|Dr. Couch, what is the "law of God" in which Joshua wrote his final words, as mentioned in Joshua 24:26?|
ANSWER: There are different opinions on what this is. Some believe Joshua wrote (1) additional words to the Pentateuch, the Law of Moses. Others hold that (2) it was a different scroll of information that Joshua wrote that was simply added alongside of the Law, a separate document all together.
The word book in Hebrew is the word "Sa'pher meaning the scroll. This was a particular scroll called "the law of God." Unger takes the first view but I take the second view because this is how the Rabbis interpret the statement, and I believe they are correct.
Joshua is very serious about what he wrote. He apparently took it as inspired of the Lord, though it only served for a period of time and then was discarded. Joshua takes several verses to describe what he did in the writing of this scroll.
Joshua made a binding covenant with the people. What he wrote he turned into an agreement, a statute and an ordinance that day in Shechem (v. 25). By this he established his authority over the people as their new leader in place of Moses. Some believe that Joshua simply renewed the covenant which God had first made with Israel at Sinai, but I am not sure that what he wrote is simply a repeat of the Sinaitic agreement. What Joshua did here seems to be something that is additional, going forward with the people in a new step as they fortify the land they were entering.
On this "law of God" the Rabbis say:
"This cannot mean that Joshua added this as an appendix to the Pentateuch and included it therein; firstly because the Books of Moses were too sacred to be tampered with, and secondly, because the words are not to be found there. It may indicate that he wrote them on a scroll which he deposited in the same place together with 'the book of the Law of God.' This makes sense if we read it correctly as 'in a book of the law of God.' Thus, 'it became a book of the law of God.' These words of Joshua then were simply placed alongside of the Torah of Moses as something additional but not formally attached or tied to the Pentateuch."
Joshua then took "a great stone" and set it under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the Lord (v. 26b). It was a common practice to set up a stone to commemorate an event of importance (cf. Gen. 28:18; Exod. 24:4). Joshua commemorated the crossing of the Jordan in this manner (4:3). Joshua here is declaring that this place was "a sanctuary of (for) the Lord." This became a place where the Lord would commune with Joshua and the people. Remember, a geographical place had not been established yet for the people to formally worship. The stone was set up "under an oak (tree)" that too became a sacred location. Joshua spoke to the people in order to confirm their inheritance.
Thanks for asking.
Dr. Mal Couch