Joshua’s farewell address reflects Moses’ final speech in Deuteronomy 28-32. Like Moses, Joshua argued that God’s faithfulness to His people ought to inspire their commitment to the Lord. Joshua reminded Israel that their place in the land was the result of the Lord fighting for His people (Josh 23:1-5). Israel’s success in the Promised Land, Joshua said, was inextricably linked to practicing the law of Moses (Josh 23:6-8). Joshua inferred that if the people associated with the remaining pagan nations of Canaan and committed idolatry, they would be in violation of the covenant and removed from the Promised Land (Josh 23:9-16).
In Josh 24:1-13, Joshua chronologically reviewed God’s work in Israel’s history. Joshua’s analysis emphasizes the dynamic character of Israel’s past. From the time Abraham entered Canaan until Jacob went to Egypt, God had been faithful (Josh 24:1-4). From the time God called Moses and Aaron until the exodus, God had been faithful (Josh 24:5-7). From the southern edge of the Transjordan until Israel took that territory, God had been faithful (Josh 24:8-10). From the occupation of the Transjordan to the conquest of Canaan, God had been faithful (Josh 24:11-13).
This catalogue of God’s faithfulness to Israel inspired them to renew the Sinaitic covenant (Josh 24:14-28). The scene is composed of call-and-response between the Lord’s spokesman Joshua and Israel. Two themes dominate Joshua’s speech: devotion to monotheistic religion (Josh 24:14-15, 23) and Israel’s inability to carry out their commitment (Josh 24:19-20; 25-28). Likewise, two themes structured Israel’s reply: commitment to monotheistic religion (Josh 24:16, 21, 24) and a recounting of God’s faithfulness from the exodus through the conquest of Canaan (Josh 24:17-18).
The burials of Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazar in the land (Josh 24:29-33) served to place an exclamation point on God’s faithfulness to His people. Sarah’s grave was the first property God’s people possessed in Canaan (Gen 23:14-20), and the burials of Joshua, Joseph, and Eleazar signified the Lord’s blessing upon His people since the early days of the Abrahamic covenant. The burial of Joseph’s bones recalled not only the exodus event, but also the reality that Israel had preserved the patriarch’s remains from one generation to the next, fulfilling Joseph’s request to be buried in Canaan (Gen 50:24-25; see Psalm 81). The account of the burial of Joshua and Eleazar in Canaan is fitting since these two men divided the Promised Land among the descendants of Jacob (Josh 14:1).
Joshua’s farewell address in Joshua 23-24 demonstrates that Joshua understood his call, and that of Israel, to be part of something larger, ultimately the storyline of Scripture. After reviewing the history of Israel from the patriarchs to the present, Joshua made predictions about their future. His sentiments echoed the pessimistic phrases Moses spoke on the plains of Moab in Deuteronomy 28-32. Joshua predicted that Israel would fail in the land, and the book of Judges wastes no time detailing the truth of Joshua’s prophetic words. Ultimately, Israel failed to heed Joshua’s exhortation concerning the jealousy of their God and the corresponding demand that they avoid idolatry (Josh 23:11-13). It is no wonder then that Paul so sharply warned the Corinthians—those who had experienced God’s grace in Christ, been made rich in every spiritual ability, and been called into fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 1:4-9)—about their idolatrous tendencies. Paul urged the Corinthians to flee from idolatry and cling wholly to Christ lest they provoke the Lord to jealousy (1 Cor 10:14-18, 21-22).