Haydock Catholic Bible Commentary
Of Israel. There seems no reason for restricting this to the ancients, &c. On this solemn occasion, when all Israel was probably assembled at one of the great festivals, Josue concluded his exhortation, by renewing the covenant (Calmet) in the place where he had formerly complied with the injunction of Moses, chap. viii. 31. (Haydock) --- In Sichem, in the field which Jacob had purchased, and where a great oak (ver. 26,) was growing, that had been honoured, it is thought, with the presence of the patriarchs. It was near the two famous mountains of Garizim and Hebal. (Calmet) --- Sichem was at the foot of the former mountain of blessings; and Josephus informs us, the altar was erected in its vicinity. No fitter place could therefore have been selected by the aged chief, to conclude the actions of his life, and to attach the people to the religion which they had once received, in the most signal manner. The Vatican and Alexandrian copies (Haydock) of the Septuagint, followed by St. Augustine (q. 30,) read Silo, where the tabernacle was fixed: but all the rest agree with the original, and with the ancient versions, in retaining Sichem, to which place the ark was removed on this occasion, (Calmet) the distance of ten (St. Jerome) or twelve miles. (Eusebius) --- It is not probable that an oak would be growing in the sanctuary, near the altar, contrary to the express prohibition of the Lord, ver. 26., and Deuteronomy xvi. 21. (Calmet) --- Many interpreters suppose that the assembly might be held at Silo, in the territory of Sichem. (Tirinus; Menochius; Serarius) --- But the distance seems too great; and Bonfrere rather thinks that the copies of the Septuagint have been altered. (Haydock) --- Salien remarks, that they might go in solemn procession from Sichem to Silo. (In the year of the world 2600)
Of the river. The Euphrates. (Challoner) --- Gods. Some think that Abraham himself was in his youth engaged in the worship of idols, (though this is denied by St. Augustine, City of God xvi. 13.; Theodoret, q. 18.; &c.; Worthington) as well as his father, &c., ver. 14., and Genesis xi. 31. Thare was the father of both Abraham and Nachor, (Genesis xi. 26,) unless (Haydock) the grandfather (Menochius) of Abraham was meant, who was also called Nachor, (Haydock) as well as Rebecca's grandfather, Genesis xxiv. (Worthington)
From the. Hebrew and Septuagint, "other side of the flood or river," where Mesopotamia commences. (Haydock)
Isaac, the promised seed and heir of the blessings, (Calmet) after Ismael was born. (Haydock)
You. Many still survived, and had seen these wonders, as God had only exterminated those who had murmured.
Fought, not perhaps with the sword, but by endeavouring to get Israel cursed, that so he might be unable to make any resistance. He had the will to fight, and in this sense princes are said to be at war, though they never come to an engagement, 3 Kings xiv. 38. (Calmet) --- Balac shut his gates against Israel. (St. Augustine, q. 26.)
Men. Hebrew, "the masters of Jericho," which may denote either the king or the inhabitants. It is thought that people of the different nations were come to defend the city, or the text may signify that not only Jericho, but these different people, (Calmet) fought successively against the people of God, but all in vain. (Haydock) --- The fighting of the inhabitants of Jericho was only intentional; a miracle rendered all their efforts abortive. Yet this is called fighting in scripture (ver. 9,) as well as in other authors. "We judge of actions by the intention, says St. Isidore: (Pelus. ii. ep. 289,) the person who intended to murder is punished, though he only inflicted a wound; and on the other hand, he who dills undesignedly receives a pardon." So Orion was said to have violated Diana, because he wished to do it; and Virgin, (Æneid viii.) speaking of some who already thought they were in possession of the capital, says, Galli per dumos aderant, arcemque tenebant, "they seized the citadel," though they never entered it. (Calmet) --- Yet it is probable that the inhabitants of Jericho would defend themselves. (Menochius)
Hornets. St. Augustine explains this of the rumours, or devils, which terrified the people of the country. But it is generally understood literally, Wisdom xii. 8. (Menochius) (Exodus xxiii. 28.) (Calmet) --- The two, &c., not only the nations on the west, but also those on the east side of the Jordan, who fell, not so much by the valour of the Israelites, as by the terror and judgments of God. (Haydock) --- The resistance which they made was hardly worth mentioning.
