Notes on Joshua, Chapter 23
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Jos 23:1-16 KJV 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.
Joshua had already been considered “old (and) stricken” in years (Josh. 13:1). God Himself reminded Joshua of this when He reminded Joshua that there was a lot of Canaan yet to be taken over.
[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:]
Joshua was probably pretty close to 100 years of age at this time. The nation had seen him and Caleb alone, of the people 20 years of age and above, survive the wilderness wanderings, as well as following his leadership in battle as Israel conquered Canaanite territory.
3 And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God (is) he that hath fought for you.
There was no human or logical explanation how Israel conquered so much with so few soldiers.
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.
These nations were listed in Joshua 13. Most of the nations which remained (Philistines, to name one) were indeed located west of the land Israel now occupied.
5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.
Promised twice before, in Exodus 23:30 and Deut. 7:22.
[6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or (to) the left; ]
This term, being courageous, is used often in Joshua—four times in chapter 1 alone. Joshua reminded the people to follow the Law, which was God’s plan for that time.
7 That ye 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:
Joshua was no doubt well aware of the incomplete obedience of several tribes. Judah, for one, and some others (e.g., Ephraim, Josh. 16:10), had not completely driven out the Canaanites but were putting them to forced labor. We do not read anywhere that Israel was able to lead many, if any, to faith in the LORD.
The incidents at Mt Sinai, where Israel built and worshiped a golden calf, and at Baal-Peor, where 24, 000 Israelites converted to Baal-worship, were probably never far from Joshua’s mind. Idolatry was a temptation which plagued Israel for hundreds of years.
8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.
This meant to be 100 per cent committed to the LORD. Joshua may have had in mind where Jacob decided to go “back to Bethel (Gen 35)”, and commit himself and themselves to the Lord again.
9 For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but (as for) you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.
The only recorded casualties in the entire conquest of Canaan were the 36 men lost at
the first battle of Ai (Joshua 7:5). The great and strong nations had advantages—humanly speaking—of walled cities, sometimes chariots, rough terrain, and perhaps other things as well, but with God’s help, Israel conquered everything they attempted.10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he (it is) that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.
This is a reminder of similar promises in Lev. 26:8 and Deut. 32:30. God surely did fight for Israel when He rained stones from heaven against the Canaanites (Joshua 10).11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.
Perhaps a reminder or paraphrase of Deut. 6:4-6. The “greatest” commandment in the Law was to love the Lord with all one’s body, soul, mind and strength. 12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, (even) these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you:
They must have known about what had happened to Dinah when Jacob and his family were living in Shechem (Genesis 34). 13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out (any of) these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.
That is the solemn reminder of Israel’s success. They had followed God’s plan completely and had had nothing except one victory after another. Here is the warning: if they did abandon God’s will, He would make sure Israel would suffer—because they forsook Him! The obvious solution, stay true to God!14 And, behold, this day I (am) going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, (and) not one thing hath failed thereof.
Joshua may have thought he was “going the way of all the earth” but he actually lived for some time after this. Chapters 23 and
24 form the bulk of his two farewell addresses.
Joshua never took credit for any of the victories—he reminded Israel that the LORD was the One responsible for keeping the promises He had made to them. 15 Therefore it shall come to pass, (that) as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.
Years later, before the two captivities, God had sent prophets to all the nation, promising judgment if they continued to reject God and blessings if they would repent. The sad story of the captivities speaks volumes as to how Israel was rejected—but not forever. Their future is bright indeed (see Romans 11).16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.
This had happened twice (Mt Sinai and Baal-Peor) and would happen again due to Israel’s sins.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)