And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.
Verse 1. - To Shechem. The LXX. and the Arabic version read Shiloh here, and as the words "they presented themselves (literally, took up their station) before God" follow, this would seem the natural reading. But there is not the slightest MSS. authority for the reading, and it is contrary to all sound principles of criticism to resort to arbitrary emendations of the text. Besides, the LXX. itself reads Συχέμ, in ver. 26, and adds, "before the tabernacle of the God of Israel," words implied, but not expressed in the Hebrew. We are therefore driven to the supposition that this gathering was one yet more solemn than the one described in the previous chapter. The tabernacle was no doubt removed on this great occasion to Shechem. The locality, as Poole reminds us, was well calculated to inspire the Israelites with the deepest feelings. It was the scene of God's first covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:6, 7), and of the formal renewal of the covenant related in Genesis 35:2-4 (see note on vers. 23, 26), and in Joshua 8:30-35, when the blessings and the curses were inscribed on Mount Gerizim and Ebal, and the place where Joseph's bones (ver. 32) were laid, possibly at this time, or if not, at the time when the blessings and curses were inscribed. And now, once again, a formal renewal of the covenant was demanded from Israel by their aged chieftain, before his voice should cease to be heard among them any more. Rosenmuller reminds us that Josephus, the Chaldee and Syriac translators, and the Aldine and Complutensian editions of the LXX. itself, have Sichem. Bishop Horsley makes the very reasonable suggestion that Shiloh was not as yet the name of a town, but possibly of the tabernacle itself, or the district in which it had been pitched. And he adds that Mizpeh and Sheehem, not Shiloh, appear to have been the places fixed upon for the gathering of the tribes (see Judges 10:17; Judges 11:11; Judges 20:1 (cf. ver. 27); 1 Samuel 7:5). See, however, Judges 21:12, as well as Joshua 21:2; Joshua 22:12. Some additional probability is given to this view by the fact noticed above, that it is thought necessary to describe the situation of Shiloh in Judges 21:19, and we may also fail to notice that the words translated "house of God" in Judges 20:18, 26 in our version, is in reality Bethel, there being no "house of God" properly so called, but only the "tabernacle of the congregation." The tabernacle in that ease would be moved from place to place within the central district assigned to it, as necessity or convenience dictated. Hengstenberg objects to the idea that the tabernacle was moved to Shechem that it would have led to an idea that God was only present in His Holy Place, to which it is sufficient to reply,
(1) that this does not necessarily follow, and
(2) that such a conception was entertained, though erroneously, by some minds.
The Samaritan woman, for instance, supposed the Jews to believe that in Jerusalem only ought men to worship (John 4:20). When Hengstenberg says, however, that the meeting in the last chapter had reference to Israel from a theocratic and religious, and this one from an historical point of view, he is on firmer ground. The former exhortation is ethical, this historical. He goes on to refer to the deeply interesting historical traditions centering round this place, which have been noticed above. The oak in ver. 26, Hengstenberg maintains to be the same tree that is mentioned in Genesis 12:6 (where our version has, erroneously, "plain"), and which is referred to both in Genesis 35:4 and here as the (i.e, the well known) terebinth in Shechem (see note on ver. 26). He has overlooked the fact that the tree in Genesis 12:6 is not an אֵלָה but an אֵלון. He goes on to contend that the terebinth was not merely "by" but "in" the sanctuary of the Lord, which he supposes to be another sanctuary beside the tabernacle, perhaps the sacred enclosure round Abraham's altar. But he is wrong, as has been shown below, (ver. 26), when he says that בְּ never signifies near (see Joshua 5:25). The question is one of much difficulty, and cannot be satisfactorily settled. But we may dismiss without fear, in the light of the narative in ch. 22, Knobel's suggestion that an altar was erected here on this occasion. If there were any altar, it must have been the altar in the tabernacle. Other gods. That the family of Nahor were not exactly worshippers of the one true God in the same pure ritual as Abraham, may be gathered from the fact that Laban had teraphim (Genesis 31:19, 30). But recent researches have thrown some light on the condition of Abraham's family and ancestors. If Ur Casdim be identified, as recent discoverers have supposed, with Mugeyer, which, though west of Euphrates as a whole, is yet to the eastward of one of its subordinate channels (see 'Transactions of the Society of Biblical Arebaeology,' 3:229; Tomkins, 'Studies on the Time of Abraham,' p. 4), its ruins give us plentiful information concerning the creed of its inhabitants. We may also find some information about this primeval city in Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' 1:15, and in Smith's 'Assyrian Discoveries,' p. 233. The principal building of this city is the temple of the moon god Ur. One of the liturgical hymns to this moon god is in existence, and has been translated into French by M. Lenormant. In it the moon is addressed as Father, earth enlightening god, primeval seer, giver of life, king of kings, and the like. The sun and stars seem also to have been objects of worship, and a highly developed polytheistic system seems to have culminated in the horrible custom of human sacrifices. This was a recognised practice among the early Accadians, a Turanian race which preceded the Semitic in these regions. A fragment of an early Accadian hymn has been preserved, in which the words "his offspring for his life he gave" occur, and it seems that the Semitic people of Ur adopted it from them. A similar view is attributed to Balak in Micah 6:5, 6, and was probably derived from documents which have since perished (see Tomkins, 'Studies on the Time of Abraham,' p 24). Hence, no doubt the Moloch, or Molech, worship which was common in the neighbourhood of Palestine, and which the descendants of Abraham on their first entrance thither rejected with such disgust (see also Genesis 22, where Abraham seems to have some difficulties connected with his ancestral creed). Other deities were worshipped in the Ur of the Chaldees. Sumas, the sun god, Nana, the equivalent of Astarte, the daughter of the moon god, Bel and Belat, "his lady." "In truth," says Mr. Tomkins, in the work above cited, "polytheism was stamped on the earth in temples and towers, and the warlike and beneficent works of kings. Rimmon was the patron of the all-important irrigation, Sin of brickmaking and building, Nergal of war." A full account of these deities will be found in Rawlinson's 'Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 1.
