In the last chapter of Joshua, we see Joshua leading Israel to renew their covenant with God before he dies. In this final act of faithfulness, Joshua finishes what he started—bringing Israel into the land—and receives the honorific title Servant of the Lord. Here are 10 things about this covenant renewal and the close of Joshua.
1. Joshua 24 is one of many covenant renewals in the Bible.
Beginning in Deuteronomy (or Exodus 32–34), Israel adopted a practice of renewing their commitment to Yahweh. When there was a transition of power (like from Moses to Joshua), or when there was a sin that broke covenant with God (e.g., the Golden Calf or the sin of Baal-Peor), Israel’s faithful leaders led the nation to renew their covenant.
For instance, when Achan’s sin brought judgment on Israel, Joshua led the nation to renew their covenant with God (Josh. 8:30–35). At the same time, this covenant renewal came at a time when Israel was entering a land filled with idols. So, it also had a positive sense of confessing Israel’s faith to Yahweh in a land filled with idols. For both reasons, it makes sense that we find a covenant renewal in Joshua 8.
Now, in Joshua 24 we find another covenant renewal. Much like Moses, he assembles the people of God as he anticipates death. He presses Israel to be faithful to the covenant Yahweh made with them at Sinai. Joshua is not initiating a “new” covenant; he is calling the people to recommit themselves to the first covenant. And in this way, he repeats and reinforces a model of faithfulness that will be seen throughout the Old Testament. Other examples of covenant renewals in the Bible include:
- Asa leads Israel to renew their commitment to God (2 Chronicles 15)
- Josiah leads Israel to renew the covenant with God when he discovers the book of the Law (2 Kings 23)
- Ezra and Nehemiah work to lead the nation of Israel to recommit themselves to God when the second temple is built (Ezra 10; Nehemiah 9–10)
- The Lord’s Supper is a covenant renewal, as the church remembers Christ’s new covenant every time they take the elements (1 Corinthians 10–11)
This string of covenant renewals helps to set the context of Joshua 24 and its importance in redemptive history.
2. Joshua 24 is organized like an ancient Near Eastern covenant.
As many commentators have noted, Joshua 24 includes many of the characteristics of an ancient Near Eastern suzerain-vassal treaty. In particular, Joshua 24, like Deuteronomy, follows the organization of a Hittite treaty of the second millennium. This form of treaty would be well-known during the days of Moses and Joshua, and by familiarizing ourselves with the general shape of this treaty, we are in a better position to see the outline of Joshua 24.
Here is a basic outline, adapted from the notes of Dale Ralph Davis (Joshua, 193 n1)
|Basic Outline of a Hittite Treaty
|Preamble||“Thus says the Lord” (v. 2)|
|Historical Prologue||Yahweh’s history with Israel (v. 2–13)|
|Covenant Stipulations||Joshua’s commitment (vv. 14–15)
Israel’s commitment (vv. 16–24)
|The Covenant Document||Joshua’s words (v. 26)|
|Divine Witnesses||Created witnesses (vv. 22, 26b–27)|
|Blessings and Curses||Curses (vv. 19–20)|
3. No other nation has ever made a covenant with God.
If Yahweh made a covenant with Israel, which he did at Sinai (Exod. 19–24), and which he continues to uphold through various renewals, this is a phenomena entirely unique to Israel. Covenants were commonplace among Israel’s neighbors, but what was wholly lacking was a concept of being in covenant with a single God. As Moshe Weinfield notes,
The ideas of a covenant between a deity and a people is unknown to us from other religions and cultures…. It seems, however, that the covenantal idea was a special feature of the religion of Israel, the only one to demand exclusive loyalty and to preclude the possibility of dual or multiple loyalties such as were permitted in other religions, where the believer was bound in diverse relationships to many gods. The stipulation in political treaties demanding exclusive fealty to one king corresponds strikingly with the religious belief in one single, exclusive deity.” (Moshe Weinfield, cited by Dale Ralph Davis, Joshua, 210)
Here again we find the uniqueness of Israel’s God, the true God of heaven and earth. Yahweh is unlike any pretend deity. We cannot know him or serve him based upon earthly wisdom. As Joshua 24 indicates, relationship with him, i.e., a covenant relationship with him, depends upon him delivering us from idolatry and bringing us to himself. Along the way, we must learn (as Abraham and his offspring did) to put aside idols and idle notions of what it means to worship God. As Joshua 24:19 indicates, Yahweh “is a holy God. He is a jealous God,” and he will not stand for any other gods in the affections of his people.
