For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

24:1.  “And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.”

It is generally agreed that this assemblage is later than the one mentioned in 23:1-2, the former emphasizing the need of obedience if God were to continue blessing them, this latter stressing that the conquest of Canaan was because God had graciously given their enemies into their hands, rather than that they themselves in their own power had overcome the Canaanites.

Inasmuch as their gathering at Shechem shoulder symbol of strength is said to have been “before God”, the obvious truth being declared is that God’s people in every generation are in the place of strength when they assemble in His presence.  We would know more of victory if we assembled there more often.

24:2.  “And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the Lord god of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.”

God here, speaking through Joshua, reminds the people of their ancestry: they had been idolaters dwelling “on the other side of the flood,” i.e., on the other side of the Euphrates in Babylon, the land that is synonymous with false religion, its great river representing the river of false doctrine that waters the whole realm of the world’s false religious systems.  It is significant, that not only on this occasion, but annually at the presentation of the offering of firstfruits, each Israelite was to confess that same idolatrous ancestry, and acknowledge his indebtedness to God’s delivering grace, reciting briefly the history of that deliverance, beginning with the declaration, “A Syrian ready to perish was my father ....” Dt 26:5.

There is good reason for God’s insisting that they never forget what they had been.  It would remind them of what has been so aptly confessed by another, “Oh to grace how great a debtor, daily I’m constrained to be.  Let that grace, Lord, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee.”  Nothing is better calculated to keep us walking in grateful obedience than the remembrance of what we were as men in Adam.  Israel’s history is but our own, prewritten.  Every believer has been called out of “Babylon,” i.e., out of the world’s false religious systems, God Himself having graciously provided the way of escape through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, there being nothing more required of us than was required of Abraham, i.e., faith to believe God and obey His call in the Gospel.

Ge 12 leaves no doubt that Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor, had also been called to leave Ur of the Chaldees, for it was he who led the family out of Ur, see Ge 11:31, but he yielded only partial obedience, for instead of going to Canaan, he went to Haran, and died there; and as the later history makes clear, Nahor settled in the vicinity of Haran, and never entered Canaan.  Only Abraham, accompanied by Lot, had the faith to obey God’s call, leaving Haran, and arriving finally in Canaan. 

This declares the necessity of man’s choosing to obey God’s call in the Gospel, for apart from that free-willed obedience, there is no salvation.  God does not predestinate some to be saved, and others to be damned.  Abraham, like his brother, and his father, could also have chosen to remain in Haran.

Its being said that “they served other gods” reminds us that we too once served other gods, for until we are born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are the servants of Satan.

24:3.  “And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.”

The whole history of Abraham is condensed into this one short sentence, but how much God conveys through these few words. 

As noted already, Abraham’s obedience was not compelled; but having chosen to obey, he then enjoyed the leading of God in all the years of his pilgrimage in Canaan.  Again, however, it is necessary to note that obedience to that leading was no more compelled than was his choice to obey God and enter Canaan.  The believer’s obedience likewise is uncompelled.  He has freedom to obey or disobey God’s will, just as he had freedom to obey or disobey the call of God in the Gospel. 

But what blessing attends the obedient walk!  God multiplied his seed.  This speaks of the fruitfulness that results from obedience, and we should note that fruitfulness has two forms (1) the fruits of the Spirit as listed in Ga 5:22-23, and (2) the multiplication of our spiritual children, i.e., those we have led to the Savior, the men being our spiritual sons, and the women our spiritual daughters.

“...and gave him Isaac.”  This was the crowning blessing, for apart from Isaac, all God’s promises to Abraham must remain unfulfilled.  But Isaac is a type of Christ, and the lesson God would teach us is that Christ the Blesser is Himself the transcendent Blessing.  In Ge 15:2 Abraham, who had already been made very rich with gold and silver, and flocks and herds, and servants, declared the worthlessness of them all when he spoke to God saying, “What wilt thou give me, seeing I go childless ...?”

Without Isaac, all the riches of earth were worthless.  And so in regard to the true Isaac.  The worshipers in heaven cast their crowns at Christ’s feet, that very act giving symbolic expression to the question, What would heaven be without the Savior? 

24:4.  “And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.”

Abraham had been given Isaac, but to Isaac were given Jacob and Esau.  Keeping in mind that Isaac is a type of Christ, God would remind us in the type that He had only one Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The two sons of Isaac, on the other hand, are a double type: they represent (1) those who are Christ’s “children,” see Heb 2:13, i.e., Jews and Gentiles who become His children through faith, and (2) Jacob represents those who are believer’s, while Esau portrays those who remain unbelievers.

Seir means shaggy: hairy: goat-like, all of these meanings, particularly the goat, being associated with sin, and its being given to Esau (type of the natural man) is the symbolic statement  that the inheritance of the natural man is marred by sin, and therefore by death.

Jacob, we remember, was also called Israel, Jacob being the name associated with him as a believer still in his natural body; Israel, his name as a spiritual man; and his being here designated Jacob rather than Israel, focuses attention on his experiences as a believer still bound by the limitations which attend life in these bodies of flesh. 

Jacob’s going down into Egypt (type of the world in its independence of God), is the symbolic declaration of the truth that believers, still in earthly bodies, must also dwell in the world represented by Egypt.

24:5.  “I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.”

It was God Who took the initiative in delivering His people from Egyptian bondage, just as He has taken the initiative in delivering all men from the spiritual bondage of which the Egyptian is but a type.  Its being said that He sent Moses and Aaron may be to remind us that Christ combined in Himself two natures: one human, the other Divine.  He was perfect man, and at the same time perfect God.  It may be to remind us also perhaps that He was here as Prophet typified by Moses, and as Priest typified by Aaron.

It is generally recognized that the deliverance of Israel from Egypt following God’s devastating plagues, is not only a symbolic picture of the deliverance of sinners from spiritual bondage, but also of God’s future deliverance of Isael following the terrible Tribulation judgments yet to be poured out on a world as defiant of God as was ancient Egypt.

“... and afterward I brought you out.”  This continues to emphasize that Israel had had no part in effecting their deliverance.  It was all of God.

24:6.  “And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.”

The Egyptians’ pursuit of the newly delivered Israelites reminds us that the world, deprived of its former slaves as a result of their conversion, pursues them with the same murderous intent, believers having no more power to deliver themselves than did the fleeing Israelites.  But the God Who delivered the one will deliver the other, and the mode of that deliverance has a lesson for every convert.

