Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 22:34

The sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar Witness; "For," they said, "it is a witness between us that the Lord is God."
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Altar;   Decision;   Ed;   Haste;   Motive;   Prudence;   Reubenites;   War;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Phinehas;   Reuben;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Phinehas;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Ed;   Manasseh;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Ed;   Phinehas;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Ed;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Ed;   Joshua;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Ed;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Witness;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Altar;   Government of the Hebrews;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Ed;   Joshua, Book of;   Text of the Old Testament;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Ed;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Called the altar Ed - The word עד Ed, which signifies witness or testimony, is not found in the common editions of the Hebrew Bible, and is supplied in Italics by our translators, at least in our modern copies; for in the first edition of this translation it stands in the text without any note of this kind; and it is found in several of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and also in the Syriac and Arabic. Several also of the early printed editions of the Hebrew Bible have the word עד , either in the text or in the margin, and it must be allowed to be necessary to complete the sense. It is very probable that an inscription was put on this altar, which pointed out the purposes for which it was erected.

From the contents of this chapter we learn that the Israelites were dreadfully alarmed at the prospect of a schism in their own body, both as it related to ecclesiastical and civil matters. A few observations on this subject may not be useless.

Schism in religion is a dangerous thing, and should be carefully avoided by all who fear God. But this word should be well understood. Σχισμα, in theology, is generally allowed to signify a rent in, or departure from, the doctrine and practice of the apostles, especially among those who had been previously united in that doctrine and practice. A departure from human institutions in religion is no schism, for this reason that the Word of God alone is the sufficient rule of the faith and practice of Christians; and as to human institutions, forms, modes, etc., those of one party may be as good as those of another.

When the majority of a nation agrees in some particular forms and modes in their religious service; no conscientious man will lightly depart from these; nor depart at all, unless he find that they are not only not authorized by the word of God, but repugnant to it. It is an object greatly to be desired, that a whole people, living under the same laws may, as much as possible, glorify God, not only with one heart, but also with one mouth.

But there may be a dissent from established forms without schism; for if that dissent make no rent in the doctrines or practice of Christianity, as laid down in the New Testament, it is an abuse of terms to call it a schism; besides, there may be a dissent among religious people relative to certain points both in creed and practice, which, not affecting the essentials of Christianity, nor having any direct tendency to alienate the affections of Christians from each other, cannot be called a schism; but when professing Christians separate from each other, to set up one needless or non-essential form, etc., in the place of others which they call needless or non-essential, they are highly culpable. This not only produces no good, but tends to much evil; for both parties, in order to make the points of their difference of sufficient consequence to justify their dissension, magnify these non-essential matters beyond all reason, and sometimes beyond conscience itself: and thus mint and cummin are tithed, while the weightier matters of the law - judgment and the love of God - are utterly neglected. If Christians either cannot or will not think alike on all points, surely they can agree to disagree, and let each go to heaven his own way. "But should we take this advice, would it not lead to a total indifference about religion?" Not at all; for in the things which concern the essentials of Christianity, both in doctrine and practice, we should ever feel zealously affected, and earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-22.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

The word עד ‛êd is not found after “altar” in the text of most manuscripts, nor is it represented in the Septuagint or Vulgate. The passage should probably run: “the children of Reuben and the children of Gad named the altar, that (as they said) it might be, etc.” The title placed on the altar was perhaps simply a witness between them that the Lord was God (Wordsworth).

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-22.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, called the altar Ed,.... Which signifies a "witness"; they caused such an inscription to be put upon it, or this word to be engraved on it, that so the intention of erecting it might be known in future time; that it was not for sacrifice, but to be a testimony of their being one with their brethren on the other side Jordan, in worship, faith, and fellowship:

for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God; is the one God, the God of them both, of all Israel, whether on the one or the other side of Jordan; to be worshipped by them in one and the same manner, and their sacrifices to be offered to him on his altar before the tabernacle.

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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.
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Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-22.html. 1999.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

The Reubenites and Gadites (half Manasseh is omitted in Joshua 22:33, Joshua 22:34, for the sake of brevity) called the altar “ witness is it between us that Jehovah is God ” ( כּי introduces the words). This is at once a name and an explanation, namely in this sense: they gave the altar the name of “ witness between us,” because it was to be a witness that they also acknowledged and worshipped Jehovah as the true God.

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Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/joshua-22.html. 1854-1889.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

The word Ed signifies witness. Oh! that there may be many memorandums, as witnesses for me, of my interest in a covenant God in Christ. And, yet abundantly more and above all, do thou, blessed Spirit, witness to me, and in me, that I am united to Christ, and that he is formed in me the hope of glory. Romans 8:16; Colossians 1:27.

