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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Joshua 7

 

 

Verses 1-26

2. Achan’s Theft

Joshua 7

a. The Crime

1But the children [sons] of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing [in respect to what was devoted]: for [and] Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing [of what was devoted]: and the anger of the Lord [Jehovah] was kindled against the children [sons] of Israel.

b. Its evil Effects in the unfortunate Expedition against Ai

Joshua 7:2-5

2And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Beth-aven, on the east side of Beth-el, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country [spy out the land]. And the men went up, and viewed [spied out] Ai 3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but [omit: but] let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai: and [omit: and] make 4 not all the people to labour thither; for they are but [omit: but] few. So [And] there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai 5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for [and] they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore [and] the hearts of the people melted, and became as [omit: as] water.

c. Joshua’s humble Prayer and God’s Answer thereto

Joshua 7:6-15

6And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord [Jehovah] until the even-tide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads 7 And Joshua said, Alas! O Lord God [Jehovah], wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over [the] Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God [O that] we had been content, and 8 dwelt on the other side [of the] Jordan. O Lord [Fay: Pray, Lord; Bunsen: Forgive, Lord; De Wette: Pray, my Lord], what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs [has turned the back] before their [his] enemies? 9For the Canaanites [Canaanite], and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what will thou do unto thy great name?

10And the Lord [Jehovah] said unto Joshua: Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 11Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them; for [and] they have even [also[FN1]] taken of the accursed [devoted] thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even [also put it] among their own stuff 12 Therefore the children [sons] of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed [have become a devoted thing]: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed [devoted] thing from among you 13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against tomorrow: for thus saith the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, There is an accursed [a devoted] thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye have put away the accursed [devoted] thing from among you 14 In the morning therefore [And in the morning] ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the Lord [Jehovah] taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the Lord [Jehovah] shall take [taketh] shall come by [the] households; and the household which the Lord [Jehovah] shall take [taketh] shall come man by Prayer of Manasseh 1:15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed [devoted] thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the Lord [Jehovah], and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.

d. Discovery and Punishment of Achan the Transgressor

Joshua 7:16-26

16So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: 17And he brought the family [Fay: families[FN2]] of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites [of Zarhi]: and he brought the family of the Zarhites [of Zarhi] man by Prayer of Manasseh 1:3 and Zabdi was taken: 18And he brought his household man by man; and Achan the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken 19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My Song of Solomon, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, and make confession unto him [Gesen.; so De Wette and Bunsen; Fay: give him [the] praise]; and tell me now what thou hast done, hide it not from me 20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the Lord [Jehovah] God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done 21 When [And[FN4]] I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment [mantle of Shinar], and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge [tongue] of gold of fifty shekels weight, then [and] I coveted them, and took them, and behold they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it 22 So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent, and behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it 23 And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the Lord [Jehovah]. 24And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment [mantle], and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor 25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us ? [or, What trouble hast thou brought upon us ?] The Lord [Jehovah] shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and they burned them with fire, after they had stoned [and pelted] them with stones 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day. So [And] the Lord [Jehovah] turned from the fierceness of his anger: wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

a. Joshua 7:1. The Crime of Achan. The very first words with which the account of Achan’s theft begins show that the sin of the individual is regarded as compromising all; for it is said: The children of Israel committed a trespass in that which was devoted. מָעַל signifies properly to cover, from which מְעִיל a mantle; hence to act underhandedly, treacherously, Proverbs 16:10; 2 Chronicles 26:18; 2 Chronicles 29:6; 2 Chronicles 29:19; Nehemiah 1:8; specially frequent in the combination which we find here מָעַל מַעַל = to sin through falsehood, treachery, namely, בַּיִהוָֹה, 1 Chronicles 5:25; 1 Chronicles 10:13; 2 Chronicles 12:2, here בחרם therefore indirectly ביהוה Joshua 22:20; 1 Chronicles 2:7.

Achan. In 1 Chronicles 2:7 the man is called עָכָר = the troubler, with which chaps, Joshua 6:18; Joshua 7:26, may be compared. “Josephus also calls him, therefore,’́Αχαρος”, the LXX. in Cod. Vat. ’́Αχαρ, while Cod. Alex, has ’́Αχαν” (Keil). Stier and Theile’s polyglott reads with Vat. ’́Αχαρ. Instead of Zabdi we read in1 Joshua 2:6 Zimri, arising perhaps, as Keil supposes, from confounding letters.

