Tag Archives: consequences of disobedience

Joshua 23 & 24 – Joshua’s Farewell Discourse – Part 1


The final two chapters contain Joshua’s farewell discourses to the Israelites and their leaders.

  • “The fact that Joshua gave such speeches to the nation places him on a level with Moses as God’s anointed leader over the nation…” – David Howard.
  • The concern expressed in Joshua 1 about Joshua’s leadership, is again, put to rest.
  • Israel saw Joshua as appointed by God.


Time Frame:

Speculatively, James Boice suggests this discourse took place many years after chapter 22.

  • Joshua was about 40 when he came out of Egypt (“according to Josephus” – Boice).
  • He spent 40 years wandering.
  • He spent about 7 years in the Conquest.
  • This puts his age at the end of the Conquest (chapter 22) at about 87.
  • Assuming his farewell discourse was given before he died, at 110 (24:29), that puts the events of chapters 23 and 24 twenty+ years after chapter 22.


The main point here is that much time had probably passed.

  • New habits and patterns of behavior were beginning to take hold.
  • The powerful working of God in the Conquest was in the past.
  • The highs and lows of Conquest had given way to the cumbersome routine of life.
  • Problems were beginning to present themselves (as we will see in the speeches).


In this context, Joshua gave his final words in chapters 23 and 24.

  • He issued challenges and warnings.
  • He looked to the past and to the future.
  • He condemned idols and praised Yahweh.


Where We Are Going:

Instead of verse-by-verse, we will tackle these two chapters thematically.

  • (1) The Conquest is the Lord’s
  • (2) Exhortation to Remain Faithful
  • (3) Consequences for Unfaithfulness
  • (4) Work of God in History
  • (5) Covenant Renewal
  • (6) Depravity of Israel
  • (7) God’s Covenant Faithfulness





Joshua 23:3 (ESV) — 3 And you have seen all that the Lord your God has done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the Lord your God who has fought for you.

Joshua 23:9 (ESV) — 9 For the Lord has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you, no man has been able to stand before you to this day.

Joshua 23:10 (ESV) — 10 One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the Lord your God who fights for you, just as he promised you.


Joshua emphasizes that the Conquest itself is evidence of God’s working on Israel’s behalf.

  • The reasons he gives seem to be grounded on the strong nation vs. the nation of slaves motif.
  • How is it a nation of oppressed slaves – not warriors – could have taken the Promised Land?
  • How is it that a nation of slaves could have defeated the “strong nations” of all the “ites”?
  • How is it that Canaanite warriors are unable to “stand before you this day”?
  • How is it that one Israelite “puts to flight a thousand” Canaanites?
  • The answer, of course, is “the Lord your God has done” (vs. 3).


Promise Fulfillment:

Joshua also emphasizes the reason why God would do such a thing.

  • God was doing “just as he promised you” (vs. 10, vs. 15).
  • God was fulfilling a promise made to Moses and later, Joshua.
  • This promise was made at Sinai – Exodus 23:20-33.


And there are a million other reasons in the grand scheme of His redemptive history to deliver the Promise Land!


Not God Alone:

Joshua didn’t mean that the Conquest would be won unconditionally because God is going to take care of everything.

  • He is not saying we are good because “it is in the Lord’s hands”.
  • The Israelites had to take it.
  • They had to fight.
  • They had to strategize.
  • They had to use discernment.
  • They had to make wise choices.
  • They had to be obedient.


Had they continually failed on these fronts, they – their generation – would not have inherited the Promise Land.

  • This also means, of course, that they could lose the Promised Land.
  • And this leads us to the second theme.





Joshua 23:6-8 (ESV) — 6 Therefore, be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, 7 that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you or make mention of the names of their gods or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, 8 but you shall cling to the Lord your God just as you have done to this day.

Joshua 23:11 (ESV) — 11 Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God.


In love, Joshua exhorts the Israelites to remain faithful to God.

  • There are temptations are plentiful – idolatry and intermarriage.


