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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 8:30

Then Joshua built an altar to the LORD, the God of Israel, in Mount Ebal,

Adam Clarke Commentary

Then Joshua built an altar - This was done in obedience to the express command of God, Deuteronomy 27:4-8; (note).


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Bibliography
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-8.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal. As was commanded, Deuteronomy 27:5. The Samaritan Chronicle says, it was built in Mount Gerizim; but there is a difficulty arises, when this was done by Joshua; it should seem by inserting the account here, that it was done immediately after the destruction of Ai; and Mercator endeavours to prove that Ebal was near to Ai, but what he has said does not give satisfaction; for certain it is, that Ebal and Gerizim were near Shechem in Samaria, at a great distance from Ai, see Judges 9:6. The JewsF1Misn. Sotah, c. 7. sect. 5. Seder Olam Rabba, c. 11. p. 30. Jarchi in loc. generally are of opinion, that this was done as soon as Israel, even the very day, they passed over Jordan, which they think the letter of the command required, Deuteronomy 11:29; though it does not, only that it should be done after they were passed over it; Ebal being at too great a distance from Jordan for them to accomplish it on that day, being, as they themselves sayF2T. Bab. Sotah, fol. 36. 1. , sixty miles from Jordan; so that they are obliged to make Israel travel that day an hundred twenty miles, and as they assert they didF3T. Hieros. Sotah, fol. 21. 3. and which they must do, if what they say was true, it being sixty miles to Ebal, and sixty more to return again to Gilgal that night, where they encamped, but this is incredible: and as this account of Joshua's building the altar is too soon after he had passed Jordan, what R. IshmaelF4Apud ib. has pitched upon is too late, who says this was not done till after fourteen years, when the land was conquered, which was seven years doing, and when it was divided, which were seven years more; what Josephus saysF5Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 14. is more probable than either, which is, that Joshua, five years after he had entered Canaan, when he had placed the tabernacle at Shiloh, went from thence and built an altar at Ebal; as for what R. Eliezer suggestsF6, that Ebal and Gerizim here mentioned are not the Ebal and Gerizim of the Samaritans, only two hills were made, and they were called by these names, cannot merit any belief or regard.


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Bibliography
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-8.html. 1999.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

Observe, how lovely it is, when even war is not suffered to interrupt religious services to God. Though Joshua was now getting more and more into the heart of the enemies' country, yet he will pause to bless God, Oh! that all the victories of Israel now, were thus followed up with praise!


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Bibliography
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/joshua-8.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,

Then — Namely, after the taking of Ai. For they were obliged to do this, when they were brought over Jordan into the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 11:29; 27:2,3, which is not to be understood strictly, as if it were to be done the same day; for it is manifest they were first to be circumcised, and to eat the passover, which they did, and which was the work of some days; but as soon as they had opportunity to do it, which was now when these two great frontier cities were taken and destroyed, and thereby the coast cleared, and the bordering people under great consternation, so that all the Israelites might securely march thither. And indeed this work was fit to be done as soon as might be, that thereby they might renew their covenant with God, by whose help alone they could expect success in their great and difficult enterprize.

Built an altar — Namely, for the offering of sacrifices, as appears from the following verse.

Mount Ebal — God's altar was to be but in one place, Deuteronomy 12:13,14, and this place was appointed to he mount Ebal, Deuteronomy 27:4,5, which also seems most proper, that in that place whence the curses of the law were denounced against sinners, there might also be the tokens and means of grace, and peace, and reconciliation with God, for the removing of the curses, and the procuring of God's blessing to sinners.


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Bibliography
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-8.html. 1765.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

30.Then Joshua built an altar, etc God had been pleased that this should be the first extraordinary sacrifice offered to him in the land of Canaan, that thus the people might attest their gratitude, and the land begin to be consecrated in regular form. It was not possible for the people to do it before freely and on their own soil, till they had obtained possession of some vacant region. (77) Now, God had at the same time given them two commands — first, that they should erect an altar on Mount Ebal; and secondly, that they should set up two stones plastered over with lime, on which they should write the Law, in order that every passer by might be able to see it and read it. We now read that both were faithfully performed. A third command related to the recitation of blessings and cursings: this, too, Joshua performed with no less care.

