Joshua 24:1: Assembly at Shechem

Verse 1:[1] And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to (Gen. 35:4) Shechem, and (Josh. 23:2) called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they (1 Sam. 10:19) presented themselves before God.

[And he gathered, וַיֶּאֶסֹף] He gathered then (Junius and Tremellius), or, also, that is, thereafter (Masius). Now, he gathered, supplying, again. He assembles the people a second time (Vatablus, Masius). Since he had survived longer than he expected after the last assembly, yet in the same year, as it appears, having an even stronger presentiment now of the nearness of death, or even learning by revelation that it is near, being solicitous of their well-being, he calls them together again, he involves himself in every respect, so that he might inculate in them constancy in worship and the Divine covenant (Bonfrerius).

Gathered all the tribes of Israel, to wit, by their representatives, as Joshua 23:2.

[To Shechem] Thus all interpreters except the Septuagint, which has in the Roman codex, to Shiloh. But other codices [of the Septuagint], the Complutensian, Royal, Basilian,[2] and of Masius, have Shechem (Bonfrerius). That is error is ancient [in the Roman codex], there is able to be no doubt, which sort are certainly almost infinite in the Greek edition (Masius in his notes on his edition of the Septuagint). Question 1: Where then was this gathering? Response 1: In Shiloh (Serarius, Drusius, Junius, Menochius, Tirinus, Grotius). They prove this out of verse 1, they stood in the sight of God; and out of verse 26, they set it [that is, the stone] under an oak that was in the sanctuary of the Lord (Serarius). You will say, But this place is called Shechem. Response: Therefore Shechem here is not the city of Shechem, but Shechemite territory, in which Shiloh was (Serarius, Junius). Thus Gibeon is put in place of its territory, and Jericho (Drusius) [as previously noted]. Thus Hebron was given to Caleb, Joshua 14:14, although not the city itself, but its territory, was given to him, Joshua 21:12. Thus in Joshua 24:32 the bones of Joseph are said to be buried in Shechem, and it is immediately subjoined, in the parcel of ground that Jacob bought; but, that that field was not in the city is evident from Genesis 33:18 (Junius, Drusius, Serarius). But the reasoning is unequal: for that field of Jacob was a suburb of the city of Shechem, and set in proximity, Genesis 33; but Shechem was ten miles distant from Shiloh, as Jerome testifies. And it would be truly remarkable, that, while everywhere Shiloh is expressly named as the site of the Tabernacle, the same is called Shechem only in this place and never elsewhere (Bonfrerius). Why was it necessary to denominate the place, otherwise famous, by an external field, and not by itself (Malvenda)? Response 2: Others maintain that it was not in Shiloh, but in Shechem (thus Vatablus, Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Malvenda). At that time the Ark of the covenant was moved from Shiloh to Shechem (Vatablus, Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius), so that the covenant might be entered upon before the Ark: which is discovered from the end of this book. For the book was shut up in the Ark of the covenant, but he says that he wrote in the book of the Law (Vatablus). The matter is certain and is shown by many examples, that it was not unlawful for the King to transport the Ark here and there when there was need; 1 Samuel 4:3; 2 Samuel 15:24 (Masius). Moreover, by the Sanctuary, Joshua 24:26, the Tabernacle is not understood (for it was unheard of that there was an oak in the Tabernacle, which was only ten cubits tall,[3] especially since it was prohibited in Deuteronomy 16:21, that a grove or tree should not be planted by the Altar of God), but the place in which the Ark was resting for the present until the meetings were finished (in which, or near which, was that oak, under which that stone was placed as a monument): it is not strange that this place was called the Sanctuary, since by the presence of the Ark the Tabernacle also was regarded as holy (Bonfrerius). Question 2: Why did he assembly them at Shechem? Response: Joshua thought that this covenant was to be renewed in that place, 1. Because there the covenant was first ratified by Abraham, and then by all the Israelites, as we showed in Joshua 8. That place certainly ought to have stirred, and that not a little, the souls of all, in which place the remains of Abraham were yet present; who, after he had left his native land, was there first of all initiated into that religion and those sacred rites that they were yet cherishing and were obliged to cherish, and was made by God the heir of this land, whose possession they were now enjoying (Masius). Wherefore Joshua wanted his posterity solemnly to swear unto the Law of God, with the inheritance now received (Lapide). 2. Because near Shechem on the mountains of Gerezim and Ebal, which were in view, Joshua had formerly renewed the same covenant of the people with God upon their entrance into the Promised Land, Joshua 8. And so that event was powerful to recall into mind the memory of the original covenant (Bonfrerius out of Lapide). In Shechem Abraham first offered sacrifice to God, Genesis 12:6, 7. In Shechem the Patriarchs were buried (Lapide). 3. In Shechem rather than Shiloh, the former was closer to Timnath-serah, the city of their now aged Commander-in-Chief (Malvenda).

