Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
An angel. Taking the shape of a man, (Challoner) such as had appeared to Josue, (chap. v. 13.; Menochius) the guardian angel of Israel. (Haydock) --- The Jews commonly suppose that it was Phinees, the high priest, Malachias ii. 8. (Drusius) But he might be dead with the rest of the ancients when this took place, as the Israelites seem to have experienced many difficulties in consequence of their repeated prevarications, before this messenger was sent to them. He might very probably be some prophet, who speaks in the name of God, (Aggeus i. 13,) as he is said to come not from heaven, but from Galgal to the place of weepers. Hebrew, at Habbocim, "the mulberry trees." Septuagint, Klauthmon. This place, the valley of tears, (Psalm lxxxiii. 7,) perhaps received his name afterwards, from what happened, ver. 4. Some suppose it designates Silo, where the people might be assembled on some great festival, and where sacrifice was offered, ver. 5. Bonfrere collects from the Septuagint and Josephus, ([Antiquities?] vii. 4,) that it lay beyond the vale of the Raphaim, on the south side of Jerusalem, (Menochius) where this messenger might summon the people together, and authorize them to offer sacrifice, as was frequently done (Calmet) by dispensation (Haydock) at a distance from the tabernacle, chap. vi. 20., and xiii. 19. --- I made. If he was an angel, his authority could not be called in question; and if he was the high priest, or a prophet known to the people, they would hear him with attention and respect. (Calmet) --- He appeared at least in human form, and spoke in the name of God. (Worthington) (Josue v.)
League. None of a public nature had been perhaps made by the whole nation, to sanction the idolatry of the Chanaanites. But so many individuals had entered into marriages with them and imitated their perverse manners, so many tribes had spared the cities, &c., that the Israelites in general merited the reprimand. Whether these leagues, made in contradiction to God's command, where to be observed or broken, in a matter of dispute. We may steer a middle course, and assert that such agreements as stipulated the protection of the idolatrous worship and altars, were null, and never to be observed; whereas those which secured to the inhabitants their lives and property, could not be lawfully broken, though the contractors did wrong in making such leagues. See 1 Esdras ix. (Calmet)
Ruin. Septuagint, "stumbling block," the occasion of ruin. (Menochius) --- Thus by a false compassion (Calmet) and negligence, the Israelites brought upon themselves the most serious difficulties, while those whom they had spared, turned against them by a just judgment of God, and proved the ruin both of their souls and bodies, by drawing them into idolatry and then putting them to the sword. (Haydock)
Lord: holocausts to acknowledge his dominion, and sacrifices of expiation for the transgressions of the people. Only the tabernacle and temple were appointed for such sacrifices, though they might be offered elsewhere by dispensation. (St. Augustine, q. 36.) (Worthington)
And Josue, &c. This is here inserted out of Josue, (xxiv.) by way of recapitulation of what had happened before, and by way of an introduction to that which follows. (Challoner) --- The sacred penman gives a short description of the general conduct of the Israelites, shewing how they abandoned their former fidelity, after Josue and the elders were no more, and in consequence were severely punished. Upon their repentance, God shewed them mercy again and again, as will be explained more at large (Haydock) in the subsequent chapters. Salien and some others have hence inferred, that Josue was living when the angel made this reproach. (Calmet) --- But that is contradicted by many passages in the Book of Josue, where the fidelity of the people is commended, as well as here, ver. 7; and chap. i., we read of the death of Josue, so that St. Augustine (q. 14,) says, "there can be no doubt but this is a recapitulation." (Menochius) --- As little had been said before, to enable us to see the grounds of the accusation, these few remarks are subjoined to justify the words of the angel, who appeared while the people was groaning under the afflictions which their sins deserved. (Calmet)
Fathers. These expressions prove the immortality of the soul, Job xxxiv. 4., &c. Knew not, or did not approve or cordially serve the Lord. His tabernacle was still at Silo. But many joined the worship of idols with that of the true God, (Calmet) and light and darkness can never agree. (Haydock)
They followed strange gods. What is here said of the children of Israel, as to their falling so often into idolatry, is to be understood of a great part of them; but not so universally, as if the true worship of God was ever quite abolished among them: for the succession of the true church and religion was kept up all this time by the priest and Levites, at least in the house of God in Silo. (Challoner) --- At different times God raised up deliverers, who were taken from among his people, and no doubt abhorred the impiety of the multitude.
Baal, "Lord," a title given to many of the idols, (Haydock) both male and female. (Menochius) --- They are often distinguished by some additional name, as Beelzebub, "fly," and berith, "covenant," gods adored at Accaron and Sichem. Under this name the pagans adored heaven or the sun, (Calmet) as Astaroth denoted some female deity, the moon, Venus, &c. (Menochius)
Who took. Hebrew, "that spoiled them, and he sold" or abandoned them, &c. (Calmet)
Them, for any long time. Their inconstancy was astonishing. (Haydock) --- These judges raised up by God, or chose by the people under his direction, often rescued Israel from servitude; and during the remainder of their lives, watched to see the laws put in execution, being assisted by the counsels of the senators (Menochius) and magistrates of the nation. (Haydock) --- They were commissioned to rescue the penitent and suffering Israelites. (Worthington)
Quickly. They had persevered in virtue under the government of Josue and of the elders, for the space of forty years, according to Marsham and Houbigant. The former places the first state of anarchy and of idolatry 34 years after Josue, allowing 15 years for the administration of the surviving ancients, and the remainder to bring the nation to such a pitch of wickedness as to force God to abandon it to the dominion of Chusan, for eight years. --- Walked. Hebrew and Septuagint, "walked, obeying the commands of the Lord: they did not so."
Moved, &c. Hebrew and Septuagint, "and the Lord was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge, (for it repented the Lord (Septuagint, he was moved to compassion) on account of their groans, &c.) (Haydock) --- The repentance of God denotes a change of conduct in our regard. (Calmet) --- Delivered. Hence the judges have the title of Saviour, chap. iii. 9., and 2 Esdras ix. 27. (Menochius)
And did. Hebrew, "and corrupted themselves." Septuagint, "were more depraved than," &c. --- By which, &c., is put instead of the Hebrew, "their stubborn (or hard) (Haydock) Chaldean, 'corrupt' way." This hard and rough path denotes the labours which the wicked have to encounter, in the pursuit of pleasure, as they themselves confess. We wearied ourselves in the way of iniquity....and have walked through hard ways, Wisdom v. 7. (Calmet) --- Though the life of the libertine seem delightful, it draws on the most serious evils and provokes the anger of God. (Menochius)
Nations. Hebrew, "any." Septuagint, "a man of those nations," which must be understood, unless the Israelites return to a proper sense of their duty. For then he destroyed not only individuals, but whole armies, by the hand of the judges. Yet we do not find that such havoc was made among the infidels afterwards, as had been made in the days of Josue. They frequently rose up and harassed the Israelites; and God suffered them to do so, that the latter might learn to know themselves, and might perceive how dreadful a thing it is not to comply, at first, with his injunctions. (Haydock)
Or not. The secrets of hearts cannot be hidden from the omniscience of God. (Calmet) --- But he would have an experimental knowledge of the fidelity of his people, by leaving these nations in the midst of them. It was partly on this account that he withdrew the sword of Josue, who would otherwise have easily followed up his victories, and exterminated all the inhabitants. The cowardice and secret indispositions of the people was another obstacle. (Haydock) --- God acted like a person who distrusted the fidelity of his servant, and left something in his way to see if we would steal it. (Calmet)