24:1-27 In this final chapter of the book, Joshua enacted a covenant renewal ceremony with Israel.
24:2a Joshua’s report began by introducing the sovereign God who was Lord over Israel and thus capable of making a covenant with them.
24:2b-13 This is the historical review section of the treaty/covenant. Its purpose is to demonstrate God’s acts of protection and deliverance toward Israel in the past and to motivate Israel to remain faithful to God in the present. Terah, the father of Abraham, lived beyond the Euphrates River in Ur and Haran (Gn 11:26-32). Nahor, Terah’s son, also lived in Ur. Their worship of other gods is not mentioned in Genesis, but archaeology shows that idolatry was common there.
24:3 The history introduces the manner in which God delivered Abraham from the land of many gods and brought him to Canaan.
24:4 Already in the generation of Jacob and Esau, God was granting lands to peoples, so he gave Seir or Edom to Esau. Since it was not yet time for Jacob to obtain his inheritance, he went south to Egypt, away from the land that was to be his (Gn 46:6).
24:6-7 The exodus was another of God’s miracles by which he protected his people. Although much is made of how Israel lived in the wilderness a long time, no mention is made of their sin. The purpose of this history was not to repeat Israel’s failures but to highlight God’s successes at preserving the nation in order to encourage them to worship him.
24:8 The Transjordanian victories against the Amorites continue the theme of God’s powerful deliverance.
24:11 And again God handed . . . over the nations that the present generation fought (chaps. 6-12). God alone was responsible for the protection and blessing of his people Israel from the very beginning.
24:13 God’s gift of a land you did not labor for, and cities you did not build recalls his promise to Israel in Dt 6:10-11. That promise was immediately followed by a warning not to forget God and worship other supposed deities.
24:14-15 Joshua does not invite Israel to choose the Lord but repeats Deuteronomy’s command to fear and to serve/worship only the Lord (see Dt 6:13; 10:12,20). Only if they refuse are they faced with a choice: which of the many pagan gods of their ancestors or the Amorites/Canaanites to foolishly follow. Joshua refuses to turn from following the Lord.
24:16-18 In these verses Israel agrees with all Joshua has said and promises to serve/worship only the Lord.
24:19 After the people promised to worship God alone, Joshua warned them that it would be difficult. The people must not choose lightly or in a moment of good feeling about God, a holy God . . . a jealous God.
24:20 If the people chose now for God and changed their minds later, God would completely destroy them, just as they did their enemies in lands they now inhabited (2:10). This warning is the closest chap. 24 comes to pronouncing curses. For a vassal to enter into a treaty obligation and later to break it was considered an act of treason worthy of death. So it is here for Israel.
24:21-22 After Joshua’s warning, Israel repeats their pledge to worship the Lord, and Joshua calls them as witnesses of their own word.
24:23-24 Joshua charged Israel to get rid of the foreign gods that are among you. The people made their promises, but the report does not indicate that they did away with their gods, unlike their ancestor Jacob. He buried the gods in his possession at Shechem, the same place where his descendants now stood (Gn 35:2-4).
24:25-28 Joshua declared that this covenant would be written in the book of the law of God. This suggests that the covenant was preserved in the most sacred and holy place possible. It would never be changed. The stone that Joshua erected, like those at the crossing of the Jordan (4:1-7,20-24), would stand as a witness for future generations of all that the people agreed to at this place. Israel might be tempted to change, but the stone would always stand as a reminder to the nation of its commitment to the one true God.
24:29-30 These verses are identical to Jdg 2:9-10, where the story of the judges begins as a continuation to that of Joshua and his generation. Joshua is here called the Lord’s servant. Just like Moses, who was given this name only at his death, Joshua’s honor of receiving it indicates a life of faithfulness (1:1; Dt 34:5). The age of Joseph at his death was also 110 (Gn 50:22,26), which also suggests a life of faithfulness. As Joseph preserved Israel in a time of famine, so Joshua preserved her amid the challenge of taking the land. For Joshua’s inheritance and burial site, see note at Jos 19:49-51.
24:31 Despite some uncertainty about their degree of commitment (v. 23), Israel remained faithful to God during the lifetime of Joshua and the elders who had experienced God’s miracles and guidance. The following generation would be different as Jdg 2:10-13 attests.
24:32 The mention of Joseph, already hinted at in the age of Joshua’s death at 110 (v. 29), is here connected with his bones (Gn 50:24-26) and the purchase of the burial place (33:18-20). This ties together the generation that left the promised land with the one that returned and settled there.
24:33 Both Eleazar son of Aaron and his son Phinehas had been instrumental in the division of the land (14:1; 17:4; 19:51; 21:1; 22:13,30-32). Eleazar represented the religious leadership of the priesthood. He was of Joshua’s generation. Phinehas represented the next generation (he would next appear in Jdg 20:28 in a very different context). Unlike Joshua, whose family is not mentioned and who had no successor in leadership, the priestly line was to continue. It would remain a witness of God to his people, the Israelites.