With an impassable sea before them and an implacable foe behind them, the fearful Israelites were commanded, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord,” Ex 14:13.  So is every convert, old and new alike, encouraged to rely, not on his own strength, but on God.  He Who delivered us from the enemy in the first instance, will continue to deliver us from his hand until our earthly course is finished and we stand safe in heaven.

All the might of the world, portrayed in the Egyptian chariots and horsemen, was powerless against the God of heaven.

24:7.  “And when they cried unto the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.”

It took only the cry of His redeemed people to bring God to their rescue, and what was true of them is true of us, for Israel’s history is but the OT foreshadowing of that of the Church.  It is in the confession of our weakness that His power is exercised on our behalf, as Paul said, “When I am weak, then am I strong,” 2 Co 12:10, he being able to say that because God has declared, “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” 2 Co 12:9.  How often we deprive ourselves of that power by imagining that we have any of our own!

His putting darkness between His people and the Egyptians reminds us that darkness still separates believer and unbeliever, for it is the written Word which is the revelation of Him Who is the Living Word that links us with God - and the natural man in his spiritual darkness can’t comprehend that Word, as it is written, “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Co 2:14.  We read again concerning that Word, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path,” Ps 119:105.  We have only to walk in the light of that Word to enjoy fullness of blessing.

“... and brought the sea upon them.”  The sea is the symbol of the nations in their angry, restless rebellion against God, see Isa 57:20.  The significance of this will be better understood if we keep in mind that that deliverance of Israel from the bondage of Egypt, like all of her history, is symbolic as well as literal, for it is also a picture of her future deliverance out of the hand of the beast in the soon-coming Tribulation, Pharaoh being a type of the beast.  As it was the sea which destroyed the might of Egypt that day long ago, so will it be what the sea represents (the nations), that by internecine warfare, will bring to ruin all the great edifices, social, commercial, military, and religious, raised by the rebellious hand of man in defiance of his Creator, the ruin brought to Egypt that day being but a foreshadowing of the ruin to which the whole world will be brought in the Tribulation, as it is written, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  All these are the beginning of sorrows,” Mt 24:7-8.

As Israel turned that day from the survey of her slain oppressor, to march towards Canaan with its milk and honey, so will the believing remnant, the new nation of Israel, together with  the believing remnant out of the nations, turn, at the end of the Tribulation, from their survey of destroyed Gentile might,  to enter the Millennium.

“... and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.”  That forty-year sojourn in the wilderness is but the OT foreshadowing of Israel’s experience during the past almost two thousand years during which she has sojourned in the wilderness of the Gentile world; but as the forty years ended with her entering Canaan, so will this present long “sojourn” end with her entering millennial Canaan, to enjoy its blessing for the final thousand years of earth’s history.

Before that deliverance, however, the Church, which has also been delivered from a worse bondage than that experienced by Israel, and which has dwelt for almost two thousand years in the wilderness of this world, will be raptured from the earth to enjoy superior spiritual blessings in heaven with Christ.

24:8.  “And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.”

Amorite, meaning sayer, represents mere empty profession (much talk, but no fruit), and their dwelling on the “other side Jordan” i.e., the eastern side, the direction that always speaks of sin and departure from God, adds yet another detail to the symbolic picture, for the mere professor has never “crossed Jordan” (died with Christ), so that he must dwell spiritually eastward, outside Canaan which represents the sphere of faith.

Their fighting with Israel declares the enmity of the mere professor against those who belong to God, but as He gave the Amorites into the hand of Israel, so will the unbelieving world be given into her hand at the end of the Tribulation.  The Church likewise, seven years before Israel’s coming deliverance, will be caught up to stand with Christ in heaven, before returning with Him at the end of those seven years to witness the destruction of those, who in the days of her pilgrimage, had been her bitter foes.

It is to be noted that it was God Who delivered the Amorites into the hand of Israel.  The victory was His, and so is it with regard to the deliverance of the Church..  Man can claim no glory.  It all belongs to God.  

24:9. “Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:”

Balak means waster; Zippor, a bird particularly a sparrow; Moab, from father: what father?; Balaam, swallower of the people: confounding the people; and Beor, a burning.     

A careful study of what is written concerning the Moabites reveals that they too represent mere profession, but profession combined with the lusts of the flesh.  This being so, the significance of Balak and Zippor is easily read.  With a few exceptions, birds in Scripture almost invariably represent the evil spirits of the air, so that in Zippor we have a picture of the sinister spirit who is the father of all evil; while in Balak God bids us see the wasting that is the ultimate end of the lusts of the flesh.

Balaam swallower of the people: confounding the people, the false prophet, the hireling accomplice of Balak, enhances the symbolic picture, for in these two we have clearly set before us false profession and fleshly lust combining their power not only for the destruction of Israel, but of all God’s people, wasting, swallowing, confounding the people.  Beor burning speaks of that persistent zeal with which Satan’s false prophets seek to accomplish the destruction of all who belong to God.

“... to curse you.”  As Balak sought to bring a curse upon Israel, so do Satan and his hosts still seek to bring a curse upon those who belong to God.

24:10.  “But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.”

He who desired to curse Israel was compelled instead to pronounce a blessing; and so is it today.  Those whom God has blessed cannot be cursed.  And as Israel was delivered out of the hand of Balaam, so will she be delivered again out of the hand of the false prophet and the beast in the Tribulation.  Spiritual Israel, the Church will likewise be delivered from all the machinations of Satan, to stand with Christ in a soon-coming day, as He takes the scepter of earth and rules the world for God’s glory.

24:11.  “And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.”

As always, the spiritual message transcends the literal, but if we are to read that spiritual message we must keep in mind that Canaan, strictly speaking, does not represent heaven, but rather the sphere into which we are introduced by faith, Canaan’s literal abundance being but a type of the spiritual riches to be enjoyed here on earth by all who belong to Christ.  And as there was only one God-appointed way for Israel to enter Canaan, i.e., through a miraculously divided Jordan, so is there only one way for men and women to enjoy the spiritual blessings secured for faith through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ: we too must cross Jordan.  But how?  That river, as noted already, represents death, and the truth being taught in Israel’s having to cross it is that those who would inherit spiritual blessings must die, for that is what crossing Jordan portrays.  But the death of the believer is vicarious, a gracious God imputing to us the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have died in Him, as Paul writes, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” Ga 2:20.

We, however, are responsible to make good in practice what is imputed to us by grace.  We are to live as those who are indeed crucified with Christ, as those whose reaction to the allurements of the world is that of dead men.  We are to yield no more response to its enticements than would a corpse; and the measure in which we do that is the measure in which we will enjoy our spiritual blessings.