Hence, the whole history of the world is a search for true worshipers and the creation of a people who will worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Which is to say, world history is covenant history where God delivers his people from the covenant mediated by Adam to the covenant mediated by Christ, the second Adam. All the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Israel, Levi, and David are temporary covenants that bridge the gap between Adam’s covenant and Christ.
4. The covenant renewal can be divided into three highly-organized sections.
From this basic outline, we are in a good position for outlining this chapter. In particular, after Joshua assembles the nation of Israel in verse 1, we have three main sections.
- The covenant history remembered (vv. 2–13)
- The covenant vows renewed (vv. 14–24)
- The covenant ratified with blood (vv. 25–28)
Each of these sections is highly organized and worth considering.
First, consider the covenant history. In verses 2–13 Joshua cycles through the history of Israel four times. From Abraham’s election (vv. 2–5), to Israel’s redemption from Egypt (vv. 4–7), to their protection in the wilderness (vv. 8–10), to the reception of their promised inheritance (vv. 11–13), we see God at work. Here’s a graphic way to see it:
|Epoch||Problem||Idolatrous Adversary||Yahweh’s Deliverance||Result|
|Patriarchs (vv. 2–5)||Idolatry||Terah
Esau sought to kill Jacob
|I took . . . (v. 3)
I led . . . (v. 3)
I made . . . (v. 3)
I gave . . . (v. 3)
I gave . . . (v. 4)
I gave . . . (v. 4)
|Israel in Egypt (vv. 4–7)
Pharaoh sought to kill Israel
|I sent . . . (v. 5)
I plagued . . . (v. 5)
I brought out . . . (v. 5)
I brought out . . . (v. 6)
He put darkness . . . (v. 7)
He made the sea . . . (v. 7)
|1st Generation (vv. 8–10)
(First 40 Years)
Balak tried to curse Israel with Balaam
|I brought . . . (v. 8)
I gave . . . (v. 8)
I destroyed . . . (v. 8)
I would not listen . . . (v. 10)
I blessed you . . . (v. 10)
I delivered you . . . (v. 10)
|2nd Generation (vv. 11–13)
(“Second 40 Years”)
|Jericho and All the Nations of Canaan
Jericho and the nations went to war against Israel
|I gave them over . . . (v. 11)
I sent the hornet . . . (v. 12)
I gave . . . land . . . cities . . . vineyards . . . orchards (v. 13)
Notice the way that in each epoch, God works to deliver his people from an opponent threatening death. This is not accidental. This is what salvation looks like in every generation, and it shows the basic content of God’s grace—he is a redeemer, a savior, and a deliverer from death!
Second, after Joshua recounts the covenant history of Israel, he issues a series of covenantal vows. Like a pastor who reads the vows for a couple renewing their marital commitment, Joshua leads the people through a series of self-maledictory oaths (i.e,, threats unto self if they do not fulfill their promises). You can see the four series in this chart:
|The sons of Israel|
|Serve Yahweh and put away your idols (from beyond the Euphrates, from Egypt, or from the Amorites) (vv. 14–15)||We will not serve idols (of Egypt or the Amorites) . . . we will serve Yahweh (vv. 16–18)|
|But you can’t keep covenant (vv. 19–20)||We will keep covenant (v. 21)|
|You are witnesses against one another (v. 22)||We are witnesses (v. 22)|
|Put away your idols and incline your heart to God (v. 23; cf. Deuteronomy 10:16)||We will obey** (v. 24)
** Notice, no action is recorded (cp. Josh. 4:8; 5:2–3; cf. James 2:14–16)
Third, after Joshua leads Israel through their covenant renewal, we see him offering a sacrifice and ratifying this covenant by his testimony and the witness of a large stone. Let’s take these in order. In the English, we may not immediately see the sacrifice in this passage, but when we realize that v. 25 says, “So Joshua cut a covenant with the people that day,” we are alerted to the bloodshed needed for the covenant renewal. In other words, just as Hebrews 9:18 says that the first covenant was inaugurated with blood, so here and throughout the Old Testament, no covenant could be ratified or renewed without blood.
