THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
BY JOHN CALVIN
Translated From The Original Latin, And Collated With The French Edition
BY HENRY BEVERIDGE, ESQ
The Commentary On Joshua was the last literary labor of its venerable Author. When he engaged in it, his constitution, which had never been strong, was completely worn out by excessive exertion, and almost every line of it must have been dictated to his amanuensis during momentary intervals of relief from severe bodily pain. On this point we possess authentic documents which leave no room for doubt.
In a letter dated 30th November 1563, not quite six months before his death, after alluding to the difficulty he felt in continuing his studies, while both mind and body were exhausted by sickness, he states that he had undertaken a Commentary on Joshua, in compliance with the wishes of his friends, but had not then been able to advance beyond the third Chapter, though he had endeavored to be as brief as possible.
Little more than two months after this letter was written, on 6th February 1564, he made his appearance in the pulpit for the last time; and on 10th March following, the complication of diseases which too plainly indicated that his earthly career was about to close, had become so alarming as to cause an entry in the Register of Geneva in the following terms: — “Arrete que chacun prie Dieu pour la sante de M. Calvin, qui est indispose depuis longtemps, et meme en danger de mort:” — “Decreed that every one pray to God for the health of Mr. Calvin, who has been indisposed for a long time, and even in danger of death.”
Such are the circumstances in which this Commentary was composed, and it is impossible, in reflecting on them, not to admire the indomitable energy which Calvin displayed in proceeding with his task, and in meeting the remonstrance’s of those who would have withdrawn him from it, with the heroic exclamation, “Would you that the Lord, when He comes, should find me idle!”
A Work written at such a time, and in such a spirit, might justly claim exemption from criticism; but it has no need of indulgence, and can well afford to be judged by its own intrinsic merits. Viewed merely as an intellectual effort, it displays all the excellencies which characterize the other Commentaries of its distinguished Author: viewed in a higher and better light, it is his dying bequest to the Church — a solemn ratification of the whole System of Doctrine which he had so long, so earnestly, and so successfully promulgated.
As an appropriate conclusion both to the present Volume and the others which have preceded it, a valuable Tract, first published in this country in 1845, has been appended. It contains a Preface by the Rev. William Pringle, its original editor, an Essay from the German of Professor Theoluck, and a series of Extracts from Writers often differing widely from each other, but all concurring in a united testimony to the greatness of Calvin’s talents, or the excellence of his character. In the present reprint, the chief change consists in the insertion of Additional Testimonies.
The list of Calvin’s Writings, which completes the present Volume, is in accordance with that furnished by his greatest Biographer, Henri of Berlin, and will enable the reader to comprehend at a single glance the amazing extent of his literary labors.
December 30, 1854.
ARGUMENT OF THE BOOK OF JOSHUA.
As to the Author of this Book, it is better to suspend our judgment than to make random assertions. Those who think that it was Joshua, because his name stands on the title page, rest on weak and insufficient grounds. The name of Samuel is inscribed on a part of the Sacred History containing a narrative of events which happened after his death; and there cannot be a doubt that the book which immediately follows the present is called Judges, not because it was written by them, but because it recounts their exploits. Joshua died before the taking of Hebron and Debir, and yet an account of it is given in the 15th chapter of the present Book. The probability is, that a summary of events was framed by the high priest Eleazar, and furnished the materials out of which the Book of Joshua was composed. It was a proper part of the high priest’s duty not only to give oral instruction to the people of his own time, but to furnish posterity with a record of the goodness of God in preserving the Church, and thus provide for the advancement of true religion. And before the Levites became degenerate, their order included a class of scribes or notaries who embodied in a perpetual register everything in the history of the Church which was worthy of being recorded. Let us not hesitate. therefore, to pass over a matter which we are unable to determine, or the knowledge of which is not very necessary, while we are in no doubt as to the essential point — that the doctrine herein contained was dictated by the Holy Spirit for our use, and confers benefits of no ordinary kind on those who attentively peruse it. f1
Although the people had already gained signal victories, and become the occupants of a commodious and tolerably fertile tract of country, the Divine promise as to the land of Canaan still remained suspended. Nay, the leading article in the Covenant was unaccomplished, as if God, after cooping up his people in a corner, had left his work in a shapeless and mutilated form. This Book, then, shows how, when the intolerable impiety of the people had interrupted the course of deliverance, God, while inflicting punishment, so tempered the severity of justice as ultimately to perform what he had promised concerning the inheritance of Canaan.
This suggests the very useful reflection, that while men are cut off by death, and fail in the middle of their career, the faithfulness of God never fails. On the death of Moses a sad change seemed impending; the people were left like a body with its head lopped off. While thus in danger of dispersion, not only did the truth of God prove itself to be immortal, but it was shown in the person of Joshua as in a bright mirror, that when God takes away those whom he has adorned with special gifts, he has others in readiness to supply their place, and that though he is pleased for a time to give excellent gifts to some, his mighty power is not tied down to them, but he is able, as often as seems to him good, to find fit successors, nay, to raise up from the very stones persons qualified to perform illustrious deeds.
First, we see how, when the wandering of forty years in the wilderness had almost effaced the remembrance of the passage of the Red Sea, the course of deliverance was proved to have been uninterrupted by the repetition of the same miracle in the passage of the Jordan. The renewal of circumcision was equivalent to a re-establishment of the Covenant which had been buried in oblivion by the carelessness of the people, or abandoned by them from despair. Next, we see how they were conducted by the hand of God into possession of the promised land. The taking of the first city was an earnest of the perpetual aid which they might hope for from heaven, since the walls of Jericho fell of their own accord, shaken merely by the sound of trumpets. The nations, however, were not completely routed by a single battle, nor in one short campaign, but were gradually worn out and destroyed by many laborious contests.
Here, it is to be observed, that arduous difficulties were thrown in the way of the people when the kings entered into a league, and came forth to meet them with united forces, because it became necessary not only to war with single nations, but with an immense body which threatened to overwhelm them by one great onset. Ultimately, however, all these violent attempts had no other effect than to make the power of God more manifest, and give brighter displays of mercy and faithfulness in the defense of his chosen people. In fact, their uninterrupted course of success, and their many unparalleled victories, showed the hand of God as it were visibly stretched forth from heaven.
More especially, a signal proof that they were warring under divine auspices was given when the sun was checked in his course at the mere prayer of Joshua, as if the elements had been armed for his assistance, and were waiting ready to obey him. Again, while the delays which occurred in the progress of the war were useful trials of the constancy of the people, we must not lose sight of another admirable use of which Moses, to prevent them from fainting in their minds, had at an earlier period forewarned them, viz., that God was unwilling to destroy the nations at once, lest the country, from being converted into a kind of desert, might be overrun by wild beasts.
But the provision which God had thus most graciously made for their security, they wickedly perverted to their own destruction: for having obtained what they deemed a large enough space for commodious habitation, they turned backwards to indulge in sloth and cowardice. This one crime brought others along with it. For after they had been enrolled under the banners of the Lord, they treacherously and disobediently refused to fulfil their period of service, in the very same way as deserters, regardless of the military oath, basely quit their standards. f2 The dominion of the land, which had been divinely offered, they, with flagrant ingratitude, rejected, by taking possession of only a part.
Moreover, though they had been ordered to purge the sacred territory of all pollutions, in order that no profanation of the pure and legitimate worship might remain, they allowed the impious superstitions which God abhorred to be practiced as before; and though they also knew that the order had been partly given as a security for their own safety, lest, through intermixture with the nations, they might be ensnared by their impostures and insidious arts, yet, as if they had determined to court danger, they left them to furnish the fuel of a dire conflagration.
Their obstinate incredulity betrays itself in their disregard of the penalty denounced against such transgression. But they at length learned by experience that God had not threatened in vain, that those nations whom they had wickedly f3 spared, would prove to them thorns and stings. For they were harassed by constant incursions, pillaged by rapine, and at length almost oppressed by tyrannical violence. In short, it was not owing to any merit of theirs that the truth of God did not utterly fail. f4
On this point, indeed, a question may be raised: for if the promise given to Abraham was founded on the mere good pleasure of God, f5 then, be the character of the people what it might, it is absurd to say that it could be defeated by their fault. How are we to reconcile the two things, — that the people did not obtain the full and complete inheritance promised to them, and that yet God was true? I answer, that so far was the faithfulness of God f6 from being overthrown, or shaken, or in any way impaired, that we here perceive more clearly how wonderful are His workings, who, in unsearchable wisdom, knows how to bring light out of darkness.
It had been said to Abraham, (<011518>Genesis 15:18) To thy seed will I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river Euphrates. Joshua affirms that the event drew near, and was actually at hand. But the Israelites, overcome by sloth, do not reach those boundaries; nay, in settling down of their own accord within narrow limits, they in a manner oppose barriers to the divine liberality. In this way the covenant of God seemed to suffer a kind of eclipse.
And there is no doubt that pious minds were often filled with anxiety when they saw His work cut short. But the punishment inflicted on the people for their wickedness was so tempered, that what might otherwise have been a grievous and perilous trial of faith, was converted into a powerful support. The apparent failure reminded the children of God that they were to look forward to a more excellent state, where the divine favor would be more clearly displayed, nay, would be freed from every obstruction, and shine forth in full splendor. Hence their thoughts were raised to Christ, and it was made known to them that the complete felicity of the Church depended on its Head. In arriving at this conclusion, they were assisted by new prophecies. For the rehearsal which Joshua here makes of the ancient covenant is applied in the Psalms (<197201>Psalms 72 and <198901>89) to the Messiah’s reign, unto which time, the Lord had, for the purpose of rendering it more glorious, deferred the full fruition of the promised land. The same thing was exemplified in David, who bore a typical resemblance to Christ, and in whom it was shown that the divine promises were only established and confirmed in the hand of a Mediator.
No longer, therefore, does it seem strange that the result promised, after being retarded by the wickedness of the people, was not, fully accomplished till the state of the Church was rightly arranged, seeing that in the person of David the image of the Mediator, on whom the perfect the moderate foretaste which believers received of the divine favor, must have sufficed to sustain f7 them, preparatory to the more complete realization.
Nor, indeed, was the partition made by Joshua and the heads of the tribes, to whom that duty was intrusted, elusory or fallacious; but the inheritance, in possession of which God had placed them by His own hand, was truly and distinctly divided by His orders. In this respect, too, the sacred observance of the covenant made with Abraham was conspicuous. Jacob, when about to die, had destined certain settlements to some of his children. Had each tribe received its portion simply by the determination and suffrages of men, it might have been thought that they had merely followed the directions of the Patriarch. But when the lot, than which nothing is deemed more fortuitous, confirmed the prophecy, the stability of the donation f8 was as clearly ratified as if God had visibly appeared. Accordingly, after the sluggishness of the people put an end to the war, Joshua sent back the tribes of Reuben and Gad, with the half tribe of Manasseh, as if their period of service had expired.
Next follows a remarkable narrative, clearly showing how zealous the Israelites who dwelt in the land of Canaan were to maintain the pure worship of God. For when these two tribes and half tribe had erected a monument of fraternal alliance, the others, thinking that it was an altar intended for sacrifice, and consequently an abomination, immediately determine to declare war, and prepare sooner to destroy their kindred f9 than allow religion to be torn asunder by a bastard worship. At the same time they are commended for their moderation, in being so easily appeased on obtaining satisfaction, after a sacred zeal had suddenly roused them to arms.
In the end of the book it is shown how anxious Joshua was to advance the glory of God, f10 and how diligently he endeavored to obviate the fickleness and treachery of the people. With this view, not only the most impressive exhortations, but protestations, were employed, and more especially the covenant was renewed in regular form with the solemnity of an oath. f11
A BRIEF COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
BY JOHN CALVIN,
A SHORT TIME BEFORE HIS DEATH
Go To Joshua 1:1-4
1. Now, after, etc Here, first, we see the steadfastness of God in watching over his people, and providing for their safety. The sanction given to Joshua’s appointment, as new leader by a renewed commission, f13 was intended to indicate the continuance of his favor, and prevent the people from thinking themselves forsaken in consequence of the death of Moses. Joshua, indeed, had already been chosen to rule the people; and not only invested with the office, but also endowed with spiritual gifts. But as the most valiant, however well provided, are apt to halt or waver when the period for action arrives, the exhortation to Joshua to make ready forthwith for the expedition was by no means superfluous. Still, however, the call thus formally given was not so much on his own account, as to inspire the people with full confidence in following a leader whom they saw advancing step by step in the path divinely marked out for him. f14
2. Moses my servant, etc A twofold meaning may be extracted — the one, since Moses is dead, the whole burden has now devolved upon thee, take the place of him to whom thou has been appointed successor; the other, although Moses is dead, do not desist, but go forward. I prefer the former, as containing the inference that he should, by right of succession, take up the office which Moses had left vacant. f15 The epithet or surname of servant applied to Moses, has respect to his government of the people and his exploits; for it ought to be accommodated to actual circumstances. f16 The allusion here is not to the Law but to the leadership, which had passed to Joshua by the decease of Moses, and God thus acknowledges his servant, not so much with the view of praising him, as of strengthening the authority of Joshua, who had been substituted in his place. And as the people might not have acquiesced sufficiently in a bare command, he promises, while ordering them to pass the Jordan, to give them peaceable possession of the whole country, and of every spot of it on which they should plant their foot. For as nothing tends more than distrust to make us sluggish and useless, so when God holds forth a happy issue, confidence inspires us with rigor for any attempt.
It may be added, that he does now begin for the first time to give them good hopes, by making a promise of which they had not previously heard, but recalls to their remembrance what Moses had formerly testified. He says, therefore, that the time had now come for exhibiting and performing that which he had promised to Moses. Should any one object that the same thing had been said to Abraham long before Moses was born, nay, that the perpetual covenant deposited with Abraham included everything which was heard by Moses four hundred years after; f17 I answer, that here no notice is taken of the ancient promise which was everywhere known and celebrated, and that Moses is produced as a witness whose memory was more recent, and by whose death the confidence of the people might have been shaken, had not God declared that the accomplishment of all which he had said was at hand.
4. From the wilderness and this Lebanon, etc How the truth and fulfillment of this promise surmounted all the obstacles interposed by the wickedness of the people, though they did not obtain immediate possession of the whole territory, I have explained in the Argument. For although God had unfolded the inestimable treasures of his beneficence by constituting them lords of the country, it did not follow that their misconduct was not to be chastised. Nay, there behooved to be a fulfillment of the threatening which Moses had denounced, viz., that if the nations doomed to destruction were not destroyed, they would prove thorns and stings in their eyes and sides. But as the promise was by no means broken or rendered void by the delay of forty years, during which they were led wandering through the desert, so the entire possession, though long suspended, proved the faithfulness of the decree by which it had been adjudged.
The people had it in their power to obtain possession of the prescribed boundaries in due time; they declined to do so. For this they deserved to have been expelled altogether. f18 But the divine indulgence granted them an extent of territory sufficient for their commodious habitation; and although it had been foretold that, in just punishment, the residue of the nations whom they spared would prove pernicious to them, still, they suffered no molestation, unless when they provoked the Divine anger by their perfidy and almost continual defection: for as often as their affairs became prosperous, they turned aside to wantonness. Still, owing to the wonderful goodness of God, when oppressed by the violence of the enemy, and, as it were, thrust down to the grave, they continued to live in death; and not only so, but every now and then deliverers arose, and, contrary to all hope, retrieved them from ruin. f19
The Great Sea means the Mediterranean, and to it the land of the Hittites forms the opposite boundary; in the same way Lebanon is opposed to the Euphrates; but it must be observed that under Lebanon the desert is comprehended, as appears from another passage. f20
Go To Joshua 1:5-9
5. There shall not any man, etc As a contest was about to be waged with numerous and warlike enemies, it was necessary thus to inspire Joshua with special confidence. But for this, the promise of delivering over the land which God had given, would ever and anon have become darkened; for how vast the enterprise to overthrow so many nations! This objection therefore is removed. And the better to free him from all doubt, he is reminded of the victories of Moses, by which God had made it manifest that nothing was easier for him than utterly to discomfit any host however great and powerful. Joshua, therefore, is ordered to behold in the assistance given to Moses the future issue of the wars which he was to undertake under the same guidance and protection. For the series of favors is continued without interruption to the successor.
What follows is to the same effect, though it is more fully expressed by the words, I will not fail thee, etc Hence the Apostle, (<581305>Hebrews 13:5,) when wishing to draw off believers from avarice, makes an application of these words for the purpose of calming down all anxieties, and suppressing all excessive fears. And in fact, the distrust which arises from anxiety kindles in us such tumultuous feelings that on the least appearance of danger, we turmoil and miserably torment ourselves until we feel assured that God both will be with us and more than suffice for our protection. And, indeed, while he prescribes no other cure for our timidity, he reminds us that we ought to be satisfied with his present aid.
6. Be strong, etc An exhortation to fortitude is added, and indeed repeated, that it may make the deeper impression. At the same time the promise is introduced in different words, in which Joshua is assured of his divine call, that he might have no hesitation in undertaking the office which had been divinely committed to him, nor begin to waver midway on being obliged to contend with obstacles. It would not have been enough for him diligently to begirt himself at the outset without being well prepared to persevere in the struggle.
Although it is the property of faith to animate us to strenuous exertion, in the same way as unbelief manifests itself by cowardice or cessation of effort, still we may infer from this passage, that bare promises are not sufficiently energetic without the additional stimulus of exhortation. For if Joshua, who was always remarkable for alacrity, required to be incited to the performance of duty, how much more necessary must it be that we who labor under so much sluggishness should be spurred forward.
We may add, that not once only or by one single expression are strength and constancy required of Joshua, but he is confirmed repeatedly and in various terms, because he was to be engaged in many and various contests. He is told to be of strong and invincible courage. Although these two epithets make it obvious that God was giving commandment concerning a most serious matter, still not contented with this reduplication, he immediately after repeats the sentence, and even amplifies it by the addition of the adverb very.
From this passage, therefore, let us learn that we can never be fit for executing difficult and arduous matters unless we exert our utmost endeavors, both because our abilities are weak, and Satan rudely assails us, and there is nothing we are more inclined to than to relax our efforts. f21 But, as many exert their strength to no purpose in making erroneous or desultory attempts, it is added as a true source of fortitude that Joshua shall make it his constant study to observe the Law. By this we are taught that the only way in which we can become truly invincible is by striving to yield a faithful obedience to God. Otherwise it were better to lie indolent, and effeminate than to be hurried on by headlong audacity.
Moreover, God would not only have his servant to be strong in keeping the Law, but enjoins him to contend manfully, so as not to faint under the burden of his laborious office. But as he might become involved in doubt as to the mode of disentangling himself in matters of perplexity, or as to the course which he ought to adopt, he refers him to the teaching of the Law, because by following it as a guide he will be sufficiently fitted for all things. He says, You shall act prudently in all things, provided you make the Law your master; although the Hebrew word lkç, means to act not only prudently but successfully, because temerity usually pays the penalty of failure.
Be this as it may, by submitting entirely to the teaching of the Law he is more surely animated to hope for divine assistance. For it is of great consequence, when our fears are excited by impending dangers, to feel assured that we have the approbation of God in whatever we do, inasmuch as we have no other object in view than to obey his commands. Moreover, as it would not be enough to obey God in any kind of way, f22 Joshua is exhorted to practice a modesty and sobriety which may keep him within the bounds of a simple obedience.
Many, while possessed of right intention, sometimes imagine themselves to be wiser than they ought, and hence either overlook many things through carelessness, or mix up their own counsels with the divine commands. The general prohibition, therefore, contained in the Law, forbidding all men to add to it or detract from it, God now specially enforces on Joshua. For if private individuals in forming their plan of life behoove to submit themselves to God, much more necessary must this be for those who hold rule among the people. But if this great man needed this curb of modesty that he might not overstep his limits, how intolerable the audacity if we, who fall so far short of him, arrogate to ourselves greater license? More especially, however, did God prescribe the rule of his servant, in order that those who excel in honor might know that they are as much bound to obey it as the meanest of the people.
8. This book of the Law, etc Assiduous meditation on the Law is also commanded; because, whenever it is intermitted, even for a short time, many errors readily creep in, and the memory becomes rusted, so that many, after ceasing from the continuous study of it, engage in practical business, as if they were mere ignorant tyros. God therefore enjoins his servant to make daily progress, and never cease, during the whole course of his life, to profit in the Law. Hence it follows that those who hold this study in disdain, are blinded by intolerable arrogance.
But why does he forbid him to allow the Law to depart from his mouth rather than from his eyes? Some interpreters understand that the mouth is here used by synecdoche for face; but this is frigid. I have no doubt that the word used is peculiarly applicable to a person who was bound to prosecute the study in question, not only for himself individually, but for the whole people placed under his rule. He is enjoined, therefore, to attend to the teaching of the Law, that in accordance with the office committed to him, he may bring forward what he has learned for the common benefit of the people. At the same time he is ordered to make his own docility a pattern of obedience to others. For many, by talking and discoursing, have the Law in their mouth, but are very bad keepers of it. Both things, therefore, are commanded, that by teaching others, he may make his own conduct and whole character conformable to the same rule.
What follows in the second clause of the verse shows, that, everything which profane men endeavor to accomplish in contempt of the word of God, must ultimately fail of success, and that however prosperous the commencement may sometimes seem to be, the issue will be disastrous; because prosperous results can be hoped for only from the divine favor, which is justly withheld from counsels rashly adopted, and from all arrogance of which contempt of God himself is the usual accompaniment. Let believers, therefore, in order that their affairs may turn out as they wish, conciliate the divine blessing alike by diligence in learning and by fidelity in obeying.
In the end of the verse, because the term used is ambiguous, as I have already observed, the sentence is repeated, or a second promise is added. The latter is the view I take. For it was most suitable, that after the promised success, Joshua should be reminded that men never act skillfully and regularly except in so far as they allow themselves to be ruled by the word of God. Accordingly, the prudence which believers learn from the word of God, is opposed to the confidence of those who deem their own sense sufficient to guide them aright. f23
9. Have not I commanded, etc Although in Hebrew a simple affirmation is often made in the form of a question, and this phraseology is of very frequent occurrence, here, however, the question is emphatic, to give an attestation to what had previously been taught, while the Lord, by bringing his own authority distinctly forward, relieves his servant from care and hesitancy. He asks, Is it not I who have commanded thee? I too will be present with thee. Observe the emphasis: inasmuch as it is not lawful to resist his command. f24 This passage also teaches that nothing is more effectual to produce confidence than when trusting to the call and the command of God, and feeling fully assured of it in our own conscience, we follow whithersoever he is pleased to lead.
Go To Joshua 1:10-18
10. Then Joshua commanded f25 etc It may be doubted whether or not this proclamation was made after the spies were sent, and of course on their return. And certainly I think it not only probable, but I am fully convinced that it was only after their report furnished him with the knowledge he required, that he resolved to move his camp. It would have been preposterous haste to hurry on an unknown path, while he considered it expedient to be informed on many points before setting foot on a hostile territory. Nor is there anything novel in neglecting the order of time, and afterwards interweaving what had been omitted. The second chapter must therefore be regarded as a kind of interposed parenthesis, explaining to the reader more fully what had happened, when Joshua at length commanded the people to collect their vessels.
After all necessary matters had been ascertained, he saw it was high time to proceed, and issued a proclamation, ordering the people to make ready for the campaign. With the utmost confidence he declares that they will pass the Jordan after the lapse of three days: this he never would have ventured to do, without the suggestion of the Spirit. No one had attempted the ford, nor did there seem to be any hope that it could be done. f26 There was no means of crossing either by a bridge or by boats: and nothing could be easier for the enemy than to prevent the passage. The only thing, therefore, that remained was for God to transport them miraculously. This Joshua hoped for not at random, nor at his own hand, but as a matter which had been divinely revealed. The faith of the people also was conspicuous in the promptitude of their obedience: for, in the view of the great difficulties which presented themselves, they never would have complied so readily had they not cast their care upon God. It cannot be doubted that He inspired their minds with this alacrity, in order to remove all the obstacles which might delay the fulfillment of the promise.
12. And to the Reubenites, etc An inheritance had been granted them beyond the Jordan, on the condition that they should continue to perform military service with their brethren in expelling the nations of Canaan. Joshua therefore now exhorts them to fulfil their promise, to leave their wives, their children, and all their effects behind, to cross the Jordan, and not desist from carrying on the war till they had placed their brethren in peaceable possession. In urging them so to act, he employs two arguments, the one drawn from authority and the other from equity. He therefore reminds them of the command given them by Moses, from whose decision it was not lawful to deviate, since it was well known to all that he uttered nothing of himself, but only what God had dictated by his mouth. At the same time, without actually asserting, Joshua indirectly insinuates, that they are bound, by compact, inasmuch as they had engaged to act in this manner. f27 He next moves them by motives of equity, that there might be no inequality in the condition of those to whom the same inheritance had been destined in common. It would be very incongruous, he says, that your brethren should be incurring danger, or, at least, toiling in carrying on war, and that you should be enjoying all the comforts of a peaceful settlement.
When he orders them to precede or pass before, the meaning is, not that they were to be the first to enter into conflict with the enemy, and in all emergencies which might befall them, were to bear more than their own share of the burden; he only in this way urges them to move with alacrity, as it would have been a kind of tergiversation to keep in the rear and follow slowly in the track of others. The expression, pass before your brethren, therefore, does not mean to stand in the front of the battle, but simply to observe their ranks, and thereby give proof of ready zeal. For it is certain that as they were arranged in four divisions they advanced in the same order. As he calls them men of war, we may infer, as will elsewhere more clearly appear, that the aged, and others not robust, were permitted to remain at home in charge of the common welfare, or altogether relieved from public duty, if in any way disabled from performing it.
16. And they answered, etc They not only acquiesce, but freely admit and explicitly detail the obedience which they owe. Our obligations are duly discharged only when we perform them cheerfully, and not in sadness, as Paul expresses it. (<470907>2 Corinthians 9:7.) If it is objected that there is little modesty in their boast of having been obedient to Moses whom they had often contradicted, I answer, that though they did not always follow with becoming ardor, yet they were so much disposed to obey, that their moderation was not only tolerable, but worthy of the highest praise, when it is considered how proudly their fathers rebelled, and how perversely they endeavored to shake off a yoke divinely imposed upon them. For the persons who speak here were not those rebellious spirits of whom God complains (<199508>Psalm 95:8-11) that he was provoked by them, but persons who, subdued by the examples of punishment, had learned quietly to submit. f28
Indeed, it is not so much to herald their own virtues as to extol the authority of Joshua, when they declare that they will regard him in the same light in which they regarded Moses. The groundwork of their confidence is at the same time expressed in their wish or prayer, that God may be present to assist his servant Joshua as he assisted his servant Moses. They intimate that they will be ready to war under the auspices of their new leader, because they are persuaded that he is armed with the power and hope that he will be victorious by the assistance of God, as they had learned by experience how wonderfully God assisted them by the hand of Moses. We may infer, moreover, that they actually felt this confidence, both because they call to mind their experiences of God’s favor to animate themselves, and because they regard Joshua as the successor of Moses in regard to prosperous results.
The epithet thy God f29 is not without weight, as it evidently points to a continued course of divine favor. The form of expression also is intermediate between the confidence of faith and prayer. f30 Accordingly, while they intimate that they cherish good hope in their minds, they at the same time have recourse to prayer, under a conviction of the arduousness of the work. Immediately after, when they of their own accord exhort him to constancy, they show that they are ready to follow and to imitate him in his confidence. Here, it is to be observed, that though Joshua was a model of courage, and animated all, both by deed and precept, he was in his turn stimulated onwards, that his own alacrity might be more effectual in arousing that of the people.
Go To Joshua 2:1-24
1. And Joshua the son of Nun sent, etc. The object of the exploration now in question was different from the former one, when Joshua was sent with other eleven to survey all the districts of the land, and bring back information to the whole people concerning its position, nature, fertility, and other properties, the magnitude and number of the cities, the inhabitants, and their manners. The present object was to dispose those who might be inclined to be sluggish, to engage with more alacrity in the campaign. And though it appears from the first chapter of Deuteronomy, (<050122>Deuteronomy 1:22,) that Moses, at the request of the people, sent chosen men to spy out the land, he elsewhere relates (<041304>Numbers 13:4) that he did it by command from God. Those twelve, therefore, set out divinely commissioned, and for a somewhat different purpose, viz., to make a thorough survey of the land, and be the heralds of its excellence to stir up the courage of the people.
Now Joshua secretly sends two persons to ascertain whether or not a free passage may be had over the Jordan, whether the citizens of Jericho were indulging in security, or whether they were alert and prepared to resist. In short, he sends spies on whose report he may provide against all dangers. Wherefore a twofold question may be here raised — Are we to approve of his prudence? or are we to condemn him for excessive anxiety, especially as he seems to have trusted more than was right to his own prudence, when, without consulting God, he was so careful in taking precautions against danger? But, inasmuch as it is not expressly said that he received a message from heaven to order the people to collect their vessels and to publish his proclamation concerning the passage of the Jordan, although it is perfectly obvious that he never would have thought of moving the camp unless God had ordered it, it is also probable that in sending the spies he consulted God as to his pleasure in the matter, or that God himself, knowing how much need there was of this additional confirmation, had spontaneously suggested it to the mind of his servant. Be this as it may, while Joshua commands his messengers to spy out Jericho, he is preparing to besiege it, and accordingly is desirous to ascertain in what direction it may be most easily and safely approached.
They came into a harlot’s house, etc. Why some try to avoid the name harlot, and interpret hnwz as meaning one who keeps an inn, I see not, unless it be that they think it disgraceful to be the guests of a courtesan, or wish to wipe off a stigma from a woman who not only received the messengers kindly, but secured their safety by singular courage and prudence. It is indeed a regular practice with the Rabbins, when they would consult for the honor of their nation, presumptuously to wrest Scripture and give a different turn by their fictions to anything that seems not quite reputable. f33 But the probability is, that while the messengers were courting secrecy, and shunning observation and all places of public intercourse, they came to a woman who dwelt in a retired spot. Her house was contiguous to the wall of the city, nay, its outer side was actually situated in the wall. From this we may infer that it was some obscure corner remote from the public thoroughfare; just as persons of her description usually live in narrow lanes and secret places. It cannot be supposed with any consistency to have been a common inn which was open to all indiscriminately, because they could not have felt at liberty to indulge in familiar intercourse, and it must have been difficult in such circumstances to obtain concealment.
My conclusion therefore is, that they obtained admission privily, and immediately betook themselves to a hiding-place. Moreover, in the fact that a woman who had gained a shameful livelihood by prostitution was shortly after admitted into the body of the chosen people, and became a member of the Church, we are furnished with a striking display of divine grace which could thus penetrate into a place of shame, and draw forth from it not only Rahab, but her father and the other members of her family. Most assuredly while the term hnwz, almost invariably means harlot, there is nothing here to oblige us to depart from the received meaning.
2. And it was told the king, etc. It is probable that watchmen had been appointed to take notice of suspicious strangers, as is wont to be done in doubtful emergencies, or during an apprehension of war. The Israelites were nigh at hand; they had openly declared to the Edomites and Moabites that they were seeking a settlement in the land of Canaan; they were formidable for their number; they had already made a large conquest after slaying two neighboring kings; and as we shall shortly perceive, their famous passage of the Red Sea had been noised abroad. It would therefore have argued extreme supineness in such manifest danger to allow any strangers whatever to pass freely through the city of Jericho, situated as it was on the frontiers.
It is not wonderful, therefore, that men who were unknown and who appeared from many circumstances to have come with a hostile intention, were denounced to the king. At the same time, however, we may infer that they were supernaturally blinded in not guarding their gates more carefully; for with the use of moderate diligence the messengers after they had once entered might easily have been detained. Nay, a search ought forthwith to have been instituted, and thus they would to a certainty have been caught. The citizens of Jericho were in such trepidation and so struck with judicial amazement, that they acted in everything without method or counsel. Meanwhile the two messengers were reduced to such extremities that they seemed on the eve of being delivered up to punishment. The king sends for them; they are lurking in the house; their life hangs upon the tongue of a woman, just as if it were hanging by a thread. Some have thought that there was in this a punishment of the distrust of Joshua, who ought to have boldly passed the Jordan, trusting to the divine guidance. But the result would rather lead us to conclude differently, that God by rescuing the messengers from extreme danger gave new courage to the people; for in that manifestation of his power he plainly showed that he was watching over their safety, and providing for their happy entrance into the promised land.
4. And the woman took the two men, etc. We may presume that before Rahab was ordered to bring them forth the rumor of their arrival had been spread, and that thus some little time had been given for concealing them. f34 And indeed on receiving the king’s command, had not measures for concealment been well taken, there would have been no room for denial; much less would she have dared to lie so coolly. But after she had thus hidden her guests, as the search would have been difficult, she comes boldly forward and escapes by a crafty answer.
Now, the questions which here arise are, first, Was treachery to her country excusable? Secondly, Could her lie be free from fault? We know that the love of our country, which is as it were our common mother, has been implanted in us by nature. When, therefore, Rahab knew that the object intended was the overthrow of the city in which she had been born and brought up, it seems a detestable act of inhumanity to give her aid and counsel to the spies. It is a puerile evasion to say, that they were not yet avowed enemies, inasmuch as war had not been declared; since it is plain enough that they had conspired the destruction of her fellow-citizens. f35 It was therefore only the knowledge communicated to her mind by God which exempted her from fault, as having been set free from the common rule. Her faith is commended by two Apostles, who at the same time declare, (<581131>Hebrews 11:31; <590225>James 2:25,) that the service which she rendered to the spies was acceptable to God.
It is not wonderful, then, that when the Lord condescended to transfer a foreign female to his people, and to engraft her into the body of the Church, he separated her from a profane and accursed nation. Therefore, although she had been bound to her countrymen up to that very day, yet when she was adopted into the body of the Church, her new condition was a kind of manumission from the common law by which citizens are bound toward each other. In short, in order to pass by faith to a new people, she behooved to renounce her countrymen. And as in this she only acquiesced in the judgment of God, there was no criminality in abandoning them. f36
As to the falsehood, we must admit that though it was done for a good purpose, it was not free from fault. For those who hold what is called a dutiful lie f37 to be altogether excusable, do not sufficiently consider how precious truth is in the sight of God. Therefore, although our purpose, be to assist our brethren, to consult for their safety and relieve them, it never can be lawful to lie, because that cannot be right which is contrary to the nature of God. And God is truth. And still the act of Rahab is not devoid of the praise of virtue, although it was not spotlessly pure. For it often happens that while the saints study to hold the right path, they deviate into circuitous courses.
Rebecca (<012801>Genesis 28.) in procuring the blessing to her son Jacob, follows the prediction. In obedience of this description a pious and praiseworthy zeal is perceived. But it cannot be doubted that in substituting her son Jacob in the place of Esau, she deviated from the path of duty. The crafty proceeding, therefore, so far taints an act which was laudable in itself. And yet the particular fault does not wholly deprive the deed of the merit of holy zeal; for by the kindness of God the fault is suppressed and not taken into account. Rahab also does wrong when she falsely declares that the messengers were gone, and yet the principal action was agreeable to God, because the bad mixed up with the good was not imputed. On the whole, it was the will of God that the spies should be delivered, but he did not approve of saving their life by falsehood.
7. And the men pursued, etc. Their great credulity shows that God had blinded them. Although Rahab had gained much by deluding them, a new course of anxiety intervenes; for the gates being shut, the city like a prison excluded the hope of escape. They were therefore again aroused by a serious trial to call upon God. For seeing that this history was written on their report, it is impossible they could have been ignorant of what was then going on, especially as God, for the purpose of magnifying his grace, purposely exposed them to a succession of dangers. And now when they were informed that search was made for them, we infer from the fact of their being still awake, that they were in anxiety and alarm. Their trepidation must have been in no small degree increased when it was told them that their exit was precluded.
It appears, however, that Rahab was not at all dismayed, since she bargains with so much presence of mind, and so calmly, for her own safety and that of her family. And in this composure and firmness her faith, which is elsewhere commended, appears conspicuous. For on human principles she never would have braved the fury of the king and people, and become a suppliant to guests half dead with terror. Many, indeed, think there is something ridiculous in the eulogium bestowed upon her both by St. James and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, (<590225>James 2:25; <581131>Hebrews 11:31,) when they place her in the catalogue of the faithful. But any one who will carefully weigh all the circumstances will easily perceive that she was endowed with a lively faith.
First, If the tree is known by its fruits, we here see no ordinary effects, which are just so many evidences of faith. Secondly, A principle of piety must have given origin to her conviction that the neighboring nations were already in a manner vanquished and laid prostrate, since terror sent from above had filled all minds with dismay. It is true that in profane writers also we meet with similar expressions, which God has extorted from them that he might assert his power to rule and turn the hearts of men in whatever way he pleases. But while these writers prate like parrots, Rahab declaring in sincerity of heart that God has destined the land for the children of Israel, because all the inhabitants have fainted away before them, claims for him a supreme rule over the hearts of men, a rule which the pride of the world denies.
For although the experience of all times has shown that more armies have fallen or been routed by sudden and un-looked for terror than by the force and prowess of the enemy, the impression of this truth has forthwith vanished away, and hence conquerors have always extolled their own valor, and on any prosperous result gloried in their own exertions and talents for war. They have felt, I admit, that daring and courage are occasionally bestowed or withheld by some extraneous cause, and accordingly men confess that in war fortune does much or even reigns supreme. Hence their common proverb with regard to panic terrors, and their vows made as well to Pavor (Dread) as to Jupiter Stator. f38 But it never became a serious and deep-seated impression in their minds, that every man is brave according as God has inspired him with present courage, or cowardly according as he has suppressed his daring. Rahab, however, recognizes the operation of a divine hand in striking the nations of Canaan with dismay, and thus making them as it were by anticipation pronounce their own doom; and she infers that the terror which the children of Israel have inspired is a presage of victory, because they fight under God as their Leader.