The gods. Some still retained in their hearts an affection for these idols, though privately; (Calmet) so that Josue could not convict them, or bring them to condign punishment; as no doubt he, and Moses before him, would have done, if they had been apprized of any overt act of idolatry. Amos (v. 26,) says, You carried a tabernacle of your Moloch and the image of your idols, &c., which is confirmed by Ezechiel xxiii. 3, 8., and Acts vii. 42. For these acts many of the people were punished, (Numbers xxv. 3, 9,) and the rest were either sincerely converted, or took care to hide their impiety till after the death of Josue. Yet the secret inclination of many was still corrupt; and these no sooner found a proper opportunity than they relapsed repeatedly into the worship of idols, for which reason the prophets represent their disposition as criminal from their youth. (Haydock) --- St. Augustine (q. 29,) cannot think that the people, who are so often praised for their fidelity during the administration of Josue and of the ancients, (chap. xxii. 2., and xxiii. 3, 8., and xxiv. 31,) and who had testified such zeal against every appearance of idolatry in Ruben, (chap. xxii.) should be themselves infected with this deadly poison. He therefore supposes that Josue exhorts them to repent, if any of them should have retained a predilection for the worship of their ancestors in Mesopotamia, and in Egypt, (Calmet) which, by the prophetic light he say, was secretly the case. (Worthington) --- Yet, though the great majority was clear of this crime, it seems many concealed from their leaders their secret attachment to it, ver. 23; (Calmet) or if they were sincere, for a time, their former bad habits soon gained the ascendancy, and involved them in perdition. (Haydock) --- Fathers. He does not exempt Abraham, and the Jews acknowledge that he was once an idolater, which is the opinion of St. Ephrem, of the author of the Recognitions, B. i., and of many moderns; some of whom think that St. Paul gives him the epithet of impious, or ungodly, on that account, Romans iv. 5. The idolatry of the Hebrews in Egypt, is no less certain than that of their ancestors in Mesopotamia, Ezechiel xxiii. 2, 8, 27. (Calmet)
Choice. Josue was persuaded that no restraint could bind the will; (Haydock) and that, if the Israelites did not freely adhere to the Lord, they would not serve him long, nor would their adoration have any merit. (Calmet) --- Hence he endeavours by all means to draw from them a free and candid acknowledgment of his divinity; and he leads the way, by declaring that all his house will adhere to the true and only God. They answer his fullest expectations, and profess in the most cordial manner, that every tie of gratitude must bind them for ever to the service of the same Lord. (Haydock) --- Elias makes a similar proposition; (3 Kings xviii. 21. See Ecclesiasticus xv. 18.; Menochius) not that it can be ever lawful to choose evil and to reject the sovereign good. But by this method the minds and hearts of the audience are stimulated to make the free and decided election of what alone can ensure their eternal happiness. (Haydock) --- Thus we often set before the people hell or heaven for their choice. (Menochius)
You will not be able to serve the Lord, &c. This was not said by way of discouraging them; but rather to make them more earnest and resolute, by setting before them the greatness of the undertaking, and the courage and constancy necessary to go through with it. (Challoner) --- Josue knew the fickle temper of his subjects. He insinuates, therefore, that if they do not lay that aside, they will not stand to their engagements, (Calmet) and will irritate God the more, if they enter into a covenant with him, and afterwards prove inconsistent. Hebrew La thuclu, "you cannot," may perhaps have the first u redundant; (Kennicott) as that is a letter which is often inserted or omitted at the transcriber's pleasure. (Aben Ezra Simon) --- Hallet suggests that we ought to read lo thucelu, "you shall not cease," which would obviate the apparent difficulty of Josue's attempting, as it were, to cool the fervour of the people, by insinuating that they will not be able to stick to their resolutions, and that at a time when he is exerting every nerve to make them sensible of their duty, and to engage them to swear an inviolable fidelity to the Lord. "Cease not to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God, he is a jealous God, he will not forgive your rebellion, (Copssaco. Job xxxiv. 27,) nor your sins; if you forsake the Lord, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and consume you." (Kennicott, Dis. 2.) --- If we were to read with an interrogation, "Will you not be able? &c., it might answer the same end. Josue may be considered as starting an objection, which is but too common in the mouth of the slothful, and of may of the pretended reformers, Luther, &c., who endeavour to persuade the world that they are not able to comply with the rigour of God's law, and even make his severity an encouragement for their despair. Josue replies that these pretexts are groundless, and that God, who has already done so much for them, (ver. 20,) will not abandon them in their wants, if they cry unto him; and that, instead of being dejected by the thought of his judgments, they ought to strive, with the utmost fervour, to comply with his divine will. (Haydock) --- A general sometimes withholds the ardour of his soldiers, telling them that they are not a match for the enemy, in order to inflame their courage the more. (Menochius) --- A torrent which has been long repressed, rushes forward with greater fury when the dam is broken down. (Haydock)
Turn, and alter his conduct in your regard, instead of being your protector, he will destroy you.