Then the anger of Jehovah was kindled against the children of Israel. Luther: “was fierce;” but “blazed,” “was kindled to a blaze,” is perhaps more adequately suggestive, since the anger itself is regarded as a flame which blazes up and turns its destructive force in this or that direction. It is said concerning men: Genesis 4:5; 2 Samuel 12:5; Exodus 32:19; Exodus 32:22; 1 Samuel 18:8; 1 Samuel 20:7 and often; Acts 17:16; but by preference concerning God; Numbers 11:1; Numbers 11:10; Numbers 22:22; Job 19:11; Job 42:7; Zechariah 10:3; Habakkuk 3:8. In the N. T. also concerning Christ, John 11:33; John 11:38; God himself is a consuming fire; Exodus 24:17; Deuteronomy 4:24; Deuteronomy 9:3; Hebrews 12:29. Fire goes before him: Deuteronomy 9:3; Joel 2:3; Psalm 18:9; Psalm 18:16. His anger is therefore a destructive anger when it is revealed from heaven against the unrighteousness of men, Romans 1:18. Here it blazes not against Achan only, but against the whole people, because Achan, a member of the people, has through his crime brought the whole people into a partnership of suffering. The consequences of his deed show themselves immediately in the unfortunate expedition against Ai.

b. Joshua 7:2-5. Its evil Effects in the unfortunate Expedition against Ai, Joshua sends men from Jericho to Ai, to explore the land, pursuing the same course as before ( Joshua 2). They bring back a favorable report, advise to let only two or three thousand men go forward, and persuade Joshua so to do. The ill success of the movement shows that they had underrated the strength of Ai.[FN5] Although the loss of thirty-six men is comparatively small, the people are disheartened. Their heart melts and becomes water.

Joshua 7:2. Ai, Beth-aven, Joshua 18:23.—Bethel, Joshua 18:13.

Joshua 7:3. They are few. According to Joshua 8:25, Ai had12,000 inhabitants. The scouts had not estimated rightly.

Joshua 7:5. Shebarim. שְׁבָרִים, probably “stone quarries” which lay in that vicinity but have not yet been found by travellers, while there are such near Anathoth, according to Robinson (ii110), and Tobler (Topography of Jerusalem, ii. p395, in Knobel). Noticeable is the translation of the LXX ἕως συνέτριψαν ἀυτόυς, which supposes instead of the Masoretic עַד־הַשְּׁבָרִים the reading הַשְׁבִּירִים עַד־. According to that the defeat should have been total, and the discouragement of the people more intelligible than when only the thirty-six were lost.

Wherefore the heart of the people melted and became water. Joshua 2:11; Joshua 5:1; Deuteronomy 1:28. A very striking addition: “became water.” Is it perhaps, that they wept?

c. Joshua 7:6-16. Joshua’s humble Prayer and God’s Answer thereto. The section falls into two divisions: (a.) Joshua 7:6-9. Filled with deep distress, Joshua, with the elders of Israel, falls down before the ark of God, and continues with them in penitent prayer till evening. (b.) Joshua 7:10-15. God answers that there is one devoted among the Israelites, who must be destroyed, after he has been discovered by casting lots.

a. Jos 7:6-9, Joshua’s Prayer.

Joshua 7:6. And Joshua rent his clothes. A sign of mourning and distress. The clothes were torn in front over the breast, yet not for more than a hand-breadth (Othon. Lex. Rabb. p360, apud Winer). The custom appears also among Greeks and Romans. Suet. Cœs. 33 (veste a pectore discissa). In the O. T. many passages remind us of it, yet in Winer precisely the passage before us is wanting. It is remarkable that in 2 Samuel 3:31, the rending of the garments is commanded by the king, “but it is no more strange,” as Winer well observes, “than if among us, on the death of the ruler of the land, the mode of personal mourning were prescribed by an edict.” Tearing the clothes had gradually become among the Jews, as we can not but think, the fashion in mourning, precisely as among us the wearing of black garments and crape badges for a specified time. [See Bibl. Dict. art. “Mourning.”] Hence the prophet Joel admonishes the people: “Rend your hearts and not your garments” ( Joshua 2:13). But when the high-priest ( Matthew 26:65), or Paul and Barnabas tear their clothes ( Acts 14:14), it was in the deepest displeasure, when the feelings were excited, since such a state is related to mourning.

