Joshua's exhortation before his death. (1-10) Joshua warns the people of idolatry. (11-16)
Verses 1-10 Joshua was old and dying, let them observe what he said now. He put them in mind of the great things God had done for them in his days. He exhorted them to be very courageous. Keep with care, do with diligence, and regard with sincerity what is written. Also, very cautiously to endeavour that the heathen idolatry may be forgotten, so that it may never be revived. It is sad that among Christians the names of the heathen gods are so commonly used, and made so familiar as they are. Joshua exhorts them to be very constant. There might be many things amiss among them, but they had not forsaken the Lord their God; the way to make people better, is to make the best of them.
Verses 11-16 Would we cleave to the Lord, we must always stand upon our guard, for many a soul is lost through carelessness. Love the Lord your God, and you will not leave him. Has God been thus true to you? Be not you false to him. He is faithful that has promised, ( Hebrews 10:23 ) . The experience of every Christian witnesses the same truth. Conflicts may have been severe and long, trials great and many; but at the last he will acknowledge that goodness and mercy followed him all the days of his life. Joshua states the fatal consequences of going back; know for a certainty it will be your ruin. The first step would be, friendship with idolaters; the next would be, marrying with them; the end of that would be, serving their gods. Thus the way of sin is down-hill, and those who have fellowship with sinners, cannot avoid having fellowship with sin. He describes the destruction he warns them of. The goodness of the heavenly Canaan, and the free and sure grant God has made of it, will add to the misery of those who shall for ever be shut out from it. Nothing will make them see how wretched they are, so much, as to see how happy they might have been. Let us watch and pray against temptation. Let us trust in God's faithfulness, love, and power; let us plead his promises, and cleave to his commandments, then we shall be happy in life, in death, and for ever.
Joshua 23:1 Joshua 23:2 . JOSHUA'S EXHORTATION BEFORE HIS DEATH.
1. a long time after that the Lord had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies--about fourteen years after the conquest of Canaan, and seven after the distribution of that country among the tribes.
2. Joshua called for all Israel--The clause which follows seems to restrict this general expression as applicable only to the officers and representatives of the people. The place of assembly was most probably Shiloh. The occasion of convening it was the extreme age and approaching death of the venerable leader; and the purport of this solemn address was to animate the chosen people and their posterity to a faithful and unswerving continuance in the faith and worship of the God of Israel.
Joshua 23:3 . BY FORMER BENEFITS.
3. ye have seen all that the Lord your God hath done unto all these nations because of you--The modesty and humility of Joshua are remarkably displayed at the commencement of this address. Dismissing all thoughts of his personal services, he ascribed the subjugation and occupation of Canaan entirely to the favoring presence and aid of God; and in doing so, he spoke not more piously than truly. This had been promised ( Deuteronomy 1:30 , 3:22 ); and the reality of the divine aid was seen in the rapid overthrow of the Canaanites, which had already led to the division of the whole land among the tribes [ Joshua 23:4 ].
Joshua 23:5-11 . BY PROMISES.
5-11. the Lord your God, he shall expel them from before you, as the Lord your God hath promised you, &c.--The actual possessions which God had given were a pledge of the complete fulfilment of His promise in giving them the parts of the country still unconquered. But the accomplishment of the divine promise depended on their inviolable fidelity to God's law--on their keeping resolutely aloof from all familiar intercourse and intimate connections with the Canaanites, or in any way partaking of their idolatrous sins. In the event of their continuing in steadfast adherence to the cause of God, as happily distinguished the nation at that time, His blessing would secure them a course of brilliant and easy victories ( Leviticus 26:7 , Deuteronomy 28:7 , 32:30 ).
11. Take good heed, therefore, that ye love the Lord your God--The sum of his exhortation is comprised in the love of God, which is the end or fulfilment of the law ( Deuteronomy 6:5 , 11:13 , Matthew 22:37 ).
Joshua 23:12 . BY THREATENINGS IN CASE OF DISOBEDIENCE.
12, 13. Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations--As marriage connections with the idolatrous Canaanites would present many and strong temptations to transgress it, these were strictly prohibited ( Exodus 34:12-16 , Deuteronomy 7:3 ). With his eye, as it were, upon those prohibitions, Joshua threatens them with the certain withdrawal of the divine aid in the further expulsion of the Canaanites (a threat founded Exodus 23:33 , Numbers 33:55 , Deuteronomy 7:16 ).