Joshua meets with tribal leaders
- 1 Joshua convened a tribal meeting at Shechem.1 It was a sacred meeting, with God watching. Tribal leaders brought their elders, along with their judges and city officials.
- 2 Joshua addressed the crowd: “I have a message for you from the LORD, the God of Israel:
A long time ago, your ancestors lived across the Euphrates River. I’m talking about Terah and his sons, Abraham and Nahor. They worshiped other gods.
- 3 But I took the father of your nation, Abraham, on a tour of this land. I brought him down here from the far side of the Euphrates River. I led him throughout Canaan, north to south. Then I gave him a huge family of descendants.
- 4 I gave his son Isaac two boys: Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Seir.2 But Jacob and his family migrated south to Egypt.
- 5 Later, I sent Moses and Aaron to get them out of there. I had to hammer Egypt with plagues before I brought you out.
- 6 On your way out, you came to the sea. The water was in front of you and the pursuing Egyptians were behind you. They came to arrest you and take you back. The Egyptian chariot corps trapped you along the shore of the Reed Sea.3
- 7 Your people cried and asked the LORD to help them. I did. I threw up a wall of darkness behind them. Then I opened the sea for them and closed it onto the Egyptians, drowning them. Your people saw it with their own eyes.
After that, you spent a long time in the desert badlands.
After 40 years in the desert
- 8 I led you to the Amorite homeland, east of the Jordan River. They didn’t want you crossing their land, so they attacked you. I wiped them out and gave you their land.
- 9 Then came Moab’s king, Balak. He was Zippor’s son. He mobilized his warriors. And he hired Balaam4 to put a hex on you.
- 10 I didn’t listen to what Balaam wanted me to do. Instead, I told him to bless you with encouraging words. I saved you from that man.
- 11 Later, you crossed the Jordan River and arrived at Jericho. You faced a lot of enemies: Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, the Jebusites. I gave them to you.
God’s gift of hornets for enemies
- 12 I sent them a little something special before you got there—like a swarm of hornets.5 It sent them running for their lives. That’s what took care of the Amorite kings. It wasn’t a sword or an arrow from one of your bows that took them down.
- 13 I gave you land you didn’t clear and cities you didn’t build. And you settled there with vineyards and olive groves you didn’t plant.
- 14 So you should give the LORD the respect and loyalty he deserves. Ignore the gods your ancestors worshiped across the Euphrates River and back in Egypt. Stay true to the LORD.
Joshua promises to stick with God
- 15 If you don’t like the idea of sticking with God, make your choice now. Decide for yourselves. Are you going to serve the gods of your ancestors across the Euphrates, or perhaps the gods of the locals, the Amorites? As for me and my family, we’re with the LORD.”
- 16 The people rallied in response, “There’s no way we would leave the LORD and worship other gods!
- 17 The LORD brought us out of slavery in Egypt. He performed wonders that we saw with our own eyes. He protected us through all these years, through tough times.
- 18 The LORD drove the enemies out of our land, including the Amorites. We’re sticking with the LORD. He is our God.”
Joshua: “I doubt you can serve God”
- 19 Joshua said, “I don’t see how you can truly serve the LORD. He’s holy and he’s jealous when it comes to you. He’s not going to overlook your sins and your bad decisions.
- 20 If you turn your back on God and take off running to other gods, you’re joining the wrong side. You’ll become God’s enemy. Even though he has been good to you in the past, he’ll wipe you out if you turn on him.”
- 21 The people said, “No. We’re going to serve the LORD!”
- 22 Joshua answered. “Okay, you’ve said it yourselves. You choose the LORD.” They answered, “Yes!”
- 23 Joshua said, “Then get rid of those foreign gods you have stashed away in your homes. Put your whole heart into obeying the LORD, the God of Israel.
- 24 The people said, “We choose the God of Israel. He’s the only God for us. We don’t want any other gods.”
Contract with God
- 25 There in Shechem, Joshua drew up a contract agreement for the people. It became part of the law.
