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Bible Commentaries

Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible
Joshua 8

 

 

Verses 1-29

Joshua 8:1-29. Capture of Ai.—Here we have the second and the successful attempt to take Ai. That two accounts have been combined is obvious. In Joshua 8:3 Joshua sends 30,000 men as an ambuscade against the city; in Joshua 8:12, he sends 5000 men. No doubt 30,000 is an error for 3000. The writer of 20, who tells us that the whole population of Ai was 12,000, is also the writer of Joshua 8:3. We may take it that he was far more likely to write 3000 than 30,000. In Joshua 8:17 the words "and Bethel" are an unintelligent insertion of a late editor. They are not in the LXX, and if the ambush was between Bethel and Ai, it is difficult to see how the inhabitants of Bethel could come out to pursue after the main army of Joshua.

Joshua 8:13 requires a slight emendation to give sense. We must read, They placed the people, the whole camp. i.e. the main army, north of the city, and the ambush in the west. This gives us the second account. In the first, Joshua marches from the E. into the valley towards Ai and sends an ambush from thence to the other, i.e. the W. side of the city. In the second he draws up his army on the N. of Ai and sends his ambush as in the first case to lie "behind," i.e. to the W. of Ai.

Joshua 8:11-13 is more detailed in giving the position of Joshua himself, and may be an insertion with that end in view, or it may be from an independent account.

Joshua 8:14. "At the time (mg. to the place) appointed, before the Arabah" is a difficult phrase. As it stands it is unintelligible. If we emend "to the slope (morad for mo'ed) before the Arabah," then we get a possible meaning. In Joshua 7:5 we read that the men of Ai in the first battle smote the Israelites on the "morad," the slope or descent, as they were fleeing to their camp. The idea may be that on the second occasion Joshua did not approach so near to the city as on the first, but remained near the sloping ground where the Israelites had been overtaken and slain before. But in any case it is an insertion in the original text.

Joshua 8:18. It is questionable if this is a signal; it looks like a piece of sympathetic magic. The pointing of the deadly weapon at the city is a symbol, but not an empty symbol. It helps to achieve what it represents. We may compare the ebb and flow of victory as the hands of Moses sank or rose, his hand held the wonderworking rod, as the hand of Joshua held the javelin, (Exodus 17:9-13). And as Moses' hands were upheld till victory was won, so Joshua did not withdraw the javelin till the ban was executed (Joshua 8:26).—A. S. P.]

Joshua 8:29. We should read with LXX "cast it into a pit."


Verses 30-35

Joshua 8:30-35. Altar Erected on Ebal, the Law Inscribed and Read.—This comes in a strange place. The middle of Canaan has not yet been conquered, so that such a proceeding was impossible if our narrative is complete. On this account most scholars take it that Joshua 8:30-35 is the end of an account which narrated the conquest of the middle of the country, and that for some reason or other the editor omitted it. The passage is Deuteronomic, and the objection that it violates the law of the single sanctuary rests on a misconception. According to the Deuteronomic view, the single sanctuary was to be set up when "Yahweh hath given you rest from your enemies round about." This refers to the reign of Solomon: until then a multiplicity of altars was regarded as legitimate, as is seen from the fact that Samuel is not considered to have done wrong by sacrificing at various places, while the kings and people who did so after the erection of Solomon's Temple are spoken of with disapproval.

Joshua 8:30. Ebal: pp. 30f.

Joshua 8:31. an altar . . . iron: see Exodus 20:25, Deuteronomy 27:5 f. It is another example of the conservatism of the religious instinct (see Joshua 5:2 f.*). Iron came into use for implements last of the metals, and there was a dread for long after of using it in religious rites. Religion remains in the Bronze Age after ordinary life has passed into the Iron Age. Iron may, however, be used as a protective against spirits or fairies (thus the horse-shoe brings luck), since they have an aversion to the new-fangled metal (see HDB, iv. 833; Frazer, The Magic Art, pp. 225-236).—A. S. P.].

Joshua 8:33. Gerizim: p. 30.

 


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Bibliography Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Joshua 8:4". "Arthur Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pfc/joshua-8.html. 1919.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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