And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.
Verse 2. - All the people (see note on Joshua 23:2). The Lord God of Israel. Rather, Jehovah, the God of Israel (see Exodus 3:13). Until the vision to Moses, the God of Israel had no distinctive name. After that time Jehovah was the recognised name of the God of Israel, as Chemosh of the Moabites, Milcom of the Ammonites, Baal of the Phoenicians. Our translation, "the Lord," somewhat obscures this. Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood. Rather, of the river. Euphrates is meant, on the other side of which (see, however, note on last verse) lay Ur of the Chaldees. It is worthy of notice that there is no evidence of the growth of a myth in the narrative here. We have a simple abstract of the history given us in the Pentateuch, without the slightest addition, and certainly without the invention of any further miraculous details. All this goes to establish the position that we have here a simple unvarnished history of what occurred. The manufacture of prodigies, as every mythical history, down to the biographies of Dominic and Francis, tells us, is a process that cannot stand still. Each successive narrator deems it to be his duty to embellish his narrative with fresh marvels. Compare this with the historical abridgment before us, and we must at least acknowledge that we are in the presence of phenomena of a very different ruder. Professor Goldziher has argued, in his 'Mythology among the Hebrews,' that Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Jacob are solar myths, such as we find in immense abundance in Cox's 'Aryan Mythology.' Abraham (father of height)is the nightly sky. Sarah (princess) is the moon. Isaac (he shall laugh) is the smiling sunset or dawn. It would be difficult to find any history which, by an exercise of similar ingenuity, might not be resolved into myths. Napoleon Bonaparte, for instance, might be resolved into the rushing onset of the conqueror who was never defeated. The retreat from Moscow is a solar myth of the most obvious description. The battle of Bull's Run is clearly so named from the cowardice displayed there by the sons of John Bull. It is remarked by Mr. Tomkins that Ur, the city of the moon god, lends itself most naturally to the fabricator of myths. There is only one objection to the theory, and that is the bricks, still in existence, stamped with the words Urn, which compel us to descend from this delightful cloud land of fancy to the more sober regions of solid and literal fact (see 'Studies on the Times of Abraham,' pp. 205-207). In old time. Literally, from everlasting, i.e, from time immemorial, ἀπ ἄρχης. The Rabbinic tradition has great probability in it, that Abraham was driven out of his native country for refusing to worship idols. It is difficult to understand his call otherwise. No doubt his great and pure soul had learned to abhor the idolatrous and cruel worship of his countrymen. By inward struggles, perhaps by the vague survival of the simpler and truer faith which has been held to underlie every polytheistic system, he had "reached a purer air," and learned to adore the One True God. His family were led to embrace his doctrines, and they left their native land with him. But Haran, with its star worship, was no resting place for him. So he journeyed on westward, leaving the society of men, and preserving himself from temptation by his nomad life. No wandering Bedouin, as some would have us believe (see Drew, 'Scripture Lands,' p. 18), but a prince, on equal terms with Abimelech and Pharaoh, and capable of overthrowing the mighty conqueror of Elam. Such an example might well be brought to the memory of his descendants, who were now to be sojourners in the land promised to their father. Guided by conscience alone, with every external influence against him, he had worshipped the true God in that land. No better argument could be offered to his descendants, when settled in that same land, and about to be bereft of that valuable support which they had derived from the life and influence of Joshua.
And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.
And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt.
I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.