The faithfulness he is speaking of is obedience to the Sinai Covenant.

  • Though certainly, they were to trust in Yahweh in a salvific sense as well.
  • Sinai was the conditional covenant that Israel swore itself to uphold to receive blessings – people, nation, land – from God.
  • To receive these blessings instead of curses required obedience.


Covenant at Sinai – Background:

The Sinai Covenant began as follows:

  • Exodus 19:3–6 (ESV) — 3 while Moses went up to God. The Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”


After the terms of the Sinai Covenant were pronounced to Israel, they responded:

  • Exodus 24:3 (ESV) — 3 Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord and all the rules. And all the people answered with one voice and said, “All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.”
  • All the words that the Lord has spoken we will do.
  • The Sinai Covenant was sealed between Yahweh and Israel.


The Sinai Covenant had to be fulfilled – perfectly.

  • God had to remain faithful – and He did.
  • The people of Israel had to remain faithful – and they didn’t.


Covenant of Grace:

The need for fulfillment would be where Sinai and Grace would come together in Jesus Christ!

  • Galatians 3:11 & 13–14 (ESV) — 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” AND 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
  • Galatians 3:16–17 (ESV) — 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.


So Sinai is not the Covenant of Grace made with Abraham.

  • They are separate covenants.


As we saw in Galatians, the covenant with Abraham involved the following:

  • Trust = righteousness
  • The promised seed = Jesus Christ


Importantly, the Covenant of Grace was always, unconditionally, in action regardless of Israel’s failure or success with Sinai.

  • It certainly intersected with Sinai but was not Sinai.



  • Abram was called righteous before Sinai.
  • The promised seed was before Sinai.
  • Israel was redeemed and delivered from Egypt before Sinai.
  • Rahab was redeemed – she was not part of Sinai.
  • Achan was condemned to die for disobedience, but this does not necessarily mean he wasn’t a member of the Covenant of Grace.
    • One could fail at Sinai and be counted as righteous.


Finally, the very fact that Israel was God’s elect was an act of Grace.

  • Deuteronomy 10:15 (ESV) — 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
  • Deuteronomy 14:2 (ESV) — 2 For you are a people holy to the Lord your God, and the Lord has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.





Joshua 23:12–13 (ESV) — 12 For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 13 know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you, but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the Lord your God has given you.

Joshua 23:15–16 (ESV) — 15 But just as all the good things that the Lord your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the Lord your God has given you, 16 if you transgress the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the Lord will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”


What will become of Israel if they are unfaithful?



Joshua doesn’t hesitate to point out the consequences of unfaithfulness.

  • God will no longer drive out” the Canaanites (vs. 12)
  • The Canaanites will become “a snare and a trap” (vs. 13)
  • They will become “a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes” (vs. 13)
  • Ultimately, at the hands of the Canaanites, Israel will “perish from off” the Promised Land (vs. 13)
  • God will “bring upon you all the evil things” (vs. 15)
  • God will destroy you “from off this good land” (vs. 15)
  • The “anger of the Lord will be kindled against you” (vs. 16)
  • You “shall perish quickly from off the good land” (vs. 16)


If Israel decides to “cling to the remnant of these nations” (vs. 12) they will be destroyed.

  • Like the Canaanites themselves, they will be devoted to destruction.
  • God’s wrath and holiness are not ethnically or religiously based.



The clinging to the Canaanites contrasts starkly with Joshua’s exhortation to cling to God.

  • To the Western tribes – “you shall cling to the Lord your God” (vs. 8)
  • To the Eastern tribes – “cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5)


We saw in Joshua 22 that “cling” carried with it the idea of being covenant faithful.

  • The Greek translation in the LXX used a word for “cling” that carried with it sexual implications.
  • Israel is to metaphorically cling to God the way a man and woman become one.
  • This is a profoundly intimate faithfulness.
  • An intimate faithfulness that finds fulfillment in our Union with Christ!


