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Joshua 24


The Tribes Gather at Shechem The Covenant at Shechem The Covenant at Shechem Joshua Speaks to the People at Shechem The Great Assembly at Shechem
24:1-13 24:1-13 24:1-13 24:1-7a 24:1-2a
"We Will Serve the Lord"       Israel Chooses YHWH
24:14-15 24:14-25 24:14-15 24:14-15 24:14-15
24:16-18   24:16-18 24:16-18 24:16-18
24:19-28   24:19-28 24:19-20 24:19-24
      24:25-28 24:25-28
Joshua Dies Death of Joshua and Eleazar Final Notes Joshua and Eleazar Die The Death of Joshua
24:29-31 24:29-33 24:29-30 24:29-30 24:29-31
Joseph's Bones Buried   24:31 24:31 The Bones of Joseph and the Death of Eleazar
24:32-33   24:32 24:32 24:32-33
    24:33 24:33  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.



A. Verses 1-13 are a summary of YHWH's activity toward the man Abraham and his seed.


B. The Hittite treaties of the second millennium b.c. offer us an ancient, historically contemporary parallel to the structure of Deuteronomy (as well as Exod. - Lev. and Jos. 24). This treaty pattern changed by the first millennium b.c. This gives us evidence for the historicity of the Pentateuch and Joshua. For further reading in this area, see G. E. Mendenhall's Law and Covenants in Israel and the Ancient Near East and John Walton, Ancient Israelite Literature in Its Cultural Context, pp. 95-107.


C. The Hittite treaty of the second millennium b.c. and its parallels in Deuteronomy

1. preamble (Deut. 1:1-5, introduction of speaker, YHWH)

2. review of the past acts of the King (Deut. 1:6-4:49, God's past acts for Israel)

3. treaty terms (Deuteronomy 5-26)

a. general (Deuteronomy 5-11)

b. specific (Deuteronomy 12-26)

4. results of treaty (Deuteronomy 27-29)

a. benefits (Deuteronomy 28)

b. curses/consequences (Deuteronomy 27)

5. witness of deity (Deut. 30:19; 31:19, also 32, Moses' son functions as a witness)

a. a copy in the temple of the deity

b. a copy with the vassal to be read annually

c. the uniqueness of the Hittite treaties from the later Assyrian and Syrian treaties were:

1) the historical review of the past acts of the king

2) the cursing section was last pronounced


D. The Hittite treaty pattern of the second millennium and its parallels in Joshua:

1. identification of the King (24:2)

2. narrative of the King's great acts (24:2-13)

3. covenant obligations (24:14,23)

4. instructions for depositing the treaty in the sanctuary (24:25-26)

5. the deities of the parties involved invoked as witnesses (24:22)

6. blessing of fidelity; curses for violation (24:20)



 1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel and for their heads and their judges and their officers; and they presented themselves before God. 2Joshua said to all the people, "Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, 'From ancient times your fathers lived beyond the River, namely, Terah, the father of Abraham and the father of Nahor, and they served other gods. 3Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his descendants and gave him Isaac. 4To Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau, and to Esau I gave Mount Seir to possess it; but Jacob and his sons went down to Egypt. 5Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt by what I did in its midst; and afterward I brought you out. 6I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea; and Egypt pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7But when they cried out to the Lord, He put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them and covered them; and your own eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness for a long time. 8Then I brought you into the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan, and they fought with you; and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land when I destroyed them before you. 9Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel, and he sent and summoned Balaam the son of Beor to curse you. 10But I was not willing to listen to Balaam. So he had to bless you, and I delivered you from his hand. 11You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho; and the citizens of Jericho fought against you, and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Girgashite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. Thus I gave them into your hand. 12Then I sent the hornet before you and it drove out the two kings of the Amorites from before you, but not by your sword or your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored, and cities which you had not built, and you have lived in them; you are eating of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.'"

24:1 "Shechem" This was a sacred site for the patriarchs (cf. Gen. 12:6-7; 33:18-20; 35:2-4). Also it is mentioned later in Deut. 27 and Joshua 8: 30-35. See NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1213-1216 or ABD, vol. 5, pp. 1174-1186. Shiloh became the dominate sacred site in the period of the Judges because of the presence of the tabernacle.