REFLECTIONS

My soul! in this contest of Israel learn to remark how exceedingly disposed by nature the best of men are to form misconceptions, and draw unfavourable conclusions of each other's conduct. Alas! what a veil of ignorance hath the fall thrown over our minds. While I admire and pray for grace to copy after the zeal of Israel, in everything which concerns God's honour and glory, I would no less seek grace also, to imitate the children of the two tribes and half over Jordan, and think it not enough to do right, and to seek the Lord's countenance to it, but very cheerfully explain all my motives, when those motives are with an eye to God's glory, to the inspection and approbation of men.

But is there not an higher improvement to be made in our view of the subject? Do I not behold in the Reubenites and their companions, the representation of all awakened believers on this side Jordan? Are we not all, as they were, remote by situation from the tabernacle, and the precious things in Canaan? Though Jesus graciously condescends to visit us, and warms our hearts with the sweet visits of his love, yet do we not need continual monuments to tell our hearts, that this is not our home; and these are not the objects on which our affections here below should be placed? How often do even the ordinances of holy worship prove unsatisfactory: and the wells of salvation we cannot draw from by reason of our earthly, barren and lifeless frames! Precious Jesus! I would not erect an altar, nor offer a sacrifice, nor make mention of a burnt offering! I would not bring, if I had them, thousands of rams, or ten thousands of rivers of oil: but I would look to thee; my longing eyes should fix on thy person, and my soul look to thee in the most dependant assurance of salvation, in thy blood and righteousness; for thou art the one only altar, the high priest and sacrifice; thou art all and in all. Be thou my witness, my hope, my portion, all the day. And although I am as yet on this side Jordan, yet, bye and bye, thou wilt come and take me to thyself, and I shall behold thy face in glory, when I awake up after thy likeness.

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/joshua-22.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.

The altar Ed — That is, a witness: a witness of the relation they stood in to God and Israel, and of their concurrence with the other tribes in the common faith, that Jehovah he is God. It was a witness to posterity, of their care to transmit their religion pure and entire; and would be a witness against them, if ever they should turn from following the Lord their God.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-22.html. 1765.

Scofield's Reference Notes

Ed

i.e. a witness; so Joshua 24:27.

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Scofield, C. I. "Scofield Reference Notes on Joshua 22:34". "Scofield Reference Notes (1917 Edition)". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/srn/joshua-22.html. 1917.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 34. And the children of Reuben, and—Gad, called the altar Ed The word עד ad, is evidently wanting in the Hebrew, which only says the children of Reuben, &c. called the altar; for it is, or shall be OD, i.e. a witness between us, that Jehovah is God; or as the LXX very well translate it, that the Lord is our God. The Syriac, Arabic, and several modern versions supply the word Ed, as we do, and as the sense plainly requires; though it is omitted by the LXX, Jonathan, and the Vulgate. See Bishop Patrick, and Hallet's Study of the Scripture recommended, vol. 2: p. 18. Masius would render the passage thus: they made an inscription upon the altar, which expressed, that it should be an everlasting witness of their attachment to the Lord; and this conjecture he founds upon the Hebrew verb kara, which signifies commonly to call, to name, and sometimes to write: hence the Jews call the Holy Scripture, Karah and Mikrah; and hence the Arabic name of the Al-coran. See Poole's Synopsis, and Kennicott's Dissert. vol. 1. We are not to be surprised at seeing Joshua's name nowhere throughout this whole narration: some, indeed, have pretended to infer from this, that Joshua was dead when the affair of the altar happened; but this is only the better to ground a conclusion that he cannot have been the author of this book. Such frivolous observations serve but to discover the inclination of their authors to weaken the authority of sacred writ; for, we need only read, to be convinced that the event in question happened immediately after Joshua had dismissed the 40,000 Israelites. The context leaves not the least room to suppose the contrary: and of this the LXX were so well satisfied, that in the Vatican, which is the most common edition of their version, they tell us, that it was Joshua who gave the altar its name: their words are, Και επωνομασεν ο Ιησους τον βωμον, &c. It is impossible, as Le Clerc judiciously observes, that in so short a narration all the circumstances of the fact should be inserted. To raise a doubt about them because the author is silent, would be preposterous in any one who has read these books with a small share of attention.

REFLECTIONS.—Never was there a happier issue of religious controversy! Charity tempered the zeal of the complainants, and meekness adorned the integrity of the defendants; thus, when the matter was well explained, both sides were satisfied.

1. The princes' ambassadors are happy in being undeceived, and conclude that God is surely among them, when they discover such a zeal for his service and worship on both sides. They do not question their assertions, nor blame their rashness in not consulting them, but are glad to retract their warm expostulation. Note; (1.) Charity is easily persuaded, while censoriousness refuses to acquiesce, or be convinced. (2.) They who are satisfied in their brethren's simplicity, will overlook their little slips of inadvertence or want of complaisance. (3.) It gives real joy to the heart, to find our brethren more faithful than we feared.