To begin with the altar, — it is said, that according to the divine command, it was formed of unhewn stones. For entire stones on which the masons’ iron has not been employed, are called rough and unworked. (78) This is specially said in Deuteronomy 27:0, of the altar, of which mention is now made. But the same thing had before been said in general of all others. Some expounders, in searching for the reason, needlessly have recourse to allegory, and allege that the hand and industry of men are forbidden, because the moment we introduce any devices of our own, the worship of God is vitiated. This is indeed truly and wisely said, but it is out of place, as the divine intention simply was to prohibit the perpetuity of altars. For we know, that in order to sacrifice duly, it was enjoined that all should have one common altar, in order both to cherish mutual agreement, and to obviate all sources of corruption from the introduction of an adventitious superstition; in short, in order that religion might remain one and simple, as a variety of altars would soon have led to discord, thereby distracting the people and putting sincere piety to flight.

Then it was not left to the choice of the people to select a place, but God uniformly in the books of Moses claims this for himself. He therefore confines the exercises of piety to that place where he may have put the remembrance of his name. Moreover, as the divine will was not immediately manifested, nor the place designated, that worship might not in the mean time cease, it was permitted to build an altar where the ark should happen to be stationed, but an altar formed only of a rude pile of stones, or of turf, that it might be only temporary.

Let the reader observe that an option was given to the people to make it of rough stones, that its form might not attract veneration, or of earth, which would crumble away of its own accord. In one word, this arrangement tended to give a pre-eminence to the perpetual altar, after God made choice of Mount Zion for its locality. Hence it is said in the Psalm, I was glad because our feet will stand in thy courts, O Jerusalem! (Psalms 122:1) What other translators render peace offerings, I have, not without cause, rendered by sacrifices of prosperity, because they were offered up either to solicit successful results, or to render thanks; and the Hebrew term is not unsuitable, as the reader will find more fully explained in my commentaries on the books of Moses.


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Bibliography
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-8.html. 1840-57.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 8:30 Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,

Ver. 30. Then Joshua built an altar.] According to Moses’s charge. [Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:5-6]

to mount Ebal.] Which was far up in the country, near Shechem, in the tribe of Ephraim. [ 9:6-7; 20:7] The Canaanites were now so quaffed and dismayed with the destruction of Jericho and Ai, that for the present they opposed not the Israelites in their way to these two mountains, and their service there performed.


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Bibliography
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-8.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Ver. 30. Then Joshua built an altar—in mount Ebal This should be rendered, as we have observed on Deuteronomy 27. BY mount Ebal; and nothing can more clearly prove the truth of the interpretation there given, than the relation of the fact before us. The taking of Jericho and Ai made Joshua master of the adjacent country: he advanced northward to Sichem, and, with all the people, went and took possession of the mountains Ebal and Gerizzim, placed by some, improperly, between Ai and Beth-el; but which we have spoken of in the notes on Deuteronomy 27.


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Bibliography
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/joshua-8.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Then, to wit, after the taking of Ai. For they were obliged to do this when they were brought over Jordan into the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 11:29 27:2,3, which is not to be understood strictly, as if it were to be done the same moment or day; for it is manifest they were first to be circumcised, and to eat the passover, which they did, and which was the work of some days; but as soon as they had opportunity to do it, which was now when these two great frontier cities were taken and destroyed, and thereby the coast cleared, and the bordering people under great consternation and confusion, that all the Israelites might securely march thither. And indeed this work was fit to be done as soon as might be, that thereby they might renew their covenant with, and profess their subjection to, that God by whose help alone they could expect success in their great and difficult enterprise.

Built an altar, to wit, for the offering of sacrifices, as appears from the following verse, and from Deuteronomy 27:5-7.

In Mount Ebal. Why not on Mount Gerizim also?