In the fact, that while the courage of all had thus melted away, they however prepared to resist with the obstinacy of despair; we see that when the wicked are broken and crushed by the hand of God, they are not so subdued as to receive the yoke, but in their terror and anxiety become incapable of being tamed. Here, too, we have to observe how in a common fear believers differ from unbelievers, and how the faith of Rahab displays itself. She herself was afraid like any other of the people; but when she reflects that she has to do with God, she concludes that her only remedy is to eschew evil by yielding humbly and placidly, as resistance would be altogether unavailing. But what is the course taken by all the wretched inhabitants of the country? Although terror-struck, so far is their perverseness from being overcome that they stimulate each other to the conflict.
10. For we have heard how, etc. She mentions, as the special cause of consternation, that the wide-spread rumor of miracles, hitherto without example, had impressed it on the minds of all that God was warring for the Israelites. For it was impossible to doubt that the way through the Red Sea had been miraculously opened up, as the water would never have changed its nature and become piled up in solid heaps, had not God, the author of nature, so ordered. The transmutation of the element, therefore, plainly showed that God was on the side of the people, to whom he had given a dry passage through the depths of the sea.
The signal victories also gained over Og and Bashan, were justly regarded as testimonies of the divine favor towards the Israelites. This latter conclusion, indeed, rested only on conjecture, whereas the passage of the sea was a full and irrefragable proof, as much so as if God had stretched forth his hand from heaven. All minds, therefore, were seized with a conviction that in the expedition of the Israelitish people God was principal leader; f39 hence their terror and consternation. At the same time, it is probable that they were deceived by some vain imagination that the God of Israel had proved superior in the contest to the gods of Egypt; just as the poets feign that every god has taken some nation or other under his protection, and wars with others, and that thus conflicts take place among the gods themselves while they are protecting their favorites.
But the faith of Rahab takes a higher flight, while to the God of Israel alone she ascribes supreme power and eternity. These are the true attributes of Jehovah. She does not dream, according to the vulgar notion, that some one, out of a crowd of deities, is giving his assistance to the Israelites, but she acknowledges that He whose favor they were known to possess is the true and only God. We see, then, how in a case where all received the same intelligence, she, in the application of it, went far beyond her countrymen.
11. The Lord your God, he is God, etc. Here the image of Rahab’s faith appears, as if reflected in a mirror, when casting down all idols she ascribes the government of heaven and earth to the God of Israel alone. For it is perfectly clear that when heaven and earth are declared subject to the God of Israel, there is a repudiation of all the pagan fictions by which the majesty, and power, and glory of God are portioned out among different deities; and hence we see that it is not without cause that two Apostles have honored Rahab’s conduct with the title of faith. This is sneered at by some proud and disdainful men, but I wish they would consider what it is to distinguish the one true God from all fictitious deities, and at the same time so to extol his power as to declare that the whole world is governed at his pleasure. Rahab does not speak hesitatingly, but declares, in absolute terms, that whatever power exists resides in the God of Israel alone, that he commands all the elements, that he orders all things above and below, and determines human affairs. Still I deny not that her faith was not fully developed, nay, I readily admit, that it was only a germ of piety which, as yet, would have been insufficient for her eternal salvation. We must hold, nevertheless, that however feeble and slender the knowledge of God which the woman possessed may have been, still in surrendering herself to his power, she gives a proof of her election, and that from that seed a faith was germinating which afterwards attained its full growth.
12. Now, therefore, I pray you, swear, etc. It is another manifestation of faith that she places the sons of Abraham in sure possession of the land of Canaan, founding on no other argument than her having heard that it was divinely promised to them. For she did not suppose that God was favoring lawless intruders who were forcing their way into the territories of others with unjust violence and uncurbed licentiousness, but rather concluded that they were coming into the land of Canaan, because God had assigned them the dominion of it. It cannot be believed that when they sought a passage from the Edomites and others, they said nothing as to whither they were going. Nay, those nations were acquainted with the promise which was made to Abraham, and the memory of which had been again renewed by the rejection of Esau.
Moreover, in the language of Rahab, we behold that characteristic property of faith described by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, when he calls it a vision, or sight of things not appearing. (<581101>Hebrews 11:1) Rahab is dwelling with her people in a fortified city: and yet she commits her life to her terrified guests, just as if they had already gained possession of the land, and had full power to save or destroy as they pleased. This voluntary surrender was, in fact, the very same as embracing the promise of God, and casting herself on his protection. She, moreover, exacts an oath, because often, in the storming of cities, the heat and tumult of the struggle shook off the remembrance of duty. In the same way she mentions the kindness she had shown to them, that gratitude might stimulate them the more to perform their promise. For although the obligation of the oath ought of itself to have been effectual, it would have been doubly base and inhumane not to show gratitude to a hostess to whom they owed deliverance. Rahab shows the kindliness of her disposition, in her anxiety about her parents and kindred. This is, indeed, natural; but many are so devoted to themselves, that children hesitate not to ransom their own lives by the death of their parents, instead of exerting courage and zeal to save them.
14. Our life for yours, etc. They imprecate death upon themselves, if they do not faithfully make it their business to save Rahab. For the interpretation adopted by some, We will pledge our lives, seems far-fetched, or too restricted, since their intention was simply to bind themselves before God. They constitute themselves, therefore, a kind of expiatory victims, if any evil befalls Rahab through their negligence. The expression, for yours, ought, doubtless, to be extended to the parents, brothers, and sisters. They therefore render their own lives liable in such a sense, that blood may be required of them, if the family of Rahab do not remain safe. And herein consists the sanctity of an oath, that though its violation may escape with impunity, so far as men are concerned, yet God having been interposed as a witness, will take account of the perfidy. In Hebrew, to do mercy and truth, is equivalent to performing the office of humanity faithfully, sincerely, and firmly.
A condition, however, is inserted, — provided Rahab do not divulge what they have said. This was inserted, not on account of distrust, as is usually expounded, but only to put Rahab more upon her guard, on her own account. The warning, therefore, was given in good faith, and flowed from pure good will: for there was a danger that Rahab might betray herself by a disclosure. In one word, they show how important it is that the matter should remain, as it were, buried, lest the woman, by inconsiderately talking of the compact, might expose herself to capital punishment. In this they show that they were sincerely anxious for her safety, since they thus early caution her against doing anything which might put it out of their power to render her a service. In further distinctly stipulating, that no one should go out of the house, or otherwise they should be held blameless, we may draw the important inference, that in making oaths soberness should be carefully attended to, that we may not profane the name of God by making futile promises on any subject.
The advice of Rahab, to turn aside into the mountain, and there remain quiet for three days, shows that there is no repugnance between faith and the precautions which provide against manifest dangers. There is no doubt that the messengers crept off to the mountain in great fear, and yet that confidence which they had conceived, from the remarkable interference of God in their behalf, directed their steps, and did not allow them to lose their presence of mind.
Some have raised the question, whether, seeing it is criminal to overleap walls, it could be lawful to get out of the city by a window? But it ought to be observed, first, that the walls of cities were not everywhere sacred, because every city had not a Romulus, who could make the overleaping a pretext for slaying his brother; f40 and secondly, That law, as Cicero reminds us, was to be tempered by equity, inasmuch as he who should climb a wall for the purpose of repelling an enemy, would be more deserving of reward than punishment. The end of the law is to make the citizens secure by the protection of the walls. He, therefore, who should climb over the walls, neither from contempt nor petulance, nor fraud, nor in a tumultuous manner, but under the pressure of necessity, could not justly on that account be charged with a capital offence. Should it be objected that the thing was of bad example, I admit it; but when the object is to rescue one’s life from injury, violence, or robbery, provided it be done without offence or harm to any one, necessity excuses it. It cannot be charged upon Paul as a crime, that when in danger of his life at Damascus, he was let down by a basket, seeing he was divinely permitted to escape, without tumult, from the violence and cruelty of wicked men. f41
24. And they said unto Joshua, etc. This passage shows that Joshua was not mistaken in selecting his spies; for their language proves them to have been right-hearted men possessed of rare integrity. Others, perhaps, not recovered from the terror into which they had once been thrown, would have disturbed the whole camp, but these, while they reflect on the wonderful kindness of God, displayed in their escape from danger, and the happy issue of their expedition, exhort Joshua and the people to go boldly forward. And although the mere promise of possessing the land ought to have been sufficient, yet the Lord is so very indulgent to their weakness, that, for the sake of removing all doubt, he confirms what he had promised by experience. That the Lord had not spoken in vain, was proved by the consternation of the nations, when it began already to put them to flight., and to drive them out, as if hornets had been sent in upon them. For they argue in the same way as Rahab had done, that the land was given to them, as the inhabitants had almost fainted away from fear. I have therefore used the illative particle for, though the literal meaning is, and also. But it is sufficiently plain, that in the other way there is a confirmation of what they had said. And, indeed, the courage of all melted away, as if they felt themselves routed by the hand of God.
Go To Joshua 3:1-13
1. And Joshua rose early, etc We must remember, as I formerly explained, that Joshua did not move his camp till the day after the spies had returned, but that after hearing their report, he gave orders by the prefects that they should collect their vessels, as three days after they were to cross the Jordan. f42 His rising in the morning, therefore, does not refer simply to their return, but rather to the issuing of his proclamation. When the three days were completed, the prefects were again sent through the camp to acquaint the people with the mode of passage. Although these things are mentioned separately, it is easy to take up the thread of the narrative. But before it was publicly intimated, by what means he was to open away for the people, the multitude spread out on the bank of the river were exposed to some degree of confusion.
It is true, there were fords by which the Jordan could be passed. But the waters were then swollen, and had overflowed, so that they might easily prevent even men altogether without baggage from passing. There was therefore no hope, that women and children, with the animals, and the rest of the baggage, could be transported to the further bank. That, in such apparently desperate circumstances, they calmly wait the issue, though doubtful, and to them incomprehensible, is an example of faithful obedience, proving how unlike they were to their fathers, who, on the slightest occasions, gave way to turbulence, and inveighed against the Lord and against Moses. This change was not produced without the special agency of the Holy Spirit.
2. And it came to pass after three days, etc That is, three days after their departure had been intimated. For they did not halt at the bank longer than one night. But as the period of three days had previously been fixed for crossing, and they had no hope of being able to accomplish it, Joshua now exhorts them to pay no more regard to obstacles and difficulties, and to attend to the power of God. For although the form of the miracle is not yet explained, yet when the ark of the covenant is brought forward like a banner to guide the way, it was natural to infer that the Lord was preparing something unusual. And while they are kept in suspense, their faith is again proved by a serious trial; for it was an example of rare virtue to give implicit obedience to the command, and thus follow the ark, while they were obviously uninformed as to the result. This, indeed, is the special characteristic of faith, not to inquire curiously what the Lord is to do, nor to dispute subtlety as to how that which he declares can possibly be done, but to cast all our anxious cares upon his providence, and knowing that his power, on which we may rest, is boundless, to raise our thoughts above the world, and embrace by faith that which we cannot comprehend by reason.
4. Yet there shall be a space, etc As the younger Levites, whose province it was to carry the ark, (<040415>Numbers 4:15) were strictly forbidden to touch it, or even to look at it, when uncovered, it is not wonderful that the common people were not allowed to approach within a considerable distance of it. The dignity of the ark, therefore, is declared, when the people are ordered to attest their veneration by leaving a long interval between themselves and it. And we know what happened to Uzzah, (<100601>2 Samuel 6) when seeing it shaken by restive oxen, he with inconsiderate zeal put forth his hand to support it. For although God invites us familiarly to himself, yet faithful trust so far from begetting security and boldness, is, on the contrary, always coupled with fear. In this way the ark of the covenant was, indeed, a strong and pleasant pledge of the divine favor, but, at the same time, had an awful majesty, well fitted to subdue carnal pride. This humility and modesty, moreover, had the effect of exercising their faith by preventing them from confining the grace of God within too narrow limits, and reminding them, that though they were far distant from the ark, the divine power was ever near.
In the end of the verse it is shown how necessary it was for them to be divinely guided by an unknown way; that anxiety and fear might keep them under the protection of the ark.
5. And Joshua said, etc Some unwonted manifestation of divine power in bringing assistance behooved to be held forth, lest the backwardness arising from hesitancy might produce delay; and yet, in order that the Israelites might depend on the mere counsel of God, Joshua does not yet plainly point out the special nature of the miracle, unless, indeed, we choose to read what follows shortly after, as forming part of one context. Herein lies the true test of faith, to lean so on the counsel of God, as not to keep inquiring too anxiously concerning the mode of action or the event. As the word çdq means sometimes to prepare, and sometimes to sanctify, and either meaning is not inappropriate, I thought it best to leave a free choice. For faith prepares us to perceive the operation of God; and in those times, when God manifested himself to men more nearly, they consecrated themselves by a solemn rite; thus we see how Moses, on the promulgation of the Law, sanctified the people as God had commanded. The view taken by some expositors, that the people were thus commanded to purge themselves from defilement’s, merely in order that nothing might impede the passage of the Jordan, seems to be too confined.
6. And Joshua spoke unto the priests, etc It is probable that the priests were informed why God wished the ark to precede, that they might be more ready to execute the command, for the whole people are immediately after made acquainted with the intended division of the waters. As the prefects had formerly published in the camp, that the people were to follow the ark of the covenant, the priests could not possibly be ignorant as to the office which they were to perform. For it had been distinctly declared that they were to be leaders or standard-bearers. But when all were in readiness, Joshua publicly unfolded the divine message which he had received. For it would have been incongruous to make the divine favor more clearly manifest to the common people than to them. It is added, however, immediately after, that the people were made acquainted with the miracle.
I conclude, therefore, that after the priests had for some time been kept in suspense, along with the multitude, the Lord, on ascertaining the obedience of all, publicly declared what he was to do. First, then, it is related that the priests were enjoined by Joshua to bear the ark before the people; and secondly, lest any one might think that he was making the attempt at random, or at his own hand, mention is at the same time made of the promise with which he had been furnished as a means of ensuring his command. But although it is not then distinctly said that the course of the Jordan would be interrupted, yet, from the language which Joshua used to the people, we may infer that the Lord spoke more in detail, and explained more distinctly what he had determined to do. For Joshua did not mention anything which he had not previously learned front the mouth of God himself. Nay, before he makes any mention of the matter at all, he tells them to hear the words of the Lord, and thus premises that he has the authority of God for what he is about to say.
10. Hereby you shall know, etc He makes the power of the miracle extend further than to the entrance of the land, and deservedly; for merely to open up a passage into a hostile territory, from which there was afterwards no retreat, would have been nothing else than exposure to death. For either entangled among straits, and in an unknown region, they would easily have been destroyed, or they would have perished, worn out by hunger and the absolute want of all things. Joshua therefore declares before hand, that when God would restore the river to its course, it would just be as if he were stretching forth his hand to rout all the inhabitants of the land; and that the manifestation of his power given in the passage of the Jordan, would be a sure presage of the victory which they would obtain over all the nations.
He says, Hence shall you know that the Lord is present with you; to what end? Not only to plant your feet in the land of Canaan, but also to give you full possession of it. For surely when mention is made of the overthrow of the nations, an ultimate, free, and peaceful possession is implied. Therefore, as the Lord by dividing the river clearly showed that his power resided with the Israelites, so the people must on their part have conceived hopes of perpetual assistance, as much as if they had already seen their enemies worsted and lying prostrate before them.
For God does not abandon the work of his hands midway, leaving it maimed and unfinished. (<19D808>Psalm 138:8) When he leads his people unto the promised inheritance, he makes a dry passage for them by cutting off the course of the Jordan. How perverse then would it have been for the Israelites to stop short at that momentary act, instead of feeling confident in all time to come, until quiet possession of the land were actually obtained! Let us learn then from this example, prudently to combine the different acts of divine goodness relating to our final salvation, so that a happy commencement may cherish and keep alive in our minds the hope of an equally happy termination.
When Joshua says that the people will know the presence of God from the miracle, he indirectly upbraids them with their distrust, as the mere promise of God ought to have sufficed for a full assurance, and our faith, unless founded solely on this promise, must be continually wavering. But although faith ought properly to recline on the truth of God alone, it does not follow that experimental knowledge may not act as a secondary support to its weakness, and give subsidiary aid to its confirmation. For that which God promises to us in word he seals by act, and as often as he exhibits to us manifestations of his grace and might, he intends them to be so many confirmations of what he has spoken, and so many helps tending to suppress all our doubts.
11. Behold the ark of the covenant, etc First he says that the ark of God will go before; and secondly, he explains for what purpose, namely, that Jordan may retire from its place, trembling, so to speak, at the presence of the Lord, as is said in the Psalms. (<19B401>Psalm 114.) The narrative introduced concerning the twelve men is parenthetical, as it only briefly alludes to what it will afterwards deliver more fully and clearly. At present let us merely understand, that while the ark went before, God displayed his power in guiding the people. And in this way there was a confirmation of the sanctity of the worship appointed by the Law, when the Israelites perceived that it was no empty symbol of his presence that God had deposited with them. For Jordan was compelled to yield obedience to God just as if it had beheld his majesty.
Let us however remember, that the only reason which induced the Lord to display his grace in the ark was because he had placed the tables of his covenant within it. Moreover, as the thing could not be easily credited, Joshua directs the mind of the people to the contemplation of the divine power, which surmounts all difficulties. The title of Ruler of the whole earth here applied to God is not insignificant, but extols his power above all the elements of nature, in order that the Israelites, considering how seas and rivers are subject to his dominion, might have no doubt that the waters, though naturally liquid, would become stable in obedience to his word.
Go To Joshua 3:14-17
15. And as they that bare the ark, etc The valor of the priests in proceeding boldly beyond the bed into the water itself, was deserving of no mean praise, since they might have been afraid of being instantly drowned. For what could they expect on putting in their feet, but immediately to find a deep pool in which they would be engulfed? In not being afraid on reaching the stream, and in continuing to move firmly forward to the appointed place, they gave a specimen of rare alacrity, founded on confidence.
To the general danger was added the special one, that the Jordan had then overflowed its banks, as it is wont to do at the commencement of every summer. As the plain was covered, it was impossible to observe the line of the banks or the ford, and the slime spread far and wide, increased their fear and anxiety. f43 God was pleased that his people, and especially the priests, should contend with these obstacles, in order that the victory of their faith and constancy might be more illustrious. At the same time, the difficulty thus presented tended to magnify the glory of the miracle when the waters, which had overflowed their banks, retired at the divine command, and were gathered together into a solid heap. First, Joshua explains the nature of the miracle for the purpose of removing doubt, and preventing profane men from denying the divine interposition by a subtle searching for other causes. It is not, indeed, impossible that the flowing of the water might have been restrained for a short time, and that some portion of the channel might thus have appeared dry, or that the course might have changed and taken some other direction. But it was certainly neither a natural nor fortuitous event, when the waters stood gathered up into a heap. It is therefore said that the waters which previously flowed from the higher ground, seeking in their descent a continuous outlet, stood still.
There cannot be a doubt that this wonderful sight must have been received with feelings of fear, leading the Israelites more distinctly to acknowledge that they were saved in the midst of death. For what was that collected heap but a grave in which the whole multitude would have been buried, had the waters resumed their naturally liquid state? f44 Had they walked upon the waters their faith might have served them as a kind of bridge. But now, while mountains of water hung over their heads, it is just as if they had found an open and level path beneath them. The locality is marked out as situated between two cities, f45 that the remembrance of it might never be lost; and, in like manner, God ordered stones to be set up as a perpetual memorial, that this distinguished mercy might be celebrated by posterity in all ages.
Go To Joshua 4:1-9
l. And it came to pass, etc The brief and obscure allusion previously made with regard to the twelve men he now explains more at length. He had said that they were chosen by the order of God, one each from his own tribe; but breaking off his discourse, he had not mentioned for what purpose. He now says, that by command of Joshua f46 they took up twelve stones and placed them in Gilgal, that a well marked memorial might exist among posterity. Moreover, as he only relates what was done after the passage of the people, what is interposed should be interpreted as in the pluperfect tense. f47 It is also very obvious that the copula is used instead of the rational particle. f48 The substance is, that before the priests moved their foot from the middle of the river where they stood, the stones at their feet were taken and placed in Gilgal, to be perpetual witnesses of the miracle, and that Joshua thus faithfully executed what God had commanded. Joshua, therefore, called the men whom he had previously chosen, but not without the command of God, that through it he might have a stronger attestation to his authority. For had Joshua raised up a trophy of that kind of his own accord, the piety which dictated it might indeed have been laudable, but the admonition founded only on the will of man might perhaps have been despised. But now when God himself raises the sign, it is impious to pass it carelessly by. He intimates, accordingly, that it was a monument deserving of the greatest attention when he introduces the children asking, what mean these stones?
7. Then you shall answer them, etc Although the stones themselves cannot speak, yet the monument furnished the parents with materials for speaking, and for making the kindness of God known to their children. And here zealous endeavors to propagate piety are required of the aged, f49 and they are enjoined to exert themselves in instructing their children. For it was the will of God that this doctrine should be handed down through every age; that those who were not then born being afterwards instructed by their parents might become witnesses to it from hearing, though they had not seen it with their eyes.
The stones were placed according to the number of the tribes, that each might be incited to gratitude by its own symbol. It is true that two tribes and a half tribe who had obtained their inheritance beyond the Jordan, had not, when considered apart from the others, any occasion for making that passage. But as the land of Canaan was possessed by the others for the common good of the whole race of Abraham, so it behooved those who were all engaged in the same or a common cause not to be separated from each other. And although as yet mention had been made only of twelve men, it is obvious from a short clause, that the divine command had been declared to the whole people; for it is said that the children of Israel obeyed the words of Joshua. Nay, it is even probable that deputies were elected by suffrage to carry the stones in the name of the whole people.
9. And Joshua set up twelve stones, etc Apparently there was no use of stones under the water, and it may therefore seem to have been absurd to bury stones at a depth. The others which were placed in Gilgal being publicly visible, furnished occasion for inquiry; but stones hidden from the eyes of men at the bottom of the water could have no effect in inciting their minds. I admit that a monument altogether buried in silence would have been useless. f50 But when they talked among themselves of the evidence of the passage left there, the hearing even of what they did not see, strongly tended to confirm their faith. The ark of the covenant was shut up in the sanctuary and covered by a veil placed over against it, and yet its hidden splendor was not without benefit, when they learned from the Law that the covenant of God was deposited in it. It might also happen, that when the river was low, the tops of the heap would sometimes appear. But what I have already said is more probable, that though Joshua buried the stones in the middle of the stream, he did a useful act by establishing a testimony in presence of the people, which would afterwards become the subject of general conversation.
Go To Joshua 4:10-18
10. For the priests which bare, etc If we are ordered to halt while others are hastening, we know how easily a feeling of irksomeness is produced, because we seem to be occupying an inferior position. The priests, therefore, are justly praised for their patience in calmly remaining alone at their post, while the whole people were swiftly hurrying on to the further bank. For they might have begun to feel doubtful lest the heaps of water which were suspended over their heads might suddenly melt away and engulf them. They therefore evinced their piety no less by remaining there than by venturing to proceed into the opposing current. Thus, in the first place, they displayed their ready obedience, and in the second their constancy, making it manifest that they had not obeyed from mere impulse. For their firmness of purpose, which is praised, must have had its origin in a living principle. It was a proof of modesty that they attempted nothing rashly, but regulated their whole procedure as it were in strict conformity to the word of God.
Although it is probable that Joshua was instructed by a new message from heaven as to what was necessary to be done, he is, however, said to have followed what Moses had commanded. By this I understand that Moses had carefully enjoined him to hang on the lips of God, that he was thoroughly obedient to the injunction, and accordingly was always observant of what was pleasing to God. In short, the command of Moses here mentioned was general, but God gave special injunctions to Joshua as each circumstance arose.
12. And the children of Reuben, etc He makes mention of the expedition of the two tribes and half tribe, as they did not set out to engage in warfare on their own private account, but to assist their brethren, by whose valor their own possession had been obtained in seizing the land of Canaan. Moses had laid them under this obligation, and they had bound themselves by oath that they would accompany the rest of the people till all should have obtained a quiet settlement.
They again made the same promise when the camp was about to be moved as we saw in Joshua 1. But from the narrative here we gather that only a part was selected, for the number amounts only to forty thousand, that is, a third, or about a third of the number ascertained by the census taken shortly before. Now, as they are everywhere said to have performed their promise, it may be probably conjectured that it was not the intention of Moses strictly to insist that all who had assented should leave their wives and children, and do military service in the land of Canaan till it was wholly subdued. And certainly it would have been harsh and cruel to leave an unwarlike multitude unprotected in the midst of many hostile nations. Nor would the remains of the enemy, assisted by neighboring nations, have long failed to take advantage of such an opportunity to avenge themselves by massacring the women and children. It was necessary, therefore, in a country not yet sufficiently pacified, permanently to retain a force sufficient to prevent incursions. Moses was not of so stern a nature as not to consult for the helpless. Nay, his prudence and equity would never have allowed him to leave a territory lately seized by arms unoccupied by a body of troops.
We may add, that such an immense concourse would have impeded rather than assisted the acquisition of the land of Canaan. All which Moses required, therefore, was simply that the Reubenites and Gadites should not, while their brethren were engaged in carrying on the war, remain indolently at home and eat their food at ease without giving any assistance to those to whom they were indebted for having obtained the inheritance. And the good faith of the forty thousand was approved by their not declining the burdens, toils, and perils of warfare, while the remainder of their own tribes were enjoying quiet. They might readily have alleged that they were as well entitled as the others to exemption, but in proceeding with alacrity after the levy was made, to obey the orders given them, without envying the immunity given to their brethren, they show that they were voluntarily and heartily disposed to do their duty. At the same time, it is not doubtful that by accepting the flower of their tribes, the handle for complaint and quarrel was cut off. For it could not justly have been maintained that not even the aged and worn out, or the young and feeble, were to be spared. Some, perhaps, may be inclined to conjecture that the army was raised not by choice but by lot, though it rather seems to me that all who were most robust and best able to bear fatigue were enrolled.
14. On that day the Lord magnified, etc It was not indeed the principal end of the miracle to proclaim Joshua’s pre-eminence in power and authority, but as it greatly concerned the public interest, that the government of Joshua should be firmly established, it is justly set down as an additional instance of the divine favor, that he was, so to speak, adorned with sacred insignia to render him venerable in the eyes of the people, and prevent any one from presuming to despise him. For a promiscuous multitude, not ruled by a head, breaks up and falls away of its own accord. The Lord, therefore, to provide for the safety of his people, distinguished Joshua by a special mark declaratory of his vocation.
From this passage we may learn that God specially recommends to us all those through whose hands he displays his excellent working, and requires us to give them due honor and reverence. When it is said that the people feared Joshua as they had feared Moses, should any one object that the statement is refuted by the many sedition’s and tumults which they stirred up against him, not only wantonly but furiously, it is easy to answer, that it does not apply to the whole period from their departure out of Egypt, but only refers to that when subdued by plagues and softened down, they began to be duly obedient to Moses. For what is now described is a tranquil government, as if they had laid aside their ancient perverseness, more especially when the turbulent parents were dead and a better race had succeeded. Accordingly, we do not read that there was any difficulty in ruling and turning them. I now only briefly advert to what I have already explained. For when Joshua at the outset exhorted them to obedience, they said that they would be obedient as they had been to Moses.
16. Command the priests, etc Here it is shown more clearly how meekly and calmly the priests yielded implicit obedience to the divine command, for they did not move a foot until Joshua ordered the signal to retire. But as it was an instance of rare virtue to be thus modest and obedient, so the fatherly kindness of God is conspicuous in this, that he condescended to direct and govern almost every step in their progress by his own voice, lest any perplexity might occur to retard them.
Next follows a more conspicuous confirmation of the miracle; for as soon as they climbed the opposite bank, the Jordan began again to flow as usual. Had it not returned to its former state, and indeed, suddenly, many would have imagined the cause of the change to be hidden but fortuitous. But when God displays his power and favor at minute intervals of time all doubt is removed. The moment the feet of the priests were made wet the Jordan retired; now on their departure he recovers his free course, and that at the very instant when they reached the bank. For the term dry here means that part which was not covered by the overflow. f51 Thus the river, though dumb, f52 was the best of heralds, proclaiming with a loud voice that heaven and earth are subject to the God of Israel.
Go To Joshua 4:19-24
19. And the people came up, etc Why the day on which they entered the land, and first encamped in it, is marked, we shall see in next chapter. But the name of Gilgal is given to the first station by anticipation, for this new name was afterwards given to it by Joshua on the renewal of circumcision; its etymology will be explained in its own place. Moreover, the thing here principally treated of is the monument of twelve stones; for though it was formerly mentioned, a kind of solemn dedication is now related, namely, that Joshua not only erected a mound, but called the attention of the people to its use in enabling fathers to keep the memory of the divine goodness alive among their children. From his introducing the children asking, What mean these stones? we infer that they were arranged so as to attract the notice of spectators. For had they been heaped together at random without any order, it would never have come into the mind of posterity to inquire concerning their meaning. There must therefore have been something so remarkable in their position as not to allow the sight to be overlooked.
Moreover, because the covenant by which God had adopted the race of Abraham was firm in an uninterrupted succession for a thousand generations, the benefit which God had bestowed on the deceased fathers is, on account of the unity of the body, transferred in common to their children who were born long after. And the continuation must have more strongly awakened their attention, inasmuch as posterity were in this way reminded that what had long ago been given to their ancestors belonged to them also. The answer of the parents would have been coldly listened to had the divine favor been confined to a single day. But when the sons’ sons hear that the waters of Jordan were dried up many ages before they were born, they acknowledge themselves to be the very people towards whom that wonderful act of divine favor had been manifested. The same account is to be given of the drying up of the Red Sea, though the event was not very ancient. It is certain that of those who had come out of Egypt, Caleb and Joshua were the only survivors, and yet he addresses the whole people as if they had been eye-witnesses of the miracle. God dried up the Red Sea before our face; in other words, it was done in virtue of the adoption which passed without interruption from the fathers to the children. Moreover, it was worth while to call the passage of the Red Sea to remembrance, not only that the similarity of the miracle might cause belief, but that on hearing the story of the Jordan, that former miracle might be at the same time renewed, although no visible symbol of it was present to the eye.
24. That all people of the earth might know, etc He states that God had put forth that manifestation of his power that it might not only be proclaimed among his own people, but that the form of it might spread far and wide among the nations. For although it pleased him that his praise should dwell in Zion, it pleased him also that his works should so far be made known to strangers that they might be forced to confess that he is the true God, and compelled unwillingly to fear him whom they had willingly contemned, as it is said in the song of Moses, (<053231>Deuteronomy 32:31) “Our enemies are judges.” For he means that unbelievers, whether they will or not, have this confession extorted from them by a knowledge of the works of God. But as it did not at all profit them to know how great the might of God was, Joshua distinguishes them from the Israelites, to whom he attributes a special knowledge, namely, that which begets serious fear of God. That the nations may know, he says; but that thou may fear thy God. Therefore while unbelievers extinguish the light by their darkness, let us learn from considering the works of God to advance in his fear. He says all days, because the favor here spoken of was diffused over several generations.
Go To Joshua 5:1-9
1. And it came to pass when, etc The recognition of the fearful power of God had such an effect upon them that they were astonished and fainted with terror, but it did not incline their minds to seek a remedy for the evil. Their heart was melted inasmuch as destitute of counsel and strength they did not bestir themselves, but in regard to contumacy they remained as hard-hearted as before. We have already seen elsewhere how unbelievers, when smitten with fear, cease not to wrestle with God, and even when they fall, continue fiercely to assail heaven. Hence the dread which ought to have urged them to caution had no other effect than to hurry them on headlong. They were, however, terrified from above for the sake of the people, that victory might be more easily obtained, and the Israelites might be emboldened when they saw they had to do with an enemy already broken and stricken with dismay. Thus God spared their weakness, as if he had opened up the way by removing obstacles, because they had already proved themselves to be otherwise more sluggish and cowardly than was meet. The substance then is, that before the conflict commenced, the enemy were already routed by the terror which the fame of the miracle had inspired.
2. At that time the Lord said, etc It seems very strange and almost monstrous, that circumcision had so long been laid aside, especially as it became those who were receiving daily admonitions to be more than usually careful to cultivate the exercises of piety. It was the symbol of the adoption to which they owed their freedom. And it is certain that when they were reduced to extremity and groaning under tyranny, they always circumcised their children. We know also how sternly God threatened to be an avenger against any one who should allow the eighth day to pass. Had the observance been neglected in Egypt their carelessness might have admitted of excuse, as at that time the covenant of God appeared to have become in a manner obsolete. But now when the divine faithfulness in establishing the covenant is once more refulgent, what excuse could there be for not testifying on their part that they are the people of God
The apology which commentators offer is altogether frivolous. I admit that they were constantly under arms, and always uncertain when they would require to move. But I hold it erroneous to infer from this that they had not a day’s leisure, and that it would have been cruel to circumcise tender infants when the camp must shortly after have been moved. Nothing ought to have weighed so much with them as to produce a contemptuous disregard of what had been said to Abraham, (<011714>Genesis 17:14) The soul that is not circumcised shall be cut off from the people. But if there was risk of life in the circumcision, the best and only method was to trust to the paternal providence of God, who certainly would not have allowed his own precept to become fatal to infants. In short, the omission from a fear of danger, could not originate in any other cause than distrust. But even had it been certain that infants would be brought into danger, God ought nevertheless to have been obeyed, inasmuch as the seal of the covenant by which they were received into the Church was more precious than a hundred lives. Nor would Moses have suffered such cowardly procedure had he not been influenced by some different motive. Moreover, though the point is doubtful, I presume that they did not desist from circumcising their children, the very first day after their departure, but only after they had been obliged to retrace their steps through their own perverseness. And in this way both the defection and the punishment are accurately expressed, For it is not said that circumcision was resumed, because the constant change of place during their wanderings made it previously impossible, but because forty years behooved to elapse until those wicked apostates who had cut themselves off from the promised inheritance were consumed.
Attention should be paid to the reason here given, namely, that the children of Israel wandered through the desert till the whole of the generation which had refused to follow God was extinct; from this we may, in my opinion, infer, that the use of circumcision ceased during the whole of that period as a sign of malediction or rejection. It is true, indeed, that the penalty was inflicted on the innocent, but it was expedient that the fathers should be chastised in their person, as if God were repudiating them for the time to come. When they saw that their offspring differed in no respect from profane persons and strangers, they had a plain demonstration of what they themselves deserved.
Here, however, an inconsistency seems to arise in respect, first, that while they were condemned, their offspring were immediately received into favor; and secondly, that to themselves also was left a hope of pardon; and more especially, that they were not deprived of the other sacraments of which they could not be partakers, except on the ground of their being separated from profane nations.
The Lord, I admit, in rejecting them, declares at the same time that he will be propitious to their children, but to behold in their offspring a sign of repudiation till they themselves all perished, was salutary chastisement. For God withdrew the pledge of his favor only for a time, and kept it, as it were, locked up until their death. This punishment, therefore, was not properly inflicted on the children who were afterwards born, but had the same effect as a suspension, just as if God were making it manifest that he had put off circumcision for a time lest it should be profaned, but was waiting for an opportunity of renewing it.
Should any one object that it was absurd to celebrate the Passover in uncircumcision, I admit that it was so according to the usual order. For none were admitted to the Passover and the sacrifices save those who were initiated into the worship of God; just as in the present day the ordinance of the Supper is common only to those who have been admitted into the Church by baptism. But the Lord might choose for a time to alter the ordinary rule, and allow those from whom he had taken away circumcision to be partakers of other sacred rites. Thus the people were excommunicated in one matter, and yet, in the meanwhile, furnished with fit aids to prevent them from falling into despair; just as if a father, offended with his son, were to raise his fist, apparently to drive him away, and were at the same time to detain him by his other hand, — were to frighten him by threats and blows, and yet be unwilling to part with him. This seems to me to have been the reason why God, while depriving the people of the special pledge of adoption, was, however, unwilling to deprive them of other ordinances.
Should it be objected that there is a distinct assertion that none were circumcised on the way after they had set out, I answer, that, with a view to brevity, all things are not stated exactly, and yet that it may be gathered from the context that none remained uncircumcised but those who were born after the sedition. For it is said that their sons, whom God substituted for them, were circumcised by Joshua. From this it appears that a new people were then created to supply the place of perverse rebels. It was, moreover, a sad and severe trial that God did not choose to have the people circumcised till they were hemmed in by enemies on every side. It would, certainly, have been safer and more convenient to perform the rite before crossing the Jordan, in the land of Bashan, which had been reduced to peace by the overthrow of the inhabitants. The Lord waits till they are shut up in the midst of enemies, and exposed to their lust and violence, as if he were purposely exposing them to death; since all weakened by their wound must have given way at once, and been slaughtered almost without resistance. For if in similar circumstances (<013401>Genesis 34) two sons of Jacob, were able to force their way into the town of Sichem and plunder it, after slaying its citizens, how much more easy would it have been for the neighboring nations to attack the Israelites while thus wounded, and make a general massacre of them.
This was, therefore, as I have said, a very harsh trial, and hence the readiness with which it was submitted to is deserving of the greater praise. The place itself, however, appears to have been purposely selected by the divine wisdom, that they might be more disposed to obey. Had the same command been given on the other side of the Jordan, there was reason to fear that they might be cast into despondency, and from the delay thus interposed might again decline to enter the land. But now, when they had been brought into possession under happy auspices, as if by the hand of God, and conceived from the removal of this one obstacle a sure hope of warring with success, it is not wonderful if they obey more willingly than they might have done if they had not been so singularly strengthened. The very sight of the promised land must have furnished additional incentives, when they understood that they were again consecrated to God, in order that their uncircumcision might not pollute the holy land.
9. And the Lord said unto Joshua, etc The disgrace of Egypt is expounded by some as meaning that the want of circumcision rendered them similar to the Egyptians, in other words, profane and marked with a stigma; as if it had been said that they were again made the peculiar property of God when they were anew stamped with this mark, to distinguish them front the nations that were unclean. Others understand it actively, as meaning that they would no longer be scorned by the Egyptians, as if God had deceived them. This I have no hesitation in rejecting as too far fetched. Others understand that they would no longer lie under the false imputation of worshipping the gods of that nation. I rather understand the meaning to be, that they were freed from an invidious charge, by which they were otherwise overborne. It was disreputable to have shaken off the yoke and revolted from the king under whose government they lived. Moreover, as they gave out that God was the avenger of unjust tyranny, it was easy to upbraid them with using the name of God as a mere color for their conduct. They might, therefore, have been regarded is deserters, had not the disgrace been wiped off by the appeal to circumcision, by which the divine election was sealed in their flesh before they went down into Egypt. It was accordingly made plain by the renewal of the ancient covenant that they were not rebels against legitimate authority, nor had rashly gone off at their own hand, but that their liberty was restored by God, who had long ago taken them under his special protection.
