[Yehoshua 23 Orthodox Jewish Bible (OJB)]
Joshua's Impending Death And Its Special Significance
1 And it came to pass a long time [yamim rabbim] after that Yahweh had given rest unto Israel [manoach unto Yisroel] from all their [surrounding] enemies round about, that Joshua [Yehoshua] waxed old and stricken in age [zaken and advanced in days].
2 And Joshua [Yehoshua] called for all Israel [Kol Yisroel], and for their elders [zekenim], and for their heads [Rashim], and for their judges [Shofetim], and for their officers [Shoterim], and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age [zaken and advanced in days]:
This great man of faith and courage had served his God and his people well. Now, he was nearing the end of his days. He was well aware of this; and his great concern was that the nation might be encouraged to remain faithful to the terms of their covenant with Yahweh, so that God's blessing would continue to rest upon the nation.
In setting before his people this challenging and stimulating exhortation, Joshua informed his brethren that they must be on guard against three major dangers, any one, or all of which could result in the disintegration of the nation:
• Turning aside from Yahweh's commandments (v. 6);
• Worshipping the gods of the gentiles (v. 7);
• Forgetting their need for separation from the gentile world (v. 12).
Thus, ''Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers. . ." This momentous gathering was called a long time after Yahweh had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about. . .".
The record does not state where this great meeting took place. It may be assumed that Shiloh would have been the obvious place. But this is not necessarily so. As Joshua's last major meeting with the tribes took place at Shechem (24:1), it is readily acknowledged that this
earlier gathering may certainly have been held at Shiloh. However, since the record does state that at this time Joshua had "waxed old" and was "stricken in age" (or, "far advanced in years" (J.B.), it is possible that the representatives were called before Joshua at his home in Timnath-serah (19:50) ).
Aged and frail, Joshua's opening words were more dramatic than perhaps he himself realised. "I am old", he said, "and stricken in age. . .". Would his message have the full impact upon them, that he desired?
In effect, Joshua was pointing out that his people would very shortly face the prospect of losing their leader. His presence, wisdom and guiding influence would be lost. Such a realisation should have jolted his hearers into an alert state of mind: they had to face the reality of the situation which confronted them.
With the death of Joshua, what would they do? A challenge of enormous magnitude faced them. Would Yahweh raise up another great leader to replace Joshua, as He had done prior to the death of Moses? Had such been the divine intention, surely they would have been informed accordingly. Would the remaining leaders continue to follow the wise direction which Joshua had given? Would they maintain the same standards which they had been taught by Joshua? Would they manifest sufficient spiritual stability that the people would follow them and respect their leadership?
These questions, and others like them, should have been dominating the minds of these men, as Joshua foretold his own impending death. Ultimately, the book of Judges provides answers to what were, at this time, unanswered questions.
"The people served Yahweh all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of Yahweh, that He did for Israel. . .
and there arose another generation after them which knew not Yahweh. . . and the children of Israel did evil in the sight of Yahweh, and served Baalim: and they forsook Yahweh Elohim of their fathers. . ." (Judges 2:7, 10-12).*
* Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times.
3 And ye have seen all that Yahweh your Elohim hath done unto all these nations because of you; for Yahweh your Elohim is he that hath fought for you.
It was not necessary for Joshua to ask the leaders who were assembled before him to believe by faith all that God had done for the nation. They had seen with their own eyes. They had been eyewitnesses of Yahweh's mighty power unleashed against the Canaanites
on behalf of His people. These words therefore formed a formidable opening to his speech.
... In one succinct pronouncement he effectively unified his hearers...All were immediately reminded of the abundant blessings which Yahweh had heaped upon the nation.
Joshua, in his wisdom, desired to elicit in his audience an unequivocal response to the goodness and mercy of Yahweh, which they should acknowledge in all humility. In one brief utterance, Joshua had effectively reminded the leaders that their victories over the Canaanites had not been accomplished through the arm of flesh.
In itself, this opening statement provides an insight into the character of Joshua. He did not make mention of his own accomplishments. Although no doubt something of a national hero, Joshua was not interested in self-aggrandisement or elevation in the eyes of his people: He gave all the glory to Yahweh. Joshua was a man of faith, not of the flesh.
However, certain Canaanitish nations still remained in the land. The tribes of Israel had still not destroyed them. This was a further reminder from Joshua that they had a solemn obligation in this regard (cp. 18:1-3).*
* Bro John Ullman - Joshua His Life and Times.
4 [Remember I have allotted] unto you 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.
"Behold," he said,
"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."
His usage of the personal pronoun " I " in this statement is set in a quite different context to the words expressed in v.3. There, giving all the glory to Yahweh, he had taken none for himself. But the subject of the following verse is somewhat dissimilar. Here, (v. 4) Joshua offers an emphatic, uncompromising definition of his own attitude in this matter.
He had, in effect, set the entire nation a personal example. Joshua had insisted upon total, direct action against the Canaanites. He had not been prepared to make concessions; nor would he make truces with the enemy or accept an end to hostilities. He now virtually
reminds them that had the entire nation followed Joshua's singleminded attitude the land would have now been totally subdued (cp. 6:21; 8:26; 10:28-40; 11:11, 14, 21, etc.).
Having stressed these points, Joshua again reminded the people that Yahweh was still willing and able to complete the task of subjugating the land. All that was lacking was faithfulness on the part of the nation.
"Yahweh your God, He will thrust them out from before you",
he told them unequivocally, quoting from Deut. 6:19 and 9:4 (see Roth.). The term is not a common Hebrew expression in scripture, but occurs in all three of these passages. The ultimate outcome depended upon the attitude of the people.
"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."
It is not difficult to imagine Joshua twice placing heavy emphasis on the word "ye. . .". Yahweh would certainly fight for them, but He required a faithful response from His
people. And has it not ever been so? The word "courageous" is the same as occurs in 1:6. However, in this context its origins lie in Deut. 31:6-7. It has been rendered "be very firm" (Roth.), thus indicating a total lack of compromise on the part of the people.
This disposition towards the Truth could only be developed if the nation was prepared to ''observe and to do" all that had been written in the word of God (Roth.). With these words, Joshua reminded the people that the Truth must firstly be intellectually understood — correctly and maturely; it must be understood and believed, and then acted upon.
The word of God cannot be tampered with. God is dishonoured if men sit in judgment upon His word, interpreting commandments to suit their own motives or ideals, reducing fundamental principles to matters of little import.
The grave danger of teaching "for doctrines the commandments of men" is another pitfall which God's people must avoid at all costs (Matt. 15:9, cp. Deut. 4:2). There is a very simple (and yet difficult to perform) formula for faithfulness in the Truth:
"To observe and to do all that is written in the book. . .".
Joshua had learned to live by this principle, and he was not calling upon his people to do anything that he had failed to do himself.
...The answer to all the challenges which would face the nation from gentile sources was clearly set before them:
"Cleave unto Yahweh your God. . .".
Bro John Ullman