|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
22:10-20 Here is the care of the separated tribes to keep their hold of Canaan's religion. At first sight it seemed a design to set up an altar against the altar at Shiloh. God is jealous for his own institutions; we should be so too, and afraid of every thing that looks like, or leads to idolatry. Corruptions in religion are best dealt with at first. But their prudence in following up this zealous resolution is no less commendable. Many an unhappy strife would be prevented, or soon made up, by inquiries into the matter of the offence. The remembrance of great sins committed formerly, should engage us to stand on our guard against the beginnings of sin; for the way of sin is down-hill. We are all concerned to reprove our neighbour when he does amiss, lest we suffer sin upon him, Le 19:17. The offer made that they should be welcome to come to the land where the Lord's tabernacle was, and settle there, was in the spirit of true Israelites.
Verse 12. - Gathered themselves together at Shiloh. The commentators refer here to Leviticus 17:8, 9, and Deuteronomy 12:4-14. See also Leviticus 17:4. The punishment for the sin is to be found in Deuteronomy 13:12-16. We have before remarked (note on ver. 3) upon the singular obedience of the Israelites during the life of Joshua. The present incident is another exemplification of the fact. It is not Joshua who summons the children of Israel, it is they who voluntarily gather themselves together. The solemn provisions of the law have been infringed, they hasten at once, if necessary, to put the law in execution. The vivid sense of the triumphs they had enjoyed under Joshua, and the safety in which they now were enabled to dwell, filled their hearts with a strong, if short-lived, feeling of gratitude to Him who had done so great things for them, and of indignation against his foes. We may here observe two points which demonstrate the consistency of the narrative, and are evidences for its genuineness.
(1) The children of Israel were not remarkable for their obedience to the law, or to heaven-sent leaders. Both their previous and subsequent history forbid us to predicate for them the quality of obedience. Whence, then, comes this new born and ephemeral "zeal for the Lord," which displays itself in such a remarkable manner on the present occasion? Whence, but from the long catalogue of splendid victories and wonderful Divine interpositions recorded in this book, and from the sense of security arising out of them? Whence, but from the great fear of the children of Israel that had fallen upon the inhabitants of Canaan, so that, to use the striking expression of our historian in Joshua 10:21, "none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel."
(2) The offence and its penalty are recorded in the book of t. he law, and especially in the Book of Deuteronomy. Unless, therefore, we are to conclude that all this history, in spite of its natural and life-like character, was entirely the invention of later ages, we can scarcely avoid the conclusion that Deuteronomy, as well as the other books of the Pentateuch, was in existence when these events occurred. For if not, where was the offence of the two tribes and a half? How was its gravity to be determined? What induced the rest of Israel, including apparently the other half of the tribe of Manasseh, to prepare for war with their brethren? The only rational explanation of the history is that the tribes beyond Jordan had contravened the provisions of the law of Moses, contained in the Book of Deuteronomy, and that the rest of Israel were preparing to inflict the punishment decreed in that law against such contravention. And these provisions and that punishment we find in the five books of that law as it is at present handed down to us. Our only alternatives, then, would seem to be, to reject the history, or to accept the law in tote. And if we take the former, we have to explain how it is that the law and the subsequent history, though entirely fabulous, came to be arranged into so harmonious and consistent a whole. To go up to war against them. Calvin blames the Israelites a little unjustly here. They did not act rashly, as he asserts. Though they prepared to visit the offence with instant chastisement, they gave their brethren an opportunity of explanation. And when that explanation was given, it proved so entirely satisfactory that all hostile intentions were laid aside. "Not onely wisdom, but charitie moved them to this message. For grant they had been guilty, must they perish unwarned? Peaceable meanes must first be used to recall them, ere violence be sent to persecute them" (Bp. Hall). It is to be feared that Christians have not always so restrained their impetuosity when the cry that the faith was in danger has been raised, and that the zeal, so well tempered by discretion, of the Israelitish congregation at this time, is an example of both qualities which puts many Christians to shame. Even Masius cautions us here that we should not "temere moveamur suspicionibus." But he derives hence an argument, and cites St. Augustine in favour of it, for the doctrine that heretics may be proceeded against by the civil sword. Knobel's remark upon this verse is a perfect gem of the "destructive criticism." The account of all Israel gathering together to war against the two tribes and a half "is unsuitable to the circumspect and mild Elohist." Are all writers of history, except those who have no battles or sieges to describe, rash and savage by nature? And even the "circumspect and mild Elohist," or a member of the Peace Society itself, might venture to describe a gathering which, though at first it assumed a warlike form, ended in mutual explanations and a perfect understanding. Of a very different stamp is Bp. Hall's apostrophe, "O noble and religious zeale of Israel! Who would think these men the sonnes of them that danced around the molten calf?"
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And when the children of Israel heard of it,.... Of the building the altar in the above place, namely, the nine tribes and a half settled in the land of Canaan:
the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh; where the tabernacle and altar of the Lord were, whose cause they undertook to avenge, being injured as they imagined by the altar the other tribes had built, and where they could consult the Lord by Urim and Thummim, if needful; hither they repaired from the several places around, where their tribes were settled; not the whole body of the people, but their heads and representatives:
to go up to war against them; to consult about it, and to prepare for it, which they were obliged to do by the law of God, as in the case of a city, so of a tribe drawn aside to idolatry; and which they imagined was the case of these tribes, or at least what they had done had a tendency to apostasy from the true worship of God, which they were zealous to defend at the hazard of their lives, and though it should issue in an extirpation of one or more of their tribes; see Deuteronomy 13:12.
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