From the removal of disgrace the place obtained its name. For those who think that the prepuce cut off was called Gilgal, because it was a kind of circle, abandon the literal meaning, and have recourse to a very unnecessary fiction; while it is perfectly obvious that the place was called Rolling Off, because God there rolled off from his people the disgrace which unjustly attached to them. The interpretation of liberty, adopted by Josephus, is vain and ridiculous, and makes it apparent that he was as ignorant of the Hebrew tongue as of jurisprudence.
Go To Joshua 5:10-15
10. And the children of Israel. kept the Passover, etc Here it is stated that the Passover was celebrated on the regular day, although there are some who think that the words used imply that the practice was unusual. They hence infer that, like circumcision, it had been interrupted for a period of forty years, as it would have been absurd for persons uncircumcised to take part in a sacred feast. To confirm this view, they observe that we do not read of the Passover having been observed after the beginning of the second year. But it is not probable that that which God had lately ordered to be perpetual, (<021242>Exodus 12:42) was suddenly cast aside. For it had been said to them, It is a night to be observed by the children of Israel in all their generations. How inconsistent, then, would it have been had this practice, which was to be observed throughout all ages, become obsolete in the course of two years! And again, how heartless it would have been to bury the memory of a recent favor within so short a period!
But it is said that the want of circumcision must have kept back a large proportion, that the mystery might not be profaned; for at its institution it had been declared, No uncircumcised person shall eat of it. To this I have already answered, that it was an extraordinary privilege; as the children of Israel were freed from the law. f53 For it is certain that they continued to use sacrifices, and to observe the other parts of legal worship, although this was unlawful, unless something of the form prescribed by the law had been remitted by divine authority. It is certain that unclean persons were prohibited from entering the court of the tabernacle, and yet the children of Israel, while uncircumcised, offered sacrifices there, thus doing what was equivalent to the slaying of the Passover. They were therefore permitted, by sufferance, to do that which it was not lawful to do according to the rule of the law.
The mention made by Moses of the second celebration of the Passover (<040901>Numbers 9) is for a different purpose, namely, for the purpose of indirectly censuring the carelessness and sluggishness of the people, who would not have observed the sacred anniversary at the end of the first year if they had not been reminded of it. For although God had proclaimed that they should through all ages annually renew the memory of their deliverance, yet they had grown so oblivious before the end of the year, that they had become remiss in the discharge of the duty. It is not without cause they are urged by a new intimation, as they were not sufficiently attentive of their own accord. That passage, therefore, does not prove that the use of the Passover was afterwards interrupted; on the contrary, it may, with some probability, be inferred from it that it was annually observed; as the Lord, towards the end of the year, anticipates the observance, telling them to make careful provision for it in future, and never deviate from the command which had been given them. f54
11. And they did eat of the old corn, etc Whether they then began first to eat wheaten bread is not very clear. For they had dwelt in a country that was not uncultivated, and was tolerably fertile. At least in the territories of the two kings there was enough of corn to supply the inhabitants. It does not seem reasonable to suppose that the children of Israel allowed the corn which they found there to rot and perish by mere waste. And I have no doubt that they ate the flesh which remained over of the sacrifices. It is quite possible, therefore, that they did not wholly abstain from wheaten bread, and yet did not abandon their accustomed food. For a country which was assigned to a tenth part could not have furnished food sufficient for the whole multitude, as there cannot be a doubt that a just estimate was made when Moses settled in it only two tribes and a half tribe. As yet, therefore, the twelve tribes had not found sufficient food, more especially as the country had been devastated by war, and the Israelites, who were not in safety to leave the camp, could not devote their attention to agriculture. The manna was thus necessary to feed them until a more abundant supply was obtained. This took place in the land of Canaan, and then, accordingly, they returned to common food. But why they deferred it till that day is not known, unless it be that after their wound was cured, some days behooved to be spent in collecting corn, while religion did not permit them to bake bread lest they should break the Sabbath. But although that rest was sacred, we gather from the circumstances that they made haste, as the flour must have been previously prepared, seeing they could not grind it and bake it in a single day.
Be this as it may, the Lord furnished them with provision as long as their want required to be supplied. The failure of the manna on a sudden, and at the very moment, must have furnished an additional attestation to the kindness of God, inasmuch as it was thence apparent that the manna was a temporary resource, which had descended not so much from the clouds as from a paternal providence. It is moreover plain, that this is to be understood of the produce of the former year, and it is needless to raise any question in regard to it; for it would have implied too much precipitation to rush upon the produce of the present year when not yet properly matured, and a whole month would scarcely have sufficed to collect enough for the supply of so great a multitude. I cannot see why expounders should give themselves so much trouble with so clear a matter.
13. And it came to pass when Joshua, etc Here we have the narrative of a remarkable vision, by which Joshua was greatly encouraged and emboldened. For though he was strenuously discharging his office, the application of an additional stimulus was not without its use. The angel, however, did not appear solely on his private account, but for the confirmation of the whole people: nay, the Lord looked further forward, that he might furnish posterity with stronger proofs of a kindness which was never duly considered. For although they boasted in lofty terms of having been planted by the hand of God in a holy land, they were scarcely induced by all the miracles to acknowledge in good earnest that they were placed there as God’s vassals. This vision, therefore, must have been beneficial to all ages, by leaving no doubt as to the divine kindness bestowed. Its being said that he lifted his eyes, tends to confirm the certainty of the vision, lest any one might suppose that his eyesight had merely been dazzled by some evanescent phantom.
The spectacle, when first presented, must have inspired fear; for it is probable that Joshua was then alone, whether he had withdrawn from public view to engage in prayer, or for the purpose of reconnoitering the city. I am rather inclined to think it was the latter, and that he had gone aside to examine where the city ought to be attacked, lest the difficulty might deter others. It appears certain that he was without attendants, as he alone perceives the vision; and there can be no doubt that he was prepared to fight had he fallen in with an enemy. But he puts his question as if addressing a man, because it is only from the answer he learns that it is an angel. This doubt gives more credibility to the vision, while he is gradually led from the view of the man whom he addresses to the recognition of an angel. The words, at the same time, imply that it was not an ordinary angel, but one of special excellence. For he calls himself captain of the Lord’s host, a term which may be understood to comprehend not merely his chosen people, but angels also.
The former view, however, is the more correct, as God does not produce anything of an unwonted nature, but constitutes that which we previously read that he performed to Moses. And we know that Moses himself preferred this favor to all others; and justly, for God there manifested his own glory in an open and familiar manner. Accordingly, he is indiscriminately called an angel, and distinguished by the title of the eternal God. Of this fact Paul is a competent witness, who distinctly declares that it was Christ. (<461004>1 Corinthians 10:4) And Moses himself embraced God as present in the person of the Mediator. For when God declares, after the making of the calf, (<023203>Exodus 32:37) that he would no longer be the Leader of the people, he at the same time promises that he will give one of his angels, but only one, as it were taken out of the general body of the angelic host. f55 This Moses earnestly deprecates, obviously because he could have no hope that God would be propitious if the Mediator were removed. It was thus a special pledge of the divine favor that the Captain and Head of the Church, to whom Moses had been accustomed, was now present to assist. And indeed the divine adoption could not be ratified in any other way than in the hand of the Mediator.
14. And he said, Nay; but as captain, etc Although the denial applies equally to both parts of the question, namely, that he was neither an Israelite nor a Canaanite, and was thus equivalent to a denial of his being a mortal man, yet it seems to be more properly applicable to the second, or to that part of the question in which Joshua asked if he were one of the enemy. This, however, is a matter of little moment; the essential thing is to understand that he had come to preside over the chosen people whom he honorably styles the Lord’s host. In his representing himself as different from God, a personal distinction is denoted, but unity of essence is not destroyed.
We have said that in the books of Moses the name of Jehovah f56 is often attributed to the presiding Angel, who was undoubtedly the only-begotten Son of God. He is indeed very God, and yet in the person of Mediator by dispensation, he is inferior to God. I willingly receive what ancient writers teach on this subject, — that when Christ anciently appeared in human form, it was a prelude to the mystery which was afterwards exhibited when God was manifested in the flesh. We must beware, however, of imagining that Christ at that time became incarnate, since, first, we nowhere read that God sent his Son in the flesh before the fullness of the times; and, secondly, Christ, in so far as he was a man, behooved to be the Son of David. But as is said in Ezekiel, (<270101>Ezekiel 1) it was only a likeness of man. Whether it was a substantial body or an outward form, it is needless to discuss, as it seems wrong to insist on any particular view of the subject. f57
The only remaining question is, how the Captain of the Lord’s host can speak of having now come, seeing he had not deserted the people committed to his trust, and had lately given a matchless display of his presence in the passage of the Jordan. But according to the common usage of Scripture, God is said to come to us when we are actually made sensible of his assistance, which seems remote when not manifested by experience. It is therefore just as if he were offering his assistance in the combats which were about to be waged, and promising by his arrival that the war would have a happy issue. It cannot be inferred with certainty from the worship which he offered, whether Joshua paid divine honor to Christ distinctly recognized as such; but by asking, What command does my Lord give to his servant? he attributes to him a power and authority which belong to God alone.
15. Loose thy shoe from off thy foot, etc To give additional sanctity to the vision, the great Angel requires as a sign of reverence and fear that Joshua put off his shoes. Moses relates, (<020305>Exodus 3:5) that the same command was given to him on Mount Sinai, and for no other reason than that the Lord there manifested his glory. For one place cannot have a greater sanctity than another, except God deigns specially to make it so. Thus Jacob exclaims, (<012617>Genesis 26:17) that the place where he had known God more nearly is the house of God, a dreadful place, and the gate of heaven. Here, therefore, when God orders his holy servant to take off his shoes, he by this ceremony attests the reality of his presence, and adds more weight to the vision; not that nakedness of feet is of itself of any value in the worship of God, but because the weakness of men requires to be aided by helps of this kind, that they may the better excite and prepare themselves for veneration. Moreover, as God by his presence sanctifies the places in which he appears, I think it probable that the expression, holy ground, is in part commendatory of the excellence of the land of Canaan, which God had chosen for his own habitation and the seat of his pure worship. Hence in various passages it is called “his rest.” (<199511>Psalm 95:11, and <19D211>Psalm 132:11) In the end of the verse Joshua is praised for his obedience, that posterity might learn by his example to cultivate pure piety in that land. There seems thus to be a kind of tacit comparison or antithesis, by which the land of Canaan is extolled above all other countries. f58
Go To Joshua 6:1-19
1. Now Jericho was straitly shut up, etc Jericho is said to be shut up, because the gates were not opened: as in time of war cities are guarded with more than usual care. It is added, by way of emphasis, that they were sealed, or locked up, f59 as if it were said that the inhabitants were attentive in watching, so as not to be taken by surprise. Hence, as it could not be taken by stratagem, the only hope of taking it was by open force. This tends to display the goodness of God to the children of Israel, who would have been worn out by a long and difficult siege, had not a substitute been early provided from heaven. Meanwhile there was a danger, lest being forced into a corner, they might be consumed by want and famine, as there was no means of obtaining food and provender in a hostile region. The Lord, therefore, that they might not sit down despondently before one city, assisted them by an extraordinary miracle, and opened up an entrance to them by throwing down the walls, that they might thereafter have the greater confidence in attacking other cities.
We now see the connection between the two first verses, in the one of which it is said, that Jericho was shut up, and the children of Israel thus prevented from approaching it, while in the other God promises that he will take it for them. He makes this promise with the view of preventing them from tormenting themselves with anxious thoughts. In one word, God, by this easy victory at the outset, provides against their giving way to despondency in future. We, at the same time, perceive the stupidity of the inhabitants, who place their walls and gates as obstacles to the divine omnipotence; as if it were more difficult to break up or dissolve a few bars and beams than to dry up the Jordan.
3. And you shall compass the city, etc The promise was, indeed, fit and sufficient of itself to give hope of victory, but the method of acting was so strange, as almost to destroy its credibility. God orders them to make one circuit round the city daily until the seventh day, on which they are told to go round it seven times, sounding trumpets, and shouting. The whole looked like nothing else than child’s play, and yet was no improper test, for trying their faith, as it proved their acquiescence in the divine message, even when they saw in the act itself nothing but mere disappointment. With the same intention, the Lord often, for a time, conceals his own might under weakness, and seems to sport with mere trifles, that his weakness may at length appear stronger than all might, and his folly superior to all wisdom.
While the Israelites thus abandon their own reason, and depend implicitly on his words, they gain much more by trifling than they could have done by making a forcible assault, and shaking the walls by numbers of the most powerful engines. Only it behooved them to play the fool for short time, and not display too much acuteness in making anxious and subtle inquiries concerning the event: for that would have been, in a manner, to obstruct the course of the divine omnipotence. Meanwhile, though the circulatory movement round the walls might have excited derision, it was afterwards known, by its prosperous result, that God commands nothing in vain.
There was another subject of care and doubt, which might have crept into their minds. Should the inhabitants of the city suddenly sally forth, the army would, without difficulty, be put to the rout, while, in long straggling lines, it was proceeding round the city, without any regular arrangement that might have enabled it to repel a hostile assault. But here, also, whatever anxiety they might have felt, they behooved to cast it upon God; for sacred is the security which reclines on his providence. There was an additional trial of their faith, in the repetition of the circuit of the city during seven days. For what could seem less congruous than to fatigue themselves with six unavailing circuits? Then, of what use was their silence, f60 unless to betray their timidity, and tempt the enemy to come out and attack besiegers who seemed not to have spirit enough to meet them? But as profane men often, by rash intermeddling fervor, throw everything into confusion, the only part which God here assigns to his people, is to remain calm and silent, that thus they may the better accustom themselves simply to execute his commands.
Here, too, it is worthy of remark, that the instruments, given to the priests to blow with, are not the silver trumpets deposited in the sanctuary, but merely rams’ horns. The sound of the sacred trumpets would certainly have inspired more confidence, but a better proof of obedience was given, when they were contented with the vulgar symbol. Moreover, their movements were so arranged, that the greater number, by which is understood the armed, went before the ark, while those who usually accompanied the baggage followed. It was their part to take care that the rear did not fall into confusion. As the term congregating, applied to them, was obscure, I have rendered it by the corresponding term usually employed by the Latins. f61 Some think that the tribe of Dan was thus employed, but this is uncertain, as they were not then arranged in the manner usual on other expeditions.
15. And it came to pass on the seventh day, etc Here, also, God seemed, by leading the people so often round the city, not only to keep the matter in suspense, but purposely to sport with the miseries of the people, who were fatiguing themselves to no purpose. For why does he not order them suddenly to attack the city? Why does he keep them in their former silence, even to weariness, and not open their mouths to shout? But the happy fruit of this endurance teaches us, that there is nothing better than to leave the decisive moments and opportunities of acting at his disposal, and not, by our haste, anticipate his providence, in which, if we acquiesce not, we obstruct the course of his agency. Therefore, while the priests were sounding, God ordered a corresponding shout to be raised by the people, that in this way he might prove that he is not pleased with any impetuosity which men manifest at their own hands, but above all things requires a regulated zeal, of which the only rule is not to move either tongue, or feet, or hands, till he order. Here, the rams’ horns undoubtedly represented his authority.
17. And the city shall be accursed, etc Although God had determined not only to enrich his people with spoil and plunder, but also to settle them in cities which they had not built, yet there was a peculiarity in the case of the first city; for it was right that it should be consecrated as a kind of first fruits. Accordingly, he claims the buildings, as well as all the moveable property, as his own, and prohibits the application of any part of it to private uses. It may have been an irksome and grievous task for the people voluntarily to pull down houses in which they might have commodiously dwelt, and to destroy articles which might have been important for use. But as they had not been required to fight, it behooved them to refrain, without grudging, from touching the prey, and willingly yield up the rewards of the victory to God, as it was solely by his nod that the walls of the city had fallen, and the courage of the citizens had fallen along with them. God was contented with this pledge of gratitude, provided the people thereby quickly learned that everything they called their own was the gift of his free liberality. For with equal right all the other cities might have been doomed to destruction, had not God granted them to his people for habitations.
As to the Hebrew word srj, I will now only briefly repeat from other passages. When it refers to sacred oblations, it becomes, in respect of men, equivalent to abolitions, since things devoted in this manner are renounced by them as completely as if they were annihilated. The equivalent Greek term is ajna>qhma, or ajna>qema, meaning set apart, or as it is properly expressed in French, interdicted. Hence the exhortation to beware of what was under anathema, inasmuch as that which had been set apart for God alone had perished, in so far as men were concerned. It is used in a different sense in the following verse, where caution is given not to place the camp of Israel in anathema. Here its simple meaning is, excision, perdition, or death. Moreover, God destined vessels made of metals for the use of the sanctuary; all other things he ordered to be consumed by fire, or destroyed in other manners.
Go To Joshua 6:20-27
20. So the people shouted, etc Here the people are praised for obedience, and the faithfulness of God is, at the same time, celebrated. They testified their fidelity by shouting, because they were persuaded, that what God had commanded would not be in vain, and he, in not allowing them to lose their labor, vindicated the truth of what he had said. Another virtue of not inferior value was displayed by the people, in despising unlawful gain, and cheerfully suffering the loss of all the plunder. For there cannot be a doubt, that in the minds of many the thought must have risen, For what end does God please to destroy all the wealth? Why does he envy us that which he has given into our hand? Why does he not rather gladden us by furnishing us with the materials of thanksgiving? Dismissing these considerations, which might have interfered with their duty, it was a proof of rare and excellent self-denial, voluntarily to cast away the spoils which were in their hands, and the wealth of a whole city.
The indiscriminate and promiscuous slaughter, making no distinction of age or sex, but including alike women and children, the aged and decrepit, might seem an inhuman massacre, had it not been executed by the command of God. But as he, in whose hands are life and death, had justly doomed those nations to destruction, this puts an end to all discussion. We may add, that they had been borne with for four hundred years, until their iniquity was complete. Who will now presume to complain of excessive rigor, after God had so long delayed to execute judgment? If any one object that children, at least, were still free from fault, it is easy to answer, that they perished justly, as the race was accursed and reprobated. Here then it ought always to be remembered, that it would have been barbarous and atrocious cruelty had the Israelites gratified their own lust and rage, in slaughtering mothers and their children, but that they are justly praised for their active piety and holy zeal, in executing the command of God, who was pleased in this way to purge the land of Canaan of the foul and loathsome defilement’s by which it had long been polluted. f62
22. But Joshua had said unto the two men, etc The good faith of Joshua in keeping promises, and his general integrity, are apparent in the anxious care here taken. But as the whole city had been placed under anathema, a question might be raised as to this exception of one family. No mortal man was at liberty to make any change on the decision of God. Still as it was only by the suggestion of the Spirit that Rahab had bargained for her impunity, I conclude that Joshua, in preserving her, did only what was considerate and prudent.
We may add, that the messengers were not yet under any contrary obligation, as the complete destruction of the city had not been declared. It is true, they had heard in general, that all those nations were to be destroyed, but they were still at liberty to make a compact with a single woman, who had voluntarily abandoned her countrymen. But we shall afterwards meet with a far easier solution, namely, that while the Israelites, by the divine command, exhorted all whom they attacked, to surrender, by holding out the hope of pardon, the blinded nations obstinately refused the peace thus offered, because God had decreed to destroy all of them. But while all, in general, were hardened to their destruction, it follows that Rahab was exempted by special privilege, and might escape in safety, while the others perished. Joshua, therefore, judged wisely, that a woman who had voluntarily gone over to the Church, was rescued thus early, not without the special grace of God. The case of the father and the whole family is, indeed, different, but seeing they all spontaneously abjure their former state, they confirm the stipulation which Rahab had made for their safety, by the promptitude of their obedience.
Moreover, let us learn from the example of Joshua, that we do not sufficiently attest our probity, by refraining from violating our promise intentionally and of set purpose, unless we also diligently exert ourselves to secure its performance. He not only allows Rahab to be delivered by her guests, but is careful to guard against her sustaining any injury in the first tumult; and to make the messengers more diligent in performing their office, he reminds them that they had promised with the intervention of an oath.
23. And the young men that were spies went in, etc God, doubtless, wished those to be safe, whose minds he thus inclined to embrace deliverance. Had it been otherwise, they would have rejected it not less proudly, and with no less scorn than the two sons-in-law of Lot. But a still better provision is made for them, when, by being placed without the camp, they receive a strict injunction to abandon their former course of life. f63 For had they been immediately admitted and allowed to mix indiscriminately with the people, the thought of their impurity might never, perhaps, have occurred to them, and they might thus have continued to indulge in it. Now when they are placed apart, that they may not, by their infection, taint the flock, they are impressed with a feeling of shame, which may urge them to serious conversion.
It cannot be meant that they were thus set apart for safety, lest any one in the crowd might have risen up violently against them: for they would have been received by all with the greatest favor and gladness, whereas they might have been attacked in a solitary place more easily, and even with impunity. Their impurity, therefore, was brought visibly before them, that they might not while polluted come rashly forward into the holy meeting, but rather might be accustomed by this rudimentary training to change their mode of life. For it is added shortly after, that they dwelt in the midst of the people; in other words, having been purged from their defilement’s, they began to be regarded in the very same light as if they had originally belonged to the race of Abraham. In short, the meaning is, that after they had made a confession of their previous impurity, they were admitted indiscriminately along with others. By this admission, Rahab gained one of the noblest fruits of her faith.
26. And Joshua adjured them, etc This adjuration, then, was not merely to have effect for one day, but to warn posterity through all ages that that city had been taken only by divine power. He wished, therefore, that the ruins and devastation should exist for ever as a kind of trophy; because the rebuilding of it would have been equivalent to an erasure effacing the miracle. In order, therefore, that the desolate appearance of the place might keep the remembrance of the divine power and favor alive among posterity, Joshua pronounces a heavy curse upon any one who should again build the ruined city. From this passage we gather that the natural torpidity of men requires the aid of stimulants to prevent them from burying the divine favors in oblivion; and hence this spectacle, wherein the divine agency was made conspicuous to the people, was a kind of indirect censure of their ingratitude.
The substance of the imprecation is, that if any one ever attempt to rebuild Jericho he may be made sensible by the unpropitious and mournful result that he had done a cursed and abominable work. For to lay the foundations in his first-born, were just as if he were to cast forth his son to perish, crushed and buried beneath the mass of stones; and to set up the gates in his younger son, is the same thing as to plan an edifice which could not be erected without causing the death of a son. Thus he who should dare to make the insane attempt is condemned in his own offspring. Nor did Joshua utter this curse at his own suggestion; he was only the herald of celestial vengeance.
This makes it the more monstrous that among the people of God a man should have been found, whom that fearful curse, couched in formal terms, could not restrain from sacrilegious temerity. In the time of Ahab (<111634>1 Kings 16:34) arose Hiel, a citizen of Bethel, who dared, as it were avowedly, to challenge God in this matter; but the Sacred history at the same time testifies, that the denunciation which God had pronounced by the mouth of Joshua did not fail of its effect; for Hiel founded the new Jericho in Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates in his younger son Segub, and thus learned in the destruction of his offspring what it is to attempt anything against the will and in opposition to the command of God. f64
Go To Joshua 7:1-9
1. But the children of Israel committed, etc Reference is made to the crime, and indeed the secret crime, of one individual, whose guilt is transferred to the whole people; and not only so, but punishment is at the same time executed against several who were innocent. But it seems very unaccountable that a whole people should be condemned for a private and hidden crime of which they had no knowledge. I answer, that it is not new for the sin of one member to be visited on the whole body. Should we be unable to discover the reason, it ought to be more than enough for us that transgression is imputed to the children of Israel, while the guilt is confined to one individual. But as it very often happens that those who are not wicked foster the sins of their brethren by conniving at them, a part of the blame is justly laid upon all those who by disguising become implicated in it as partners. For this reason Paul, (<460504>1 Corinthians 5:4-6) upbraids all the Corinthians with the private enormity of one individual, and inveighs against their pride in presuming to glory while such a stigma attached to them. But here it is easy to object that all were ignorant of the theft, and that therefore there is no room for the maxim, that he who allows a crime to be committed when he can prevent it is its perpetrator. I certainly admit it not to be clear why a private crime is imputed to the whole people, unless it be that they had not previously been sufficiently careful to punish misdeeds, and that possibly owing to this, the person actually guilty in the present instance had sinned with greater boldness. It is well known that weeds creep in stealthily, grow apace and produce noxious fruits, if not speedily torn up. The reason, however, why God charges a whole people with a secret theft is deeper and more abstruse. He wished by an extraordinary manifestation to remind posterity that they might all be criminated by the act of an individual, and thus induce them to give more diligent heed to the prevention of crimes.
Nothing, therefore, is better than to keep our minds in suspense until the books are opened, when the divine judgments which are now obscured by our darkness will be made perfectly clear. Let it suffice us that the whole people were infected by a private stain; for so it has been declared by the Supreme Judge, before whom it becomes us to stand dumb, as having one day to appear at his tribunal. The stock from which Achan was descended is narrated for the sake of increasing, and, as it were, propagating the ignominy; just as if it were said, that he was the disgrace of his family and all his race. For the writer of the history goes up as far as the tribe of Judah. By this we are taught that when any one connected with us behaves himself basely and wickedly, a stigma is in a manner impressed upon us in his person that we may be humbled — not that it can be just to insult over all the kindred of a wicked man, but first, that all kindred may be more careful in applying mutual correction to each other, and secondly, that they may be led to recognize that either their connivance or their own faults are punished.
A greater occasion of scandal, fitted to produce general alarm, was offered by the fact of the crime having been detected in the tribe of Judah, which was the flower and glory of the whole nation. It was certainly owing to the admirable counsel of God, that a pre-eminence which fostered the hope of future dominion resided in that tribe. But when near the very outset this honor was foully stained by the act of an individual, the circumstance might have occasioned no small disturbance to weak minds. The severe punishment, however, wiped away the scandal which might otherwise have existed; and hence we gather that when occasion has been given to the wicked to blaspheme, the Church has no fitter means of removing the opprobrium than that of visiting offences with exemplary punishment.
2. And Joshua sent men from Jericho, etc To examine the site of the city and reconnoiter all its approaches was an act of prudence, that they might not, by hurrying on at random through unknown places, fall into an ambuscade. But when it would be necessary shortly after to advance with all the forces, to send forward a small band with the view of taking the city, seems to betray a want of military skill. Hence it would not have been strange that two or three thousand men, on a sudden sally were panic-struck and turned their backs. And it was certainly expedient for the whole body that twenty or thirty thousand should have spread in all directions in foraging parties. We may add, that even the act of slaying, though no resistance were offered, was of itself sufficient to wear out a small body of troops. Therefore, when the three thousand or thereabouts were repulsed, it was only a just recompense for their confidence and sloth. The Holy Spirit, however, declares that fewness of numbers was not the cause of the discomfiture, and ought not to bear the blame of it. The true cause was the secret counsel of God, who meant to show a sign of his anger, but allowed the number to be small in order that the loss might be less serious. And it was certainly a rare display of mercy to chastise the people gently and without any great overthrow, with the view of arousing them to seek an instant remedy for the evil. Perhaps, too, the inhabitants of Ai would not have dared to make an attack upon the Israelites had they advanced against the city in full force. The Lord therefore opened a way for his judgment, and yet modified it so as only to detect the hidden crime under which the people might otherwise have been consumed as by a lingering disease.
But although there is nothing wonderful in the defeat of the Israelites, who fought on disadvantageous terms on lower ground, it was, however, perfectly obvious that they were vanquished by fear and the failure of their courage before they came to close quarters; for by turning their backs they gave up the higher ground and retired to the slope of a valley. The enemy, on the other hand, showed how thoroughly they despised them by the confidence and boldness with which they ventured to pursue the fugitives at full speed in the direction of their camp. In the camp itself, such was the trepidation that all hearts melted. I admit, indeed, that there was cause for fear when, after having gained so many victories as it were in sport, they saw themselves so disgracefully defeated. In unwonted circumstances we are more easily disturbed. But it was a terror from heaven which dismayed them more than the death of thirty men and the flight of three thousand.
6. And Joshua rent his clothes, etc Although it was easy to throw the blame of the overthrow or disgrace which had been sustained on others, and it was by no means becoming in a courageous leader to be so much cast down by the loss of thirty men, especially when by increasing his force a hundred-fold it would not have been difficult to drive back the enemy now weary with their exertions, it was not, however, without cause that Joshua felt the deepest sorrow, and gave way to feelings bordering on despair. The thought that the events of war are doubtful — a thought which sustains and reanimates the defeated — could not be entertained by him, because God had promised that they would always be victorious. Therefore when the success did not correspond to his hopes, the only conclusion he could draw was, that they had fought unsuccessfully merely because they had been deprived of the promised assistance of God.
Accordingly, both he and the elders not only gave themselves up to sorrow and sadness, but engage in solemn mourning, as used in the most calamitous circumstances, by tearing their garments and throwing dust on their heads. That mode of expressing grief was used also by the heathen, but was specially appropriate in the pious worshippers of God in suppliantly deprecating his wrath. The rending of the garments and other accompanying acts contained a profession of repentance, as may also be inferred from the annexed prayer, which, however, is of a mixed nature, dictated partly by faith and the pure spirit of piety, and partly by excessive perturbation. In turning straightway to God and acknowledging that in his hand, by which the wound was inflicted, the cure was prepared, they are influenced by faith; but their excessive grief is evidently carried beyond all proper bounds. Hence the freedom with which they expostulate, and hence the preposterous wish, Would God we had remained in the desert! f66
It is not a new thing, however, for pious minds, when they aspire to seek God with holy zeal, to obscure the light of faith by the vehemence and impetuosity of their affections. And in this way all prayers would be vitiated did not the Lord in his boundless indulgence pardon them, and wiping away all their stains receive them as if they were pure. And yet while in thus freely expostulating, they cast their cares upon God, though this blunt simplicity needs pardon, it is far more acceptable than the feigned modesty of hypocrites, who, while carefully restraining themselves to prevent any confident expression from escaping their lips, inwardly swell and almost burst with contumacy.
Joshua oversteps the bounds of moderation when he challenges God for having brought the people out of the desert; but he proceeds to much greater intemperance when, in opposition to the divine promise and decree, he utters the turbulent wish, Would that we had never come out of the desert! That was to abrogate the divine covenant altogether. But as his object was to maintain and assert the divine glory, the vehemence which otherwise might have justly provoked God was excused.
We are hence taught that saints, while they aim at the right mark, often stumble and fall, and that this sometimes happens even in their prayers, in which purity of faith and affections framed to obedience ought to be especially manifested. That Joshua felt particularly concerned for the divine glory, is apparent from the next verse, where he undertakes the maintenance of it, which had been in a manner assigned to him. What shall I say, he asks, when it will be objected that the people turned their backs? And he justly complains that he is left without an answer, as God had made him the witness and herald of his favor, whence there was ground to hope for an uninterrupted series of victories. Accordingly, after having in the loftiest terms extolled the divine omnipotence in fulfillment of the office committed to him, it had now become necessary for him, from the adverse course of events, to remain ignominiously silent. We thus see that nothing vexes him more than the disgrace brought upon his calling. He is not concerned for his own reputation, but fears lest the truth of God might be endangered in the eyes of the world. f67 In short, as it was only by the order of God that he had brought the people into the land of Canaan, he now in adversity calls upon him as author and avenger, just as if he had said, Since thou has brought me into these straits, and I am in danger of seeming to be a deceiver, it is for thee to interfere and supply me with the means of defense.
9. For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants, etc He mentions another ground of fear. All the neighboring nations, who, either subdued by calamities or terrified by miracles, were quiet, will now resume their confidence and make a sudden attack upon the people. It was indeed probable, that as the divine power had crushed their spirit and filled them with dismay, they would come boldly forward to battle as soon as they knew that God had become hostile to the Israelites. He therefore appeals to God in regard to the future danger, entreating him to make speedy provision against it, as the occasion would be seized by the Canaanites, who, though hitherto benumbed with terror, will now assume the aggressive, and easily succeed in destroying a panic-struck people.
It is manifest, however, from the last clause, that he is not merely thinking of the safety of the people, but is concerned above all for the honor of the divine name, that it may remain inviolable, and not be trampled under foot by the petulance of the wicked, as it would be if the people were ejected from the inheritance so often promised. We know the language which God himself employed, as recorded in the song of Moses, (<053226>Deuteronomy 32:26, 27)
“I would scatter them into corners, I would make the remembrance of them cease among men; were it not that I feared the wrath (pride) of the enemy, lest their adversaries should behave themselves strangely, and lest they should say, Our hand is high, and the Lord has not done all this.”
The very thing, then, which God declares that he was, humanly speaking, afraid of, Joshua wishes now to be timelessly prevented; otherwise the enemy, elated by the defeat of the people, will grow insolent and boast of triumphing over God himself.
Go To Joshua 7:10-18
10. And the Lord said unto Joshua, etc God does not reprimand Joshua absolutely for lying prostrate on the ground and lamenting the overthrow of the people, since the true method of obtaining pardon from God was to fall down suppliantly before him; but for giving himself up to excessive sorrow. The censure, however, ought to be referred to the future rather than to the past; for he tells him to put an end to his wailing, just as if he had said, that he had already lain too long prostrate, and that all sloth must now be abandoned, as there was need of a different remedy. But he first shows the cause of the evil, and then prescribes the mode of removing it. He therefore informs him that the issue of the battle was disastrous, because he was offended with the wickedness of the people, and had cast off their defense.
We formerly explained why the punishment of a private sacrilege is transferred to all; because although they were not held guilty in their own judgment or that of others, yet the judgment of God, which involved them in the same condemnation, had hidden reasons into which, though it may perhaps be lawful to inquire soberly, it is not lawful to search with prying curiosity. At the same time we have a rare example of clemency in the fact, that while the condemnation verbally extends to all, punishment is inflicted only on a single family actually polluted by the crime. What follows tends to show how enormous the crime was, and accordingly the particle µg is not repeated without emphasis; as they might otherwise have extenuated its atrocity. Hence, when it is said that they have also transgressed the covenant, the meaning is, that they had not sinned slightly. The name of covenant is applied to the prohibition which, as we saw, had been given; because a mutual stipulation had been made, assigning the spoils of the whole land to the Israelites, provided He received the first fruits. Here, then, he does not allude to the general covenant, but complains that he was defrauded of what had been specially set apart; and he accordingly adds immediately after, by way of explanation, that they had taken of the devoted thing, and that not without sacrilege, inasmuch as they had stolen that which he claimed as his own. The term lying is here used, as in many other passages, for frustrating a hope entertained, or for deceiving. The last thing mentioned, though many might at first sight think it trivial, is set down, not without good cause, as the crowning act of guilt, namely, that they had deposited the forbidden thing among their vessels. Persons who are otherwise not wholly wicked are sometimes tempted by a love of gain; but in the act of hiding the thing, and laying it up among other goods, a more obstinate perseverance in evil doing is implied, as the party shows himself to be untouched by any feelings of compunction. In the last part of the 12th verse, the term anathema is used in a different sense for execration; because it was on account of the stolen gold that the children of Israel were cursed, and almost devoted to destruction.
13. Up, sanctify the people, etc Although the word çdq has a more extensive meaning, yet as the subject in question is the expiation of the people, I have no doubt that it prescribes a formal rite of sanctification. Those, therefore, who interpret it generally as equivalent to prepare, do not, in my judgment, give it its full force. Nay, as they were now to be in a manner brought into the divine presence, there was need of purification that they might not come while unclean. It is also to be observed in regard to the method of sanctifying, that Joshua intimates to the people a legal purgation. But though the ceremony might be in itself of little consequence, it had a powerful tendency to arouse a rude people. The external offering must have turned their thoughts to spiritual cleanness, while their abstinence from things otherwise lawful reminded them of the very high and unblemished purity which was required. And they are forewarned of what is to take place, in order that each may be more careful in examining himself. Nay, the Lord proceeds step by step, as if he meant to give intervals for repentance; for it is impossible to imagine any other reason for descending from tribe to family, and coming at length to the single individual.
In all this we see the monstrous stupor of Achan. Overcome perhaps by shame, he doubles his impudence, and putting on a bold front, hesitates not to insult his Maker. For why, when he sees himself discovered, does he not voluntarily come forward and confess the crime, instead of persisting in his effrontery till he is dragged forward against his will? But such is the just recompense of those who allow themselves to be blinded by the devil. Then when first by the taking of his tribe and next by that of his family, he plainly perceived that he was urged and held fast by the hand of God, why does he not then at least spring forward, and by a voluntary surrender deprecate punishment? It appears, then, that after he had hardened himself in his wickedness, his mind and all his senses were charmed by the devil.
Though God does not bring all guilty actions to light at the very moment, nor always employ the casting of lots for this purpose, he has taught us by this example that there is nothing so hidden as not to be revealed in its own time. The form of disclosure will, indeed, be different; but let every one reflect, for himself, that things which escape the knowledge of the whole world are not concealed from God, and that to make them public depends only on his pleasure. For though a sin may seem as it were to have fallen asleep, it is however awake before the door, and will beset the miserable man till it overtake and crush him.
Go To Joshua 7:19-26
19. And Joshua said unto Achan, etc Although only by lot, which seems to fall out fortuitously, Achan is completely caught; yet, as God has declared that he will point out the guilty party, as if with the finger, Joshua interrogates without having any doubt, and when the discovery is made, urges Achan to confess it. It is probable, indeed, that this was the usual form of adjuration, as we read in John’s Gospel, (<430924>John 9:24) that the scribes and priests used the same words in adjuring the blind man whose sight our Savior had restored, to answer concerning the miracle. But there was a special reason why Joshua exhorted Achan to give God the glory, because by denying or equivocating he might have impaired the credit of the decision. The matter had already been determined by lot. Joshua, therefore, simply orders him to subscribe to the divine sentence, and not aggravate the crime by vain denials.
