The Covenant Renewed at Shechem (24:1–27)
22 Some Bible scholars see additional symbolism in the crossing of the Jordan. Some liken it to our being baptized into Christ’s death in order that we might be raised to new life in Him (Romans 6:34). Some believe it symbolizes the crucifying of our old self so that we might no longer be slaves to sin (Romans 6:6). These are all valid interpretations. Just as the crossing of the Jordan was a decisive experience in the lives of the Israelites, so it is also a decisive experience in the lives of Christians.
23 Stone memorials were common in ancient times before the written word became widely available. They were designed to provoke questions so that the stories of God’s miracles could be told over and over. Today we have the Bible to remind us of God’s marvelous acts. Like Joshua’s stone memorial, the Bible testifies to actual events seen and experienced by the biblical writers (2 Peter 1:16).
24 The number forty thousand was less than their total fighting strength, which according to Numbers Chapter 26 should have been about 110,000 men (see Numbers 26:7,18,34). Evidently Moses and Joshua had allowed some of the men to stay on their land east of the Jordan in order to protect their women and children.
25 The Lord wanted the Israelites to fear Him—that is, to have total allegiance to Him, to have reverence for Him. For further discussion of what it means to “fear” the Lord, see footnote to comment on Genesis 20:8–13; Deuteronomy 6:1–3 and comment.
26 In verse 2, the word again does not mean that Joshua was to circumcise the Israelites a second time; it only means that after forty years of neglect, Joshua was to institute the rite of circumcision “again,” and to circumcise all those Israelites under forty who had not yet been circumcised. Obviously Joshua did not perform all the circumcisions himself: there were at least half a million to be performed!
27 In verse 6, Canaan is described as a land flowing with milk and honey, an expression indicating fruitfulness and prosperity (see Exodus 3:8; Deuteronomy 8:6–9; 11:8–12).
28 It is not known why the Israelites performed no circumcisions during their desert years. Perhaps it was because all Israelites over twenty years of age had been condemned to die in the desert because of their disobedience and thus were no longer part of God’s covenant, of which circumcision was the sign (verse 6). For the reason why that former generation of Israelites was not allowed to enter the promised land, see Numbers 14:1–4,21–23,27–35.
29 The Lord can appear in any form He chooses. He also sends angels to represent Him. In Scripture it is often hard to tell whether it’s an angel or the Lord Himself who is being talked about (see Genesis 32:22–26 and comment). For further discussion of this subject, see comments on Genesis 16:7–10; 18:1–8 and footnotes to comments.
30 For the meaning of the term devoted to the LORD, see Leviticus 27:28–29 and comment.
31 A frequent theme in the Old Testament is that the sin of an individual can bring punishment on the whole community as well as on himself. Indeed, this very occurrence was soon to take place (see Joshua Chapter 7).
32 Although Israel shared in Achan’s sin and as a result suffered a humiliating defeat in battle, the specific punishment for the sin was given only to Achan and his children (verse 24), who probably were accomplices in his sin (see Deuteronomy 24:16 and comment).
33 For the significance of the Lord’s name, see footnote to comment on Exodus 23:20–22.
34 Probably the selection was made by casting lots; since the Lord controls the outcome of the lot (Proverbs 16:33), the selection was, in fact, made by the Lord and not by chance.
35 In Moses and Joshua’s time, the “shekel” was a unit of weight. The two hundred shekels of silver weighed more than two kilograms; the fifty shekels of gold weighed over half a kilogram (verse 21).
36 Stoning was the commonest method of execution in ancient Israel (see Leviticus 20:2,6,27; Deuteronomy 13:6–11).
37 The word Achor means “trouble.”
38 The place of ambush was between Bethel and Ai (verse 9). Bethel was a nearby city allied with Ai. It is unclear how many of the men were actually involved in the ambush; according to verse 12, the ambush consisted of only five thousand men. Perhaps two ambushes were set.
39 On a similar occasion forty years earlier, Moses held up his staff to indicate that the Lord was fighting for Israel (Exodus 17:8–13).
40 For the meaning of the expression “totally destroy,” see comment on Numbers 21:1–3 and first footnote to comment.
41 The expression woodcutters and water carriers (verse 21) can mean household servants generally.
42 Worship at the tabernacle required much wood for sacrifices and much water for washing.
43 Canaan was inhabited by at least six major tribes in Joshua’s time (see Joshua 9:1). However, within each tribal area there were a number of cities or city-states, each with its own king. (Jerusalem, for example, was in a Jebusite area.) God, through Moses, had said that all of these tribes were to be driven out and their cities destroyed (see Deuteronomy 7:1–2; 20:16–18).
44 The Book of Jashar is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 1:18.
45 The Hebrew word for trees can also mean “poles.” The kings could have been hung on poles, even as Jesus was hung on a cross (Acts 5:30; 1 Peter 2:24).
46 For the meaning of the expression totally destroyed, see comment on Numbers 21:1–3 and first footnote to comment.
47 We must emphasize once again that the Canaanites were destroyed because of their wickedness and ungodliness; the Lord used Israel to bring divine judgment upon them. Furthermore, it was necessary to purge the land of the idolatrous Canaanites, lest they draw Israel into their idolatry. The expression all who breathed refers to humans, not animals.
48 To hamstring means to cut the tendon above the horse’s hock (the joint in the hind leg that corresponds to the human ankle). Hamstringing renders a horse useless for military operations.
49 Many cities in the Middle East were located on mounds, which consisted of the accumulated debris of earlier settlements piled one on top of another at that same location.
