15. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom you 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 you dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
15. Quod si molestum est1vobis servire Jehovae, eligite vobis hodie quos colatis: sive deos, quibus servierunt patres vestri, qui fuerunt trans flumen, sive deos Aemorrhaei, in quorum habitatis terra: ego vero, et domus mea colemus Jehovam.
16. And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;
16. Cui respondit populus, dicens, Absit a nobis ut derelinquamus Jehovam, serviendo diis alienis.
17. 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:
17. Jehova enim Deus noster ipse est qui eduxit nos et patres nostros e terra AEgypti, e domo servorum,2et qui fecit in oculis nostris signa ista magna: servavitque nos in omni via per quam ambulavimus, et in omnibus populis per quorum transivimus medium.
18. 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.
18. Expulitque Jehova omnes populos, atque adeo Aemorrhaeum habitatorem terrae a facie nostra: etiam nos serviemus Jehovae, quiae ipse est Deus noster.
19. And Joshua said unto the people, You cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
19. Dixitque Josue ad populum Non poteritis servire Jehovae, quia Deus sanctus est, Deus aemulator est: non parcet sceleribus vestris, atque peccatis vestris.
20. If you forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he has done you good.
20. Si dereliqueritis Jehovam, et servieritis deo alieno, convertet se et malefaciet vobis, consumetque vos, postquam benefecerit vobis.
21. And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD.
21. Cui respondit populus, Nequaquam: sed Jehovae serviemus.
22. And Joshua said unto the people, You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.
22. Dixitque Josue ad populum, Testes estis contra vos quod vos elegeritis vobis Jehovam ut illi serviatis. Et dixerunt, Testes.3
23. Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.
23. Nunc ergo auferte deos alienos, qui sunt in medio vestri, et inclinate cor vestrum ad Jehovam Deum Israel.
24. And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
24. Cui respondit populus Jehovae Deo nostro serviemus, et voci ejus obediemus.
15. And if it seem evil unto you, etc It seems here as if Joshua were paying little regard to what becomes an honest and right-hearted leader. If the people had forsaken God and gone after idols, it was his duty to inflict punishment on their impious and abominable revolt. But now, by giving them the option to serve God or not, just as they choose, he loosens the reins, and gives them license to rush audaciously into sin. What follows is still more absurd, when he tells them that they cannot serve the Lord, as if he were actually desirous of set purpose to impel them to shake off the yoke. But there is no doubt that his tongue was guided by the inspiration of the Spirit, in stirring up and disclosing their feelings. For when the Lord brings men under his authority, they are usually willing enough to profess zeal for piety, though they instantly fall away from it. Thus they build without a foundation. This happens because they neither distrust their own weakness so much as they ought, nor consider how difficult it is to bind themselves wholly to the Lord. There is need, therefore, of serious examination, lest we be carried aloft by some giddy movement, and so fail of success in our very first attempts.4 With this design, Joshua, by way of probation, emancipates the Jews, making them, as it were, their own masters, and free to choose what God they are willing to serve, not with the view of withdrawing them from the true religion, as they were already too much inclined to do, but to prevent them from making inconsiderate promises, which they would shortly after violate. For the real object of Joshua was, as we shall see, to renew and confirm the covenant which had already been made with God. Not without cause, therefore, does he give them freedom of choice, that they may not afterwards pretend to have been under compulsion, when they bound themselves by their own consent. Meanwhile, to impress them with a feeling of shame, he declares that he and his house will persevere in the worship of God.
16. And the people answered and said, etc Here we see he had no reason to repent of the option given, when the people, not swearing in the words of another, nor obsequiously submitting to extraneous dictation, declare that it would be an impious thing to revolt from God. And thus it tends, in no small degree, to confirm the covenant, when the people voluntarily lay the law upon themselves. The substance of the answer is, that since the Lord has, by a wonderful redemption, purchased them for himself as a peculiar people, has constantly lent them his aid, and shown that he is among them as their God, it would be detestable ingratitude to reject him and revolt to other gods.
19. And Joshua said unto the people, etc Here Joshua seems to act altogether absurdly in crushing the prompt and alert zeal of the people, by suggesting ground of alarm. For to what end does he insist that they cannot serve the Lord, unless it be to make them, from a sense of their utter powerlessness, to give themselves up to despair, and thus necessarily become estranged from the fear of God. It was necessary, however, to employ this harsh mode of obtestation, in order to rouse a sluggish people, rendered more lethargic by security. And we see that the expedient did not fail to obtain, at least, a momentary success. For they neither despond nor become more slothful, but, surmounting the obstacle, answer intrepidly that they will be constant in the performance of duty.
In short, Joshua does not deter them from serving God, but only explains how refractory and disobedient they are, in order that they may learn to change their temper. So Moses, in his song, (Deuteronomy 32) when he seems to make a divorce between God and the people, does nothing else than prick and whet them, that they may hasten to change for the better. Joshua, indeed, argues absolutely from the nature of God; but what he specially aims at is the perverse behavior and untamed obstinacy of the people. He declares that Jehovah is a holy and a jealous God. This, certainly, should not by any means prevent men from worshipping him; but it follows from it that impure, wicked, and profane despisers, who have no religion, provoke his anger, and can have no intercourse with him, for they will feel him to be implacable. And when it is said that he will not spare their wickedness, no general rule is laid down, but the discourse is directed, as often elsewhere, against their disobedient temper. It does not refer to faults in general, or to special faults, but is confined to gross denial of God, as the next verse demonstrates. The people, accordingly, answer the more readily,5 that they will serve the Lord.
22. And Joshua said unto the people, etc We now understand what the object was at which Joshua had hitherto aimed. It was not to terrify the people and make them fall away from their religion, but to make the obligation more sacred by their having of their own accord chosen his government, and betaken themselves to his guidance, that they might live under his protection. They acknowledge, therefore, that their own conscience will accuse them, and hold them guilty of perfidy, if they prove unfaithful.6 But although they were not insincere in declaring that they would be witnesses to their own condemnation, still how easily the remembrance of this promise faded away, is obvious from the Book of Judges. For when the more aged among them had died, they quickly turned aside to various superstitions. By this example we are taught how multifarious are the fallacies which occupy the senses of men, and how tortuous the recesses in which they hide their hypocrisy and folly, while they deceive themselves by vain confidence.7
23. Now, therefore, put away the strange gods, etc How can it be that those who were lately such stern avengers of superstition, have themselves given admission to idols? Yet the words expressly enjoin that they are to put away strange gods from the midst of them. If we interpret that their own houses were still polluted by idols, we may see, as in a bright mirror, how complacently the greater part of mankind can indulge in vices which they prosecute with inexorable severity in others. But, as I do not think it probable that they dared, after the execution of Achan, to pollute themselves with manifest sacrilege, I am inclined to think that reference is made not to their practice but to their inclinations, and that they are told to put all ideas of false gods far away from them. For he had previously exhorted them in this same chapter to take away the gods whom their fathers had served beyond the river and in Egypt. But nobody will suppose that the idols of Chaldea were treasured up in their repositories, or that they had brought impure deities with them from Egypt, to be a cause of hostility between God and themselves. The meaning, therefore, simply is, that they are to renounce all idols, and clear themselves of all profanity, in order that they may purely worship God alone.8 This seems to be the purport of the clause, incline your heart unto the Lord, which may be taken as equivalent to, rest in him, and so give up your heart to the love of him, as to delight and be contented only with him.