Bible Commentary

Joshua 22

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

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(Read all of Joshua 22)

Verse 4

[4] And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.

Your tents — That is, to your settled habitations. Tho' their affections to their families could not but make them very desirous to return, yet like good soldiers, they would not move 'till they had orders from their general. So, tho' we desire to be at home with Christ ever so much, yet we must stay here till our warfare is accomplished, wait for a due discharge, and not anticipate the time of our removal.

Verse 5

[5] But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Take heed — Watch over yourselves and all your actions.

Commandment and law — Two words expressing the same thing, the law of commandments delivered by Moses.

All your heart and soul — With the whole strength of your minds, and wills, and affections.

Verse 8

[8] And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.

With your brethren — That is, with them who stayed beyond Jordan for the defence of their land, and wives, and children, who therefore were to have a share, though not an equal share with these. But for them, 1 Samuel 30:24, their share was equal, because their danger was equal.

Verse 10

[10] And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to.

Built an altar — About that time when they came to them, they designed it, and as soon as they were got over Jordan, which was in a very little time, they effected and perfected it. They built it, no doubt, on their own side of the water: for how could they build on other men's land, without their consent? And it is said, in the following verse, to be over against the land of Jordan. Nor would there have been cause to suspect that it was designed for sacrifice, if they had not built it among themselves.

Verse 11

[11] And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.

At the passage — Where they passed over Jordan, either at their first entrance into Canaan, or afterwards, and usually.

Verse 12

[12] And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.

The children of Israel — Not in their own persons, not by their elders, who used to transact all affairs of this kind in the name of all the people.

Against them — As apostates from God, according to God's command in that case, Deuteronomy 13:13. etc.

Verse 16

[16] Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?

The congregation — Who do and are resolved to cleave unto that God from whom you have revolted.

What trespass — How heinous a crime is this! This day - That is, so soon after God hath obliged you by such wonderful favours, and when God is now conducting you home to reap the fruits of all your pains and hazards.

Rebel — With a design to rebel against God, and against his express command of worshipping him at one only altar.

Verse 17

[17] Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,

Of Peor — That is, of our worshipping of Baal-peor, Numbers 25:3. Probably this is mentioned the rather, because Phinehas, the first commissioner in this treaty, had signalized himself in that matter: and because they were now at or near the very place, where that iniquity was committed.

Are not cleansed — For though God had pardoned it, as to the national punishment of it, Numbers 25:11, yet they were not yet throughly purged from it; partly because the shame and blot of that odious practice was not yet wiped off: and partly, because some of that corrupt leaven still remained among them, and though smothered for a time, yet was ready to break forth upon all occasions, See Joshua 24:33. And God also took notice of these idolatrous inclinations in particular persons, and found out ways to punish them.

Verse 18

[18] But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.

To-morrow — That is, suddenly, as that word is often used.

Congregation — With you for doing so, and with us for suffering, or not punishing it.

Verse 19

[19] Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD's tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God.

Be unclean — If you apprehend it to be so for want of the tabernacle and altar there; as the following words imply: if you now repent of your former choice in preferring the worldly commodities of that country before the advantage of God's presence, and more frequent opportunities of his service.

Among us — We will readily resign part of our possessions to you for the prevention of this sin and mischief.

Against us — For all the tribes were united in one body politick, and made one commonwealth, and one church; and each tribe was subject to the laws and commands of the whole society, and of the chief ruler or rulers thereof; so its disobedience to their just commands was properly rebellion against them.

Verse 20

[20] Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.

Of Zerah — That is, one of his posterity.

Not alone — But brought destruction upon his whole family, and part of our forces sent against Ai.

Verse 22

[22] The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,)

The Lord — That Jehovah, whom we no less than you acknowledge and adore as the God of gods, infinitely superior to all that are called gods. The multiplying of his titles, and the repetition of these words, shew their zeal and earnestness in this matter.

He knoweth — To him we appeal who knoweth all things, and the truth of what we are now saying. Not only our present words, but our future and constant course shall satisfy all Israel of our perseverance in the true religion.

In rebellion — If this have been done by us with such design, or in such a manner.

Save us not — Thou, O Lord, to whom we have appealed, and without whom we cannot be saved and preserved, save us not from any of our enemies, nor from the sword of our brethren. It is a sudden apostrophe to God, usual in such vehement speeches.

Verse 23

[23] That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require it;

Require it — That is, call us to an account and punish us for it.

Verse 24

[24] And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?

With the Lord — You have no relation to him, nor interest in him, or his worship.

Verse 25

[25] For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD.

A border — To shut you out of the land of promise, and consequently from the covenant made between God and our fathers.

No part — Nothing to do with him; no right to serve him or expect favour from him.

Cease from fearing the Lord — For they that are cut off from public ordinances, usually by degrees lose all religion. It is true, the form and profession of godliness, may be kept without the life and power of it. But the life and power will not long be kept, without the form and profession of it.

Verse 27

[27] But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD 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 part in the LORD.

Before him — That we and ours may have and hold our privilege of serving and worshiping God, not upon this altar, but in the place of God's presence, in your tabernacle, and upon your altar.

Verse 28

[28] Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.

The pattern — An exact representation and resemblance.

A witness — That we both serve one God, and approve and make use of one and the same altar.

Verse 30

[30] And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them.

Pleased them — They were fully satisfied with this answer.

Verse 31

[31] And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the LORD is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the LORD: now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the LORD.

Is among us — By his gracious presence, and preventing goodness, in keeping you from so great an offence, and all of us from those calamities that would have followed it.

Hand of the Lord — That is, from the wroth and dreadful judgments of God, by avoiding that sin which would have involved both you and us in a most bloody war; you have delivered us from the evils we feared. He that prevents an approaching disease or mischief, doth as truly deliver a man from it, as he that cures or removes it after it hath been inflicted.

Verse 33

[33] And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt.

Destroy the land — As they were by the law of God obliged to do, if they had been guilty and persisted therein; as afterwards they did the tribe of Benjamin for the same reason.

Verse 34

[34] 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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