In Josh. 8, we see how Yahweh gave Israel victory over Ai. The victory occurs after Israel’s repentance over the Achan incident. Yet after a momentous battle, the writer of Joshua interrupts the narrative by introducing a solemn ceremony—a ceremony of covenant renewal. Joshua gathers all Israel in a solemn assembly of covenant affirmation. The focus of the service is the Law of Moses—Israel’s covenant with God.
Why does the writer of Joshua include this ceremony? In Josh. 7, we learn that Israel transgressed the covenant by stealing the devoted things—the things devoted to God for destruction. The issue is that the people of God have transgressed the Law of God. A covenant-disobeying people cannot possess the land.
We now rephrase our question: How do a covenant-disobeying people of God make God the center of their lives? A disobedient Israel renews her relationship with God by renewing her covenant with God according to God’s directions.1 That is what we have here in vv. 31-35. The people of Israel go to the place where God tells them to go—in the green valley of Shechem between two mountains—Mt. Ebal to the north and Mt. Gerizim to the south. There, they offer sacrifices, listen to the reading of the Mosaic Law, and affirm their obedience to God by obeying the covenant. This act of covenant renewal restores Israel’s identity as the people of God. . . . more