Not mentioned in this section is the fact that after crossing Jordan they encamped at Gilgal where all who had grown up in the wilderness were circumcised, that rite having been neglected during the forty years of wilderness wandering, see chapter 5; and as we have also noted, circumcision is the symbolic portrayal of the cutting off of the flesh.  It continues to emphasize the truth we have been discussing: the flesh must be cut off if we are to enjoy spiritual blessings.

Next mentioned is Jericho, in regard to which we read that, “the men of Jericho fought against you.”  Jericho has three meanings let him smell it: place of fragrance: his fragrance.  It was literally called the city of palm trees, and the palm speaks of righteousness, Ps 92:12, but as a Canaanite city, it represents the mere self-righteousness of the unregenerate.  It is, in fact, the symbol of everything the world prizes: morality according to man’s standard, religion, culture, education, wealth, power, etc.  God’s estimate of these things, however, is disclosed in His command to Israel to destroy Jericho and everything in it.  What man perceives as fragrance is a stench in the nostrils of God, it being the smoke of Jericho’s burning which was fragrance to Him.

The true character of the world as represented by Jericho, is revealed in what is recorded in God’s Word, “the men of Jericho fought against you.”  The world is the enemy of God and of all who belong to Him.

The men of Jericho, however, weren’t the only ones who fought against Israel.  All the tribes of Canaan were the enemies of God’s people, and we will miss the spiritual significance of this if we fail to recognize that they represent, not only the men of the world, but also the evil spiritual forces arrayed against us, and in addition, the flesh within each believer.

Next on the list of Israel’s foes were the Amorites meaning sayers, and representing mere empty profession - much talk, but no fruit.  There is no more deadly foe of faith than the mere unconverted professor, consider, for example, the murderous hatred of the Romeish religious system down through the centuries against those who were true believers. 

But we will have missed an important part of the lesson if we fail to see that there is the danger that we ourselves may be spiritual Amorites in part or in whole.  Does an honest examination of our lives reveal that there is much talk, but little fruit for God?  There you have the Amorite left in possession of what God wants us to have.  The full extent of his evil work will be revealed at the Bema.  But particularly in this day of the popular, spurious, and deadly “gospel,” there are multitudes of spiritual Amorites unaware of their desperate state.  All they have is a head knowledge of Christ, and a lip profession of faith, but they have never been born again.  Each one of us would do well to examine himself to be sure he has what the preachers of another generation called “the root of the matter.”

The next enemy was the Perizzite, meaning rustic, with squatter as a possible second meaning.  As a rustic he represents the natural man, who lacking the capacity to understand spiritual things, is occupied solely with the things of earth.  There are many believers, however, who failing to abandon their interest in, and occupation with, earthly things, have condemned themselves to be spiritual Perizzites, i.e., those whose carnal state excludes the possibility of their understanding spiritual things.  Lack of interest in the study of Scripture is a mark of the spiritual Perizzite.

The second meaning squatter, one who occupies property to which he has no legal right, sets the Perizzite before us as the representative of the unconverted professor “squatting” in the midst of God’s people without having been born again.  The lesson connected with this meaning of the Perizzite will have been missed if we fail to examine our own spiritual credentials, making sure that we have indeed had a genuine spiritual birth.

Next comes the Canaanite, meaning a trafficker, i.e., one engaged in illegal trade.  There are multitudes of unconverted men who “traffic” in spiritual things for their own aggrandizement, e.g., the swarms of unconverted clerics and teachers who handle the Word only for financial gain.  Keeping in mind, however, that each of these Canaanite foes represents also the flesh within the believer, we would do well to be sure that we ourselves are not, at least in some measure, “Canaanites.”  The evangelist may become so proud of his reputation for winning souls that he may easily fall into the trap of becoming more concerned with numbers than with genuine conversions.  The elder may unwittingly allow his God-given authority to go beyond its proper limits, with the result that he becomes a tyrant over God’s sheep.  The teacher likewise may become so puffed up with His knowledge of Scripture, that instead of using it to build up God’s people, he uses his knowledge to build up his own reputation.  Nor is the evil confined to those who have a public ministry.  The most obscure saint is not beyond the temptation to be in some measure a spiritual Canaanite.  We shouldn’t forget that all of these enemies functioned within the territory God had given to Israel.  Their counterparts also function within the sphere He has given to His own today.

The Hittites, meaning terror, are next on the list.  They were one of the most powerful of Israel’s enemies, and fear (the principle they represent) is one of the Christian’s most formidable foes.  How often has fear of man, fear of his laughter, mockery, hatred, persecution, etc., sealed our lips when we ought to have been witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ!  “The fear of man bringeth a snare,” Pr 29:25.  That same fear has brought down to hell countless multitudes whose fear of man was greater than their fear of God.  Satan has no more powerful ally than what the Hittite represents - fear.

The Girgashite is the next foe mentioned, and his name is uncertain, but thought to mean a stranger drawing near.  The “stranger” in this context, as frequently in Scripture, appears to represent the unconverted drawing near to mingle with the people of God, even though He Himself has forbidden such mingling of faith and unbelief.  It was, in fact, this very tendency to permit the stranger to mingle with them that so often brought God’s judgment upon Israel.

The warning that the unconverted are the enemies of God and His people, was never more needed than today when false teachers are urging believers to dismantle the scriptural wall that separates believer from unbeliever, and receive the “Girgashite” into our midst.  The reasoning of these charlatan teachers is deceptively plausible.  These people, they assure us,  wouldn’t be seeking to come into our fellowships if they weren’t sincere, and if we receive them there is a good chance that they will get saved.  God, however, commands us to take the Gospel out to the unconverted, and to receive them only when they have become believers, and are willing to walk in obedience to His Word.  The reception of the spiritual Girgashite into the midst of God’s people is wreaking havoc in the assemblies today.  We do well to remember that God sets the “Girgashite” before us as an enemy, one not to be received until he has been “slain” by the Gospel, and then raised up to walk as a new creature in Christ.

