Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 22:21

Then the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered and spoke to the heads of the families of Israel.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Government;   Haste;   Misjudgment;   Motive;   Phinehas;   Prudence;   Reubenites;   Uncharitableness;   War;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Gad, the Tribe of;   Reuben, the Tribe of;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Phinehas;   Reuben;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Manasseh;   Thousands;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Jordan;   Pentateuch;   Phinehas;   Holman Bible Dictionary - High Priest;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Joshua;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Phinehas ;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Phin'ehas;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Altar;   Government of the Hebrews;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Altar;   Joshua, Book of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Then the children of Reuben - answered - Though conscious of their own innocency they permitted Phinehas to finish his discourse, though composed of little else than accusations; there was a decency in this, and such a full proof of good breeding, as does them the highest credit. There are many public assemblies in the present day which lay claim to the highest refinement, who might take a very useful lesson from these Reubenites and their associates.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-22.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

THE REPLY OF THE EASTERN TRIBES

"Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered, and spake unto the heads of the thousands of Israel, The Mighty One, God, Jehovah, the Mighty One, God, Jehovah, he knoweth; and Israel he shall know: if it be in rebellion, or if in trespass against Jehovah, save us not this day, that we have built us an altar to turn away from following Jehovah; or if to offer thereon burnt-offering or meal-offering, or if to offer sacrifices of peace-offerings thereon, let Jehovah himself require it; and if we have not rather out of carefulness done this, and of purpose, saying, in time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with Jehovah the God of Israel? for Jehovah hath made the Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no portion in Jehovah: so might your children make our children cease from fearing Jehovah. Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt-offering, nor for sacrifice: but it shall be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we may do the service of Jehovah before him with our burnt-offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace-offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no portion in Jehovah. Therefore said we, It shall be, when they so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we shall say, Behold the pattern of the altar of Jehovah, which our fathers made, not for burnt-offering, nor for sacrifice; but its a witness between us and you. Far be it from us that we should rebel against Jehovah, and turn away this day from following Jehovah, to build an altar for burnt-offering, for meal-offering, or for sacrifice, besides the altar of Jehovah our God that is before his tabernacle."

There are here a number of exceedingly interesting things:

(1) Note that the Trans-Jordanic group waited patiently until the full extent of Phinehas' charges were made and understood by the accused. There were no interruptions and no display of resentment.

(2) The accused tribes professed total innocence on the charge of rebelling against God.

(3) They patiently explained why they had built this great altar.

(4) Incidentally, we learn here that it was a giant replica of the one actually in the tabernacle.

(5) Notice that even the accused tribes accepted fully the Word of God that there could be but one altar (one at a time, that is).

(6) Also, notice that the location of that sacred altar was given in Joshua 22:19. It was the one before the tabernacle! How does the Jerusalem temple stack up against that requirement? This is EXCEEDINGLY important. If post-exilic priests wrote this alleged Midrash to defend the one sanctuary in Jerusalem, which was in the temple, why should this line have been put in about the true altar being the one before "God's tabernacle"? Any careful study of that theory will show that it is a worthless error!

Joshua 22:22 is of particular interest. "The Hebrew most impressively combines the names of God, [~'El] [~'Elohiym] [~Yahweh]!"[19] The same combination appears in Psalms 50:1, where it is translated, "The Mighty One, God, Jehovah." "No translation can do justice to the original. The three names of God, [~'El], [~'Elohiym], and [~Yahweh], are each twice repeated in that order!"[20] Most of the critical commentators make no reference at all to these three names in one breath. Could it be that this does NOT fit their theories?

Philbeck properly discerned the importance of the doctrine of having one central sanctuary for all Israel, saying:

"It was of pivotal importance. It served as the focal point of Israel's government. Only in their worship of the Lord were the independent tribes of Israel united in any real sense. To build a rival altar was to violate the covenant by seceding from the nation."[21]

Morton commented fully upon the exemplary conduct of the Israelites in a number of instances during this episode: (1) The western tribes did not begin a disastrous war without investigating the rumors upon which they were tempted to declare it. (2) They placed the investigation in the hands of competent and fair-minded people. (3) They went straight to the persons accused of sin, confronting them with what they had heard. (4) They listened patiently to the explanations offered. (5) They accepted them as true, and unity was at once restored. He summarized these views thus: "Rumor was supplanted by reason; reason led to understanding; understanding averted war; God was in their midst."[22] It would be wonderful today if brethren would exercise such basic precautions before receiving charges against one another.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/joshua-22.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, answered,.... By some person whom they appointed to deliver the answer in their name:

and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel; who were over those that were rulers of the thousands of Israel, persons of greater authority than they, being princes of the respective tribes to which they belonged.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-22.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

answered — repudiating, in the strongest terms, the alleged crime, and deponing that so far from entertaining the intention imputed to them, their only object was to perpetuate the memory of their alliance with Israel [Joshua 22:24, Joshua 22:25 ], and their adherence to the worship of Israel‘s God [Joshua 22:26, Joshua 22:27 ].

