Chapter twenty-four concludes the book with the second half of Joshua’s farewell speech to Israel. In the first half (chapter 23) Joshua reminded Israel of God’s promises and warned them to remain loyal to him. In this chapter he took it one step further. Rather than simply allowing them to say, “We are willing to do all the words that the LORD has said,” which the previous generation said after coming out of Egypt and then failed (Exodus 24:4), Joshua led them in a sort of vow renewal ceremony. He did this in four steps.
First, he reminded them of their history, not just to Egypt but all the way back to Abraham (Joshua 24:1-13). This is important, because Moses had already told them that they were not special for their own sake but because of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deuteronomy 7:7-11). So Joshua reminded them of the promises to the patriarchs, then showed how those promises began to be fulfilled. The people of this generation were either children or not yet born when they left Egypt, but many of them still remembered the miracles, and all of them experienced the recent conquest of the land. This section is essentially a short summary of the books of Exodus through Joshua, up to their present time.
Second, Joshua gave them a short exhortation to remain loyal to Jehovah (Joshua 24:14-15). His command to “put aside the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt” refers back to Abraham and the generations in Egypt. In Joshua 24:15 he challenged them to make their decision. It was similar to Moses’ challenge before they entered the land, seven years earlier: “Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other. … Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live!” (Deuteronomy 30:15, 19)
Third, following their promise to remain faithful to Jehovah (Joshua 24:16-18), Joshua warned them that they would not actually remain faithful. In fact, Israel’s greatest downfall, which led to their captivities, was the worship of false gods.
Fourth, after insisting that they really would remain loyal to Jehovah, Joshua drew up a covenant that the people unanimously agreed to (Joshua 24:21-28). This did not supersede the covenant God made through Moses. Instead it was this generation’s promise to follow through with that covenant that the previous generation made.
Joshua died at the age of 110, closing out what was probably the most faithful time in Israel’s history (Joshua 24:29-33). Joshua 24:31 notes that the nation was faithful until that generation died out. A final note is that Joseph’s bones were finally buried in the new land, just as he had requested when he died, nearly 500 years earlier (Genesis 50:24-26).