He calls him son, neither ironically nor hypocritically, but truly and sincerely declares that he felt like a father toward him whom he had already doomed to death. By this example, judges are taught that, while they punish crimes, they ought so to temper their severity as not to lay aside the feelings of humanity, and, on the other hand, that they ought to be merciful without being reckless and remiss; that, in short, they ought to be as parents to those they condemn, without substituting undue mildness for the sternness of justice. Many by fawning kindness throw wretched criminals off their guard, pretending that they mean to pardon them, and then, after a confession has been extracted, suddenly hand them over to the executioner, while they were flattering themselves with the hope of impunity. But Joshua, satisfied with having cited the criminal before the tribunal of God, does not at all flatter him with a vain hope of pardon, and is thus more at liberty to pronounce the sentence which God has dictated.
20. And Achan answered Joshua, etc As he was now struck with astonishment, he neither employs subterfuge, nor palliates the crime, nor endeavors to give any coloring to it, but rather ingeniously details the whole matter. Thus the sacred name of God was more effectual in extorting a confession than any tortures could have been. Nor was the simplicity he thus displayed a sure indication of repentance; being, as it were, overcome with terror, he openly divulged what he would willingly have concealed. And it is no new thing for the wicked, after they have endeavored for some time to escape, and have even grown hardened in vice, to become voluntary witnesses against themselves, not properly of their own accord, but because God drags them against their will, and, in a manner, drives them headlong. The open answer here given will condemn the hypocrisy of many who obscure the clear light by their subterfuges. The expression is emphatic — thus and thus did I; meaning that each part of the transaction was explained distinctly and in order. Nor does he only acknowledge the deed, but by renouncing all defense, and throwing aside all pretext, he condemns himself in regard to its atrocity. I have sinned, he says; this he would not have said had he not been conscious of sacrilege, and hence it appears that he did not pretend mistake or want of thought.
22. So Joshua sent messengers, etc Although it is not singular for messengers to prove their obedience by running and making haste, yet the haste which is here mentioned, shows how intent all were to have the work of expiation performed as speedily as possible, as they had been filled with the greatest anxiety in consequence of the stern denunciation — I will not be with you until you are purged of the anathema. They therefore ran swiftly, not merely to execute the commands of Joshua, but much more to appease the Lord. The things carried off by stealth, when placed before their eyes, were more than sufficient to explain the cause of the disgrace and overthrow which had befallen them.
It had been said that they had turned their backs on the enemy, because, being polluted with the accursed thing, they were deprived of the wonted assistance of God; it is now easy to infer from the sight of the stolen articles, that the Lord had deservedly become hostile to them. At the same time, they were reminded how much importance God attached to the delivery of the first-fruits of the whole land of Canaan in an untainted state, in order that his liberality might never perish from their memory. They also learned that while the knowledge of God penetrates to the most hidden recesses, it is in vain to employ concealment’s for the purpose of eluding his judgment. f69
24. And Joshua, and all Israel with him, etc Achan is led without the camp for two reasons; first, that it might not be tainted and polluted by the execution, (as God always required that some trace of humanity should remain, even in the infliction of legitimate punishments,) and secondly, that no defilement might remain among the people. It was customary to inflict punishment without the camp, that the people might have a greater abhorrence at the shedding of blood: but now, a rotten member is cut off from the body, and the camp is purified from pollution. We see that the example became memorable, as it gave its name to the spot.
If any one is disturbed and offended by the severity of the punishment, he must always be brought back to this point, that though our reason dissent from the judgments of God, we must check our presumption by the curb of a pious modesty and soberness, and not disapprove whatever does not please us. It seems harsh, nay, barbarous and inhuman, that young children, without fault, should be hurried off to cruel execution, to be stoned and burned. That dumb animals should be treated in the same manner is not so strange, as they were created for the sake of men, and thus deservedly follow the fate of their owners. Everything, therefore, which Achan possessed perished with him as an accessory, but still it seems a cruel vengeance to stone and burn children for the crime of their father; and here God publicly inflicts punishment on children for the sake of their parents, contrary to what he declares by Ezekiel. But how it is that he destroys no one who is innocent, and visits the sins of fathers upon children, I briefly explained when speaking of the common destruction of the city of Jericho, and the promiscuous slaughter of all ages. The infants and children who then perished by the sword we bewail as unworthily slain, as they had no apparent fault; but if we consider how much more deeply divine knowledge penetrates than human intellect can possibly do, we will rather acquiesce in his decree, than hurry ourselves to a precipice by giving way to presumption and extravagant pride. It was certainly not owing to reckless hatred that the sons of Achan were pitilessly slain. Not only were they the creatures of God’s hand, but circumcision, the infallible symbol of adoption, was engraved on their flesh; and yet he adjudges them to death. What here remains for us, but to acknowledge our weakness and submit to his incomprehensible counsel? It may be that death proved to them a medicine; but if they were reprobate, then condemnation could not be premature. f70
It may be added, that the life which God has given he may take away as often as pleases him, not more by disease than by any other mode. A wild beast seizes an infant and tears it to pieces; a serpent destroys another by its venomous bite; one falls into the water, another into the fire, a third is overlain by a nurse, a fourth is crushed by a falling stone; nay, some are not even permitted to open their eyes on the light. It is certain that none of all these deaths happens except by the will of God. But who will presume to call his procedure in this respect in question? Were any man so insane as to do so, what would it avail? We must hold, indeed, that none perish by his command but those whom he had doomed to death. From the enumeration of Achan’s oxen, asses, and sheep, we gather that he was sufficiently rich, and that therefore it was not poverty that urged him to the crime. It must therefore be regarded as a proof of his insatiable cupidity, that he coveted stolen articles, not for use but for luxury.
25. And Joshua said, etc The invective seems excessively harsh; as if it had been his intention to drive the wretched man to frantic madness, when he ought rather to have exhorted him to patience. I have no doubt that he spoke thus for the sake of the people, in order to furnish a useful example to all, and my conclusion, therefore, is, that he did not wish to overwhelm Achan with despair, but only to show in his person how grievous a crime it is to disturb the Church of God. It may be, however, that the haughty Achan complained that his satisfaction, by which he thought that he had sufficiently discharged himself, was not accepted, f71 and that Joshua inveighed thus bitterly against him with the view of correcting or breaking his contumacy. The question seems to imply that he was expostulating, and when he appeals to God as judge, he seems to be silencing an obstinate man. The throwing of stones by the whole people was a general sign of detestation, by which they declared that they had no share in the crime which they thus avenged, and that they held it in abhorrence. The heap of stones was intended partly as a memorial to posterity, and partly to prevent any one from imprudently gathering particles of gold or silver on the spot, if it had remained unoccupied. For although the Lord had previously ordered that the gold of Jericho should be offered to him, he would not allow his sanctuary to be polluted by the proceeds of theft.
Go To Joshua 8:1-29
1. And the Lord said unto Joshua, etc It was of great consequence to Joshua, as well as the people, to inspire new courage, that they might prepare with confidence to assault the city of Ai, from which they had lately been repulsed with loss and greater disgrace. God, therefore, to inspire them with intrepidity on this expedition, promises that he will give them the cry. With the same view he enjoins them to fight by stratagem more than open war, to entice the enemy out, and to select a secret place for an ambuscade which might take them by surprise. A few thousands might without any difficulty have been overthrown by an immense host attacking the city suddenly and unexpectedly. But as we formerly saw that the hearts of all had melted away, God consulted for their weakness by laying no greater burden upon them than they were able to bear, until they had recovered from their excessive panic, and could execute his commands with alacrity.
It is true, indeed, that he now used their own exertion, partly that they might not always keep looking for miracles, and so give themselves up to laziness, and partly that in different and unequal modes of acting they might nevertheless recognize that his power is the same. But care must be taken not to omit the special reason, namely, that not having yet recovered from their terror, they could scarcely have been induced to engage in an open conflict, had they not seen stratagem employed as a subsidiary aid. The first place, however, is due to the promise, Fear not, for I have delivered it into thy hands: for although it is verbally directed to Joshua, it belongs in common to the whole people, as it was most necessary that all to a man should be freed from anxiety and furnished with new confidence. The order to burn the city like Jericho, appears to be a concession to the popular feeling, the vengeance thus taken serving to wipe out the remembrance of their disgrace. At the same time that they may engage in the expedition more willingly, the spoils are left to them as the reward of victory.
13. Joshua went that night, etc It is not probable that all were called out from the camp, but the army was composed of those who were more accustomed to war. That it was sufficiently numerous appears from the fact, that five thousand were withdrawn from it for ambuscade. At first thirty-five thousand appear to be enumerated, but it is clear from the context that the number was not so great. I am rather inclined to conjecture that thirty thousand were led out for open fight, and that five thousand were specially set apart for an ambuscade. Joshua hastens to execute the task assigned to him, commencing his march in the morning, and in this haste we see how effectual the promise had proved. Had not the mind of all been freed from fear he never could have found them so prompt to obey.
Apparently, indeed, little prudence is shown in sending so large a body to proceed by hidden paths to a place suitable for ambuscade. For with whatever silence and composure they might proceed, the mere movement of their feet must have caused a considerable noise. Should any one say that there was nobody to meet them, as all the inhabitants of the district had deserted the fields and taken refuge in the city, we will find it mentioned shortly after, that before the Israelites came near to the city their arrival was known by the king of Ai; and this could scarcely have been without scouts. But granting that they met no one in the fields, it was certainly a difficult matter to pass by, to select a suitable place during night for an ambuscade, and to take possession of it without giving some indication of their presence. With regard to the procedure of Joshua, thought he might see that the business could be accomplished by a smaller force, he seems to have been compelled by the recent trepidation of the people to be very careful not to engage them in any enterprise of danger. For had only a few of the army been dispatched they would perhaps have declined a part by which they were to be particularly exposed.
The Lord meanwhile displays the greatest indulgence to his people in delivering up an enemy that was to be so easily conquered. His wonderful favor especially appears in blinding all of them, so that they have no suspicion of the ambuscade. I have no doubt that when it is said they knew not of it, the writer of the history means to draw attention to the rare and extraordinary kindness of God in so covering, as it were, with the shadow of his hand, first, the thirty thousand who accompanied Joshua, and then the five thousand, that they all escaped the notice of the enemy. When mention is now made of five thousand, I do not understand it to mean that Joshua furnished a new ambuscade, as if the number, already excessive, were not sufficient, but that the writer now merely shows how the thirty-five thousand whom Joshua had armed were distributed. For to what end would so small a reinforcement have been given to so great a multitude? Besides, the place where they are ordered to halt is the same as that which had been previously pointed out; this could not apply to two separate bodies of troops.
15. And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten, etc This is another stratagem. By pretending flight they draw off the enemy to a distance, leaving them no retreat afterwards into the city, which was in flames before they suspected that any disaster was to be apprehended in their rear. Hence, while the king of Ai pursues the Israelites as vanquished, the part of the army which lay hid towards Bethel had sufficient time to take the city, and make it too late for the inhabitants to perceive that they were utterly undone. For after they had been already repulsed, and were everywhere slaughtered, they were overwhelmed with despair on beholding the flames of the city, and so completely surrounded that not an individual could escape.
The question here asked by some, as to whether it is lawful to overcome an enemy by wiles and stratagem, originates in gross ignorance. First, it is certain that wars are carried on not merely by striking blows; for those are considered the best commanders who accomplish more by art and counsel than by mere violence; and secondly, the longer any one has served so as to acquire experience, the better soldier he makes. If war, then, is lawful, it is beyond all controversy that the usual methods of conquering may be lawfully employed, provided always that there be no violation of faith once pledged either by truce or in any other way.
17. And there was not a man left in Ai, etc It will be clear from the context that some were taken in the city and slain, and therefore we must hold that the sally was not by all universally, and that the old men and women and many others unfit for war, did not rush forth into the fields; the meaning simply is, that no garrison was left to defend the city. The same thing is said of Bethel, and hence we may easily conjecture that Bethel, as it was a small unimportant town, belonged to another power. The inhabitants, however, from being unable to defend their own city, abandoned it, and offered their whole force to the king of Ai, to whom they were perhaps tributaries. It is uncertain whether they went to the king of Ai before the arrival of the Israelites, to unite their forces with his in the contest, but the probability is, that as they were unable to resist they had come by agreement into a fortified and more populous city. They thought that they could not, possibly be safe unless they were preserved under the shadow of a neighboring city superior to their own.
18. And the Lord said unto Joshua, etc This passage shows, that owing either to the strong fortifications of the city, or the valor of its inhabitants, or the trepidation of the Israelites, the victory was difficult, since God promises that he himself would take it by the lifting up of a spear. Had success been beyond doubt, the symbol would have been superfluous; their minds must therefore have been anxious and perplexed, since the Lord, to prevent them from fainting, raises up a banner of confidence in the hand of Joshua. It is true, indeed, that shortly after a different motive for raising the spear is mentioned, when it is said, that in this way a signal was given to the ambuscade, which accordingly rushed forth. But if it really was so used as a signal, it will scarcely do to regard the spear as a manifestation of the victorious power of God dispelling all doubt. Still, however, as it is not expressly said that the spear was the cause which brought forth the soldiers who had been placed in ambuscade, the truth may be that they came forth of their own accord, either because it was the suitable time, or because the shouting and noise made them aware that the battle had actually commenced. For it is scarcely possible to believe that the spear was seen by them, when we consider the long space which intervened, and more especially that Joshua was standing in a valley. Moreover, if we hold that the lifting up of the spear, though intended for a different purpose, had also the effect of inspiring them with additional courage, there will be no absurdity in it.
This much ought to be regarded as certain, first, that by this solemn badge they were rendered more certain of the happy issue of the battle; and secondly, that Joshua had no other intention than to incite his troops according to the command of God. For it is at last added, that Joshua did not draw back his hand until the city was taken, the enemy everywhere destroyed, and the war itself terminated. Hence it appears that he exhibited it in the middle of the conflict as an ensign of triumph, that the Israelites might have no doubt of success. For although he ordered them to engage and use their arms bravely, he at the same time distinctly declared that they had already conquered.
The course of the battle is rendered somewhat obscure by the same thing being told twice, but the substance is sufficiently plain. The children of Israel retreated feigning fear, and the battle had not actually commenced before the inhabitants of Ai were precluded from returning and defending their city. After the two armies had come to close quarters, the ambuscade arose and made such haste that the flames of the conflagration were rising from the city when the enemy turned their backs. From this we may infer that the city was in the possession of the Israelites, but that the chief slaughter took place when those who were in the city came forth to take part in the battle, because the inhabitants, hemmed in on all sides, found resistance and flight equally unavailing. They were thus seized with despair, and, huddled together in a narrow space, were everywhere cut down.
The statement, that the slaughter did not take place in the city before those who had feigned flight returned, I understand to mean, that the whole troops uniting their forces rushed in, seized the prey, and slew all who might have been left. If any one objects that the city was burnt while the battle was going on, I answer, that the fire was indeed applied so as to let both armies know that the city was in possession of the Israelites, but it was not actually destroyed by fire. It was not practicable in a moment of time to seize and carry off the booty, nay, to bring the vessels and a large part of the property without the walls; and it would have been absurd voluntarily to destroy spoils which God had granted. We see, then, that the first fire was not kindled for the purpose of destroying the whole city, but was merely a partial conflagration giving intimation of its capture, and that the Israelites entered at the open gates without bloodshed or a struggle. This is confirmed shortly after, when the burning is ascribed to Joshua himself, not only because it was burnt under his command, but because he was careful, after returning from the battle, to see that it was utterly destroyed; as it is immediately added that he made it a heap of stones in order that it might be a perpetual desolation. f72
25. And so it was that all that fell that day, etc The meaning is not that all the slain were inhabitants of Ai, but that all who dwelt in it were slain, that not one escaped. It has already been seen that the inhabitants of Bethel were mingled along with them; and as no mention of that city is afterwards made, it may be conjectured with some probability that they had abandoned their own town, which was little fortified, and betaken themselves for greater safety to one which they hoped could be easily defended. The words, therefore, simply mean, that all who had come out of the city and all who were found in it were slain to a man. If any are rather disposed to think that this number of those whose slaughter took place within the walls is confined to the aged, the sick, the women and the children, I will not dispute the matter. Still, if we consider that only a small town was conjoined with a city of no great extent or population, it is more probable that the number comprehends those also who fell in battle.
26. For Joshua drew not his hand back, etc As by raising the spear he gave sign and pledge of hope as it were from heaven, he did not cease to keep the minds of his followers fixed upon it until they were masters of the city. By thus persevering he sufficiently proved how far removed he was from ambition; how free from doing anything in the way of vain ostentation. For it was just as if he had resigned the office of leader, and transferred the whole praise of the victory to God. How intrepid a warrior he was is plain from other passages. He might now, too, have willingly discharged his military functions, and thus done what was far better fitted to promote his reputation and glory. But as if his hand had been fastened to the spear, he exhorts the soldiers to look to God alone, to whom he resigns the success of the battle. By thus standing aloof he profited more than if he had in all directions, and by his own hand, struck down heaps of the enemy: at the same time his remaining at ease was more praiseworthy than any degree of agility could have been.
29. And the king of Ai he hanged, etc Though he seems to have treated the king with great severity in order to satisfy the hatred of the people, I cannot doubt that he studied faithfully to execute the divine judgment. Conquerors, indeed, are wont to spare captive kings, because their rank seems to carry something venerable along with it, but the condition of kings was different among those nations in which God wished particularly to show how greatly he detested the wickedness which he had so long tolerated. For while all were doomed to destruction, the divine vengeance justly displayed itself with greater sternness and severity on the leaders, with whom the cause of destruction originated.
We may add, that the ignominious punishment inflicted on the king rendered it still less necessary to deal leniently with the common people, and thus prevented the Israelites from indulging an unseasonable mercy, which might have made them more sluggish or careless in executing the work of universal extermination.
God purposely delivered the king alive into the hand of Joshua, that his punishment might be more marked and thus better adapted for an example. Had he fallen in the conflict promiscuously with others, he would have been exempted from this special mark of infamy; but now even after his death, the divine vengeance pursues his corpse. Nay, after being hung, he is thrown forth at the gate of the city where he had sat on his throne in judgment, and a monument is erected for the purpose of perpetuating his ignominy to posterity. His burial, however, is mentioned to let us know that nothing was done through tumultuous impetuosity, as Joshua carefully observed what Moses had prescribed in the Law, (<052123>Deuteronomy 21:23) namely, that those hung on gibbets should be taken down before sunset, as a spectacle of the kind was held in abomination. And, certainly, while it is humane to bury the dead under ground, it is inhumanly cruel to cast them forth to be torn by wild beasts or birds. Therefore, that the people might not be accustomed to barbarity, God allowed criminals to be hung, provided they did not hang unburied for more than one day. And that the people might be more attentive to this duty, which otherwise might readily have been neglected, Moses declares that every one who hangs on a tree is accursed; as if he had said, that the earth is contaminated by that kind of death, if the offensive object be not immediately taken away.
Go To Joshua 8:30-35
30. Then Joshua built an altar, etc God had been pleased that this should be the first extraordinary sacrifice offered to him in the land of Canaan, that thus the people might attest their gratitude, and the land begin to be consecrated in regular form. It was not possible for the people to do it before freely and on their own soil, till they had obtained possession of some vacant region. f73 Now, God had at the same time given them two commands — first, that they should erect an altar on Mount Ebal; and secondly, that they should set up two stones plastered over with lime, on which they should write the Law, in order that every passer by might be able to see it and read it. We now read that both were faithfully performed. A third command related to the recitation of blessings and cursings: this, too, Joshua performed with no less care.
To begin with the altar, — it is said, that according to the divine command, it was formed of unhewn stones. For entire stones on which the masons’ iron has not been employed, are called rough and unworked. f74 This is specially said in <052701>Deuteronomy 27, of the altar, of which mention is now made. But the same thing had before been said in general of all others. Some expounders, in searching for the reason, needlessly have recourse to allegory, and allege that the hand and industry of men are forbidden, because the moment we introduce any devices of our own, the worship of God is vitiated. This is indeed truly and wisely said, but it is out of place, as the divine intention simply was to prohibit the perpetuity of altars. For we know, that in order to sacrifice duly, it was enjoined that all should have one common altar, in order both to cherish mutual agreement, and to obviate all sources of corruption from the introduction of an adventitious superstition; in short, in order that religion might remain one and simple, as a variety of altars would soon have led to discord, thereby distracting the people and putting sincere piety to flight.
Then it was not left to the choice of the people to select a place, but God uniformly in the books of Moses claims this for himself. He therefore confines the exercises of piety to that place where he may have put the remembrance of his name. Moreover, as the divine will was not immediately manifested, nor the place designated, that worship might not in the mean time cease, it was permitted to build an altar where the ark should happen to be stationed, but an altar formed only of a rude pile of stones, or of turf, that it might be only temporary.
Let the reader observe that an option was given to the people to make it of rough stones, that its form might not attract veneration, or of earth, which would crumble away of its own accord. In one word, this arrangement tended to give a pre-eminence to the perpetual altar, after God made choice of Mount Zion for its locality. Hence it is said in the Psalm, I was glad because our feet will stand in thy courts, O Jerusalem! (<19C201>Psalm 122:1, 2) What other translators render peace offerings, I have, not without cause, rendered by sacrifices of prosperity, because they were offered up either to solicit successful results, or to render thanks; and the Hebrew term is not unsuitable, as the reader will find more fully explained in my commentaries on the books of Moses.
32. And he wrote there upon the stones, etc A different rule is applicable to the stones here mentioned, on which God wished that a memorial of his Law should always appear, in order that, a kind of barrier might be interposed to protect the pure religion against the superstitions of Egypt. They were therefore covered with lime, that they might be more conspicuous, and the writing upon them more distinct. I willingly subscribe to the opinion of those who understand by the repeated Law a written form, or what is commonly called a copy or duplicate. I cannot, however, believe that the whole volume was traced upon it; for no stones however large could suffice to contain all the details. I therefore think that by the term Law only its substance and sanctions f75 are denoted. This made it palpable even to strangers entering the land what God was worshipped in it, and all excuse for error was taken away, when the Law was not treasured up in a book, but made manifest to the eyes of all. In short, though the priests should have been dumb, the stones themselves spoke clearly.
33. And all Israel, and their elders, etc The third instance of obedience was the placing all the tribes on Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal to stand in six rows each over against each other. For they were so arranged that six stood on Mount Ebal, and an equal number on the opposite Mount Gerizim. The intervening space was occupied by the Levites with the ark of the covenant, that the Lord might be surrounded on all sides by his own people. It is said that Joshua stood that he might first bless the people, as it was the purpose of God to allure the people to himself by sweetness and winning condescension. For although Moses, to rebuke the obstinacy of the people, makes mention of curses only, it is certain that these were in a manner accidental, because the genuine method was to employ blessings as a means of gaining over to obedience those who might otherwise have proved refractory. But when humane invitation proved unavailing, curses were added as a new resource and remedy.
God had promised ample rewards to his servants who should obey the Law. On the other hand, curses were denounced in order to deter transgressors. Each is now forced to subscribe his own condemnation, while an amen is responded to every single sentence. For in this way they not only hear themselves condemned by the mouth of God, but as if they had been heralds sent by him, they denounce the punishment which may await themselves. A similar promulgation was made in the plain of Moab beyond the Jordan, but now they are bound more solemnly, and acknowledge on what condition they are to dwell in the land of Canaan. It added no little weight to the whole, that the children also were admitted as witnesses.
Go To Joshua 9:1-15
1. And it came to pass when all the kings, etc. As the arrival of the people was well known to these kings from the very first, it is certain that their minds were intoxicated from above with security or lethargy, so that they did not forthwith league together to oppose them. It implied excessive stupor not to provide for themselves till they were violently roused to exertion by the overthrow of two cities. f76 For as the war was common, it was a kind of voluntary surrender to send no aid to their neighbors, nay, to have no army ready, which might make a powerful impression for their defense. But in this way God spared the weakness of his people, to whom the combined forces of so many nations would have caused no small fear.
It is certain, then, that by the sloth and torpor of their enemies, the Israelites were rendered more expeditious. For an interval was, in the meanwhile, given them to compose themselves, and thus those whom the mere name of enemies might have alarmed, prepare leisurely to encounter them. f77 In the same way, although the reprobate are desirous, by every possible device, to destroy the Church, God, to take away their power of hurting her, scatters and confounds their counsels, nay, destroys their spirit. f78 On the other hand, these nations display their frantic audacity. Instead of being’ overcome by manifest miracle, they continue to rage like wild beasts against the unassailable power of God. A report of the taking of Jericho had reached them. Had it been overthrown by the counsel, or the acting, or the prowess, or the engines of men? Nay, the walls had fallen of their own accord. With what confidence then can they league to take up arms against heaven?
3. And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard, etc. The inhabitants of Gibeon alone rejecting the proposal to make war have recourse to fraud, and endeavor to obtain peace by pretending to live at a great distance. To make such an attempt, was very odious to their neighbors, because it was, in a manner, to make a schism among them, to open a door to the Israelites, and weaken the strength of their allies. And though blame is justly due to the foolish credulity of Joshua and the rulers, who were under no obligation to bargain rashly in regard to a matter not properly investigated, yet the Lord, who is wont to bring light out of darkness, turned it to the advantage of his people; for it procured them an interval of relaxation, while they halted in a tranquil district.
The Gibeonites, indeed, judged rightly and prudently, when they resolved to bear anything sooner than provoke God more against them, by a vain resistance. But the employment of fraud and illicit arts, to circumvent those whose favor and protection they desired to enjoy, was no less absurd and ridiculous than at variance with reason and equity. For what could be the stability of a league which was founded in nothing but gross fraud? They pretend that they are foreigners who had come from a far distant country. Joshua, therefore, is bargaining with mere masks, and contracts no obligation except in accordance with their words. Hence the craft by which they insinuated themselves ought not to have availed them. Still, as a great degree of integrity yet existed among’ men, they deemed it enough to obtain an oath even extorted by fraud, feeling fully persuaded, that the people of Israel would not violate it.
The expression, that they too acted cunningly, is erroneously supposed by some to contain an allusion to the stratagem which Joshua had employed in deceiving the citizens of At: no less inaccurately do others make it refer to the time of Jacob, whose sons, Simeon and Levi, f79 had treacherously destroyed the Sichemites. (<013401>Genesis 34) The antithesis is merely between the hostile preparations of the kings and the secret wiles with which the Gibeonites accosted Joshua. Accordingly, after it is stated, that some had leagued with the intention of trying the result of open war, the trick of the Gibeonites is subjoined, and hence the meaning is, that Joshua had to do not only with professed enemies, who had gathered themselves together to battle, but with the crafty dissimulation of one nation.
It is asked, however, why the Gibeonites labored so anxiously in a matter which was not at all necessary? For we shall see elsewhere that the Israelites were ordered to offer peace to all, that they might thereafter have a just and legitimate cause for declaring war. But as it was everywhere rumored, that they were seeking a permanent settlement in the land of Canaan, (which they could not obtain except by expelling the inhabitants,) the Gibeonites con-elude that there is no means of binding them to mercy except by imposing upon them in some way or other; as they would never have spontaneously and knowingly allowed the land which they had invaded to be occupied by others. Nay, as it was known that they had been commanded to destroy all, they had no alternative left but to have recourse to fraud, as all hope of obtaining safety was otherwise taken away. And for this reason they shortly after ask pardon for a fraud wrung from them by necessity.
Here, however, a question arises; as the Israelites object that they are not at liberty to make any paction with the nations of Canaan, but are bound to exterminate them utterly. There is certainly a discrepancy between the two things — to exhort to submission, and at the same time refuse to admit suppliants and volunteers. But although God required that the laws of war should be observed according to use and wont, and that, therefore, peace should be offered on condition of submitting, he merely wished to try the minds of those nations, that they might bring destruction upon themselves by their own obstinacy. At the same time, it was intimated to the Israelitish people, that they must destroy them; and hence the conclusion necessarily followed, that those who dwelt in the land of Canaan could not be tolerated, and that it was unlawful to make a covenant with them.
We shall afterwards find both things distinctly expressed, viz., that all persisted in carrying on war, because it had been the divine intention that their hearts should be hardened, and that they should perish. It was, therefore, a legitimate inference that those who were doomed to death could not be preserved. If any one object that the Gibeon-Res, who voluntarily applied for peace, were therefore exceptions, I answer, that the Israelites were not at present considering that formal custom which produced no result, but are merely attending to the promise and the command of God. Hence it is, that they allow no hope to remain, because they had been simply and precisely commanded to purge the land by putting every individual to death, and to succeed to the place of those they had slain.
6. And they went to Joshua, etc. I have said that in strict law, a covenant of this description was null and void. For when they obtain their prayer, what is stipulated but just that they should be kept safe, provided they come from a distant and remote region of the globe? And the oftener they reiterate the same falsehood, the more do they annul a compact elicited by fraid, since its true meaning only amounts to this, that the Israelites will offer no molestation to a foreign people, living at a remote distance. This is shown to be more especially the meaning, from the fact, that the Israelites expressly exclude all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan. They could not, therefore, gain anything by the fraud. Nor are they more assisted by making a fallacious pretext of the name of God, and thus throwing a kind of mist over the mind of Joshua. They pretend that they had come in the name of God; as if they were professing to give glory to God, even the God of Israel; inasmuch as there is a tacit rejection of the superstitions to which they had been accustomed. For if it is true, that they had come, moved by the faith of the miracles which had been performed in Egypt, they concede supreme power to the God of Israel, though to them a God unknown.
14. And the men took of their victuals, etc. Some commentators here have recourse to the insipid fictions that they ate the bread, to ascertain from the taste whether it were stale from age, or that they confirmed the covenant by a feast. The words rather, in my opinion, are an indirect censure of their excessive credulity in having, on slight grounds acquiesced in a fabulous narrative, and in having attended merely to the bread, without considering that the fiction was devoid of color. And, certainly, had not their senses been blunted, many things would have instantly occurred to refute the Gibeonites. f80 But as it sometimes happens, that the most piercing eyes are dazzled by an empty spectacle, they are more severely condemned for not having ascertained the pleasure of God. The remedy was at hand, had they attempted nothing without consulting the oracle. It was a matter deserving of careful inquiry, and it was therefore a sign of gross carelessness, when a priest was ready to seek an answer from God, by means of Urim and Thummim, to decide rashly in an obscure case, as if they had no means of obtaining advice. Their rashness was the less excusable, from being combined with such supine neglect of the grace of God.
Go To Joshua 9:16-27
16. And it came to pass, etc. The chastisement of their levity by the discovery of the fraud, three days after, must, by the swiftness of the punishment, have made them more sensible of the shame and disgrace. For it was thus known, that through sloth and lethargy, they had very stupidly fallen into error from not having taken the trouble to inquire into a matter almost placed before their eyes. Their marching quietly through that region, entering’ cities without trouble, and finding’ free means of sustenance, was owing to the paternal indulgence of God, who not only pardons their fault, but causes that which might justly have been injurious to turn out to their good. Here it is related that the children of Israel did not act in a hostile manner in that region, because the Gibeonites had received a promise of safety confirmed by an oath.
Now two questions arise — first, Whether the children of Israel, who had no intention whatever to pledge their faith to impostors, had contracted any obligation? and, secondly, Whether it was not in the option of the people to rescind a promise which their leaders had foolishly and erroneously made? In regard to the general position, the obligation of an oath ought to be held in the greatest sacredness, so that we may not, under the pretext of error, resile from pactions, even from those in which we have been deceived, since the sacred name of God is more precious than the wealth of a whole world. f81 Hence though a man may have sworn with little consideration, no loss or expense will free him from performance. I have no doubt, that in this sense David says, (<191504>Psalm 15:4,) that the true worshippers of God, if they have sworn to their hurt, change not, because they will bear loss sooner than expose the name of God to contempt, by retracting their promises.
I conclude, therefore, that if a private interest only is to be affected, everything which we may have promised by oath must be performed. And it is apparent from the words, that the Israelites were afraid lest they should expose the name of their God to disgrace among the nations of Canaan. For I think there is an emphasis in the expression — because they had sworn by the God of Israel. But a special reason left the Israelites at liberty to recede from the deceitful compact; for they had not only given up their own right, but improperly departed from the command of God, with which it was not lawful to interfere in the smallest iota. It was not in their power either to spare the vanquished or enact laws of surrender, whereas they now transact as if the business had been committed to them. We see, accordingly, that they twice profaned the name of God, while, under pretence of the oath, they persevered in defending what they had foolishly promised.
In the deference which the common people pay to their leaders, by abstaining from all violence to the Gibeonites, we behold the integrity of the age. Elsewhere it would have readily occurred to elude the promise by asserting that a whole people were not bound by the agreement of a few individuals, as the Romans did, in repudiating the Caudine peace, to which only the consuls, legates, and tribunes had sworn without the orders of the senate and people. The more praise, therefore, is due to that rude simplicity in which the religious obligation prevailed more than the too subtle arguments which the greater part of men in the present day approve and applaud. The people are indeed indignant that their leaders had taken more upon them than they were entitled to do, but their moderation does not allow them to proceed beyond murmur and noise. f82
20. This we will do to them, etc. Although, according to agreement, they give the Gibeonites their lives, they ratify the whole covenant only in part. For while the Gibeonites were entitled to be made perfectly secure, they are deprived of liberty, which is dearer than life. From this we infer that Joshua and the others had, as in a case of doubt and perplexity, devised a kind of middle course, so as not to make the oath altogether void. The principal object of this device was to appease the multitude: at the same time, while they were indignant at having been imposed upon by the Gibeonites, they punished the fraud, and did not allow impunity to increase their derision. It was a harsh condition, in this arrangement, that the Gibeonites were not; only doomed to servile labors but withdrawn from their homes, to lead a vagrant and wandering life. The office of scullions imposed on them was no less mean than laborious, but the worst, of all was to hew wood and draw water, wherever God should be pleased to station the ark.
22. And Joshua called for them, etc. As he was to deliver a sad and severe sentence, he premises that the resolution involves no injustice, because nothing would be more unbecoming than to allow tricks and wiles to be profitable to those who employ them. He therefore first expostulates with them for having warded off danger by falsehood, and then immediately pronounces them cursed. By this I understand that he throws the blame of their servitude upon themselves, because they bear nothing worse than they have deserved by their guile or perfidy; as if he had said that the ground of the condemnation which he pronounces is in themselves. It is hard, indeed, that no end is assigned to the labors to which they are doomed, for this is implied in the words, Slaves shall never cease from among you: but he declares that no injustice is done them, as they were cursed of their own accord, or by their own fault. They, indeed, extenuate the offense, by alleging the necessity which compelled them, and yet they decline not the punishment, which they acknowledge to be justly inflicted. It may indeed be, that overcome with fear, they refused nothing, nay, calmly and flatteringly f83 acquiesced in the terms imposed on them. For what could they gain by disputing? I have no doubt, however, that as they were conscious of having done wrong, and had no means of completely exculpating themselves, they considered themselves very humanely dealt with, so long as their lives were saved, f84
Go To Joshua 10:1-14
1. Now it came to pass, etc He had formerly briefly glanced at, but now more fully details the conspiracy of the kings, who dwelt both in the mountains and in the plain. For after mentioning that they were struck with fear, and leagued together to make common war, he had broken off abruptly, and proceeded to speak of the Gibeonites. But what he had previously said of the kings in general, he now applies only to one individual; not because Adoni-zedek alone was afraid, but because he stirred up all the others, and was the principal originator and leader in carrying on the war against the Israelites. This is sufficiently expressed by the plural number of the verb; for it is said, When Adoni-zedek had heard — they feared greatly. From this it appears that they were all of the same mind, but that while some of them held back from fear, he who possessed greater authority, and was nearer the danger, invited the four others to arms. f86
In the beginning of the chapter it is again told, how the five kings formed an alliance to meet the Israelites, and ward off the overthrow with which they were all threatened. But as the Gibeonites had meanwhile surrendered, they first turned their arms against them, both that by inflicting punishment upon them, as the betrayers of their country, they might make them an example to all their neighbors, and that by striking terror into those vanquished enemies, they might also inspire their own soldiers with confidence. They resolve, therefore, to attack the Gibeonites who, by their embassy, had made a disruption and opened a passage to the Israelites. They had, indeed, a fair pretext for war, in resolving to punish the effeminacy of those who had chosen to give their sanction to strangers, about to lay the whole country waste, rather than faithfully defend their neighbors. And the Gibeonites experienced how useless their crafty counsel must have been, had they not been saved in pity by the Israelites. Meanwhile the Lord allowed them to be involved in danger, in order that, being twice freed, they might more willingly and meekly submit to the yoke.
6. And the met of Gibeon sent unto Joshua, etc The course of the narrative is inverted; for the Gibeonites certainly did not wait till they were besieged, but on seeing an army levied and prepared, and having no doubt that they would have to sustain the first onset, as they had incurred general hatred, they anticipate the attack, and hasten to have recourse to the protection of Joshua. f87 To desert those to whom life had been given, would have been at once unlawful, unjust, and inhumane. Nay, as their surrender had been consequent on the agreement, they were entitled to be defended against violence and injury. With justice, therefore, they implore the Israelites, under whose protection they were; and there is no hesitation on the part of Joshua, who judges it to be his duty to defend those whose submission he had agreed to accept. They had deceived him, it is true, but after the fraud had been detected, and they had confessed it, interposing some palliating circumstances, they had obtained pardon.
