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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 22

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-34


The Release of the Two and a Half Transjordanic Tribes. Joshua’s Farewell Discourse. His Death and that of Eleazar

Joshua 22-24

1. The Release of the Two and a Half Transjordanic Tribes.

Joshua 22:0

a. Joshua’s Parting Address

Joshua 22:1-8

1Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh,2And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the Lord [Jehovah] commanded you, and have obeyed [hearkened to] my voice in all that Icommanded you: 3Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but [and] have kept the charge of [omit: of] the commandment of the Lord [Jehovah]your God. 4And now the Lord [Jehovah] your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised [spoke to] them: therefore [and] now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and [omit: and] unto [into] the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the Lord [Jehovah] gave you on the other5side [of the] Jordan. But [Only] take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord [Jehovah] charged [commanded] you, to love the Lord [Jehovah] your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart, and6with all your soul. So [And] Joshua blessed them, and sent them away; and they7went unto their tents. Now [And] to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh, Moses had given possession in Bashan: but [and] unto the other half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this [the other]1 side [of the] Jordan westward. And [and also] when Joshua sent them away also [omit: also] unto their tents, then Hebrews 8:0 blessed them, And he [omit: he] spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.

b. Return Homeward of the Two and a Half Tribes. Erection of an Altar on the Jordan

Joshua 22:9-10

9And the children [sons] of Reuben, and the children [sons] of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children [sons] of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country [into the land] of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed [in which they had possessions], according to the word of the Lord [Jehovah] by the hand of Moses. 10And when they came unto the borders of [into the circles2 of the] Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children [sons] of Reuben, and the children [sons] of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by [the] Jordan, a great altar to see to [an altar great to behold].

c. Embassy from Israel to the Two and a Half Tribes on account of the Altar

Joshua 22:11-20

11And the children [sons] of Israel heard say, Behold, the children [sons] of Reuben, and the children [sons] of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, have built an [the] altar over against the land of Canaan,3 in the borders [circles] of [the]Jordan, at the passage of [opposite to] the children [sons] of Israel. 12And when the children [sons] of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children [sons] of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war againstthem. 13And the children [sons] of Israel sent unto the children [sons] of Reuben, and to the children [sons] of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh into the landof Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14And with him ten princes, of each chief house4 a prince throughout [for] all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an [a] head of the house of their fathers [the head of their chief houses]2 among the thousands of Israel.

15And they came unto the children [sons] of Reuben, and to the children [sons] of Gad, and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spakewith them, saying, 16Thus saith the whole [all the] congregations of the Lord [Jehovah], What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel to turn away [return] this day from following the Lord [Jehovah], in that ye have17builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the Lord [Jehovah]? Is the iniquity5 of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague [and the plague was] in the congregation ofthe Lord [Jehovah], 18But that ye must turn away this day from following the Lord [Jehovah]? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to-day against the Lord [Jehovah], that to-morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.

19Notwithstanding [And truly], if the land of your possession be [is] unclean, then [omit: then] pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the Lord [Jehovah] wherein the Lord’s [Jehovah’s] tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the Lord [Jehovah], nor rebel against us, in buildingyou an altar beside the altar of the Lord [Jehovah] our God. 20Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing [in what was devoted], and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

d. Apology of the Two and a Half Tribes for Building the Altar

Joshua 22:21-31

21Then [And] the children [sons] of Reuben, and the children [sons] of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered, and said [spake] unto the heads of the thousandsof Israel, 22The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods [God, God Jehovah, God, God Jehovah, or, the God of gods, Jehovah, etc.], he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be [was] in rebellion, or [and] if in transgression [trespass]against the Lord [Jehovah], (save us not this day,) 23That we have built us an altar to turn [return] from following the Lord [Jehovah], or [and] if to offer thereon burnt-offering, or [and] meat-offering, or [and] if to offer [make] peace-offeringsthereon, let the Lord [Jehovah] require it; 24And if we have not rather [omit: rather] done it for fear of this thing [done this from concern, for a reason], saying, In time to come your children [sons] might [will] speak unto our children [sons], saying,25What have ye to do with the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel? For [And] the Lord [Jehovah] hath made [the] Jordan a border between us and you, ye children [sons] of Reuben and children [sons] of Gad; ye have no part in the Lord [Jehovah]: So [And] shall your children [sons] make our children [sons] cease from fearing26the Lord [Jehovah]. Therefore [And] we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar [let us now do for ourselves to build the altar], not for burnt-offering,27nor for sacrifice: But that it may be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we might do the service of the Lord [Jehovah] before him with our burnt-offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace-offerings; that your children [sons] may not say to our children [son’s] in time to come, Ye28have no part in the Lord [Jehovah]. Therefore [And] said we, that it shall be, when they should [shall] so say to us or [and] to our generations in time to come, that we may [will] say again [omit: again], Behold [See] the pattern of the altar of the Lord [Jehovah], which our fathers made, not for burnt-offerings, nor for29sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you. God forbid [Far be it from us] that we should rebel against the Lord [Jehovah], and turn this day from following the Lord [Jehovah], to build an altar for burnt offerings, and for meat-offerings, or [and] for sacrifices, beside the altar of the Lord [Jehovah] our God, that is before his tabernacle [dwelling].

