Joshua 24:2-33 – The Renewal of the Covenant
1. What God has done for his people (24:2‑13)
Joshua assembled the whole nation of Israel at Shechem (24:1). He reminds the Israelites of who they are, from whom they descended, and the spiritual inheritance they possess (vv.2‑13).
Question 1: Joshua speaks to the people. But who is actually the one who addresses the people? (See v.2.) What was Israel's lineage? (See v.2.) Could their spiritual wealth be attributed to their own efforts?
They are reminded of their (fore)father Abraham and the promises which he received (v.3; Gen 12:1‑9; Gen 21:1‑3).
Question 2: Who continued Abraham's role as patriarch of Israel? (See v.3.) It is helpful to examine the meaning of the names Abraham and Isaac. The Israelites understood their meanings instantly. After all, these were Hebrew names of their own language.
Israel hears about the great deeds of the LORD, also in the lives of Jacob and Isaac. (Notice the order in which these names are mentioned.)
Question 3: Which act of God in the life of Isaac is mentioned? (See v.4.) How old was Isaac then? (See Gen 25:26.) How does Joshua describe the course of life of Esau and of Jacob, the bearer of the promise? (See v.4.)
God's mighty acts during the Exodus receive attention as well (v.5).
Question 4: We read in v.5: "...and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it." What is the meaning of this sentence? (See Ex 3:1 ‑ 12:42.) Why did the LORD plague Egypt?
Their own eyes have seen what the LORD did to the Egyptians.
Question 5: Where did they see what the LORD did to Egypt? (See vv.6 and 7.) Why did the LORD do this? (See v.7a.)
The LORD does not say much about their 40‑year journey through the desert, except that they spent many years there (v.8a). Why?
More attention is paid to the battle in the land across the Jordan and to Balak and Balaam (vv.8‑10).
Question 6: List all the points: what are all the things the LORD has done for Israel?
The passage across the Jordan and the entry into Canaan are mentioned in brief so that the long list of enemies is highlighted (v.11).
Question 7: What are the names of these enemies and what was their fate? How were the battles fought? (See v.12.) The battles were God's battles; Israel simply had to follow him (cf. Ps 44).
2. The call to choose for the LORD (14,15)
Verse 13 forms the climax and the result of the LORD's battles.
Question 8: Being reminded of these great deeds, what should Israel's attitude be? (See also Deut 6:10‑15.)
Joshua indeed draws that conclusion (v.14).
Question 9: What is the two‑fold consequence of this conclusion for Israel?
Verse 15 deserves our careful attention. In this verse, Israel is confronted with a choice. What is their choice? Either they choose to serve the LORD or idols. However, if they choose to serve other gods then they are not quite finished yet with choosing (Read that in v.15a). However, no matter which god they would choose, it wouldn’t make any difference. The idols are all the same. There are many roads that lead people astray, but there is only one road that leads to life. Without God there is no real alternative. Without God one would keep searching but never be able to find.
If you pay careful attention to what God has done for his people in the past (vv.2‑13), only one conclusion is possible: as it was for Israel in the past, so it is for us today.
Question 10: What conclusion does Joshua draw? (See v.15.) Which of the LORD’s deeds does the new dispensation church proclaim? (See Acts 2:11.)
Does Israel's 'choice' to serve the LORD indicate a new beginning? (See also Jn 15:4 and 1 Jn 4:19.)
Joshua's good choice, are words of faith (v.15). He leads the way; HE provides good leadership, first of all for his family. (With emphasis he says: 'I'.)
3. The 'Amen' of God's people (16‑24)
The people’s reaction is positive. They have listened carefully to Joshua's words. They cannot and will not do anything but say 'Amen'. They endorse all his words.
Question 11: How do they endorse Joshua's words? (See vv.17 and 18; notice especially v.17a: 'For it is the LORD...')
However, it is possible to react positively in a superficial manner. Joshua wants to make it very clear to them who the LORD is whom they seek to serve.