Equity and a sense of duty thus did not allow the Israelites to abandon the Gibeonites to their fate. Still, Joshua is entitled to praise for his promptitude in complying with the request, and sending assistance without delay. He is said to have marched during the whole night, and thus could not have proceeded with greater haste had the safety of the whole people been at stake. Had the same sincerity always been evinced by profane nations, they would rather have assisted their allies in due time than avenged their disasters after they had suffered them. The term suddenly ought not, however, to be confined to a single day, as if Joshua had accomplished three days’ journey in a single night, and made his appearance among the Gibeonites next morning. All that is meant to be expressed is his great speed, and his not delaying his departure till next day. f88
Though the Israelites moved their camp from Ai or that neighborhood, it was the third day before they entered the confines of the Gibeonites. Granting that they then proceeded slowly in order of battle, Joshua was still at some distance when application is made to him to assist the Gibeonites. We have seen that Gilgal was the first station after crossing the Jordan, and therefore more remote than Jericho. If any one deems it absurd, that after receiving the submission of several cities, he should have turned backwards, and left an empty district, the recovery of which from the enemy might again cost new labor, I answer, there was no ground to fear that the enemy would come forward to occupy it, and engage in an expedition attended with great danger and difficulty. It is probable that when a body of troops was selected to attack Jericho, the women, children, and all others unfit for war remained in that quiet corner, where they might have the protection of those of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, who had been left on the opposite bank of the Jordan. For to what end would they have carried with them into their battles children and women heavy with child, or nursing babes at their breasts? How, during the incursions of the enemy, could food be found for such a multitude, or water sufficient to supply all their flocks and herds? I conclude, therefore, that Joshua and his soldiers returned to their tents that they might refresh themselves for a little with their wives and children, and there deposit the spoils with which they had been enriched.
8. And the Lord discomfited them, etc It is uncertain whether the Lord anticipated the movement, and armed Joshua by his oracle, drawing him forth from Gilgal before he had taken any step, or whether he only confirmed him after he had made his preparations for setting out. It seems to me more likely that Joshua did not rush forth as soon as he was asked without consulting God, but at length, after being informed of his will, took up arms boldly and speedily. As he had lately been chastised for excessive facility, it is at least a probable conjecture that in this case of difficulty, he attempted nothing except in so far as he had a divine command. The Lord, therefore, had respect to the wretched Gibeonites when he did not allow them to remain destitute without the assistance of his people.
Joshua is made confident of victory in order that he may succor them; for God stimulates us more powerfully to the performance of duty by promising than by ordering. That which is here promised to one belongs to all, but for the sake of honoring Joshua, it is specially deposited with him that he may afterwards be the bearer of it to his army. For God does not speak from heaven indiscriminately to all sorts of persons, but confers the honor only on excellent servants and chosen prophets.
It is moreover worthy of notice that Joshua did not abuse the divine promise by making it an excuse for sluggishness, but felt the more vehemently inflamed after he was assured of a happy issue. Many, while they ostentatiously express their faith, become lazy and slothful from perverse security. Joshua hears that victory is in his hand, and that he may gain it, runs swiftly to battle. For he knew that the happy issue was revealed, not for the purpose of slackening his pace or making him more remiss, but of making him exert himself with greater zeal. Hence it was that he took the enemy by surprise.
10. And the Lord discomfited them, etc In the first slaughter the Lord exerted his own might, but used the swords of the people. Hence we infer that whenever he works by men, nothing is detracted from his glory, but whatever is done redounds to him alone. For when he employs the co-operation of men, he does not call in allies as a subsidiary force, or borrow anything from them; but as he is able to accomplish whatever he pleases by a mere nod, he uses men also as instruments to show that they are ruled by his hand and will. Meanwhile it is said with truth in either way, that the enemy were routed and crushed by God, or by the Israelites, inasmuch as God crushed them by the instrumentality of the Israelites.
In the second slaughter the hand of God appeared more clearly, when the enemy were destroyed by hail. And it is distinctly stated that more were destroyed by hail than were slain by the sword, that there might be no doubt of the victory having been obtained from heaven. Hence again it is gathered that this was not common hail, such as is wont to fall during storms. For, in the first place, more would have been wounded or scattered and dispersed than suddenly destroyed; and secondly, had not God darted it directly, part would have fallen on the heads of the Israelites. Now, when the one army is attacked separately, and the other, kept free from injury, comes forward as it were to join auxiliary troops, it becomes perfectly clear that God is fighting from heaven. To the same effect it is said that God threw down great stones of hail from heaven: for the meaning is that they fell with extraordinary force, and were far above the ordinary size. If at any time, in common battles, a storm has suddenly arisen, and has proved useful to one of the parties, God has seemed to give that party a token of his favor and hence the line, Dearly beloved of heaven is he on whose side the elements are enlisted. f89 Here we have the account of a more distinguished miracle, in which the omnipotence of God was openly displayed.
12. Then spoke Joshua to the Lord, etc Such is the literal reading, but some expound it as meaning before Jehovah: for to speak to God, who, as piety dictates, is to be suppliantly petitioned, seems to be little in accordance with the modesty of faith, and it is immediately subjoined that Joshua addressed his words to the sun. I have no doubt that by the former clause prayer or vow is denoted, and that the latter is an expression of confidence after he was heard: for to command the sun to stand if he had not previously obtained permission, would have been presumptuous and arrogant. He first, then, consults God and asks: having forthwith obtained an answer, he boldly commands the sun to do what he knows is pleasing to God.
And such is the power and privilege of the faith which Christ inspires, (<401720>Matthew 17:20; <421706>Luke 17:6) that mountains and seas are removed at its command. The more the godly feel their own emptiness, the more liberally does God transfer his power to them, and when faith is annexed to the word, he in it demonstrates his own power. In short, faith borrows the confidence of command from the word on which it is founded. Thus Elias, by the command of God, shut and opened the heaven, and brought down fire from it; thus Christ furnished his disciples with heavenly power to make the elements subject to them.
Caution, however, must be used, lest any one may at his own hand presume to give forth rash commands. Joshua did not attempt to delay and check the course of the sun before he was well instructed as to the purpose of God. And although, when he is said to have spoken with God, the words do not sufficiently express the modesty and submission which become the servant of God in giving utterance to his prayers, let it suffice us briefly to understand as implied, that Joshua besought God to grant what he desired, and on obtaining his request, became the free and magnanimous herald of an incredible miracle unlike any that had previously taken place. He never would have ventured in the presence of all to command the sun so confidently, if he had not been thoroughly conscious of his vocation. Had it been otherwise, he would have exposed himself to a base and shameful affront. When, without hesitation, he opens his mouth and tells the sun and the moon to deviate from the perpetual law of nature, it is just as if he had adjured them by the boundless power of God with which he was invested. Here, too, the Lord gives a bright display of his singular favor toward his Church. As in kindness to the human race he divides the day from the night by the daily course of the sun, and constantly whirls the immense orb with indefatigable swiftness, so he was pleased that it should halt for a short time till the enemies of Israel were destroyed. f90
13. And the sun stood still, etc The question how the sun stood in Gibeon, is no less unseasonably raised by some than unskillfully explained by others. f91 For Joshua did not subtlety place the sun in any particular point, making it necessary to feign that the battle was fought at the summer solstice, but as it was turning towards the district of Ajalon as far as the eye could discern, Joshua bids it stay and rest there, in other words, remain above what is called the horizon. In short, the sun, which was already declining to the west, is kept from setting. f92
I do not give myself any great anxiety as to the number of the hours; because it is enough for me that the day was continued through the whole night. Were histories of that period extant, they would doubtless celebrate this great miracle; lest its credibility, however, should be questioned, the writer of this book mentions that an account of it was given elsewhere, though the work which he quotes has been lost, and expounders are not well agreed as to the term Jazar. Those who think Moses is meant, insist on referring the example which is here given to general predictions. As Moses applies this name to the chosen people, it is more congruous to hold that commentaries on the events in their history are meant. I, for my part, understand by it either God or Israel, rather than the author of a history. f93
14. And there was no day like that, etc We read in Isaiah and in the Sacred History, that the course of the sun was afterwards changed as a favor to King Hezekiah. (<233805>Isaiah 38:5-8) For to assure him that his life was still to be prolonged fifteen years, the shadow of the sun was carried back over ten degrees on which it had gone down. It is not, therefore, absolutely denied that anything similar had ever been conceded to any other person, but the miracle is extolled as singular. The rendering of the word [mç, by obeyed, as adopted by some, I reject as too harsh. For although it is said in the Psalm, that the Lord does according to the desire of his servants, which may be held to be equivalent to obeying, it is better to avoid anything which seems to give a subordinate office to God. f94 Simply, therefore, the excellence of the miracle is praised, as nothing like it had been seen before or had happened after. The second clause of the verse celebrates the kindness and condescension of God in hearing Joshua, as well as his paternal favor towards the people, for whom he is said to have fought.
Go To Joshua 10:15-28
15. And Joshua returned, etc This verse is not inserted in its proper place, f96 for shortly after the end of the battle is added, and the punishment inflicted on the kings, which was subsequent to the battle. We are then told of the encampment in Makkedah, and at last, in the end of the chapter, the return to Gilgal, which was introduced at the beginning without regard to the order of time, is repeated. Hence the narrative of the flight and concealment of the kings is connected with the former transactions. For having been informed during the heat of the battle that they were hiding in a cave, Joshua, fearing that if he were to set about capturing them, the others might escape, prudently contented himself with ordering the mouth of the cave to be blocked up with large stones, and setting sentinels over them, that being thus shut up, as it were in prison, they might at a fit time be brought forth and put to death. Hence, too, it appears that the army of the enemy was very large, because although the Israelites pressed closely upon them in their flight, and the sun himself gave an additional period for slaying them, it was impossible, notwithstanding, to prevent numbers of them from escaping into fortified cities. The divine assistance afforded to the Israelites was, however, sufficiently attested by the fact that they continued till they were wearied slaying at will all whom they met, and then returned safe. For the expression, that no one dared to move the tongue, implies that the Israelites gained a bloodless victory, f97 as if they had gone forth not to fight, but merely to slay.
18. And Joshua said, Roll, etc The enemy having been completely routed, Joshua is now free, and, as it were, at leisure, to inflict punishment on the kings. In considering this, the divine command must always be kept in view. But for this it would argue boundless arrogance and barbarous atrocity to trample on the necks of kings, and hang up their dead bodies on gibbets. It is certain that they had lately been raised by divine agency to a sacred dignity, and placed on a royal throne. It would therefore have been contrary to the feelings of humanity to exult in their ignominy, had not God so ordered it. But as such was his pleasure, it behooves us to acquiesce in his decision, without presuming to inquire why he was so severe.
At the same time, we must recollect, as I formerly hinted, first, that all from the least even to the greatest were deserving of death, because their iniquity had reached the highest pitch, and the kings, as more criminal than the others, deserved severer punishment; and secondly, that it was expedient to give an example of inexorable rigor in the person of the kings, whom the people, from a perverse affectation of clemency, might have been too much disposed to pardon. It was the will of God that all should be destroyed, and he had imposed the execution of this sentence on his people. Had he not stimulated them strongly to the performance of it, they might have found specious pretexts for giving pardon. But a mercy which impairs the authority of God at the will of man, is detestable. f98 Now, however, when regal honor is not spared, all handle for humanity to the plebeians and common vulgar is cut off.
By this instance, the Lord shows us the great interest he takes in his elect people; for it was an instance of rare condescension to place kings under their feet, and allow them to insult over their dignity, as if they had been petty robbers; as it is said in the Psalm, A two-edged sword is in their hand to execute vengeance on the nations, to bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with chains of iron; to execute the judgment written: this honor have all the saints. (<19E906>Psalm 149:6-9) That fearful sight had at the same time the effect of striking terror, so as to prevent the Israelites from imitating the manners of nations whose crimes they had seen so severely punished. Accordingly, we repeatedly meet in the books of Moses with this warning, You have seen how God took vengeance on the nations who were in the land of Canaan before you. Beware, therefore, of provoking the wrath of your God by their perverse doings. In one word, that God might be worshipped with greater sanctity, he ordered the land to be purged of all pollutions, and as the inhabitants had been excessively wicked, he willed that his curse should rest upon them in a new and unwonted manner.
25. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, etc Joshua now triumphs in the persons of the five kings over all the others who remained. For he exhorts his own people to confidence, just as if those who still stood unsubdued were actually prostrate under their feet. Hence we gather, that by the trampling down of a few, the whole people were so elated, that they looked down with contempt on all the others, as if they were already overthrown. And, certainly, we have here a brighter display of the divine power, which could thus inspire confidence for the future.
It is to be observed, however, that the kings were hung up, not for the purpose of exercising greater severity upon them, but merely by way of ignominy, as they were already slain. It was expedient that this memorable act of divine vengeance should be openly displayed in the view of all. Perhaps, also, it was the divine purpose to infuriate the other nations by despair, and drive them to madness, that they might bring down swifter destruction on themselves, whetting the wrath of the Israelites by their obstinacy. The same ignominy is inflicted on the king of Makkedah, though he had not led out his forces, and a similar destruction is executed on the whole people, who had kept quiet within their walls. f99 It is probable, indeed, that they had made some hostile attempt, but the special reason was, that God had passed the same sentence upon all. Why the dead bodies were thrown into the cave at evening, I have elsewhere explained. Moreover, this whole history holds up to us as in a mirror, how, when the Lord is seated on his tribunal, all worldly splendor vanishes before him, and the glory of those who seemed to excel is turned by his judgment into the greatest disgrace.
29. Then Joshua. passed, etc We have now a description of the taking of the cities, out of which the army of the enemy had been raised; and herein God displayed his power no less wonderfully than in the open field, especially when the rapidity is considered. For although those who had fled hither in trepidation might have produced some degree of panic, still, when the fear was allayed, they might be useful for defense. f100 The garrison had been increased by their numbers. When, therefore, in a short period of time, Joshua takes all the cities, and gains possession of the smaller towns, the presence of God was conspicuously manifested in a success no less incredible than unexpected. For had they, when attacked, only shut their gates, as Joshua had not brought either ladders by which he might scale the walls, or engines by which he might throw them down, each siege might have been attended with considerable fatigue and delay. Therefore, when he takes one the following day, and another the very day after attacking it, these continued, easy, and rapid victories, are evidently beyond human agency.
Not without cause, then, in the end of the chapter, is the goodness of God expressly celebrated, as it had been made manifest that he was fighting for Israel, when Joshua at once took and vanquished so many kings, with their territories. Indeed, he could never, even in a course of inspection, have passed so quickly from city to city, had not a passage been divinely opened by the removal of obstacles. The miracle was increased when the king of Geser, who had come to the help of others, doubtless with full confidence in the result, was suddenly put to rout, almost without an effort, and did not even delay the advance of the Israelites. Those who were slain in the cities represent, as in a mirror, those whose punishment the Almighty holds suspended, while he actually takes vengeance on others. For though they plume themselves on the reprieve thus afforded them, their condition is worse than if they were immediately dragged to death. f101 It looks as if it would have been a dire calamity to fall in the field of battle; and making their escape, they seek safety within their walls. But what awaited them there was much more dreadful. Their wives and their children are butchered in their sight, and their own death is more ignominious than if they had perished sword in hand. Hence there is no reason to envy the reprobate the short time which the Lord sometimes grants them, because when they have begun to promise themselves safety, sudden destruction will come upon them. (<530503>2 Thessalonians 5:3.) Meanwhile, let us learn not to abuse the patience of God when he defers to execute his judgment, and, instead of indulging in self-complacency when we seem to have been delivered from any danger, or when means of escape from it present themselves, let us reflect on the words of Jeremiah, (<242402>Jeremiah 24:2) that while the basket of early figs f102 had at least some savor, the other was so sour that they could not be eaten.
40. So Joshua smote all the country, etc Here the divine authority is again interposed in order completely to acquit Joshua of any charge of cruelty. Had he proceeded of his own accord to commit an indiscriminate massacre of women and children, no excuse could have exculpated him from the guilt of detestable cruelty, cruelty surpassing anything of which we read as having been perpetrated by savage tribes scarcely raised above the level of the brutes. But that at which all would otherwise be justly horrified, it becomes them to embrace with reverence, as proceeding from God. Clemency is justly praised as one of the principal virtues; but it is the clemency of those who moderate their wrath when they have been injured, and when they would have been justified, as individuals, in shedding blood. But as God had destined the swords of his people for the slaughter of the Amorites, Joshua could do nothing else than obey his command.
By this fact, then, not only are all mouths stopped, but all minds also are restrained from presuming to pass censure. When any one hears it said that Joshua slew all who came in his way without distinction, although they threw down their arms and suppliantly begged for mercy, the calmest minds are aroused by the bare and simple statement, but when it is added, that so God had commanded, there is no more ground for obloquy against him, than there is against those who pronounce sentence on criminals. Though, in our judgment at least, the children and many of the women also were without blame, let us remember that the judgment-seat of heaven is not subject to our laws. Nay, rather when we see how the green plants are thus burned, let us, who are dry wood, fear a heavier judgment for ourselves. And certainly, any man who will thoroughly examine himself, will find that he is deserving of a hundred deaths. Why, then, should not the Lord perceive just ground for one death in any infant which has only passed from its mother’s womb? In vain shall we murmur or make noisy complaint, that he has doomed the whole offspring of an accursed race to the same destruction; the potter will nevertheless have absolute power over his own vessels, or rather over his own clay. f103
The last verse f104 confirms the observation already made, that the fixed station of the whole people was in Gilgal; and that the soldiers who had gone out to war, returned thither, both that they might rest from their fatigues, and place their booty in safety. It would not have been proper to allow them to be more widely scattered till the casting of the lot had shown where each was to have his permanent abode.
Go To Joshua 11:1-15
1. And it came to pass when Jabin, etc In this new league also we have a bright manifestation of the more than paternal care of God, in warding off dangers from his people, and also in assisting their weakness by kindness and indulgence. Had Jabin, with the confederates of whom mention is now made, openly declared himself the ally of the neighboring kings, a much more formidable war would have broken out against the Israelites, and greater solicitude and anxiety must have seized their minds. It would, indeed, have been easy for the Lord, as well to put all their forces at once to the rout, as to dissipate all fear and dread of them. He was unwilling, however, to press beyond measure his own people, who were otherwise feeble, lest the excessive numbers of the enemy should strike them with terror, and drive them to despair. He therefore kept the many nations, whose interest it was to have rushed hastily to arms, in a state of lethargy and amazement, until the chosen people had been animated by signal victories, to carry on the wars which still remained. They pillage and devastate a large territory, and leave it destitute of inhabitants and stript of resources. None of the neighboring powers, who were afterwards to act on the offensive, makes the least movement. The Israelites revisit their wives and children in safety. When they had gathered courage, and were ready for a new war, suddenly a very large army appears, composed of different nations, who had hitherto, by remaining quiet, furnished opportunity for victory. Their coming thus forward at a later period, was the same as if they had entered into a truce. Thus God not only fought for his chosen people, but by dividing the enemy, increased their strength manifold.
How formidable must the onset have been, had not the Israelites been gradually trained to confidence in battle, and at the same time experienced the manifest assistance of God? First, their numbers are compared to the sand of the sea, and then they have horses and chariots. As the Israelites were altogether destitute of cavalry, it is strange that they were not terrified at this array. Therefore they were gradually brought forward till they were able to bear it. For, in their former battles, he had only exercised them by a kind of pleasing preludes. f105 It may be added, that the Lord had, by several victories, ever and anon borne testimony to his power, that they might not think more lightly of it than was meet. Had all their enemies been routed at once, they might, indeed, have magnificently celebrated the praises of God, but they might also have easily lost the remembrance of them. It was necessary, therefore, that repeated proofs distinct and apart from each other, should be held forth to their view, lest they might attribute one victory to a stroke of fortune.
6. And the Lord said unto, Joshua, etc The greater the labor and difficulty of destroying an army, so numerous and so well equipped, the more necessary was it to inspire them with new confidence. The Lord, therefore, appears to his servant Joshua, and promises the same success as he had previously given him on several occasions. It is to be carefully observed, that as often as he reiterates his promises men are reminded of their forgetfulness, or their sloth, or their fickleness. For unless new nourishment is every now and then given to faith, they forthwith faint and fall away. f106 And yet such is our perverse fastidiousness, that to hear the same thing twice is usually felt to be irksome. Wherefore let us learn, as often as we are called to engage in new contests, to recall the remembrance of the divine promises, which may correct our languor, or rouse us from our sloth. And especially let us make an application of that which is here said in general, to our daily practice; as the Lord now intimates, that that which he had declared concerning all nations would be specially sure and stable on the present occasion.
We infer from the account of the time employed, that these kings had marched a considerable distance, in order to attack Joshua and the people in Gilgal. For immediately after the divine intimation, mention is made of the expedition used by Joshua. f107 He is promised the victory on the following day. Hence they were not far distant. And the lake of Merom, where they had pitched their camp, is contiguous to the Jordan, and much nearer to Gilgal than Gennesaret, from which district some of the enemy had come. f108 It is said that this lake diminishes or increases according to the freezing of the snow on the mountains, or to its melting. Moreover, the command given to Joshua and the people, to cut the legs or thighs of the horses, and to burn the chariots, was undoubtedly intended to prevent them from adopting those more studied modes of warfare which were in use among profane nations. It was indeed necessary that they should serve as soldiers, and fight strenuously with the enemy, but still they were to depend only on the Lord, to consider themselves strong only in his might, and to recline on him alone.
This could scarcely have been the case, if they had been provided with cavalry, and an array of chariots. For we know how such showy equipment dazzles the eye, and intoxicates the mind with overweening confidence. Moreover, a law had been enacted, (<051716>Deuteronomy 17:16) that their kings were not to provide themselves with horses and chariots, obviously because they would have been extremely apt to ascribe to their own military discipline that which God claimed for himself. Hence the common saying, (<192007>Psalm 20:7)
“Some trust in
chariots and some in horses,
but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”
God wished to deprive them of all stimulants to audacity, in order that they might live quietly contented with their own limits, and not unjustly attack their neighbors. And experience showed, that when a bad ambition had impelled their kings to buy horses, they engaged in wars not less rashly than unsuccessfully. It was necessary, therefore, to render the horses useless for war, by cutting their sinews, and to destroy the chariots, in order that the Israelites might not become accustomed to the practices of the heathen.
8. And the Lord delivered them, etc The greatness of the overthrow may be inferred from this, that the slaughter continued as far as Sidon, which was far distant from the lake of Merom. Sidon is called great, from its celebrity as a commercial emporium and the great number of its inhabitants. There is no comparison instituted between it and a minor town of same name. The Hebrew noun Mozerephoth, which some retain without change as a proper name, we have preferred to translate “the boiling of the waters,” because it is probable that there were thermal springs there, which boiled. Moreover, as the panic which hurried them away into such a scattered flight, plainly shows that they were driven headlong by the secret terror of the Lord. So it is certain that the Israelites who dared to follow the fugitives through so many dangers were carried to a higher pitch of valor than human by celestial agency.
Praise is bestowed on Joshua as well for his abstinence as for his prompt obedience. Nor would he have submitted so willingly to the loss of so many horses and chariots, had not the fear of God overawed him. For such is our ingenuity in devising pretexts, it would have been plausible to allege, that though he could not fit them for military use, still their value was by no means to be despised. But he thought that he had no right to take anything into consideration but the pleasure of God. Then, as he had succeeded by his own good conduct, in making the people willing and obedient, he, as an individual, justly received the praise of what had been performed generally by all.
12. And all the cities of those kings, etc Having routed the army, they began to plunder and lay waste the country, and to take and demolish the towns. From its being said that the cities which remained entire were not burned, it may be inferred with some probability, that some were taken by force and assault, and so razed. Hazor, alone, after the siege was over, and the heat of the struggle had cooled, was destroyed by fire, because it had held forth the torch which enkindled the war. But in accordance with the explanation already given, it is repeatedly and more clearly stated in this passage, that Joshua did not give loose reins to his passion, when he slew all from the least to the greatest. For there is now a distinct statement of what had not yet been expressed, namely, that Joshua faithfully performed his part, by fulfilling everything which the Lord had enjoined by Moses. It is just as if he had placed his hands at the disposal of God, when he destroyed those nations according to his command. And so ought we to hold that, though the whole world should condemn us, it is sufficient to free us from all blame, that we have the authority of God. f109 Meanwhile, it becomes us prudently to consider what each man’s vocation requires, lest any one, by giving license to his zeal, as wishing to imitate Joshua, may be judged cruel and sanguinary, rather than a strict servant of God.
Go To Joshua 11:16-23
16. So Joshua took all that land, etc In the uninterrupted series of victories, when the land, of its own accord, spewed out its old inhabitants, to give free possession to the Israelites, it was visibly manifest, as is said in the Psalm, (<194403>Psalm 44:3)
“They got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them; but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou had a favor unto them.”
The design of enumerating the places and districts is to let us know that the work which God had begun he continued to carry on without interruption. But it is a mistake to suppose: as some do, that by the name Israel a certain mountain is meant. For it will be plain, from the end of the chapter, (<061121>Joshua 11:21) that the term is applied indiscriminately to the mountainous part of Israel and Judah. There is therefore an enlarge in the enumeration, because the mountains of the ten tribes are tacitly compared with the mountains of Judah. Accordingly, an antithesis is to be understood. In the other mountain (<061117>Joshua 11:17) the surname is ambiguous. Some understand it to mean division, as if it had been cut in two; f110 others to mean smooth, as it was destitute of trees, just as a head is rendered smooth by baldness. As the point is uncertain, and of little importance, the reader is at liberty to make his choice.
18. Joshua made war a long time, etc Before, he had, in a short time, and, as it were, with the swiftness of running, seized possession of five kingdoms; in the others the case was different, not from hesitation, or weariness, or sloth, but because the Lord exercised his people variously, that he might give a brighter display of his manifold grace, which usually loses its value in our eyes, if it is exhibited only in one and the same way. Therefore, as the divine power had formerly been signally manifested by incredible facility of accomplishment, when the enemy were routed in an instant, so a lingering warfare now furnished numerous proofs of heavenly aid. f111 Nor did this happen suddenly and unexpectedly; for God had foretold by Moses that so it would be, lest, if the land were at once converted into a desert, the wild beasts might gain the ascendancy. (<050722>Deuteronomy 7:22) In short, we here perceive, as in a mirror, that whatever the Lord had promised by Moses was accomplished in reality, and by no dubious event. But while we recognize the certainty of the promises of God, we ought also to meditate on the favor confirmed towards his chosen people, in that he acted as the provident head of a family, not neglecting or omitting anything which tended to their advantage.
19. There was not a city that made peace, etc This sentence appears, at first sight, contradictory to what is everywhere said in the books of Moses, that the Israelites were not to enter into any league with those nations, or make any terms of peace with them, but, on the contrary, to destroy them utterly, and wipe out their race and name. (<022332>Exodus 23:32; <050702>Deuteronomy 7:2) f112 Seeing the nations were thus excluded from the means of making any paction, and would in vain have made any proposals for peace, it seems absurd to ascribe the destruction, which they had not even the means of deprecating, to their obstinacy.
For, let us suppose that they had sent ambassadors before them with olive branches in their hands, and had been intent on pacific measures, Joshua would at once have answered that he could not lawfully enter into any negotiation, as the Lord had forbidden it. Wherefore, had they made a hundred attempts to avoid war, they must, nevertheless, have perished. Why, then, are they blamed for not having sought peace, as if they had not been driven by necessity to right, after they saw they had to do with an implacable people? But if it was not free to them to act otherwise, it is unjust to lay any blame upon them when they acted under compulsion in opposing the fury of their enemy.
To this objection, I answer, that the Israelites, though they were forbidden to show them any mercy, were met in a hostile manner, in order that the war might be just. And it was wonderfully arranged by the secret providence of God, that, being doomed to destruction, they should voluntarily offer themselves to it, and by provoking the Israelites be the cause of their own ruin. The Lord, therefore, besides ordering that pardon should be denied them, also incited them to blind fury, that no room might be left for mercy. And it behooved the people not to be too wise or prying in this matter. For while the Lord, on the one hand, interdicted them from entering into any covenant, and, on the other, was unwilling that they should take hostile measures without being provoked, a too anxious discussion of the procedure might have greatly unsettled their minds. Hence the only way of freeing themselves from perplexity was to lay their care on the bosom of God. And he in his incomprehensible wisdom provided that when the time for action arrived, his people should not be impeded in their course by any obstacle. Thus the kings beyond the Jordan, as they had been the first to take up arms, justly suffered the punishment of their temerity. For the Israelites did not assail them with hostile arms until they had been provoked. In the same way, also, the citizens of Jericho, by having shut their gates, were the first to declare war. The case is the same with the others, who, by their obstinacy, furnished the Israelites with a ground for prosecuting the war.
It now appears how perfectly consistent the two things are. The Lord commanded Moses to destroy the nations whom he had doomed to destruction; and he accordingly opened a way for his own decree when he hardened the reprobate. In the first place, then, stands the will of God, which must be regarded as the principal cause. For seeing their iniquity had reached its height, he determined to destroy them. This was the origin of the command given to Moses, a command, however, which would have failed of its effect had not the chosen people been armed to execute the divine judgment, by the perverseness and obstinacy of those who were to be destroyed. God hardens them for this very end, that they may shut themselves out from mercy. f113 Hence that hardness is called his work, because it secures the accomplishment of his design. Should any attempt be made to darken so clear a matter by those who imagine that God only looks down from heaven to see what men will be pleased to do, and who cannot bear to think that the hearts of men are curbed by his secret agency, what else do they display than their own presumption? They only allow God a permissive power, and in this way make his counsel dependent on the pleasure of men. But what says the Spirit? That the hardening is from God, who thus precipitates those whom he means to destroy.
21. And at that time came Joshua, etc Of the sons of Anak we have spoken elsewhere. They were a race of giants, with the account of whose mighty stature the spies so terrified the people, that they refused to proceed into the land of Canaan. Therefore, seeing they were objects of so much dread, it was of importance that they should be put out of the way, and the people made more alert by their good hopes of success. It would have been exceedingly injurious f114 to keep objects which filled them with alarm and anxiety always present before their minds, inasmuch as fear obscured the glory ascribed to God for former victories, and overthrew their faith, while they reflected that the most difficult of all their contests still awaited them. Therefore, not without cause is it mentioned among the other instances of divine aid, that by purging the land of such monsters, it was rendered a fit habitation for the people. The less credible it seemed that they could be warred against with success, the more illustriously was the divine power displayed.
23. So Joshua took the whole land, f115 etc Although it was far from being true that Joshua had actually acquired the whole land, yet he is truly said to have obtained it as God had declared to Moses, the latter clause restricting the meaning of the general sentence. For it had been expressly added that the conquest which God had promised would be made gradually, lest it should afterwards become necessary to war with the ferocious wild beasts of the woods, if they pressed forward into a desert waste. Therefore, we are at liberty to say, that though the Lord had not yet placed his people in possession of the promised land, yet he had virtually performed what he had agreed to do, inasmuch as he gave a commodious habitation, and one which was sufficient for the present time. And the words used imply that other district, which had not yet come into their full and actual possession, are included; for it is said that that which they had acquired was distributed according to families. And, in short, we afterwards see in the division that the lands were divided into lots which were not actually subdued by the people till Joshua was dead, nay, till many ages after. f116 The meaning of the words, which is now plain, is simply this, that while Joshua was still alive, a certain specimen of the promise was exhibited, making him feel perfectly secure in dividing the land by lot. f117
Go To Joshua 12:1-24
1. NOW these are the kings, etc This chapter does not need a lengthened exposition, as it only enumerates the kings of whose territories the Israelites gained possession. Two of them are beyond the Jordan, Og and Sihon, whose rule was extensive; in the land of Canaan there are thirty-one. But though each of those now summarily mentioned was previously given more in detail, there is very good reason for here placing before our eyes as it were a living picture of the goodness of God, proving that there had been a complete ratification and performance of the covenant made with Abraham as given in the words, “Unto thy seed will I give this land.” (<011207>Genesis 12:7; <011315>Genesis 13:15; <011518>Genesis 15:18) This living image of the grace of God is here set before us as if the reality were actually present. f118 Joshua was eighty years of age when he entered the land. In this aged man how could there be so much vigor f119 as to fit him for carrying on so many wars and enduring the fatigues of warfare, had not celestial virtue furnished him with more than mortal strength? And were not his uninterrupted career of victory, his success under all circumstances, the ease, free from doubt and uncertainty, with which he stormed cities, the rapidity of his movements, and his inflexible firmness — were not all these clear evidences of the hand of God, just as if it had appeared from heaven?
The object of defining the countries by their boundaries was to give a better display of the divine power by setting forth their extent; but this of course was only for those to whom their site was known. Hence, for any one not acquainted with the geography to dwell upon the names, would be vain and foolish curiosity. I admit, indeed, that it is useful to pay attention to the places with which, from their being often mentioned in Scripture, our knowledge ought to be somewhat more familiar, as when the boundaries are fixed by the brook Jabok, in the district of Lebanon and the lake of Gennesaret, here called the Sea of Cineroth, and elsewhere Cinereth. For a slight attention will help us to understand the narrative. If we cannot go farther, let us leave those who are better skilled to give a more searching discussion of what is beyond our reach. f120 But although the dominions of these petty kings were narrow and not very populous, we shall however see that many towns were annexed to their principal cities; their number may be ascertained especially from what is said of the lot of the Levites. On the other hand, if we reflect how one small territory could receive and maintain old men, women, and children, nay, a great part of the people with their domestic animals, we cannot fail to admire the inestimable goodness of God which prevented all things from being thrown into complete and irremediable confusion. f121
Go To Joshua 13:1-14
1. Now Joshua was old, etc f122 Since we have seen above that the land was pacified by the subjugation of thirty-one kings, it is probable that some cessation now took place for the purpose of resting from their fatigues, lest the people should be worn out by continual service. Nor could that justly be blamed, provided they rested only for a time and continued always intent on the goal set before them. But lest that intermission which was given for the purpose of recruiting new vigor might prove an occasion of sloth, the Lord employs a new stimulus to urge them to proceed. For he orders the whole inheritance to be divided into tribes, and the whole line of the Mediterranean coast which was possessed by the enemy to be put into the lot. A division of this kind might indeed seem absurd and ludicrous, nay, a complete mockery, seeing they were dealing among themselves with the property of others just as if it had been their own. But the Lord so appointed for the best of reasons. First, they might have cast away the hope of the promise and been contented with their present state. Nay, although after the lot was cast they had security in full for all that God had promised, they by their own cowardice, as far as in them lay, destroyed the credit of his words. Nor was it owing to any merit of theirs that his veracity did not lie curtailed and mutilated. The allocation by lot must therefore have been to them an earnest of certain possession so as to keep them always in readiness for it. Secondly, Those who happened to have their portion assigned in an enemy’s country, inasmuch as they were living in the meanwhile as strangers on precarious hospitality beyond their own inheritance, must have acted like a kind of task-masters spurring on the others. And it surely implied excessive stupor to neglect and abandon what had been divinely assigned to them.
We now see to what intent the whole land behooved to be divided by lot, and the seat of each tribe allocated. It was also necessary that this should be done while Joshua was alive, because after his death the Israelites would have been less inclined to obedience, for none of his successors possessed authority sufficient for the execution of so difficult a task. Moreover, as God had already by the mouth of Moses commanded it to be done, had he not performed the business thus committed to him, the whole work might have gone to wreck when the lawful minister was removed. Although the exact time is not stated, still it is probable that as there was no hope that while Joshua continued alive the people would again take up arms with the view of giving a wider extent to their boundaries, he then only attempted to divide the land, as if he were proclaiming and promising, by a solemn attestation, that the distribution would certainly be carried into effect, because the truth of God could not fail in consequence of the death of any man.
2. This is the land, etc The ancient boundaries long ago fixed by God, are recalled to remembrance, in order that Joshua. and the people may feel fully persuaded that the covenant made with Abraham would be fulfilled in every part. Wherefore they are enjoined to make it their study to acquire the parts still remaining to be possessed. The inference will be appropriate if we make a practical application of this perseverance to that which is required of us, viz., to forget the things which are behind, and reach forth unto those that are before, and press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling. (<504114>Philippians 2:14.) For it would be of no use to run in the race without endeavoring to reach the goal.
The boundary commenced with a river separating Egypt toward the sea from the Holy Land, and most probably the river Nile, as we interpret it according to the received opinion, or a small stream which flowed past the town of Rhinocornea, believed by many to be Raphia or Raphane. f123 It is indeed beyond dispute that the inheritance of the people commencing in that quarter was contiguous to Egypt. But although I have followed the opinion of the majority of expositors, that the boundaries were not extended further than to the less cultivated and in a manner desert land, lest greater proximity might have been injurious by leading to too close familiarity with the Egyptians, I by no means repudiate a different opinion.
The third verse raises a question. After it is said that the territories towards the sea-coast were five, a sixth is added, namely, that of the Avites. Some think that it is not counted among the five because it was an insignificant province. But I would have my readers to consider whether there may not be an indirect antithesis between a free people, their own masters, and five territories ruled by sovereigns. Hence the Avites being in different circumstances are mentioned separately, the plural number being used for the sake of distinction. In the enumeration of the sovereignties they are not arranged in the order of their dignity or opulence, but the first place is given to Aza because of its nearness to Egypt, and the same remark applies to Ashdod and the others.
The Septuagint translators, according to their usual custom, employ the Greek g (gamma) to express the Hebrew [ (ain), and thus give the name of Gaza to that which in Hebrew is Aza, in the same way as they convert Amorrha into Gomorrha. f124 This sufficiently exposes the mistake of those who suppose that its name is Persian, and derived from its resources f125 in consequence of Cambyses, when about to carry on war in Greece, having made it the depot of his treasures. But as in the Acts, (<440826>Acts 8:26,) Luke speaks of “Gaza which is desert,” it appears that a city of the same name was erected near it, but on a different site. Ashdod is the same as that which the Greeks called Azotus. The whole of this tract, which is either on the sea-coast or verging towards it, extends as far as Sidon. And there are some who think that the Phoenicians were once masters both of Gaza and Azotus. How far Lebanon extends is sufficiently known. f126 For it sometimes comprehends Mount Hermon; and on account of its length part of it is surnamed Antilibanus. f127 The reader will find the subject of Mount Hermon considered in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy. Towards the east is Hamath, which is also Antioch of Syria.