So to marry the Canaanites and worship their Gods was a deeply offensive form of spiritual adultery.

  • The Israelites were to sanctify themselves and remain faithful to Yahweh – or else.



The threat of spiritual adultery is very real because, “of the remnant of these nations remaining among you” (vs. 12).


David Howard frames the problem as follows:

Joshua speaks both about a people that the “Israelites did not drive out and of land that yet remained to be conquered (see 13:2–6, 13; 15:63; 16:10; 17:11–12; 19:47). Such texts lay the foundation for the Book of Judges. The Israelites did not fulfill their mandate in its entirety, so the seeds of their corruption were in place from the beginning in the form of peoples and nations who remained living among them” – David Howard.


This is one more reason why the “rest” they obtained was fleeting – to be ultimately fulfilled in Christ.

  • God gave them the Promised Land and rest, and the Israelites perhaps rested too easy.
  • They didn’t finish the job.
  • They didn’t “finish the race” to use Paul’s words.


Maybe they figured that “it is in the Lord’s hands”.

  • But sanctification was, and is now, a work of God and of the elect.
  • It is not a one-way street.
  • Sadly, they fought to take the Promised Land.
  • But, they didn’t fight to keep the rest!


The Unraveling:

In Judges, Judah rose up and had some success in driving out the Canaanites (1:1-26).

  • But ultimately, Israel failed.
  • Judges 1:27-36 is a devastating list of Israelite failure, tribe by tribe, to separate from the Canaanites.
  • And as Joshua warned, everything became unraveled.


Judges 2:11–15 (ESV) — 11 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. 12 And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15 Whenever they marched out, the hand of the Lord was against them for harm, as the Lord had warned, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.



Do Joshua’s words to the Israelites about the Canaanites create a principal for Christian living?

  • Are we to sanctify ourselves by separating from those around us?



Joshua 7:1-9 – Yahweh’s Conquest Favor Removed

Joshua 6 ends with a wonderfully optimistic tone.

  • Joshua 6:27 (ESV) — 27 So the Lord was with Joshua, and his fame was in all the land.
  • No doubt this is a reflection on and implication of the unorthodox defeat of Jericho that preceded it.
  • How so?


Yahweh through the presence of the Ark and the Divine Warrior took the lead in victory.

  • Why?
  • One reason is because of Joshua’s own covenant faithfulness up to this point.
  • Joshua 1:7 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.
  • As we discussed at that time, the conditional formula for a successful Conquest was simply –  Obedience = Success.


So things are looking good.

  • However, this all changes with a “but”.


Our Text:

Joshua 7:1 (ESV) — 1 But the people of Israel broke faith in regard to the devoted things, for Achan the son of Carmi, son of Zabdi, son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took some of the devoted things. And the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel.


This “but”, pivotal to the coming battle, is something that Joshua does not yet know.

  • Unbeknownst to Joshua, at some point between Jericho and 7:1, Yahweh removed His “Conquest Favor” from the nation of Israel.


How do we know this?

  • There are at least two reasons.


(1) The first reason is obvious and found in verse 4 and 5 – Israel loses the first battle of Ai.


(2) The second reason is found in verse 1.

  • The text makes clear that Achan acted in disobedience to God.
    • He broke the covenant with God.
  • One would think, then, that Achan would be an isolated problem for God to deal with.
  • However, look carefully at the text.
  • By God’s reckoning, “Israel broke faith”.
  • And God’s reaction to this is that – “the anger of the Lord burned against the people of Israel”.
    • Not just against Achan, but against Israel!


Anger of the Lord:

Being the object of the anger of the Lord is not something one wants to be.

  • In virtually every case where Israel was the object of this anger, two things were sure to come.
  • God’s wrath
  • God’s judgment


Some other Biblical examples make this clear.

