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Joshua Exhorts the People


A long time afterward, when the L ord had given rest to Israel from all their enemies all around, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years, 2Joshua summoned all Israel, their elders and heads, their judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years; 3and you have seen all that the L ord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the L ord your God who has fought for you. 4I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. 5The L ord your God will push them back before you, and drive them out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the L ord your God promised you. 6Therefore be very steadfast to observe and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right nor to the left, 7so that you may not be mixed with these nations left here among you, or make mention of the names of their gods, or swear by them, or serve them, or bow yourselves down to them, 8but hold fast to the L ord your God, as you have done to this day. 9For the L ord has driven out before you great and strong nations; and as for you, no one has been able to withstand you to this day. 10One of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the L ord your God who fights for you, as he promised you. 11Be very careful, therefore, to love the L ord your God. 12For if you turn back, and join the survivors of these nations left here among you, and intermarry with them, so that you marry their women and they yours, 13know assuredly that the L ord your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from this good land that the L ord your God has given you.

14 “And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things that the L ord your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed. 15But just as all the good things that the L ord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the L ord will bring upon you all the bad things, until he has destroyed you from this good land that the L ord your God has given you. 16If you transgress the covenant of the L ord your God, which he enjoined on you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them, then the anger of the L ord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from the good land that he has given to you.”

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.

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