Cutting a covenant is emblematic of the sacrificial nature of the covenant. As O. Palmer Robertson puts it, a covenant is a “bond-in-blood” (The Christ of the Covenants, 4, 11). And when a covenant was “cut” it required the literal ripping apart of animals to signify the commitment of each covenant partner was making (cf. Genesis 15): “A covenant is a ‘bond-in-blood’ committing the participants to loyalty on pain of death. Once the covenant relationship has been entered, nothing less than the shedding of blood may relieve the obligations incurred in the event of covenantal violation” (11).
In addition to this blood sacrifice, Joshua also calls a “large stone” to be a witness against us. If this sounds strange, it’s not. First, this use of a local stone recalls the fact that there were no other deities to call as witnesses. Among polytheistic peoples, they would make their covenants in front of the gods. But here this covenant with the God of Israel calls creation to bear witness. Thus the stone reinforces the fact that there are not other gods to which Israel must submit themselves.
Second, this stone may be related to the stone plastered over and etched with the Law in Joshua 8:30–35, as described in Deuteronomy 27:4, 8. As we saw in Joshua 8, Joshua renewed the covenant at Mount Ebal, just as Deuteronomy 27 instructed. In doing so, if he followed all that was written by Moses, he would have plastered a stone (v. 4) and written the Law on it (v. 8). It makes sense that he is doing something similar here; either pointing to words previously written or adding to them.
For, third, the covenant renewed at Shechem is the same location as the covenant renewed in Joshua 8. While we cannot know if the people arranged themselves in the same way as Joshua 8 (see v. 33), there is no reason to believe they did not. Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal stand on the two sides of Shechem, and thus to assemble at Shechem is to come to these two mountains. And thus, this location adds to the significance of Israel’s covenant history with Yahweh; it also adds weight to the vows Israel was making.
5. Joshua 24 takes place in Shechem, a location with a long covenantal history.
Shechem shows up for the first time in Genesis 12:6–7, where Yahweh tells Abraham (the recent convert from paganism) that this would be his land. “Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.”
Incredibly, but not surprisingly, when Israel came into the land, it was Shechem that became the place where Israel renews their covenant. As their covenant stood on the promise of this land, this was the natural place for them to gather. But there is another reason for promising fidelity to Yahweh at Shechem, and it comes from another episode in Genesis.
In Genesis 33, after sojourning with Laban, Jacob (Israel) returns to Canaan and purchases this plot of ground. Genesis 33:18–20 read,
18 And Jacob came safely to the city of Shechem, which is in the land of Canaan, on his way from Paddan-aram, and he camped before the city. 19 And from the sons of Hamor, Shechem’s father, he bought for a hundred pieces of money the piece of land on which he had pitched his tent. 20 There he erected an altar and called it El-Elohe-Israel.
Like Abraham, Jacob erects an altar to worship God and pledge himself to Yahweh. Interestingly, in Joshua 24 Shechem is mentioned in association with this purchase. Verse 32 reads,
As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money. It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph.
So clearly, this location is filled with meaning. And perhaps most important of all, Shechem is the place where Jacob told his family to put away their idols. As Genesis 35:2–4 reads,
So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments. 3 Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.” 4 So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.
It is not a coincidence that Joshua does the very same thing. As he goes to die, he calls his family and his nation to put away their idols. In fact, when Joshua 24:26 includes a reference to a terebinth tree, it recalls the mention of the terebinth near Shechem in Genesis 35:4. However, if Joshua 24 is meant to make Joshua a New Jacob, one who calls his family to put away their idols, something is lacking in Joshua—there is no action that follows Joshua’s command to put away their idols (see v. 23). There is a verbal commitment (v. 24), but nothing more. This is telling and hints that Israel’s obedience will be short lived.