Verse 5. - And I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them. This verse implies that the Israelites possessed some authentic record which rendered it unnecessary to enter into detail. Add to this the fact that this speech is ascribed to Joshua, and that the historian, as we have seen, had access to authentic sources of information, and we cannot avoid the conclusion that the hypothesis of the existence of the written law of Moses at the time of the death of Joshua has a very high degree of probability. The word rendered "plagued" is literally smote, but usually with the idea of a visitation from God. And afterward I brought you out. The absence of any mention of the plagues here is noteworthy. It cannot be accounted for on the supposition that our author was ignorant of them, for we have ample proof that the Book of Joshua was compiled subsequently to the Pentateuch. This is demonstrated by the quotations, too numerous to specify here, which have been noticed in their place. We can only, therefore, regard the omission made simply for the sake of brevity, and because they were so well known to all, as a sign of that tendency, noticed under ver. 1, to abstain from that amplification of marvels common to all mythical histories. Had Joshua desired to indulge a poetic imagination, an admirable opportunity was here afforded him.
And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.
Verse 6. - Unto the Red Sea. There is no unto in the original. Perhaps the meaning here is into the midst of, the abruptness with which it is introduced meaning more than that the Israelites arrived at it. But though without the He locale, it may be no more than the accusative of motion towards a place.
And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.
Verse 7. - And when they cried unto the Lord. This fact is taken, without addition or amplification, from Exodus 14:10-12. The original has unto Jehovah, for "unto the Lord." He put darkness (see Exodus 14:19, 20). The occurrence, which there is most striking and miraculous, is here briefly related. But the miracle is presupposed, although its precise nature is not stated. You. This identification of the Israel of Joshua's day with their forefathers is common in this book (see notes on Joshua 6:21, dec.). A long season. Literally, many days. Here, again, there is no discrepancy between the books of Moses and this epitome of their contents. If both this speech and the Pentateuch were a clumsy patchwork, made up of scraps of this narrative and that, flung together at random, this masterly abstract of the contents of the Pentateuch is little short of a miracle. Whatever may be said of the rest of the narrative, this speech of Joshua's must have been written subsequently to the appearance of the books of Moses in their present form. But is there any trace of the later Hebrew in this chapter more than any other?
And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.
Verse 8. - And I brought you into the land of the Amorites (see Joshua 12:1-6; Numbers 21:21-35; Deuteronomy 2:32-36; Deuteronomy 3:1-17).
Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you:
Verse 9. - Then Balak, son of Zippor. We have here the chronological order, as well as the exact historical detail, of the events carefully preserved. Warred against Israel. The nature of the war is indicated by the rest of the narrative, and this tallies completely with that given in the Book of Numbers. Balak would have fought if he dared, but as he feared to employ temporal weapons he essayed to try spiritual ones in their stead. But even these were turned against him. The curse of God's prophet was miraculously turned into a blessing.
But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.
Verse 10. - But I would not. The Hebrew shows that this is not simply the conditional form of the verb, but that it means I willed not. It was God's "determinate purpose" that Israel should not be accursed. Blessed yon still. Rather, perhaps, blessed you emphatically. And I delivered you out of his hand. Both here and in the narrative in Numbers 22-30, it is implied that Balaam's curse had power if he were permitted by God to pronounce it. Wicked as be was, he was regarded as a prophet of the Lord. There is not the slightest shadow of difference between the view of Balaam presented to us in this short paragraph and that in which he appears to us in the more expanded narrative of Moses.
And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.
Verse 11. - And ye went over Jordan. This epitome of Joshua's deals with his own narrative just as it does with that of Moses. The miraculous portions of the history are passed over, or lightly touched, but there is not the slightest discrepancy between the speech and the history, and the miraculous element is presupposed throughout the former. The men of Jericho. Literally, the lords or possessors of Jericho. The seven Canaanitish tribes that follow are not identical with, but supplementary to, the lords of Jericho. Fought against you. The word is the same as that translated "warred" in ver. 9. The people of Jericho did not fight actively. They confined themselves to defensive operations. But these, of course, constitute war.
And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.
Verse 12. - The hornet. Commentators are divided as to whether this statement is to be taken literally or figuratively. The mention of hornets in the prophecies in Exodus 23:28, Deuteronomy 7:20 is not conclusive. In the former passage the hornet seems to be connected with the fear that was to be felt at their advance. The latter passage is not conclusive on either side. The probability is - since we have no mention of hornets in the history - that what is meant is that kind of unreasonable and panic fear which seems, to persons too far off to discern the assailants, to be displayed by persons attacked by these apparently insignificant insects. The image is a lively and natural one, and it well expresses the dismay which, as we read, seized the inhabitants of the land when their foes, formidable rather from Divine protection then from their number or warlike equipments, had crossed the Jordan (see Joshua 2:9-11; Joshua 5:1; Joshua 6:1). Where the figure came from is not far to seek. Joshua was quoting the prophecies of Moses mentioned above. The two kings of the Amorites. Sihon and Og, who were driven out, beside the tribes on the other side Jordan who have just been mentioned.