Dust. Likewise a sign of mourning. 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; Lamentations 2:10, and often, Iliad xviii 23 ff.; xxiv164.

Joshua 7:7. Joshua first asks God why He has brought his People over the Jordan, if He would now destroy them; for it would have been better if they had been content to stay in the land east of that river.

Would that we had been content and dwelt on the other side of the Jordan. Luther: O that we had remained on the other side of the Jordan as we had commenced,—the ut cœpimus of the Vulgate, by which הוֹאַלְנוּ is translated. Unquestionably הוֹאִיל means to commence, and is eleven times rendered by the LXX, according to Gesenius, ἄρχομαι; here, however, as Judges 19:6; Judges 17:11, it means, to let one’s self be pleased, and with the accessory notion, of “to be content.” The translation of the Vulgate and of Luther is tame, while the LXX. hits the correct sense: Εἰ κατεμείναμεν καὶ κατωκίσθημεν παρὰ τὸν ’Ιορδάνην.

Joshua 7:8. Continuation of the complaint, with the additional element that Israel has fled before his enemies.

Joshua 7:9. Portrays the great danger if the Canaanites hear of this, and finally, Joshua 7:10 : “What wilt thou do for thy great name? God himself Isaiah, as it were, concerned.

ß. Joshua 7:10-15. God’s Reply. The entire tone of this answer attests that God’s anger is indeed kindled against the children of Israel. Israel is himself to blame for the defeat ( Joshua 7:10-11) because he has sinned, nor will he hereafter be able to stand before his enemies on this account; and God will not be among the children of Israel unless they destroy that which is devoted from among them ( Joshua 7:12). Joshua must therefore rise up, sanctify the people against the following day, and discover the guilty man by casting lots ( Joshua 7:13-14). When he is discovered, he and all which he has must be burned up with fire ( Joshua 7:15). It is a mighty and deeply impressive word from God which is here imparted to Joshua.

Joshua 7:10. Get thee up! Wherefore, etc. Divine displeasure. “Joshua might well divine that they had merited Jehovah’s ill-will. Hence God’s somewhat impatient question, why he lay there on his face. He should rather be up and trying to detect and put away the sin” (Knobel).

Joshua 7:11. “The גּם is scarcely more than and,” Knobel remarks, but we would call attention to the rhetorical climax—suited to express God’s vehement displeasure—in the several designations of their sin as connected by גַם: transgressed—taken—stolen—dissembled—put among their own stuff. For here was the culmination of the crime, that they had appropriated to themselves what belonged to God. [Cf. Joshua 6:18.] Thus conceived, the language is more dramatic, laden with the most intense emotion.

Joshua 7:12. They have become a devoted thing, Joshua 6:18.

Joshua 7:13 begins with a repeated admonition to Joshua to arise. God gives him this admonition, as indeed the entire answer, directly, not as Clericus supposes, through the high-priest, of whom the context has not a word.—Sanctify yourselves against to-morrow, Joshua 3:5.

Joshua 7:14. The tribe which Jehovah shall take. That is through the lot (גּוֹרָל) which is here used, as in 1 Samuel 14:42 ( Jonah 1:7), in a criminal investigation; elsewhere in divisions of land and people, of prisoners, in elections, warlike undertakings. “Commonly dice were thrown, as is probable (“to cast lots,” Joshua 18:8, “to throw,” Joshua 18:6, “the lot falls,” Jonah 1:7; Ezekiel 24:6), or drawn out of a vessel (“the lot came forth”) Numbers 33:54, “came up” Leviticus 6:9.” Winer. First the tribe, then the clan, then the household, (“father-house”), finally the particular man was to be discovered. The manner itself in which this was done is not known; it is natural to suppose that white and black stones were used, especially as גּוֹרָל from גּרר = גּרל to be rough, signifies properly a small stone, ψῆφος. Farther particulars may be found in Mauritius, De Sortitione apud Hebrœos, Basil, 1692. [Diet, of the Bible, art. “Lot.”]. Like the Hebrews, the Romans also resorted to the lot in divisions (sortes divisoriœ), and elections (“sors urbana” and “peregrina” in the choice of a prætor) as also to explore the will of the divinity (staff oracle, rhabdomancy). The Homeric heroes cast lots (κληροῦν κλῆρος) whenever the accomplishment of any heroic deed was in question, as was done also Judges 22:10. They too had rhabdomancy as well as the Romans (see Pierer s. v. “Loos”).

