“6 When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. 7 And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. 8 And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. 9 And they buried him within the boundaries of his inheritance in Timnath-heres, in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.” (Judges 2:6-9–ESV)
Retirement and graduation-verses 6, 8, 9
The commencement speaker for Israel was none other than its champion. Joshua’s commencement address to the nation was recorded in Joshua 24. The end of his national role had arrived and shortly he would leave it for the next life. Those at the commencement address are those dismissed in verse 6.
The tribes had participated on a national level seeing what God would do through and for them. They had witnessed the transition of Joshua from spy to protégé to leader. It was now time for them to embark upon their own regional conquests. What had been done by God through Joshua and the nation now needed to be duplicated by God through the elders, leaders, judges and commanders.
There were nations yet to be driven from the land. They were nations of people created and loved by God but steeped in idolatry and far from truth. As the earth had been cleansed of the rebellious in Noah’s day Canaan was to be cleared of the rebellious in Joshua’s day. What Joshua had done on a national scale was to be enacted on a tribal, regional scale.
Was God faithful to Joshua?
In order to lead to the answer a good supplementary question is: Where was Joshua born? In Egypt. By the time of the Judges hindsight on Joshua’s life is available. Where was he in the book of Judges? A lifetime later. There are the bookends of his life.
What was the story in the book? Joshua transitioned from slave to escapee. He transitioned from escapee to spy. The faith of Joshua must have been developed at an early age and its strength was witnessed before nation after he participated in the mission to spy out the then unconquered land of Canaan. That faith was the platform from which he transitioned to the protégé and eventual successor of Moses. At some point after his commencement speech and retirement he transitioned on into the presence of God.
It is staggering in some manner what this man witnessed and how he led. It seems that he had been in his eighties when his tenure as leader began. From a slave to chosen leader Israel’s theocracy he had witnessed so much and had been faithful throughout.
So the answer to the question of whether God was faithful to Joshua is very evident. The stressors that Joshua experienced were immense, but God was doing the work and Joshua by allowing himself to be carried along did the things God wanted done. God was faithful to Joshua. God will be faithful to us.
Good leadership mattered–verse 7
Sandwiched in these four verses is verse #7. These were the audience at the commencement speech. They were those who would take up the mantle after his departure. They were not Joshua’s generation but the one that followed it. That generation had dwindled to the two spies who had originally gone to the promised land. Joshua & Caleb were the only adults who made the full 40 year journey in the desert.
Joshua’s generation, the Egypt-influenced generation seems to have grown up with little clear influence of God upon them. They would have had the stories of their ancestors back to the 12 brothers and Jacob and beyond him unto Isaac and Abraham. We do not see recorded how their own lives were coupled to God and it seems that their connection to God was dim if not resting in long lost ancestors. Moses, even, had to learn many lessons the hard way. Moses was a fusser. Moses learned to have faith. Those who followed him out of Egypt were truly in need of being picked up, cleaned off, fed, taught, nurtured and led. They had opportunity, but ingrained in them was a different life, and the adults fell in the desert.
So, who were the people that Joshua led? Who were those elders? They were those who did not die out in the desert. They were those who had been born into the fledgling nation of Israel. A number of them likely were born into Egypt and fled the Egyptian horsemen and chariots at the red sea some 65 years before this speech. They had crossed that sea and had seen their parents lose faith at the Jordan and be turned back into the desert to perish. They had grown up under a perception of God’s direct influence seeing the manna and the quail. Many observed the rebellion of parents, aunts and uncles and saw judgments coupled to that. Almost all would have remembered the crossing of the Jordan, the weird victory at Jericho followed by the disheartening and clearly unexpected loss at Ai. They had been forged in the conquests of Canaan that had to that point happened.
So those who came after Joshua and who were led by him grew up under a very different set of circumstances. Their formative years formed faith in a significant percentage of them. The faith formed carried on and made a difference. Like an arrow shot from a bow it flew for a good while until the trajectory began to slip. The leadership of Joshua was good and it had a good effect.
Joshua had worried about his transition to leader. Surely those who came after had the anxiety of their transitions, but overall it was marked by a stamp of faithfulness as we see recorded here.