And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.
Verse 13. - Labour. The word here used is expressive of the fatigue of labour, and is more equivalent to our word toil. The whole passage is suggested by Deuteronomy 6:10.
Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
Verse 14. - Sincerity and truth. These words, rendered by the LXX. ἐν εὐθύτητι καὶ ἐνδικαιοσύνῃ, are not the precise equivalent of those so translated in other passages in the Bible, nor is St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 5:8, quoting this passage. The word translated sincerity is rather to be rendered perfection, or perfectness. The Hebrew word signifying truth is derived from the idea of stability, as that which can stand the rude shocks of inquiry.
And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Verse 15. - Or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell. There is a reductio ad absurdum here. "Had ye served those gods ye would never have been here, nor would the Amorites have been driven out before you." The reference to the gods of their fathers seems to be intended to suggest the idea of an era long since lost in the past, and thrown into the background by the splendid deliverances and wonders which Jehovah had wrought among them. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Or, Jehovah. Here speaks the sturdy old warrior, who had led them to victory in many a battle. He invites them, as Elijah did on another even more memorable occasion, to make their choice between the false worship and the true, between the present and the future, between the indulgence of their lusts and the approval of their conscience. But as for himself, his choice is already made. No desire to stand well with the children of Israel obscures the clearness of his vision. No temptations of this lower world pervert his sense of truth. The experience of a life spent in His service has convinced him that Jehovah is the true God. And from that conviction he does not intend to swerve. In days when faith is weak and compromise has become general, when the sense of duty is slight or the definitions of duty vague, it is well that the spirit of Joshua should be displayed among the leaders in Israel, and that there should be those who will take their stand boldly upon the declaration," But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."
And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;
Verse 16. - And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the Lord. There could be no doubt of the sincerity of the people at that moment. The only doubt is that afterwards expressed by Joshua, whether the feeling were likely to be permanent. The best test of sincerity is not always the open hostility of foes, for this very often braces up the energies to combat, while at the same time it makes the path of duty clear. Still less is it the hour of triumph over our foes, for then there is no temptation to rebel. The real test of our faithfulness to God is in most cases our power to continue steadfastly in one course of conduct when the excitement of conflict is removed, and the enemies with which we have to contend are the insidious allurements of ease or custom amid the common place duties of life. Thus the Israelites who, amid many murmurings and backslidings, kept faithful to the guidance of Moses in the wilderness, and who followed with unwavering fidelity the banner of Joshua in Palestine, succumbed fatally to the temptations of a life of peace and quietness after his death. So too often does the young Christian, who sets out on his heavenward path with earnest desires and high aspirations, who resists successfully the temptations of youth to unbelief or open immorality, fall a victim to the more insidious snares of compromise with a corrupt society, and instead of maintaining a perpetual warfare with the world, rejecting its principles and despising its precepts, sinks down into a life of ignoble ease and self indulgence, in the place of a life of devotion to the service of God. He does not east off God's service, he does not reject Him openly, but mixes up insensibly with His worship the worship of idols which He hates. Such persons halt between two opinions, they strive to serve two masters, and the end, like that of Israel, is open apostasy and ruin. For "God forbid" see Joshua 22:29.
For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed:
Verse 17. - For the Lord our God. Rather, for Jehovah our God (see note on ver. 2). The Israelites, we may observe, were no sceptics, nor ever became such. Their sin was not open rebellion, but the attempt to engraft upon God's service conduct incompatible with it, which led in practice to the same result - a final antagonism to God. But they believed in Jehovah; they had no doubt of the miracles He had worked, nor of the fact that His protecting hand had delivered them from all their perils, and had achieved for them all their victories. Nor do we find, amid all their sins, that they ever committed themselves to a formal denial of His existence and authority. To this, in the worst times, the prophets appeal, and though Israelitish obstinacy contested their conclusions, it never disputed their premises. Did those great signs. Here the people, in their answer, imply the circumstances which Joshua had omitted. This remark presupposes the miraculous passage of the Red Sea and the Jordan, and the other great miracles recorded in the books of Moses and Joshua. And among all the people through whom we passed. The Hebrew is stronger, "through the midst of whom." As the destruction of the Amorites is mentioned afterwards, this must refer to the safe passage of the Israelites, not only among the wandering bands of Ishmaelites in the wilderness, but along the borders of king Arad the Canaanite, of Edom, and of Moab (Numbers 20:25.). This close, yet incidental, agreement on the part of the writers of two separate books serves to establish the trustworthiness of the writers.
And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.
Verse 18. - Therefore will we also serve the Lord. There is an ambiguity in our version which does not exist in the Hebrew. There is no "therefore," which only serves to obscure the sense, and which is borrowed from the Vulgate. The LXX., which has ἀλλὰ καί, gives the true sense. After the enumeration of the great things God Jehovah has done for them, the Israelites break off, and, referring to the declaration of Joshua in ver. 15, "but as for me and my house, we will serve Jehovah," reply, "we too will serve Jehovah, for He is our God."