  • Judges 2:14 (ESV) — 14 So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies.
  • Psalm 106:40–42 (ESV) — 40 Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he abhorred his heritage; 41 he gave them into the hand of the nations, so that those who hated them ruled over them. 42 Their enemies oppressed them, and they were brought into subjection under their power.
  • Isaiah 5:25 (ESV) — 25 Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them, and the mountains quaked; and their corpses were as refuse in the midst of the streets. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still.


We need to dig much deeper into why an individual’s sin would bring God’s judgment and wrath upon Israel.

  • And in my next lesson we will do so.
  • Now, I want to deal with the rest of our text.


Our Text:

Joshua 7:2–5 (ESV) — 2 Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is near Beth-aven, east of Bethel, and said to them, “Go up and spy out the land.” And the men went up and spied out Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua and said to him, “Do not have all the people go up, but let about two or three thousand men go up and attack Ai. Do not make the whole people toil up there, for they are few.” 4 So about three thousand men went up there from the people. And they fled before the men of Ai, 5 and the men of Ai killed about thirty-six of their men and chased them before the gate as far as Shebarim and struck them at the descent. And the hearts of the people melted and became as water.


This scene takes place in ignorance of Achan’s actions and Israel’s guilt.

  • Joshua and the spies do not yet know that Yahweh’s anger burns against Israel.
  • We learn later that what Achan did, he did in secret.
    • He hid the treasure.


Joshua’s ignorance of God’s anger raises a question about Joshua’s actions.

  • Do these verses show that Joshua went ahead of the Lord?
  • Surely, God would have wanted Joshua to not assault Ai given these circumstances?
    • Maybe…


Two of the most well known commentators on Joshua – Hess, Howard – answer this question in the affirmative.

  • They think Joshua went ahead of the Lord.
  • David Howard says that in this first battle of Ai, “God was not part of the equation at all”.
  • Richard Hess says that this text shows Israel “lacked faith” and put too much stock in its own power.
  • Essentially, they suggest that Joshua’s problem was lack of prayer and overconfidence.


They rule out that God might have withheld the info in verse 1 on purpose.

  • However, Woudstra, Dale Davis and James Boice have a different take.


Woudstra puts it like this:

  • “Possibly Joshua himself should have consulted the divine will more explicitly, but the account does not say” – Woudstra.
    • In other words, we don’t know if he did or not.

What the text does says is that, “Joshua’s first serious attempt to master the country which the Lord said had been give to Israel is doomed to fail…by God’s righteous anger, caused by the people’s concrete sin. God’s promise was based on covenant obedience, and this obedience had been withheld” – Woudstra.


Dale puts it as follows:

“While the peril of overconfidence and the neglect of prayer are very preachable, they cannot be preached with authority from this text. The text says that God’s people failed because they were under God’s wrath” – Dale Davis.


So, Israel was defeated at Ai not because of Joshua’s getting ahead of God or his flawed military strategy, but because of God’s anger and its concomitant judgment and wrath.

  • Because of sin God removed His “Conquest Favor” from Israel and they lost.


This fact forces us to take a hard look at a very important point.

  • The right focus of the text is the seriousness of man’s sin and the extent of God’s wrath that this sin incurs, not Joshua’s going ahead of God.
  • This is incredibly important to grasp.
  • Israel was unfaithful and God judged them.
  • And profoundly, His judgment was an act of covenant faithfulness on His part.
  • Why?


James Boice quotes Francis Schaeffer at length to make this point.

This simple yet profound process explains all the rest of the Old Testament. It explains the period of the judges, the period of kings, the captivities under Assyria and Babylon, the Jews’ return from Babylon and the Jews’ dispersion in a.d. 70 under Titus. It explains Romans 9–11, which speaks of the Jews turning away from God and yet at the future day coming back to God and once more, as a nation, being the people of God. First comes blessing, then sin enters, then comes judgment. If the people of God return to him after the judgment, the blessing begins again and flows on.


This process is as much a universal as any continuity we have studied so far. [Here comes the answer to our why question] It is the principle of God’s judgment of his people. It is unchanging throughout Scripture because God really is there. God is a holy God, God loves his people, and God deals with his people consistently.


