After Joshua’s speech and Israel's responses, the narrative turns to the ceremonial ratification of Israel’s newfound commitment to God in verses 25-27. This segment begins in verse 25 telling us that, “Joshua made a covenant with the people … and put in place statutes and rules for them.” In verse 26, Joshua also ratified this covenant commitment by erecting “a large stone … under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the Lord.”
The terebinth tree mentioned here is reminiscent of Genesis 12:6 and the great tree of Moreh at Shechem. This was where Abraham built his first altar in Canaan. And, as we’ve seen throughout this series, stones were often used for commemoration in the book of Joshua. For instance, in 4:7, Joshua erected twelve stones for the Israelites at Gilgal as “a memorial forever.” And the altar built by the tribes of Transjordan in 22:34 was erected as “a witness between us that the Lord is God.” In 24:27, Joshua explained that, “This stone … shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” In future generations, this witness-stone would make it impossible to deny Israel’s voluntary covenant with God to reject all idolatry. And if they failed to keep this vow, they could only blame themselves for God’s judgments that would come upon them.
After these sobering events, the account of Israel’s covenant renewal closes with Joshua’s dismissal of the assembly in verse 28. Our author finalized his record of this event by noting that, “Joshua sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.” This ending to the narrative raised a crucial question for the original audience to consider. Did Israel keep their commitment to reject idolatry and serve only the Lord? In the afterword that closes the book, in 24:31, our author reported that “Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua.” But as we learn from the books of Judges, Samuel and Kings, while Israel remained faithful for a while, later generations violated their solemn oath against idolatry time and again. And the original audience of our book knew the consequences they had suffered because of it.