Exodus 32:17
And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) When Joshua heard.—Joshua’s presence with Moses in the mount has not been indicated since Exodus 24:13. But it would seem that when Moses was summoned up into the cloud (Exodus 24:16) his faithful “minister” remained where he was, waiting for his master. He may have found shelter in some “cleft of the rock;” and the manna may have fallen about him, and sufficed for his sustenance during the forty days and nights of his master’s absence.

The noise of the people as they shouted.—“Shouting” was a feature of idolatrous rites (1Kings 18:28; Acts 19:34; Herod. ii. 60, &c.), and was in part a cause, in part a result, of the physical excitement which prevailed during such orgies. Joshua, unsuspicious of the real nature of the shouting, supposed, naturally enough, that the camp was attacked by an enemy, and that the noise was “a noise of war.” But Moses, forewarned of the actual state of affairs (Exodus 32:7-8), had probably a shrewd suspicion of the real nature of the sounds. He contented himself, however, with negativing his minister’s conjecture.

Exodus 32:17. Joshua said, There is a noise of war in the camp — Joshua had waited upon the middle of the hill for Moses, and so neither knew what the people had done, nor heard what God had said to Moses.32:15-20 What a change it is, to come down from the mount of communion with God, to converse with a wicked world. In God we see nothing but what is pure and pleasing; in the world nothing but what is sinful and provoking. That it might appear an idol is nothing in the world, Moses ground the calf to dust. Mixing this powder with their drink, signified that the backslider in heart should be filled with his own ways.Moses does not tell Joshua of the divine communication that had been made to him respecting the apostasy of the people, but only corrects his impression by calling his attention to the kind of noise which they are making.15-18. Moses turned, and went down from the mount—The plain, Er-Raheh, is not visible from the top of Jebel Musa, nor can the mount be descended on the side towards that valley; hence Moses and his companion, who on duty had patiently waited his return in the hollow of the mountain's brow, heard the shouting some time before they actually saw the camp. Joshua had waited all this while upon the middle of the hill for Moses’s return; and so neither knew what the people had done, nor heard what God had said to Moses. And when Joshua heard the noise of the people, as they shouted,.... Dancing about the calf: when Moses went up into the mount, Joshua went with him, and tarried in a lower part of the mount all the forty days until he returned, see Exodus 24:13 though not so low as the bottom of the mount where the people were, nor so near it as to know what they did there, for of their affairs he seems to be entirely ignorant; nor so high as where Moses was, or, however, not in the cloud where he conversed with God, for of what passed between them he had no knowledge, until declared by Moses:

he said unto Moses, there is a noise of war in the camp; such a noise as soldiers make in an onset for battle; he supposed that some enemy was come upon and had attacked the people, and that this noise was the noise of the enemy, or of the Israelites, or both, just beginning the battle; or on the finishing of it on the account of victory on one side or the other; and as he was the general of the army, it must give him a concern that he should be absent at such a time.

And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. Joshua] whom Moses had left on the lower part of the mountain (Exodus 24:13), and whom he must be supposed to have now rejoined.Verse 17. - When Joshua heard. This abrupt introduction of Joshua, who has not been mentioned for seven entire chapters, is curious. Probably he had considered himself bound, as Moses' minister (Exodus 24:13), to await his return, and had remained in the middle portion of the mount, where he may have fed upon manna, until Moses came down from the top. The noise of the people. It is noted by travellers, that in all the latter part of the descent from Sinai, the plain at its base is shut out from sight; and that sounds would be heard from it a long time before the plain itself would open on the view (Stanley, Sinai and Palestine, p. 44). Sounds, however, which come circuitously, are always indistinct; and it is not surprising that Joshua, knowing nothing of the proceedings in the camp, should have fancied he heard a sound of war. "And Moses besought the Lord his God." יי את־פּני חלּה, lit., to stroke the face of Jehovah, for the purpose of appeasing His anger, i.e., to entreat His mercy, either by means of sacrifices (1 Samuel 13:12) or by intercession. He pleaded His acts towards Israel (Exodus 32:11), His honour in the sight of the Egyptians (Exodus 32:12), and the promises He had made to the patriarchs (Exodus 32:13), and prayed that for His own sake, and the sake of His honour among the heathen, He would show mercy instead of justice. בּרעה (Exodus 32:12) does not mean μετὰ πονεερίας, or callide (Vulg.), but "for their hurt," - the preposition denoting the manner in which, or according to which, anything took place.
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