6. The book closes with a shared note of faithfulness and feebleness.
After the covenant is renewed in Joshua 24:1–28, we find four witnesses to this covenant. But strikingly, each witness is very weak, as each dies (Joshua and Eleazar), or has died (Joseph), or is going to die (the second generation of Israel). Here they are in order:
- Joshua Death (v. 29–30)
- Israel (Departing) Obedience (v. 31)
- Joseph’s Bones (v. 32)
- Eleazar’s Death and Burial (v. 33)
While Joshua closes with a note of faithful service, there is pink in the morning alerting the reader to take warning. What happens next in Judges is the result of a people whose covenant faithfulness is weak at best. And so even as these verses close the book in a positive light; that light is fading. Joshua receives the honorific title of the Lord’s servant (v. 29), but there is no guarantee of faithfulness beyond the generation who knew him personally.
This fact stresses the weakness of this covenant renewal and the need for a greater Israel, a greater Joshua, and a greater servant of the Lord. Yet, before we make those connections to Christ, we should notice a few more items in the text.
7. Joshua 24 teaches us how to find our identity in covenant history.
When Joshua assembles the people of Israel, he begins by reminding them of their history. In verses 6–7, we see how he does this,
6 “‘Then I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and you came to the sea. And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7 And when they cried to the Lord, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians and made the sea come upon them and cover them; and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt. And you lived in the wilderness a long time.
Notice the exchange of subjects—Joshua goes back and forth between the fathers who came out of Egypt and the generation who stood before him at Shechem. Removed by more than a generation (approx. 50 years), most of the second generation did not actually “see” the works of God in Egypt. Yet, clearly Joshua identifies these events as their own.
This is not the first time such identification occurred. In Deuteronomy 5:2–3, we find the same kind of supra-historical identification. In that passage, Moses’s words state,
2 The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. 3 Not with our fathers did the Lord make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive today.
Moses spoke to a people, many of whom had not been in Egypt, as though they had been brought out of Egypt. This is way of thinking is highly instructive. When the second generation looked back on events they had not seen and to a covenant they were not present to make (at Sinai), it was still theirs. By means of their inclusion in the covenant of circumcision, the sons and daughters of Israel enjoyed a place in the covenant.
Today, the same identification is found in passages like 1 Corinthians 10. While physical circumcision is no longer the sign of the covenant, all those who have been circumcised by the Spirit are given a place in Israel’s covenant history. With this in mind, Paul calls the church of Corinth, who is composed of mostly Gentile converts, to learn from the examples of their fathers in Israel. Listen to what he says,
For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.
The identification of ‘our fathers’ (v. 1) carries forward the same idea that Moses had in Deuteronomy 5 and Joshua did in Joshua 24—God’s history with Israel is our history too. By identifying non-Jews with the fathers of Israel, we discover how God is bringing other nations and generations into his covenant community.
Therefore, just as Joshua taught the second generation at Shechem to “see” the works of God at the Red Sea and claim them as their own, so we should read the whole Bible as written for us (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:6, 11). Israel’s story is our story and Israel’s messiah is our savior too. Thus, we should not make the mistake of talking about what God did for them (Israel), as if it is someone else’s story. Joshua 24 teaches us how to read history and find our identity in what God has done in the past and continues to do for his people today—indeed, even what happened in the past is for us too.
8. The foundation of God’s covenant is God’s antecedent grace.
Meditating on how God works in covenant history also makes us notice all that God did for Israel. In other words, the foundation of the covenant is not what Israel did or must do for God. God is not like the gods of the nations who demand humans to work for them. He is a God who works on behalf of those who wait for him (Isaiah 64:4). And in verses 2–13 we find an incredible list of the actions of God, who elects, redeems, protects, and settles his people in the land. We saw this list above (under #3), but we are going to think more carefully about it here.