There are several terms that describe leaders within Israel (cf. Jos. 23:2). Their exact meaning is often speculation:

1. Elders, 8:33; 23:2; 24:1 - BDB 278

2. Heads, 23:2; 24:1 - BDB 910

3. Judges, 8:33; 23:2; 24:1 - BDB 1047

4. Officers, 8:33; 23:2; 24:1 - BDB 1009


24:2 "Joshua said to all the people" He obviously spoke through the officers and the elders of Jos. 24:2 because the number of people would be too great for him to speak to them all at once.

▣ "Thus says the Lord the God of Israel" This is the covenant title for deity. Notice the number of "I's" in Jos. 24:1-13. Joshua is speaking directly for YHWH (cf. Jos. 24:3, 4 (twice), 5 (four), 6, 7, 8 (three), 10 (twice); 1:1,12,13)!

▣ "ancient times" "'Olam" must be interpreted in light of its context. It is often translated "forever" or "eternal," but this context shows its fluidity (semantic field). See Special Topic: Forever ('Olam) at Jos. 4:7.

▣ "the River" This refers to the Euphrates.

▣ "they served other gods" Ur and Haran were both centers of the worship of the Moon goddess. Terah's name (wandering, BDB 1076) itself may reflect this worship. Abraham was obviously involved to some extent. God chose him in grace, not because of his theology or unusual merit. The rabbis say he was persecuted by his neighbors because he was against idolatry. The hero in this text (and all other texts) is YHWH, not the human beings. The choice of Abraham was an act of pure grace and redemptive purpose (cf. Gen. 3:15; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28; Luke 22:22).

24:3-4 The verb "gave" (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperfect) occurs three times in these verses, emphasizing YHWH's power, control, and eternal purposes.

24:4 "Mount Seir" This refers to the land south of the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba, usually associated with Edom. YHWH gave this land to the descendants of Ishmael (cf. Gen. 16:7-14; 17:18,20).

24:5 Read Gen. 15:12-21. This was purposeful action on YHWH's part.

24:6 "chariots" See Special Topic at Jos. 11:4.

24:7 "darkness" This cloud represented YHWH's presence, to one, darkness (Egyptians), to the other, light (Israelis, cf. Exod. 14:19-20). This same word (BDB 66) is used of the ninth plague on Egypt (i.e., darkness, cf. Exod. 10:22).

24:8 "the land of the Amorites" This refers to the land east of the Jordan River, which became the territory of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh (cf. Num. 21:21ff).

24:9 "Balah . . . Balaam" This false prophet's attempt to curse Israel (cf. Numbers 22) is alluded to several times (cf. Deut. 23:4-5; Jos. 13:22; here; Neh. 13:2; Micah 6:5).

▣ "fought against Israel" The UBS Translators Handbook on Joshua makes the good point that "fought against Israel" seems to contradict Num. 22:6,11; Deut. 2:9; Jdgs. 11:25. Therefore, some commentators have suggested

1. "prepared to fight"

2. "stood up against"

3. "opposed"

4. "stood in your way"

The verb (BDB 535, KB 1086, Niphal imperfect) seems to always mean "fight" (e.g., 9:2; 10:25,29,31; 19:47; Jdgs. 1:5; 9:17; 11:8,25).

24:10 The term translated "bless" is the Piel imperfect and the Piel infinitive absolute of the same root (BDB 138, KB 159), which is a way to express intensification.

24:11 "Amorite" This term may mean "highlanders." It was a collective term for all the tribes of Canaan. See Special Topic at Jos. 3:10.

▣ "Canaanite" This term may mean "lowlanders." It was a collective term for all the tribes of Canaan.

See Special Topic at Jos. 3:10.

24:12 "hornet" This is possibly a metaphor of divine activity causing fear because, although it is mentioned several times (cf. Exod. 23:28; Deut. 7:20), it is never listed as actually happening. The metaphor is also used in Deut. 1:44.