Joshua 7:15. Shall be burnt with fire. “Not alive, but according to Joshua 7:25 he was first stoned to death, and then his corpse burned as an aggravation of the death penalty” (Keil).

Folly, נְבָלָה. The נבל is not so much a fool in an intellectual respect as in a moral; hence נְבָלָה is more the moral than the intellectual folly = to iniquity, comp. Genesis 34:7; Deuteronomy 22:21; Judges 19:23-24; 2 Samuel 13:12. For the idea of נבל, Psalm 14:1; Psalm 53:2, are classical texts.

d. The Discovery and Punishment of Achan the Evil-doer. Joshua 7:16-20. Conformably to God’s command, Joshua the next morning brings the tribes of Israel before Jehovah, when Achan is indicated by the lot as the transgressor ( Joshua 7:16-18). Being exhorted to confess his fault Achan owns all ( Joshua 7:19-21). The stolen property is found in his tent according to his statement ( Joshua 7:22-23); he himself with what belonged to him is stoned and burnt ( Joshua 7:24-26).

Joshua 7:16-18. The difficulty which the text offers, Joshua 7:17, has been already intimated above. In משפחת it requires only a different punctuation to bring it into harmony with Joshua 7:14. We therefore read the plural without hesitation instead of the singular of the Masoretes. It is different with לגברים. Here we have a different word before us, and a more difficult one, which we can the less make up our minds to change, since, as Keil, following Vatablus, has happily remarked, not the father-houses or family groups, but only the men representing the clan, the heads of the several father-houses, came forward to the lot. So also Bunsen: “ Prayer of Manasseh, that Isaiah, house, Joshua 7:14.”

We may perhaps best represent the whole process thus:—

the people of israel.

First lot

Tribe of Judah.

Second lot

Clan of Zerah.

Third lot

House of Zabdi.[FN6]

Fourth lot

Man Achan.

Joshua 7:19-21. My Song of Solomon, give, I pray thee, glory to the Lord God of Israel, and give him (the) praise [or, make confession to him]; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me, Joshua 7:19. The demand of Joshua upon Achan was certainly meant by him honestly and frankly, not craftily, as some of the Rabbins assume. Achan should confess his sin in order to receive inward forgiveness, although he has outwardly fallen under the irrevocable sentence of God. The form of the demand is the same as in John 9:24. Reverence for the Omniscient God should move to the confession of the truth. The circumstances, indeed, are here essentially different from those in John 9. Honest and frank Joshua stands before Achan, crafty and treacherous the Pharisees seek, under an appeal for honor to God, to extort from the man born blind a confession injurious to our Lord.

Joshua 7:20. Achan humbly confesses his sin as a sin against Jehovah, God of Israel.

Joshua 7:21. Babylonish garment, prop. mantle of Shinar=Babylon ( Genesis 11:2; Genesis 11:8-9; Genesis 10:10). What it was made of we know not, since particular statements are wanting. Starke suspects it was of gold and silken threads, and that it was wrought in many colors mixed, Jonah 3:6; 2 Kings 2:13. “Concerning the elaborate and beautiful products of the Babylonian looms, see Heeren, Asiat. Nations, i2, p 422 ff. [Bohn’s Eng. ed.]. Movers’ Phœnicians, ii3, p258 ff.” (Knobel). [See further particulars in Dict. of the Bibl, art. “Babylonish Garment.”]

Two hundred shekels of silver = 200 × 060 = 120. For details concerning the calculation, vid. in Winer, Realw. s. v. “Sekel,” or in Herzog’s Realencyk. vol. iv. p764. [Gesen. s. v. שֶׁקֶל, Dict. of the Bibl. art. “Money,” “Shekel,” and “Weights and Measures.”]

A wedge (prop. tongue) of gold. Vulg. regula aurea, a golden bar. Rather, “a tongue-shaped article made of gold” (Knobel). The weight is given at fifty shekels, equal in value to cir. thirty dollars.