Through the four cycles of God’s actions with the patriarchs, Israel in Egypt, Israel in the Wilderness, and Israel in the Promised Land, we find 21 places where God acted on behalf of his people. We could list more, but here’s the stated list in verses 2–13:
- I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates (v. 3)
- I led him through all the land of Canaan (v. 3)
- I made his offspring many (v. 3)
- I gave him Isaac (v. 3)
- I gave Jacob and Esau . . . to Isaac (v. 4)
- I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess, but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt (v. 4)
- I sent Moses and Aaron [to deliver you] (v. 5)
- I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it (v. 5)
- I brought you out of [Egypt] (v. 5)
- I brought out your fathers out of Egypt (v. 6)
- He put darkness [to protect your] between you and the Egyptians (v. 7)
- He made the sea come upon them and cover them (v. 7)
- I brought you to the land of the Amorites [East of the Jordan] (v. 8)
- I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land (v. 8)
- I destroyed them before you (v. 8)
- I would not listen to Balaam [and his curse] (v. 10)
- [Instead, I blessed you (v. 10)
- I delivered you out of his hand (v. 10)
- I gave them [the seven kings of Canaan] over to you (v. 11)
- I sent the hornet [probably a metaphor for terror] before you (v. 12)
- I gave you a land on which you had not labored and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant. (v. 13)
In each of these actions we learn something about God, but let me mention three items.
First, the grace of God is seen not in the prosperity of God’s people, but in God’s ultimate purposes. Many times the elect of God look like they have been abandoned by God. In fact, it is Esau, who God hated (Mal. 1:3), who immediately received the hill country of Seir, but it is Jacob, whom God loved (Mal. 1:2), who had to experienced slavery, military opposition, wilderness wandering, and endless temptations to sin. In short, this history of grace teaches us that looks can be deceiving and that grace is seen in God’s ultimate plans, not his immediate blessings.
Second, the fulfillment of God’s promises is often delayed. This teaches us that God’s grace takes a long time to develop. However, the delayed blessing always is the best blessing. As Dale Ralph Davis observes,
We don’t live long in covenant history until we experience the gradual pace of God. Still speaking of Abraham, Joshua continues Yahweh’s word: ‘and I multiplied his seed and | gave him Isaac’ (v. 3b). Those two statements look ludicrous together. God multiplies Abraham’s seed — he gives him Isaac. One times one is one. And, according to the mathematics of Genesis, it took twenty-five years just to get Isaac (Gen. 12:4; 16:3, 16; 17:1, 17; 21:5).
But perhaps we should have allowed Joshua to go on: ‘I multiplied his seed, and I gave him Isaac, and I gave Isaac Jacob and Esau’ (vv. 3b-4a). That’s not much better. Yahweh multiplies Abraham’s seed by giving him two grandsons! And, according to the scriptural math, that was after twenty years of childlessness for Isaac and Rebekah (Gen. 25:19-26).
God does not appear to be in a hurry; he is not driven by the calendar or intimidated by the clock. Yahweh did multiply Abraham’s seed but he did it slowly. He does what he promises but sometimes so gradually that we don’t see his faithfulness. This is frequently God’s way — to be ‘faithful in little’ and even little by little. It might help our faith if we would fasten our eyes more on the fact than the degree of God’s faithfulness, or its speed. We easily lose sight of what Yahweh has done by demanding too much too soon. (Joshua, 195–96)
This is a good reminder and one we often forget. Yet, by paying attention to the timing of God’s history we learn again how God’s grace works.
Third, when we notice who God is gracious to, we find encouragement. Abraham came from a family who worshiped idols. Israel worshiped idols in Egypt. In the wilderness, Israel succumbed to the temptations of idols. And in the Promised Land, some of the second generation (Achan) also gave into idolatry. Across these diverse situations, God repeatedly chose a people out of idolatry and then preserved a remnant from turning to idols. In this history, we learn that salvation does not come to righteous God-seekers, it comes to idolaters like Abraham. Yet, to those whom God saves from idols, God requires total devotion.
This means that there is no one who is beyond the grace of God. It also means that those who are saved will not return to the gods who led them to death. In truth, both salvation from idolatry and preservation from idolatry are gifts of God’s grace and we see this throughout Israel’s history. God saves his people from a house of slavery to idols and he brings them into his house to serve him.
9. The only proper response to God’s grace is devoted service.
After Joshua rehearses the gracious history of God’s covenant faithfulness to Israel, he issues four commands in verse 14: “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your father served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.” Then he follows this verse with the non-sensical command to serve other gods, if you will not serve the true God: “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.”