6. All the inhabitants of the hill country, etc Joshua is again admonished, though the Israelites do not yet possess those regions, not to defer the partition, but trust to the promise of God, because it would detract injuriously from his honor if there were any doubt as to the event. It is accordingly said: Only do what is thy duty in the distribution of the land; nor let that which the enemy still hold securely be exempted from the lot; for it will be my care to fulfil what I have promised. Hence let us learn in undertaking any business, so to depend on the lips of God as that no doubt can delay us. It is not ours, indeed, to fabricate vain hopes for ourselves; but when our confidence is founded on the Lord, let us only obey his commands, and there is no reason to fear that the event will disappoint us.
He afterwards assigns the land of Canaan to nine tribes and a half tribe, because the portion of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh had already been assigned beyond the Jordan. Though there is a seeming tautology in the words, Which Moses gave them, as Moses gave them, there is nothing superfluous, because in the second clause the donation is confirmed; as if God were ordering that which was done to be ratified, or saying, in other words, As Moses gave them that land, so let them remain tranquil in the possession of it. f128 For this reason also he is distinguished by the title of servant of God, as if it were said, Let no one interfere with that decree which a faithful minister has pronounced on the authority of God. It was certainly necessary to provide by anticipation against the disputes which otherwise must have daily arisen.
14. Only unto the tribe of Levi, etc This exception was also necessary, lest the Levites might allege that they were unjustly disinherited, and thus excite great commotions in regard to their right. He therefore reminds them that Moses was the author of this distinction, and, at the same time, shows that they have no reason to complain of having been in any way defrauded, because an excellent compensation was given them. For although the sacrifices were not equally divided among the Levites, their subsistence was sufficiently provided for by all the first-fruits and the tithes. Moreover, as God allures them by hire to undertake the charge of sacred things, so he exhorts the people in their turn to be faithful in paying the sacred oblations by declaring that their sacrifices are the maintenance of the Levites. f129
Go To Joshua 13:15-33
15. And Moses gave unto the tribe, etc What he seemed to have said with sufficient clearness he now follows more fully in detail, not only that the reading might incite the people to gratitude, seeing the divine goodness recorded in public documents, and, as it were, constantly before their eyes, but also that each might enjoy his inheritance without molestation and quarrel. For we know how ingenious human cupidity is in devising pretexts for litigation, so that no one can possess his right in safety unless a plain and perspicuous definition of his right make it impossible to call it in question. That country had been given without casting lots. It was therefore open to others to object that the just proportion had not been kept, and that the inequality behooved to be corrected. Therefore, that no unseasonable dispute might ever disturb the public peace, the boundaries are everywhere fixed by the authority of God, and disputes of every kind are removed by setting up landmarks. God does not by one single expression merely adjudge the whole kingdom of Sihon to the tribe of Reuben, but he traces their extreme limit from Aroer to the banks of the Arnon, and thus, making an entire circuit, contracts or widens their territory so as not to leave the possession of a single acre ambiguous. Moreover, how useful this exact delineation was may be learned from profane history, where we everywhere meet, not only with invidious but pernicious disputes among neighbors as to their boundaries.
We may add that the care which the Lord condescended to take in providing for his people, and in cherishing mutual peace among them, demonstrates his truly paternal love, since he omitted nothing that might conduce to their tranquillity. And, indeed, had not provision been thus early made, they might have been consumed by intestine quarrels. f130
I again beg my readers to excuse me if I do not labor anxiously in describing the situation of towns, and am not even curious in regard to names. Nay, I will readily allow those names which it was thought proper to leave as proper nouns in Hebrew to be used appellatively, and so far altered as to give them a Latin form. f131
It is worthy of notice, that when the land of the Midianites is referred to, the princes who ruled over it are called Satraps of Sihon, to let us know that they shared in the same overthrow, because they had involved themselves in an unjust war, and belonged to the government of Sihon, an avowed enemy. And to make it still more clear that they perished justly, it is told that among the slain was Balaam, by whose tongue they had attempted to wound the Israelites more grievously than by a thousand swords; f132 just as if it had been said that in that slaughter they found the hostile banner, by which they had declared themselves at open war with the Israelites. When it is said that the Jordan was a boundary, and a boundary, it will be proper, in order to prevent useless repetition, to interpret that Jordan was a boundary to them according to its limits. f133
24. And Moses gave inheritance unto the tribe of Gad, etc The observation made above applies also to the tribe of Gad, namely, that their legitimate boundaries were carefully defined in order to prevent disputes as to their possession. Meanwhile God is extolled for his liberality in having expelled nations of great celebrity, and substituted them in their stead. This is expressed more clearly in regard to the half tribe of Manasseh, when sixty cities are enumerated as included in their inheritance. Hence, too, it is manifest that Moses was not munificent through mistake, because it was well known to God how many cities he was giving them out of his boundless liberality. In a short clause the tribe of Levi is again excluded, that the Levites might not be able at some future period to pretend that the grant which the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh had obtained without the casting of lots, belonged in common to them also; for they are expressly forbidden to share with their brethren. This made it easy for them to interpret shrewdly for their advantage, that they were entitled to share with others. Here, however, it is not the sacrifices, as a little before, but God Himself that is said to be their inheritance; if they are not satisfied with it, they only convict themselves of excessive pride and insufferable fastidiousness. f134
Go To Joshua 14:1-15
1. And these are the countries, etc He now proceeds to the land of Canaan, from which nine tribes and a half were to obtain their lots. And he will immediately break off the thread of the narrative, as we shall see. Yet the transition is seasonably made from that region whose situation was different, to let the reader know that the discourse was to be concerning the land of Canaan, which was to be divided by lot. We have said that Joshua and Eleazar not only divided what the Israelites had already acquired, but trusting in the promise of God, confidently included whatever he had promised to his people, just as if they had been in actual possession of it. We shall see, indeed, that the division was not all at once made complete, but when the first lot turned up in favor of Judah, the turns of the others were left in hope.
Here a difficult question arises. How can it be said that the distribution of the land was made by Joshua, Eleazar, and the princes, if lots were cast? For the lot is not regulated by the opinion or the will or the authority of man. Should any one answer, that they took charge and prevented any fraud from being committed, the difficulty is not removed, nay, this evasion will be refuted from the context. It is to be known, therefore, that they were not selected simply to divide the land by lot, but also afterwards to enlarge or restrict the boundaries of the tribes by giving to each its due proportion. That this business could not be accomplished by a naked lot is very apparent. For while, according to human ideas, nothing is more fortuitous than the result of a lot, it was not known whether God might choose to place the half tribe of Manasseh where the tribe of Judah obtained its settlement, or whether Zebulun might not occupy the place of Ephraim. Therefore they were not at liberty at the outset to proceed farther than to divide the land into ten districts or provinces. In this way, however, the space belonging to each would remain indefinite. For had an option been given to each, some would have chosen to fix themselves in the center, others would have preferred a quiet locality, while others would have been guided in their choice by the fertility of the soil, or the climate and beauty of the scenery. But the lot placed the tribe of Judah, as it were, at the head, while it sent that of Zebulun away to the seashore, placed the tribe of Benjamin adjacent to that of Judah, and removed that of Ephraim to a greater distance. In short, the effect of the lot was that ten divisions fell out from Egypt towards Syria, and from the north quarter to the Mediterranean Sea, making some neighbors to the Egyptians, and giving to others maritime positions, to others hilly districts, to others intervening valleys.
This being understood, the office remaining for the rulers of the people was to trace out the boundaries on all sides in accordance with the rules of equity. It remained, therefore, for them to calculate how many thousand souls there were in every tribe, and to assign more or less space to each, according to the greatness or the smallness of their numbers. For in conformity to the divine command, a due proportion was to be observed, and a larger or narrower district was to be assigned, according as the census which was taken had ascertained the numbers to be. (Numbers 26) To the judgment of the princes was it in like manner left to shape the territories, regulating the length and breadth as circumstances might require. It is necessary also to bear in mind what is said in Numbers 26, that the ten who are here called heads of families were appointed to execute this office, not by the suffrages of men, but by the voice of God. Thus each tribe had its own overseers to prevent either fraud or violence from being committed. Then it would have been impious to have any suspicion of those who had been nominated by God. Such is the manner in which Joshua may be said to have distributed the land, though it was portioned out by lot.
4. They gave no part unto the Levites, etc It is here repeated for the third time with regard to the Levites, that they were not included in the number, so as to have the portion of a tribe assigned to them; but it is mentioned for a different purpose, for it is immediately after added, that the sons of Joseph were divided into two tribes, and were thus privileged to obtain a double portion. Thus had Jacob prophesied, (Genesis 49) or rather, like an arbiter appointed by God, he had in this matter preferred the sons of Joseph to the others. God therefore assumed the Levites to himself as a peculiar inheritance, and in their stead substituted one of the two families of Joseph.
6. Then the children of Judah came, etc Here the account which had been begun as to the partition of the land is broken off to make way for the insertion of a narrative, namely, that Caleb requested Mount Hebron to be given to him as he had been promised by Moses. This happened a long time before the people had ceased from making war, and it became necessary to cast lots. It is stated to be the fifth year since their entrance into the land, and he does not ask for a locality to be given up to him which was already subdued and cleared of the enemy, but in the midst of the noise and heat of warfare, he asks to be permitted to acquire it by routing and slaying its giants. He only seeks to provide, that when his valor has subdued the giants, he is not to be defrauded of the reward of his labor. The method of so providing, is to prevent its being included in the common lot of a tribe. Accordingly, he does not put forth the claim by himself alone, but the members of his tribe, the sons of Judah also concur with him, because the effect of conferring this extraordinary benefit on one family was so far to make an addition to all. Hence though Caleb alone speaks, all the tribe whose interest it was that his request should be granted were present.
I am not clear why the surname of Kenite was given to Caleb. He is so called also in Numbers 32. I am not unaware of the conjecture of some expositors, that he was so surnamed from Kenas, because either he himself or some one of his ancestors dwelt among the Kenites. But I see no solid foundation for this. What if he gained this title by some illustrious deed, just as victors sometimes assume a surname from the nations they have subdued? As the promise had not been inserted into any public record, and Joshua was the only witness now surviving, he makes his application to him. And it is probable that when the ten spies made mention of the names of the Anakim, with the view of terrifying the people, Caleb, to refute their dishonesty, answered with truth, that when he beheld them on Mount Hebron, they were so far from being terrible, that he would attack them at his own hand, provided that on their expulsion he should succeed to their lands; and that on these conditions Moses ceded to him a habitation in that locality which he should have acquired by his own prowess.
7. Forty years old was I, etc He seems to talk of his own virtue in rather loftier terms than becomes a pious and modest man. But let us remember that, seeing the thing was in itself invidious and liable to many objections, it stood in need of special commendation as a means of suppressing envy. He therefore mentions that he had acted in good faith in bringing back an account of what he had learned concerning the land. For the expression, “As it was in my heart,” evidently denotes sincerity, the heart being thus opposed to deceitful words. It is a ridiculous fiction to imagine that he had said it in his heart, because from fear of being killed by his companions he had not ventured to mention anything of the kind by the way. Nothing more is meant than simply this, that he acted honestly according to the command given him, without gloss or dissimulation. He enlarges on the merit of his integrity, because though he was opposed by all his colleagues, with the exception of Joshua, he did not yield to their malice, nor was dispirited by their iniquitous conspiracy, but steadfastly pursued his purpose. The words taken in their most literal sense are, I filled or fulfilled to go after thy God; but the obvious meaning is, that he was not seduced from a faithful discharge of his duty by the wicked machination of ten men, however difficult it was to resist them, because he followed God with inflexible perseverance, feeling perfectly assured that God was the author of the expedition, from which those perfidious men were endeavoring to draw off the people.
Let us learn from this passage, first, that unless the last part corresponds to the first, good beginnings vanish away; secondly, that constancy is deserving of praise only when we follow God.
9. And Moses swear on that day, etc Here, then, is one fruit of the embassy honestly and faithfully performed — to gain possession of an inheritance of which the whole people is deprived. For although long life is justly accounted one of the mercies of God, the end proposed by it is here added, viz., that Caleb may obtain the inheritance which is denied to others. This was no ordinary privilege. He next extols the faithfulness of God in having prolonged his life, and not only so, but supplied vigor and strength, so that though he was now above eighty years of age, he was not a whit feebler than when in the flower of his youth. Others, too, had a green old age, but they were few in number, and then in their case there was not added to the even tenor of their days a manly vigor, remaining wholly unimpaired up to their eighty-fifth year. For he lays claim not only to the skill and valor of a leader, but also to the physical strength of a soldier.
He next adds the other offices and actions of his life. For to go out and in is equivalent in Hebrew to the observance and execution of all parts of our duty. And this Caleb confirms by fact, when he demands it as his task to assail and expel the giants. He is not, however, elated by stolid pride to a confident assurance of victory, but hopes for a prosperous event from the assistance of God. There seems, indeed, to be an incongruous expression of doubt in the word Perhaps, as if he were begirding himself fortuitously for the fight. f135 Those expositors who think that he is distrusting himself from a feeling of modesty and considering his own weakness, say something to the point, but do not say the whole. They certainly omit what is of principal import, viz., that this Perhaps refers to the common feelings which men would entertain on taking a view of the actual state of matters.
The first thing necessary is duly to consider what his design is. Had he asked the gift of a mountain, which he could have seized without any great exertion, in would have been more difficult to obtain it. But now when the difficulty of the task is plainly set forth, he gains the favor of Joshua and the princes, because in assenting to his prayer, they grant him nothing but the certainty of an arduous, doubtful, and perilous contest. Knowing, then, that the children of Israel trembled and were in terror at the very name of the giants, he speaks according to their opinion as of a matter attended with doubt and uncertainty. As regards himself, the words clearly demonstrate how far he was from viewing that which had been said to him with a dubious or vacillating mind. I shall drive them out, he says, as the Lord has declared. Shall we say that when he utters the declaration of God, he is in doubt whether or not God will do what he promised? It is quite plain that he only reminded them how dangerous the business was, in order that he might the more easily obtain their assent. Although it is not uncommon in Hebrew to employ this term to denote difficulty merely, without meaning to imply that the mind is agitated by distrust or disquietude. How very difficult it was to drive out the giants from that fastness, may be inferred from the fact that the death of Joshua took place before Caleb ventured to attack them.
13. And Joshua blessed him, etc He prayed thus earnestly to show the delight he felt. For it was expedient by way of example to extol his valor, by which others might be incited to surmount all their fears. For it was just as if he had gained an eminence from which he could look down upon the giants. The blessing of Caleb, therefore, includes in it praise which may have the effect of an exhortation to the people. In the end of the chapter it is said, that the name of Hebron was Ciriath-Arba, (Kirjath-Arba.) Here it is to be observed, that it is not the mountain itself that is meant, but the principal city, of which there is frequent mention in Scripture. It is said to have received the surname from a giant famous for his stature. And this refutes the imagination of those expositors who insist that it was so called from having been the burial-place of four patriarchs — Adam, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
It is plain that Caleb, in making the request, had not been looking to present ease or private advantage, since he does not aspire to the place that had been given him till many years after. Wherefore it was no less the interest of the whole people than of one private family, that that which as yet depended on the incomprehensible grace of God, and was treasured up merely in hope, should be bestowed as a special favor. A grant which could not take effect without a wonderful manifestation of divine agency could scarcely be invidious.
A question, however, arises. Since Hebron not only became the portion of the Levites, but was one of the cities of refuge, how could the grant stand good? If we say that Caleb was contented with other towns, and resigned his right to the Levites, it is obvious that the difficulty is not solved, because Caleb is distinctly appointed owner of that city. But if we reflect that the right of dwelling in the cities was all that was granted to the Levites, there will be no inconsistency. Meanwhile, no small praise is due to the moderation of Caleb, who, in a locality made his own by extraordinary privilege, did not refuse an hospitable reception to the Levites. f137
Go To Joshua 15:1-13
1. I have already premised, that I would not be very exact in delineating the site of places, and in discussing names, partly because I admit that I am not well acquainted with topographical or chorographic science, and partly because great labor would produce little fruit to the reader; f138 nay, perhaps the greater part of readers would toil and perplex themselves without receiving any benefit. With regard to the subject in hand, it is to be observed, that the lot of the tribe of Judah not only falls on elevated ground, the very elevation of the territory, indicating the dignity of the future kingdom, but a similar presage is given by its being the first lot that turns up. What had already been obtained by arms, they begin to divide. The names of the ten tribes are cast into the urn. Judah is preferred to all the others. Who does not see that it is raised to the highest rank, in order that the prophecy of Jacob may be fulfilled? Then within the limits here laid down, it is well known that there were rich pastures, and vineyards celebrated for their productiveness and the excellence of their wines. In this way, while the lot corresponds with the prophecy of Jacob, it is perfectly clear that it did not so happen by chance; the holy patriarch had only uttered what was dictated by the Spirit.
If any are better skilled in places, a more minute investigation will be pleasant and useful to them. But lest those who are less informed feel it irksome to read unknown names, let them consider that they have obtained knowledge of no small value, provided they bear in mind the facts to which I have briefly and summarily adverted — that the tribe of Judah was placed on elevated ground, that it might be more conspicuous than the others, until the scepter should arise from it — and that a region of fruitful vineyards and rich pastures was assigned to his posterity — and, finally, all this was done, in order that the whole people might recognize that there was nothing of the nature of chance in the turning up of a lot, which had been foretold three centuries before. Besides, it is easy for the unlearned to infer from the long circuit described, that the territory thus allocated to one tribe was of great extent. f139 For although some diminution afterwards took place, its dominions always continued to be the largest.
It is necessary, however, to bear in mind what I formerly observed, that nothing else was determined by the lot than that the boundary of the children of Judah was to be contiguous to the land of Edom and the children of Sin, and that their boundary, in another direction, was to be the river of Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea — that those who had been selected to divide the country proceeded according to the best of their judgment, in proportioning the quantity of territory allotted to the number of their people, without extending their boundaries any farther — and that they followed the same method in other cases, as vicinity or other circumstances demanded.
Any error into which they fell, did not at all affect the general validity of their decision. For as they were not ashamed partly to recall any partition that might have been made without sufficient consideration, so the people in their turn, while they acknowledged that they had acted in the matter with the strictest good faith and honesty, submitted the more willingly to whatever they determined. Thus, notwithstanding any particular error, their general arrangements received full effect.
It will be worth while to make one remark on the city Jebus, whose name was afterwards Jerusalem. Although it had been already chosen, by the secret counsel of God, for his sanctuary, and the seat of the future kingdom, it however continued in the possession of the enemy down to the time of David. In this long exclusion from the place on which the sanctity, excellence, and glory of the rest of the land were founded, there was a clear manifestation of the divine curse inflicted to punish the people for their sluggishness: since it was virtually the same as if the land had been deprived of its principal dignity and ornament. But on the other hand, the wonderful goodness of God was conspicuous in this, that the Jebusites who, from the long respite which had been given them, seemed to have struck their roots most deeply, were at length torn up, and driven forth from their secure position.
13. And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh, etc Were we to judge from the actual state of matters, it would seem ridiculous repeatedly to celebrate an imaginary grant from which Caleb received no benefit while Joshua was alive. But herein due praise is given both to the truth of God, and to the faith of his saint in resting on his promise. Therefore, although sneering men, and the inhabitants of the place itself, if the rumor had reached them, might have derided the vain solicitude of Caleb, and the empty liberality of Joshua, the contempt thus expressed would only have proved them to be presumptuous scoffers. God at length evinced the firmness of his decree by the result, and Caleb, though he saw himself unable to obtain access to the mountain, testified that he was contented with the mere promise of God, the true exercise of faith, consisting in a willingness to remain without the fruition of things which have been promised till the period actually arrive. Moreover, this passage, and others similar to it, teach us that the giants who are usually called Enakim, were so named after their original progenitor, Enac, and that the word is hence of Gentile origin. The time when Caleb routed the sons of Enac we shall see in a short time. This passage also shows us that Caleb, when he brought forward the name of Moses, did not make a mere pretence, or utter anything that was not strictly true; for it is now plainly declared, that Moses had so appointed, in conformity with the command of God.
Go To Joshua 15:14-63
Here we have a narrative of what plainly appears from the book of Joshua to have taken place subsequent to the death of Joshua; but lest a question might have been raised by the novelty of the procedure, in giving a fertile and well watered field as the patrimony of a woman, the writer of the book thought proper to insert a history of that which afterwards happened, in order that no ambiguity might remain in regard to the lot of the tribe of Judah. First, Caleb is said, after he had taken the city of Hebron, to have attacked Debir or Ciriath-sepher, and to have declared, that the person who should be the first to enter it, would be his son-in-law. And it appears, that when he held out this rare prize to his fellow-soldiers for taking the city, no small achievement was required. This confirms what formerly seemed to be the case, that it was a dangerous and difficult task which had been assigned him, when he obtained his conditional grant. Accordingly, with the view of urging the bravest to exert themselves, he promises his daughter in marriage as a reward to the valor of the man who should first scale the wall.
It is afterwards added that Othniel who was his nephew by a brother, gained the prize by his valor. I know not how it has crept into the common translation that he was a younger brother of Caleb; for nothing in the least degree plausible can be said in defense of the blunder. Hence some expositors perplex themselves very unnecessarily in endeavoring to explain how Othniel could have married his niece, since such marriage was forbidden by the law. It is easy to see that he was not the uncle, but the cousin of his wife.
But here another question arises, How did Caleb presume to bargain concerning his daughter until he was made acquainted with her inclinations? f140 Although it is the office of parents to settle their daughters in life, they are not permitted to exercise tyrannical power and assign them to whatever husbands they think fit without consulting them. For while all contracts ought to be voluntary, freedom ought to prevail especially in marriage that no one may pledge his faith against his will. But Caleb was probably influenced by the belief that his daughter would willingly give her consent, as she could not modestly reject such honorable terms; f141 for the husband to be given her was no common man, but one who should excel all others in warlike prowess. It is quite possible, however, that Caleb in the heat of battle inconsiderately promised what it was not in his power to perform. It seems to me, however, that according to common law, the agreement implied the daughter’s consent, and was only to take effect if it was obtained. f142 God certainly heard the prayer of Caleb, when he gave him a son-in-law exactly to his mind. For had the free choice been given him, there was none whom he would have preferred.
18. And it came to pass as she came unto him, etc Although we may conjecture that the damsel Acsa was of excellent morals and well brought up, as marriage with her had been held forth as the special reward f143 of victory, yet perverse cupidity on her part is here disclosed. She knew that by the divine law women were specially excluded from hereditary lands, but she nevertheless covets the possession of them, and stimulates her husband by unjust expostulation. In this way ambitious and covetous wives cease not to molest their husbands until they force them to forget shame, modesty, and equity. For although the avarice of men also is insatiable, yet women are apt to be much more precipitate. The more carefully ought husbands to be on their guard against being set as it were on flame by the blast of such importunate counsels. f144
But a greater degree of intemperance is displayed when she acquires additional boldness from the facility of her husband and the indulgence of her father. Not contented with the field given to her, she demands for herself a well-watered district. And thus it is when a person has once overleaped the bounds of rectitude and honesty, the fault is forthwith followed up by impudence. Moreover, her father in refusing her nothing gives proof of his singular affection for her. But it does not therefore follow that the wicked thirst of gain which blinds the mind and perverts right judgment is the less hateful. In regard to Acsa’s dismounting from the ass, some interpreters ascribe it to dissimulation and craft, as if she were pretending inability to retain her seat from grief. In this way her dismounting or falling off is made an indication of criminality and defective character. It is more simple, however, to suppose that she placed herself at her father’s feet with the view of accosting him as a suppliant. Be this as it may, by her craft and flattery she gained his consent, and in so far diminished the portion of her brothers. f145
20. This is the inheritance, etc He had formerly, indeed, traced out the boundaries of the children of Judah; but it is now shown for a different reason how large and fertile the territory was which the Lord in his great liberality had bestowed upon them. One hundred and thirteen cities with their towns and villages are enumerated. The number attests not only the populousness, but also the fertility of the country. And there cannot be a doubt that by the divine blessing a new degree of fertility was imparted to it. The goodness of God was, however, manifested in the very nature of the land selected for his people, a land abounding in all kinds of advantages. If we attend to the number of souls in the tribe, we shall find that one half of the country would have been amply sufficient for their habitation. For when eight hundred were allocated in each of the cities, the remainder had the towns and the villages. It is no doubt true that a portion was afterwards withdrawn and given to the tribe of Simeon. For in this was accomplished the dispersion of which Jacob had prophesied,
“I will divide them
in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.”
They were accordingly admitted by the children of Judah as a kind of guests.
63. As for the Jebusites, etc This furnishes no excuse for the people, nor is it set down with that view; for had they exerted themselves to the full measure of their strength, and failed of success, the dishonor would have fallen on God himself, who had promised that he would continue with them as their leader until he should give them full and free possession of the land, and that he would send hornets to drive out the inhabitants. Therefore, it was owing entirely to their own sluggishness that they did not make themselves masters of the city of Jerusalem. This they were not able to do; but their own torpor, their neglect of the divine command from a love of ease, were the real obstacles.
This passage is deserving of notice: we ought to learn from it to make vigorous trial of our strength in attempting to accomplish the commands of God, and not to omit any opportunity, lest while we are idly resting the door may be shut. A moderate delay might have been free from blame; but a long period of effeminate ease in a manner rejected the blessing which God was ready to bestow. f146
Go To Joshua 16:1-10
1. And the lot of the children of Joseph fell, etc The sacred writer first states what the lot was which fell to the two children of Joseph, and then describes the lot of Ephraim. It is strange, however, that when the half of the tribe of Manasseh had already been settled beyond the Jordan, more words are employed in describing the remaining half than in describing the whole of the inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim, though the latter was the more populous, and justly claimed for itself a larger territory. But the longer detail given concerning the posterity of Manasseh is owing to particular circumstances. First, the writer repeats how a settlement had been given them without lot in the country of Basan. Secondly, he mentions the ratification by Joshua of the command which Moses had given by divine authority in regard to the daughters of Selophead. Seeing, then, there was no doubt in regard to the boundaries of Ephraim, and there was no danger of dispute, their allocation is only briefly glanced at.
But here a new question arises. When the right of primogeniture had passed from Manasseh to Ephraim, how did the posterity of that tribe which had precedence in rank obtain their cities among the children of Manasseh? For theirs seems in this way to have been the inferior condition. My explanation is this, When the portion of Manasseh was too extensive in proportion to the amount of population, a calculation was made, and certain cities were deducted to complete the just share of the tribe of Ephraim; not that they were mixed up with the children of Manasseh, to hold their dwellings among them by a precarious tenure, f147 but their boundaries were merely extended in the direction of the Manassites whom a narrower possession might suffice.
In the end of the chapter, Ephraim is severely censured for his effeminacy in not having expelled the Canaanites from Gezer. For had they proceeded in a manly and hearty manner to make good their right to the land which had fallen to them by lot, the victory was in their hands. There would have been no temerity in the attempt, since the decision of the lot was as valid as if the Lord himself had stretched forth his hand from heaven. But their disgraceful sloth is more clearly expressed and their culpability greatly heightened by the fact, that they made tributaries of those with whom it was not lawful to enter into any kind of arrangement. Seeing, then, God had distinctly forbidden his people to transact business of any kind with those nations, and least of all to enter into pactions with them, stipulating for their pardon and safety, the Ephraimites sinned much more grievously in exacting tribute than if they had tolerated them without paction. f148
Go To Joshua 17:1-10
The historian returns to the tribe of Manasseh with the view of confirming what we formerly saw with regard to the daughters of Selophead. For though it was a novelty for females to succeed indiscriminately with males, yet as five of them had survived their father, they proved it to be equitable that they should be admitted to a portion, lest while he was innocent he should lie under the reproach of having died childless. God had replied to Moses by his oracle, that in regard to succession they should be counted as one head. They now demand that the decision thus given by the mouth of the Lord shall be carried into effect. As to the name of first-born, still given to Manasseh, it must be understood so as not to be at variance with the prophecy of Jacob; or rather his primogeniture is here in a manner buried, and his dignity restricted to the past. Here, however, it is to be observed, that men are so tenacious and so much devoted to their own interests, that it seldom occurs to them to give others their due. The daughters of Selophead had obtained a portion by a heavenly decree; nor had any one dared to utter a word against it; and yet if they had remained silent no regard would have been paid to them. Therefore, lest the delay should prove injurious to them, they apply to Joshua and Eleazar, and insist that they shall not be deprived of their legitimate succession. No delay is interposed by Joshua to prevent their immediately obtaining what is just, nor is there any murmuring on the part of the people. Hence we infer, that all were disposed to act equitably; but every one is occupied with his own interest, and too apt carelessly to overlook that of others.
5. And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, etc The children of Manasseh are in this passage classed under seven stems. Machir, the first-born, is placed apart; the other six follow. Here the question arises, How was the inheritance divided into ten parts? Some expositors cunningly disguise the difficulty; f149 others, because they are unable to solve it, indulge in the merest trifling. It is certainly very absurd that four portions should be given to five daughters; and it is not a whit more congruous that their share should be doubled because their father was the first-born. It is beyond all controversy, that Gilead, son of Machir, and great-grandfather of the females of whom we are now speaking, chose his settlement in mount Gilead and Bashan. Therefore, seeing he had already obtained an inheritance by privilege without lot, he ought not to have obtained one by lot in the land of Canaan, unless perhaps he settled only a part of his family beyond the Jordan. For Hepher was one of his sons, but not the only one; and likewise the offspring of five other brothers might be distinguished into several heads according to the number of which the allocation by lot might be made. For it is not known in what degree families whose portion fell in the land of Canaan were taken. And all we read here is, that ten lots were east among the sons of Manasseh in addition to the country which they had formerly acquired for themselves beyond the Jordan. It is thus vain to dispute concerning the number, which cannot be ascertained with certainty from the present narrative, because the first thing necessary to be known is the exact number of families to whom the division was common. Nay, it is not impossible that the daughters of Selophead obtained their patrimony there. They are said, indeed, to have dwelt among the brethren of their father; but the place is not given. Be this as it may, I have no doubt that mutual equity was observed, and that after provision was made for others, the land which had been submitted to lot was distributed among ten families whose names are here omitted.
Go To Joshua 17:11-18
11. And Manasseh had in Issachar, etc How they were so mingled as to possess some cities in the lot of Asher and Issachar, while the tribe of Ephraim dwelt between their limits, it is not easy to divine, unless, perhaps, it was perceived that a more commodious habitation would not be liable to many complaints, f150 or, perhaps, after the whole country had become more certainly known, some change was made on principles of equity in the former partition. This, therefore, seems to have been a new acquisition after it was discovered that the children of Manasseh might occupy a wider extent without loss to others. Nor was the habitation given to them a subjugated one, which they might immediately enjoy, but it was an inheritance treasured up in hope, and founded more upon heavenly promise than on actual possession. And yet their not gaining possession of those cities is attributed to their fault, because the lot assigning it to them was an indubitable pledge of victory. The reason, therefore, why they could not expel the inhabitants was, because they were not fully persuaded in their minds that God is true, and stifled his agency by their own sluggishness. But another crime still less pardonable was committed when, having it in their power easily to destroy all, they not only were slothful in executing the command of God, but, induced by filthy lucre, f151 they preserved those alive whom God had doomed to destruction. For persons, on whom we impose tribute, we in a manner take under our faith and protection. God had appointed them the ministers of his vengeance, and he supplies them with strength to execute it: they not only delay, but deprive themselves of the liberty of acting rightly. It is not strange, therefore, that God severely punished this perverse heartlessness, by making those nations whom they had pardoned in the face of a clear prohibition, to become like thorns to pierce their eyes and pricks to gall their sides.
Here, again, a question arises, How were cities granted to them in the tribe of Asher and Issachar, when the portions of both were as yet unknown? Here, therefore, that which had not yet taken place is related by way of anticipation. Be this as it may, we gather that from ignorance of the localities, single portions were not divided so exactly as not to make it necessary afterwards to correct what had been more or less decided. f152 And we must hold in general, with regard both to the tribe of Ephraim and the others, that many of the cities which they gained were of no account because of the devastation. I doubt not that many ruins here lie buried. On the other hand, we must conclude that in fertile spots, or spots possessed of other advantages, where petty villages only existed, their famous cities were founded. It is certain that Sichem was of sufficient importance to hold both a name and rank, and yet there is no mention of it here. The same is the case with Samaria, which, as is well known, belonged to the same tribe of Ephraim when it was the metropolis of the kingdom of Israel. It is plain, therefore, that each tribe possessed several cities, which are here passed over in silence.
14. And the children of Joseph spoke unto Joshua, etc Although they clothe their complaint with some color of excuse, yet they dishonestly disguise the fact, that more was comprehended in one lot than was proper for one tribe. I know not, however, whether or not the lot was cast indefinitely for the sons of Joseph: it certainly does not seem congruous that it should be so. Joshua and the other dividers were not unaware that Ephraim and Manasseh formed two heads, or two stems: and it has repeatedly been said before that the land was divided into ten tribes, which number was not accurate, unless the tribe of Manasseh was considered distinct from that of Ephraim. It is certain, therefore, that they had not fallen into such a gross blunder as to throw the two names into one lot. Now, to conceal two tribes under the name of Joseph, in order to defraud them of half their right, would have been intolerable injustice. We may add, that the domain of each was distinctly explained and described by its proper boundaries. f153
We are therefore led to conclude, that when the lots were cast for the two tribes, the admirable counsel of God arranged that the brothers, who had a common father, should be contiguous and neighbors to each other. It is unworthy in them, therefore, to complain and plead that only one inheritance had been given to them, because Joshua had neither such heartlessness nor so much malice as to defraud them of a clear right either through thoughtlessness or envy. f154 But herein lay the falsehood of their complaint concerning narrow boundaries, that they counted all that was yet to be acquired by warlike prowess as nothing; as if the lot had assigned portions to the other tribes only in subjugated territory. Joshua, accordingly, in a single sentence, refutes and disposes of their plea, and retorts upon them a charge by which they were trying to throw obloquy upon him. If your resources and your numbers are so great, why, he asks, do you not make an inroad on the enemy, whose country has been given to you? Nor will the event disappoint you, if, trusting to the promise of God, you boldly proceed to the inheritance which he has bestowed upon you. We see how, although proper provision had been made for them, they were so blinded by sloth as to complain that they were straitened for room, because they were unwilling to move their finger to seek the full possession of their inheritance. Wherefore, this passage teaches us, that if at any time we think less is performed for us than is due, we ought carefully to shake off all delays, and not rashly throw upon others the blame which is inherent in ourselves.
16. And the children of Joseph said, etc It is too apparent that they were thinking only of themselves, because they quibble as much as they can, in order to avoid following the suggestion of Joshua, than which, however, nothing was more reasonable. They object, that the mountain is rugged and little better than a desert, and therefore, though it were added to them, they would derive very little benefit from it. In regard to the plain, which was cultivated and fertile, they object that they are shut out and debarred from it because of the formidable array of the enemy. Accordingly, they make mention of their iron chariots, as if they had not already learned by experience that the Lord was able, without any difficulty, to trample down both horses and chariots. Joshua, however, by a simple and right-hearted answer, administers due castigation, as well to their avarice as their effeminacy and torpor. If the forest, as it now stands, is not sufficiently productive, cut down the trees and convert it into good fields; provided you are not sparing of your labor, you will have no reason to be dissatisfied with your habitation. Iron chariots, moreover, cannot prevent the Lord from performing what he has promised to you. The inheritance is yours; do only your part by entering with due confidence on the possession of it.
Go To Joshua 18:1-10
1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel, etc Here we have a narrative of the celebrated convention held in Shiloh, where it was deliberated, as to the casting of the remaining lots. For although with pious zeal they had attempted the casting of lots, yet the proceeding had been interrupted, as if victory behooved to precede the distribution which depended solely on the mouth of God. They assemble, therefore, in Shiloh to determine what was necessary to be done in future. And there is no doubt that Joshua summoned this meeting in order to raise them from their lethargy. For they do not come forward spontaneously with any proposal, but he begins with upbraiding them with having been sluggish and remiss in entering on the inheritance which God had bestowed upon them. It is easy to infer from his speech that they had shown great alacrity at the outset, but that there had been no perseverance.
And yet that obedience, which shortly after grew languid, was honored with the approbation of the Holy Spirit. It is to be observed that the people are blamed, not for neglecting to proceed to the lot, but for not occupying the inheritance divinely offered to them. And, certainly, as the distribution by lot was a sign of confidence, so each district which fell out to each was a sure and faithful pledge of future possession; for the Lord was by no means deluding them in assigning to each his portion.
The word hpd, which I have translated “to cease,” signifies also to be remiss or feeble. He charges them, therefore, with base heartlessness, in that while the full time for routing the enemy had arrived, they by their delays retard and suspend the effect of the divine goodness. For had they been contented with the bare lot, and faithfully embraced the results which it gave, they would doubtless have been prompt and expeditious in carrying on the war, nay, would have hastened like conquerors to a triumph.
The ark is said to have been stationed at Shiloh, f155 not only that the consultation might be graver and more sacred, as held in the presence of God, but because it was a completely subjugated place, and safe from all external violence and injury. For it behooved to be their special care to prevent its exposure to sudden assault. No doubt the hand of God would have been stretched to ward off attacks of the enemy from any quarter; still, however, though God dwelt among them, they were to be regarded as its guardians and attendants.
But although a station for the ark was then chosen, it was not a perpetual abode, but only a temporary lodging. For it was not left to the will or suffrages of the people to fix the seat where God should dwell, but they behooved to wait for the period so often referred to in the Law, when he was to establish the memorial of his name elsewhere. This was at length accomplished when Mount Zion was set apart for the Temple. For this reason it is said in the Psalm,
“Our feet shall stand
within thy gates, O Jerusalem.”