The next enemy was the Hivite meaning showers of life: livers, and representing those, who though unconverted, would presume to show others how to live so as to get to heaven.  There are hordes of spiritual Hivites abroad in Christendom today, but there is the danger that genuine believers may themselves do the work of the Hivite unwittingly.  Satan’s subtle suggestion is, “Let your life be your testimony.  Don’t say anything about being a believer, and thus avoid the possibility of spoiling your testimony through some slip.”  It sounds very plausible, but like every suggestion made by the arch enemy of souls, it is deadly, for those who see only a circumspect life will be deluded into believing that moral reformation is all they need to take them to heaven.  There must be the verbal confession of Christ, and the clear declaration of the truth that it is faith in Him, not moral living, that takes men and women to heaven.  God’s command is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15, the need of a verbal confession of faith in Christ being further emphasized in Ro 10:9 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”

Concluding the list is the Jebusite meaning he will be trodden down.  The meaning is less ambiguous than may at first appear, for the truth being declared is that as we allow the flesh activity, our spiritual lives will be trodden down, and conversely, as we “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Ro 8:1, the flesh will be trodden down.

That we don’t have to live in bondage to the evils portrayed by these literal foes of Israel is declared in the assurance, “I have delivered them into your hand.”  He who does live in bondage to them does so by his own choice, for the assurance is given us, “I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me,” Php 4:13, with the further assurance given that, “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us,” Ro 8:37.

24:12.  “And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.”

It was God Who had driven her enemies from the land He was giving to His redeemed people Israel, and it is instructive to note, that as frequently, He did His work by a means man would have despised: an insect.  This, however, points to Calvary, and reminds us that His greatest work: the defeat of Satan, sin, hell and death, was accomplished by a means also inexplicable to man. The Lord, Who is described as “a worm, and no man,” Ps 22:6, overcame by being overcome, He conquered death by dying, vanquished Satan by becoming his victim, broke the power of sin by being made sin.

“... not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.”  This is not to say that Israel didn’t use these weapons.  They did, but it was God’s use of hornets that drove out the enemy.  He would have us remember that while He stoops to use human instruments, He does His work by His own power, for man has no power save as God gives it.

The two kings were Sihon and Og, but here their names aren’t mentioned.  The focus is on the people they ruled: the Amorites, meaning a sayer, and representing an evil all too common, not only amongst mere unbelieving professors, but also amongst true believers: much talk, but no work or fruit for God.  The need was never greater than today for the expulsion of the “Amorite,” and the recovery of what he has seized.

24:13.  “And I have given you a land for which ye did not labor, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.”

While the terms ground, land and earth are often used interchangeably, in the symbolic or typological language of Scripture they are not synonymous, for a careful study of the Bible discloses that the ground appears to represent that part of humanity which is indifferent to God; the land, on the other hand, is associated with profession, genuine or false; but the earth represents genuine faith.

Its being said therefore that they had been given a land for which they had not labored, translates into the spiritual truth that they had been given a sphere of profession, their presence in that land being intended to demonstrate that they were God’s people, separate and distinct from the nations around them.  The reality of that profession of course would be disclosed by their obedience or lack of it.  Sadly, the conduct of the majority revealed that the profession was false.  Only a small remnant yielded obedience.  The majority were Israelites in name only, as Paul has written, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children ....” Ro 9:6-7.

The application to the professing church is too obvious to miss.  She too has been given a sphere of profession, and like Israel, has demonstrated that in the case of the majority, the profession is false, only a small remnant within the apostate mass rendering the obedience which is the evidence of a genuine conversion.

“... for which ye did not labor” reminds us that the sphere of profession today is also one which people enter without labor, profession (genuine or false) of faith in Christ being all that is needed to bring one into that “land.”

“... and cities which ye built not.”  These represent the local churches (assemblies), and man no more builds those assemblies than did the Israelites the cities in which they dwelt.  In spite of all the talk today about “church planting,” the truth remains that it is God, not man, Who plants or builds assemblies.  But there is an aspect of their dwelling in cities which they hadn’t built, which is particularly apt as the typical announcement of a truth relative to each generation of professed believers throughout this church age.  That first generation which came in with Joshua appreciated those cities more than did their descendants, for they had had to fight to take them out of the hand of the enemy.  Their children, knowing nothing of that warfare, valued the cities accordingly.  What had cost them nothing they esteemed lightly, and so has it been in connection with the professing church.  It cost the believers of the early Apostolic age much, some of them their lives, to invade Satan’s kingdom with the Gospel, so that there would be converts, living stones, with which the Holy Spirit could build the Church, the local expression of that Church being  the assemblies scattered throughout the Roman world.  Succeeding generations valued those assemblies less, with the result that there quickly developed the great apostate travesty centered in Rome, calling itself the true church, but designated by God as “the great whore .... the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,” Re 17:1-5.

And so has it been with the believers who escaped less than two hundred years ago from the Protestant counterpart of that Roman travesty.  It cost many of those believers much to break their ties with that system, and they valued accordingly what they had in the assemblies into which the Holy Spirit gathered them.  Succeeding generations, however, knowing nothing of those sacrifices, but like Israel, having inherited “cities which they built not,” have also like the later generations of Israel, not only ceased to value those “cities,” but have apostatized, abandoned scriptural order, and turned to worship the gods of the people around them - money, pleasure, ease, education, etc., thus also making themselves, like Israel, heirs of judgment rather than blessing.

“... of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.”

Wine, the product of the vineyard, is the Biblical symbol, not only of the Lord’s precious blood, but also of joy, Ps 104:15, nor are these two associations as opposite as may at first appear, for it is faith’s application of Christ’s sin-cleansing blood that brings true joy to the heart of the believing sinner.

Oil, the product of the oliveyard, is the Biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit.

The reference therefore to their eating the fruit of vineyards and oliveyards, which they hadn’t planted, translates into spiritual truth relative to the professing church today.  There is available to her the spiritual equivalents of the wine and oil: cleansing and joy through the Lord’s shed blood, and the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.

There is, however, another viewpoint from which to examine these words.  Note that the emphasis is upon their eating.  But the spiritual counterpart of literal eating is the study of, and meditation on the written Word.  The best grapes and olives are the result of cultivation, which involves labor, and so is it with the study of Scripture.  Its riches are unfolded in proportion as there is diligence in study, and it is painfully apparent that today’s generation of professed believers are, for the most part, not diligent students of the Word.  Compare, for example, what passes today, even in the assemblies, for ministry, as compared with that of earlier generations.  It is largely characterized by the same shallowness as marks that of the denominational clerics.  Compare, for example the writings of the expositors of past generations with those being produced today.  They can’t be compared.  There was a depth to the former that is lacking in the latter.  Note also the abysmal ignorance of even the content of Scripture displayed by the great majority of professed believers today.