24:13 The Promised Land was an undeserved grace gift from YHWH for the purpose of establishing a people who would reflect His character and love to the nations. See Special Topic at Jos. 1:7.

 14"Now, therefore, fear the Lord and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

24:14-15 This is a series of imperatives from Joshua to the tribes.

1. "fear," BDB 431, KB 432, Qal imperative, cf. Lev. 19:32; 25:36,43; Deut. 5:29; 6:2,13,24; 10:12,20; 13:4; 14:23; 17:19; Jos. 4:24

2. "serve," BDB 712, KB 773, Qal imperative; notice how often this verb is used in Joshua 24 (cf. Jos. 24:2,14[twice],15[four],16,18,19,20,21,22,24,31)!

a. in sincerity (BDB 1071)

b. in truth (BDB 54)

3. "put away" (lit. "turn aside"), BDB 693, KB 747, Hiphil imperative, cf. Gen. 35:2; 1 Sam. 7:4

4. "choose," BDB 103, KB 119, Qal imperative, cf. Jos. 24:22. Covenant faith involves a decision of human choice, as well as a divine choice! Covenant faith is more than family faith or national faith. It must be personal faith (cf. John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13).


NASB"in sincerity and truth"
NKJV"in sincerity and in truth"
NRSV"in sincerity and in faithfulness"
TEV"sincerely and faithfully"
NJB"truly and sincerely"

The JPSOA translation has "with undivided loyalty." These terms focus on an inner attitude and outer lifestyle (cf. Deut. 6:4-5). The term "truth" (BDB 54) is the OT root for faith, believe, trust, which is paralleled to the NT term (pistis, pistos, pisteuō). See Special Topic below.

SPECIAL TOPIC: FAITH (PISTIS [noun], PISTEUŌ, [verb], PISTOS [adjective])

24:15 This is Joshua' affirmation of personal faith and family faith. He had served YHWH all his adult life and now at the end, he reaffirms his faith.

 16The people answered and said, "Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; 17for the Lord our God is He who brought us and our fathers up out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and who did these great signs in our sight and preserved us through all the way in which we went and among all the peoples through whose midst we passed. 18The Lord drove out from before us all the peoples, even the Amorites who lived in the land. We also will serve the Lord, for He is our God."

24:16-18 "The people answered" This is another of Israel's affirmations of faith. This is a covenant renewal ceremony, cf. Jos. 24:26-27 (also see Jos. 24:16-18, 21, and 24).

24:17-18 These verses reiterate YHWH's faithfulness and redemptive acts toward Israel: (1) the exodus from Egypt; (2) the miracles of deliverance; (3) God's presence and care during the wilderness wandering period; and (4) the defeat of the Canaanites and the possession of the Promised Land (cf. Gen. 15:16).

 19Then Joshua said to the people, "You will not be able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God. He is a jealous God; He will not forgive your transgression or your sins. 20If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then He will turn and do you harm and consume you after He has done good to you." 21The people said to Joshua, "No, but we will serve the Lord." 22Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen for yourselves the Lord, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses." 23Now therefore, put away the foreign gods which are in your midst, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel. 24The people said to Joshua, "We will serve the Lord our God and we will obey His voice." 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. 27Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be for a witness against us, for it has heard all the words of the Lord which He spoke to us; thus it shall be for a witness against you, so that you do not deny your God." 28Then Joshua dismissed the people, each to his inheritance.

24:19 "You will not be able to serve the Lord" This follows the revelation to Moses in Deut. 31:16-22. Joshua seems to be emphasizing the difficulty in serving a holy God. The sacrificial system of Leviticus was a means for sinful people to approach a holy God and maintain fellowship (i.e., covenant). It is impossible in our own strength.

▣ "holy God" Both terms are plural (i.e., plural of majesty), which intensifies the concept.

▣ "jealous God" This is a love word which implies a deep personal relationship (cf. Exod. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15). He is spoken of as a "father" or even a "husband" (cf. Hosea 1-3).