These words intimate that up to that time the ark was pilgrimating. At last the ruin and devastation of Shiloh showed that no rank or dignity can screen those who corrupt the blessings of God from his vengeance. Up to the death of Eli, God allowed his sacred name to be worshipped there; but when all religion was polluted by the impiety of the priests, and almost abolished by the ingratitude of the people, that spot became to posterity a signal monument of punishment. Accordingly, Jeremiah tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were proudly boasting of their Temple, to turn their eyes to that example. Speaking in the name of the Lord, he says,
“Go you now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.” (<240712>Jeremiah 7:12)
4. Give out from among you three men, etc Caleb and Joshua had already surveyed those regions, and the people had learned much by inquiry: Joshua, however, wishes the land to be divided as if according to actual survey f156 and orders three surveyors to be appointed for each of the seven tribes, in order that by the mouth of two or three persons every dispute may be settled. But nothing seems more incongruous than to send twenty-one men, who were not only to pass directly through a hostile country, but to trace it through all its various windings and turnings, so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, to calculate, its length and breadth, and even make due allowance for its inequalities. Every person whom they happened to meet must readily have suspected who they were, and for what reason they had been employed on this expedition. In short, no free return lay open for them except through a thousand deaths. Assuredly they would not have encountered so much danger from blind and irrational impulse, nor would Joshua have exposed them to such manifest danger had they not been aware that all those nations, struck with terror from heaven, desired nothing so much as peace. For although they hated the children of Israel, still, having been subdued by so many overthrows, they did not dare to move a finger against them, and thus the surveyors proceeded in safety as through a peaceful territory, under the pretext either of trading, or at least of making a harmless visit. f157 It is also possible that they arranged themselves in different parties, and thus made the journey more secretly. It is certain, indeed, that there was only one source from which they could have derived all this courage and confidence, from trusting under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty, and thus having no fear of blind and stupid men. Hence the praise here bestowed on their ready will. For had they not been persuaded that the hands of those nations were tied up by supernal power, they would have had a just and honest cause for refusing. f158
9. And the men went and passed, etc Here not only is praise bestowed on the ready obedience by which their virtue shone forth conspicuous, but the Lord gives a signal manifestation of his favor by deigning to bestow remarkable success on pious Joshua and the zeal of the people. Had they crept along by subterranean burrows, they could scarcely have escaped innumerable dangers, but now, when they are taking notes of the cities and their sites, of the fields, the varying features of the districts, and all the coasts, and without meeting with any adverse occurrence, return in safety to their countrymen, who can doubt that their life had been kept safe among a thousand deaths by a wonderful exertion of divine power? It is accordingly said emphatically, that they returned to celebrate the grace of God, which is just equivalent to saying that they were brought back by the hand of God. This made the people proceed more willingly to the casting of lots. For their minds would not yet have been well purged of fastidiousness had they not perceived in that journey a signal display of divine favor, promising them that the final issue would be according to their wish. Joshua is hence said to have divided according to the inheritance of each, as if he were sending them to enter on a quiet possession, though the effect depended on the divine presence, because it ought to have been enough for them that the whole business was carried on by the authority of God, who never deceives his people, even when he seems to sport with them. In what sense the ark of the covenant is called God, or the face of God, I have already explained in many passages.
Go To Joshua 18:11-28
In the lot of Benjamin nothing occurs particularly deserving of notice, unless that a small tribe takes precedence of the others. I admit, indeed, that its limits were narrowed in proportion to the fewness of its numbers, because it obtained only twenty-six cities; but still an honor was bestowed upon it in the mere circumstance of its receiving its inheritance before more distinguished tribes. We may add, that in this way they were conjoined and made neighbors to the other f159 children of Joseph, with whom their relationship was more immediate. For they were placed in the middle between the children of Ephraim and Manasseh on the one side, and those of Judah on the other. They had also the distinguished honor of including Jerusalem in their inheritance, though they afterwards granted it by a kind of precarious tenure to the children of Judah for a royal residence. f160
It is strange, however, that having obtained such a quiet locality, they did not live on peaceful and friendly terms with their neighbors. But we possess the prophecy of Jacob,
“Benjamin shall raven as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” (<014927>Genesis 49:27)
They must, therefore, have been by nature of a covetous and turbulent disposition, or from some necessity not now known to us, they must have been impelled to live upon plunder. In regard to the city of Luz, the other name is added, (“the same is Bethel,”) because then only did the name given by Jacob come into common use. (<012819>Genesis 28:19) It was at no great distance from Beth-Aven, whose name, as it was opprobrious and infamous, was transferred to Bethel itself, after it was corrupted and polluted by impious superstitions. f161 It is probable that Ciriath-Baal was called Ciriath-Jeharim, to take away the name of the idol, which would have been a stain on its true piety. For it certainly would have been base and shameful that the lips of the people should have been polluted by the name of a protector who was an enemy to the true God.
ft1 This practical conclusion, which is indeed the only one of real importance, is founded partly on the general consent of the Church, evinced by the place which the Book of Joshua has always held in the Sacred Canon, and partly on the strong sanction given to it by the direct or indirect references and quotations of the other inspired writers both of the Old and the New Testament, e.g., <111634>1 Kings 16:34; Psalm 44; <196812>Psalm 68:12-14; <197854>Psalm 78:54, 55; <19B404>Psalm 114:4, 5; <350311>Habakkuk 3:11; <440745>Acts 7:45; <580408>Hebrews 4:8; <581130>Hebrews 11:30, 31; <581305>Hebrews 13:5; and <590225>James 2:25. The authorship, however, is so uncertain that there is scarcely a writer of eminence from the period of the history itself down to the time of Ezra, for whom the honor has not been claimed. Among others may be mentioned Phinchas, Samuel, and Isaiah. The obvious inference is, that the question of authorship is one of those destined only to be agitated but never satisfactorily determined. The opinion above stated by Calvin is perhaps as plausible as any other, though he scarcely appreciates the claims which may be urged in favor of Joshua himself. It is, of course, impossible to attribute to him either the narrative of his own death, or the references to one or two events which happened subsequent to it. Such anachronisms, if they may be so called, only prove what has never been denied, that some insertions or interpolations have been made in the original work. But as the account of the death of Moses in the last book of the Pentateuch is not allowed to cast any doubt on the claim of Moses to have been the true author, it is not easy to see why similar insertions should be supposed to have any stronger effect in regard to the claim of Joshua. In addition to the evidence furnished by those passages in which the writer speaks as an eye-witness, and an actor in the events recorded, those who attribute the Book of Joshua find a strong argument in the position which Joshua occupied. He was not only the divinely appointed successor, but the ardent admirer and diligent imitator of Moses. It is reasonable to suppose, that while imitating him in the general principles of his government, he forgot to imitate him in the use of his pen, or that he was not as careful as Moses had been to draw up a written narrative of the wonderful events which the Lord performed by his hand? The important fact that Joshua did write is distinctly stated in <062426>Joshua 24:26; and though the writing there referred to seems to have been confined to the narrative of a special event, analogy goes far to justify the inference, that what he did on this occasion was in accordance with his usual practice, and that the record which we now possess of his eventful life, is, in substance at least, the production of his pen. — Ed.
ft2 The French here is, — “Car tout ainsi comme des gendarmes fuyars, qui laissent vilainement leur enseigne, oublians le serment par lequel ils se sont obligez, ils furent traitres et perjures a Dieu, sous lequel ils estoyent enrollez pour servir tout le temps par hiy ordonne;” “For just like fugitive soldiers, who villanously desert their standards, forgetting the oath by which they have bound themselves, they became perjured traitors to God under whom they were enlisted to serve for the whole period ordained by him.” — Ed.
ft3 “Wickedly.” Latin, “Male.” French, “Contre leur devoir;” “Contrary to their duty.” — Ed.
ft4 “Did not utterly fail.” Latin, “Irrita caderet.” French, “Ne tombast tout a plat sans avoir son effet;” “Did not fall quite flat without producing its effect.” — Ed.
ft5 “Was founded on the mere good pleasure of God.” French, “A este purement et simplement fondee au bon plaisir de Dieu, et non ailleurs;” “Was founded purely and simply on the good pleasure of God, and not on anything else.” — Ed.
ft6 “Faithfulness of God.” Latin, “Dei fides.” French, “La certitude de la promesse de Dieu;” “The certainty of the promise of God.” — Ed.
ft7 “Sustain.” French, “Consoler et soustenir;” “Comfort and sustain.” — Ed.
ft8 “Stability of the donation.” Latin, “Donationis stabilitas.” French, “La verite de la prophetie;” “The truth of the prophecy.” — Ed.
ft9 “Sooner to destroy their kindred.” Latin, “Suos consanguineos potius delere.” French, “De plutost exterminer leur cousins, c’est a dire ces lignees-la qui estoyent de leur sang;” “Sooner to exterminate their cousins, (kindred,) that is to say, lineage which was of their own blood.” — Ed.
ft10 Latin, “Quantopere solicitus fuerit Josue de propaganda Dei gloria.” French, “Combien Josue a ete songneux de procurer qu’apres sa mort Dieu fust glorifie;” “How careful Joshua was to provide that God should be glorified after his death.” — Ed.
ft11 In addition to the above excellent summary, it may be proper to mention that the Book of Joshua extends over a period, estimated by Josephus at twenty-five, and by other Jewish chronologists at twenty-seven, though others attempt to reduce it to only seventeen years, and that its contents are naturally divided into three great sections, — the first extending from Joshua 1-7 inclusive, and giving a continuous narrative of Joshua’s conquests; the second from Joshua 13-23 inclusive, consisting chiefly of a description more or less detailed of the division of the country among the different tribes; and the third occupying the remainder of the book, Joshua 24, principally with an account of the great convention of the tribes held at Shechem, on Joshua’s summons, and of the interesting and important proceedings which then took place. — Ed.
ft12 The copulative particle which commences the Book, and is usually translated and, or, as in our English version, now, evidently connects it with some previous writing, and seems to vindicate the place which it holds in the Canon as a continuation of the Book of Deuteronomy. In the first verse, Calvin’s Latin version omits the epithets, “Servant of the Lord,” and “Moses’ minister,” applied respectively to Joshua and Moses. The Hebrew contains both, but the former is omitted by the ordinary text of the Septuagint, though placed among its various readings. — Ed.
ft13 “A renewed commission.” Latin, “Repetitis mandatis.” French, “En reiterant les articles de sa commission;” “By reiterating the articles of his commission.” — Ed.
ft14 Or rather, “Who they saw, did not advance a single step till the Lord had preceded him.” — Ed.
ft15 “Which Moses had leftvacant.” Latin, “Ex qua decesserat Moses.” French, “De laquelle Moyse estoit sorti ayant fait son temps;” “Which Moses had left, having held his own time of it.” — Ed.
ft16 “To actual circumstances.” Latin, “Ad circumstantiam loci.” French, “A la circonstance du passage;” “To the circumstance of the passage.” — Ed.
ft17 The French here gives the same meaning in a paraphrastic form, “Ou mesmes qu’a parler proprement, tout ce qui a este dit a Moyse dependoit de l’alliance perpetuelle que Dieu avoit mise en garde entre les mains d’Abraham quatre cens ans auparavant.” “Or even, to speak properly, all that was said to Moses depended on the perpetual convenant which God had deposited in the hands of Abraham four hundred years before.” — Ed.
ft18 The two last sentences form only one in the French, which is as follows, “Le peuple pouuoit du premier coup, et des l’entree s’estendre jusqu’aux bornes que Dieu lui mesme auoit marquees; il n’a pas voulu: il estoit bien digne d’en estre mis dehors, et du tout forclos.” “The people might at the first blow, and immediately on their entrance, have extended themselves to the limits which God himself had marked; they would not: they well deserved to be put out and wholly foreclosed.” — Ed.
ft19 Latin, “Qui praeter spem rebus perditis succurrerent;” French, “Qui outre toute esperance venoyent a remedier aux affaires si fort deplorez, et redresser aucunement l’estat du peuple;” “Who, beyond all hope, came to remedy the very deplorable affairs, and, in some degree, restore the condition of the people.” — Ed.
ft20 Calvin’s language here is not very clear, and seems to convey an erroneous impression. The desert or wilderness, instead of being comprehended under Lebanon, is obviously contrasted with it, and forms the south, while Lebannon forms the north frontier. We have thus three great natural boundaries — Lebanon on the north, the desert of Sin on the south, and the Mediterranean on the west. The eastern boundary occasions more difficulty. According to some, the Euphrates is expressly mentioned as this boundary, and an attempt is made to reconcile the vast difference between the actual possession of the Israelites, even in the most propsperous period of their history, and the tract of country thus bounded, by having recourse to the explanation of St. Augustine, who, in his Commentary on Joshua 21, gives it as his opinion that the country extending eastward beyond the proper limits of Canaan was intended to be given not so much for possession as for tribute. This view receives some confirmation from the extensive conquests which were made by David and Solomon. According to other expositors, the Euphrates is intended to be taken in connection with Lebanon so as to form, by one of its windings or branches, part of the north boundary, while the east boundary is leftindefinite, or rather, was so well defined by the Jordan that it did not require to be separately mentioned. In this general uncertainty, there is much practical wisdom in Calvin’s suggestion in his Argument, that the indefiniteness of the boundaries assigned to the promised land, contrasted with its actual limits, tended to elevate the minds of Old Testament believers, and carry them beyond the present to a period when, under a new and more glorious dispensation, the promise would be completely fulfilled. — Ed.
ft21 French, “Et il ne faut qu’un rien pour nous faire perdre courage;” “and a mere nothing is all that is necessary to make us lose courage.” — Ed.
ft22 The French adds, “Ou en quelques points;” “Or in some points.” — Ed.
ft23 The French paraphrases the whole sentence thus: “Ainsi la prudence et sagesse que les fideles apprennent de la parole de Dieu, est opposee a l’assurance de ceux auxquels il semble bien qu’ils se gouvernent assez discretement et sagement, quand ils besongnent selon leur propre sens;” “Thus the prudence and wisdom which believers learn from the word of God, is opposed to the assurance of those who think they govern themselves discreetly and wisely enough, when they manage according to their own sense.” — Ed.
ft24 French, “C’est bien pour certain avec grande signifiance que ceci se dit d’autant qu’il n’est pas question de resister a son commandement;” “It is certainly with great significancy that this is said, inasmuch as there is no question of resisting his command.” — Ed.
ft25 It is almost impossible to doubt that the view here taken is correct, and in confirmatino of it, it may be observed, that it receives more countenance from the original than appears either from Calvin’s or our verse by “Then,” as if meaning, “At that precise time;” whereas the Hebrew is simply the copulative w, which only means “And,” and is accordingly here rendered in the Septuagint by kai<. It implies, indeed that the order issued to the prefects by Joshua was given subsequently to the gracious and encouraging message which he had received, but not that it was given immediately or at that particular instant, and it thus leaves it open for us to infer, that a period of less or greater length intervened during which the spies were sent on their mission, and the proceedings detailed in the second chapter took place. The sacred writer in thus omitting to follow the order of time in his narrative, has only adopted a method which is often convenient in itself, and which has been repeatedly followed by the most celebrated historians, both of ancient and modern times, and nothing can be more absurd than the inference attempted to be drawn chiefly by some German Rationalists, from this and a few similar apparent anachronisms, that the Book of Joshua is not so much a continuous history as a patchwork of distinct or even contradictory narratives by different writers. — Ed.
ft26 This must be taken with some qualification, since, according to the view taken by Calvin himself, the river must, before this, have been forded by the spies, both in going and returning; and it is also obvious, from the direction which their pursuers took, in endeavoring to overtake them, that what are called “the fords,” must have been understood to be practicable, even during the season of overflow. Still a spot or two where an individual might manage to cross was altogether unavailable for such a body as the Israelites, and therefore Calvin’s subsequent statement cannot be disputed, that if they were to cross at all, human agency was unavailing, and the only thing which remained was for God himself to transport them miraculously. — Ed.
ft27 The agreement made with Moses was very explicit. As recorded in the thirty-second chapter of Numbers, he distinctly stipulates that they shall “go armed before the Lord to war,” “armed over Jordan before the Lord, until he has driven out his enemies from before him, and the land be subdued before the Lord;” and they answer, “As the Lord has said unto thy servants so will we do: we will pass over armed before the Lord, into the land of Canaan, that the possession of our inheritance on this side Jordan may be ours.” — Ed.
ft28 The objection taken to the modesty of the answer seems to be founded on a misinterpretation of its true meaning. For the original, literally interpreted, does not contain any assertion that they had obeyed Moses in all things, as implied both in Calvin’s Latin and in our English version, but simply means, that “in everything,” or, “according to everything,” (lkk, kekol,) in which they had hearkened to Moses they would hearken to him: in other words, that they would hold his authority to be in every respect equal to that of Moses. This meaning is retained by the Septuagint, which renders Kata< pa>nta o[sa hjkou>samen Mwnush|~ ajkouso>meqa> sou. — Ed.
ft29 This emphasis is lost by the Septuagint, which renders not oJ Qeo>v sou, “thy God,” but, “oJ Qeo<v hJmw~n,” “our God.” — Ed.
ft30 French, “Toutefois la maniere de parler qui est ici mise, est moyenne, et peut estre prise ou pour un glorifiement de la foy, ou pour un souhait;” “However, the manner of speaking which is here used is of a middle kind, and may be taken either for a glorying of faith, or for a wish.” — Ed.
ft31 Calvin’s “miserat,” “had sent,” is in accordance with his opinion, that the spies had been sent some time before the transactions with which the first chapter concludes actually took place, but is not justifed either by the Hebrew or by the Septuagint, which has simply ajpe>steilen. It is worthy of remark, however, that Luther’s German agrees with Calvin, and renders “hatte zween funtidchafter heimlich ausgefaubt von Gittim;” “had sent out two spies secretly from Sittim.” The mention of the place, Sittim or Shittim, occurs in the French version, but is omitted without explanation in Calvin’s Latin. It was situated in the plains of Moab near the leftbank of the Jordan, and is particularly mentioned in Numbers 25 as the abode of the Israelites, when they allowed themselves to be seduced into gross idolatry by the daughters of Moab, and were in consequence signally punished. — Ed.
ft32 This word “clam” may refer either to the secrecy of Joshua in sending the spies, ro to the secrecy which they were to employ in making their inquiries. Either meaning seems good. The latter is countenanced by the Septuagint, which unites the secrecy and the spying in the single compound word kataskopeu~sai; but it is evident, both from the version and the Commentary, that Calvin prefers the former. — Ed.
ft33 In the present instance they set no limits to their extravagances, and gravely tell us, that instead of leading a life of infamy, she was merely an innkeeper or “hostess,” and was afterwards honored to be the wife of Joshua. — Ed.
ft34 Had the season of the year when these transactions took place not been known from other sources, the mode of concealment to which Rahab resorted would have gone far to fix it. The “stalks of flax” with which she covered them, was evidently the crop of flax as it had been taken from the ground after attaining maturity, and laid out in the open air to dry, agreeably to a custom still practiced, before it was subjected to the process of skutching, for the purpose of being deprived of its woody fiber. The flax sown about the end of September was pulled in the end of March or beginning of April, which accordingly was the period when the Israelites began to move their camp. — Ed.
ft35 It may either mean that “they” (the Israelites) “had conspired,” as here translated, or as the French has it, that “Rahab had conspired,” — Ed.
ft36 Latin, “Nullum in proditione fuit crimen;” literally, “there was no crime in the treachery.” French, “Il n’y a point eu de crime de trahison en ce faict;” “There was no crime of treachery in the act.” Neither of these properly conveys Calvin’s meaning. From what follows it is evident that he held all treachery to be criminal as implying a deviation from truth; while he also held, that under the special circumstances Rahab was justified in withdrawing her allegiance from her countrymen and transferring it to the Israelites. He therefore only justifies the act without approving of the mode of it. This view appears to be accurately expressed by the term “abandoning,” which has accordingly been substituted in the translation. — Ed.
ft37 Latin, “Mendacium officiosum.” French, “Le mensonge qui tend au profit du prochain;” “The lie which tends to our neighbor’s profit.” The mendacium officiosum is an expression of frequent use among the Casuists, and properly means, “a lie which it may be an act of duty to tell.” One of the most common instances given is the case in which a simple statement of the truth might essentially endanger the interest, or, it may be, the life of an individual whom we are under a natural or conventional obligation to defend from all injury. A son, for example, is pursued by murderers; he takes shelter under the paternal roof; his mother has just succeeded in concealing him when the murderers arrive. Is she entitled to give a false answer to their interrogatories? The question is one of the most difficult and delicate that can be raised; but Calvin has undoubtedly given the right decision when he lays down the broad principle, that those who hold any lie to be excusable, “do not sufficiently consider how precious truth is in the sight of God.” Where anything necessary to reconcile us to this decision, we may easily find it in the havoc which has been made of all morality by acting on its opposite, as envinced particularly in the case of Jesuit and other Romish casuists. — Ed.
ft38 French, “Et y a eu un proverbe commun entre eux, pour signifier les frayeurs soudaines dont le cause n’apparoit point; (car ils les appeloyent Epouvantemens Paniques;) aussi ils faisoyent voeus a un Juppiter qu’ils appeloyent Stator, c’est a dire Arrestant; et a une deesse qu’ils nommoyent Pavor, c’est a dire Peur afin que les armees tinssent bon, et ne s’en fuissent de peur;” “And there was a common proverb among them to denote the sudden alarms of which the cause does not appear; for they called them Panic Terrors; in like manner they made vows to a Jupiter, whom they called Stator, that is, Staying; and to a goddess whom they named Pavor, that is Fear, in order that armies might stand good, and not flee from fear.” — Ed.
ft39 French, “Que Dieu estoit le principal conducteur de l’entreprise du peuple d’Israel, et qu’il marchoit avec iceluy;” “That God was the principal conductor of the enterprise of the people of Israel, and that he was marching along with them.” — Ed.
ft40 This is an instance of the quiet and almost sly humor which occasionally betrays itself in Calvin’s other writings, and shows, that had it comported with the general gravity of his character, he might easily have added wit to the other weapons with which he fought the battles of the faith. In private life, when greater freedom was allowable, it appears, according to Beza’s statement, to have not unfrequently contributed to the charm of his conversations. — Ed.
ft41 The whole objection, as to the overleaping of walls, is so ridiculous in itself, and so very inapplicable to the circumstances of all parties at the time, that it is difficult to understand why Calvin should have condescended to notice it at all, or, at least, given himself so much trouble to refute it. If one might hazard a conjecture, it would be that some question of a similar nature had been raised in regard to the walls of Geneva, and given a local interest to a discussion which otherwise seems somewhat out of place. — Ed.
ft42 This seems to be the proper place to insert a short account of the Jordan, and more especially of that part of it in the neighborhood of which the Israelites were now encamped. This becomes necessary, because Calvin had altogether omitted it, partly, as some expressions in his Commentary would seem to indicate, from having unfortunately attached little comparative importance to geographical details, and partly, as he very modestly expresses it, from not having been very well acquainted with them. Indeed, at the period when he wrote, the geography of the Holy Land was very imperfectly known, but we have not the same excuse, as numerous well-qualified travelers have since traversed it in all directions, and published careful descriptions both of its general features and of almost all the localities possessed of much historical interest. In a single note, only a few leading points can be adverted to, but it seems not impossible in this way, to give a distinct idea of the nature of the passage which the Israelites were now preparing to make, and of the wonderful interposition by which they were enabled to accomplish it.
The Jordan, then, by far the most important river of Palestine, is formed, near its northern frontiers, by several streams which descend from the mountains of Lebanon, and after flowing nearly due south, for a direct distance of about 175 miles, discharges its waters into the north side of the Dead Sea. In the upper part of its course, before it reaches the late of Tiberius, more familiarly known by its usual scriptural name of the Sea of Galilee, it has much of the character of an impetuous torrent, and is hemmed closely in on both sides by loftly mountains, but on issuing from the south side of the lake, it begins to flow in a valley, the most remarkable circumstance connected with which, is its great depth beneath the level of the ocean. Even the Sea of Galilee is 84 feet, and the Dead Sea, where the Jordan falls into it is 1337 feet beneath this level. The intervening space between the two seas, forms what is properly called the valley of the Jordan, and consists of a plain, about six miles across in its northern, but much wider in its southern half, where it spreads out, on its east or leftbank, into the plains of Moab, and on its west or right bank, into the plains of Jericho. This valley, throughout its whole length, is terminated on either side by a mountain chain, which in many parts rises so rapidly as soon to attain a height exceeding 2500. Within the valley thus terminated, a minor valley is enclosed. It is about three quarters of a mile in breadth, and consists, for the most part, of a low flat, bounded by sandy slopes, and covered by trees or bushwood. Nearly in the center of this flat the river, almost concealed beneath its overhanging banks, pursues its course, with few large windings, but with such a multiplicity of minute tortuosities, that though the direct distance is not more than sixty-five, the indirect distance or total length of the stream is estimated at not less than two hundred miles. The river, in its ordinary state, within its banks, has a width of from twenty to thirty yards, and a depth, varying from nine to fifteen feet. The banks are there from twelve to fourteen feet high, and immediately beyond them, the flat bears evident marks of being frequently inundated. These inundation’s take place in spring, and are caused by the melted snow brought down, partly by the three principal tributaries of the Jordan, the Jarmuch, or Shurat-el-Mandour, the Jabbok, or Zerka, and the Arnon, or Wady Modjet, which all join it from the east, but chiefly by the main stream, which is then copiously supplied from the snowy heights of Lebanon. This rising of the waters, of course, begins as soon as the thawing influence of the returning heat begins to be felt, but does not attain its maximum till the impression has been fully made, or, in the first weeks of April. Such was the state of the stream as the Israelites now safely assumed to have been from seven to Twelve miles north of the Dead Sea, and not far from the Bethabarah, where our Savior, after condescending to receive baptism at the hands of his forerunner, went up from the banks, while the heavens opened, and the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and lighted upon him. — Ed.
ft43 These remarks are made on the assumption that the waters had risen so as not only to reach the highest edge of the banks, and make the usual channel what may be called brim-full, but had spread themselves to some distance over the plain. It may have been so, but there is no distinct statement to this effect, and the concluding clause of the fifteenth verse does not literally bear the meaning which Calvin and our English translators have assigned to it. His rendering is, “Jordanes autem erat plenus ultra omnes suas ripas;” literally, “Now Jordan was full beyond all his banks.” The original only says that “Jordan fills up to (completely fills) all his banks.” The Septuagint, in like manner, says, “O de< Iorda>nhv ejphrou~to kaq o[lhn thn krhpi>da aujtou~;” “Now the Jordan was filled as to all his embankment.” The same meaning is very exactly given by Luther, whose version is “Der Jordan aber war voll an allen feinen ufern;” “Now Jordan was full on all his banks.” The difference between the renderings is slight, but it is of importance not to overlook it, because even such slight differences have sometimes furnished the infidel with plausible grounds for assailing the credit of the sacred narrative. In the present instance it has been insinuated that the historian has exaggerated the extent of the inundation in order to heighten the importance of the miracle. — Ed.
ft44 French, “Si les eaux, selon lour nature, cussent alors recommence a eouler;” “Had the waters then according to their nature begun again to flow.” — Ed.
ft45 This is not very explicit, and may have been leftvague on purpose because the original itself, as it now stands, is obscure, and both translators and commentators, instead of throwing any light upon it, have rather increased the darkness. For Adam, the Vulgate substitutes Edom, and the Septuagint, the district of Kirjath-jearim (me>rouv Kariaqiari>m) Two towns near each other, and bearing the respective names of Adam and Zarethan, are mentioned in Scripture as situated in the tribe of Manasseh, the one on the right and the other the leftbank of the Jordan. Their distance above the place at which the Israelites are presumed to have crossed is about forty miles; and the most natural meaning of the passage seems to be, that when the waters stood, as it were, congealed in a heap, they remained so long in that state, as to cause a kind of reflux tide, which was perceptible as far back as Adam on the one hand, and Zareptan on the other. — Ed.
ft46 “Joshua.” Apparently a misprint for “Jehovah;” as the French says more accurately, “Le commandment de Dieu;” “The command of God.” — Ed.
ft47 French, “Par un temps passe plus que parfait (comme parlent les Latins;)” “By a past time more than perfect, (as the Latins speak.)” — Ed.
ft48 French, “Et quant a ce mot Et, on peut aisement juger qu’il se prend pour Car;” And as to this word And, we may easily judge that it is taken for For.” — Ed.
ft49 French, “Or ce passage est pour monstrer, que les gens anciens doivent etre affectionnez a la piete;” “Now this passage is to show that the aged ought to be attached to piety.” — Ed.
ft50 French, “Or je confesse bien que c’eust este un tesmoignage du tout inutile, si on l’eust laisse la comme enseveli sans en parler;” “Now, I confess, that it would have been an entirely useless testimony had they leftit there, as it were, buried without speaking of it.” — Ed.
ft51 Calvin, still adhering to the view that part of the plain beyond the immediate bank was overflowed, seems to think that the priests, after climbing up the steep bank, continued to walk for some time among the shallow water. The other view which supposes that the banks were only filled and not overflowed, besides being more in accordance with the original, as was formerly shown, appears to derive additional confirmation from the language here used. It is said the waters returned the moment the priests touched the dry ground with the soles of their feet; in other words, so long as they were climbing up the steep bank, and, of course, had no firm footing, the heap of waters continued, but it was immediately dissolved as soon as they could set down their foot firmly in consequence of having reached the flat. — Ed.
ft52 “Dumb.” Latin, “mutus.” French, “une creature insensible et sans voix;” “An inanimate creature without voice.” — Ed.
ft53 “Freed from the law.” Latin, “Lege soluti.” French, “Ont este exemptez et dispensez de ce a quoy la Loy les assujettissoit;” “Have been exempted and dispensed from that to which the law subjected them.” — Ed.
ft54 These remarks place the view which Calvin takes in its most favorable light; but, on the other hand, it is strongly argued, 1. That the eating of the Passover by an uncircumcised person was expressly prohibited, (<021248>Exodus 12:48) 2. That the observance of it during the wandering in the desert is, by implication at least, dispensed with in the words, “And it shall come to pass, when you be come to the land which the Lord will give you, according as he has promised, that you shall keep this service.” (<021225>Exodus 12:25) 3. That the observance of the Passover at Mount Sinai was in compliance with a special mandate, and would not have taken place without it. 4. The assumption that sacrifices were offered in the desert is questioned as inconsistent with <300525>Amos 5:25. It may be added, that the order to circumcise, evidently intended as a preparation for the celebration of the approaching Passover, seems to imply that there had previously been a similar omission of both ordinances. It must also have been difficult, if not impossible, while in the wilderness, to obtain flour in sufficient quantity to make unleavened Passover bread for a whole people. — Ed.
ft55 French, “Mais comme le premier qui se rencontrera;” “But as it were the first who may happen to present himself.” — Ed.
ft56 The French adds, “C’est a dire d’Eternel;” “That is to say of Eternal.” — Ed.
ft57 Several modern commentators, among others Grotius, have maintained that the personage who thus appeared was merely a created angel. In this they have only followed in the steps of the Jewish Rabbins, who not satisfied with holding that he was an angel, have gone the farther length of fixing what particular angel it was. With almost unanimous consent they declare it to have been Michael, though they are unable to support their opinion by anything stronger than the first verse of the twelfth chapter of Daniel, in which it is said, that “at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of thy people.” The sounder view here advocated by Calvin, and generally adopted by the early Christian Fathers, is well expressed by Origen, who says, in his Sixth Homily on this Book, “Joshua knew not only that he was of God, but that he was God. For he would not have worshipped, had he not recognized him to be God. For who else is the Captain of the Lord’s host but our Lord Jesus Christ?” It would make sad havoc with our ideas of divine worship to admit that the homage which Joshua here pays could be lawfully received, or rather could, so to speak, be imperiously demanded by one creature from another. — Ed.
ft58 The incident here recorded is one of the principal reasons from the designation of the Holy Land usually applied to Palestine. — Ed.
ft59 The Septuagint has sugkekleisme>nh kai< wjcurwme>nh, “completely closed and made sure, by being barred or barricaded.” — Ed.
ft60 French, “De ne dire mot, ne faire aucun bruit;” “Not to speak a word, not to make a noise.” — Ed.
ft61 French, “Mais je l’ay traduit par un terme plus accoustume a la langue Francoise;” “But here I have translated it by a term more commonly used in the French language.” — Ed.
ft62 In confirmation of the views thus admirably expressed, it is not out of place to add those of the profoundest and most philosophical English theologians on the same subject. Bishop Butler, in his Analogy, Part 2, chapter 3, after saying that “it is that province of reason to judge of the morality of Scripture; i.e., not whether it contains things different from what we should have expected from a wise, just, and good Being — but whether it contains things plainly contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness; to what the light of nature teaches us of God,” continues thus: “I know nothing of this sort objected against Scripture, excepting such objections as are formed upon suppositions which would equally conclude, that the constitution of nature is contradictory to wisdom, justice, or goodness: which most certainly it is not. Indeed there are some particular precepts in Scripture, given to particular persons, requiring actions, which would be immoral or vicious, were it not for such precepts. But it is easy to see, that all these are of such a kind, as that the precept changes the whole nature o the case and of the action: and both constitutes and shows that not to be unjust or immoral, which, prior to the precept, must have appeared, and really have been so: which well may be, since none of these precepts are contrary to immutable morality. If it were commanded to cultivate the principles, and act from the spirit of treachery, ingratitude, cruelty; the command would not alter the nature of the case, or of the action, in any of these instances. But it is quite otherwise in precepts, which require only the doing an external action: for instance, taking away the property or life of any. For men have no right to either life or property, but what arises solely from the grant of God. When this grant is revoked, they cease to have any right at all in either: and when this revocation is made known, as surely it is possible it may be, it must cease to be unjust to deprive them of either. And though a course of external acts, which, without command, would be immoral, must make an immoral habit, yet a few detached commands have no such natural tendency. I thought proper to say thus much of the few Scripture precepts which require, not vicious actions, but actions which would have been vicious had it not been for such precepts: because they are sometimes weakly urged as immoral, and great weight is laid upon objections drawn from them. But to me there seems no difficulty at all in these precepts, but what arises from their being offences; i.e., from their being liable to be perverted, as, indeed, they are, by wicked designing men, to serve the most horrid purposes, and, perhaps, to mislead the weak and enthusiastic.” — Ed.
ft63 French, “Car combien qu’il y ait en cela de la severite, toutes fois c’est un bon moyen par lequel ils sont appelez a renoncer a leur vie precedente;” “For though there is severity in this, it is, however a good method of calling upon them to renounce their previous life.” — Ed.
ft64 This rebuilding by Hiel on the very site of the ancient city, took place, according to the ordinary chronology, 520 years after Joshua pronounced the curse. It would seem, however, that another Jericho had been built at a much earlier period, not actually on the former site which, while the memory of the curse remained, was probably avoided, but at no great distance from it. Of this fact, the mention made of Jericho in <061821>Joshua 18:21, as one of the cities of Benjamin, is not decisive, because it may have been intended to indicate merely a locality, and not an actually existing city, nor is it absolutely certain that the “city of palm trees” which Eglor captured, (<070314>Judges 3:14) was a rebuilt Jericho, though by that name Jericho was generally known. Its existence, however, at least a century before Hiel, is clearly established by the directions given to David’s ambassadors, after their insulting treatment by the king of Ammon, “to tarry at Jericho.” (<091005>1 Samuel 10:5) It may be worth while briefly to glance at the subsequent history of Hiel’s sacrilegious city. As if the penalty of rebuilding had been fully paid by the exemplary punishment inflicted on the founder, the curse appears to have been withdrawn, and in the course of about twenty years we learn that it had not only been selected as a school of the prophets, (<120205>2 Kings 2:5,) but received a very important addition to its other attractions as a residence by the miraculous cure of its waters by Elisha. (<120219>2 Kings 2:19-22.) Its inhabitants, on the return from the Babylonish captivity, are mentioned as having assisted in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem. (<160302>Nehemiah 3:2) At a later period Jericho was fortified by the Syrian general Bacchides, or rather received from him additions to its previously existing fortifications, (1 Maccabees 9:50) but does not seem to have acquired very much importance till the time of Herod the Great, who, after capturing and sacking it, rebuilt it in a much more magnificent form, and erected in it a splendid palace, where he often resided and ultimately died. It also became a favorite residence of his son but by the display of his miraculous agency. It appears in the latter period of the Roman empire to have ranked as one of the chief cities of Palestine. The general devastation of the country on the dissolution of that empire effected its final ruin, and its site is now only doubtfully represented by a miserable village called Riha, containing from 200 to 300 souls. — Ed.
ft65 Calvin’s Latin as well as the French version omit the concluding clause of this verse, “Make not the whole people to labor thither: for they are few.” The omission, for which no reason is assigned, is the more remarkable, as there appears to be no doubt as to the genuineness of the original clause, and its meaning is very exactly given not only in the Septuagint but other versions, such as Luther’s, with which Calvin was well acquainted. — Ed.
ft66 French, “O que je voudrove que nous eussions prins a plaisir de demeurer au dela du Jordain;” “O how I wish that we had been pleased to remain beyond the Jordan.” — Ed.
ft67 French, “Soit revoquee en doute, ou moins estimee devant le monde;” “Be called in question, or less esteemed before the world.” — Ed.
ft68 The English version puts the verb in the past tense, and translates “turned their backs;” Calvin’s “vertent cervicem,” “will turn their neck;” making the expression not a declaration of what had taken place, but a denunciation of what was still to take place, is truer to the original, and has also the sanction of the Septuagint, which has aujce>na uJpostre>yousin. Luther even adds to the force of the expression by saying, “muffen ihren Feinven ven Ruden fehren;” “must turn the back on their enemies.” Calvin’s punctuation of the same verse is peculiar. By making a colon at enemies, he separates the words “quia sunt in anathema,” from the end of the first, and makes it the beginning of the second clause, which accordingly reads thus: “Because they are in anathema, (have taken of the accursed thing,) I will not continue to go with you,” etc. — Ed.
ft69 French, “C’est folie de chercher couverture et deguisement pour eschapper son jugement et l’abuser;” “It is folly to seek cover and disguise in order to escape his judgement and deceive him.” — Ed.