Question 12: What two things does Joshua say about the LORD? (See v.19.) Verse 20 shows what that word 'jealous' means. "He will turn and do you harm..." He is not insensitive to the way his people react to him!
Joshua also points out to them who they really are: very much unlike the LORD, who is faithful (v.20). Joshua challenges them, so to speak. Check to see how Joshua tries to do that (vv.19,20). They must realize very well to whom they pledge their allegiance.
Joshua also says these things because of the dangers, which surround them in Canaan (v.20a). Moreover, we must remember that Joshua knew what the LORD had already told Moses. (Read it through in Deut 31:16.)
Again, Israel has to declare that they will serve the LORD (v.21). They do this for the second time, so that they commit themselves in their heart; after all, here they are dealing with a renewal of the covenant.
Again, for the third time, Joshua tells the people to confirm their commitment. The words he wants them to use carry almost as much weight as an oath (v.22).
Question 13: How does Joshua put that into words?
The people accept the consequences with which Joshua confronts them (vv.23,24).
Question 14: What are the two consequences? (See v.23.)
4. The establishment of the covenant (25‑28)
The moment has arrived to confirm and (re)establish the covenant between God and his people. They do that at Shechem; after all, they were assembled there (v.1).
Question 14: How many parts does the covenant have? (See the Form for Baptism.) Do you recognize these parts in ch.24? Point them out.
For Israel, the (renewed) covenant was not going to be some vague, oral agreement made in the past. Instead, Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God (v.26). Keeping records was a normal and proper procedure during the establishment of a covenant between two parties. In this way, future generations would know exactly what was agreed upon.
A large stone would be the silent, yet telling, witness reminding the Israelites of this event.
Question 15: Where was the stone set up? (See v.1.)
What we read in v.27 is quite remarkable: "...this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard..." What did this stone 'hear'? Not the words of the people, but... (See v.27.)
Question 16: Thus, the stone would not begin to present a message unless the Israelites would deny the LORD, their God. Even before they would deny him, the stone would witness against them. It always would. What would be the purpose of the stone witnessing against them? (See v.27b.)
After all this was established, Joshua allowed the people to depart, each to his own inheritance (v.28). They now had to take complete possession of their portion of Canaan. (See 23:4,5.)
5. Israel in Canaan, amid the 'speaking' graves (24:29‑33)
Israel fared well.
Question 17: For how long did they fare well? (Pay special attention to the ending of v.31.)
Joshua's task (1:6) was finished. "After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being a hundred and ten years old."
Question 18: What is Joshua called in v.29? How is he referred to in 1:1? Review outline 1 section 2.
Joshua's grave also 'speaks' about the fulfillment of God's promises for his people.
Question 19: How does his grave 'speak'? (Notice the word 'inheritance' that is used in v.30.)
In the centre of the Promised Land, the bones of Joseph were also buried. His burial place was a 'speaking' witness for Israel, too, (Gen 33:19,20) and especially for the descendants of Joseph (v.32b).
Question 20: How does the burial of Joseph's bones constitute a fulfillment of what Joseph had believed and trusted in? (See Gen 50:24,25; Ex 13:19.)
Likewise, the grave of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, 'speaks'. It was located at Gibeah, which had been given to his son Phinehas, in the hill country of Ephraim (v.33). It was the first grave of a high priest in Canaan.
What do you think about the ending of the book of Joshua? It deals with graves. Does death have the last word after all? Definitely not! What was the message that the graves presented? Look up what is said in the introductory outline about God's promises. God's people are required to believe those promises.
Joseph, Joshua, and Eleazar lie buried in their own inheritance. (In connection with this read Mark 12:26,27.) They were saved from the power of idols and enemies. They received a beginning of the promises and expected the victory over their last enemy, death (cf. Heb 11; 1 Cor 15). Easter will come on the basis of the work accomplished by the great Joshua, God's own Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him and with them we will enjoy the complete fulfillment of all God's promises (Heb 11:40).