Joshua 24:14, 15: Joshua’s Challenge to Israel to Renew Commitment to the Lord

Verse 14:[1] (Deut. 10:12; 1 Sam. 12:24) Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in (Gen. 17:1; 20:5; Deut. 18:13; Ps. 119:1; 2 Cor. 1:12; Eph. 6:24) sincerity and in truth: and (Josh. 24:2, 23; Lev. 17:7; Ezek. 20:18) put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and (Ezek. 20:7, 8; 23:3) in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.

[Serve ye Him with a perfect and altogether genuine heart, בְּתָמִ֣ים וּבֶֽאֱמֶ֑ת] In perfection (integrity [Junius, Vatablus], sincerity [Syriac], rectitude [Septuagint]) and in truth (Montanus) (with righteousness [Septuagint], in faith [Junius]). Integrity is opposed to feigned piety; Truth has regard to constancy, or, if you prefer, to the probity of the worship/service (Masius). In an unusual manner he set down תָּמִים/whole in the place of תּוֹם/wholeness: But certain terms are sometimes concrete, sometimes abstract. Thus עֵד is a witness and a testimony; thus צָר is an adversary and adversity. Hence תָּמִים elsewhere is taken for integrity; as in Judges 9:16;[2] Amos 5:10;[3] Psalm 26:1;[4] 101:2[5] (Drusius).

In sincerity and in truth; either these two expressions note the same thing; or sincerity is opposed to the mixture of false gods with the true, as it here follows, or of a false and corrupt worship of God with that which God appointeth; and truth is opposed to dissimulation and falseness, and instability of heart.

[And put away the gods that your fathers served…in Egypt] Hence it is evident, what was hitherto nowhere else recorded, that not a few Israelites worshipped idols in Egypt also. Nevertheless, Ezekiel clearly indicates this very thing in Ezekiel 23:3, 8, 19, 21, 27 (Bonfrerius, Estius). It is asked whether there were at that time among them those that were worshipping idols. Augustine denies this. 1. Because the obedience and constancy of the Israelites had been commended above, Joshua 22:3; 23:8. 2. God would not have allowed much of such wickedness. 3. The idols would have been cast out at that time, as it was done in Genesis 35:2, 4; 1 Samuel 7:3. And, indeed, these things evince that no such sin was committed publicly; but that it was done privately they do not demonstrate (Bonfrerius). Others affirm (thus Tirinus, Bonfrerius, Lyra), from this verse, and from verse 23 (Bonfrerius), and from Amos 5 compared with Acts 7 (Lyra).

Put away the gods; whereby it appears, that although Joshua had doubtless prevented and purged out all public and manifest idolatry, yet there were some of them who practised it in their private houses and retirements. See Joshua 24:23; Amos 5:25, 26; Acts 7:42, 43. Your fathers: Terah, and Nahor, and Abraham, as Joshua 24:2, and others of your ancestors. On the other side of the flood, and in Egypt: see Ezekiel 23:3, 8, 19, 21, 27. Under these particulars no doubt he comprehends all other false gods, which were served by the nations amongst whom they were, as appears from Joshua 24:15, but only mentions these, as the idols which they were in more danger of worshipping than those in Canaan; partly because those of Canaan had been now lately and palpably disgraced by their inability to preserve their worshippers from total ruin; and partly because the other idols came recommended unto them by the venerable name of antiquity, and the custom of their forefathers. See Jeremiah 44:17; Ezekiel 20:18.


Verse 15:[6] And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, (see Ruth 1:15; 1 Kings 18:21; Ezek. 20:39; John 6:67) choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether (Josh. 24:14) the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or (Ex. 23:24, 32, 33; 34:15; Deut. 13:7; 29:18; Judg. 6:10) the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: (Gen. 18:19) but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.

If it seem evil; unjust, unreasonable, or inconvenient.

[The choice is given to you] What things we, being compelled, undertake, we violate with no shame; not so those things to which we have voluntarily obligated ourselves. And so with two religions proposed, he now in a certain manner loosens them from both, and sets them at liberty, as it were (Masius). But an actual choice of choosing God Joshua does not here concede, who in the preceding chapter compelled them unto the worship of the true God (Lapide); and neither would he have left one unpunished, if he, with God abandoned, had passed over unto idols (Bonfrerius): but he makes use of Rhetorical artifice (Lapide), and leads them whither he wills by the highest art of eloquence, inasmuch as the comparison is made between things so unequal (Bonfrerius). The worship of the true God brings so many advantages, but the worship of idols so many disadvantages, that only a mad man would prefer idols to the true God (Lapide). Thus we speak, One or the other is to be chosen by you, O mortals, either eternal punishment, or perpetual blessedness; choose ye what ye will. Elijah makes us of this manner of exhortation, 1 Kings 18:21; Ecclesiasticus 15:17[7] (Menochius out of Serarius). He does not loose them from the bond of worshipping God, to which they were previously bound; but, by setting forth these things, he searches their hearts. See a similar thing in Ruth 1:15; John 6:67 (Malvenda out of Junius).

