SynopsisThe book of Joshua is definitely a “good news” book. The Israelites are obeying the LORD, and, because of that, everything they are putting their hands to is coming out successful. But that doesn’t mean that they have completely finished the job. By the time we get to this passage, Joshua is “old and well advanced in years” (verse 1), and therefore the LORD is reminding him about the land that still remains to be taken.
First of all, there is the land of the Philistines and the Geshurites. (God outlines all of the area that belongs to these people; a quick trip to BibleMap.org will probably help you to understand where these areas are.)
The second area still to be conquered is the mountainous regions (“from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim” (verse 6)), where the Sidonians live. However, God will drive them out Himself—the Israelites just have to take care of allocating the land.
ThoughtsI assume that the LORD is telling Joshua this for him to pass on to whatever leaders take over after he’s gone. After all, God doesn’t specifically tell Joshua to do anything; He simply says, “here is the land that still hasn’t been taken over.” Another interpretation might be that He is berating Joshua, for not finishing the job, although I don’t get that impression from the text. Just to compare notes, I looked in Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, and read this:
Joshua is supposed to have been about one hundred years old at this time. It is good for those who are old and stricken in years to be put in remembrance of their being so. God considers the frame of his people, and would not have them burdened with work above their strength. And all people, especially old people, should set to do that quickly which must be done before they die, lest death prevent them, Ec 9:10. God promise that he would make the Israelites masters of all the countries yet unsubdued, through Joshua was old, and not able to do it; old, and not likely to live to see it done. Whatever becomes of us, and however we may be laid aside as despised, broken vessels, God will do his own work in his own time. We must work out our salvation, then God will work in us, and work with us; we must resist our spiritual enemies, then God will tread them under our feet; we must go forth to our Christian work and warfare, then God will go forth before us. (link added to the verse)
I also notice that one of the nations mentioned, still left to be conquered, is the nation of Philistines. We’ll be reading about them for quite a while, after the book of Joshua is finished.
A final thought: I’m not sure what the LORD means when He says (about the Sidonians), “I myself will drive them out before the Israelites” (verse 6). Isn’t that always the case? Whenever the Israelites defeat another nation, isn’t it because He has won the battle? So why is He explicitly stating it like this, in this case? Will this be a different type of battle than normal? I don’t have answers to these rhetorical questions.