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Verses 14-15

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 24:14-15 14”Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua 24:14-15 This is a series of IMPERATIVES from Joshua to the tribes.

1. “fear,” BDB 431, KB 432, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Leviticus 19:32; Leviticus 25:36, Leviticus 25:43; Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:2, Deuteronomy 6:13, Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 10:12, Deuteronomy 10:20; Deuteronomy 13:4; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 17:19; Joshua 4:24

2. “serve,” BDB 712, KB 773, Qal IMPERATIVE; notice how often this VERB is used in Joshua 24:0 (cf. Joshua 24:2, Joshua 24:14[twice],15[four],16,18,19,20,21,22,24,31)!

a. in sincerity (BDB 1071)

b. in truth (BDB 54)

3. “put away” (lit. “turn aside”), BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil IMPERATIVE, cf. Genesis 35:2; 1 Samuel 7:4

4. “choose,” BDB 103, KB 119, Qal IMPERATIVE, cf. Joshua 24:22. Covenant faith involves a decision of human choice, as well as a divine choice! Covenant faith is more than family faith or national faith. It must be personal faith (cf. John 1:12; John 3:16; Romans 10:9-13).

NASB“in sincerity and truth” NKJV“in sincerity and in truth” NRSV“in sincerity and in faithfulness” TEV“sincerely and faithfully” NJB“truly and sincerely”

The JPSOA translation has “with undivided loyalty.” These terms focus on an inner attitude and outer lifestyle (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4-5). The term “truth” (BDB 54) is the OT root for faith, believe, trust, which is paralleled to the NT term (pistis, pistos, pisteuô). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: Believe, Trust, Faith, and Faithfulness in the OT

Joshua 24:15 This is Joshua' affirmation of personal faith and family faith. He had served YHWH all his adult life and now at the end, he reaffirms his faith.

Verses 16-18

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 24:16-18 16The people answered and said, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; 17for the LORD our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. 18The LORD drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the LORD, for He is our God.”

Joshua 24:16-18 “The people answered” This is another of Israel's affirmations of faith. This is a covenant renewal ceremony, cf. Joshua 24:26-27 (also see Joshua 24:16-18, Joshua 24:21, and 24).

Joshua 24:17-18 These verses reiterate YHWH's faithfulness and redemptive acts toward Israel: (1) the exodus from Egypt; (2) the miracles of deliverance; (3) God's presence and care during the wilderness wandering period; and (4) the defeat of the Canaanites and the possession of the Promised Land (cf. Genesis 15:16).

Verses 19-28

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 24:19-28 19Then Joshua said to the people, “You will not be able to serve the LORD, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you.” 21The people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” 22Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the LORD, to serve Him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel. 24The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and we will obey His voice.” 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God.” 28Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.

Joshua 24:19 “You will not be able to serve the LORD” This follows the revelation to Moses in Deuteronomy 31:16-22. Joshua seems to be emphasizing the difficulty in serving a holy God. The sacrificial system of Leviticus was a means for sinful people to approach a holy God and maintain fellowship (i.e., covenant). It is impossible in our own strength.

“holy God” Both terms are PLURAL (i.e., PLURAL OF MAJESTY), which intensifies the concept. See Special Topic: Holy.

“jealous God” This is a love word which implies a deep personal relationship (cf. Exodus 20:5; Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 5:9; Deuteronomy 6:15). He is spoken of as a “father” or even a “husband” (cf. Hosea 1-3). See Special Topic: God Described As Human (anthropomorphism).

“He will not forgive your transgressions and sins” Covenant obedience is crucial. God is faithful, but the covenant is conditional. Sin has consequences! YHWH will not overlook rebellion (cf. Exodus 23:21). This is the problem of the first covenantfallen human inability to maintain fellowship with a holy God.

Joshua 24:20 “if” The “if” shows the conditional nature of YHWH's covenant and promises to Israel (e.g., Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Deuteronomy 28:15). All of YHWH's blessings of Deuteronomy 27-28, as well as His land promises, are conditioned on a faithful, obedient, believing Israel. This is true of the Old Testament and the eschaton!

Joshua 24:22 “you are witnesses against yourselves” The covenant has rights and responsibilities. To say “yes” has definite privileges and consequences. Israel had affirmed their covenant relationship to YHWH in Joshua 24:16-18 and again in Joshua 24:24.

Joshua 24:23 “put away foreign gods which are in your midst” The VERB “put away” (BDB 693, KB 747) is a Hiphil IMPERATIVE, cf. Joshua 24:14; Genesis 35:2; 1 Samuel 7:4). The gods were already in their midst (i.e., the Canaanite gods). Amos 5:27 seems to confirm this possibility, but the second half of the verse implies attitudes, (“incline your hearts,” BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil IMPERATIVE), not actual objects. This verse calls on Israel to “incline,” but 1 Kings 8:58 calls on YHWH to cause His people to “incline” (cf. Proverbs 21:1; Psalms 141:4 negated). The Hebrew can mean either.

Joshua 24:26 “took a large stone” In Deuteronomy 16:21 this was prohibited. But, remember, the purpose of this stone is the key. This was a third covenant renewal service!

Joshua 24:27 “it has heard” This is a personification of the stone which was common (cf. Habakkuk 2:11; Ezekiel 36:4, Ezekiel 36:6). It is characteristic of Hittite treaties for natural objects to act as witnesses (rocks, trees, clouds, mountains). Joshua has used stones as memorials in the past (i.e., two piles in Joshua 4:0).

Verses 29-30

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 24:29-30 29It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being one hundred and ten years old. 30And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash.

Joshua 24:29 “the servant of the LORD” This was used often of Moses, but only here of Joshua. See note at Joshua 1:1.

“one hundred and ten” This is also the age of Joseph when he died (cf. Genesis 50:26). This age may have been a symbol of a blessed life.

Verse 31

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 24:31 31Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the LORD which He had done for Israel.

Joshua 24:31 This is a common theme in the OT. Those who experienced YHWH's power and deliverance remained faithful, but the next generation which only heard about it often went astray (e.g., the book of Judges).

Verses 32-33

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 24:32-33 32Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph's sons. 33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him at Gibeah of Phinehas his son, which was given him in the hill country of Ephraim.

Joshua 24:32 “bones of Joseph” This was Joseph's request (cf. Genesis 50:24-26; Exodus 13:19). He had been embalmed with great care in the tradition of the Egyptians.

“which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor” (cf. Genesis 33:19). Shechem was also in the land allotment of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

NASB, NRSV“pieces of money” NKJV, TEV, NJB“pieces of silver”

The Hebrew is uncertain (BDB 903, Genesis 33:19; Job 42:1). It occurs three times in the OT. It seems to refer to an unknown weight functioning as money. The Septuagint translates the term as “lamb,” which may mean (1) shape of a lamb or (2) the value of a lamb (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 239).

Joshua 24:33 “Eleazar” The High Priest during Joshua's day also died and was buried at Gibeah, not the city in the tribal allocation of Benjamin, but a place near Shiloh in the allocation of Ephraim.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the difference between chapter 23 and 24?

2. Does the Bible teach against inter-racial marriage?

3. Is this chapter a literary unit written in Joshua's day or a later compilation?

4. Why does “I” appear so often in Joshua 24:3-13?

5. Was Abraham a polytheist before God called him?

6. Why are Joshua 24:14 and 15 so important in describing biblical faith?

7. Are verses Joshua 24:29-33 a later addition?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Joshua 24". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". 2021.