Joshua 23 Study Notes


23:1 The note that Joshua was old repeats the words from 13:1, just as the theme of rest from all the enemies carries forward the sense of 21:44. Joshua had completed his life’s mission.

23:2 Elders, leaders, judges, and officers includes all Israel’s leadership at the various levels.

23:3 You have seen for yourselves everything the Lord your God did is a theme also found in Deuteronomy (Dt 3:21; 4:3,9; 10:21; 29:2). Note that the Lord your God occurs twice here and thirteen times in the chapter. That the Lord had fought for Israel is repeated several times in Joshua (10:14,42; 23:10) and was promised in Deuteronomy (Dt 1:30; 3:22; 20:4).

23:4 The land currently occupied by the remaining nations had already been parceled out as an inheritance; the Israelites merely had to conquer it with God’s help.

23:5 Israel was to remain faithful and watch as God would force them back on your account. This is not unlike what had already occurred. Israel had observed God fighting against their enemies and had merely followed after him to experience the victory.

23:6 The requirement for Israel to continue to enjoy success was that they obey all that is written in the book of the law of Moses. This is what Joshua was commanded to do in 1:9-11. His obedience and that of Israel had brought victory. The phrase turn . . . to the right or left is also found in 1:7; Dt 2:27; 5:32; 17:11,20; 28:14; 2Kg 22:2; Pr 4:27.

23:7 The way to obey God is to worship him alone and refuse to be lured into association with other deities or the nations who worship them. This was God’s most basic command for Israel (Ex 20:3-6; Dt 5:7-10).

23:8-9 To this day occurs twice here. It shows a sense of continuity on the part of both God and Israel (4:9; 5:9; 7:26; 8:28-29; 10:27; 13:13; 14:14; 15:63; 16:10; 22:17). God promised to make of Abraham a “great and powerful nation” (Gn 18:18; cp. Dt 26:5). Joshua reminded Israel that no one had been able to stand against them, as Moses had promised (Dt 7:24; 11:25; cp. Jos 1:5; 10:8).

23:10 God wins the victories and enables Israel to succeed.

23:11 This warning to love the Lord your God is based on Dt 6:4 and is at the heart of Joshua’s message.

23:12 This warning against association or intermarriage with other nations is repeated in 24:20.

23:13 Disobedience would result in God withdrawing his strength so that Israel would not fully possess the land. This compromise would lead to a trap for Israel and ultimately, in anticipation of the exile centuries later, to the tribes of Israel disappearing from the promised land.

23:14 The way of the whole earth is death, since everything on earth eventually dies (Ec 9:3; Rm 5:12; Heb 9:27).

23:15 God’s promises of trouble for Israel if they prove unfaithful are just as reliable as his promises for their benefit. Just as no nation had been able to stand against them when they were obedient, they would not stand against any nation when they failed to obey the Lord.

23:16 Joshua’s warning, If you break the covenant, uses the same verb (Hb ‘avar) as the opening chapters where it describes the crossing of the Jordan River (1:2). The same God who enabled Israel to benefit from great miracles can also turn against a faithless nation. The breaking of God’s covenant by worshiping other gods would cause the loss of the land.