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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible
Joshua 22

 

 

Verses 1-9

THE TRANS-JORDANIC TRIBES DISMISSED, Joshua 22:1-9.

We have seen (Joshua 1:12-15) that Joshua required these tribes to fulfil the condition on which they were permitted to receive their portions before the conquest of Canaan, namely, that they should assist in that conquest, (Numbers 32:20,) and we have noted the cheerfulness with which they left their families and possessions (Joshua 1:16) and became the vanguard of the invading host, forty thousand strong. Joshua 4:12-13. Through all the long war of subjugation they have served faithfully, till at last the land is substantially conquered and actually allotted, and henceforth each tribe is to clear its own inheritance without the aid of the federal army, which is now disbanded with the high encomiums of their chief.


Verse 3

3. Ye have not left your brethren — Ye have not permanently abandoned them during seven years of war. It is not to be supposed that in the long intervals between the military campaigns they had not been permitted to visit on furloughs their families only a few miles distant beyond the Jordan. Such frequent permissions to visit their homes had kept them from murmuring at the long delay in the division of Canaan. For the provision made for the protection of their homes, and the maintenance of their families during their absence, see Joshua 1:14, note.


Verse 4

4. Get you unto your tents — The word tents here, as often elsewhere, (Judges 7:8; 1 Samuel 4:10; 1 Samuel 13:2; 2 Samuel 18:17,) is used for houses, or homes. Its use probably arose from Israel’s dwelling so long in tents.


Verse 5

5. And the law — The Torah. In note on chap. Joshua 1:8, we have shown that the Torah was already called a book. We have in this verse grounds for inferring that there was more than one copy. The Eastern tribes could not have been commanded to take diligent heed to obey the Torah if they were now to be excluded from its constant perusal.

With all your heart and with all your soul — The words heart and soul indicate the affectional and emotional nature, and are used to intensify the exhortation to sincere and heartfelt obedience unto Jehovah. As if foreseeing the decay of national feeling which the separation of the deep trench of the Jordan would tend to create, Joshua tenderly and earnestly presses upon the departing tribes the duty of a faithful study of the law and a scrupulous obedience to its requirements. He well knew that the Hebrew could be a patriot only as he was an Israelite indeed; a lover of his nation only as a lover of his nation’s God. With a clear vision did Joshua see that both individual and national prosperity must arise from obedience to the moral law. The redundancy of the language evinces the intense earnestness of the great leader.


Verse 7

7. Bashan — See Joshua 2:10, note.


Verse 8

8. Much riches — Since the Canaanites were quite advanced in arts, manufactures, and agriculture, it is natural that they should have a large amount of the precious metals and costly articles embodying wealth.

Much raiment — Fashions in dress never change in the East. Hence the people make permanent investments of their wealth in dresses. Hence the Saviour’s exhortation, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where the moth doth corrupt,” evidently refers to accumulations of garments. Says a traveller in Palestine, “Not unfrequently one sees among the inhabitants of a wretched little hamlet, consisting of the merest hovels, a number of persons dressed in handsome silks.”

Divide the spoil — On a previous occasion (Numbers 31:27) Moses commanded that those who did service at home should share equally with those who had perilled their lives in battle, for the obvious reason that guarding the household and raising supplies for the army are just as necessary and as patriotic as hurling javelins and storming hostile cities.


Verse 10

THE ALTAR OF WITNESS AT THE JORDAN, Joshua 22:10-34.

10. By Jordan — Most commentators believe that the altar was on the western bank of the Jordan, because the language of the narrative is, when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan. But in the next verse we read that the altar was built “over against the land of Canaan.” The purpose of the altar was to answer the taunting insinuation that they were aliens, by exhibiting within their own borders a facsimile of the altar at Shiloh as a proof of their Hebrew nationality and of their conformity to their brethren in religious worship. Josephus says, that the two and a half tribes “crossed the river and built an altar on the bank of the Jordan as a token of their affinity with those on the other side.” This altar, constructed by so large a body of men, was probably a vast heap of earth and stones.

A great altar to see to — Conspicuously located, and huge in its dimensions. That this mound has not been found by any traveller is not strange, when we consider the almost total neglect of Eastern Palestine by all modern explorers; and, besides, this great altar may long ago have been destroyed.


Verse 12

12. The children of Israel gathered themselves together — The news produced the greatest consternation, and caused an uprising of all the tribes. A separate altar implied the setting up of a new religion, and fore-shadowed a secession from the theocratic state. Such a movement, therefore, demanded the most careful investigation, according to the express provision of the law. Deuteronomy 13:13-14. So at a later time all Israel assembled at Mizpeh to investigate the offence of Benjamin. Judges 20.

To go up to war against them — For the law ordained that if any city went over to idolatry it should be smitten with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed. Deuteronomy 13:15-16.