Choose you this day whom ye will serve: not that he leaves them to their liberty, whether they would serve God or idols; for Joshua had no such power or liberty himself, nor could give it to any other; and both he and they were obliged by the law of Moses to give their worship to God only, and to forbear all idolatry in themselves, and severely to punish it in others; but it is a rhetorical and powerful insinuation, whereby he both implies that the worship of God is so highly reasonable, so necessary and beneficial, and the service of idols is so absurd, and vain, and pernicious, that if it were left free to all men to make their choice, every man in his right wits must needs choose the service of God before that of idols; and provokes them to bind themselves faster to God by their own choice. See such manner of speeches in Ruth 1:8, 15; 1 Kings 18:21.

[I and my house] The example of the Commander-in-Chief was the most effective argument, especially one so prudent, holy, and blessed. An example is set forth here for governing our families (Masius).

But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord; but know this, if you should all be so base and brutish, as to prefer senseless and impotent idols before the true and living God, it is my firm purpose, that I will, and my children and servants (as far as I can influence them) shall, be constant and faithful to the Lord.

[1] Hebrew: וְעַתָּ֞ה יְר֧אוּ אֶת־יְהוָ֛ה וְעִבְד֥וּ אֹת֖וֹ בְּתָמִ֣ים וּבֶֽאֱמֶ֑ת וְהָסִ֣ירוּ אֶת־אֱלֹהִ֗ים אֲשֶׁר֩ עָבְד֙וּ אֲבוֹתֵיכֶ֜ם בְּעֵ֤בֶר הַנָּהָר֙ וּבְמִצְרַ֔יִם וְעִבְד֖וּ אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃

[2] Judges 9:16a:  “Now therefore, if ye have done truly and sincerely (בֶּאֱמֶ֤ת וּבְתָמִים֙), in that ye have made Abimelech king…”

[3] Amos 5:10:  “They hate him that rebuketh in the gate, and they abhor him that speaketh uprightly (תָּמִים).”

[4] Psalm 26:1a:  “Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity (בְּתֻמִּי)…”

[5] Psalm 101:2:  “I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way (בְּדֶ֬רֶךְ תָּמִ֗ים).  O when wilt thou come unto me?  I will walk within my house with a perfect heart (בְּתָם־לְבָבִי).”

[6] Hebrew: וְאִם֩ רַ֙ע בְּֽעֵינֵיכֶ֜ם לַעֲבֹ֣ד אֶת־יְהוָ֗ה בַּחֲר֙וּ לָכֶ֣ם הַיּוֹם֮ אֶת־מִ֣י תַעֲבֹדוּן֒ אִ֣ם אֶת־אֱלֹהִ֞ים אֲשֶׁר־עָבְד֣וּ אֲבוֹתֵיכֶ֗ם אֲשֶׁר֙ בְּעֵ֣בֶר הַנָּהָ֔ר וְאִם֙ אֶת־אֱלֹהֵ֣י הָאֱמֹרִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר אַתֶּ֖ם יֹשְׁבִ֣ים בְּאַרְצָ֑ם וְאָנֹכִ֣י וּבֵיתִ֔י נַעֲבֹ֖ד אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃

[7] Ecclesiasticus 15:17:  “Before man is life and death; and whether him liketh shall be given him.”

2 thoughts on “Joshua 24:14, 15: Joshua’s Challenge to Israel to Renew Commitment to the Lord

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘The application of this history of God’s mercies to them is by way of exhortation to fear and serve God, in gratitude for his favour, and that it might be continued to them, Joshua 24:14. Now therefore, in consideration of all this, (1.) “Fear the Lord, the Lord and his goodness, Hosea 3:5. Reverence a God of such infinite power, fear to offend him and to forfeit his goodness, keep up an awe of his majesty, a deference to his authority, a dread of his displeasure, and a continual regard to his all-seeing eye upon you.” (2.) “Let your practice be consonant to this principle, and serve him both by the outward acts of religious worship and every instance of obedience in your whole conversation, and this in sincerity and truth, with a single eye and an upright heart, and inward impressions answerable to outward expressions.” This is the truth in the inward part, which God requires, Psalm 51:6. For what good will it do us to dissemble with a God that searches the heart? (3.) Put away the strange gods, both Chaldean and Egyptian idols, for those they were most in danger of revolting to. It should seem by this charge, which is repeated (Joshua 24:23), that there were some among them that privately kept in their closets the images or pictures of these dunghill-deities, which came to their hands from their ancestors, as heirlooms of their families, though, it may be, they did not worship them; these Joshua earnestly urges them to throw away: “Deface them, destroy them, lest you be tempted to serve them.” Jacob pressed his household to do this, and at this very place; for, when they gave him up the little images they had, he buried them under the oak which was by Shechem, Genesis 35:2, 4. Perhaps the oak mentioned here (Joshua 24:26) was the same oak, or another in the same place, which might be well called the oak of reformation, as there were idolatrous oaks.’