▣ "He will not forgive your transgressions and sins" Covenant obedience is crucial. God is faithful, but the covenant is conditional. Sin has consequences! YHWH will not overlook rebellion (cf. Exod. 23:21). This is the problem of the first covenant—fallen human inability to maintain fellowship with a holy God.

24:20 "if" The "if" shows the conditional nature of YHWH's covenant and promises to Israel (e.g., Deut. 28:1-2,15). All of YHWH's blessings of Deuteronomy 27-28, as well as His land promises, are conditioned on a faithful, obedient, believing Israel. This is true of the Old Testament and the eschaton!

24:22 "you are witnesses against yourselves" The covenant has rights and responsibilities. To say "yes" has definite privileges and consequences. Israel had affirmed their covenant relationship to YHWH in Jos. 24:16-18 and again in Jos. 24:24.

24:23 "put away foreign gods which are in your midst" The verb "put away" (BDB 693, KB 747) is a Hiphil imperative, cf. Jos. 24:14; Gen. 35:2; 1 Sam. 7:4). The gods were already in their midst (i.e., the Canaanite gods). Amos 5:27 seems to confirm this possibility, but the second half of the verse implies attitudes, ("incline your hearts," BDB 639, KB 692, Hiphil imperative), not actual objects. This verse calls on Israel to "incline," but 1 Kgs. 8:58 calls on YHWH to cause His people to "incline" (cf. Prov. 21:1; Psa. 141:4 negated). The Hebrew can mean either.

24:26 "took a large stone" In Deut. 16:21-21 this was prohibited. But, remember, the purpose of this stone is the key. This was a third covenant renewal service!

24:27 "it has heard" This is a personification of the stone which was common (cf. Hab. 2:11; Ezek. 36:4,6). It is characteristic of Hittite treaties for natural objects to act as witnesses (rocks, trees, clouds, mountains). Joshua has used stones as memorials in the past (i.e., two piles in Joshua 4).

 29It came about after these things that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being one hundred and ten years old. 30And they buried him in the territory of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, on the north of Mount Gaash.

24:29 "the servant of the Lord" This was used often of Moses, but only here of Joshua. See note at Jos. 1:1.

▣ "one hundred and ten" This is also the age of Joseph when he died (cf. Gen. 50:26). This age may have been a symbol of a blessed life.

 31Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, and had known all the deeds of the Lord which He had done for Israel.

24:31 This is a common theme in the OT. Those who experienced YHWH's power and deliverance remained faithful, but the next generation which only heard about it often went astray (e.g., the book of Judges).

 32Now they buried the bones of Joseph, which the sons of Israel brought up from Egypt, at Shechem, in the piece of ground which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for one hundred pieces of money; and they became the inheritance of Joseph's sons. 33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him at Gibeah of Phinehas his son, which was given him in the hill country of Ephraim.

24:32 "bones of Joseph" This was Joseph's request (cf. Gen. 50:24-26; Exod. 13:19). He had been embalmed with great care in the tradition of the Egyptians.

▣ "which Jacob had bought from the sons of Hamor" (cf. Gen. 33:19). Shechem was also in the land allotment of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.

NASB, NRSV"pieces of money"
NJB"pieces of silver"

The Hebrew is uncertain (BDB 903, Gen. 33:19; Job 42:1). It occurs three times in the OT. It seems to refer to an unknown weight functioning as money. The Septuagint translates the term as "lamb," which may mean (1) shape of a lamb or (2) the value of a lamb (cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 4, p. 239).

24:33 "Eleazar" The High Priest during Joshua's day also died and was buried at Gibeah, not the city in the tribal allocation of Benjamin, but a place near Shiloh in the allocation of Ephraim.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the difference between chapter 23 and 24?

2. Does the Bible teach against inter-racial marriage?

3. Is this chapter a literary unit written in Joshua's day or a later compilation?

4. Why does "I" appear so often in Jos. 24:3-13?

5. Was Abraham a polytheist before God called him?

6. Why are Jos. 24:14 and 15 so important in describing biblical faith?

7. Are verses 29-33 a later addition?


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