Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 23:4

See, I have apportioned to you these nations which remain as an inheritance for your tribes, with all the nations which I have cut off, from the Jordan even to the Great Sea toward the setting of the sun.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Mediterranean Sea;   Thompson Chain Reference - Great;   Mediterranean Sea;   Sea;   The Topic Concordance - Marriage;  
Dictionaries:
Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Judges, book of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - God;   Joshua, the Book of;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - West;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Mediterranean Sea;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Gentile;   Lots;   Sun;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

I have divided - these nations that remain - The whole of the promised land had been portioned out, as well those parts which had not yet been conquered, as those from which the ancient inhabitants had been expelled. The Canaanitish armies had long ago been broken in pieces, so that they could make no head against the Israelites, but in many districts the old inhabitants remained, more through the supineness of the Israelites, than through their own bravery.

From Jordan - unto the great sea - All the land that lay between the river Jordan, from Phiala, where it rose, to the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and to the Mediterranean Sea, through the whole extent of its coast, opposite to Jordan.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-23.html. 1832.

The Biblical Illustrator

Joshua 23:4

I have divided unto you by lot these nations.

Joshua the colonist

Great colonists as we are, and greater as, with the growth of our wealth and therefore of our population, we are likely to be, it may prove instructive and also interesting to look at Joshua in the character of a colonist--the leader of the largest band that ever left their old in search of a new home. I remark, then, that the colonisation of Canaan under Joshua was conducted in an orderly manner, on a large scale, and in a way eminently favourable to the happiness of the emigrants and the interests of virtue and religion. It presents us with a model we would do well to copy. The children of Israel entered Canaan to be settled within allotted borders; by families and by tribes. In their case emigration was thus less a change of persons than a change, and a happy change, of place. No broad seas rolled between tile severed members of the same family; there were no bitter partings of parents and the children they feared never more to see: nor did the emigrants, with sad faces and swimming eyes, stand crowded on the ship’s stern to watch the blue mountains of their dear native land as they sank beneath the wave. A still more important lesson than that taught by the orderly, just, humane, and happy arrangements of this Hebrew colony is taught us by the care Joshua took of its religious interests. These, the greatest, yet considered apparently the least, of all interests, are sadly neglected in many of our foreign stations; and I have often wondered to see with what little reluctance Christian parents could send their children away to lands where more lost their religion than made their fortune. Whatever we do with our religion, the Hebrews did not leave the ark of God behind them. Regarding it as at once their glory and defence, they followed it into the bed of Jordan, and, passing the flood on foot, bore it with them into the adopted land. Wherever they pitched their tents, they set up the altar and tabernacle of their God. Priests and teachers formed part of their train; and making ample provision for the regular ministration of word and ordinance, they laid in holy and pious institutions the foundations of their future commonwealth. Such are some of the points in which Joshua is to be admired, and imitated, as a model colonist. Alas! while neglecting his example in things worthy of imitation, we have followed it but too closely in the one thing where it affords us no precedent to follow. I refer to the fire and sword he carried into the land of Canaan, and his extermination of its original inhabitants. We have too faithfully followed him in this--with no warrant, human or Divine, to do so. In his bloodiest work Joshua was acting under commission. His orders were clear, however terrible they read. God undertakes the whole responsibility. And be it observed that the children of Israel were blamed not because they did, but because they did not, exterminate the Canaanites--slaying them with the sword or driving them out of the land. The duty was painful and stern; but they lived to find, as God had warned them would happen to them, and as happens to us when we spare the sins of which these heathen were the type, that mercy to the Canaanites was cruelty to themselves. But, admitting that the responsibility is shifted from Joshua to God, how, it may be asked, are the sufferings of the Canaanites, their expulsion and bloody extermination from the land, to be reconciled with the character of God, as just and good and righteous? This is like many other of His acts. On attempting to scrutinise them, mystery meets us on the threshold. No wonder!--when we feel constrained to exclaim over a flake of snow, the spore of a fern, the leaf of a tree, the change of a base grub into a winged and painted butterfly, “Who can by searching find out God? who can find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is higher than heaven, what can we do? deeper than hell, what can we know? the measure thereof is longer than the earth and-broader than the sea.” Dark as the judgment on Canaan seems, a little consideration will show that it is no greater, nor so great, a mystery as many others in the providence of God. The land of Canaan was His--“The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof.” And I ask in turn, is the Sovereign Proprietor of all to be denied the right that ordinary proprietors claim--the right to remove one set of tenants and replace them by another? Besides, the inhabitants of Canaan were not only, so to speak, “tenants at will,” but tenants of the worst description. Let it be remarked also, that the Canaanites not only deserved, but chose their fate. The fame of what God had done for the tribes of Israel had preceded their arrival in the land of Canaan. Thus its guilty tenants were early warned; got “notice to quit”; might be considered as summoned out. They refused to go. They chose the chances of resistance rather than quiet removal; and so--for be it observed that the Israelites in the first instance were only ordered to cast them out--they brought destruction on themselves: with their own hands pulling down the house that buried them and their children in its ruins. But the children? the unoffending infants? There is a mystery, I admit, an awful mystery in their destruction; but no new or greater mystery here than meets us everywhere else. The mystery of offspring who suffer through their parent’s sins is repeated daily in our own streets. It does not alter the case one whir to say that children who die of disease, for instance, die by the laws of nature, while those in Canaan were put to death by the command of God. This is a distinction without a difference; for what are the laws of nature but the ordinances and will of God? Nor is the cloud which here surrounds God’s throne, dark as it seems, without a silver lining. The sword of the Hebrew opens to the babes of Canaan a happy escape from misery and sin--a sharp but short passage to a better and purer world. Thus, and otherwise, we can justify the sternest deeds of which Joshua has been accused. He held a commission from God to enter Canaan and cast out its guilty inhabitants, and, like a woodman who enters the forest axe in hand, to cut them down if they clung like trees to its soil. His conduct admits of the fullest vindication; and though it did not, we should be the last to accuse him. Ours are not the hands to cast a stone at Joshua. A more painful and shameful history than the history of some at least of our colonies was never written. Talk of the extermination of the Canaanites! Where are the Indian tribes our settlers found roaming, in plumed and painted freedom, the forests of the new world? Not more fatal to the Canaanites the irruption of the Hebrews than our arrival in almost every colony to its native population! We have seized their lands; and in a way less honourable, and even merciful, than the swords of Israel, have given them in return nothing but a grave. Professed followers of Him who came not to destroy but to save the world, we have entered the territories of the heathen with fire and sword, and adding murder to robbery, have spoiled the unoffending natives of their lives as well as of their lands. Had we any commission to exterminate? Divine as Joshua’s, our commission was as opposite to his as opposing poles to each other. These are its blessed terms, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Can our country and its Churches read that without a blush of shame and a sense of guilt? Let us repent the errors of the past. Not so much to aggrandise our island, as to Christianise the world by our colonies, is the noble enterprise to which Providence calls us. “Go ye in to possess the land”--these, if I may say so, were the marching orders under which Joshua and Israel entered Canaan; and however unable they appeared, in point of numbers and ordinary resources, to cope with those who held the soil, and were prepared to fight like men that had their homes and hearths, their wives and children, to defend, yet then, as still, the measure of man’s ability is God’s command. Since it is so, what a noble career and rapid conquest were before the children of Israel! Sweeping over Canaan like a resistless flood, they might have carried all before them. What difficulties could prove too great for those who had God to aid them? What need had they of bridge or boats, before whose feet the waters of Jordan fled? of engines of war whose shout, borne on the air, smote the ramparts of Jericho to the ground with an earthquake’s reeling shock? of allies, who had Heaven on their side, to hurl down death from the skies on their panic-stricken enemies? How could they lose the fruits of victory over the retreat of whose foes night refused to throw her mantle, while the sun held the sky, nor sunk in darkness till their bloody work was done? (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Joshua 23:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/joshua-23.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