30And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation, and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children [sons] of Reuben, and the children [sons] of Gad, and the children [sons] of Manassehspake, it pleased them [was good in their eyes]. 31And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children [sons] of Reuben, and to the children [sons] of Gad, and to the children [sons] of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the Lord [Jehovah] is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the Lord [Jehovah]: now ye have delivered [then did ye deliver] the children [sons] of Israel out of the hand of the Lord [Jehovah].

e. Return of the Embassy. Naming of the Altar

Joshua 22:32-34

32And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children [sons] of Reuben, and from the children [sons] of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan, to the children [sons] of Israel, and broughtthem word again. 33And the thing pleased [was good in the eyes of] the children [sons] of Israel: and the children [sons] of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up [Heb. nearly: did not say they would go up] against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children [sons] of Reuben and [the sons of] Gaddwelt. 34And the children [sons] of Reuben and the children [sons] of Gad called the altar Ed [Witness; or, more probably, omit: Ed]: for it shall be a witness [it is a witness] between us that the Lord [Jehovah] is God.


The author of chaps. 13–21. having given the report, distinguished by his valuable and accurate statements, of the division of the land, the appointment of the cities of refuge and the Levitical cities, relates to us in the three following chapters, which close the book, the release of the two and a half transjordanic tribes, transcribes Joshua’s last discourses to the people, and finally gives account of his death and that of Eleazar.
Chap. 22 itself falls naturally into the following smaller sections: (a.) Joshua’s farewell discourse to the two and a half tribes, Joshua 22:1-8; (b.) Return of these tribes to their home. Erection of an altar on the Jordan, Joshua 22:9-10; (c.) Embassy from Israel on account of this altar, Joshua 22:11-20; (d.) The apology of the eastern tribes, Joshua 22:21-31; (e.) Return of the embassy, Joshua 22:32-34.

a. Joshua 22:1-8. Joshua’s Farewell Discourse to the Two and a Half Tribes from across the Jordan. Joshua acknowledges their obedience to Moses and to his own commands (Joshua 22:2), and further, that they had faithfully stood by their brethren and kept the commandment of God (Joshua 22:3). As now Jehovah had given rest to the others, they might return to their tents in the land of their possession already given to them by Moses beyond the Jordan (Joshua 22:4). To this he adds the admonition that they should continue to observe the commandment, to serve God in unchanging love, with their whole heart and their whole soul. Still further are they called upon to share their rich booty with their brethren (Joshua 22:8). That he sent them away with his blessing is twice related (Joshua 22:6-7 b). A geographical notice is inserted (Joshua 22:7).

Joshua 22:1. אָז, almost certainly not immediately at the end of the war, but, from the connection in which this narrative occurs, and according to Joshua 22:4, not until after the division of the land was completed.

Joshua 22:2. They have kept their obligations to Moses (Numbers 32:20 ff .) and to Joshua himself (Joshua 1:16 ff.).

Joshua 22:3. Still further, they had kept what was to be kept, the commandment of Jehovah. On שָׁמַר מִשִׁמֶרֶת מִצְוַת י, vid. Genesis 26:5; Leviticus 8:35.

Joshua 22:4. Comp. Joshua 1:15, אֶרֶץ אֲחֻזַּת, Joshua 22:9-10; Genesis 36:43; Leviticus 14:34; Leviticus 25:24, and often.

Joshua 22:5 recalls Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 8:6. On the infin. form. אְהָבָה, cf. Gesen. § 133; Ewald, § 238 a; Knobel on Deuteronomy 1:27.

Joshua 22:6 properly closes, in its first half the account of the sending away of the two and a half tribes, while Joshua 22:7 adds a notice which was given in a similar way Joshua 14:3; Joshua 18:7, and was therefore not necessary. Keil, in his earlier commentary on Joshua, noticed it quite sharply. He says (p. 462), “in Joshua 22:7 we find again a notice, characteristic of our author, as Maurer rightly observes, in which he, from a mere desire to be perfectly explicit, sometimes falls into redundancy and superfluous repetitions.” He now (Bibl. Com. in loc.) says more mildly, “in Joshua 22:7 the author, for the sake of perspicuity, inserts the repeated observation, that only half of Manasseh had received their inheritance at the hand of Moses in Bashan, while the other half, on the contrary, had received theirs through Joshua west of the Jordan, as in Joshua 14:3; Joshua 18:7. To us this repetition appears redundant; it agrees, however, with the fullness, abundant in repetitions, of the ancient Hebrew style of narrative.” The second half of the verse now repeats what is known already from Joshua 22:6. Since it begins with the words וגַם כִּי, it would almost seem that something immediately preceding had fallen out or “been omitted.”

Joshua 22:8 presents a continuation of the foregoing in the demand not previously made, that they should share the rich booty with their brethren. This booty consisted in cattle, silver, gold, brass, iron, and clothing, and these all in very large quantities (Exodus 3:22; Exodus 11:2; Exodus 12:36). By the brethren are meant the members of their tribes who had remained at home, to whom, according to Numbers 3:27, one half belonged. Although we cannot, with Knobel, recognize three original elements of the section, namely, Joshua 22:1-4; Joshua 22:6 from the War-book, Joshua 22:5 from the Deuteronomist, Joshua 22:7-8 from the Law-book, we may not suppress the remark that Joshua 22:7 b. and 8 appear to have sprung from a different source, the statements of which are not fully communicated. Whoever put the finishing hand to the whole work, has added that portion of its contents which offered a new thought as a valuable complement.

b. Joshua 22:9-10. Return of the Two and a Half Tribes to their Home. Erection of an Altar on the Jordan. The children of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh returned from Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, into the land of Gilead, into the land of their possession, wherein they had taken possessions (נֹאחְזוּ, as in Genesis 34:10; Genesis 47:27; Numbers 32:30; prop., “wherein they had been held fast,” or established themselves), according to the command of Jehovah by Moses. That they departed from Shiloh, favors the view that this return took place not till after the division of the land. From Joshua 22:9 we see that only the country west of the Jordan is regarded as the land of Canaan; that on the east of that river is called here simply Gilead, although it embraced Gilead and Bashan, the kingdoms of Sihon and Og. The command of Jehovah by Moses, see Numbers 32:20 ff.

Joshua 22:10. On their way home they reared an altar on the Jordan. For they came into the regions on the Jordan [the circles of the Jordan], Hebrew, גְּלִילוֹת הַתַּרְדֵּן. As in Joshua 13:2 and Joel 4:4, the circles of the Philistines (גּ׳ הַגְּלִשְׁתִּים or גּ׳ פְּלֶשֶׁת) are mentioned, so here the גּ׳ הַיַּרְדֶּן, which, Genesis 13:10-11; 1 Kings 7:47, are designated as כִּכַּר הַיַּרדֵּן (Matthew 3:5, ἡ περίχωρος τοῦ ̓Ιορδανοῦ, then, Genesis 13:12; Genesis 19:17, simply, as הַכִּכַּר; now the Ghor. The west side of the Ghor is intended, as appears from the addition, which is in the land of Canaan,—on the west bank of the Jordan. Here they built an altar on the Jordan, an altar great to behold. Hebrew, גָּדוֹל לְמַרְאֶה, i.e., an altar so high and broad that it could be seen from a great distance [or, great in appearance, great as compared with other altars, quasi “great-looking”]. Since Moses had once raised such an altar to commemorate his victory over Amalek (Exodus 17:15), they believed they were acting in good faith, as also they afterwards with a good conscience testify (Joshua 22:24 ff.).

c. Joshua 22:11-20. Embassy from Israel to the Two and a Half Tribes on Account of this Altar. Joshua 22:11. The children of Israel heard that an altar had been built, over against the land of Canaan (אֶל־מוּל אֶרֶץ כְּנַצַן, i.e., on its eastern side, Knobel), in the circles of the Jordan ( גְּלִילוֹת וגו אֶל, i.e., in the Ghor), at the side of the sons of Israel (אֶל־עֶבֶר ונו, as in Exodus 25:37; Exodus 32:15). It is the east side [Zunz: at the side (of the river) turned toward the children of Israel. But comp. Textual Note].

Joshua 22:12 repeats that the children of Israel had heard of this, but adds that the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to overrun the two and a half tribes with war. Knobel regards this verse as an interpolation, and out of the War-book. It is noticeable, indeed, that the beginning of Joshua 22:11 is repeated here, and that Joshua 22:13 might perfectly well follow Joshua 22:11. But, on the other hand, the verse contains nothing at all which could disturb the connection or would be improbable in itself, since in view of Leviticus 17:8-9 (comp. Exodus 20:24) such an excitement appears so much the more intelligible, as the tabernacle had been a short time before (Joshua 18:1) erected for the first time in Shiloh. “This zeal was,” as Keil says, with reference to Calvin’s remark on this passage, “entirely justifiable and praiseworthy, since the altar, although not built for a place of sacrifice, yet might easily be perverted to that use, and lead the whole people into the sin. At all events, the two and a half tribes ought not to have undertaken the building of this altar without the consent of Joshua, or of the high-priest.”

Joshua 22:13-14. The congregation now send Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and ten princes to their fellow tribes beyond the Jordan, to demand an explanation of this matter. Phinehas (פִּינְחָם, according to Gesen. = brazen mouth, נְחָם = נְחשֶׁת), son of Eleazar and one of the daughters of Putiel (Exodus 6:25), is named (Numbers 25:6 ff.) as zealous for discipline and morality in Israel, as a victorious leader of the people (Numbers 31:6 ff.) in the strife with the Midianites, and was therefore very well suited, on account of the high respect which he undoubtedly enjoyed, to be the head and spokesman of the embassy. Afterwards, he was, as related Judges 20:28, himself high priest. The ten princes who were sent with him represented the nine and a half tribes west of the Jordan, and in Joshua 22:30 are called נְשִׂיאֵי הָעֵדָה. Each of them was head of a chief (father) house among the thousands of Israel. On the relation of the chief houses, or, as De Wette translates family houses (Stammhäuser), to the whole tribe, cf. Joshua 7:14; Joshua 7:16-18. The אַלְ‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬פֵי יִשׂרָאֵל are the families of Israel, as appears from 1Sa 10:19; 1 Samuel 10:21, where אֵלֶף is exchanged with מִשְׁפָּחָה. The expression is often met with, e.g.,Judges 6:15; Numbers 1:16; Numbers 10:4; in our ch., Joshua 22:30, and above all in the famous passage Micah 5:1.

Joshua 22:15-20. The messengers come to the children of Reuben, and the rest, in the land of Gilead, and make to them earnest representations. As their speaker we have to imagine to ourselves Phinehas, the man of the brazen-mouth, whose words sound vehemently and as instinct with feeling. He assumes from the first that the altar was built mala fide by the two and a half tribes, that the question is one of rebellion against Jehovah (Joshua 22:16; Joshua 22:22), and then asks whether the iniquity of Peor was not enough, of which the people were not yet purified, that they should call forth against them the wrath of Jehovah anew (Joshua 22:17-18). Rather, he admonishes them in the second part of his discourse, if the land of their possession seemed to them unclean, should the brother tribes cross over into the land of Jehovah’s possession, where his dwelling was, and there take possession, but not rebel against Jehovah and apostatize by building them an altar besides the altar of Jehovah (Joshua 22:19). With an impressive reference to the crime of Achan who perished not as an individual man, but likewise brought God’s anger on the entire congregation, the noble zealot concludes his discourse (Joshua 22:20).

Joshua 22:15-16. What trespass is this—to turn away—that ye might rebel against Jehovah. The expressions here chosen are to be particularly noted: (1) מָעַל, used Joshua 7:1 and Joshua 22:20 with בְּ, of the thing, to commit a trespass in respect to something; but here with בְּ, of the person, and he the most exalted person, Jehovah; “to deal treacherously, with concealment, underhandedly,” in consistency with the probable ground signification; “to cover,” whence מְעיל, mantle. For strengthening, the substantive מַעַל is added to the verb, as [ch. Joshua 7:1] 1Ch 5:25; 1 Chronicles 10:13; 2 Chronicles 12:2. (2) שׁ ב מֵאחֲרֵי יי, as Joshua 22:23; Joshua 22:29 (cf. Joshua 23:12), to turn away from Jehovah. In that consists the treacherousness in general, that they turn away from Jehovah. But since they have so far forgotten themselves as even to build an altar, so (3) the strongest expression is chosen, namely, מָרַד, to be disobedient, refractory, to rebel (Gen 14:4; 2 Kings 18:7; 2 Kings 18:20; 2 Kings 24:1), first, against human rulers, as the passages quoted show, but here, as in Ezekiel 2:3; Daniel 9:9, against Jehovah.

Joshua 22:17. Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us? That is, the iniquity which we committed (Numbers 25:3; Numbers 31:16) in the worship of Baal Peor, consisting in the offering of young maidens (Winer, Realw., art. Baal [Smith’s Bibl. Dict.]). At that time twenty-four thousand of the people died as a punishment. To the zeal of Phinehas the people owed the cessation of the plague (Numbers 25:9-12). Of him God said to Moses, “he has turned away my anger from the children of Israel” (Numbers 25:11). So much the more remarkable must it appear that Phinehas himself here still designates the iniquity as one from which we are not cleansed until this day. He is thinking, perhaps, that, as in his opinion the case of the two and a half tribes shows, the inclination to idolatry still exists among the Jews. So explained already, after the example of R. Levi ben Gerson, C. a Lapide, and Clericus: “A quo nondum satis abhorremus; multi enim videntur fuisse, qui nondum delicti magnitudinem intelligebant.” Vid.Proverbs 20:9. “Non aeerant etiam, qui clam Cananœorum et Chaldœorum deos colerent, ut liquet ex oratione Josuœ, cap. xxiv.14, 23" (ap. Keil, Com. on Josh. in loc.). With this agree Keil and Knobel.

Joshua 22:18. And ye turn away this day from following Jehovah. The sense is: so little do you think of that plague which once came upon the congregation, that you are to-day ready again to turn away from Jehovah [comp. Textual and Gram. Note].

And it will be, since ye rebel. … will be wroth. The construction is the same as in Genesis 33:13, אִם א׳ ת׳ = אתֶּם תִּמרְדוּ. Meaning: “Consider well, for if you rebel to-day against Jehovah, to-morrow he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel.” The judgment of God comes quickly, and it comes not alone on the two and a half tribes, but upon the whole people. In the latter circumstance lies, for Phinehas, at the same time, a sort of warrant for his speaking so earnestly to his transjordanic countrymen.

Joshua 22:19. Proceeding in a milder tone, Phinehas proposes to them, that if their land seemed unclean to them they should go over to the others in the land where Jehovah has his dwelling, only they should build no separate altar. Knobel: “And, indeed (אַךְ, as Genesis 26:9; Genesis 29:14; Genesis 44:28), if the land which they have taken were unclean, they could cross over into the land of Jehovah’s possession, where the dwelling of Jehovah had its seat (שָּׁכַן, as Joshua 18:1), and there settle; only they should not, through such building of a special altar besides the true altar of Jehovah, rebel against the Lord, and bring their brethren into hostility, i.e., draw down mischief on the whole people from God.”

If the land. … be unclean, etc., i.e., because Jehovah had not his abode there, and because many heathen dwelt among them.

Land of your possession… . land of the possession of Jehovah. The antithesis is worthy of careful notice. מָרַד, with the accus. as Job 24:13, מֹרְדֵי אוֹר.

Joshua 22:20. Finally, Phinehas reminds them of the crime of Achan (Joshua 7:1 ff.), which was yet fresh in memory, and which, as once the iniquity of Peor, had involved in its consequences, not only the particular man, but also his children (Joshua 7:24), and, through the unfortunate attack on Ai (Joshua 7:1-5), the entire people. Keil: “Phinehas argues a minore ad majus. Yet the antithesis of minus and majus is not, with Calvin, to be sought in the clandestinum unius hominis maleficium and the manifesta idololatria, but to be understood with Masius, thus: ‘Si Achan cum fecisset sacrilegium, non solus est exstinctus, sed indignatus est Deus universœ ecclesiœ, quid futurum existimatis, si vos, tantus hominum numerus, tam graviter peccaveritis in Deum’ ” (p. 381).

d. Joshua 22:21-31. Defense of the Two and a Half Tribes against the Reproach on Account of this Altar. With a solemn appeal to God, and that as the God Jehovah, whom Israel worshipped, these tribes declare that they have built the altar, not in treachery, to turn away from Jehovah and establish a new worship (Joshua 22:21-23), but rather from solicitude lest the posterity of those who dwelt in Canaan proper should say to their posterity: You have no part in Jehovah! and should so restrain their children from worshipping Him. This had led them to think of building an altar, not as an altar of sacrifice, but as a witness to their common worship of Jehovah, even to future generations, that, if ever the case before supposed should occur, they might point to this altar fashioned after the pattern of the altar of Jehovah (Joshua 22:26-28). In conclusion, they again repeat that rebellion or apostasy was furthest from their thoughts (Joshua 22:29). With this frank reply, evidently springing from a good conscience, Phinehas and the princes declare themselves satisfied; for to-day have they learned that Jehovah is among them, from whose hand the children of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh have saved Israel (Joshua 22:30-31).

Joshua 22:21-23. The answer of the Eastern tribes begins with much solemnity: God (אֵל), God Jehovah (אֱלהִֹים יְהוָֹהGod (אֵל), God Jehovah (אֱלהִֹים יְהוָֹה), he knoweth it (הוּא יֹדֵע), and let Israel also know. “The combination of the three names of God, אֵל, the strong אֶלהִֹים, the Supreme Being worthy to be feared, and יהוָֹה, He who truly is, the covenant God (Joshua 22:22) serves, as in Psalms 1:1, to strengthen the appeal, which is intensified by the repetition of the three names” (Keil).

If it be in rebellion, etc. The apodosis to this follows at the close of Joshua 22:23, let Jehovah require it. Interpolated into the asseveration is the imprecation, proceeding from an excited feeling, and addressed immediately to God, save us not this day! This day, הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה = to-day. He should to-day not help them, to-day not stand by them, to-day forsake them if they have reared the altar in rebellion or in trespass. Knobel: “In case of our unfaithfulness, help thou us not in our present trouble, but leave us to destruction! A parenthetic clause, in which the excited feeling passionately invoking evil upon itself passes into the appeal to God.” On the different kinds of sacrifice, in Joshua 22:23; Joshua 22:27, see Winer, Realw., art. “Opfer”; Herzog, Realenc. x. 614 ff. [Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, art. “Sacrifice”]).

Joshua 22:24-25. And if not rather from anxiety, for a reason, we have done this thing, saying, etc. From anxiety,מִדְּאָגָה, from דָּאַג , to fear, to be concerned, 1 Samuel 9:5; 1 Samuel 10:2; Psalms 38:19. The substantive occurs Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 12:18-19; Jeremiah 49:23; Proverbs 12:25.—For a reason,מִדָּבָר, comp. Joshua 5:4, as also עַל דְּבַ־, Genesis 12:17; Genesis 20:11.—Saying, i.e., saying to themselves, and so = thinking.

Joshua 22:25. יְרֹא “This infin. form, instead of the shortened, לֵרֹא , 1 Samuel 18:29, has analogies in יְצֹק, Ezekiel 24:3, and לִישׁוֹן, Song of Solomon 5:11, whereas in the Pentateuch only יִרְאָה is used” (Keil). The anxiety was not unfounded, in so far as in the promises only Canaan was spoken of, therefore only the land west of the Jordan according to the clear signification of Joshua 22:10. Comp. Genesis 12:7; Genesis 13:15; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8, and in particular, Numbers 34:1-12.