This generation also eats of vineyards and oliveyards which they didn’t plant.  They are dependent largely on the labors of past generations for exposition that isn’t obvious and trite.

24:14.  “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.”

The fear enjoined here isn’t the serf’s dread of a tyrannical master, but the reverential devotion of the liberated slave whose freedom has been secured by the willing death of the Son of his Deliverer.  The word “therefore” points us back to an additional cause for that devoted adoration.  The One they were to fear was not only the God Who had delivered them from Egyptian bondage, but Who had also brought them into the enjoyment of Canaan’s milk and honey.  How much more heinous then is the irreverence displayed today by those who have been delivered from a far more terrible bondage, and who have been enriched with infinitely greater blessings!  Sadly, that irreverence is rampant, not only in the professing church, but amongst genuine believers as well, manifesting itself in such forms as tardiness, dress, deportment, failure to study His Word, failure to pray, to worship, to spread the Gospel, etc.

“... and serve him in sincerity and in truth” reminds us that this reverence will impel a willing service which delights in doing the Deliverer’s will.  That such service is a form of worship is indicated by the words “in sincerity and truth,” for relative to worship it was the Lord Himself Who declared, “... the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth,” Jn 4:23.  That the sacrifice of service is to be offered “in spirit and in truth” declares that it too must be directed by the Holy Spirit, and be governed by Scriptural principles.

Redeemed though they were, the command to put away their false gods, declares that they practiced idolatry, and only lack of spiritual discernment will prevent our seeing that many genuine believers today are guilty of the same offense, the absence of literal idols blinding them to the fact that the money, education, fame, pleasure, ease, sport, literature, art, music, etc., to which Christians devote so much time and money, are as much idols as were those to which the Israelites offered sacrifice.

“... on the other side of the flood,” was Babylon, which represents the world’s false religious systems; while Egypt represents the world of business and pleasure, the one country as much as the other living in independence of God.  Whether in Babylon or Egypt, they had been idolators, reminding us that in the spheres which these countries represent, we too may be guilty of idolatry.  The religious world, just as much as the world of business, has its attractions.  Each has his own idols!  Living as we do in a world which is represented by both Babylon and Egypt, we too may turn aside to worship the idols of both.

Anything that takes the place of God in our affections, to which we sacrifice time, talent, money, etc., is an idol, hence the exhortation of John, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” 1 Jn 5:21.  That exhortation was never more needed than today.

The repeated reference to service reminds us that one of the best safeguards against idolatry is Spirit-directed service.  He who is busy in the Lord’s service is little likely to be enticed by the world’s idols.  There is much truth in the old adage, “Satan soon finds mischief for idle hands to do.”  No man lives in a vacuum.  We are either serving God or Satan, and a profitable exercise would be to ask in regard to the things that occupy our “spare” time, “Does this do anything to make me a more profitable servant?  Does it do anything to advance the cause of Christ?”  If the answer is No, then the likelihood is that it promotes the cause of Satan.

24:15.  “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

It continues to be emphasized that there is no middle ground.  The Lord Himself declared, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.  Ye cannot serve God and Mammom,” Mt 6:24, a warning repeated in Lk 16:13. 

Mammon, incidentally, is a general term for money, and is specifially the name of riches as a god.

That the believer’s service is not compelled, is made clear by the command, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve,”  and since the context indicates that the emphasis is upon the word “will,” the implication continues to be that there is no neuteral ground.  We either serve Satan or Christ - and it is to be noted that that service is the result of deliberate choice.

Besides the gods their fathers had worshipped in Babylon, there were the Amorite gods in the land of Canaan, but since Canaan represents the spiritual sphere into which we are brought at conversion, the lesson is that we are in danger of worshipping the equivalents of the literal idols to which the Amorites bowed down.  Remembering that Amorite means sayer or talker, the warning may be against our giving mere lip service to the things that belong to the kingdom of God, while refusing to do the things that would advance that kingdom.  For example, we may be vocal in agreeing that we should “continue steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers,” Ac 2:42, while being negligent in practice.  Such negligence is invariably the result of giving to other things the time that ought to be given to these Christian activities.  Those other things are idols.

Faithful Joshua was allured by none of the Amorite idols. His steadfast resolve was, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  He is a wise believer who makes the same resolve, and keeps it.

24:16.  “And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord, to serve other gods;”

These words reveal, not only how little the people knew of their own deceitful hearts, but also of the false confidence resulting from such ignorance, reminding us of the warning given by Paul, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” 1 Co 1O:11-12, significantly concluding that warning with the further admonition, “Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry,” 1 Co 10:14.

The sad truth is that their good resolve was maintained only until the death of the elders who outlived Joshua.  Many of our own are equally shortlived.  The desire of each one of us should be for the grace that will enable us to come to the end of life’s journey and say truthfully, as did Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing,” 2 Tim 4:7-8.    

24:17.  “For the Lord our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:”

Were it not that we have been guilty of the same sin, it would be impossible to believe that a people, who that day,  willingly acknowledged their indebtedness to God’s grace, should have so quickly forgotten those blessings, and turned from Him to give to idols the worship which belonged to Him alone.

Our sin, however, is compounded, for we, in spite of having the record of Israel’s history to warn us against repeating her folly, have not only ignored that warning, but we have forgotten our deliverance from a far more terrible bondage, accomplished at infinitely greater cost - the death of God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We too, ignoring a far greater “sign” than any ever witnessed by Israel - the Lord Jesus Christ hanging on Calvary’s cross as our willing Substitute, shedding His precious blood for the remission of our sins, giving His life a ransom for our souls - have quickly forgotten, and turned again to worship the same gods we served when we were the bondslaves of sin, Satan, and death, see comments on verse 14.

They also very quickly forgot the loving care that had provided so faithfully and abundantly for all their needs during forty years in the wilderness, that care being continued even when their rebellion would have justified God in cutting it off.  They had likewise forgotten His gracious deliverances from the enemies who had sought to destroy them during those same forty years.  We were no more worthy of that same care than was Israel, but like her, we too have forgotten the grace that has attended our way through the desert of this world since the day we were saved.

God, fully aware of how quickly we forget His goodness, has appointed a unique method of reminding us.  That method is the Lord’s supper, to be celebrated on the first day of each week, to remind us of the price that was paid for our redemption, there being nothing more likely to accomplish that objective than the observance of that ordinance in which we remember the Lord’s death, and anticipate His return.

24:18.  “And the Lord drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the Lord; for he is our God.”