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.
Verse 19. - And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the Lord. Calvin thinks that Joshua said this to rouse the sluggish heart of the people to some sense of their duty. But this is quite contrary to the fact, for the heart of the people, as we have seen (ch. 22.), was not sluggish. As little can we accept the explanation of Michaelis, who paraphrases, "Ye will not be able, from merely human resolutions, to serve God." Joshua was stating nothing but a plain fact, which his own higher conception of the law had taught him, that the law was too "holy, just, and good" for it to be possible that Israel should keep it. He had forebodings of coming failure, when he looked on one side at the law with its stern morality and rigorous provisions, and the undisciplined, untamed people that he saw around him. True and faithful to the last, he set before them the law in all its majesty and fulness, the nature of its requirements, and the unsuspected dangers that lay in their weak and wayward hearts. No doubt he had a dim presentiment of the truth, to teach which, to St. Paul, required a miracle and three years' wrestling in Arabia, that by the deeds of the law "shall no flesh be justified in God's sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" (Romans 3:20). As yet the Spirit of God had barely begun to unveil the figure of the Deliverer who was to declare at once God's righteousness and His forgiveness. Yet none the less did Joshua do his duty, and strove to brace up the Israelites to theirs, not by disguising the nature of the undertaking to which they were pledging themselves, but by causing them to be penetrated with a sense of its awfulness and of the solemn responsibilities which it entailed. St. Augustine thinks that Joshua detected in the Israelites already the signs of that self righteousness which St. Paul (Romans 10:3) blames, and that he wished to make them conscious of it. But this is hardly borne out by the narrative. He is a holy God. The pluralis excellentiae is used here in the case of the adjective as well as the substantive. This is to enhance the idea of the holiness which is an essential attribute of God. He is a Jealous God. The meaning is that God will not permit others to share the affections or rights which are His due alone. The word, which, as its root, "to be red," shows, was first applied to human affections, is yet transferred to God, since we can but approximate to His attributes by ideas derived from human relations. Not that God stoops to the meanness and unreasonableness of human jealousy. His vindication of His rights is no other than reasonable in Him. "His glory" He not only "will not," but cannot "give to another." And therefore, as a jealous man does, yet without his infirmity, God refuses to allow another to share in what is due to Himself alone. The word, as well as the existence of the Mosaic covenant, has no doubt led the prophets to use, as they do on innumerable occasions, the figure of a husband and wife (Jeremiah 2:2; Ezekiel 23:25; Hosea 2:2, 13, 16 (margin), Hosea 2:19, 20) in describing the relations of God to His Church, and approximate to His attitude towards His people by the illustration of an injured husband towards a faithless wife (see also Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:15). He will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins (see Exodus 23:21). There were many words used for "forgive" in Scripture: נשׁא כפר and סלה (see Pearson's learned note in his 'Treatise on the Creed,' Art. 10). The one here used signifies to remove or to bear the burden of guilt, corresponding to the word αἴρω in the New Testament. The word here translated" transgressions" is not the same as in Joshua 7:15, and the cognate word to the one rendered "transgressed" in Joshua 7:11, is here rendered "sins." It signifies a "breach of covenant," while the word translated" sins" is the equivalent of the Greek ἀματία.
If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.
Verse 20. - Then he will turn. There is no contradiction between this passage and James 1:17, any more than our expression, the sun is in the east or in the west, conflicts with science. St. James is speaking of God as He is in Himself, sublime in His unchangeableness and bountiful purposes towards mankind. Joshua and the prophets, speaking by way of accommodation to our imperfect modes of expression, speak of Him as He is in relation to us. In reality it is not He but we who change. He has no more altered His position than the sun, which, as we say, rises in the east and sets in the west. But as He is in eternal opposition to all that is false or evil, we, when we turn aside from what is good and true, must of necessity exchange His favour for His displeasure. Do you hurt. Literally, do evil to you. After that he hath done you good. This implies what has been before stated, that it is not God who is inconsistent but man, not God who has changed His mind, but man who has changed his.
And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD.
And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him. And they said, We are witnesses.
Verse 22 - Ye are witnesses against yourselves. Joshua has not disguised from them the difficulty of the task they have undertaken. Like a true guide and father, he has placed the case fully and fairly before them, and they have made their choice. He reminds them that their own words so deliberately uttered will be forever witnesses against them, should they afterwards refuse to keep an engagement into which they entered with their eyes open. They do not in any way shrink from the responsibility, and by accepting the situation as it is placed before them, render it impossible henceforth to plead ignorance or surprise as an excuse for their disobedience. And it is well to observe, as has been remarked above, that such an excuse never was pleaded afterwards, that the obligation, though evaded, was never disavowed.
Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.
Verse 23. - Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you. Keil and Delitzsch notice that the words translated "among you" have also the meaning, "within you," and argue that Joshua is speaking of inward tendencies to idolatry. But this is very improbable. For
(1) the word is the same as we find translated in ver. 17, "through whom." And
(2) the internal scrutiny which the law demanded was hardly so well understood at this early period as by diligent study it afterwards became. The plain provisions of the law demanded obedience. Comparatively little heed was given at first to inward feelings and tendencies. There can be little doubt that the meaning is precisely the same as in Genesis 35:2, and that though the Israelites dare not openly worship strange gods, yet that teraphim and other images were, if not worshipped, yet preserved among them in such a way as to be likely to lead them into temptation. The history of Micah in Judges 17:5 is a proof of this, and it must be remembered that this history is out of its proper place. The zealous Phinehas (Judges 20:28) was then still alive, and the worship at Micah's house had evidently been carried on for some time previous to the disgraceful outrage at Gibeah. The putting away the strange gods was to be the outward and visible sign, the inclining of the heart the inward and spiritual grace wrought within them by the mercy of God. For it is not denied that God desired their affections, and that those affections could scarcely be given while their heart went secretly after idols. It may be further remarked in support of this view that the Israelites are not exhorted to turn their heart from the false gods, but to put them away. It is a plain, positive precept, not a guide for the inner consciousness. On the other hand, the command to incline the heart to the Lord rests upon the simple ground of common gratitude. St. Augustine thinks that if any false gods were secretly in Israel at this time, they would have been met by a severer punishment than that accorded to Achan. Masius - "pace divini viri" - proceeds to argue that murders, thefts, and adulteries were worse sins than those of Achan, that it were not reasonable to suppose that Israel was free from such sins, and they were not punished like Achan's. He forgets to urge
(1) that the condition of the children of Israel was very different in Achan's time to that of the death of Joshua, and
(2) that Achan's was a special act of disobedience to a very special enactment, considerations which would have materially strengthened his argument.
And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.
Verse 24. - And the people said unto Joshua. The triple repetition of the promise adds to the solemnity of the occasion and the binding force of the engagement.
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.
Verse 25. - So Joshua made a covenant. Literally, cut a covenant, a phrase common to the Hebrew, Greek, and Latin tongues, and derived from the custom of sacrifice, in which the victims were cut in pieces and offered to the deity invoked in ratification of the engagement. The word used for covenant, berith, is derived from another word having the same meaning. This appears more probable than the suggestion of some, that the berith is derived from the practice of ratifying an agreement by a social meal. And set them a statute and ordinance. Or, appointed them a statute and a judgment. The word translated "statute" is derived from the same root as our word hack, signifying to cut, and hence to engrave in indelible characters. The practice of engraving inscriptions, proclamations, and the like, on tablets was extremely common in the East. We have instances of it in the two tables of the law, and in the copy of the law engraven in stones on Mount Ebal. The Moabite stone is another instance. And the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian monarchs seem to have written much of their history in this way (see note on Joshua 8:32). The word rendered "ordinance" is far more frequently rendered "judgment" in our version, and seems to have the original signification of a thing set upright, as a pillar on a secure foundation. In Shechem (see note on ver. 1).
And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.
Verse 26. - And Joshua wrote these words. Or, these things, since the word (see note on Joshua 22:24; 23:15) has often this signification. Joshua no doubt recorded, not the whole history of his campaigns and the rest of the contents of what is now called the Book of Joshua, but the public ratification of the Mosaic covenant which had now been made. This he added to his copy of the book of the law, as a memorial to later times. The covenant had been ratified with solemn ceremonies at its first promulgation (Exodus 24:3-8). At the end of Moses' ministry he once more reaffirmed its provisions, reminding them of the curses pronounced on all who should disobey its provisions, and adding, as an additional memorial of the occasion, the sublime song contained in Deuteronomy 32. (see Deuteronomy 21:19, 22). Joshua was present on this occasion, and the dying lawgiver charged him to undertake the conquest of the premised land, and to maintain the observance of the law among the people of God. Hitherto, however, God's promise had not been fulfilled. It seems only natural that when Israel had obtained peaceful possession of the land sworn unto their fathers, and before they were left to His unseen guidance, they should once more be publicly reminded of the conditions on which they enjoyed the inheritance. It may be remarked that, although Joshua's addendum to the book of the law has not come down to us, yet that it covers the principle of such additions, and explains how, at the death of Moses, a brief account of his death and burial should be appended by authority to the volume containing the law itself. The last chapter of Deuteronomy is, in fact, the official seal set upon the authenticity of the narrative, as the words added here were the official record of the law of Moses, having been adopted as the code of jurisprudence in the land. And took a great stone (see notes on Joshua 4:2, 9). An oak. Perhaps the terebinth. So the LXX. (see note on ver. 1). The tree, no doubt, under which Jacob had hid the teraphim of his household. This was clearly one of the reasons for which the place was chosen. By the sanctuary. Keil denies that בְּ ever means near. It is difficult to understand how he can do this with so many passages against him (see Joshua 5:13; 1 Samuel 29:1; Ezekiel 10:15). He wishes to avoid the idea of the sanctuary being at Shechem.
