The Word Made Fresh
1Time passed, and the LORD gave Israel peace from their enemies. Joshua was an old man now. 2He called all the elders and leaders and judges and officials together. He said, “I am an old man with a lot of years behind me. 3You have witnessed what the LORD your God has done to these other nations. The LORD your God fought for you. 4I have given all the enemies that remain, along with the ones I have already cast aside, as an inheritance to your tribes, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. 5The LORD your God will push them away, too, and drive them back until you possess all their land as the LORD promised you. 6You must be determined to keep all the rules and regulations in the book of the law of Moses, and never disregard any of it, 7because that will keep you from being absorbed by these nations still living here among you and keep you from calling on their gods to believe in them or serve them or bow down to them. 8You must be steadfast in keeping to the LORD your God as you have to this day, 9because the LORD has driven out large and powerful nations before you. None of them has been able to stand against you to this very day. 10It only takes one of you to make a thousand of them turn tail and run because the LORD your God promised to fight for you and has done so. 11Take care, then, to love the LORD your God. 12If you ever turn away and befriend the remainder of these people left among you and intermarry with them, 13be sure that the LORD your God will not continue to fight for you. These other peoples will ensnare you and encroach on your borders and blind you to what is happening until you lose this good land the LORD your God has given you.
14“I am about to go the way of all the earth, and every one of you knows in your heart and soul that every single promise the LORD your God made you is fulfilled. Not one thing the LORD promised has been neglected. 15But know this: just as the LORD has done everything that was promised you, all of it will be lost and every evil will fall upon you until you have been completely wiped out of this good land the LORD your God has given you 16if you ever turn away from the covenant the LORD your God made with you and go serve other gods and bow before them. The LORD’s anger will burn against you and you will lose this good land.”
1-13: A “long time” has passed. Assuming Joshua to have been about the same age as Caleb, the “long time” equates to about 25 years. Although the land has not been completely subdued by the Israelites, they seem at least to have secured enough territory to settle, and for now they are at peace. Joshua was an Ephraimite, and he calls the tribal leaders together for one last meeting. It is in Shechem, the primary town of the tribe of Ephraim (see 24:1). He recounts their many conquests to date and emphasizes God’s part in their success. He warns them against intermarriage, for fear that in so doing they will be assimilated into the Canaanite religions. In many ways, Joshua has been the first King of Israel.
14-16: Joshua concludes this first farewell speech with a reminder that God has given everything he promised them, and a warning that God will punish them if they go and serve other gods.
Joshua did not complete the takeover of all the land outlined in previous chapters, but at the end of his life he felt that his leadership had been successful if the people continued to follow the LORD. Whatever success we have in life means nothing if it doesn’t contribute to God’s plan for others as well.