Since God might have used the name Canaanite rather than Amorite to designate the original inhabitants of the land, it is obvious that there is a spiritual truth being taught that couldn’t have been conveyed by the name Canaanite; and that lesson becomes clear when we remember that Amorite means a sayer or talker.  Since Canaan represents the spiritual sphere into which the believer is introduced at conversion, and since the Amorite represents empty talk, the lesson is easily read: mere talk about service, but without rendering service, has as little place amongst God’s people as does mere empty profession, for, as James reminds us, “Faith without works is dead,” Jas 2:26.  Note that the expulsion of the Amorite is directly connected with service, “therefore will we also serve the Lord....”

The present sorry state of the professing church proclaims that the “Amorite” hasn’t been expelled from “Canaan,” but in fact, reigns there undisturbed, the deplorable state of that church confirming that Israel’s sorry history is but her own written in symbolic language.  Joshua and the godly men of his generation were scarcely gone before those whose words are recorded here, had turned from the service of Jehovah to prostrate themselves before the Baals of the Canaanites.  And so with the professing church.  The last of the Apostles hadn’t gone home to heaven before apostasy had set in.

The enormity of Israel’s sin is disclosed in that they had no excuse for not having expelled the enemy from Canaan.  Joshua’s initial seven-year campaign had left the land virtually subdued.  All Israel had to do was go in, exterminate the vanquished Canaanites, and take possession.  The guilt of the professing church is similarly compounded, for the work completed at Calvary left the Church with a spiritual inheritance from which she had merely to expel an already vanquished foe.  She, like Israel, however, has chosen, not only to let the foe remain, but to make peace with him, and with the same disastrous results.  As Israel wound up in bondage to the Canaanites, so has  the professing church become the servant of the evils which the Canaanites represent.

24:19.  “And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.”

In spite of their vehement assurance that they would serve the Lord, Joshua declared that they couldn’t, because God was holy and jealous, i.e., He requires holiness of those who would serve Him, for He will not use an unclean vessel; nor will He accept service from those whose loyalty is divided, who worship other gods, i.e., who give to anyone or anything else the love, time, talent, money, etc., that belong only to Him.

His requirements haven’t changed.  They apply as much to twentieth century believers as to the Israel of Joshua’s day.  It is small wonder therefore that we see so little effective service.  We have become so conformed to the standards of a corrupt world, instead of to those laid down in God’s Word, that often we don’t recognize defilement even when incurred.  As for idolatry, we are as guilty as ancient Israel, for as noted already, the money, pleasure, sports, education, etc., on which we lavish time, talent and resources, are no less idols than were the false gods worshipped by backslidden Israel.

Its being said that “He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins,” makes it clear that their sins were not accidental, but of deliberate commission, for it must not be forgotten that there was no offering available for sins of deliberate commission.  It is the same today.  There is a world of difference between the sin into which the obedient saint may accidently slip in an unguarded moment, and that habitually practiced by the disobedient believer.

The difference between transgressions and sins is that transgression carries the thought of revolt against the government of God, while sins, though also a form of revolt, in the present context appear to be more particularly associated with the gratification of fleshly lust.

24:20.  “If ye forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.”

In spite of this warning from Joshua, Israel quickly turned aside and did the very thing forbidden, and how much that disobedience transmuted blessing into judgment is all too clearly written on every page of Jewish history.  The blessing forfeited has been replaced with a corresponding measure of misery.  And so has it been with a professing but apostate church whose history is but the repetition of Israel’s.

Nor should we fail to note the degree of their culpability.   Their rebellion came, not in the wake of chastisement, but in spite of God’s having showered them with blessings.  It is no different with a professing but apostate church.  She too, in base ingratitude for blessings beyond human comprehension, has given to idols time, talent and money that belong to God.  That He has replaced her blessings with hurt is declared all too clearly in her present sorry state, her refusal to be exercised to repentance by chastisement, leaving Him no choice but to consume (destroy) her in the swiftly approaching Tribulation.

24:21.  “And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the Lord.”

In the brash self-confidence begotten by ignorance of man’s weakness and proneness to sin, they undertook to do the impossible, for the clear implication is that they intended to merit blessing by perfect obedience, the same foolish confidence that leads men today to believe that they can fit themselves for heaven by law-keeping.

24:22.  “And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the Lord, to serve him.  And they said, We are witnesses.”

This recalls the occasion when Pilate, unable to persuade the people to let Jesus go, said, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it, Mt 27:24, and they responded, “His blood be on us, and on our children, Mt 27:25.  The same rash confidence marked them on both occasions.  We do well to remember the warning, “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall, 1 Co 10:12.

24:23.  “Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the Lord God of Israel.”

Were it not that it is recorded in Scripture, it would be hard to believe that a people who had witnessed so much of God’s power  exercised on their behalf, could ever have been guilty of idolatry.  It is even more difficult, however, to believe that those who have seen God’s love displayed at Calvary, should ever be guilty of the same transgression, but the sacrifice to other things, of time, talent and money that belong to God, leaves no doubt that an apostate church has followed all too eagerly in the footsteps of foolish Israel.

There could be no blessing for Israel until the strange gods were put away, nor will there be blessing for the Church until her “strange gods” are also put away.  Only when there is given to worship, prayer, study, and service, the time, talent and money now given to the world’s business and pleasure, will God’s hand be seen again in blessing upon His people.

Joshua’s use of the name Israel rather than Jacob reminds us that while certainly God is the God of all men, He is Lord only of those who display the willing obedience associated with the name Israel he shall be prince of God.  Only those who obey Him are God’s princes.

24:24.  “And the people said unto Joshua, The Lord our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.”

How little they knew of their own inability to keep such a promise!  It was very different with Joshua, who in verse 15 had said, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  He was a man of different caliber.  There were no strange gods to be put out of his house, and it is significant that this great man of God first comes upon the page of history as one of the spies sent by Moses to reconnoiter the land when the people first came to the borders of Canaan, he and Caleb being the only two of the spies to encourage the people to go in and take possession, Nu 14:6-10.  And early in Israel’s wilderness experience we see him again, leading the battle against Amalek who represents the lusts of the flesh, Ex 17:8-16.  He who is wholehearted in his pursuit of the things of God, and who keeps the flesh where it is by Divine imputation, i.e., in the place of death, is one who can say with confidence, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

24:25.  “So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.”