Apologetic Insight:

The defeat at Ai and the revelation that God, in anger, foiled the efforts of his chosen leader and people are quite different from other ANE war literature.


John Walton puts it this way:

For Israel’s neighbors, “The intention of the preserved records is not to serve the reader, but to serve the king. The recorder is trying to provide answers to the question: “Why should you consider this king to be a good and successful king?” In most cases it cannot be determined whether concealment and/ or disinformation are part of the strategy, but negative information is uniformly lacking. We do receive negative assessments of some kings, but, as we might expect, they come from later dynasties seeking to enhance their own reputations. Royal inscriptions are therefore working from a predetermined outcome: that the gods favor the king. Therefore all events are presented in a way that will support that predetermined outcome” – John Walton.


Remember, Joshua 6 ended by saying “the Lord was with Joshua”.

  • Joshua 7 sure has a funny way of showing this.
  • What does this tell us about the OT as literature?


The Text:

Joshua 7:6–9 (ESV) — 6 Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell to the earth on his face before the ark of the Lord until the evening, he and the elders of Israel. And they put dust on their heads. 7 And Joshua said, “Alas, O Lord God, why have you brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan! 8 O Lord, what can I say, when Israel has turned their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land will hear of it and will surround us and cut off our name from the earth. And what will you do for your great name?”


Joshua is still unaware of the sin of Achan.

  • And, btw, there is no hint here that he sees the defeat as symptomatic of his going ahead of God.
  • In fact, he demonstrates quite an opposite grasp of the situation.
  • He recognizes that God’s will was just done.
    • why have you…to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us?
    • In part, the answer is yes.
    • He just doesn’t know why, yet.


In fact, Joshua goes on to rightly extol the “great name” of the Lord.

  • He asks God, if it would not have been better for Israel to have stayed across the Jordan.
  • The fact that Israel was defeated and “turned their backs before the enemies” will embolden the Canaanites.
    • And “turned” here is a vivid expression of being shamed (Howard).
  • He fears that they will be overrun and that they will “cut off our name from the earth”.
    • An allusion to being “cut off” from covenant with God.
  • The end result being that God’s “great name” is offended.


There is debate about how this prayer reflects on Joshua.

  • Did he forget that God had already “given” them the Promised Land?
  • Did he forget that God asked him to “be strong and courageous”?
  • Was his concern really more for himself?


Dales Davis takes the optimistic approach.

“These are words of despair, not unbelief. Joshua complains to God in prayer; complaining to God is not the same as complaining about God (Israel’s wilderness practice)…If Israel perishes it will reflect on Yahweh’s reputation.” – Dale Davis.


Richard Hess agrees:

  • Joshua’s concern for God’s “great name” “transforms the complaint from a self-serving whine, such as occurred in Numbers, to a concern for the honour of God”.


And to get a flavor for just how significant the name of God is, Jesus also spoke highly of it.

  • John 17:6 (ESV) — 6I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.
  • John 17:11–12 (ESV) — 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.


So what is the name that Joshua and Jesus were so in awe of?


Most commentators argue that Jesus is using “name” as a reference to God’s attributes.

  • “What Jesus reveals to them is God’s ‘name,’ which enshrines who God is in his character, his essential nature; because his name is glorious, God wants it to be made known” – Andreas Kostenberger.
  • “…Jesus revealed God’s ‘name,’ i.e., his nature, his character” – Beasley-Murray.
  • “The concept of God’s ‘name’ encompasses all that He is: His character, nature, and attributes” – John MacArthur.
  • “‘The name of God’ is a Semitic phrase for speaking about God’s attributes. To make the name known is to reveal the God who possesses those attributes” – James Boice.


And this leads us back to Achan’s sin.

  • The reason for the defeat that has put Joshua in this state of mourning and grief.
  • What are we to make of the fact that because of Achan’s sin all of Israel was guilty?
  • What are the implications of this principal?
  • I will cover this in my next lesson.