50 For further discussion on the subject of God’s “hardening” of people’s hearts, see Exodus 4:21 and comment.
51 God is very patient. He waits and waits for people to call on His name; He gives people a chance to repent (see Romans 2:4). But when He sees that they will not repent, He “gives them over” (Romans 1:24,26,28)—He hardens them. He waited over four hundred years for the Canaanites (Amorites) to repent, but they did not; when their sin reached its full measure (Genesis 15:16), He brought judgment upon them (see Romans 2:5).
52 In verses 1–6, the three most important geographical names are as follows: the Arabah (verse 1) is the whole Jordan River valley; the Sea of Kinnereth (verse 3) is the Sea of Galilee; and the Sea of Arabah (verse 3) is the Dead Sea (also called the Salt Sea).
53 In verse 6, the Hebrew word for allocate means to “assign by lot.” Since God controlled how the lot would fall (Proverbs 16:33), this meant that God Himself would be allocating the land to the tribes. In this way, no one could accuse Joshua of showing favoritism.
54 Beth Peor (verse 20) was one of the places where Balaam tried to curse Israel (Numbers 23:28); later the Israelites were seduced there by the Moabite women (Numbers 25:1–3).
The defeat of the Midianite chiefs (verse 21) and the death of Balaam (verse 22) are described in Numbers 31:7–8.
55 For a discussion of the Urim and Thummim, see comment on Exodus 28:15–30 and footnote to comment.
56 Caleb had been forty years old when he and the other eleven spies had been sent to explore Canaan (Numbers Chapter 13); forty-five years had passed since then. Since for thirty-eight of those years the Israelites had been in the desert, we can calculate that Israel’s conquest of Canaan up to this point had taken seven years.
57 As we have noted elsewhere, some Old Testament books are not written according to exact chronological order; the writers are more interested in theological truths and themes than in the exact timing of events. Also, in Joshua 11:21 the writer suggests that Joshua himself drove out the Anakites, not Caleb. But we must keep in mind that it is customary for a chief leader to receive credit for what his subordinates do; it was no doubt Caleb who took the lead in driving the Anakites from his inheritance, thus showing by example what God expected the other Israelites to do in their allotted territories.
58 In Othniel’s case, a military victory (the capture of a city) was accepted as the “bride-price” (see 1 Samuel 18:25).
59 At some later time, a few of the towns mentioned in verses 21–62 were transferred to other tribes. In particular, the towns listed in verses 26–32 were later given to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:19). Also, a few of the towns in the western foothills (verses 33–44) were later given to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:41–43). To add to the difficulty of interpreting these lists, two different towns would sometimes have the same name, or the name of one town might have two different spellings.
60 Since Ephraim’s allotment lay to the south of Manasseh’s, the border outlined in verses 1–3 corresponds to Ephraim’s southern border. It must also be recalled that only half the tribe of Manasseh received land on the west side of the Jordan; the other half had already received its land east of the Jordan.
61 We must keep in mind that biblical genealogies are often incomplete.
62 If one refers to a map, one can see that, except for the tribe of Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh received far more land than any other tribe.
63 The use of iron was new in Joshua’s time. Chariots made with iron were stronger and faster. However, chariots could be used only on the flat plains along the Mediterranean Sea.
64 The ark remained at Shiloh until it was captured by the Philistines three hundred years later (see 1 Samuel 4:1–11). Until that time, Shiloh served as the central place of worship for all Israel.
65 We have already learned about Phinehas and his zeal for the Lord’s honor (see Numbers 25:6–13).
66 According to Genesis 15:18–21 and Deuteronomy 1:6–8, the promised land did include the territory east of the Jordan. Perhaps there was uncertainty among the Israelites themselves concerning the precise boundaries of the promised land. It is clear, however, that most of the Israelites considered the land west of the Jordan to be, in a special way, the land of promise (see Numbers 32:6–9).
67 The references for the three offerings mentioned in verse 23 are as follows: for burnt offerings, see Leviticus 1:1–17; for grain offerings, see Leviticus 2:1–16; for fellowship offerings, see Leviticus 3:1–17.
68 The downfall of King Solomon came about because of his many marriages to ungodly women (1 Kings 11:1–8).
69 The covenant renewal took place at Shechem, the exact place where God first promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan (see Genesis 12:6–7). The tabernacle (or the ark alone) must have been transported from Shiloh to Shechem for this occasion.
70 The Israelites used their swords and bows, of course, but it was God who gave the victory. For a discussion of the relationship between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility, see Exodus 17:10–13 and comment.
71 The hornet was a kind of terror, or some manifestation of God that produced terror (Exodus 23:28; Deuteronomy 7:20).
72 It must be emphasized that every true Christian is called to be a disciple. A disciple is not some special kind of Christian; there is only one kind of Christian—disciples. Luke 14:33 applies to all of us.
73 Notice that Joshua included his household in the decision to serve the Lord. God desires whole families to serve Him in unity (Acts 16:31). It is customary in many parts of the world for the head of a family or clan to make a decision, which is then accepted by other family members. This is pleasing to God. However, each member should individually grow in faith and spiritual maturity.
74 For a discussion of the old and new covenants, see Exodus 24:1–8; Jeremiah 31:31–34 and comments.
75 Joshua said to the people: “[God] will not forgive your rebellion and your sins” (verse 19). God did not forgive them because they remained hardened and unrepentant. But God will always forgive those who confess their sins and turn back to Him in repentance (see 1 John 1:9). God’s character does not change. If we humans fear Him and submit to Him, He will respond to us with mercy and grace. But if we resist Him and turn from Him, He will respond to us with anger and judgment (see Exodus 34:4–7 and comment).
76 In verse 32, the expression Joseph’s bones really means his mummified body, because Joseph had been embalmed in Egypt (Genesis 50:26).