Since a covenant is a compact or agreement; a statute, an enactment or thing appointed; and ordinance, a verdict or formal decree, it seems that there was some kind of formal recording of the fact that the people had agreed to obey Jehovah, the hope perhaps being that such a formal recording would be a strong incentive to the people to keep their promise.  The futility of all such strategies is declared in the blatant disobedience of the people after the passing of Joshua and the godly elders who outlived him.  The truth is that unless love for God is the incentive there can be no obedience.

Since Shechem means shoulder literally early rising: diligence, and since the shoulder is the Biblical symbol of strength, the making of the covenant there may have been to remind them, and us, that strength lies in obedience, and that there must be diligence in yielding that obedience.

24:26.  “And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.”

This formal recording of the terms of the covenant into which the people had entered, should remind us that all the events of our lives are recorded before God, see Re 20:12.  The diligence associated with Shechem is needed to ensure that what is recorded will merit the Lord’s approval on that soon-coming day when we shall all stand before Him at His judgment seat.

There can be little question that the “great stone” is a figure of Christ in resurrection, and the oak under which it was set up, a figure of the cross.  Its being set up “by the sanctuary (dwelling place) of the Lord,” is the symbolic reminder that He Who hung upon that cross as our Representative in death, is the same One Who now sits as our Representative in life at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  As that great stone, set up under the oak at Shechem, stood as the silent witness to that covenant recorded by Joshua, so does the Lord Jesus Christ in resurrection sit on the throne of heaven as the Witness to that covenant sealed with His own blood at Calvary.  The superiority of that covenant over all others is declared in that those under it rest in the assurance of being accepted as a result of that perfectly completed work at Calvary, and not on their own imperfect attempts to keep God’s holy law, see Hebrews 8-10.

24:27.  “And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.”

That stone is a figure, not only of Christ in resurrection, but of Him as the living Word presented in the written Word, that same Word being God’s witness to us today.  As that literal stone was the witness of all that God had commanded Israel, so is Christ the Witness of all that God has commanded us.  Its very presence should have deterred disobedience, and the written Word should have the same effect upon us.  But clearly the passage of time diminished the awe with which Israel had first viewed that stone, until eventually it became a common place thing which didn’t even merit a glance, and so has Scripture become to many a professing Christian.  It is either neglected altogether, or if read occasionally, it is as a common place book without power to influence the reader’s life.  We should never forget that it is by that same Word that men will be judged, as it is written, “If any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day,” Jn 12:47-48.  While certainly the primary application here is to the unbeliever, it shouldn’t be forgotten that that same Word will also be the standard used in Christ’s judgment of the believer’s life.

Nor should we fail to note that Joshua’s words were addressed to all the people.  There is no one, saint or sinner, to whom the words of Scripture have no application.

24:28.  “So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.”

The degree of each man’s obedience would govern the extent to which God would bless his labor in the portion assigned him, see e.g., Le 25:18-22; 26:3-5, and so is it with us.  It is a very great mistake, however, for believers of this Church age to be looking for the same temporal blessings as were the reward of obedience on the part of Israel.  Our blessings are spiritual, as it is written, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (things) in Christ,” Eph 1:3.  For Israel, an earthly people, their blessings were also earthly; but for a spiritual people (believers of this Church age) our blessings are spiritual.  Many children were one evidence of God’s blessing upon an Israelite, but the corresponding blessing to a spiritual Israelite is to have many whom he has led to the Savior, each such man being a spiritual son; and each such woman, a spiritual daughter.  Corresponding to an Israelite’s abundant crops is the measure of a present day believer’s store of spiritual food, i.e., an understanding of Scripture, for the literal food of the Israelite is simply a type of the believer’s spiritual food.  But the bounty of the Israelite’s harvest reflected the diligence with which he had cultivated, sown, and tended his land, and so does the believer’s amount of spiritual food reflect the industry with which he studies and obeys Scripture.  And it is the same with every temporal blessing bestowed upon Israel: there is a spiritual equivalent available to every believer today.  It can’t be over emphasized, however, that we of this present Church age are not to equate God’s blessing with temporal wealth.  Some of God’s richest saints have very little of this world’s goods; consider the Apostle Paul, for example.

24:29.  “And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old.”     

Every man’s service comes to an end, and it is instructive to consider the truth being taught in that Joshua’s ended when he was a hundred and ten years old, for a hundred and ten is simply the multiple of ten, the number of God in government.  His being “an hundred and ten years old” is to remind us, that like his great Antitype, his whole life was lived in submission to God’s government.  And a further truth is taught in the factors of this number, for when factorizing 110 we have first 2 and 5, leaving a remainder of 11 from which we remove 1, the number of God, and then end with another 2 and 5.  But two is the number of witness or testimony; and five, the number of responsibility, so that the two sets of 2 and 5 become the symbolic witness to the truth that Joshua had fulfilled his responsibility to God and man.  Paul likewise came to the end of his life having also fulfilled that same double responsibility.  He is a wise man who lives his life so that it might be true of him that he has also fulfilled the same double responsibility.

24:30.  “And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnath-serah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.”

Its being said that Joshua was the son of Nun perpetuity, simply reinforces the accuracy of the type, for this points to the eternal existence of Christ.  He is the true Son of Perpetuity.  We should note also that Joshua is described as “the servant of the Lord.”  His obedient service adumbrates the  perfect service of the One he typifies.

Jg 2:8-9 is a repetition of Jos 24:29-30, but with one significant change: in Jos 24:30 his burial place is spelled Timnath-Serah, meaning abundant portion; in Jg 2:9 it is Timnath-heres, meaning portion of the sun.  The two names describe the same place, of course, but as throughout Scripture, there is a reason for the change.  Appropriate to the book of Joshua, which is a record of obedience and victory, abundance is emphasized.  Judges, however, is the record of disobedience and defeat, and appropriately, the name chosen is one which points to mere human intelligence, for the sun, rising in the east, the direction of departure from God, is, as often in Scripture, a double symbol or type: it is a figure, not only of the Lord Jesus Christ, but also of mere natural light or wisdom.  This was what characterized the disastrous era of the Judges: they turned their backs on the light of the knowledge of God, choosing instead to walk in the darkness of mere human reason; and in doing so became the dramatic witness of the truth that, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death,” Pr 16:25.

Ephraim, double ash heap: I shall be doubly fruitful, is retained, however, no doubt to remind the people, and us, that obedience and fruitfulness cannot be separated.

“... on the north side of the hill,” continues to emphasize the thought of mere human intelligence, for that is what the north portrays.  In Joshua’s case his own intelligence had always been subject to God’s direction.  In the case of the disobedient generations who followed him, it was very different.  They walked, to their ruin, in the darkness of their own intelligence unilluminated by the light which is the concomitance of obedience.

