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Joshua 23:1-11

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.

1. Fuit autem post dies multos postquam requiem dedit Jehova Israeli ab omnibus inimicis eorum in circuitu, Josue senuit, et venit in dies:

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:

2. Tunc vocavit Josue omnem Israel, seniores ejus, et capita ejus, et judices ejus, et praefectos ejus, dixitque ad eos, Ego senui, et veni in dies:

3. And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that has fought for you.

3. Vosque vidistis omnia quae fecerit Jehova Deus vester omnibus gentibus istis in conspectu 187187     The original literally is “from before you,” and is more exactly rendered by Calvin’s Latin “In conspectu vestro,” and by the English version “because of you.” This English rendering is the more remarkable, as in the 5th verse, Joshua 23:5, the very same Hebrew word is literally rendered “From before you.” vestro, quod Jehova Deus vester pugnaverit pro vobis.

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.

4. Videte, sorte distribui vobis gentes istas residuas in haereditatem per tribus vestras, a Jordane, atque omnes gentes quas disperdidi usque ad mare magnum ab occasu solis.

5. And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God has promised unto you.

5. Jehova autem Deus vester ipse propulsabiteas a facie vestra, et expellet eas a conspectu vestro, et jure haereditario possidebitis 188188     Simply “You shall inherit,” seems to be better than the English version, “You shall possess,” which is too weak, or than Calvin’s Latin, “Jure haereditario possidebitis,” which is too strong. — Ed. terram earum, quemadmodum loquutus est Jehova Deus vester vobis.

6. Be you therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that you turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left;

6. Robrate igitur vos valde, ut custodiatis, et faciatis quicquid scriptum est in libro Legis Mosis, ut non recedatis ab eo neque ad dextram, neque ad sinistram.

7. That you 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:

7. Neque commisceamini gentibus istis quae remanent vobiscum et nomen deorum earum ne commemoretis, nec adjuretis, neque serviatis eis, neque incurvetis vos eis.

8. But cleave unto the LORD your God, as you have done unto this day.

8. Sed Jehovae Deo vestro adhaereatis, sicut fecistis usque ad diem hanc.

9. For the LORD has driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man has been able to stand before you unto this day.

9. Propterea expulit a facie vestra gentes magnas et fortes, nec stetit quisquam in conspectu vestro usque ad diem hanc.

10. One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fights for you, as he has promised you.

10. Vir unus ex vobis persequutus est mille, quia Jehova Deus vester est qui pugnat pro vobis sicut loquutus fuerat vobis.

11. Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that you love the LORD your God.

11. Custodite valde super animabus vestris ut diligatis Jehovam Deum vestrum.


Here we have a narrative of the solemn protestation which Joshua used towards the time of his death, that he might leave the pure worship of God surviving him. But although the peace and quiet which the Israelites obtained among the nations of Canaan is described as an excellent blessing from God, it is necessary to keep in mind what I formerly taught, that it was owing to their cowardice that they dwelt among their enemies, whom it would not have been difficult to rout and destroy. But thanks are justly rendered to God for his goodness in pardoning their ingratitude.

The pious solicitude of Joshua is here also set forth, for the imitation of all who are in authority. For as the father of a family will not be considered sufficiently provident if he thinks of his children only till the end of his own life, and does not extend his care farther, studying as much as in him lies to do them good even when he is dead; so good magistrates and rulers ought carefully to provide that the well arranged condition of affairs as they leave them, be confirmed and prolonged to a distant period. For this reason Peter writes, (2 Peter 1:15) 189189     The original text had the reference to 2 Peter 1:25, an obvious typesetting error. —fj. that he will endeavor after he has departed out of the world to keep the Church in remembrance of his admonitions, and able to derive benefit from them.

From its being said that he invited all Israel, and its being immediately after added that he invited their elders, and heads, and judges, and prefects, I understand the meaning to be that all were indeed permitted to come, but that the summons was addressed specially to the heads and prefects. And thus the last clause appears to me to be explanatory of the former. And, indeed, it is not at all credible that the whole people were invited; for no such meeting could possibly take place. The sense, therefore, in which the people were invited was simply this, that the elders, judges, and others were commanded to come, and might bring as many persons as were disposed to come along with them.

The speech of Joshua, as quoted, is double; but it appears to me that the historian first, as is often done, gives a brief summary of the whole speech, and then follows it out more in detail, introducing the particulars which he had omitted. 190190     According to this view, the details given in Joshua 23 and Joshua 24 refer only to one meeting. It may be so, but certainly the impression produced by a simple perusal of the chapters is, that they refer to two distinct meetings, between which some interval of time must have elapsed. It is only by means of labored criticism, accompanied with a degree of straining, that some expositors have arrived at a different conclusion. But why should it be deemed necessary to employ criticism for such a purpose? There is surely no antecedent improbability that Joshua, after all the turmoil’s of war were over, should have more than once come forth from his retirement, and called the heads of the people, or even the whole body of them together to receive his counsels, when he felt that the time of his departure was at hand. Observe, moreover, that each meeting is ushered in by its own appropriate preamble, and has its own special business. In the one, Joshua speaks in his own name, and delivers his own message; in the other, all the tribes are regularly assembled, and are said to have “presented themselves before God,” because, although Joshua was still to be the speaker, he was no longer to speak in his own name, but with the authority of a divine messenger, and in the very terms which had been put into his mouth. Accordingly, the very first words he utters are, “Thus said the Lord God of Israel.” The message thus formally and solemnly announced in Joshua 24:2, is continued verbatim and without interruption to the end of Joshua 24:13. — Ed. In the one which is first given, Joshua briefly animates the people, and exhorts them to sure confidence in the continued and unwearying grace of God. For, seeing they had experienced that God is true in all things, they could have no doubt for the future, that they might safely hope for the same success in vanquishing and destroying the enemy. The partition also by which he had distributed the remainder of the land, he set before them as an earnest or pledge of their undoubted fruition, because it was not at random but by the order of God he had marked out the seat, and fixed the boundaries of each tribe.

6. Be you therefore very courageous, etc He now shows them the mode of conquering, — not to indulge gross security, as too often happens, as a substitute for genuine confidence. He affirms that God will be propitious to them, and promises that whatever they attempt will turn out prosperously, provided they are steadfast in obeying the Law. However confidently hypocrites may contemn and deride God, they would wish, however, to have him astricted to them; nay, they often, with no small pomposity, boast of his promises. But true faith, while it reclines upon God, keeps those who possess it in his fear. In short, those who would find God must seek him sincerely, and if we desire to be regarded by him, we must beware of turning our backs upon him. The expression, Be you very courageous, as has elsewhere been said, denotes serious study, because in the great weakness of our nature no man will set about the thorough observance of the Law, if he does not exert himself above his strength. Attention ought also to be paid to the definition of true obedience which is here repeated from Moses, (Deuteronomy 5:32) and said to consist in not turning either to the right hand or the left.

7. That you come not among these nations, etc He distinctly admonishes them that it will be impossible rightly to discharge their duty if they be not carefully on their guard against all sources of corruption. This it was very necessary to enforce upon them. For they were surrounded on all sides by the snares of Satan, and we know how great their proneness to superstition was, or rather how headlong their eagerness for it. First, then, he warns them that intimate intercourse with the nations may involve them in fellowship in crime; for the term mingling used in this passage is equivalent to what is termed by St. Paul, being yoked. (2 Corinthians 6:14) In short, he first removes the incitements or allurements to idolatry, and then declares his detestation of idolatry itself. It is to be observed, however, that he does not expressly mention either bending of the knee, or sacrifices, or other rites, but designates all perverse modes of worship by the terms naming them and swearing by them. Whence we infer that God is defrauded of his honor when ever any particle, however small, of all the things which he claims for himself is transferred to idols. He accordingly concludes that they are to adhere to God alone; in other words, they are to be bound to him out and out.

9. For the Lord has driven out from before you, etc He intimates that so long as they do not themselves change, there will certainly be no change on the part of God. Therefore he asserts that, provided they conciliate the favor of God, they shall have an uninterrupted course of victory. At length he again exhorts them, as they value their life and safety, to be careful in maintaining love to God. From this source all true obedience springs; for if we do not cling to him with free and ardent affection, we shall study in vain to frame our lives in accordance with the external form of the Law.

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