To Shechem; either, 1. To Shiloh, where the ark and tabernacle was; because they are here said to present themselves before God; and because the stone set up here is said to be set up in or by the sanctuary of the Lord; of both which I shall speak in their proper places. And they say Shiloh is here called Shechem, because it was in the territory of Shechem; but that may be doubted, seeing Shiloh was ten miles distant from Shechem, as St. Jerome affirms. And had he meant Shiloh, why should he not express it in its own and proper name, by which it is called in all other places, rather than by another name no where else given to it? Or rather, 2. To the city of Shechem, a place convenient for the present purpose, not only because it was a Levitical city, and a city of refuge, and a place near to Joshua’s city, but especially for the two main ends for which he summoned them thither. 1. For the solemn burial of the bones of Joseph, as is implied here, Joshua 24:32, and of the rest of the patriarchs, as is noted Acts 7:15, 16, for which this place was designed. 2. For the solemn renewing of their covenant with God; which in this place was first made between God and Abraham, Genesis 12:6, 7, and afterwards was there renewed by the Israelites at their first entrance into the land of Canaan, between the two mountains of Ebal and Gerizim, Joshua 8:30, etc., which were very near Shechem, as appears from Judges 9:6, 7; and therefore this place was most proper, both to remind them of their former obligations to God, and to engage them to a further ratification of them. Before God; either, 1. Before the ark or tabernacle, as that phrase is commonly used; which might be either in Shiloh, where they were fixed; or in Shechem, whither the ark was brought upon this great occasion, as it was sometimes removed upon such occasions, as 1 Samuel 4:3; 2 Samuel 15:24. Or, 2. In that public, and venerable, and sacred assembly met together for religious exercises; for in such God is present, Exodus 20:24; Psalm 82:1; Matthew 18:20. Or, 3. As in God’s presence, to hear what Joshua was to speak to them in God’s name, and to receive God’s commands from his mouth. Thus Isaac is said to bless Jacob before the Lord, that is, in his name and presence, Genesis 27:7; and Jephthah is said to utter all his words before the Lord in Mizpeh,[4] that is, as in God’s presence, calling him in to be witness of them.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֶּאֶסֹ֧ף יְהוֹשֻׁ֛עַ אֶת־כָּל־שִׁבְטֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל שְׁכֶ֑מָה וַיִּקְרָא֩ לְזִקְנֵ֙י יִשְׂרָאֵ֜ל וּלְרָאשָׁ֗יו וּלְשֹֽׁפְטָיו֙ וּלְשֹׁ֣טְרָ֔יו וַיִּֽתְיַצְּב֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י הָאֱלֹהִֽים׃

[2] Aldus Manutius published an edition of the Septuagint in Venice, 1518.  His edition was closer to Vaticanus than the Complutensian.  A corrected edition was published in Basil in 1545 with a preface by Melancthon.

[3] See Exodus 26:16; 36:21.

[4] Judges 11:11.

1 thought on “Joshua 24:1: Assembly at Shechem

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘Joshua thought he had taken his last farewell of Israel in the solemn charge he gave them in the foregoing chapter, when he said, I go the way of all the earth; but God graciously continuing his life longer than expected, and renewing his strength, he was desirous to improve it for the good of Israel. He did not say, “I have taken my leave of them once, and let that serve;” but, having yet a longer space given him, he summons them together again, that he might try what more he could do to engage them for God. Note, We must never think our work for God done till our life is done; and, if he lengthen out our days beyond what we thought, we must conclude it is because he has some further service for us to do.

    The assembly is the same with that in the foregoing chapter, the elders, heads, judges, and officers of Israel, Joshua 24:1. But it is here made somewhat more solemn than it was there.

    I. The place appointed for their meeting is Shechem, not only because that lay nearer to Joshua than Shiloh, and therefore more convenient now that he was infirm and unfit for travelling, but because it was the place where Abraham, the first trustee of God’s covenant with this people, settled at his coming to Canaan, and where God appeared to him (Genesis 12:6-7), and near which stood mounts Gerizim and Ebal, where the people had renewed their covenant with God at their first coming into Canaan, Joshua 8:30. Of the promises God had made to their fathers, and of the promises they themselves had made to God, this place might serve to put them in mind.

    II. They presented themselves not only before Joshua, but before God, in this assembly, that is, they came together in a solemn religious manner, as into the special presence of God, and with an eye to his speaking to them by Joshua; and it is probable the service began with prayer. It is the conjecture of interpreters that upon this great occasion Joshua ordered the ark of God to be brought by the priests to Shechem, which, they say, was about ten miles from Shiloh, and to be set down in the place of their meeting, which is therefore called (Joshua 24:26) the sanctuary of the Lord, the presence of the ark making it so at that time; and this was done to grace the solemnity, and to strike an awe upon the people that attended. We have not now any such sensible tokens of the divine presence, but are to believe that where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name he is as really in the midst of them as God was where the ark was, and they are indeed presenting themselves before him.’

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