Copyright Statement
These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/joshua-22.html. 1871-8.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 22:21 Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel,

Ver. 21. Answered, and said.] They did not bristle and set up the crest, but sought to give satisfaction to their offended brethren. It must be our endeavour neither to give offence carelessly, nor to take offence causelessly: but to "show out of a good conversation our works with meekness of wisdom." [James 3:13]

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-22.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Either, first, properly, each was a governor of a thousand; for there were among them divers rulers, some of tens, some of hundreds, and some of thousands; or rather, secondly, improperly, and indefinitely, i.e. of the people of Israel, which consist of so many thousands more than you, whose authority therefore you owe a reverence to. For by comparing Joshua 22:14, these seem to be greater persons than those that were rulers of thousands.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-22.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Then the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, answered, and spoke to the heads of the sub-tribes (thousands) of Israel, “God, the God YHWH, God, the God YHWH, he knows, and Israel, he will know, if it be in rebellion, or if in trespass against YHWH, (do not save us this day), that we have built ourselves an altar to turn away from following YHWH, or if to offer on it burnt offering or meal offering, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, let YHWH himself require it.” ’

We should probably translate ‘El Elohim YHWH’ as ‘God, the God YHWH’ emphasising His uniqueness or as ‘God of the elohim (angels), YHWH’ stressing His greatness rather than as ‘the God of gods, YHWH’. Either way the stress is on the fact that He knows men’s minds and therefore knows that their own particular thoughts are innocent. The repetition of the name stressed the intensity of their feeling. This was the land of El, the head of the Canaanite pantheon, and here Israel claimed it for YHWH their God as the true El.

On the other hand Israel yet awaits that knowledge in the future. They have yet to learn the truth. But they will know. And what will they know? Whether they have built the altar in rebellion and disobedience to God’s Law in order to offer offerings and sacrifices on it, thus being seen as turning away from following YHWH, or not. Note the acceptance of the idea that to build an altar other than at the revelation of YHWH, in order to offer sacrifices on it, was rebellion and disobedience. Israel could not set up altars at will like the Canaanites did. Only altars in places where God had recorded His name (patently revealed Himself) were acceptable, and especially that at the central sanctuary.

Their words were doubly emphasised by expostulations - ‘do not save us this day!’ and ‘let YHWH Himself require it!’ This reveals their agitation and calls on their listeners to recognise the genuineness of their declaration by their act of calling on YHWH to punish them if they were lying.

Note again the use of eleph for sub-tribes, which could also be translated ‘thousands’. The basic idea behind ‘a thousand’ at this early date is that of a subgroup rather than a specific number. Note also the different offerings mentioned, burnt offerings, meal offerings and sacrifices of peace offerings.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-22.html. 2013.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Israel. Septuagint, "answered the Chiliarchs of Israel," who had spoken by the mouth of their president. They repel the charge with earnestness. (Haydock)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-22.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel, Then the children of Reuben ... answered - repudiating in the strongest terms the alleged crime, and deponing that, so far from entertaining the intention imputed to them, their only object was to perpetuate the memory of their alliance with Israel, and their adherence to the worship of Israel's God.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-22.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel,
Then the children
The conduct and answer of these Reubenites and the associates are worthy of admiration and imitation. Though conscious of their innocence, they permitted Phinehas to finish his speech, though composed of little else than accusations, without any interruption; and taking in good part the suspicions, reproofs, and even harshness of their brethren, with the utmost meekness and solemnity they explain their intention, give all the satisfaction in their power, and with great propriety and reverence, appeal to that God against whom they were supposed to have rebelled.
answered
Proverbs 15:1; 16:1; 18:13; 24:26; Acts 11:4; James 1:19; 1 Peter 3:15
heads
Exodus 18:21-25; Micah 5:2
Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-22.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

21.Then the children of Reuben, etc The state of the case turns on the definition. For the children of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, explain that they had a different intention, and thus exculpate themselves from the charge, inasmuch as the nature of the proceeding was quite different from what the others supposed. In not making a disturbance, (185) nor picking a quarrel for the injustice done, to them they give an example of rare modesty, which is held forth for our imitation; so that if at any time anything we have rightly done happen to be unjustly and falsely blamed by those not acquainted with its nature, we may deem it sufficient to refute the censure only so far as may be necessary for clearing ourselves. Moreover, that the more credit may be given to them, and that they may the better attest their integrity, they, by a solemn protest, put far from them the wickedness of which they were suspected. For there is force and meaning in the reduplication, The Lord God of gods, the Lord God of gods, by which they with vehemence affirm, how faithfully they desire to persevere in the doctrine of the Law, and how greatly they abhor all contrary superstitions. But as their intention was not patent to men, and every one explained it variously, according to his own sense, they appeal to the judgment of God, and offer to submit to punishment if he decide that they had attempted anything wickedly. And to prove that they are not like hypocrites who, with abandoned wickedness, appeal to God a hundred times as judge even when they are convicted in their own minds, they not only bring forward conscience, but at the same time declare, that the whole people will be witness; as if they had said, that it will be made palpable by the fact itself, that they never had any intention of devising any new form of worship; and they rightly explain, how the altar would have been unlawful, namely, if they had built it for the purpose of offering sacrifice. For the Law did not condemn the mere raising of heaps of stones, but only enjoined that sacrifices should be offered in one place, for the purpose of retaining the people in one faith, lest religion should be rent asunder, lest license should be given to human presumption, and thus every man might turn aside to follow his own fictions. We thus see how an explanation of the nature of the deed removes the detestation which the ten tribes had conceived of it. (186)

It is not strictly correct, though appropriate enough, for the rudeness of sense, to place our God above all gods. For it is impossible to compare him with others, seeing that no others actually exist. Hence, in order to avoid the apparent absurdity, some interpreters substitute angels for gods; this meaning holds in some cases, though not in all. It ought not, however, to seem harsh when he who is the one sole supreme being is called the God of gods, inasmuch as he has no equal, standing forth conspicuous above all other height, and so, by his glory, obscuring and annihilating all names of deity which are celebrated in the world. Hence this mode of speaking ought to be viewed with reference to the common sense of the vulgar.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 22:21". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-22.html. 1840-57.