  2. Matthew Henry: ‘Never was any treaty carried on with better management, nor brought to a better issue, than this of Joshua with the people, to engage them to serve God. The manner of his dealing with them shows him to have been in earnest, and that his heart was much upon it, to leave them under all possible obligations to cleave to him, particularly the obligation of a choice and of a covenant….

    Would it be any obligation upon them if they made the service of God their choice?—he here puts them to their choice, not as if it were antecedently indifferent whether they served God or nor, or as if they were at liberty to refuse his service, but because it would have a great influence upon their perseverance in religion if they embraced it with the reason of men and with the resolution of men….

    He brings them to embrace their religion rationally and intelligently, for it is a reasonable service. The will of man is apt to glory in its native liberty, and, in a jealousy for the honour of this, adheres with most pleasure to that which is its own choice and is not imposed upon it; therefore it is God’s will that this service should be, not our chance, or a force upon us, but our choice. Accordingly,

    (1.) Joshua fairly puts the matter to their choice, Joshua 24:15. Here, [1.] He proposes the candidates that stand for the election. The Lord, Jehovah, on one side, and on the other side either the gods of their ancestors, which would pretend to recommend themselves to those that were fond of antiquity, and that which was received by tradition from their fathers, or the gods of their neighbours, the Amorites, in whose land they dwelt, which would insinuate themselves into the affections of those that were complaisant and fond of good fellowship. [2.] He supposes there were those to whom, upon some account or other, it would seem evil to serve the Lord. There are prejudices and objections which some people raise against religion, which, with those that are inclined to the world and the flesh, have great force. It seems evil to them, hard and unreasonable, to be obliged to deny themselves, mortify the flesh, take up their cross, etc. But, being in a state of probation, it is fit there should be some difficulties in the way, else there were no trial. [3.] He refers it to themselves: “Choose you whom you will serve, choose this day, now that the matter is laid thus plainly before you, speedily bring it to a head, and do not stand hesitating.” Elijah, long after this, referred the decision of the controversy between Jehovah and Baal to the consciences of those with whom he was treating, 1 Kings 18:21. Joshua’s putting the matter here to this issue plainly intimates two things:—First, That it is the will of God we should every one of us make religion our serious and deliberate choice. Let us state the matter impartially to ourselves, weigh things in an even balance, and then determine for that which we find to be really true and good. Let us resolve upon a life of serious godliness, not merely because we know no other way, but because really, upon search, we find no better. Secondly, That religion has so much self-evident reason and righteousness on its side that it may safely be referred to every man that allows himself a free thought either to choose or refuse it; for the merits of the cause are so plain that no considerate man can do otherwise but choose it. The case is so clear that it determines itself. Perhaps Joshua designed, by putting them to their choice, thus to try if there were any among them who, upon so fair an occasion given, would show a coolness and indifference towards the service of God, whether they would desire time to consider and consult their friends before they gave in an answer, and if any such should appear he might set a mark upon them, and warn the rest to avoid them. [4.] He directs their choice in this matter by an open declaration of his own resolutions: “But as for me and my house, whatever you do, we will serve the Lord, and I hope you will all be of the same mind.” Here he resolves, First, For himself: As for me, I will serve the Lord. Note, The service of God is nothing below the greatest of men; it is so far from being a diminution and disparagement to princes and those of the first rank to be religious that it is their greatest honour, and adds the brightest crown of glory to them. Observe how positive he is: “I will serve God.” It is no abridgment of our liberty to bind ourselves with a bond to God. Secondly, For his house, that is, his family, his children and servants, such as were immediately under his eye and care, his inspection and influence. Joshua was a ruler, a judge in Israel, yet he did not make his necessary application to public affairs an excuse for the neglect of family religion. Those that have the charge of many families, as magistrates and ministers, must take special care of their own (1 Timothy 3:4, 5): I and my house will serve God. 1. “Not my house, without me.” He would not engage them to that work which he would not set his own hand to. As some who would have their children and servants good, but will not be so themselves; that is, they would have them go to heaven, but intend to go to hell themselves. 2. “Not I, without my house.” He supposes he might be forsaken by his people, but in his house, where his authority was greater and more immediate, there he would overrule. Note, When we cannot bring as many as we would to the service of God we must bring as many as we can, and extend our endeavours to the utmost sphere of our activity; if we cannot reform the land, let us put away iniquity far from our own tabernacle. 3. “First I, and then my house.” Note, Those that lead and rule in other things should be first in the service of God, and go before in the best things. Thirdly, He resolves to do this whatever others did. Though all the families of Israel should revolt from God, and serve idols, yet Joshua and his family will stedfastly adhere to the God of Israel. Note, Those that resolve to serve God must not mind being singular in it, nor be drawn by the crowd to forsake his service. Those that are bound for heaven must be willing to swim against the stream, and must not do as the most do, but as the best do.’

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