Joshua 24:26-28: Memorials of Covenant Renewal

Verse 26:[1] And Joshua (Deut. 31:24) wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took (see Judg. 9:6) a great stone, and (see Gen. 28:18; Josh. 4:3) set it up there (Gen. 35:4) under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.

[He wrote all these words] That is, the words of this covenant (Drusius). The forms of words of the stipulation of God and the solemn promise of the people (Masius, Serarius, Bonfrerius). He wrote, 1. for a perpetual memorial (Lapide out of Masius); 2. so that the people might be mindful that those things are on record, and therefore might cultivate with greater reverence faithfulness for the future, willingly given (Masius).

[In the scroll of the law] That is, which was in the Ark (Vatablus, Grotius, similarly Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius). See Deuteronomy 17:18; 31:26. Joshua ordered that the priests enter it into the book of the Law of God, which was in their hands, and also into that public book that God had commanded to the Prince to be written out (Malvenda out of Junius).

These words, that is, this covenant or agreement of the people with the Lord. In the book of the law of God, that is, in that volume which was kept in the ark, Deuteronomy 31:9, 26, whence it was taken and put into this book of Joshua. This he did, partly, for the perpetual remembrance of this great and solemn action; partly, to lay the greater obligation upon the people to be true to their engagement; and partly, as a witness for God, and against the people, if afterwards he severely punished them for their detection from God, to whom they had so solemnly and freely obliged themselves.

[He brought an exceedingly great stone] Which would be to coming generations a monument of the matter conducted, and of the covenant renewed (Bonfrerius out of Lapide). There is a similar thing in Genesis 28:18 and Joshua 4:20 (Bonfrerius). Indeed, Moses set up twelve stones near the Altar,[2] so that by that symbol the Israelites might understand that, although some of them were admitted to come closer, others appeared farther off, some stood in a higher degree, others in a lower, nevertheless they were all equally dear to God. But here only the heads of the people were summoned, and they were all easily able to stand near the Ark. Besides, this stone was a monument; not so those twelve stones (for what need was there of a monument in those place to which the Israelites were never going to return?), but they were only representing the twelve Tribes (Masius).

Set it up there, as a witness and monument of this great transaction, according to the custom of those ancient times, as Genesis 28:18; 31:45; 35:14; Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 27:2; Joshua 4:3; 8:32. Possibly this agreement was written upon this stone, as was then usual.

[Under the oak] Some maintain that it is the same oak as that of Jacob in Genesis 35:4, and as that near which God first appeared to Abraham, and promised him that land (Masius out of the Hebrews). But who would believe that the same oak had endured for five centuries (Bonfrerius)? You will say that in Deuteronomy 16:21 it is prescribed, thou shalt not plant a grove or any tree near the altar: How then was this oak in the Tabernacle near the Altar? Responses: 1. Understand, where the Tabernacle and Altar were remaining fixed, not, where it was only raised temporarily. 2. Only a planting done deliberately unto that end is prohibited, in the manner of the Gentiles, to exercise every indecency under them (Bonfrerius). He forbids that a tree be planted, but not that the Tabernacle be erected near a tree already planted (Lapide).

[That was in the sanctuary of the Lord] Question: What is the meaning of this? Responses: 1. That place is called the Sanctuary of the Lord that Abraham had first consecrated in Canaan, since there he had received that most joyous announcement from the Lord; moreover also that place where Jacob had seen visions is called Beth-el,[3] Genesis 28:19 (Masius). 2. Thus he calls the place in which the Ark of the Lord was, which was sanctified by the presence of the Ark (Vatablus, Bonfrerius). This oak was contained in the courtyard of the Tabernacle (Junius, Lapide, Tirinus, Menochius); or near the courtyard (Rabbis in Tirinus). Now, the Sanctuary in the Scriptures is everywhere taken for the holy place, although not the most holy (Junius). This oak was, of course, in Shiloh (Menochius); or, in Shechem, to which the Ark had been moved from Shiloh, as has been said (Lapide).

Under an oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord, that is, near to the place where the ark and tabernacle then were; for though they were forbidden to plant a grove of trees near unto the altar, Deuteronomy 16:21, as the Gentiles did, yet they might for a time set up an altar, or the ark, near a great tree which had been planted there before.


Verse 27:[4] And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be (see Gen. 31:48, 52; Deut. 31:19, 21, 26; Josh. 22:27, 28, 34) a witness unto us; for (Deut. 32:1) 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 shall be to you for a testimony] That is, It shall testify that the covenant with the Lord God is void (Vatablus).