Verse 13

13. Phinehas — Probably his father, Eleazar, was too aged for this service. Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, had signalized himself while quite a youth by his zeal and energy against licentiousness at Shittim.

Numbers 25:7. Subsequently he was chaplain of the expedition which destroyed the Midianites. Numbers 31:6. After his father’s death he became the third high priest.


Verse 14

14. Ten princes — Who these princes were is so obscurely told in the rest of the verse that it is difficult to decide as to the precise meaning. The rest of the verse is, literally: One prince, one prince to the house of a father to all the tribes of Israel, and a chief man of the house of their fathers were they to all the thousands of Israel. It could not be that one was chosen from each chief house in all Israel, for then must more than ten have been chosen. Keil probably explains correctly when he says that this delegation, called in Joshua 22:30 princes of the congregation, “was composed partly of princes of tribes and partly of heads of families, some tribes being represented in one way and others in the other; and that the latter were sent in cases in which the heads of the tribes were either too old, or otherwise unfitted to take part in the deputation. This supposition is strongly confirmed by the fact that the tribe of Levi was not represented by the chief of the tribe, the high priest Eleazar, but by his son and presumptive successor, Phinehas, who was chosen instead.”


Verse 16

16. What trespass is this — The erection of the altar is justly regarded as prima facie proof of violating the unity of divine worship, inasmuch as sacrifices offered in any other place than at the door of the tabernacle were strictly forbidden. Leviticus 17:7-8.


Verse 17

17. Is the iniquity of Peor too little — Phinehas had a vivid remembrance of that dreadful outbreak of crime whose curse his active zeal had turned away from the congregation by a bold thrust of his javelin. Numbers 25:1-13. Hence the naturalness of this historical allusion.

Not cleansed until this day — Though the divine wrath was turned away, the sad consequences of that crime were still visible.

Although there was a plague — Rather, and the plague was in the congregation.


Verse 18

18. To-morrow he will be wroth — The moral universe is pervaded by laws as inflexible as those of the physical world, or, rather, more certain in their consequences; for the physical laws may be suspended for moral ends.

With the whole congregation — And not with you eastern tribes only. Such are our social and political relations that the crimes of a part are punished on the whole of the nation.


Verse 19

19. If the land of your possession be unclean — Not consecrated by the presence of the tabernacle and altar. “If ye think that God has not received your land into the same favour as ours, because he seems to dwell with us, and it is for that reason that ye are about to establish a worship of your own, change your abode and come over to us.” — Masius.


Verse 20

20. Achan — Phinehas now argues that if the sin of an individual brought disasters upon the body politic, much more will that of the eastern tribes.

Perished not alone — But involved his family and all his possessions in the penal vengeance which came upon himself. See on Joshua 7:24.


Verse 22

22. The Lord God of gods El Elohim Jehovah — This is a most solemn oath. They who twice utter the three names of God declare that they revere him as the mighty, living Being, and are not in rebellion against him.

Save us not this day — Or, help us not. This implies that they should be left to miserably perish.

Let the Lord himself require it — That is, Let him punish it. Another strong adjuration is here uttered.


Verse 24

24. For fear — The Hebrew word indicates great and distressing solicitude. The motive of their action was just the opposite of that ascribed to them. It was their intense desire to preserve themselves and their children in the worship of Jehovah that had induced the erection of the memorial altar.

Our children — The truly pious man will seek to place the safeguards of piety about the path of his offspring. These eastern tribes had received by far the best portion of the Holy Land, yet they are not satisfied with worldly good. Their broad acres and vast herds are worthless without a portion in the God of Israel.


Verse 27

27. That it may be a witness — Having disavowed that their altar was intended for sacrificial uses, they now plainly declare that it was intended for a memorial that their children were entitled to appear as worshippers before that altar in Shiloh of which this was a facsimile.


Verse 31

31. The Lord is among us — The commission were more than satisfied with the explanation; they were delighted with the loyalty and fidelity of their misjudged brethren. This whole account is highly honourable to both the accusing party and the accused, inasmuch as it shows that both were animated with the high and holy purpose of cleaving to the worship of the true God.


Verse 33

33. Did not intend to go up — More literally, They did not talk of going up. This is a Hebraism for saying that they abandoned the purpose of civil war, for which they had assembled at Shiloh.


Verse 34

34. Ed… shall be — These words are not in the original, nor need they be inserted in the translation. We may correctly render: The children of Gad named the altar that it might be a witness among us that Jehovah is the God. The lessons which this episode teaches are, first, That appearances do not always imply bad motives; second, That we should watch over each other and cautiously rebuke the first departure from God; third, That apostasy from God awakens in the truly pious great solicitude; and, finally, That a conscience void of offence is a great blessing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 22:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-22.html. 1874-1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 20th, 2019
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20
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