Saturday, August 24, 2013

Bible Commentary - Joshua 24

In this chapter, Joshua reminds the people of what the LORD has done, they renew their vow to serve him, and Joshua dies.

This is a bit of a longer chapter, but just like Joshua 23 this chapter seems to echo the structure of Deuteronomy.  If my readers recall, Moses spent the first three chapters of Deuteronomy recounting the history of Israel because it was part of the Hittite Suzerainty formula, which I write about frequently in my commentary on Deuteronomy.

For what it's worth, Joshua seems to be trying to do a very similar thing.  His purpose in this chapter is, like Moses in Deuteronomy, to renew the covenant between the people and the LORD.  Like Moses, he begins by recounting their history, and then challenges them to serve the LORD.  Joshua 23 had the life/death dichotomy which was found in Deuteronomy.  This chapter is interesting because it's almost as if Joshua is trying to dissuade them from following the LORD by warning them of the strictness of this path.  Regardless, once the people affirm they will follow the LORD, Joshua constructs another memorial to act as a witness to the people of what they have agreed to do.

And lastly, the people remember to bury the bones of Joseph which they had remarkably been carrying for over 400 years.  He initially commanded his brothers to do this in Gen 50:25, Moses took the bones with him when he left Egypt in Ex 13:19, and in this chapter the bones are finally taken to the promised land and buried there.

Anyway, I will comment on a few things.  First, verse 12 again contains the peculiar phrase, "I sent the hornet before you" which was previously stated in Ex 23:28 and Deut 7:20.  As I said then, it's hard to explain exactly what the hornet is besides some sort of malevolent force to cause harm to Israel's enemies.

Verse 13 is almost a direct quote from Deut 6:10-11, and I'm almost certain that this is an intended reference since in the previous chapter Joshua referenced the "book of the law of Moses", which would include Deuteronomy.  What's more, for the rest of this chapter Joshua is adjuring the people to carefully follow the LORD, which is similar to Moses's command in Deut 6:12 and following.  What Moses said in Deut 6 is, "when the LORD blesses you, do not forget him."  In this chapter, Joshua is stating, "the LORD has already blessed you, now do not forget him."

Verse 25 concludes that Joshua made a covenant with the people, which was then written down and then he created a memorial to remind the people of their vow.  All of these things remind us of Deuteronomy, both because Joshua quotes from Deuteronomy but also because Deuteronomy was the book of the second covenant (the first being from Ex 24).  We can think of this as a third covenant, although in truth it's merely a reaffirmation of the second (which was also an affirmation of the first).

For what it's worth, the people agree to this renewal of the covenant, just like they agreed to the covenant in Deuteronomy and in Ex 24.  Shortly we will see how much their promise is worth, but keep in mind they have sinned against the LORD many times in their history, even after the covenant of Ex 24 (the sin of the golden calf, Ex 32) and after the covenant of Deuteronomy (Joshua 7).  I can't help but wonder if they will renew their sins once Joshua dies and can no longer restrain them from the inclinations of their hearts?  (I'm being rhetorical; they will start sinning almost immediately.)

With that, everyone goes back to his inheritance and Joshua dies.  The death of Joshua brings us to the formal conclusion of the book of Joshua, and next will be the book of Judges.  I have a lot of things to say about Judges, which I will do so next in my introduction to Judges.

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