2. The people were as readily satisfied with their report, and gladly laid down their arms, blessing God for the tidings of their brethren's fidelity. Note; They are often suspected to design a breach in the unity of the church, who are most diligently labouring to heal her divisions, and to preserve to posterity the purity of her doctrines and worship; but though mistaken zeal may cry, Down with them, yet shortly every dispute shall cease. In heaven at least we shall lay aside the arms of contention, and learn war no more.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-22.html. 1801-1803.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

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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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-22.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

And the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, called the altar [Ed], for ‘it is a witness between us that YHWH is God’.’

The actual name is not in the Massoretic Text. However it is found in some Hebrew manuscripts and in the Peshitta (the Syriac version). We could translate ‘named the altar’ (as LXX) but the explanatory phrase following it anticipates a name having been given. Thus the name Ed, meaning witness, is possibly to be inserted although it was not in the text used for the LXX which has ‘And Joshua gave a name to the altar of the children of Reuben, and the children of Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, and said, It is a testimony in the midst of them, that the Lord is their God.’

Whichever is correct it is clear that the altar was given a name that indicated that it was a witness between His people on the east of Jordan, and those on the west, that they recognised YHWH as their only God.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-22.html. 2013.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 22:34. They called the altar Ed — That is, a witness; a witness of the relation they stood in to God and Israel, and of their concurrence with the other tribes in the common faith, that Jehovah he is God. It was a witness to posterity of their care to transmit their religion pure and entire; and it would be a witness against them, if ever they should turn from following the Lord.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-22.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

God. Hebrew seems rather defective; (Calmet) "called the altar, (Syriac supplies the altar of witness) for it shall be a witness between us, that the Lord he is the God. Ed, "witness," is placed in the margin of Plantin's edition (Kennicott) and the Protestants have inserted it in the text, though in a different character, (Haydock) as "it is confirmed by the Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate versions." Kimchi quotes the Chaldean paraphrase, as having the word seid, "witness," twice, which if read in two places formerly, has been lately omitted in one, as many other alterations have perhaps been made in it, in conformity to the later copies of the Hebrew text. It is still found in one Chaldean manuscript and in that of Masius. Between the two last words of this verse, some Hebrew manuscripts read eva, "He." "The Lord, He is the God;" which not only gives an emphasis, but is expressly confirmed by the Chaldean; and indeed this seems to have been a common form of confessing the belief in the one true God, 3 Kings xviii. 39. (Kennicott, Diss. i.) --- Masius would translate, "They made an inscription upon the altar, declaring that it should be an eternal witness of their attachment to the Lord." Cora, in effect, sometimes means to write, as Alcoran, in the Arabic tongue, signifies "the scripture" (Calmet) of the Mahometans, which they hold in the utmost veneration, as containing the life and doctrine of their great prophet. The Septuagint (Grabe) insinuate that Josue approved of what had been done, "and Jesus gave a name to the altar,....and said, it is a witness in the midst of them, that the Lord God is their God." Thus, instead of war and destruction, which seemed to threaten Israel on all sides, all ended in peace and harmony. If Christians would imitate the conduct of the Israelites, they would not so rashly condemn their neighbours on every idle report; and, if our adversaries would condescend to examine seriously into the grounds of charging idolatry upon us, and on that account waging an eternal war against us, it is to be hoped they would pronounce our doctrine innocent, and reform their own iniquitous proceedings. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-22.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Ed. Hebrew "a witness. "This, and the verb "shall be", not in the received Hebrew text. (Some codices have it.) Literally "called the altar. A witness it is, &c. "

God = the God. Hebrew ha-Elohim. App-4.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-22.html. 1909-1922.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(34) That the Lord (i.e., Jehovah) is God (of all the twelve tribes alike).

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-22.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.
Ed
i.e, a witness. The word witness, or testimony, is not found in the common editions of the Hebrew Bible; and is supplied in Italics by our venerable translators, at least in our modern copies; for in the first edition of this translation, it stands in the text without any note of this kind; but it is found in several of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS., and also in the Syriac and Arabic. Several also of the early printed editions of the Hebrew Bible have the word ed, either in the text or in the margin; and it must be allowed to be necessary to complete the sense. It is very probable that an inscription was put on this altar, signifying the purpose for which it was erected. Thus was this affair most happily terminated.
27; 24:27; 1 Kings 18:39; Isaiah 43:10; Matthew 4:10
the Lord is God
Several manuscripts read more emphatically, [Y@hovah (hwhy)] [ ()] ['elohiym (eyhl))] Yehowah, hoo Elohim, "Jehovah he is God." Reciprocal: Isaiah 19:20 - for a

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 22:34". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-22.html.