And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.
Verse 27. - A witness (see note on Joshua 22:27). For it hath heard. Joshua speaks by a poetical figure of the stone, as though it had intelligence. The stone was taken from the very place where they stood, and within earshot of the words which had been spoken. Thus it became a more forcible memorial of what had occurred than if it had been brought from far. Ye deny your God. To deny is to say that He is not. The Hebrew implies "to deny concerning Him," to contest the truth of what has been revealed of His essence, and to disparage or deny the great things He had done for His people. The whole scene must have been a striking one. The aged warrior, full of years and honours, venerable from his piety and courage and implicit obedience, addresses in the measured, perhaps tremulous, accents of age the representatives of the whole people he has led so long and so well. Around him are the ancient memories of his race. Here Abraham pitched his tent in his wanderings through Canaan. Here was the first altar built to the worship of the one true God of the land. Here Jacob had buried the teraphim, and solemnly engaged his household in the worship of the true God. Here was the second foothold the children of Abraham obtained in the promised land (see ver. 32), a foretaste of their future inheritance. The bare heights of Ebal soared above them on one side, the softer outlines of Gerizim rose above them on the other; and on their sides, the plaster fresh and the letters distinct and clear, were to be seen the blessings and the curses foretold of those who kept and those who broke the law. In the midst, Shechem, in a situation, as we have seen, of rare beauty, bore witness to the fulfilment of God's promise that the land of their inheritance should be "a good land," a "land flowing with milk and honey." No other place could combine so many solemn memories; none could more adequately remind them of the fulness of blessing God had in store for those who would obey His word; none could be fitter to impress upon them the duty of worshipping God, and Him alone.
CHAPTER 24:29-33. JOSHUA'S DEATH AND BURIAL. -
So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.
And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.
Verse 29. - The servant of the Lord. The theory of some commentators, that this expression is evidence of a later interpolation because "the title only dates, from the period when Moses, Joshua, and others were raised to the rank of national saints," need only be noticed to be rejected. It is a fair specimen of the inventive criticism which has found favour among modern critics, in which a large amount of imagination is made to supply the want of the smallest modicum of fact. What is wanting here is the slightest evidence of such a "period" having ever existed, except at the time when these saints of the old covenant closed their labours by death. All the facts before us go to prove that Moses, as well as Joshua, was held in as high, if not higher, veneration at the moment of his death as at any other period of Jewish history. Died. His was an end which any man might envy. Honoured and beloved, and full of days, he closed his life amid the regrets of a whole people, and with the full consciousness that he had discharged the duties God had imposed upon trim. The best proof of the estimation in which he was held is contained in ver. 32.
And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathserah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.
Verse 30. - In the border of his inheritance in Timnath-Serah. Rather, perhaps, within the border. For Timnath-Serah, see note on Joshua 19:50. The burial-place of Joshua has been supposed to be identified by the Palestine Exploration Committee. Lieutenant Conder describes what he saw at Tibneh. Amid a number of tombs he found one evidently, from more than 200 lamp niches on the walls of the porch, the sepulchre of a man of distinction. The simple character of the ornamentation, he thinks, and the entire absence of it in the interior of the tomb itself, not only suggest an early date, but are in harmony with the character of the simple yet noble-minded warrior, whose tomb it is supposed to be (see Quart. Paper, oct. 1873). In later papers, however (see Oct. 1877, and Jan. 1878), Lieutenant Conder abandons Tibneh for Kerr Haris, on the ground that Jewish tradition, usually found to be correct, is in its favour. And more mature reflection has induced him to modify his former opinion as to the early date of the tombs. Until these researches commenced, the situation of the hill Gaash was unknown, though it is mentioned in 2 Samuel 23:30 ("the brooks" or "valleys of Gaash"), and 1 Chronicles 11:32. Nothing in these places serves to identify it. This passage is copied, with a few minute verbal discrepancies, into the Book of Judges (Joshua 2:6-9), a strong ground, according to all ordinary haws of literary criticism, for concluding that the latter book was written after the former. This is the chain of evidence by which the authenticity of the historical books of the Scriptures is established, not, of course, beyond the reach of cavil or dispute, but to the satisfaction of practical men. The LXX. as well as the Arabic translators have added here the following words: "There they placed with him in the sepulchre, in which they buried him there, the stone knives with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, when he led them out from Egypt, as the Lord commanded, and they are there unto this day." This passage is not found in the Hebrew. And as the Arabic and the LXX. do not altogether agree, the probability seems to be that some apocryphal legend was inserted here at a very early date.
