|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
7:6-9 Joshua's concern for the honour of God, more than even for the fate of Israel, was the language of the Spirit of adoption. He pleaded with God. He laments their defeat, as he feared it would reflect on God's wisdom and power, his goodness and faithfulness. We cannot at any time urge a better plea than this, Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name? Let God be glorified in all, and then welcome his whole will.
Verse 6. - And Joshua rent his clothes. A token of grief usual among the Jews (see Genesis 37:29, 84; 44:13, etc. Knobel cites Leviticus 21:10); and though Joshua was not the high priest, yet from his peculiar position he might be expected to adopt somewhat of the high priest's demeanour, and at least not to display this outward sign of grief without the strongest reason. The words "before the ark" are omitted in the LXX. And put dust on their heads. A sign of still more abject humiliation. The head, the noblest part of man, was thus placed beneath the dust of the ground from whence he was taken (see 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 13:19; 2 Samuel 15:32; 1 Kings 20:38; Job 2:12; Lamentations 2:10). It was a common custom among the Greeks. (See Lucian, De Luetu, 12). Homer mentions the custom (Iliad, 18). Pope's translation runs thus: -
"Cast on the ground, with furious hands he spread
The scorching ashes o'er his graceful head.
His purple garments and his golden hairs,
Those he deforms with dust, and these he tears."
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
And Joshua rent his clothes,.... As was usual in those ancient times, on hearing bad news, and as expressive of grief and trouble (r); see Genesis 37:29,
and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord, until the eventide; in a posture of adoration and prayer, in which he continued till even; how long that was cannot be said, since the time is not mentioned when the army returned from Ai; very probably it was some time in the afternoon: this was done before the ark of the Lord, the symbol of the divine Presence, not in the most holy place, where that usually was, and into which Joshua might not enter, but in the tabernacle of the great court, over against where the ark was:
he and the elders of Israel; either the elders of the people in the several tribes, or rather the seventy elders, which were the sanhedrim or council, and which attended Joshua, and assisted him as such:
and put dust upon their heads; another rite or ceremony used in times of mourning and distress, and that very anciently, before Joshua's time and after, see Job 2:12; and among various nations; so when Achilles bewailed the death of Patroclus, he is represented by Homer (s) taking with both his hands the black earth, and pouring it on his head; so Aristippus among the Athenians is said (t) to sprinkle dust on his head in token of mourning on a certain account.
(r) "Tum pius", Aeneas, &c. Virgil. Aeneid. l. 5. prope finem. (s) , &c. Iliad. 18. ver. 23. Vid. Odyss. 24. "Sparsitque cinis", &c. Seneca, Troad. Acts 1. Chorus. (t) Heliodor. Aethiop. l. 1. c. 13.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
6-9. Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth … before the ark … he and the elders—It is evident, from those tokens of humiliation and sorrow, that a solemn fast was observed on this occasion. The language of Joshua's prayer is thought by many to savor of human infirmity and to be wanting in that reverence and submission he owed to God. But, although apparently breathing a spirit of bold remonstrance and complaint, it was in reality the effusion of a deeply humbled and afflicted mind, expressing his belief that God could not, after having so miraculously brought His people over Jordan into the promised land, intend to destroy them, to expose them to the insults of their triumphant enemies, and bring reproach upon His own name for inconstancy or unkindness to His people, or inability to resist their enemies. Unable to understand the cause of the present calamity, he owned the hand of God.
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