Answ. Because God’s altar was to be but in one place, Deuteronomy 12:13,14, and this place was appointed to be Mount Ebal, Deuteronomy 27:4,5, which also seems most proper for it, that in that place whence the curses of the law were denounced against sinners, there might also be the tokens and means of grace, and peace and reconciliation with God, for the removing of the curses, and the procuring of God’s blessing unto sinners.


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Bibliography
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-8.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Then Joshua built an altar to YHWH, the God of Israel in Mount Ebal.’

The next act of Joshua was to fulfil the command of Moses as expressed in Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:2-3 where God commanded the building of an altar of unhewn stones on Mount Ebal, and the setting up of stones on which the Law of YHWH should be plainly written.

Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim were two mountains overlooking the plain in which lay Shechem, Mount Ebal to the north and Mount Gerizim to the south. There were no major cities on the regular highway between Bethel and Shechem (see Judges 21:19), although Shiloh lay along the route. There was nothing therefore to prevent the Israelites from making for Shechem along the main highway, a journey of about forty eight kilometres (thirty miles). But the striking fact is that there is no record anywhere in Joshua about the invasion and capture of Shechem, nor of any activity against their king. Yet they were passing through Shechemite territory. Shechem was revealed in the Amarna letters as a powerful confederacy. They were not likely to stand by while Israel held a covenant ceremony on their two mountains.

A further striking fact is that in this passage in Joshua reference is made, in respect of the covenant ceremony to take place there, to ‘as well the stranger as the homeborn’ (Joshua 8:33) and to ‘the strangers who walked among them’ (Joshua 8:35). Yet in the narrative prior to this, from the moment of leaving Egypt, there has been no reference to such people. All the people who left Egypt had come to be seen as one people. They had all been united within the covenant at Sinai. None were seen as ‘strangers’. Their children were seen as ‘true born’ Israelites. Strangers were people who would be welcomed to sojourn among them when they were in the land, and who would be regulated by the Law.

Thus it would seem that there were present at this covenant ceremony those who had not been in Egypt and who had not been at Sinai.

This brings us to the question of Shechem. Who dwelt there, and what was their religion? Shechem was an ancient city situated in the hill country of Ephraim. It was mentioned in the 19th century BC Egyptian execration texts, and excavations show it to have been strongly fortified, covering fourteen acres.

Some time after this Jacob purchased land near Shechem, and, when his daughter was violated, ‘Simeon and Levi’, with armed men from their household, tricked the Shechemites and destroyed the Canaanite inhabitants of the city (Genesis 34). It is probable that some from their households would then be allowed, or even required, to settle there, partly as a reward for assisting in the attack, and partly in order to look after Jacob’s land rights (Genesis 33:19; Genesis 37:12 compare Joshua 24:32). By marrying the bereaved women they would obtain their land rights as well. We may assume that they introduced the worship of YHWH. They may well have been seen elsewhere as ‘Habiru’. This was probably when the idea of Baal-berith, ‘the lord of the covenant’, (Judges 9:4) originated as genuine worship of YHWH, or there may have been a gradual compromise and amalgamating of ideas. Thus Shechem was no longer directly Canaanite.

It was very prosperous in the Hyksos period (1700-1550 BC) during which a massive fortress-temple was built. This may well have been ‘the house of Baal-berith’ mentioned in Judges 9.

In the Amarna letters, which were correspondence between the Pharaohs and their vassals in Canaan in the 15th century BC, its king Labayu was said by an enemy (Abdi Heba) to have given Shechem to the Habiru. He refers to ‘-- the sons of Lab'ayu, who have given Shechem to the Habiru.’ Labayu and his sons were spasmodically vassals of and rebel leaders against Egypt with influence as far as Gezer and Taanach and who even threatened Megiddo, who wanted a hundred troops to assist in defending against them (‘Let the king give a hundred garrison men to protect the city. Truly Lab'ayu has no other intention. To take Megiddo is that which he seeks!’). Thus it would seem that Shechem contained a large non-Canaaanite section of population at this time. Later there is evidence of specific Israelite occupation, from 11th century BC.

