No matter how many times I read the Bible, no matter how many times I teach a class on it, I see things that I have never seen before. For instance, until recently, I had missed a fascinating (and convicting) connection between Jacob and Joshua.

Towards the end of his life, Jacob (a.k.a. Israel) gathers the people at Shechem. There, he commands them all to bury their idols (Genesis 35). In response, the people offered Jacob all their foreign gods for him to bury under the oak at Shechem (v. 4). As a result, the fear of God fell on all the foreigners around them so that no one pursued them (v. 5). Now fast forward to Joshua 24—to the familiar “Choose this day whom you will serve…but as for me and my house…” passage. Before Joshua issues that powerful charge, he calls Israel before him—at Shechem of all places. And what perchance does Joshua command the people to do at Shechem? To get rid of their gods.

Although Joshua nails the role of Jacob, it is unclear how well Joshua’s people play the part of Jacob’s household. Even though Joshua implores them twice to cast aside their gods, there is no mention of anyone burying their idols—not even of a shallow grave.[1] Perhaps this is also why—in contrast to the first congregation at Shechem—there is no mention of Israel’s enemies shaking in their sandals. It also sheds some light on the summary of the rampant idolatry in Judges 2. As the story of Israel unfolds it becomes clear, as with Joshua’s generation, it’s one thing for her to promise to serve the Lord, but quite another for her to bury her gods.

And then the personal conviction hits. How often have I publically ‘committed’ my life and my family to the Lord while hiding false idols behind my back? And of course, it’s one thing to express grief over our sins, but quite another thing to bury them once and for all.

As you make your New Year’s resolutions, consider a trip to Shechem.

 


[1] For more on this see Rick Hess, Joshua (Grand Rapids, IVP, 1996).

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Joey Dodson
Dr. Dodson teaches for Eternity Bible College and also serves as an associate professor of Biblical Studies at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He received his Ph.D. in New Testament from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland and was a guest researcher at the University of Tübingen in Germany. Joey is the author of A Little Book for New Bible Scholars with E. Randolph Richards; and The 'Powers' of Personification. Joey has also written a number of articles for academic journals as well as essays in various volumes. Moreover, he is the editor of Paul and the Second Century with Michael F. Bird; and Paul and Seneca in Dialogue with David E. Briones. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @jrrdodson.