Joshua Chapter 23: Joshua warns Israel about Straying from God

Dec 15th, 2009 | By | Category: Joshua, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Joshua Chapter 23: Joshua warns Israel about Straying from God

Josh. 23:1 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.

The setting was shortly before Joshua’s death. What does “a long time after” signify? Joshua died at age 110 (Josh. 24:29). Since he was 80 years old when the Israelites left Sinai, it was about 24 years later at this point, allowing six years for the dividing of the land.

Josh. 23:2 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 called the heads of Israel together and announced his aged condition.

Josh. 23:3 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.

Josh. 23:4 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.

Moses had given land to the 2 1/2 tribes east of Jordan. Joshua divided the land to the remaining 9 1/2 tribes in the territory west of Jordan; that is, Joshua divided the land once the Israelites crossed Jordan—from the Jordan River westward to the Mediterranean Sea.

Josh. 23:5 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.

The Israelites had a firm footing in the land, but a “mopping up” of stragglers remained.

Josh. 23:6 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;

Joshua’s words are a reminder of Moses’ exhortation to the nation of Israel just before his death to keep all that had been written in the Law. Now Joshua did the same thing. Notice how he gave deference to Moses. The Law of God had come through Moses in a very striking manner (the tables of the Law, etc.). Joshua recognized Moses as his earthly superior.

Josh. 23:7 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:

Peoples (“nations”), that is, remnants of nations, remained in parts of Israel. The Philistines were quite numerous and caused problems later on. The Gibeonites were another example. They had made a covenant with Israel through deceit and now would be hewers of wood and drawers of water. There was danger of being contaminated by heathen religions through contact with these peoples.

Josh. 23:8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.

“Cleave” means to “cling” or “sever” depending on context. Here the thought was cling. “As ye have done unto this day.” Verse 8 is fairly complimentary. The Israelites had cleaved unto God because those who were unfaithful had been weeded out, especially in Moses’ day.

Josh. 23:9 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.

God had driven out from before the Israelites nations great, strong, and more numerous. Enemies greater in stature (“giants”) had been defeated.

Josh. 23:10 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.

Josh. 23:11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.

Success was proportionate to obedience and love for God.

Josh. 23:12 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:

Josh. 23:13 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.

Moses had spoken similarly. God warned that intermarriage with the heathen would be a snare and a trap, scourges, and thorns—and would lead to the Israelites’ destruction.

Josh. 23:14 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.

Up to this time, “not one thing” had failed of what God had promised. Examples of “good things” were enough food, victory over enemies, and not being harmed by wild animals. God would reward the Israelites for every step of faith they took, but they had to take the initial step.

Josh. 23:15 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.

Israel was a land of milk and honey—a “good land” that was much more fruitful than at the present time.

Josh. 23:16 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.

God gave the Israelites “good land” and “good things,” but these would cease if the people disobeyed and served other gods. Like Moses, Joshua knew that disobedience would come.

(1987–1988 Study)

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