Incredibly, the well-worn verse, “choose for yourself whom you will serve,” is a command to choose between the gods of Babylon (beyond the River), the gods of Egypt, and the gods of the Amorites. The argument is on based on absurdity. After witnessing all the God of Abraham has done for you, Joshua reasons, it would be insane to serve other gods. Joshua frames it as the choice of the Israelites to serve other gods if it is evil, or bad, to serve Yahweh. But clearly the point is that such evil only comes from wicked hearts. Joshua’s rhetorical argument, therefore, is meant to reinforce Israel’s service to God, which is the only reasonable act of worship (cf. Romans 12:1–2).
Indeed, worship via service to Yahweh is a main theme, if not the main theme, of Israel’s right response to God’s redemption. In fact, in verses 14–24 the word “serve” (ebed) is used fourteen times (vv. 14 [3x], 15 [4x], 16, 18, 19, 20, 21,22, 24, cf. v. 31). Set in contrast to serving other gods (v. 2), Joshua calls Israel to serve the God who chose Abraham, delivered them from Egypt, led them through the Wilderness, and brought them to Canaan. Serving the Lord is the only appropriate response, and thus the covenant vows in verses 14–24 stress this point.
10. Joshua’s covenant is typological of Jesus’s better covenant.
Today, serving the Lord continues to be the only proper response to God’s grace. Just like Israel’s covenant stood on the gracious work of God in the past, so our covenant stands on all that God has done for us in Christ. Indeed, in Joshua’s covenant renewal, he labors to recall all that God has done for Israel. Today, the list of God’s mighty works far exceeds the events in Canaan, it includes everything that we in the Old Testament, the Gospels, and Acts. Truly, the new covenant which Jesus Christ inaugurated with his blood has an historical prologue and it is the entire Bible.
Just the same, Christ’s new covenant also includes a sacrifice that stands that ratifies the agreement. Just as Joshua cut a covenant by offering sacrifices (cf. Joshua 8:30–35), Jesus offered his own blood to seal the new covenant. Only as Hebrews teaches us, his blood served as the final sacrifice for sin (see Hebrews 9). Because he offered a true sacrifice, and not just an animal, he put to death the system of sacrifice begun in the law.
For this reason, we can say that Joshua’s covenant renewal (and every other OT covenant and covenant renewal) is a type of the greater covenant of Christ. Truly, these historical events, which served to keep Israel in covenant with God, all served their purpose by foreshadowing the coming reality of Christ’s death and resurrection. Indeed, this was always the goal, and this explains why all the covenants in Israel ultimately failed. They were by nature weak placeholders for Jesus Christ and the covenant he would bring.
This does not mean that Joshua 24 is not worth our careful study and prayerful meditation. It does mean that we should see how God intended for this covenant to lead us to Christ. In Joshua, we find the basic framework of a covenant (historical prologue, covenant stipulation, written document, witnesses). We also see that the covenant is made by means of a sacrifice, a mediator, and a sanctuary. Today, Christ fulfills all of these things. And because he does, he receives the name above all names.
Interestingly, as Joshua closes verse 31 calls Joshua the “servant of the Lord.” This is the first time Joshua receives this title and it is only given at his death. Similarly, Moses received this title in his death (Deut. 34:5; Josh. 1:1). It seems that this honorific title could only be given at the end of life. Moses and Joshua proved themselves faithful in God’s house and so they God honored them with this exalted title—to be a faithful servant in God’s house is a glorious honor (see Heb. 3:1–6).
Yet, this title distinguishes Christ once again, for after finishing his service on earth, with true and perfect obedience, he received the title “Son.” Jesus was not merely a servant. Rather, he took the form of a servant, so that he could be crowned a son—indeed, the Son! In his resurrection Christ, the eternal Son of God, was recognized and declared to be the true, messianic “Son of God” (see Acts 13:32; Romans 1:4; Hebrews 5:5–6). And thus he received a name above every other name!
At the same time, he inaugurated a covenant above every other covenant. For his covenant did not result in death—notice again the four deaths highlighted in verses 29–33 (see #6 above)—it resulted in life. And his life is what strengthens, completes, and certifies the new covenant. Thus, in comparison to Joshua, we learn once more why Joshua’s covenant renewal was good, but it was not good enough—it was faithful shadow of the substance we find in Christ.
Truly, this is why Joshua exists. He is a picture of Christ and one whose life and ministry and book are meant to give Christ. And as with all the Old Testament, we learn from reading Joshua how to see Jesus in the Old Testament.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds