Joshua 4:13
About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.
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(13) About forty thousand.—The totals of these three tribes at the last census (Numbers 26) were:—Reuben (Numbers 26:7), 43,730; Gad (Numbers 26:18), 40,500; Manasseh (Numbers 26:34), 52,700, or for the exact half, 26, 350. Thus the entire force of the two and a half tribes might amount to 110,580. They therefore left more than half their number to protect their families and their dwellings. This does not seem inconsistent with the spirit of their agreement with Moses, or with the interpretation of that agreement by Joshua and their fellow-Israelites. (See Numbers 32:16-17; Numbers 32:24; Numbers 32:26.) The permission to build cities implies the right to fortify and defend them.

Reuben, Gad, and Simeon formed the second division on the march in the wilderness (Numbers 10:18-20). Why Reuben and Gad discarded Simeon, and associated themselves with part of Manasseh, is not explained. (See Names on the Gates of Pearl.—Simeon.)

4:10-19 The priests with the ark did not stir till ordered to move. Let none be weary of waiting, while they have the tokens of God's presence with them, even the ark of the covenant, though it be in the depths of adversity. Notice is taken of the honour put upon Joshua. Those are feared in the best manner, and to the best purpose, who make it appear that God is with them, and that they set him before them.The plains of Jericho, consisting of the higher terrace of the Jordan valley, are almost seven miles broad. The mountains of Judaea here recede somewhat from the river, and leave a level and fertile space, which, at the time of Joshua's invasion, was principally occupied by a forest of palms. Hence, the name "city of palms," Deuteronomy 34:3. 13. to the plains of Jericho—That part of the Arabah or Ghor, on the west, is about seven miles broad from the Jordan to the mountain entrance at Wady-Kelt. Though now desert, this valley was in ancient times richly covered with wood. An immense palm forest, seven miles long, surrounded Jericho. Either,

1. Before the ark, by which they, as well as the rest, passed when they went over Jordan. Or,

2. In the presence of God, who diligently observed whether they would keep their promise and covenant made with their brethren, or not.

About forty thousand prepared for war,.... Accoutred with proper armour to defend themselves, and their brethren, and annoy their enemies: this is to be understood of such a number of the above mentioned tribes; otherwise the number of all Israel that went over Jordan, even armed or fighting men, besides women and children, were five hundred thousand or more. Now though the number of men fit for war, of these tribes, were an hundred thirty thousand, who were all, according to the original agreement, under obligation to go with their brethren over Jordan into Canaan's land, and continue with them until it was subdued, and they had rest in it; yet Joshua took no more than about forty thousand of them, who we may suppose were select men, and fit for his purpose; the rest were left to look after their flocks, their families, and their lands: these

passed over before the Lord unto battle; over Jordan, before the ark of the Lord, as that stood in Jordan, bore by the priests there, being ready to engage in battle whenever it was necessary: and they went on with their brethren

to the plains of Jericho; to a place afterwards called Gilgal; see Joshua 4:19. The Septuagint version is, to the city Jericho.

About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the {f} LORD unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.

(f) That is, before the Ark.

Verse 13. - Prepared for war. εὔζωνοι, LXX. Literally, disencumbered, like the Latin expeditus. Unlike Numbers 31:5, the Hebrew has the article here. The meaning therefore may be "equipped men of the host," i.e., the light armed and active among them. If we translate thus, it is clear that all their armed men did not go over Jordan. The impedimenta were left behind, under a strong guard (see notes on Joshua 1:14). The plains of Jericho. Here the LXX. and Theodotion have τὴν Ιερίχὼ πόλιν, Symmachus renders by ἀοίκητον, the Vulgate by cumpestria. The original is עַרְבות literally, the deserts or uncultivated lands (see note on Joshua 3:16). They formed a "low-lying plain about four hours' journey in breadth," at that time largely covered with palm trees and thorny acacias, but apparently not cultivated. Since that time, the palms having disappeared, the plain has become "a very picture of fertility," "covered with luxuriant vegetation" (Bartlett, 'From Egypt to Palestine,' p. 453. See also note on Joshua 3:16). The valley narrows to a gorge at Jericho, through which the Kelt, according to Robinson the ancient Cherith, flows, the source of all the verdure which once bloomed around the city. The gorge of the Kelt Canon Tristram describes as "tremendous," but he believes the Cherith to have been eastward of Jordan, following Mr. Grove, who is here disposed to accept the. tradition of Eusebius and Jerome. Joshua 4:13The account of the fighting men of the tribes on the east of the Jordan passing over along with them, in number about 40,000, is added as a supplement, because there was no place in which it could be appropriately inserted before, and yet it was necessary that it should be expressly mentioned that these tribes performed the promise they had given (Joshua 1:16-17), and in what manner they did so. The words וגו ויּעברוּ do not imply that these 40,000 men crossed over behind the priests with the ark, which would not only be at variance with the fact so expressly stated, that the ark of the covenant was the medium of the miraculous division of the water, but also with the distant statement in Joshua 4:18, that when the priests, with the ark, set their feet upon the dry land, the waters filled the river again as they had done before. The imperfect with vav consec. here expresses simply the order of thought, and not of time. "Arboth Jericho," the steppes of Jericho, were that portion of the Arabah or Ghor which formed the environs of Jericho, and which widens here into a low-lying plain of about three and a half or four hours' journey in breadth, on account of the western mountains receding considerably to the south of the opening of the Wady Kelt (Rob. Pal. ii. pp. 263ff.). - In Joshua 4:14 the writer mentions still further the fact that the Lord fulfilled His promise (in Joshua 3:7), and by means of this miracle so effectually confirmed the authority of Joshua in the eyes of Israel, that the people feared him all the days of his life as they had feared Moses. "This was not the chief end of the miracle, that Joshua increased in power and authority; but since it was a matter of great importance, so far as the public interests were concerned, that the government of Joshua should be established, it is very properly mentioned, as an addition to the benefits that were otherwise conferred, that he was invested as it were with sacred insignia, which produced such a felling of veneration among the people, that no one dared to treat him with disrespect" (Calvin).
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