- 26 Joshua preserved it in a book of instructions he received from God. Joshua found a huge stone and set it up at the foot of the oak, on a piece of ground the people of Israel considered sacred.6
- 27 Joshua told the people, “Take a good look at this rock. It’s a witness to what just happened here. It heard what the LORD told you to do. If you don’t do it and you turn against God, this rock is a reminder of your broken promise and a stone-cold witness against you.”
- 28 Joshua sent the people back to their homes.
Joshua and Eleazar die
- 29 Joshua—the son of Nun and the LORD’s worker—died at the age of 110.
- 30 He was buried on his property in the hills of Ephraim’s tribe, north of Mount Gaash.7
- 31 The people of Israel worshiped God for as long as Joshua and the elders of that generation lived. This was the generation that saw with their own eyes everything the LORD had done for the people.
- 32 When the Israelites left Egypt a generation earlier, they brought with them bones of Joseph.8 They buried him on a piece of ground that his father Jacob had bought from the family of Hamor.9 He was the father of Shechem. Jacob paid 100 pieces of silver for the property, which Joseph’s descendants inherited.
- 33 Aaron’s son Eleazar the priest died. He was buried at Gibeah. That’s the town that had been given to his son Phinehas, in the hills of Ephraim.
Shechem was located near the center of what became the nation of Israel. It’s roughly 60 miles (100 km) north of Jerusalem, about a three-day walk for folks in good health. It’s where God told Abraham, father of the Jewish people known in ancient times as Israelites, that he was giving this land to Abraham’s descendants.
Also known as Edom, in what is now the country of Jordan. The rock city of Petra is a famous tourist site in Edom’s hills.
Many Bibles say “Red Sea.” But the Hebrew words are yam suph, “sea reeds.” Moses and the Hebrew refugees escaped through a path God made in this body of water. Scholars usually track Moses and the Hebrews escaping Egypt by walking southeast, out of the Nile Delta fields and toward the Red Sea and the Sinai Peninsula. They would have passed through lake regions along what is now the Suez Canal, which connects the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. These lakes and ponds reportedly had reeds growing along the banks, like the ones the Bible says grew along the Nile River and helped anchor Baby Moses in a basket (Exodus 2:3).
Balaam’s name showed up on an ancient inscription found in what is now Jordan’s city of Deir Alla. The inscription is a fragment of a collection of visions by “a divine seer” called “Balaam, son of Beor”—just as the Bible writers identified him. The Deir Alla Inscription said, “the gods came to him at night.” The inscription, painted in ink on a plastered wall, dates to roughly 800 BC, several centuries after Balaam and Moses. Though hired to curse Israel, he not only refused, but he also repeatedly blessed them instead (Numbers 23-24). However, he also seems to have played a role in getting the women of Midian to lure Israelite men into sex rituals and idolatry. Israelite warriors killed him in a battle against Midian (Numbers 31:8).
The Hebrew word sir’a can be interpreted as wasps, hornets, discouragement, attack. The same word shows up as an attack by God in Exodus 23:28.
Abraham, father of the Jewish nation known in ancient times as Israelites, once camped at Shechem, “beside a landmark terebinth (oak-like) tree called Moreh” (Genesis 12:6). There, the LORD gave him a promise: “I’m going to give this land to you and your family” (Genesis 12:7). Abraham responded by building a stone altar dedicated to God.
He lived at Timnath-serah (19:50), also called Timnath-heres. It’s now in the Palestinian village of Kifl Haris, in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian West Bank. It’s about 10 miles (16 km) southwest of Shechem. And it’s about 25 miles (40 km) northwest of Jerusalem.
They probably carried more than his body. Egyptians embalmed him as a mummy. While Joseph lay dying, he made his brothers swear an oath: “God will one day lead you out of here. When he takes you home, I want you to carry my bones with you” (Genesis 50:25). “At the age of 110, Joseph died. Egyptians embalmed him and put his body in a coffin they kept in Egypt” (50:26).
Hamor was the ruler of Shechem, a city possibly named after his son, “prince Shechem” (Genesis 33:19. Shechem later raped Jacob’s daughter (34:2), Dinah, and then asked to marry her. But two of her angry brothers, Simeon and Levi, killed all the males in the village. Then they took everything they wanted, including the surviving women and children as slaves.