Bible Society of South Africa
Ds Hein Barnard

Forgiveness – Day 5

Shechem was an important place for worshipping pagan gods before and during the time of Joshua. This has now become the place where Israel renewed the covenant with God – a change from what was normal.

Bible text(s)

Joshua Speaks to the People at Shechem

1Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem. He called the elders, the leaders, the judges, and the officers of Israel, and they came into the presence of God. 2Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, has to say: ‘Long ago your ancestors lived on the other side of the River Euphrates and worshipped other gods. One of those ancestors was Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor. 3Then I took Abraham, your ancestor, from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan. I gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, 4and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Edom as his possession, but your ancestor Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5Later I sent Moses and Aaron, and I brought great trouble on Egypt. But I led you out; 6I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and cavalry. But when your ancestors got to the Red Sea 7they cried out to me for help, and I put darkness between them and the Egyptians. I made the sea come rolling over the Egyptians and drown them. You know what I did to Egypt.

“ ‘You lived in the desert a long time. 8Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the east side of the Jordan. They fought you, but I gave you victory over them. You took their land, and I destroyed them as you advanced. 9Then the king of Moab, Balak son of Zippor, fought against you. He sent word to Balaam son of Beor and asked him to put a curse on you. 10But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you, and in this way I rescued you from Balak. 11You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The men of Jericho fought against you, as did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I gave you victory over them all. 12As you advanced, I threw them into panic in order to drive out the two Amorite kings. Your swords and bows had nothing to do with it. 13I gave you a land that you had never cultivated and cities that you had not built. Now you are living there and eating grapes from vines that you did not plant, and olives from trees that you did not plant.’

14“Now then,” Joshua continued, “honour the LORD and serve him sincerely and faithfully. Get rid of the gods which your ancestors used to worship in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, and serve only the LORD. 15If you are not willing to serve him, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshipped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the LORD.”

16The people replied, “We would never leave the LORD to serve other gods! 17The LORD our God brought our fathers and us out of slavery in Egypt, and we saw the miracles that he performed. He kept us safe wherever we went among all the nations through which we passed. 18As we advanced into this land, the LORD drove out all the Amorites who lived here. So we also will serve the LORD; he is our God.”

19Joshua said to the people, “But you may not be able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God and will not forgive your sins. He will tolerate no rivals, 20and if you leave him to serve foreign gods, he will turn against you and punish you. He will destroy you, even though he was good to you before.”

21The people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.”

22Joshua said to them, “You are your own witnesses to the fact that you have chosen to serve the LORD.”

“Yes,” they said, “we are witnesses.”

23“Then get rid of those foreign gods that you have,” he demanded, “and pledge your loyalty to the LORD, the God of Israel.”

24The people then said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God. We will obey his commands.”

25So Joshua made a covenant for the people that day, and there at Shechem he gave them laws and rules to follow. 26Joshua wrote these commands in the book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up under the oak tree in the LORD's sanctuary. 27He said to all the people, “This stone will be our witness. It has heard all the words that the LORD has spoken to us. So it will be a witness against you, to keep you from rebelling against your God.” 28Then Joshua sent the people away, and they all returned to their own part of the land.

Joshua 24:1-28GNBOpen in Bible reader

The renewal of the God’s covenant with the Israelites at Shechem

This covenant renewal ceremony had the following elements:

  • The preamble – verse 2
  • The historical prologue – verses 2-13
  • Stipulations – verses 14-24
  • Written record – verse 26
  • Witnesses – verses 26-27, also verse 22
  • Blessings and curses – implicit in the whole chapter, especially verse 20

Joshua reminded the people that God cannot be served casually or with divine assistance.  He reminded them that unfaithfulness would be corrected.  This is still true today – we pay for wrong choices, advice, words and other deeds.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.14.1
Find us on