"Behold, I have allotted to you these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from the Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun. And Jehovah your God, he will thrust them out from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as Jehovah your God spake unto you. Therefore be ye very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; that ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow down yourselves to them; but cleave unto Jehovah your God, as ye have done unto this day."

It is apparent at once that much of this address is composed of "reminiscences from the Pentateuch, especially from the Book of Deuteronomy."[1] The chief burden of Joshua's thoughts is the faithfulness of Israel. During the closing years of Joshua's life, he became increasingly aware, "of Israel's growing complacency and their tendency to compromise with the heathen."[2] Some of the heathen had already been put to taskwork, thus becoming vassals to Israel, and that was a source of wealth that added new power to the temptation to allow the "nations" a place among God's people.

The powerful exhortations of this farewell message came at a time when, "The Israelite takeover of Canaan was far from complete, but hostilities had pretty much ceased, and Joshua had grown old."[3]

Joshua 23:6 begins the list of the responsibility of Israel as follows:

(1) She had to keep the Law of Moses. Note that that law is written "in a book," which is a clear and undeniable reference to the Pentateuch, the Five Books of Moses.

(2) She had to keep herself separate from the idolatrous Canaanites, and especially not to intermarry among them.

(3) She was required to be loyal to the Lord (Joshua 23:8).

(4) She had to love the Lord (Joshua 23:11).

These warnings were desperately needed by Israel, and, appearing here, in this final message of Joshua, "They provide an ominous foreshadowing of the period following the death of Joshua. Israel was actually threatened with virtual extinction (Joshua 23:15)."[4] The reverses, that later came to Israel were not an indication of the Lord's inability to help them, but, "They were judgments on the rebelliousness of his people."[5]

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 23:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/joshua-23.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Behold, I have divided to you by lot these nations that remain,.... Who are unsubdued, not yet conquered, as well as those that are

to be an inheritance for your tribes; to be possessed by them and their children for ever:

from Jordan, with all the nations I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward; the phrase, "with all the nations I have cut off", is to be read in connection with "those nations that remain"; both those that were cut off by the sword of Joshua, and those that remained unconquered, being divided by lot to the tribes of Israel; and which reached from Jordan eastward, where Joshua and Israel entered into the land, to the Mediterranean sea, called the great sea in comparison of little ones in Canaan, as the Dead sea, and the sea of Tiberias; and which great sea lay west to the land of Israel, or where the sun sets, as the phrase in the Hebrew text is.

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 23:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-23.html. 1999.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.

That remain — Not yet conquered.

An inheritance — You shall certainly subdue them, and inherit their hand, as you have done the rest, if you be not wanting to yourselves.

All the nations — That is, with the land of those nations; the people put for their land, as we have seen before; and as sometimes on the contrary, the land is put for the people. The great sea - Where the Philistines, your most formidable adversaries yet survive; but them also and their land I have given to you, and you shall undoubtedly destroy them, if you will proceed vigorously in your work.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-23.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 23:4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.

Ver. 4. With all the nations that I have cut off.] That is, God by my hands, {as Joshua 23:3} for he it was who taught mine hands to war, and my fingers to fight.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-23.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

These nations that remain, not yet conquered.

to be an inheritance for your tribes; you shall certainly subdue them, and inherit their land, as you have done the rest, if you be not wanting to yourselves.

With all the nations that I have cut off, i.e. with the land of those nations; the people put for their land, as we have seen before; and as sometimes, on the contrary, the land is put for the people.

Westward, where the Philistines, your most formidable adversaries, yet survive; but them also and their land I have given to you, and you shall undoubtedly destroy them, if you will proceed vigorously in your work.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-23.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.These nations — “The nations are mentioned instead of the land which they possessed, because they were given into the hands of the Israelites to be destroyed.” — Keil.

I have cut off — After ascribing the conquest to Jehovah, the truth of history requires mention of the human instrumentality. The frequent review of God’s mercies is a powerful incentive to gratitude and fidelity to him. It is noticeable how this passage assumes that all the Canaanite nations are cut off and subdued, but not yet exterminated or expelled. This explains the discrepancy often alleged between Joshua 11:23, and Joshua 13:1.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-23.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

See, I have allotted to you these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations I have cut off, even unto the Great Sea westward (toward the going down of the sun).”

Joshua was quite clear on the fact that not all Canaan was subdued. His mind was still clear and sharp. Many had been cut off and driven out, but by no means all. But they had all been allotted to the tribes, and it was now up to the tribes to claim their inheritance, from Jordan to the Mediterranean coast.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-23.html. 2013.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

And now. Hebrew, "Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations, which remain to be subdued, to be an inheritance for your tribes from the Jordan, (these two words are transposed, and should come after; Calmet) with all the nations that I have cut off---even unto the great sea westward." He mildly expostulates with them for not following up his victories, by reducing the few scattered nations whom he had abandoned to them as a prey. (Haydock) --- They ought to be considered not only as the enemies of God, but also as unjust detainers of another's right, and Josue promises that nothing will be wanting on the part of God to render their reduction easy, if they will but do their duty to Him and to themselves. (Haydock)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-23.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

Behold. Figure of speech Asterismoe. App-6.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-23.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

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 23:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-23.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain.—Here, as in Joshua 13:1-7, and afterwards, in Judges 2:23, the preliminary and partial nature of the conquest achieved by Joshua is distinctly recognised. He gave Israel the land to possess, and gave them the vantage-ground from which they might possess it. In Joshua 23:4-5 he bids them continue the work which he had begun.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-23.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.
Behold
13:2,6,7; 18:10
westward
Heb. at the sunset.
Reciprocal: Numbers 34:6 - GeneralDeuteronomy 12:29 - cut off;  Joshua 9:1 - of the great;  Psalm 105:44 - gave;  Ezekiel 20:28 - when I;  Ezekiel 47:10 - the great sea;  Acts 13:19 - he divided

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 23:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-23.html.