by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Jos 24:1, KJV 1 And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
Shechem was still the headquarters or central point for Israel at this time. They had no national “capital” and no king except God Himself.
Note also how they responded, to God and not Joshua, though Joshua was one of God’s spokesmen at the time along with Phinehas the priest (Josh. 22).
2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, (even) Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
The other side of the flood probably refers to the Tigris-Euphrates valley. Ur of the Chaldees may have been a seaport on the Persian Gulf, as it is called now, before the harbor silted up. At one time, at least, Ur was close to deep water. Ur was almost directly east of Susa, capital of the Persian Empire in the time of Esther (Est.1:2) and Nehemiah (Neh. 1:1) yet many miles distant.
Far too deep to discuss here is the rise of idolatry. How it started and how it spread is only briefly mentioned in Romans 1, where the people who knew God walked away from Him, inventing gods, goddesses, and any number of other things. Three of the saddest verses in all the Bible are in Romans 1 where Paul says that as the people increasingly gave up on God, then God gave them up too.
3 And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
This is told in Genesis 11 and following. After stopping at Haran and probably Damascus, Abram (as he was then known) traveled as far as Sichem (Gen 12:6), later called Shechem. Abram then settled in Hebron, after more traveling in Canaan (Gen 13:18). The story of Isaac’s birth is told in Genesis 21. Isaac is one of the true miracle babies in Scripture—his mother was 90 years old when he was born!
4 And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.
Isaac was 40 when he married Rebekah and 60 when Esau and Jacob were born (Gen 25:20, 26). Sometime after this Esau, also called Edom, apparently had settled in Mt Seir (Gen 32:3). He even invited Jacob to stay in Mt Seir after he and Jacob were reconciled (Gen 33).
Mt Seir was given to Edom/Esau as a gift from God. On the journey out of Egypt, God told Moses that Israel would not even receive a “foot breadth (Deut. 2:5)” of Esau’s land for a possession.
Many years before this, Jacob and his household, except Joseph—already there—did go to Egypt as a result of the famine that plagued most of the area around Egypt. Certainly Jacob and family felt the effects of the famine as far away as Canaan (Gen 42).
In one sentence, God covers over 100 years of Israel’s history! Jacob was 130 when he met Pharaoh (Gen 47:9), and God allowed him 17 additional years beyond this (Gen 47:28).
5 I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.
Another king (perhaps dynasty) began to rule Egypt and they didn’t know anything about Joseph. This new king enslaved Israel and made their lives miserable with little besides hard labor. The story of Israel and Moses, and how God preserved both, is in the first chapters of Exodus.
When Moses was 80 and Aaron 83 (Ex 7:7), God sent them back to Egypt to lead Israel out of there. The Pharaoh or king at the time absolutely refused so God brought 10 plagues on Egypt. See Exodus 5-12.
6 And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.
After Israel had observed the first Passover (Ex 12) and left Egypt. They camped by the Red Sea (Ex 13 and God gave them a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to lead the way. Pharaoh realized what had happened—his entire slave labor force had disappeared!—and took a large number of his army, and all of Egypt’s chariots (Ex 14:7) to capture the Israelites (or, perhaps, worse?). The Egyptians, that night, seemed to have made their camp close to the Israelites (Ex 14:20), who were themselves close to the Red Sea at this time.
7 And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
The darkness between Israel and the Egyptians is referenced in Ex 14:20. With light for Israel, and darkness for the Egyptians, this is one of the first miracles the Israelites encountered.
Joshua does not relate, at this time, the part of the story about the sea being parted, and that Israel crossed the Red Sea on dry ground. He does relate that the Egyptians were chasing the Israelites and were about to the middle of the sea (Ex 14:23) when they realized they were in trouble. The chariot wheels fell off (!) and the Egyptians realized the LORD, God of Israel, was fighting against them. Moses stretched forth his hand and the Egyptians drowned in the Red Sea. Not a one was left. See Exodus 14 for the entire event.
Not too long after this, Israel came to Kadesh (Numbers 13), sent out 12 spies to view the land, and waited for their report. Ten of them said, “We can’t do it, we look like grasshoppers in their sight, etc.”. Joshua and Caleb, Caleb especially, said, “Let’s go at once and take possession!” Incredibly, even after the miracles they had seen God perform, Israel refused to believe and even wanted to return to Egypt! God had had enough and said Israel would wander (aimlessly?) in the wilderness for the remainder of a forty-year period (38 years, Deut. 2:14).
8 And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
This refers to the east side of Jordan, where Israel fought against Og, king of Bashan (Num. 21:3) and Sihon, king of the Amorites (Num. 32:33). These victories were mentioned often in Deuteronomy and Joshua, once each in 1 Kings and Nehemiah (many years later) and twice in Psalms (135:11, 136:20).
9 Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:
Balaam’s encounter with Balak, king of Moab, is found in Numbers 22-24. Balaam lived in Mesopotamia, many miles from Moab, so it was a long journey for Balak’s messengers. Balak wanted Balaam to curse Israel—which makes one wonder why, unless the “gods” of Moab and Ammon, or any other nation, could not seem to do anything against Israel!
10 But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.
Eventually Balaam came and even though he may have wanted to curse Israel in order to please Balak, God overruled and Balaam wound up blessing Israel multiple times, never cursing them once!
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)
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