I coveted them, Genesis 3:6; James 4:13-15. האהלי, the article as Leviticus 27:33.

Under it. The mantle lay probably on the top, and the tongue of gold next below, and the silver lowest.

Joshua 7:22-23. Discovery of the stolen Goods in Achan’s Tent. The messengers laid it down, after they had found it, before Jehovah.הִצֹיק from יָצַק, to pour out, is equivalent to הִצִּיג, to set, to place, 2 Samuel 15:24.

Before Jehovah = before the ark of Jehovah, where He was enthroned, Joshua 6:8.

Joshua 7:24-26. Achan, son of Zerah; in a wide sense son of Zerah; strictly he was his great grandson. He is now, together with the articles appropriated by him, as well as his whole property, and also all his sons and daughters, given up to destruction. How does this sentence passed on Achan, under which his innocent sons and daughters also fell, agree with the decision of the law, Deuteronomy 24:16, according to which the fathers should not die for the children, nor the children for the fathers, but every one for his own sin? This difficulty has been met in various ways: (1) Some Rabbins, Schulz, Hess, and others suppose that Achan’s family were brought into the valley of Achor merely as spectators, to take a terrifying example, contrary to what is written, Joshua 7:25. (2) C. a Lapide, Cler, Mich, Rosenmüller, think they had had a share in their father’s crime. For this an analogous case might be cited in Acts 5:1 ff, but while there it is made conspicuous that Sapphira was privy to the sin of Ananias; here every intimation of that kind is wanting. Hence (3) Calvin, Masius, Seb. Schmidt, leave the matter undecided, appealing to the unfathomableness of God’s counsels; while others again, like Knobel, and Starke also, at least by intimations, remark that we have here to do with a judgment executed by the immediate direction of God, and therefore a divine judgment, similar to the case, Numbers 16:32, whereas the ordinance in Deuteronomy 24:16, holds good only for the usual every-day administration of justice. Before God, the searcher of hearts, the sons and daughters of Achan were guilty of participation in their father’s sin, because in them the same “corrupted nature and disposition,” which Keil rightly notices, was present, which in the father produced the evil deed [?]. God visits the sins of the fathers on the children, Exodus 20:5; Numbers 14:33. Accurately considered, the decision pertaining to private rights, in Deuteronomy 24:16, has no application to this higher public right of God.

Joshua 7:24. Valley of Achor. Joshua 15:7; Hosea 2:15; Isaiah 65:10. The origin of the name is given, Joshua 7:25. It lay north of Jericho on the northern border of the tribe of Judah. In Jerome’s time the name was still in use.

Joshua 7:25. And all Israel stoned him. Here רָגַם is used, afterwards at the close of the verse, in an addition which the LXX omit, סָקַל. Both words are used in the Bible of stoning, but רגם has the more general signification, and is found only once, Leviticus 24:14, without אֶבֶך. Achan is condemned to be stoned because he had by his robbery violated the honor of God, as did blasphemers, Sabbath breakers, idolaters, sorcerers, wizards, etc. The addition סקלו אתם באבנים is superfluous, and may perhaps be intended, as Knobel conjectures, to obviate a misunderstanding of אֹתוֹ in the former half of the verse. Not only the LXX. but the Vulg. omits it. Luther has aimed to avoid the difficulty by attaching the words to the following verse, and translating: “And when they had stoned them they raised,” etc. [Nearly so the Eng. vers.]

Joshua 7:26. Over Achan they raised a great heap of stones which served to commemorate his disgrace ( Joshua 8:29; 2 Samuel 18:17); and that even to the writer’s time. The casting of stones on certain graves was customary in other nations also, e.g. among the Arabs (Schulte’s Hist. Joctanidarum, pp118, 144), and the Romans (Propert4, 5, 74ff. Serv. ed. Lion, i. p1), but had not always that dishonorable import. It had not, e.g. among the Bedouins who often heap up stones over one buried (Burkhardt, Beduinen, p81), Knobel.

And Jehovah turned from the fierceness of his anger, Exodus 32:12.

THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL

1. God’s anger is not an ebullition of blind passion, but a holy displeasure against the unrighteousness of men. When this unrighteousness is removed God’s anger ceases, as the close of our chapter, Joshua 7:26, shows. All which has been injuriously said concerning the blood-thirsty and wrathful God of the O. T. rests on a failure to apprehend this holy displeasure of God against the unrighteousness of men. That brings upon them indeed judgment and penalty, but never goes so far as to shut up his compassion, although men may think so and with Asaph sigh: Hath God for gotten to be gracious, hath He in anger shut up his tender mercies? ( Psalm 77:10.) Eternal justice which belongs as a constitutive element to the nature of God, without which we cannot conceive of any government at all of the world, is constantly limited by his love. But conversely his love towards men is not a blind love, but rather a truly paternal affection which leaves no fault, no transgression of his commands, unreproved. Both justice and love coexist in God, and are mutually blended in him with an interpenetration of the most intimate, highest, absolute kind. Hence the jurists may say: Fiat justitia pereat mundus! God never has and never can.

2. Properly Achan alone is the transgressor, but since he is a member of the body politic his act compromises all the children of Israel, and hence draws after it injurious consequences upon all, so that the anger of God is kindled against all. In the eyes of God the whole community appears infected by the sin of the one, so that they stand before him, not as a pure and holy congregation, as they should be according to their high vocation, ( Exodus 19:6; Deuteronomy 7:6; 1 Peter 2:9). If we keep firmly to this point of view, we shall cease from complaining of God as being in any way unrighteous, as if He recklessly punished the innocent with the guilty. We shall rather, in this matter, agree with Keil when he says: “As member of a community established by God, the good or evil action of the individual involves the whole congregation in blessing or destruction.” As Paul writes: “if one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; and if one member be honored all the members rejoice with it” ( 1 Corinthians 12:26). So may we also say, that if one member becomes guilty, all the members share the guilt, and if one of the members does well, all the members share the blessing of this good deed. It is important in these matters to look not only at the individual but also at the community, that we may comprehend at least in some measure the procedure of the divine justice over against the guilt of mankind. We emphasize “in some measure,” because we need yet to lay to heart the advice which Calvin here gives: “Suspensas tenere nostras mentes, donec libri aperiuntur, ubi clare patebunt quœ nunc nostra caligine obtenebrantur Dei judicia.

[As clearly as the whole Scripture makes the individual an object of the divine mercy and justice, so clearly does it teach us also to regard the totality of a people as an organic unity, in which the individuals are only members of the body, and not capable of being separated, as so many atoms, from the whole. The state as a divine institution is built on the family, to promote the mutual love of the members, and the common love of all to the one invisible head of all.… But if the state is of divine appointment, not a mere civil establishment, not a human institution, conventionally agreed upon by men, the fact following as a necessary consequence from the moral unity of the organism, that the good or evil deed of the one member is reckoned to the whole body, loses the appearance of caprice and unrighteousness which it has while one, without perceiving their fundamental connection, has only a one sided regard to the infliction, of the consequences of the sin. Keil—Tr.]

3. The deep humility of Joshua before the Lord reminds us of Moses, Exodus 32:32, of Ezra ( Joshua 9:3), of his own and Caleb’s course when the people murmured ( Numbers 14:6). How mighty appear these O. T. saints in their grief because of the sins of their people, how independently they stand up against God, in behalf of God’s honor, and yet how humbly! Their sorrow is truly a λύπη κατὰ θεὸν ( 2 Corinthians 7:10), from which proceeds the μετάνοια ἀμεταμέλητος. Hence God raises them up again, and gives them again fresh courage for his work, for He knows that their grief, in its deepest root, is a grief for him, for his name’s glory and honor. Themselves pure and clean, they mourn over the misdeeds of the people, while an Ahab ( 1 Kings 21:27) if he does this has to exercise penitence for his own sin. Si duo faciunt idem, non est idem. Compare still Psalm 85; Psalm 102:14-19; Psalm 130:7-8.

4. It is to be observed that God ( Joshua 7:14 ff.) reserves to himself the discovery of the crime. Jehovah will strike, take (לָקַד, properly, “select,”) the tribe, the clan, the house, the particular Prayer of Manasseh, by the lot, the disposing of which is ascribed ( Proverbs 16:33) to the Lord. Such an employment of the lot as is here presented, could only be brought in at the immediate direction of God, or with special appeal to him ( 1 Samuel 14:41), and belonged to the extraordinary measures which He prescribed for his people. The certainty with which the whole process goes forward, the quiet which accompanies it, makes a very solemn impression. The control of the divine justice is most directly brought to our thought when we read the narrative of the transaction, distinguished as it is by an unadorned simplicity; how much more powerful must have been the original impression which this judgment of God made on the assembled people at its actual occurrence! An analogous example is presented in the N. T, Acts 5:1 ff.