ft70 These admirable remarks are well fitted to satisfy every candid mind, not only as to the nature of this very remarkable execution, but also as to its expediency and strict justice, notwithstanding its admitted severity. Several expositors, however, continue to be dissatisfied, and to bring it more into accordance with their views, attempt to explain parts of it away by means of a minute and forced criticism. On finding this process not very successful, they endeavor to supply its deficiency by extraordinary conjectures. First, with regard to the criticism, it is said that in the directions which the Lord gives to Joshua, (<060810>Joshua 8:10-15) he receives no authority to put any person to death, except the one who should be found to have actually committed the crime. When the words of the 15th verse, “he and all that he has,” are quoted in opposition to this view, the answer is, that the expressions does not necessarily mean more than the man himself, his cattle, and other property, and therefore may not have included his family, properly so called, or the persons who formed his household. Another criticism, still more extraordinary, would scarcely be deserving of notice had it not received the countenance of so distinguished a name as that of Grotius, who insists that Achan was the only person who actually suffered death, though his children were taken out to the place of execution and verse, in which it is said that “All Israel stoned him (Achan) with stones, and burned them with fire;” i.e., as he explains, stoned Achan only, and then burnt his dead body, and his cattle, and other effects designated by them. Such are specimens of the criticism which this transaction has called forth, and it would almost be aninsult to the reader to give a serious refutation of them. The conjectures to which we have referred are equally extravagant. One of them is given in the Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature, under the article Achan, and as the writer appears both to have invented it, and to plume himself on the invention, it is but fair to give it in his own words; — “We prefer the supposition that they (Achan’s family) were included in the doom by one of those sudden impulses of indiscriminate popular vengeance, to which the Jewish people were exceedingly prone, and which, in this case, it would not have been in the power of Joshua to control by any authority which he could, under such circumstances, exercise.” — Ed.
ft71 French, “Combien qu’il se peut faire, qu’Achan estant fier se soit plaint de ce qu’on ne se contentoit pas de la reparation, et payement qu’il avoit fait, par lequel il pensoit s’estre bien acquitte, et avoir grand devoir;” “Although it may be that Achan complained of their not being contented with the reparation and payment which he had made, and by which he thought that he had acquitted himself well, and performed a great duty.” — Ed.
ft72 Ai and its apparently tributary town Bethel, thus subjected to a fearful destruction, were situated about twelve miles north from Jerusalem, and seventeen miles west-north-west from Jericho, and had previously been brought under the notice of the Israelites in very different circumstances. For they had read in the interesting narrative of Moses how Abraham had pitched his tent on a mountain, “having Bethel on the west and Hai (Ai) on the east; and there he built an alter unto the Lord, and called upon the name of the Lord,” (<011208>Genesis 12:8; <011303>Genesis 13:3;) and how Bethel, formerly called Luz, had changed its name, because Jacob, on awaking out of his wonderful dream, had declared it to be “none other but the house of God,” and “the gate of heaven.” (<012811>Genesis 28:11-19.) Notwithstanding of the doom pronounced and executed upon Ai, it appears to have been rebuilt, was occupied by the Benjamites after their return from the captivity, (<160732>Nehemiah 7:32; <161132>Nehemiah 11:32; <150228>Ezra 2:28,) is mentioned by Josephus under the name of Aina, and still exhibits some indications of its site. — Ed.
ft73 The 29th verse concludes the account of the destruction of Ai, and the 30th opens abruptly with the building of an alter on Mount Ebal. The distance between the two places is not less than twenty miles, Ai being only twelve and Ebal thirty miles north from Jerusalem. The journey of so many miles by the whole body of the Israelites, and through a country which, at least up to the victory of Ai, was in undisputed possession of the enemy, must have occupied a considerable time, and have been accomplished with no small labor and difficulty. How comes it that not one word is said in regard to it, and that we are led at once from Ai to Ebal just as if the two places, instead of being widely separated, had been actually contiguous to each other? Were the incidents of the journey so unimportant as not to require the slightest notice? Or is the narrative contained in the Book of Joshua so very succinct that even transactions which might occupy a large place in a more copious work have been purposely excluded from it? If both these questions are answered in the negative, and it would seem that they must be so answered, the only other question is, Has the order of time been observed? In other words, have we not in the interesting account now about to be given of one of the most wonderful national conventions on record, another instance of anticipation of narrative similar to that which we have already seen in the first chapter? Assuming this to be the case, the continuation of the narrative is to be looked for in the ninth chapter, while the account of the transaction on Mounts Ebal and Gerizim is to be regarded in the light of an episode. It is very remarkable that the whole episode is omitted by the Septuagint at this place, and not introduced before giving the account of the league of the Amorites, contained in the beginning of the ninth chapter. — Ed.
ft74 French, “Car quand il est parle de pierres entrieres sur lesquelles le fur n’avoit point passe, cela signifie des pierres, telles qu’elles viennent de la carriere, qui ne sont point polies ni accoustrees par artifice;” “For when mention is made of entire stones on which no tool had passed, it means stones as they are when they come from the quarry, without having been polished or hewn artificially.” — Ed.
ft75 French, “Le sommaire, et les defenses et commandemens;” “The summary, and the prohibitions and commands.” — Ed.
ft76 French, “Car c’estoit une stupidite par trop grande de ne se point tenir sur ses gardes, jusqu’a tant quils fussent resveillez comme par force de leur paresse oyans la ruine et le sac de deux villes;” “For it implied excessive stupidity not to stand upon their guard, until they were awakened, as if by force, from their indolence, on hearing of the run and sacking of two towns.” — Ed.
ft77 To encounter them.” Latin, “Ad eos excipiendos.” French, “To give them a good reception, and repulse them bravely.” — Ed.
ft78 French, “Dissippe et renverse leur conseils, entreprises, et machinations: et mesme il leur oste le sens et l’entendement;” “Dissipates and overturns their counsels, enterprises, and machinations; and even deprives them of sense and understanding.” — Ed.
ft79 French, “Duquel les trois enfans, assavoir, Ruben, Levi et Simeon;” “Whose three sons, Reuben, Levi, and Simeon.” — Ed.
ft80 Nothing could be more gross than the imposition thus practiced. The capital of the Gibeonites was not above fourteen miles west from Jericho, and scarcely half that distance south-west from Ai, where the Israelites had recently gained so signal a victory, and it is therefore not improbable that the Israelites, while pursuing the fugitives, had actually been within the; territory which their leaders now ignorantly believe to be so very distant, as to be altogether beyond the limits of the promised land. The compliments paid to their prowess so flattered their pride, and the alliance of a powerful though distant nation held out the hope of so many advantages in the further prosecution of their conquests, that they fell at once into the snare, as if they had almost been willing to be deceived. — Ed.
ft81 Calvin was well qualified, by his legal education, to discuss the important question here raised, and it is impossible to dispute the soundness of his general positions in regard to it, both here and in the previous section of the Commentary on this chapter. There is, however, an appearance of inconsistency in some of the statements. In the section beginning with the third verse, he says in Latin, “Cum larvis ergo paciscitur Josue, nec quidquam obligationis contrahit, nisi secundum eorum verba;” or as it is in French, “Josue donques traitte alliance avec des masques ou phantosmes et n’est nullement oblige, sinon suivant leurs paroles;” “Joshua, then, makes an alliance with masks or phantoms, and is in no way bound, except according to their words.” Again, in the section beginning with verse the sixth, he says, “Dixi summo jure evanidum et irritum fuisse ejusmodi foedus,” or as it is in French, “J’ay dit qu’a la rigueur de droit une telle alliance estoit nulle et cassee;” “I have said, that is strict law such an alliance was null and void.” And he gives the reason in the form of a question, when he asks, “What do they (the Gibeonites) gain when their request is granted, but just that they are to be kept safe, provided they have come from a distant country?” But if the Gibeonites did not gain, or, in other words, were not entitled to demand anything, it is perfectly obvious that the Israelites could not be bound to grant anything. They were the two parties to a mutual contract, in which the claims of the one party were exactly the counterpart or measure of the obligations of the other. It might have been expected, therefore, that after Calvin had decided that the Gibeonites had no claim, he would, of course, have decided that the Israelites had incurred no obligation. Here, however, when considering this latter point, he seems to change his ground, by distinctly asserting, that we may not resile even from pactions in which we have been deceived. The inconsistency, however, is only apparent. He does not say that we are bound by such pactions, as if they were valid in themselves, but he adverts to circumstances which may lay us under a formal obligation to act as if we were bound by them. In other words, he removes the case from a court of law into the court of conscience, and thus brings it under the class of cases to which St. Paul referred, when he drew a distinction between things lawful and things expedient. Joshua and the elders had sworn rashly, but having by so doing put the honor of the God of Israel, so to speak, in pledge, they were bound, at whatever cost, to redeem it. — Ed.
ft82 French, “Quand il ne passe point outre le murmure, et qu’il se contente de cela;” “When they do not proceed beyond murmuring, and rest contented with it.” — Ed.
ft83 Latin, “Nec sine assentatione;” “Nor without flattery.” French, “et sans flatterie;” “And without flattery.” — Ed.
ft84 Among the many pernicious consequences resulting form this arrangement, was the formation of a degraded caste in the heart of the Israelitish commonwealth, and the consequent introduction of domestic slavery, in one of its worst forms. — Ed.
Ft85 An additional clause not found in the original, and excluded by the common versions, is here inserted in the Septuagint in the following terms, “hJni>ka sune>triyen aujtou<v ejn Gabaw<n kai< sunetri>bhsan ajpo< prosw>pou uiJw~n Israh>l;” “When he crushed them in Gibeon, and they were crushed before the face of the children of Israel.” — Ed.
ft86 French, “Appela et suscita les autres a prendre les armes;” “Called upon, and stirred up the others to take up arms.” Jerusalem was only about five miles S.S.E. from Gibeon, while the other towns, situated S.S.W., were at distances varying from twenty to thirty miles. — Ed.
ft87 The conjecture that the narrative is here inverted, seems somewhat gratuitous. Lachish, the most remote of the towns, was not more than thirty miles distant, and Jerusalem, as has been mentioned, was only five; and, therefore, in so far as distance merely is concerned, there is nothing to prevent us from holding in accordance with the literal purport of the narrative, that the kings had suddenly advanced against Gibeon, and were actually besieging it when the Gibeonites dispatched their embassy to Joshua.
ft88 Here, again, apparently from exaggerating the distance, Calvin thinks it necessary to resort to an ignenious explanation, and give a kind of coloring to the narrative. The distance from Gilgal to Gibeon was more than eighteen iles, and this might certainly be accomplished by a forced march in the course of a single night. Calvin says we are not to suppose that “Joshua accomplished three days’ journey in a single night.” But it is nowhere said that Gibeon was three days’ journey from Gilgal. The words are,
“The Israelites journeyed and came into the cities on the third day.” (<060917>Joshua 9:17).
In other words, the Israelites, on this particular occasion, employed three days, or rather, if we adopt the common Hebrew mode of computation, part of a first, the whole of a second, and part of a third day. Such a statement scarcely justifies the inference that the average time of making the journey between the two places was three days. — Ed.
ft89 The passage here inserted is a quotation from the Latin poet Claudian, who, in his panegyric on Theodosius, referring to a victory of that emperor, in which the elements seem to war in his favor, exclaims —
O nimium dilecte Deo, tibi militat aether,
Et conjurati veniunt ad classica venti!— Ed.
ft90 One might almost suspect from this concluding sentence, that Calvin was a stranger to the Copernican system, and still continued to believe that it was not the earth but the sun that revolved. As we know, however, that he was before his age in many points, so we cannot believe that he was behind it in this. — Ed.
ft91 The rebuke here administered to those who attempt to explain the miracle applies with double force to those who attempt to explain it away. It is rather strange that among this number are some of the most distinguished Jewish rabbis as Levi-ben-Gerson and Maimonides, both of whom maintain that there was no miracle, but only something very like one. There chief inducement to adopt this very extraordinary view, is zeal for the honor of Moses, which they think would be seriously impugned by admitting that a miracle which he never performed was performed by the instrumentality of his successor Joshua. — Ed.
ft92 French “En somme, le soleil remonte estant ja commence a se coucher;” “In a word, the sun remounts after he had begun to set.” — Ed.
ft93 French, “Quant a moy, pour dire la verite, je le prends comme s’il estoit parle de Dieu ou du peuple d’Israel, plutost que de celuy qui a escrit Phistoire;” “For my part, to tell the truth, I understand it as it were spoken of God, or of the people of Israel, rather than of him who wrote the history.” The view here adopted as to the meaning of Jasher has the sanction of many expositors of eminence, both ancient and modern, who consider it to have been some record in which an account of the leading events in the history of the chosen people was regularly inserted, and which might thus come to be commonly spoken of as the Book of the Just, very much in the same way as we are accustomed to speak of the Book of Worthies, the Book of Martyrs, etc. The only other allusion to the Book of Jasher is in <100118>2 Samuel 1:18, where it is referred to as containing, or atleast in connection with David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan. Founding on this reference, De Wette and other rationalists argue that the Book of Joshua is not of the early date usually ascribed to it, and must have been written after the time of David. This argument assumes that Jasher is the name of an author living in the time, or subsequently to the time, of David, and, but for this assumption, for which no good grounds are shown, is utterly destitute of plausibility. — Ed.
ft94 French, “Neantmoins si est ce meilleur d’eviter toujours toutes facons de parler derogantes a la majeste de Dieu, comme s’il estoit question de la ranger;” “Nevertheless it is better to avoid all modes of speaking derogatory to the majesty of God, as if it were intended to make him subordinate.” — Ed.
ft95 The words “stay you not,” contained in the original, and in the Septuagint, the English, and other versions, are omitted in Calvin’s Latin. — Ed.
ft96 It is altogether omitted in the Septuagint. — Ed.
ft97 “A bloodless victory.” Latin, “Incruenta victoria.” French, “De la part des Israelites ils ont acquis la victoire sans qu’il leur ait couste la vie d’un seul homme;” “On the part of the Israelites they gained the victory without its having cost them the life of a single man.” — Ed.
ft98 French, “Or c’este une misericorde qui merite d’estre deteestee, quand elle derogue a l’authorite de Dieu, et qu’elle la deminue selon qu’il semble bon aux hommes;” “Now it is a mercy which deserves to be detested, when it derogates from the authority of God, and lessens it according as it seems good to men.” — Ed.
ft99 French, “Tout le peuple qui n’estoit point sorti de la ville n’en a pas eut meilleur conte;” “All the people who had not come out from the town did not get easier off.” — Ed.
ft100 French, “Ils pourroyentt servir de defense pour garder les villes;” “They might serve for defense to guard the towns.” — Ed.
ft101 Latin, “Quam si mox ad mortem traherentur.” French, “Que s’ils estoyent depeschez soudainement sur le champ;” “Than if they were dispatched suddenly on the spot.” — Ed.
ft102 Latin, “Ficus praecoces.” French, Les figues hastives;” “Precocious figs, or figs too hastily ripened.” — Ed.
ft103 French, “Car cela n’empeschera point que le potier n’ait puissance de faire de ses pots tout ce qu’il luy plaira;” “For that will not hinder the potter from having power to make of his pots whatever he pleases.” — Ed.
ft104 This verse is also omitted by the Septuagint. — Ed.
ft105 Latin, “Judundis praeludiis.” French “Escarmouches plaisantes;” “Pleasing skirmishes.” — Ed.
ft106 French, “Elle secoule et evanouist; “It” (faith) “melts and vanishes.” — Ed.
ft107 Latin, “Oraculo enim subnectitur expeditio Josue.” French, “Car l’expedition de Josue est conjointe avec l’avertissement que Dieu luy donne;” “For the expedition of Joshua is conjoined with the intimation which God gives him.” — Ed.
ft108 Latin, “Et lacus Merom, ubi castra locaverant, qui Jordani contiguns est, longe propius accedit ad Gilgal quam Gennesara ex cujus tractu pars hostium profecta erat.” French, “Et le lac de Merom ou ils s’estoyent campez, qui est contigu au Jourdain, approche beaucoup plus pres de Gilgal que ne fait Genesara, du rivage duquel ume partie des ennemis s’estoit levee;” “And the lake of Merom, where they had encamped, which is contiguous to the Jordan, approaches much nearer to Gilgal than Gennesaret does, on the shores of which a part of the enemy had been raised.” The geographical details here given, and more especially those relating to the lake of Merom, are both defective and inaccurate. The impression left by the Commentary is, that after the kings, composing this formidable league, had united their forces, they began to march southwards, and had arrived within a moderate distance of Gilgal, where they probably expected to come suddenly on Joshua, and take him by surprise. Meanwhile they encamped by the lake of Merom, and Joshua having, in consequence of a divine intimation, set out hastily with his army, gives them the surprise which they expected to have given him. According to this view, the lake of Merom was comparatively near to Gilgal, and hence this is distinctly asserted in the Latin and French quotation which commences this note. The French says plainly, that there was a shorter distance to Gilgal from the lake of Merom than from that of Gennesaret. And the Latin, though not free from ambiguity, says, either the same thing or something still more inaccurate, namely, that the lake of Merom was nearer to Gilgal than to the lake of Gennesaret. On the contrary, it is now well known that the lake of Merom, the modern El Hule, is situated ten miles to the north of the lake of Gennesaret, and consequently is exactly that the number of miles farther from Gilgal than the lake of Gennesaret is, the distances of the lakes from Gilgal being respectively, for Merom, about seventy-five, and for Gennesaret sixty-five miles. Such being the fact, it is obvious that Joshua could not have been at Gilgal when he was honored with a divine communication, promising him the victory on the following day. The true state of the case seems to be, that after Joshua had conquered the central and southern parts of the country, a number of kings or chiefs, whose territories extended over the whole of the north of the promised land, entered into a common league, and appointed the lake of Merom as their place of rendezvous. Joshua, well informed of the league, and alive to its formidable nature, did not wait to give the enemy time to mature their schemes, or remain inert till they were actually within a day’s march of his camp, but set out with a determination to act on the offensive, and with this view had advanced far to the north, into the very heart of the enemy’s country, when any fears which their formidable array might have produced, either in himself or his army, were completely removed by the assurance of speedy and signal success. — Ed.
ft109 Latin, “Deum habere authorem.” French, “Que nous ayons Dieu pour garant et autheur de ce que nous faisons;” “That we have God as guarantee and author of what we do.” — Ed.
ft110 Latin, “Dissectus.” French, “Couppee ou fendue;” “Cut, or cleft.” — Ed.
ft111 According to Josephus, (Antiquit., 5:2,) the time which Joshua spent in his wars was five years; others make it seven, and justify their estimate by the following calculation: — In <061407>Joshua 14:7-10, Caleb says that he was forty years old when he was sent from Kadesh-Barnea to spy out the land, and that since then to the present time (apparently that when the wars had just terminated) forty-five years had elapsed. Of these forty-five years, thirty-eight were spent in the desert, and consequently the remaining seven constitute the whole period which had elapsed from the passage of the Jordan up to the time when Caleb made his statement. — Ed.
ft112 The Septuagint, as if influenced by considerations similar to those here mentioned, has evaded the apparent inconsistency, by rendering the 19th verse (<061119>Joshua 11:19) as follows, “And there was not a city which Israel did not take: they took all in war.” There is a various reading, however, which correspond almost verbatim with the common rendering. — Ed.
ft113 French, “Dieu les endurcit, afin qu’ils se monstrent indigne de toute pitie et compassion qu’on eust peu avoir d’eux;” “God hardens them in order that they may show themselves unworthy of all pity and compassion which might have been felt for them.” — Ed.
ft114 Latin, “Perquam noxium.” French, “Fort dangereuse;” “Very dangerous.” — Ed.
ft115 The Latin text of the 23rd verse, (<061123>Joshua 11:23), beginning thus, “Accepit itaque Josue totam terram prorsus ut dixerat Jehova Mosi;” “Joshua, therefore received the whole land entirely, as the Lord had said to Moses,” removes the apparent inaccuracy, but it is only by a sacrifice of the literal meaning, which is perfectly rendered by the English version. “So (And) Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord said unto Moses.” This is certainly superior to the Latin, which endeavors to obtain by a gloss that which the English equally well obtains by a literal rendering. In the commentary, the words of the 23rd verse, (<061123>Joshua 11:23), as quoted, are, Et cepit Josue. This makes it not improbable that the Accepit of the text is only a misprint of Et cepit. — Ed.
ft116 French, “Or en la division nous verrons puis apres, que les regions qui furent assujetties a l’empire de peuple apres la mort de Josue, voire plusieurs siecles depuis, furent mises en sort pour voir a qui elles escherroyent;” “Now, in the division, we shall afterwards see that the countries which are subjected to the dominion of the people after the death of Joshua, nay, several ages after, were put into the lot, in order to see to whom they should fall.”
ft117 Latin, “Exhibitum fuisse certum specimen promissionis ut secure licuerit terram sorte dividere.” French, “La promesse fut tellement ratifice, et si bien eprouvee par effect, qu’il leur fut loisible de diviser la terre par sort;” “The promise was so far ratified and proved by fact, that they were able to leisure to divide the land by lot.” — Ed.
ft118 Latin, “Quam si nos Deus in rem praesentem adduceret.” French, “Comme si Dieu nous mettoit presentement sur le faict, pour nous faire voire la chose de nos yeux;” “As if God were putting us actually upon the spot to make us see the thing with our own eyes.” — Ed.
ft119 French, “Comment un povre vieillard pouvoit-il estre si vigoureux;” “How could a poor old man be so vigorous.” — Ed.
ft120 It is evident from these remarks, that though in some other passages Calvin seems to speak rather disparagingly of the elucidation which the Scripture narrative may receive from geography, he did not so much underrate its importance as lament its imperfection at the period when he wrote. All complaint on this head has now been happily removed; and it may safely be affirmed, that nothing has done more to clear up obscurities in the Sacred Volume and triumphantly establish its strict and literal accuracy, then the labors and discoveries of recent travelers.
ft121 Latin, “Ne horribili confusione, omnia miscerentur.” French, “Que tout ne vint a estre brouille pesle mesle d’une confusion horrible;” “That every thing was not hurled pell-mell into horrible confusion.” — Ed.
ft122 The words, “old and stricken in years,” do not contain a tautology, but accurately express the period of life according to a division which was long familiar to the Jews, and may have been not unknown to them even at this early period. According to this division, old age consisted of three stages, — the first extending from the sixtieth to the seventieth year, constituting the commencement of old age properly so called; the second extending from the seventieth to the eightieth year, and constituting what was called hoary, or hoary-headed age; and the third extending from the eightieth year to the end of life, and constituting what was called advanced age, and caused the person who had reached it to be described as one stricken in years. At this closing stage Joshua had now arrived. — Ed.
ft123 The opinion generally entertained in Calvin’s time, that the river here meant was the Nile, or at least one of its branches, was founded partly on the meaning of the word sihor, which is literally black, and was explained by expositors as equivalent to turbid, a term strictly applicable to the Nile; and partly from a passage in Jeremiah, (<240218>Jeremiah 2:18) in which the Prophet asks, “What has thou to do in the way of Egypt to drink the waters of Sihor?” — Sihor being here undoubtedly used as a proper name for the Nile. The second opinion mentioned by Calvin is now almost universally admitted to be the only one tenable. Even the description here given of Sihor, (<061303>Joshua 13:3,) as “before Egypt,” is totally inapplicable to the Nile which, instead of being before Egypt, or on its frontiers, flows nearly through its center. The river meant and expressly referred to both by Moses (<043405>Numbers 34:5) and by Joshua (<061504>Joshua 15:4) under the name of the river of Egypt, is now called the Wady El-Arisch, from the town of that name situated near its mouth, and not far from the site of the ancient Rhinocolura, or perhaps more properly Rhinocorura. Calvin spells Rhinocornea, which if it had not been repeated by the French, might seem to be a misprint. — Ed.
ft124 It is here assumed that the only genuine sound represented by the Hebrew letter Ain is that of a. Is this the fact? Gesenius, on the contrary, while repudiating the modern Jewish pronunciation of it by the nasal gn or ng as decidedly false, says that its hardest sound is that of a g referring to Gaza and Gomorrha, the two words referred to by Calvin in illustration of the contrary. See Gesenius’s Hebrew Grammar. (Bagster, 1852.)
ft125 The French adds, “Et qu’il signifie Richesses;” “And that it means Riches.” — Ed.
ft126 French, “Quant au Liban, c’est une chose assez notoire quelle longeur d’etendue il a;” “As to Lebanon it is sufficiently well known what length of extent it has.”
ft127 This is certainly incorrect. Antilibanus received its name, not from its length, but from its being a mountain chain opposite and parallel to Libanus or Lebanon proper, from which it is separated by the beautiful valley known to the Greeks and Romans by the names of Coele-Syria, or rather Koile (Hollow) Syria, and watered by the Leontes. — Ed.
ft128 The Septuagint avoids the appearance of tautology, both by abridging the verse and adopting a different punctuation, rendering it thus: “To Reuben and Gad the Lord gave (an inheritance) on the other side of the Jordan; towards the sun-rising did Moses the servant of the Lord give it to them.” This, however, is not the only alteration made by the Septuagint version. For immediately before the verse now quoted, it interpolates another in the following terms, “From the Jordan unto the Great Sea on the west shall thou give it: the Great Sea will be the boundary of the two tribes and of the half tribe of Manasse.” — Ed.
ft129 To the end of this verse the Septuagint adds the following clause: “kai< ou+tov oJ katamerismo<v o[n kateme>rise Mwnsh~v toi~v uiJoi~v Israh<l ejn Arabw<q Mwa<b ejn tw~| pe>ran tou~ Iorda>nou kata< Iericw<;” “And this is the division which Moses divided to the children of Israel in Araboth-Moab beyond Jordan opposite to Jericho.” — Ed.
ft130 French, “Et de faict, s’il n’euste pourveu a cela de bonne heure, ils se fussent mangez et consumez les uns les autres en debatant entre eux;” “And in fact, had not this been provided for in good time, they would have eaten and consumed one another while debating among themselves.” — Ed.
ft131 French, “Qui plus est, je suis content qu’on traduise en d’autres langues certains noms, qu’il m’a semble bon de laisser ici en la langue Hebraique comme noms propres;” “Moreover, I am content that certain words which I have thought good to leave here in the Hebrew tongue as proper names be translated into other languages.” — Ed.
ft132 The curious contradictions in the behavior of this remarkable man whose fate is here recorded, and analogous exemplification’s of them in ordinary life, are admirably delineated by Bishop Butler in a sermon on the subject. — Ed.
ft133 Latin, “Terminum illis fuisse Jordanem secundum suos fines.” French, “Que le Jordain estoit leur borne selon ses limites;” “That the Jordan was their boundary according to its limits.” The repetition is omitted by the Septuagint. — Ed.
ft134 The thirty-third verse is entirely omitted by the Septuagint. — Ed.
ft135 French, “Il est vrai que ce mot Peut estre, qui est une marque ordinaire de doute, semble estre estrange et ne convenir point, comme s’il se preparoit au combat a l’adventure;” “It is true, indeed, that this word Perhaps, which is an ordinary mark of doubt, seems strange and unsuitable, as if he were preparing himself for the combat at hap-hazard.” — Ed.
ft136 Latin, “Ea munitione.” French, “Cette forteresse si bien munie;” “That stronghold so well fortified.” — Ed.
ft137 According to the explanation here given, the Levites held Hebron only by a kind of precarious tenure, dependent on the good will of Caleb, who gave them an hospitable reception, but might have declined it. It would seem, however, from other passages, and more particularly from <062007>Joshua 20:7, and <062109>Joshua 21:9-13, that their right to Hebron was as complete and absolute as that which they possessed to any of their other cities. Moreover, as these cities were allocated by lot, or in other words, by divine arrangement, no injustice was done to Caleb, and it would have been strangely inconsistent with all that we have previously learned of his conduct and character, had he on this occasion offered any remonstrance. — Ed.
ft138 French, “Jai desia par ci devant adverti que je ne seroye point curieux a desrire ou peindre la situation des lieux, et a espulcher tous les noms, en partie parce que je confesse franchement que je ne suis pas bien exerce a faire descriptions de lieux ou de regions; en partie d’autant que d’un grand travail qu’il faudroit prendre, il n’en reviendroit que bien peu de fruict aux lecteurs;” “I have already before this intimated that I would not be curious in describing or painting the situation of places, and in expiscating all the names, partly because, I frankly confess, that I am not much experienced in making descriptions of places or countries, partly because from the great labor which it would be necessary to take, very little benefit would redound to the reader.” It may be added that these descriptions of boundaries, how minutely soever they may be detailed, must, from their very nature, leave a very vague impression on the mind of the most careful reader, and are much less adapted for the ear than for the eye, which, by a single glance at a map, furnishes information much more vivid, distinct, and accurate than can be obtained from pages of description. At the same time it ought to be remembered, that accurate and detailed descriptions of the boundaries of the different tribes were absolutely indispensable to the Israelites themselves, to whom they formed a king of title-deeds, vindicating their right of possession, and securing them against encroachment. — Ed.
ft139 As originally laid out, it contained nearly a third of the whole Israelitish territory west of the Jordan. — Ed.
ft140 If we are to indulge in conjectures on the subject, this question might be answered by another, How do we know that Caleb had not consulted her inclinations, and instead of resting satisfied with the vague imaginings here ascribed to him, actually obtained her consent to the proposal which he was about to make? It may not have been, as Calvin supposes, a sudden thought which struck him in the heat of battle, but a calm resolve formed before he set out on his expedition against Debir, and intended to reward the most valiant of those who had assisted him in his war against the giants. And it is even not impossible that both he and his daughter, to whom Othniel, from his near relationship, must have been well known, had no doubt from the prowess he had previously exhibited, that he would outstrip all his competitors and carry off the prize. These, of course, are mere conjectures, but they are at least as plausible as those indulged in by other expositors, who, after raising the question, appear to have given themselves much unnecessary trouble in attempting to solve it. — Ed.
ft141 French, “Pource qu’un tel partie et condition si honorable ne pouvoit estre refusee honnestement et sans impudence;” “Because such a party and so honorable a condition could not be refused honestly (honorably) and without impudence.” — Ed.
ft142 In other words, Caleb promises his daughter not absolutely to the man who should take the city, but to the man who, in addition to the prowess exerted in taking it, should also have the address to gain the daughter’s consent. It is difficult to believe that the promise made was either so meant by Caleb, or so interpreted by his followers. He very probably and, as the event showed, justly judged that his influence as a parent would either win or command his daughter’s consent. — Ed.
ft143 French, “Pour un salaire exquis et precieux;” “As an exquisite and precious recompense.” — Ed.
ft144 Latin, “Foeminae tamen magis praecipites feruntur.” French, “Les femmes sont beaucoup plus bouillantes, et se laissent transporter plus aisement. Et d’autant plus sogneusement les maris se doyvent donner garde, de peur que par leurs conseils importuns, qui sont comme des soufflets, ils ne soyent embrasez;” “Women are much more fervid, and allow themselves to be more easily carried away. And so much the more carefully should husbands be on their guard, lest by their importunate counsels, which are like bellows, they be blown into flame.” — Ed.
ft145 French, “Quoy qu’il en soit, cette femme attira a soy par astuce et flatteries le droit d’autruy, et par ce moyen, la part et portion de ses freres en fut d’autant amoindrie;” “Be this as it may, this woman attracted to herself by craft and flattery the right of another, and by this means the part and portion of her brothers was so far lessened.” The censure here passed upon Achsah is rather more severe than the circumstances seem to warrant. It ought to be remembered, that in cases of succession the preference given to males is only conventional, and that by natural law her brothers’ title was not a whit better than her own. — Ed.
ft146 Some of the Jewish expositors, unwilling to admit the cowardice and sluggishness of their countrymen, fable that the Jebusites were permitted to remain in possession because they were descendants of Abimelech, and in consequence of the covenant made between him and Abraham, (<012122>Genesis 21:22, 32,) could not be lawfully expelled. — Ed.
ft147 Latin, “Quasi precario.” French, “Comme par emprunt ou par prieres;” “As by loan or byu entreaty.” — Ed.
ft148 A long clause is here added by the Septuagint, to the effect that the Canaanite continued to dwell in Ephraim till Pharaoh, king of Egypt, came up and took it, drove out the Canaanites, Perizzites, and dwellers in Gezer, and gave it as a dowry to his daughter, (who had married Solomon.) — Ed.
ft149 Latin, “Quidam astute hunc scrupulum dissimulant.” French, “Aucuns y vent a la finesse ne faisans nulle mention de ceste difficulte;” “Some have recourse to finesse, making no mention of this difficulty.” — Ed.
ft150 Latin, “Nisi quia forte perspectum est; nec habitatio commodior obnoxia esset multis querimoniis.” French, “Sinon possible qu’on voulust avoir esgard que s’ils eussent este plus a leur aise, cela eust engendre des complaintes;” “Unless it be possible that they were pleased to take it into consideration that if they had been more at their ease, that might have engendered complaints.” — Ed.
ft151 Latin, “Turpi lucro adduti.” French, “Sous couleur de quelque gain vilain et infame;” “Under color of some vile and infamous gain.” — Ed.
ft152 In the French this section of the commentary stops here, and all that follows in the Latin is omitted. It only amounts, however, to a transposition, as the omitted paragraph is inserted under the section of <061714>Joshua 17:14, at the place indicated by a note. — Ed.
ft153 The omitted paragraph of the section of <061711>Joshua 17:11 is inserted here. — Ed.
ft154 It is impossible, of course, to make any suppositions at variance with the honor and integrity of Joshua, and it must therefore be held that in whatever manner the lot was taken for the children of Joseph, the strictest equity was observed. Is it necessary, however, to adopt one of the two alternatives, — either that separate lots were taken for Ephraim and Manasseh, or that Joshua deceived them? Though they counted as two tribes, they had only one patriarch for their ancestor, and it may therefore have been most expedient that, as they were brethren, their settlements should be adjacent to each other. This might, perhaps, have been obtained by taking separate lots, for we have already seen, on several occasions, how the lot, though apparently fortuitous, was providentially controlled, so as to give results at once confirmatory of ancient predictions, and conducive to the public good; and we may therefore presume that even if separate lots had been taken, the result might be still have been to place the two kindred tribes in juxtaposition. But this was only problematical, and the only way of placing the matter beyond doubt was to make one lot serve for both. And there was no necessary injustice in this, since, as has been repeatedly observed, the lot only fixed thelocality, without determining its precise limits, and thus leftit open to enlarge or curtail them according to the extent of the population. If injustice had been done to the children of Joseph, it would not have been merely because they had been placed in one lot, but because this lot, though really intended for two tribes, had been left as small as if it had been intended only for one. The unreasonableness and dishonesty of the complaint, therefore, lay, according to this view, in their insisting on the fact that only one lot had been taken, and at the same time keeping out of view the other equally important fact, that in fixing its boundaries due allowance had been made for their numbers, and distinct settlements of sufficient magnitude given to each. That only one lot had been taken is strongly confirmed by the whole tenor of the narrative: First, When the children distinctly put the question to Joshua, “Why has thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit?” he does not silence them at once by answering that the assertion which they thus broadly made in the form of a question was not true. On the contrary, the indirectness of his answer seems to imply that the truth of the assertion could not be denied. Secondly, The narrative in Joshua 16, in describing the allocations of Ephraim and Manasseh, speak of them as forming only one lot. Thus, it is said, (<061701>Joshua 17:1,)
“The lot of the
children of Joseph fell from Jordan by Jericho,
unto the water of Jericho on the east;”
and (<061704>Joshua 17:4.)
“So the children of
Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim,
took their inheritance.”
ft155 This place, which afterwards became so celebrated as the fixed station of the ark and tabernacle during the remainder of Joshua’s life and the rule of the Judges, down to the tragical death of Eli, is described in <072119>Judges 21:19, as “On the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.” This minute description corresponds with a place now called Seilun, which is situated about twenty miles N.N.E. from Jerusalem, and has several ruins indicative of an ancient site. If this was the place, it stood nearly in the center of the country, and was thus the most convenient which could have been selected. While its locality made it easily accessible from all quarters, its site, in the heart of a basin completely enclosed by hills except on the south, where a narrow valley opens into a plain, admirably adapted it for the still and solemn performance of religious services. — Ed.
ft156 Latin, “Quasi ex praesenti aspectu.” French, “Comme s’ils eussent este presens sur le lieu;” “As if they had been present on the spot.” — Ed.
ft157 Latin, “Innoxii hospites.” French, “Estrangers innocens qui passent leur chemin;” “Innocent strangers passing on their way.” — Ed.
ft158 These observations are made on the understanding that the survey made on this occasion was very minute, embracing, as Calvin here expresses it, all the “various windings and turnings,” so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, and extending with the same minuteness, not only to the lands actually conquered, but to those still in the undisputed possession of the original inhabitants. Assuming this to be the fact, the dangers to be encountered by the surveyors are certainly not exaggerated in the very graphical description of them here given, and nothing but a series of miraculous interposition’s could have saved them. It may be suggested, however, that the object of the surveyors was only to obtain such a general measurement as might suffice, in the manner already explained, for the taking of the lot, and that such a measurement might possibly have been made without much danger of awakening the suspicion, or rousing the hostility of the actual inhabitants. That the survey was more cursory than minute seems to be indicated by the description given of it in <061809>Joshua 18:9, “And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities.” — Ed.
ft159 Latin, “Reliquis filiis.” French, “Des autres enfans;” “The other children,” — an apparent oversight, as if Benjamin had been a son and not a brother of Joseph. — Ed.
ft160 Latin, “Postea filiis Juda quasi precario sedem regiam concederent.” French, “Depuis ils la baillerent aux enfans de Juda comme par emprunt, pour en faire le siege royal;” “Afterwards they let it to the children of Judah as by loan, to make it the royal residence.” These words seem to imply that at some time or other a regular agreement to this effect had been made, but we nowhere find any mention of such an agreement. It would rather seem from <061563>Joshua 15:63, and <070108>Judges 1:8, 21, that the inhabitants of Judah possessed Jerusalem in consequence of their having wrested it from the Jebusites. — Ed.
ft161 This refers to the setting up of the golden calves by Jeroboam, and the idolatrous worship which thus impiously originated by him was long practiced by his successors. See <111228>1 Kings 12:28-33; 1 Kings 13; <121029>2 Kings 10:29-31; <122315>2 Kings 23:15; <300404>Amos 4:4; <300504>Amos 5:4; <280415>Hosea 4:15; <281005>Hosea 10:5,8. Bethel or “the house of God,” so called by Jacob the morning after he had risen from his wonderful vision, having forfeited its name in consequence of the abominations practiced at it, became afterwards known by that of Bethaven, “the house of idols,” or of vanity and iniquity. — Ed.