And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.
Verse 31. - And Israel served the Lord (cf. Judges 2:10). We see here the value of personal influence. Nor is such influence altogether unnecessary among us now. The periods of great religious movements in the Christian Church are in many ways very like to the time of the Israelitish conquest of Palestine by Joshua. They are times when God visibly fights for His Church, when miracles of grace are achieved, when the enemies of God are amazed and confounded at the great things God has done. The successes, so clearly due to the interposition of a Higher Power, have a sobering rather than an intoxicating effect, and the influence of the grave, wise, earnest men at the head of the movement is great with their enthusiastic followers. But with the removal of these leaders in Israel a reaction sets in. The fervour of the movement declines, the era of slackness and compromise succeeds, and a generation arises which "knows not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel." In our times such reactions, living as we do in the full blaze of gospel light, are far more transient and less fatal than in the days of Israel. But in our measure we continue to experience the working of that law by which intense energy is apt to be followed by coldness, and every earnest movement for good needs a continual rekindling at the altar of God of the fire which first set it at work. That overlived Joshua. Literally, that lengthened out their days after Joshua.
And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.
Verse 32. - And the bones of Joseph (see Genesis 50:24, 25; Exodus 13:19). Nothing could more fully show the reverence in which the name of Joseph was held in Israel than this scrupulous fulfilment of his commands, and the careful record of it in the authentic records of the country. This passage is another link in the chain of evidence which serves to establish the authenticity and early date of the present hook. For though Joseph's name was always a striking one in Israelitish history, it is unquestionable that as time went on his fame was overshadowed by that of his ancestors. It is Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob on whom the national mind was fixed. It is their names that the prophets recall, the covenant with them which is constantly brought to mind. But during the Israelites' sojourn in Egypt, and while the departure from Egypt was yet recent, the conspicuous position which Joseph occupied in Egyptian history could not fail to be remembered, and the command he gave concerning his bones, as well as his conviction that the prophecy concerning their departure would be fulfilled, was not likely to be forgotten. The emphatic way in which the fulfilment of Joseph's charge is here recorded affords a presumption for the early date of the book, as well as against the theory that it was a late compilation from early records. We are not necessarily to suppose that the interment of Joseph's remains took place at this period. The Hebrew, as we have seen, has no pluperfect tense (see for this Judges 2:10), and therefore it may have taken place, and most probably did take place, as soon as Shechem was in the hands of Israel. In a parcel of ground. Rather, in the portion of the field (see Genesis 33:19). Our word parcel is derived from particula, and was originally identical with the word particle, a little part. So Chaucer speaks of parcel-mele, i.e., by parts. Shakespere has a "parcel-gilt goblet," that is, a goblet partly gilt. It has now come to have a widely different meaning. Pieces of silver. There can be little doubt that this is the true translation. The cognate word in Arabic, signifying "justice," is apparently derived from the idea of even scales. A kindred Hebrew word signifies "truth," probably from the same original idea. Another kindred Arabic word signifies a balance. It therefore, no doubt, means a coin of a certain weight, just as the word shekel has the original signification of weight. The Rabbinical notion, that the word signified "Iambs," rests upon no solid foundation, though supported by all the ancient versions. Some commentators, however, think that a coin is meant upon which the figure of a lamb was impressed. So Vatablus and Drusius. The LXX. has ἀμνάδων, the Vulgate "centum novellis ovibus."
And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.
Verse 33. ? A hill that pertained to Phinehas his son. The LXX., Syriac, and Vulgate translate this as a proper name, Gibeath or Gabaath Phineas. But it may also mean Phinehas' hill. A city may or may not have been built there. Keil and Delitzsch believe it to be the Levitical town, Geba of Benjamin; but of this we cannot be sure. The tomb of Eleazar is still shown near Shechem, "overshadowed by venerable terebinths," as Dean Stanley tells us. And so the history ends with the death and burial of the conqueror of Palestine, the lieutenant of Moses, the faithful and humble servant of God, and of the successor of Aaron, who had been solemnly invested with the garments of his father before that father's death. A fitting termination to so strange and marvellous a history. With the death of two such men a new era had begun for the chosen people; a darker page had now to be opened. The LXX. adds to this passage, "In that day the children of Israel took the ark and carried it about among them, and Phinehas acted as priest, instead of Eleazar his father, until he died, and was buried in his own property at Gabaath. And the children of Israel went each one to his place and to his own city. And the children of Israel worshipped Astarte and Ashtaroth, the gods of the nations around them. And the Lord delivered them into the hand of Eglon king of the Moabites, and he had dominion over them eighteen years." The passage is an obvious compilation from the Book of Judges. It has no counterpart in the Hebrew, and the mention of Astarte and Ashtaroth as different deities is sufficient to discredit it.