[For it hath heard, etc.] This is Personification, whereby hearing is attributed to the stone (Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Drusius). Those words are similar, Give ear, O ye heavens and earth, Deuteronomy 32:1. The stones shall cry out, Luke 19:40 (Bonfrerius). Feignings of persons of this sort, in which we see a sense of the Divine word attributed to inanimate objects, show the marvelous force of that word, and at the same time implicitly accuse the stupidity of men (Masius). It signifies that this stone is going to be a witness and memorial of the covenant (Lapide). As Moses willed that Law, as public Tables, to remain as a witness of the perfidy of the people, if they should revolt, etc.; so Joshua says that this pillar, as if conscious, is going to be a witness of the solemn promise made; so that, while the Table of Moses lie hidden, that might daily strike the eyes (Masius). Junius and Tremellius thus translate it, it was present, etc.; Hebrew, it heard:[5] An expression transferred from witnesses living, present, and hearing, to stone (Junius).

[It hath heard all the words of the Lord that He spoke to you] At the same time it is understood to have heard what the people responded; for in these two things consists the covenant renovation, of which the stone is said to be a witness (Bonfrerius). The words of Jehovah, etc., that is, the words of the covenant which we composed with the Lord: that is, Those Laws were related near that stone (Vatablus).

It hath heard; it shall be as sure a witness against you as if it had heard. This is a common figure, called prosopopœia, whereby the sense of hearing is oft ascribed to the heavens and the earth, and other senseless creatures, as Deuteronomy 32:1; Isaiah 1:2; Jeremiah 2:12.

[And it shall be a witness against you, etc.] That is to say, In its own way it shall accuse you, lest perhaps afterwards ye should lie, that is, ye should say that ye did not compose the covenant with the Lord with these laws (Vatablus).


Verse 28:[6] So (Judg. 2:6) Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּכְתֹּ֤ב יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ אֶת־הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֔לֶּה בְּסֵ֖פֶר תּוֹרַ֣ת אֱלֹהִ֑ים וַיִּקַּח֙ אֶ֣בֶן גְּדוֹלָ֔ה וַיְקִימֶ֣הָ שָּׁ֔ם תַּ֚חַת הָֽאַלָּ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּמִקְדַּ֥שׁ יְהוָֽה׃

[2] Exodus 24:4.

[3] That is, House of God.

[4] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר יְהוֹשֻׁ֜עַ אֶל־כָּל־הָעָ֗ם הִנֵּ֙ה הָאֶ֤בֶן הַזֹּאת֙ תִּֽהְיֶה־בָּ֣נוּ לְעֵדָ֔ה כִּֽי־הִ֣יא שָׁמְעָ֗ה אֵ֚ת כָּל־אִמְרֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר דִּבֶּ֖ר עִמָּ֑נוּ וְהָיְתָ֤ה בָכֶם֙ לְעֵדָ֔ה פֶּֽן־תְּכַחֲשׁ֖וּן בֵּאלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

[5] Hebrew: שָׁמְעָה.

[6] Hebrew: וַיְשַׁלַּ֤ח יְהוֹשֻׁ֙עַ֙ אֶת־הָעָ֔ם אִ֖ישׁ לְנַחֲלָתֽוֹ׃

2 thoughts on “Joshua 24:26-28: Memorials of Covenant Renewal

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘The service of God being thus made their deliberate choice, Joshua binds them to it by a solemn covenant, Joshua 24:25…. He put it in writing, and inserted it, as we find it here, in the sacred canon: He wrote it in the book of the law (Joshua 24:26), in that original which was laid up in the side of the ark, and thence, probably, it was transcribed into the several copies which the princes had for the use of each tribe. There it was written, that their obligation to religion by the divine precept, and that by their own promise, might remain on record together…. He erected a memorandum of it, for the benefit of those who perhaps were not conversant with writings, Joshua 24:26, 27. He set up a great stone under an oak, as a monument of this covenant, and perhaps wrote an inscription upon it (by which stones are made to speak) signifying the intention of it. When he says, It hath heard what was past, he tacitly upbraids the people with the hardness of their hearts, as if this stone had heard to as good purpose as some of them; and, if they should forget what was no done, this stone would so far preserve the remembrance of it as to reproach them for their stupidity and carelessness, and be a witness against them.

    The matter being thus settled, Joshua dismissed this assembly of the grandees of Israel (Joshua 24:28), and took his last leave of them, well satisfied in having done his part, by which he had delivered his soul; if they perished, their blood would be upon their own heads.’

  2. Archibald Hall’s “Gospel Worship”: ‘Baptism is an ordinance that should be performed with the greatest measure of seriousness. Abraham fell on his face, when God talked with him, and gave him the covenant of circumcision, Genesis 17:17. It is indeed an awful transaction, when angels and men are called as witnesses to the surrender that people make either of themselves or their children. When Joshua had engaged the promise of the Israelites, that they would not forsake the Lord God of their fathers, he set up a stone, and told them, 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, Joshua 24:27. The meaning is, that when they saw that stone, they should remember both what God had promised, and what they had engaged unto him. But those that are baptized have many living witness to observe their temper on such a weighty occasion; and they will join to condemn the irreverent, careless sinner, that intermeddles with holy things without consideration.’

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