So Habiru (‘Apiru), stateless non-Canaanite peoples, appear to have been settled there in the time of Labayu (see above), uniting with the descendants of the men of Jacob’s household. Thus it would appear that when Joshua arrived and was welcomed and found non-Canaanites willing to submit to the covenant, who worshipped ‘the Lord of the covenant’, and were willing to recognise Him as YHWH, and had Israelite antecedents, he was probably satisfied to incorporate them into the covenant rather than treating them as Canaanites (consider Joshua 24:23). But it is clear from Judges 9 that their worship was to some extent syncretistic and not the pure Yahwism of Moses (thus there it is equated with Baalism - Judges 8:33). But Joshua may not have realised that.

This would explain the ease of the journey to Shechem through country controlled by the Shechemites, and the fact that they could carry out the covenant ceremony unmolested. It would also explain why no mention is made of the conquest of Shechem and why there were ‘strangers’ at the covenant ceremony. We should further note that Shechem was recorded in the genealogies of Israel as a ‘son of Manasseh’ (Numbers 26:31), recognising their relationship with Israel.

So we may consider that Joshua and Israel arrived at Shechem, welcomed by the inhabitants, and built the altar of unhewn stones on Mount Ebal, as Moses had commanded.

The Samaritan Pentateuch states that this was on Mount Gerizim, but Ebal is the more difficult reading and the Samaritans worshipped on Mount Gerizim and would be prone to favour it (and we know from elsewhere that they were ready to change the text to suit).

Ebal is the mountain of the curses (Deuteronomy 27:9-13) and it is they which were prominent (Deuteronomy 27:15-26). The erecting of the altar and the plastered stones on this mountain would bring home to Israel with especial force that there were curses resulting from breaking the covenant. They were being reminded of the consequences of disobedience even while they worshipped and ate. But on the mount of cursing there was also blessing. It has been suggested that the remains of a small stone building on Mount Ebal dating from 1240-1140 BC, which contained pottery and the bones of cattle, sheep and goats, may indicate cultic connections.


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Bibliography
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-8.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

30. Mount Ebal — The mountain, nearly eight hundred feet high, which rises in steep, rocky precipices on the north side of the narrow valley in which lay the city, Shechem, and which was confronted on the south by Mount Gerizim. See on Joshua 8:33, and on John 5:4.


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Bibliography
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-8.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Joshua 8:30. Then Joshua built an altar — Namely, after the taking of Ai. For they were obliged to do this when they were brought over Jordan into the land of Canaan, Deuteronomy 11:29; Deuteronomy 27:2-3. But this is not to be understood strictly, as if it were to be done the same day; for it is manifest they were first to be circumcised, and to eat the passover, which they did, and which was the work of some days; but as soon as they had opportunity to do it, which was now when these two great frontier cities were taken and destroyed, and thereby the coast cleared, and the bordering people were under great consternation, so that all the Israelites might securely march thither. Built an altar — Namely, for the offering of sacrifices, as appears from the following verse. Mount Ebal — God’s altar was to be put in one place, (Deuteronomy 12:13-14,) and this place was appointed to be mount Ebal, Deuteronomy 27:4-5; which also seems to have been most proper, that in that place whence the curses of the law were denounced against sinners, there might also be the tokens and means of grace, and of peace and reconciliation with God, for the removing of the curses, and the procuring of God’s blessing to sinners.


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Bibliography
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/joshua-8.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Hebal. The Samaritan Chronicle says on Mount Garizim. No doubt Josue complied with the injunctions of Moses: but we have seen that there are reasons to doubt which mountain he pitched upon, Deuteronomy xxvii. 4. (Haydock) --- It seems more probable that the altar would be upon Garizim, where the blessings were proclaimed, if the texts of Moses and of Josue did not formally assert the contrary. (Calmet) --- But if they have been interpolated, nothing certain can be deduced from those passages. Josephus ([Antiquities?] iv. 8,) says that the altar was between the two mountains, not far from Sichem, which was built at the foot of Garizim; and it is not probable that this historian, the mortal enemy of the Samaritans, would have hesitated to assert that the altar was upon Hebal, if the texts had been so positive, in his time. It is undeniable that the tribes of Levi, and of Ephraim, were upon Garizim; and consequently Josue and the priests must have been there; and who would then officiate at the altar on Hebal? See Kennicott, who ably refutes the insinuations of the infidel, Collins, against the character of the Samaritans. When this altar was erected the learned are not agreed. (Haydock) --- Some say, immediately after the passage of the Jordan, and that the 12 stones taken from the bed of the river, were used for that purpose. Josephus says five years elapsed, and R. Ismael supposes that the altar was not built during the 14 years after the passage of the Jordan. But it is most probable that Josue complied with the command of God as soon as he had procured a sort of peace, (Haydock) by the conquest of these two cities, and was thus enabled to penetrate into the heart of the country, where Garizim was situated, not in the plain of Jericho, as Eusebius imagined, but near Sichem, (Calmet) about 30 or 40 miles to the north-west of Jericho. (Haydock)