Gaash means shaking, and the significance of this is disclosed in the fact that shaking is used frequently in Scripture as a figure of Divine judgment, e.g., Isa 2:19; 13:13; Hag 2:6-7.  Resurrection, however, is connected with judgment, but as the Lord Himself declared in Jn 5:29, there is a resurrection of life and another of damnation.  At the “shaking” of the nations at the end of the Tribulation, the graves of Joshua and of the other OT saints, together with those of the saints of the Tribulation age, will open for the third and final stage of the resurrection of life.  It will be very different, however, for all who die in unbelief.  At the “shaking” which brings the destruction of the present heavens and earth at the end of time, their graves will open for the resurrection of damnation, and the final consignment of body, soul, and spirit into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

24:31.  “And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel.”

This is simply the OT foreshadowing of the early Apostolic age, for Israel represents the true Church; and during the Lord’s life and that of the Apostles, the Church also “served the Lord.”  With the passing of Joshua’s generation, however, apostasy began to increase, and the professing church fulfilled the type as the Apostles also were called home one by one.  Israel’s apostasy developed quickly during the era of the Judges, the end of that age finding them under the tyrannous rule of Saul, the king of their own choosing, and a type of the Tribulation age beast ruler, the final disaster coming with his death and Israel’s utter defeat and scattering at the hand of the Philistines.  Saul’s disastrous reign, however, was followed by that of David and Solomon during which Israel was brought to the zenith of her OT age earthly power and glory.  The type will be fulfilled following the rapture of the true Church, and the resumption of God’s dealings with Israel as a nation, during the Tribulation era.  The first three and a half years of that period will correspond to the early part of Saul’s reign which seemed to hold out great promise for Israel; but as that promise faded and Saul became their oppressor rather than their deliverer, so will it be in the final three and a half years of the Tribulation era.  At the mid point of the seven year Tribulation age the beast will violate the seven-year treaty which will have promised peace for Israel, and then will begin the three and a half years of the great Tribulation which will culminate in Israel’s being virtually destroyed, the deliverance of the surviving remnant coming only when Christ returns in power and glory to end the Tribulation, judge the nations, and inaugurate His glorious millennial reign.

24:32.  “And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”

Those bones represented a dead Joseph, but since he is a type of Christ, they ultimately portray a dead Christ; and as far as Israel is concerned that is what they have carried with them from the night of the Passover until today.  The coffin in which those bones lay, represents the OT Scriptures and the dead ritual to which the Jews still cling.  Christ is there typologically, but their blind eyes don’t see Him.  As Joseph’s body was hidden under the linen used to embalm him, and in the coffin, so is Christ hidden behind the grave clothes and coffin of the Jews’ outward dead religion which lies like a veil over their darkened minds, as declared by Paul in Ro 11:25, “... blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.” 

In the Passover lamb, and in the Tabernacle and its worship, God was showing them Christ, but apart from the small believing remnant, the apostate mass of the nation was blind to that revelation.  Nor did they see, even when the Lord Himself came into their midst, His incarnation having been foretold in their Scriptures, they themselves quoting them in detail in response to Herod’s questions.  The miracles which attested His claim to be the Christ, they imputed to the power of Satan.  Nor were they convinced by the detailed fullfilment, at Calvary and in His resurrection, of all that was written in Psalm 22 and other Scriptures relative to His death and resurrection.

Very significantly, no unbeliever saw the Lord after His death and burial.  The Jews, as a nation, have had no further revelation of Him, and this is the fulfillment of the burial of Joseph’s bones “in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver....”  As noted above, that coffin represented the dead ritual of Jewish religion, which was centered around the temple and priesthood in Jerusalem, but in A.D. 70 God took that away from them.  With city and temple destroyed, the priests and people slain, or scattered amongst the Gentiles, Israel no longer had the “coffin,” because without city, temple, and priests, the observance of the Levitical ritual was impossible.  The “coffin” was buried.

That parcel of ground has also a lesson to teach, for Jacob’s purchase of it portrays faith’s appropriation of the blessings made available to believers through Christ’s death.  Hamor, meaning an ass, is a figure of Satan; and his sons figures of those who serve Satan, as the Lord declared of the unbelieving Jewish leaders, “Ye are of your father the devil,” Jn 8:44.  The ass is one of the scriptural symbols of an unbeliever.  The fact that it was sons of Hamor who sold that parcel of ground is the symbolic declaration of the truth that what the believer’s faith secures for him is what the unbeliever is willing to give up.  The hundred pieces of silver represent the things of earth which the believer is willing to give up for the infinitely more precious thing given as God’s gift in exchange for faith: eternal life; but those same pieces of silver represent also the worthless baubles for which the unbeliever sells his soul.

Relative to that parcel of ground, we read in Ge 33:19 that Jacob had “erected there an altar, and called it Elelohe-Israel, meaning God, the God of Israel.”  His purchase of it was simply an expression of his faith to believe that that parcel of ground was an earnest or pledge that God would keep His promise to Abraham to give all of that land to the children of Israel in a coming day.

“... and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.”  As noted above, Joseph is a type of Christ, and believers are Christ’s “children.”  That parcel of ground is not only the pledge that Israel will yet be given the land of Canaan: it is the pledge that the believers of this Church age will yet reign over the whole earth with Christ.

24:33.  “And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.”

Eleazar means God is helper; Aaron, light-bringer; and Phinehas, mouth of pity.  This continues to portray God’s reluctant abandonment of His beloved, but disobedient people Israel.  In the death of Aaron we see in symbol the death of Christ, the true light-bringer; and now in the death of Eleazar we see in symbol God’s final casting off of Israel as a nation in A.D. 70.  He would continue to save believing individual Jews, but with the ending of Jewish autonomy in A.D. 70 He ceased to be the Helper of the nation for the simple reason that since that date there has been no Israelite nation.  (The reestablishment of her existence as a nation in 1948 is evidence that we are in the closing days of the age.  God is preparing, as He promised, to deal with her again as a nation, bringing her first through the Tribulation, and then into the enjoyment of millennial blessings).

But Phinehas mouth of pity still lived, and in this we are reminded, that rebels though they are, the Jews are still God’s chosen, beloved people whom He pities, and will yet bring back to Himself out of the crucible of the Tribulation judgments.

“... in mount Ephraim double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful.  This points to the coming day when Israel, repentant and converted, will be God’s fruitful vine in the millennial earth.




     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough