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God commands Joshua to introduce the people into Canaan, and to study the book of the law night and day. Joshua commands the people to prepare for their march, and the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, to go with them: the children of Israel promise obedience to Joshua.
Before Christ 1451.
Ver. 1. Now after the death of Moses, &c.— The Hebrew is, and after, &c. This conjunction points out the connection of this book with the foregoing, of which, indeed, it is a continuation. The book of Judges is connected with that of Joshua, and the book of Ruth with that of Judges, in the same plain manner. Thus too the LXX have joined the Lamentations of Jeremiah with the Prophesies of that prophet. This manner of writing is that of a just and exact mind, elevated above the vanity of making a shew of what he composes. He leads the understanding from events to events, without distracting the reader, and without even apprizing him that he who speaks is a new historian. The ancient manner of transcribing the sacred books was conformable to the taste of those who composed them. The works were not distinguished by chapters, and frequently the books had no title; they were written in continuation, those which followed being joined to the foregoing by a conjunction, as we see in this place: see Calmet. With respect to the time here specified by the words, after the death of Moses, it may very probably be placed immediately after the forty days mourning for that holy man were fully elapsed.
The servant of the Lord— Respecting this title, see Deuteronomy 34:5.
The Lord spake unto Joshua, &c.— He gave him his orders. But whereas he spake to Moses familiarly face to face, as a man speaketh with his friend; he informed Joshua out of the sanctuary, and by the mouth of Eleazar the high-priest; who, being invested with the breast-plate, and presenting himself before the veil, over against the mercy-seat, whereon rested the divine presence, consulted God by the Urim and Thummim; and God answered him by an intelligible voice which issued from the mercy-seat.
Moses' minister— i.e. Who had been Moses' minister. The expression in the original gives the idea of an honourable minister, acting by no means in a servile capacity. See Exodus 24:13.Deuteronomy 1:38; Deuteronomy 1:38.
Ver. 2. Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, &c.— The camp of the Israelites rested at Shittim near Jordan, in sight of the land of Canaan, during all the time they were mourning for Moses. But at length, the funeral solemnities of that great legislator being accomplished, and his death having opened to them an entrance into the promised land, Joshua here receives orders to prepare for that event.
Ver. 3. Every place—have I given unto you— See the note on Deuteronomy 11:24.
Ver. 4. From the wilderness and this Lebanon—shall be your coast— That is, from all that desart which lies south of the place where you now are, to mount Lebanon, fronting you on the north; and from the Euphrates on the east, to the Mediterranean sea on the west. See Genesis 25:18. Deuteronomy 1:7. The Hittites, part of whom were of the race of the giants, inhabited, with the Amorites, the mountainous country to the south of the land of Canaan, and were famous for their valour. To promise Joshua the conquest of their country, was to declare to him the utter defeat of the Canaanites; and this, doubtless, is the reason why they were here named in preference. Joshua drove them out of their country, but did not destroy them utterly; for mention is made of their kings a long time afterwards. See 2 Kings 7:6. The great sea, toward the going down of the sun, i.e. the Mediterranean sea to the west.
Ver. 6. Be strong and of a good courage— However courageous and valiant Joshua might be, it was, nevertheless, very necessary to animate him to the undertaking of so difficult an enterprize as was here entrusted to him; nothing less than such a divine assurance could indeed have supported his courage in so arduous a talk. 'Tis true, he was now ninety-three years of age, and had been trained up under Moses at least one third part of that time; so that he wanted neither the experience nor the sagacity necessary to foresee all the difficulties he was to encounter. He saw himself too at the head of 600,000 fighting men: but, not to mention the prodigious number of old men, women, and children; not to reckon servants, cattle, and baggage, wherewith the army was incumbered; his first step was the crossing of a large river; in doing of which, he knew himself equally exposed to the arms of those whom he went to attack, and of those whom he left behind. The nations that he was to subdue were naturally warlike, of a gigantic stature and strength; their towns well fortified by nature and art; their forces and interests united by the strongest ties and alliances: besides, they had all long ago taken the alarm, and had made the greatest preparations against him, determined either to obstruct his conquest of their country, or to lose their lives in its defence. See Univ. Hist. vol. 3:
Ver. 7. Only be thou strong and very courageous, &c.— God requires of Joshua fortitude and courage; which, indeed, ought necessarily to adorn the character of every person raised to the government of a nation; that so, being always faithful in the cause of religion, he may enforce its duties on his subjects, both by his injunctions and his example. Jehovah requires his observance of no other rule for his conduct, than that law which had been deposited with him. He forbids him in any thing to deviate from that law; and, on this condition, assures to him the most happy success.
That thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest— The sense given to this passage by the LXX, is very fine: That thou mayest perform wisely whatsoever thou hast to do. It is the greatest policy to be truly religious. Princes who govern by pretended reasons of state, in contempt of the commands of God, are strangers both to true wisdom and their real interest.
Joshua was to entertain far other sentiments. It was essential to the success of his ministry and arms, that his whole disposition, from the very beginning, should display his fear of God. We should observe, however, that the expression in the original, which primarily signifies to have intelligence, signifies also, frequently, to prosper; inasmuch as prudence is the path to success.
Ver. 8. This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth, &c.— "This law, whose original is laid up in the sanctuary, shall never cease to be the subject of thy meditations and discourses, that so all thy conduct may be perfectly conformable thereto." By which it is evident, that Joshua had a copy of the law for his private use; and that it was the intention of God, that he should set an example to all kings and governors who should come after him, of a devout application to the study of its principles for their government. However weighty and numerous the occupations of Joshua might be, God means not that they should dispense him from reading, meditating, and digesting of his law: on the contrary, he requires him constantly to derive from thence his rule of conduct, as well in his private transactions, as in his public administration. Happy the people who have Joshuas at their head! If ever they can rely on the prudence of their governors, and promise themselves advantage from their ministry, it must be under such a supposition.
Ver. 9. Have not I commanded thee? &c.— These are the grounds of that intrepid courage which was to animate the soul of Joshua 1:0 st, The calling wherewith God had dignified him. 2nd, The positive promise of a lasting protection.
REFLECTIONS.—Moses had been a faithful servant; but death is the common lot of man. By removing from the people this most useful minister, God will call them off from dependance on, and attachment to men. Joshua must arise; and, though conscious of great inferiority of abilities, yet at God's command he may comfortably address himself to the work, assured that he who sends will strengthen him. Note; (1.) It is a comfort to the people of God, that, though ministers die, Jesus their Lord for ever lives to provide for and direct them. (2.) Those whom God calls to succeed eminent ministers, though they may feel their own insufficiency, must not be discouraged, but rely upon his grace and strength who gives the mission. 1. Here is the work enjoined him, to pass Jordan, and to possess the land of Canaan. An arduous task! how shall he cross this deep river, without bridge or pontoons, especially now, when overflowing its banks? and how possess a land where all the inhabitants are mighty? here he must rely upon God: if he commands, he will make the way plain and easy. Note; Divine faith overcomes the greatest difficulties; and they can do all things, who have Christ strengthening them. 2. The promises made to him for his encouragement, [1.] The gift of the land is confirmed to the children of Israel. It was their own, as certainly as if they were in possession. The bounds are wide and extended; and had they been faithful to God, he had not suffered a tittle to have been unfulfilled: if they never occupied the whole, they must blame their own unbelief and disobedience. [2.] God assures Joshua, that his never-failing presence and blessing shall be with him, as they had been with Moses; and the consequence of these must be victory. He shall tread on the necks of his enemies, and divide the land, to be possessed in peace by the tribes of Israel. Note; They who have God's presence with them, may cheerfully and confidently go forth against a host of enemies. (3.) Victory over all the powers of evil is obtained for us by our divine Joshua, and we may triumph already in our glorious head over sin, and death, and hell, as vanquished enemies. (4.) He bids him be of good courage, repeats it again and again, and urges it with renewed assurances that he would be with him: and need there was of such encouragement, though his valour had been tried and known, for his difficulties were now greater than ever. His own insufficiency for such an enterprize, the people's well-known rebellious spirit, his enemies' power and numbers, might shake the most confirmed constancy; but fear is banished, whilst he who supremely commands inspires him with strength and courage irresistible. Note; (1.) The strongest have need of daily support and encouragement from God, or their strength would quickly prove but weakness. (2.) When we go forth to fight the Lord's battles, as ministers, we should take with us that encouraging promise, Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. (3.) When God is pleased to work, none shall hinder: the mountains of difficulty shall, before our divine Zerubbabel, become a plain.
Ver. 10. Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people— Obedient to the divine injunction, Joshua hastens to take all those measures which human prudence could suggest to a pious mind in the present emergency. He commands the schoterim, i.e. the officers subordinate to the schophetim, or judges, whose sentences they published and put in execution.
Ver. 11. Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals— They were to make proclamation throughout the several tribes, in all the camps of Israel, to provide themselves with such victuals as the countries of Sihon and Og, which they had lately conquered, afforded. But to what purpose is this precaution, since the Israelites every morning found manna from heaven for their food? Without quoting all the answers given by interpreters to this question, we shall content ourselves with pointing out two or three. 1st, Joshua's order may be founded on his foreseeing that the Israelites would be obliged to decamp too early in the morning, to allow time for collecting manna, as usual; and therefore he judged it prudent to supply them with provisions before they began their march. 2nd, Though the manna daily fell for the accommodation of the poor, the feeble, and all who had no means of procuring themselves other food; yet those who could purchase flour and meat were not forbidden to use it. The Israelites actually had found great store of provisions in the land of the Amorites, which they had now for some time subdued. Calmet prefers this opinion. Le Clerc thinks, that Joshua issued this order, as conjecturing, or being miraculously informed, that the manna would cease so soon as they had passed the Jordan. 3rdly, Nothing hinders our translating the words, Prepare all necessary provisions, without restraining them to victuals only. The expression, for within three days, occasions new difficulties, which will be removed by a reference to chap. Joshua 3:1-2. Joshua says, ye shall pass over this Jordan; as it was not so far from Shittim, where they now lay encamped, but that they could see it.
Ver. 12-15. And to the Reubenites, &c. spake Joshua— We have elsewhere remarked, that Moses had given to these two tribes and a half settlements on this side Jordan; but on condition, that when it became necessary to pass that river, they should furnish their quota of troops, and march at the head of the whole army into the land of Canaan, properly so called. Here, therefore, Joshua puts them again in mind of this engagement; and seems less to command them, than to remind them of the orders they had already received from Moses. See Numbers 32:20; Numbers 32:42.Deuteronomy 3:18; Deuteronomy 3:18; Deuteronomy 3:29. We find in ver. 14 the word chamuschim, translated armed: it properly signifies girt, as much as to say, dressed and well equipped. See Exodus 13:18. It is very evident, that Joshua did not require any but those who were able to bear arms in those two tribes and a half, to march in this expedition: nor did Moses mean otherwise; they only supplied about 40,000 men. See Patrick.
Ver. 16, 17. And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us, we will do, &c. according as we hearkened unto Moses— This is a very express acknowledgment of the divinity of Joshua's mission, and an absolute submission to his commands: all the tribes evidently gave the like answer.
Only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses— As if they had said, "May the Lord thy God grant to thee, as he did to Moses, the glory of a triumph over our enemies!" And so it is rendered by Menochius, Grotius, Calmet, &c.
Ver. 18. Whosoever he be that doth rebel, &c. he shall be put to death— He shall be treated as a criminal guilty of high treason: so the words are understood by Maimonides and most of the rabbis. We may further take notice, that Joshua was a king and a prophet, as Moses had been; and that, according to the law, he who transgressed the orders of Moses and of a prophet was worthy of death. The word only in the latter clause of the verse should rather be translated therefore, which is the plain signification of the particle רק rak. See chap. Joshua 13:6.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 1". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30