Joshua 22:26-28. Let us now do for ourselves to build the altar, not. … but that it may be a witness, etc. נַעֲשֶׂה לָנוּ לִבְנוֹת. Either to be taken, according to the examples cited by Knobel, Genesis 2:3; Genesis 30:30, as we have aimed to express it in our translation, or as Keil prefers: “We will make us to build an altar (an expression out of the language of common life for: We will build us an altar).” Both explanations afford a good and apposite sense, which Luther renders with pregnant brevity: “Lasset uns einen altar bilden” (let us build an alter) doubtless following the Vulg.: “Exstruamus nobis altare.” The LXX, refer the נַעֲשֶׂה, not to the building in itself, but to the design of the altar to be built: καὶ εἴπαμεν ποιῆσαι, οὕτω τοῦ οἰκοδομῆσαι τὸν βωμον τουτον, οὐκ ἕνεκεν κυρπωμάτων . . . . ἀλλ̓ ἵνα ἦ μαρτύριον τοῦτο, etc.

Joshua 22:27. The altar, therefore, should serve not for sacrifices, but to be a witness (cf. Exodus 17:15) between the generations on both sides, in the present and future times, that we might do [or that we do] the service of Jehovah before Him (לַעֲבֹד אֶת־בֹדַת יי לְמָנָוי) with our burnt-offerings, etc. The offerings were not to be made upon this altar, but before Him, before Jehovah, in Canaan. There would they perform the service of Jehovah.

Joshua 22:28. Simply for that should the altar be built after the pattern of the altar in the Tabernacle, that it might be a witness to which posterity also might point. תַּבְנִית from בָּיָה, is the model, Exodus 25:9; Exo 25:40; 2 Kings 16:10, after which anything is built; but then also here, as Deuteronomy 4:16-18; Ezekiel 8:10, copy, image of anything. This sense is expressed by the LXX. quite correctly by ὁμοίωμα, by Luther by “likeness.” The Vulgate does not translate תַּבְנִית; De Wette’s Bau (structure) is too indefinite.

Joshua 22:29. Another asseveration of their innocence. “The speakers conclude with the expression of their horror at the idea of forsaking Jehovah, חָלִילָה לָנוּ מִמֶּנּוּ, far be it to us from Him, i.e., from God (מֵיִהוָֹה = מִמֶּנּוּ, 1Sa 24:7; 1 Samuel 26:11; 1 Kings 21:3), that we should rebel against Jehovah,” etc. [“The sense is: ‘profane or accursed be it from Jehovah,’ God forbid, LXX., μὴ γένοιτο; or, the primary signification being neglected; ‘woe to me’ [or us] from Jehovah,’ ” etc., Gesen. in v.,חָלִילָה].

Joshua 22:30. It was good in their eyes, namely, in the eyes of the ambassadors, who had heard these words of the two and a half tribes. The sense of בְּעֵנֵיחֶם is very correctly given by the LXX. by καὶ ἤρεσεν αὐτοῖς.

Joshua 22:31. In his explanation Phinehas gives the glory to God alone, when he says: This day wo perceive that Jehovah is among us, because (אֲשֶׁר, in this sense, as Genesis 30:18; Genesis 31:49; Genesis 34:13; Genesis 34:27; Ecclesiastes 4:9; Ecclesiastes 8:11, more completely יַעַן אֲשֶׁר) ye have not committed this trespass against Jehovah. God himself, as Phinehas rightly asumes, hindered that. Now (אָז before conclusions = then or now, Job 9:31; Proverbs 2:5; Psalms 119:92)6 have ye rescued Israel from the hand of Jehovah. “On הִצִּיל מִיָּד, comp. Genesis 37:21; Exodus 2:19” (Knobel). This was realized in so far as otherwise a punishment like that in Numbers 25:8 would have again fallen on the whole people.

e. Joshua 22:32-34. Return of the Embassy. Naming of the Altar. Phinehas and the princes return from the land of Gilead to Canaan, and bring back word which is universally acceptable, so that the people thank God, and all thought of going to war against the eastern tribes is dropped (Joshua 22:32-33). The chapter concludes with the mention that the children of Reuben and Gad had named the altar: It is a witness between us that Jehovah is God (Joshua 22:34). In Joshua 22:32 the children of Reuben and Gad alone are named, and so in Joshua 22:34, merely for brevity’s sake.

Joshua 22:34. By the giving of this name the two and a half tribes distinctly professed themselves worshippers of Jehovah as the true God. The first כִּי stands like the Greek ὅτι, as sign of the quotation of direct discourse (cf. Genesis 4:23; Genesis 29:33; Ruth 1:10; 1 Samuel 10:19), and is therefore not to be translated.


