Israel had entered the Promised Land (1:1-5:15), conquered the Promised Land (6:1-12:24), and now inhabited the Promised Land (13:1-21:45) which had been divided among the twelve tribes. Since the nine and a half tribes on the west of the Jordan now had rest in the land of Canaan, Joshua gave the two and a half tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh) permission to return east of the Jordan to inhabit the portion of land that had been promised to them (22:1-4). As they were ready to return to return to the land east of the Jordan River, Joshua said to them, “But take careful heed to do the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (22:5). Even though God fulfilled His promise to give Israel the land, He still expected them to live in obedience to Him. After Joshua’s reminder to them about obeying God, the two and a half tribes traveled back east of the Jordan to settle in their land (22:6-9). When they arrived in the region of the Jordan that was still in the land of Canaan, they built a “great, impressive altar” as a symbol of unity between the western and eastern tribes (22:10). The construction of the altar was misinterpreted by the western tribes who believed that it had been built in rebellion against God and as an alternative altar to the one which was a part of the tabernacle in Canaan (22:11-20); however, the eastern tribes quickly defended their actions and explained that they had constructed it as a witness to future generations that they could cross the Jordan and worship in Canaan (22:21-29). After hearing the explanation of the eastern tribes, the western tribes were satisfied and permitted the altar to stand as a symbol of the unity between the tribes dwelling west and east of the Jordan River (22:30-34).
Many years had passed since the conquest of Canaan (1405-1398 BC) and Joshua was advanced in age (110 years old when he died). The year was probably somewhere between 1385-1383 BC when Joshua called together all the leaders of Israel and spoke to them some final words before his death (23:1-2). First, Joshua reminded them about all that the Lord had done for them in defeating their enemies and giving Israel their land as an inheritance (23:3-4). Although some of their enemies were still dwelling in the land, Joshua told them that the Lord would eventually drive them out (23:5). One of the dangers that would remain until the Canaanites were completely driven out was that Israel would be tempted to disobey God and follow after other gods. Joshua challenged them to remain faithful to God and separate themselves from pagan influences (23:6-11). If they disobeyed God and intermarried with the Canaanites, God would remove His blessing and they would not be able to stand against their enemies (23:12-16).
Following Joshua’s reminder of God’s faithfulness and the importance of obedience, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together and they presented themselves before God (24:1). Joshua briefly reviewed the history of Israel (24:2-13) from Abraham (Genesis 11) to Israel’s exodus from Egypt (Exodus 12) as well as Israel’s wandering in the wilderness (Exodus 13-Deuteronomy 34) and their conquest of Canaan (Joshua 1-22). Reviewing Israel’s history would remind them that it was God who brought them into the land they now possessed. Since God had been faithful to Israel, Israel now needed to “… fear the Lord, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt…” (24:14). Joshua made a firm stand in choosing to serve the Lord and he challenged Israel to do the same (24:15). Upon hearing Joshua’s challenge to serve God alone, Israel responded by declaring, “The Lord our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!” (24:16-24). Joshua then renewed the covenant with the people (24:25), added these words of Joshua to the Book of the Law of God (24:26a), and inscribed the statues of the covenant on a large stone as a reminder to the people (24:26b-27). After Joshua did these things, the people returned to their territories in the Promised Land (24:28). After 110 years of life, Joshua died in approximately 1383 BC (24:29-33). He had left a legacy to the nation of Israel which was summarized by the following words, “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had known all the works of the Lord which He had done for Israel” (24:31).
Dear God, help me to leave a godly legacy to all those who follow me.