5. That all wickedness is folly (נְבָלָה, that every sinner is a fool (נבל), not indeed so much in an intellectual but above all things in a moral respect, this cutting truth is proclaimed by the O. T. loudly and impressively. A very significant hint for hamartiology; the nature of sin is so difficult to explain because it is merely absolute irrationality, because it is foolishness!

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

How human iniquity provokes divine anger.—The sin of an individual in its destructive effects on an entire people shown in the case of Achan.—Of God’s anger. (1) What are we to understand thereby? (2) How can we guard against it so that it may not be kindled against us?—The unfortunate expedition of Joshua against Ai.—Human sagacity alone helps not if God be not with us.—Despise no enemy; for you may in meeting him be greatly deceived concerning his strength.—How soon, alas, is the heart of man discouraged!—Against despondency of the heart helps God’s grace alone, Hebrews 13:9.

Joshua’s humble prayer before God.—God withstands the proud but giveth grace unto the humble. Joshua’s grief for his people compared with the lamentation of Moses and Ezra.—Joshua as an example of mourning before God.—Parallel between Joshua’s penitence and that of Ahab.—Rending of the garments a significant symbol of the rending of the heart, Joel 2:13.—How God hears prayer.

The discovery and punishment of Achan the transgressor, a case of the divine administration of Justice.—(1) How Achan was hit upon; (2) how he confessed his sin; (3) what punishment he received; or (1) the discovery of the criminal; (2) his confession; (3) his punishment.—Joshua and Achan; (1) How Joshua seeks to bring Achan to a confession of his guilt; (2) how the latter actually confesses it.—We give honor to God when we say the truth.—Achan’s lowly confession of sin.—Every sin a sin against the Lord.—Covetousness, unlawful desire, a source of every sin.—The stoning of Achan.—The judgment in the valley of Achor.—The monument of the crime a warning to Israel.—The stoning of Achan, and that of Stephen—what a contrast?

Starke: He who has done iniquity should own the truth to the honor of God. But woe to those who deny their misdeeds, Psalm 32:1. Si fecisti nega, is not a divine but a devilish rule. Ye advocates, put nothing of such into any man’s head.

Cramer: However shrewdly men begin a thing it does no good except in so far as God gives it success. For if God is not with us all is lost.—The heart of man can nowhere observe a just proportion. In prosperity it is too proud, in adversity too pusillanimous.

Bibl. Tub.: When God goes with us into the field the mightiest foe cannot hurt us, but where God is not we cannot resist the weakest enemy.—God lets us not sink away in our mourning, but when He has sufficiently humbled us and laid us in the dust, and sees in us a true repentance for our sins, He himself also raises us up again and exalts the miserable from the dust, Psalm 113:7; 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Hedinger: If, in the spiritual conflict also we are left to come off worsted, there is often nothing to blame but some, perhaps hidden, sin which yet lurks in us and of which we have not yet repented.

Gerlach, Calvin: That they in this prayer turn straight to God, and recognize that He who has wounded can heal them, springs from their faith; but carried away by excess of grief they transgress all limits. Hence the boldness of their controversy with God; hence the perverse wish: O that we had remained in the wilderness! But it is nothing new that when men with holy zeal seek God, the light of their faith is dimmed by the intensity, the tempest of their emotions…… And yet when they thus strive with God and pour out before Him all which weighs them down, though this their simplicity needs forgiveness, it is still far more agreeable to God than the mock-humility of hypocrites, who take great care that no word of assurance may cross their lips, while they are inwardly filled with pride.—It is a fine trait in this narrative that the criminal, detected by the lot, should be condemned only on his own confession. Joshua does not promise him exemption from punishment, but by his confession God was honored before all the people, since the accuracy of the lot was confirmed. At the same time there lies in these words a hint of a divine judgment hereafter, before which guilt and penalty will be abated when one has given himself up to suffer the earthly penalty ordained by God, confessing that he has deserved it. There is manifested here a truly holy, paternal disposition in Joshua, as a judge who relaxes nothing of the rigor of the divine command, but, so far as is possible in consistency with that, deals mercifully with the transgressor.—By his robbery of the sanctuary Achan had entirely broken the covenant with God, and he and his had become the same as the Canaanites; as they had snatched for themselves what had been devoted to destruction, they must themselves now be destroyed. Similar in this respect was the punishment, which in ancient times was inflicted on the families of those guilty of high treason, and in some degree is still inflicted among us.

[Scott: Every failure in such undertakings as evidently accord to the will of God, and the duty of our place and station, should cause us to humble ourselves before him, to flee to his mercy seat, to pour out our hearts in prayer, and inquire “wherefore he contendeth with us;” and to plead his promises and the glory of his great name, as engaged to support that cause which we are endeavoring to promote whatever becomes of us and our worthless names.—Would we avoid the commission of gross iniquity, we must “make a covenant with our eyes” and all our senses; we must repress the first movements of concupiscence, and pray earnestly not to be led into temptation, we must habituate ourselves to meditate on the future consequences of sinful gratification; and to place ourselves, by an effort of the imagination, in those very circumstances in which we should be were the sin committed, and the infatuation vanished; and to consider what our judgment and feelings in that case would be.—Finally, though atrocious criminals, should be punished with unrelenting firmness, and all should unite in protesting against their crimes; yet their misery should not be insulted, nor their immortal souls forgotten; but calm expostulations, serious instructions, and compassionate exhortations, should be used to bring them to repentance, that they may obtain mercy from God in a future world.

G. R. B: Jehovah is a prayer-hearing God—blessed be His name!—but with what impatience He listens to the cries of those, however proper the matter of their petitions, who have need themselves to act in order that their wishes may be granted! “Up! sanctify thyself,” we may hear Him saying to many an earnest suppliant; “put away thy sins, supply thy own deficiencies, and do thy part to remove the stumbling-blocks from among thy brethren; then expect my help towards what thou desirest further.” Happy for us if we get even this answer to our mistaken prayer!—Tr.]

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Ver11.—וְגַם repeated to the fifth time very emphatically distinguishes the several momenta of their crime … sinned, and also taken .… and also stolen, and also dissembled, and also put it, etc. See Exeg Note.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Different Codd, the LXX, the Vulg, instead of מִשְׁפַּחַת יְהוּדָה read מִשׁפְּחֹת יְהוּדֻה, which pointing we follow with Keil and Bunsen. [But it seems sufficient and quite consistent with the principle of the following foot-note to understand מִיֹעְפַּחַת to be “used axly for tribe, שֶׁבֶט.” Gesen.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Different Codd, some old editions, the Syr, Vulg, have instead of לגברים, the reading לַבָּתִּים to make an agreement with Joshua 7:16. But since the former is the more difficult reading we hold fast to it with Keil and Bunsen See Exegetical Notes.

FN#4 - Joshua 7:21.—וָאֶרְאֵה. The וְ is as nearly redundant here probably as it ever is (it is treated as if it were entirely so by De Wette, Zunz, and Fay), and yet is not redundant. It betrays the confusion of thought in which Achan spoke: Thus and thus have I done: and I saw .… and I coveted them, etc.

The manner in which our version, and perhaps all others, not unfrequently substitute a conditional sentence (“when I saw; then I coveted) for two coördinate, copulative sentences of narration (“and I saw—and I coveted”) sometimes gives a welcome variety to the monotonous succession of copulative clauses with which the Hebrew is content; but by just so much it misrepresents the child-like artlessness of the Hebrew. It is scarcely ever exactly equivalent to the original expression of the thoughts. It is strictly allowable only when, if ever, the former of two facts may be assumed as known or obvious, and the latter is to be represented in its dependence upon that.—Tr.]

FN#5 - And yet the subsequent statement ( Joshua 8:25) that the entire population of the city amounted to only twelve thousand, would imply on general principles that a few thousand chosen warriors would be sufficient to overcome its military force. Something must be allowed for the effect of the divine displeasure.—Tr.]

FN#6 - “Father-house,” represented by Zabdi.—TR.]

Joshua

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 7:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/joshua-7.html. 1857-84.

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