1. As Israel was to honor only one God, Jehovah, who truly was (Exodus 3:14; Exodus 20:2), so should there be in Israel only one place of sacrifice (Leviticus 17:1-9); for to the שְׂעִירִים (Leviticus 17:7), prop. goats, then, probably, shepherd deities, whose worship the apostate Jeroboam, according to 2 Chronicles 11:15, brought in again with that of the calves, to these they should not sacrifice. Considering the strong inclination of the people to turn aside to heathenish idolatry, which had shown itself repeatedly (Exodus 22:0; Numbers 25:0) on their march through the wilderness, the leaders of Israel must have felt, now that the people had received their dwelling-place, and the tabernacle been reared at Shiloh, and the land divided, the supreme necessity of establishing the unity of the worship. This could be truly instituted with a people that needed to be educated through the law (Galatians 4:23-24), only by absolutely prohibiting the offering of sacrifices on any other altar than the altar in the tabernacle. One God, one house of God among the one people chosen by him: one altar of sacrifice before the door of this one habitation,—all this belonged together in the Old Testament, precisely as in the New, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all (Ephesians 4:5-6).

2. The zeal which animated a Phinehas already once before (Numbers 25:0), and now again, was a holy zeal for the honor of God, manifestly springing from a deep moral aversion to the shameful Peor-worship which threatened to bring Israel into destruction. Altogether in the same spirit as Phinehas, Elijah acted at a later period (1 Kings 18:0). If this involved the shedding of blood, we must consider that, according to Leviticus 17:4, idolatry was regarded exactly as if a murder had been committed, and was therefore to be punished with death. The spirit of Jewish zealotry, as it was developed at the time of the destruction of the city by Titus, was a caricature of that which Phinehas and Elijah cherished. How Christ stood related to it appears from the account of the purification of the Temple (John 2:13 ff.; Matthew 21:12 ff.; Mark 11:15 ff.), which teaches us how in Him holy zeal was blended with temperate self-restraint (John 2:15-16), as an impressive admonition to blind zeal in all ages. True, holy zeal is in all respects different from the wild excited passion of fanaticism. That resembles the flame which purifies the noble metal from the dross, this is the torch which, wherever it is hurled, sets all in flames, destroys everything, not in majorem Dei gloriam, but in majorem insaniœ gloriam. If our times in ecclesiastical matters show again a very strong tendency to that false zealotry, this sign of the times is to be esteemed one of the worst, a sign in which no one will conquer, but many certainly perish.

3. How a good conscience might appeal to God, the two and a half tribes show in their reply to the ambassadors of Israel. On the ground and foundation of Christianity also, the same appeal is still allowable, as the asseverations employed by Christ and his Apostles prove, comp. e.g., John 3:5; John 5:24-25; John 6:53; John 13:16; John 13:21; Luke 23:43; Romans 1:9; Romans 11:1; Romans 11:3; Philippians 1:8. Such affirmations are not thoughtlessly ejaculated assertions, but they spring immediately from the temper of the soul filled with the spirit of God, which temper they evince.

4. To have no part in the Lord is the worst thing which can befall a people, a congregation, an individual. How deeply Peter once felt this we learn from John 13:8-9.

5. In all that men do or leave undone constantly to recognize the hand of the Lord, therefore the control of his providence (Joshua 22:31), is an altogether peculiar result of earnest religious meditation. The eye of the ancient Israelites for this, as the passage before us shows, and 1 Samuel 3:8 very impressively, was sharpened in an unusual degree. The more clearly this ultimate causality of God is discerned, so much the more intelligible appears to us all human history, and that as the hypothesis of divine control and human conduct, or of divine appointment and human freedom.


The release of the brother tribes from Gilead, by Joshua. (1) How he acknowledges the fraternal help which had been afforded; (2) admonishes to faithful compliance with the commands of God; (3) dismisses them, with his blessing, to their tents (Joshua 22:1-8).—The return of the tribes to the country east of the Jordan, and the erection of the altar on the border of Canaan (Joshua 22:9-10).— Israel’s embassy to their brethren beyond the Jordan, (1) occasion (Joshua 22:11-14); (2) the message of Phinehas and the princes (Joshua 22:15-20); (3) the answer to this (Joshua 22:21-31); (4) the return of the messengers (Joshua 22:31-33).—Phinehas the holy zealot for the honor of God (Joshua 22:15-20, with appropriate and skillful use of Numbers 25:1 ff.—So let the whole congregation of the Lord say to you—a powerful, solemn word (Joshua 22:16)!—How people with a good conscience speak. (1) They may appeal to God as their witness; (2) they may, however, also state clearly and frankly what they have done, without being obliged to conceal anything (Joshua 22:21-31).—Monuments of historical events are dumb and yet eloquent witnesses (Joshua 22:28 compared with Joshua 22:9-10; Joshua 22:34).—How brethren can understand each other (Joshua 22:30-31).—To-day we perceive that the Lord is among us ! Can we not also frequently say so, when God keeps us that we commit no trespass against Him (Joshua 22:31).—A joyful return home (Joshua 22:32-33).—What joy good tidings may spread abroad (Joshua 22:33). —In all things be the honor God’s (Joshua 22:33, comp. Psalms 115:1).

Starke: It is not enough to begin well, but we must also continue in that way and persevere even to the end, Hebrews 3:12; Hebrews 3:14; Matthew 10:22; Matthew 24:13.—When God releases us from our service we may go but not before, Psalms 31:16; Psalms 39:5; Luke 2:29.—A Christian zeal for religion is not wrong.—It is certainly allowable in important cases, with moderation to answer, and with adjuration by the name of God to manifest truth and innocence.—Altars and images are not in themselves wrong and forbidden: only we must not practice superstition with them, 2 Kings 18:4.

Osiander: By this is it manifest and known that we love God if we keep his commandments, John 14:23; John 15:14.—Whenever we hear concerning Christian believers that they stand fast in the faith, we ought to thank God for such a benefit [1 Thessalonians 1:1-3; 1 Thessalonians 2:6-9].—We should, as far as possible, guard beforehand that none be offended (Joshua 22:34).

Hedinger: Precipitate blood-thirstiness is not consistent with true religion; for how can he who himself would not break the bruised reed, allow us either to bruise that which is whole, or break that which is bruised, or burn up the broken ? Isaiah 43:3.—In cases which are ambiguous and uncertain, it is better to let the judgment stand suspended than to act contrary to love, 1 Corinthians 13:7.—As good householders plant trees of which only their children and children’s children will eat the fruit, and sit under the shadow, so should Christian parents strive still more earnestly that true godliness may be propagated to their children.


[1][Joshua 22:7.—מֵעֵבֶר as בְּעֵבֶר, Joshua 5:1, except that the latter is defined by יָמָה; here it is “on (lit. out of) the other side” with reference to Bashan east of the Jordan, which has just been mentioned.—Tr.]

[2][Joshua 22:10.—גּלִילוֹת הַיּ, “circles, circuit, region;” see the exeg. note. That this district is said to hare been In the “land of Canaan,” which is in general strongly distinguished from the table-land east of the Jordan, certainly favors the supposition that the altar in question was erected on the west side of the river still everything else is against it, and we cannot but think that the recent commentators, against many of the older and against Josephus, have too readily assumed that it was so. It is in itself highly improbable that the Gileadites should have built an altar with their design on ground not belonging to them, where they could have no control over its safety, and where it is impossible to see how it could bear witness for them. And the expressions in Joshua 22:11, אֶלְ־מוּל אֶרֶץ כּ׳ “over against the land of Canaan,” and אֶלְ־עֵבֵר בְּנֶי יִשׂ׳, both naturally point to the other side, and can only with a degree of violence be understood of a locality in the fullest sense within and of the land of Canaan. Consider further that there was no mention by the Israelites of simply destroying the altar, which would on this supposition be easy, and in their state of mind very natural (as indeed they would not have allowed it to be built without explanation on their territory), but that the ambassadors must pass over into Gilead to treat of the matter, and that there to all appearance the naming of the altar took place, and there will appear to be more reasons for the view of those who place the altar on the east bank of the Jordan than against it. May not the solution of the difficulty lie in the extension of the “land of Canaan,” in Joshua 22:10, so as to include the whole of the Ghor (ancient Arabah), overlooking the river, for the moment, as a boundary, and making the boundary between Canaan, the “low country,” and Gilead to be the wall of eastern mountains which fences in the Jordan Valley? This being conceded, the phrase “over against,” quasi “fronting,” in Joshua 22:11, and אֶל־עֵבֶר בְּ׳ יִשׂ׳ (English version, “at the passage of,” etc.), “to the other side with reference to the sons of Israel,” might both be understood in their most usual sense. Certainly some notice ought to be taken of the probabilities for this opinion.— Tr.]

[3][Joshua 22:11.—אֶל, “in a place to which one has come:” comp. לְ, letter B, also Greek εἰς, ἐς for ἐν. In all this, however, the idea of motion is not wholly lost, namel0y, “a motion that preceded” (Gesen. Lex. p. 52 B).—Tr.]

[4][Joshua 22:14.—יֵית אָב, “house of a father,” and בֵּית אֲבוֹת, “house of the fathers,” = father-house, father-houses. On the use of the genitive plural instead of the plural of the noun limited, see Gesen. Lex. s. v. בֵּית (11), p. 129.— Tr.]

[5][Joshua 22:17.—אֶת־עֲוֹן פּ׳, prop. an adverbial ace., “in respect to” the iniquity, etc. The sense of the question is, “Had we not enough of the iniquity?” etc. Zunz’s version appears to take the last member of the verse singularly, as giving a vivid designation of the time of the transgression: als die Seuche war, etc. “And” (וְ) need not be understood here as = “although,” but more naturally in its proper sense: “and the plague [for which] was upon the congregation (not the particular sinners) of Jehovah.” The next verse (18) then proceeds: And (nearly = and yet) ye are turning away this day from after Jehovah. Or, if we suppose a somewhat more free combination of clauses, than is often met with in this style of Hebrew writing, we may consider the two verses as making up a compound sentence, in which one question runs through to the end of the first member of Joshua 22:18. We should then translate thus: Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, and [for which] the plague was on the congregation of Jehovah,—and are ye turning away this day from after Jehovah? And it will be (q. d., the result is) ye will rebel to-day against Jehovah, and to-morrow upon the whole congregation of Israel he will break forth.”— Tr.]

[6][Perhaps, rather, simply: “then (sc., when ye adopted the pious course).”—Tr.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 22". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/joshua-22.html. 1857-84.
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