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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-8.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,

Then Joshua built an altar ... in mount Ebal - (see the note at Deuteronomy 27:1-26.) This spot was little short of twenty miles from Ai. The march through a hostile country, and the unmolested performance of the religious ceremonial observed at this mountain, would be greatly facilitated, through the blessing of God, by the disastrous fall of Ai. The solemn duty was to be attended to at the first convenient opportunity after the entrance into Canaan (Deuteronomy 27:2); and with this view Joshua seems to have conducted the people through the mountainous region that intervened, though no details of the journey have been recorded.

Ebal was on the north, opposite to Gerizim, which was on the south side of the town of Shechem (Nablous). Eusebius [peri toon topikoon], and Jerome in his Latin translation ('De locis Hebraicis,' voce Gerizim), describe the Ebal and Gerizim in the neighbourhood of Shechem as different from the Ebal and Gerizim on which the blessings and curses were rehearsed. But there is no good reason for departing from the common view as to the topography of those hills (see Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' pp. 234, 235). Kennicott ('Dissertation,' 2:, ch. 1) labours to prove that Ebal has been substituted in this passage for the original Gerizim, which still stands in the Samaritan Pentateuch, by the Jews, who were desirous to make Gerizim the fertile mount-the mount of blessing, According to Buckingham, these hills are equal in height, and rise about 700 or 800 feet above the valley of Shechem; but Dr. Olin declares Gerizim to be the higher of the two.

Built an altar ...


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Bibliography
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-8.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

THE LAW SET UP IN THE HEART OF THE COUNTRY.

(30) Then Joshua built.—The word then is not “and” in the Hebrew; as is too often the case where “then” occurs in our English Old Testament. It is a note of time. Josephus places this transaction later. The LXX. places Joshua 8:1-2 of Joshua 9 before this passage. But there seems no reason for moving the transaction from the place where we find it in the text. By the capture of Ai, Joshua had obtained command over the road to Shechem. We hear of no strong place north of Beth-el in that part of the country. From other passages (see on Joshua 17:18) there seems reason to think that a large part of this district was wooded and uncleared. The confederacy of the southern kings had its centre far to the south of this, and there was a considerable distance between Shechem and the strong places to the north. It is in keeping with what we have already observed regarding the purpose of the conquest of Canaan, that the law of the God of Israel should be as soon as possible proclaimed and set up in the heart of the country, to be thenceforward the law of the land. For the enactment that was here carried out, see Deuteronomy 11:26-30; Deuteronomy 27:2, &c. Observe also that the command there given required the work to be done as soon after the passing of Jordan as possible. The possibility of reading the law from this position, so as to be heard by the whole congregation, has been proved by actual experiment.


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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/joshua-8.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
built an altar
Genesis 8:20; 12:7,8
in mount Ebal
Moses himself had twice given express orders for this solemnity; once De 11:29, 30, in which he pointed out the very place where it was to be performed; and again, at the 27th chapter, there is a renewal of the instructions to Joshua, with special reference to minute particulars. It was a federal transaction: the covenant was now renewed between God and Israel upon their taking possession of the land of promise, that they might be encouraged in the conquest of it, and might know upon what terms they held it, and come under fresh obligations to obedience.

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Bibliography
Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 8:30". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-8.html.

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