Joshua 23:1, 2: Aged Joshua Assembles Israel

[circa 1427 BC] Verse 1:[1] And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD (Josh. 21:44; 22:4) had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua (Josh. 13:1) waxed old and stricken in age (Heb. come into days[2]).

[With much time having passed] That is, thirteen years after the wars, and the time of the distribution of the land (Junius). It appears that these words were spoken in the last year of Joshua (Bonfrerius). While the people, wearied with war, were embracing a retired life, rather than willing to claim their inheritance (Masius). [What things Masius adds here will more opportunely be met in their own places.] This is a different assembly than that in chapter 24, although it is able to appear the same to some. Evidently pious Joshua at every opportunity often exhorted his own to piety, etc., although those two admonitions alone have been consigned to letters (Masius).

A long time; about fourteen years after it.


Verse 2:[3] And Joshua (Deut. 31:28; Josh. 24:1; 1 Chron. 28:1) called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age…

[He called] Question: To what place? Response: Either, 1. to Joshua’s city, Timnath-serah (Serarius, Menochius, Masius); or, 2. to Shiloh (Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius). We see everywhere in Sacred Scripture the assemblies of the people held in the more sacred place (Bonfrerius).

Joshua called; either to his own city, or rather to Shiloh, the usual place of such assemblies, where his words being uttered before the Lord, were likely to have the more effect upon them.

[All Israel] Now, this universality is applied to those that were representing all the people (Masius). He explains himself, when he says, their elders, etc. (Drusius). Some from the individual tribes and cities, as they were able with convenience (Bonfrerius).

[And those older with respect to birth, etc.] Elders that were furnished with prudence, even if they were not discharging any public office at that time (Bonfrerius). Others otherwise: There were four degrees of offices in each city (Dieu) [which all come together here]. 1. זְקֵנִים, Elders, or the Senate/ Eldership, or the Judges of the Sanhedrin (Masius, Drusius, Dieu). Whether this was only the primary Senate, or each municipal Senate as well, is not sufficiently demonstrated (Masius). 2. Princes, רָאשָׁיו: its Nobles (Junius and Tremellius). Who were in charge of the individual tribes (Masius, Drusius): who are also called the heads of thousands, or Chiliarchs (Drusius); and the heads of the people (Masius). Its heads (Malvenda, Bonfrerius), namely, the most honorable in each tribe and family (Bonfrerius). רָאשֵׁי אָבוֹת, heads of the fathers,[4] or of the families (Dieu). 3. Leaders, שֺׁפְטָיו, Judges, who were pronouncing the law (Dieu): not only those that adjudicate lawsuits, but who hold a principal magistracy among the people (Masius). 4. Magistrates, שֺׁטְרָיו: Attendants on a magistrate (Masius, Dieu). Who were executing the matters decided in judgment, and were driving the people to their duties with staff and whip (Dieu). [Concerning these see what things were said on Joshua 1:10 and elsewhere.]

For all Israel; not all the people in their own persons, who could not either come thither, or hear him there; but in their representatives, by their elders, heads, judges, and officers, which are here added for the restriction and explication of that general expression. And for, or, even for, etc.

[And he said, I have grown old, etc.] This is the exordium of the oration, by which he makes them attentive, etc. Nearly all by an instinct of nature revere the elderly, especially those distinguished with glory and authority (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַֽיְהִי֙ מִיָּמִ֣ים רַבִּ֔ים אַ֠חֲרֵי אֲשֶׁר־הֵנִ֙יחַ יְהוָ֧ה לְיִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל מִכָּל־אֹיְבֵיהֶ֖ם מִסָּבִ֑יב וִיהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ זָקֵ֔ן בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִֽים׃

[2] Hebrew: בָּ֖א בַּיָּמִֽים׃.

[3] Hebrew: וַיִּקְרָ֤א יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ לְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לִזְקֵנָיו֙ וּלְרָאשָׁ֔יו וּלְשֹׁפְטָ֖יו וּלְשֹֽׁטְרָ֑יו וַיֹּ֣אמֶר אֲלֵהֶ֔ם אֲנִ֣י זָקַ֔נְתִּי בָּ֖אתִי בַּיָּמִֽים׃

[4] See Exodus 6:25; Joshua 14:1; 19:51; 21:1.

1 thought on “Joshua 23:1, 2: Aged Joshua Assembles Israel

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘As to the date of this edict of Joshua,

    I. No mention at all is made of the place where this general assembly was held; some think it was at Timnath-serah, Joshua’s own city, where he lived, and whence, being old, he could not well remove. But it does not appear that he took so much state upon him; therefore it is more probable this meeting was at Shiloh, where the tabernacle of meeting was, and to which place, perhaps, all the males that could had now come up to worship before the Lord, at one of the three great feasts, which Joshua took the opportunity of, for the delivering of this charge to them.

    II. There is only a general mention of the time when this was done. It was long after the Lord had given them rest, but it is not said how long, Joshua 23:1. It was, 1. So long as that Israel had time to feel the comforts of their rest and possessions in Canaan, and to enjoy the advantages of that good land. 2. So long as that Joshua had time to observe which ways their danger lay of being corrupted, namely, by their intimacy with the Canaanites that remained, against which he is therefore careful to arm them.

    III. The persons to whom Joshua made this speech: To all Israel, even their elders, etc. So it might be read, Joshua 23:2. They could not all come within hearing, but he called for all the elders, that is, the privy-counsellors, which in later times constituted the great Sanhedrim, the heads of the tribes, that is, the noblemen and gentlemen of their respective countries, the judges learned in the laws, that tried criminals and causes, and gave judgment upon them, and, lastly, the officers or sheriffs, who were entrusted with the execution of those judgments. These Joshua called together, and to them he addressed himself, 1. That they might communicate what he said, or at least the sense and substance of it, to those under them in their respective countries, and so this charge might be dispersed through the whole nation. 2. Because, if they would be prevailed upon to serve God and cleave to him, they, by their influence on the common people, would keep them faithful. If great men be good men, they will help to make many good.

    IV. Joshua’s circumstances when he gave them this charge: He was old and stricken in age (Joshua 23:1), probably it was in the last year of his life, and he lived to be 110 years old, Joshua 24:29. And he himself takes notice of it, in the first words of his discourse, Joshua 23:2. When he began to be old, some years ago, God reminded him of it (Joshua 13:1): Thou art old. But now he did himself feel so much of the decays of age that he needed not to be told of it, he readily speaks of it himself: I am old and stricken in age. He uses it, 1. As an argument with himself to give them this charge, because being old he could expect to be but a little while with them, to advise and instruct them, and therefore (as Peter speaks, 2 Peter 1:13) as long as he is in this tabernacle he will take all opportunities to put them in remembrance of their duty, knowing by the increasing infirmities of age that he must shortly put off this tabernacle, and desiring that after his decease they might continue as good as they were now. When we see death hastening towards us, this should quicken us to do the work of life with all our might. 2. As an argument with them to give heed to what he said. He was old and experienced, and therefore to be the more regarded, for days should speak; he had grown old in their service, and had spent himself for their good, and therefore was to be the more regarded by them. He was old and dying; they would not have him long to preach to them; therefore let them observe what he said now, and lay it up in store for the time to come.’

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