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The Tribes Renew the Covenant


Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the L ord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; 4and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with what I did in its midst; and afterwards I brought you out. 6When I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, you came to the sea; and the Egyptians pursued your ancestors with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7When they cried out to the L ord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did to Egypt. Afterwards you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan; they fought with you, and I handed them over to you, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9Then King Balak son of Zippor of Moab, set out to fight against Israel. He sent and invited Balaam son of Beor to curse you, 10but I would not listen to Balaam; therefore he blessed you; so I rescued you out of his hand. 11When you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho, the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I handed them over to you. 12I sent the hornet ahead of you, which drove out before you the two kings of the Amorites; it was not by your sword or by your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and towns that you had not built, and you live in them; you eat the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards that you did not plant.

14 “Now therefore revere the L ord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the L ord. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the L ord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the L ord.”

16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the L ord to serve other gods; 17for it is the L ord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the L ord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the L ord, for he is our God.”

19 But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the L ord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20If you forsake the L ord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” 21And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the L ord!” 22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the L ord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the L ord, the God of Israel.” 24The people said to Joshua, “The L ord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. 26Joshua 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 in the sanctuary of the L ord. 27Joshua said to all the people, “See, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the L ord that he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, if you deal falsely with your God.” 28So Joshua sent the people away to their inheritances.

Death of Joshua and Eleazar

29 After these things Joshua son of Nun, the servant of the L ord, died, being one hundred ten years old. 30They buried him in his own inheritance at Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash.

31 Israel served the L ord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua and had known all the work that the L ord did for Israel.

32 The bones of Joseph, which the Israelites had brought up from Egypt, were buried at Shechem, in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor, the father of Shechem, for one hundred pieces of money; it became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.

33 Eleazar son of Aaron died; and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of his son Phinehas, which had been given him in the hill country of Ephraim.

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. 201201     Latin, “Atque ita inter primos conatus nos successus destituet.” French, “Et qu’ainsi entre les premiers efforts nous nous trouvions n’estre pas bien fournis pour rencontrer ainsi qu’il faut, et tenir bon;” “And that thus among the first efforts we may find ourselves not well furnished for encountering as is meet, and standing firm.” — Ed. 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, 202202     Latin, “Liberius.” French, “Plus hardiment et franchement;” “More boldly and frankly.” — Ed. 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. 203203     French, “Leur propre conscience les redarguera comme coulpables et conveincus de desloyaute, et d’avoir fausse leur foy, s’ils ne tiennent leur promesse;” “Their own conscience will condemn them as guilty and convicted of disloyalty, and as having broken their faith, if they do not keep their promise.” — Ed. 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. 204204     The French adds, “Comme s’il n’y avoit rien a redire en eux;” “As if there was nothing to gainsay in them.” — Ed.

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. 205205     The words meaning literally, “The gods which are in the midst of you,’ would rather seem to indicate that even at this time some of the Israelites were addicted to the secret practice of idolatry. — Ed. 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.

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