Lord. We shall not experience the chastisements with which thou hast threatened us, because we will adhere inviolably to the Lord. (Calmet)
Covenant. He renewed the one that had been formerly made, stipulating, on the part of God, that the people should serve Him alone, ver. 23. After which he probably read some of the most striking passages of Deuteronomy, (Calmet) particularly the Decalogue, or ten commandments, with the blessings and curses which enforced the observance of them, Deuteronomy v., and xxvii., and xxviii., and xxix., and xxx. (Haydock) --- Then the people swore that they would observe the law, the customary sacrifices were offered, and a record of the whole was subjoined by Josue to that of Moses, in order that it might be deposited in or near the ark, Deuteronomy xxxi. 26. (Calmet) --- This renewal of the covenant prefigured the law of grace. (St. Augustine, q. 30.) (Worthington)
Lord, particularly what related to the ratification of the covenant, which was the last public act of this great man. He placed it in its proper order in the continuation of the sacred history, which Moses had commenced. (Haydock) --- Stone unpolished, except where there was an inscription, relating what had taken place. (Menochius) --- This monument of religion was not forbidden, Deuteronomy xvi. 22. (Calmet) --- Oak. Hebrew alla, is translated a turpentine tree, Genesis xxxv. 4., (Haydock) and by the Septuagint here. But most people translate the oak. (Chaldean; Aquila; &c.) Under it Jacob buried the idols of Laban, and Abimelech was chosen king; (Judges ix. 6,) as Abraham had entertained the angels under the same tree, Genesis xviii. 1., (Calmet) and had sat under it when he first came into Sichem, Genesis xii. 6. On which supposition it must have subsisted about 500 years. (Menochius) --- It was even shewn some ages after Christ. But it is hardly credible that the same tree should have continued for such a length of time. --- Sanctuary, or tent, where the ark was placed on this occasion under the oak. (Calmet; Bonfrere) --- Some think it was at Silo. (Menochius; ver. 1.) --- Kennicott denies that the ark was present, and supposes that they offered sacrifices upon the very altar which Josue had erected on Garizim, between 20 and 30 years before; and that this mountain is here called the sanctuary or "holy place." Upon it the oak might very well grow, and Josue might "with great propriety take some large stone, and set it up for a witness, making at the same time this striking remark, that this stone had heard all the words of the Lord, or had been present when his law was inscribed and read to the people at their former solemn convention." Hence he infers against Collins, "that the Jews had thoughts of worshipping, and did worship at Gerizim long before the separation of Israel from Juda;" and it was probably for fear of the Israelites returning to a sense of their duty, by the sight of these monuments of the old religion, that Jeroboam refrained from setting up his golden calves in the vicinity. (Diss. ii. p. 119.) (Haydock)
It hath heard. This is a figure of speech, by which sensation is attributed to inanimate things; and they are called upon, as it were, to bear witness in favour of the great Creator, whom they on their part constantly obey, (Challoner) which is the best manner of hearing. They rise up to our confusion. (Theodoret, q. 19.) (Worthington) --- The oriental writers delight in these strong figurative expressions, which are not confined to poetry. Jesus Christ says, that if the children were silent, the stones would cry out, Luke xix. 40. See Numbers xiii. 33., and Genesis iv. 10. (Calmet) --- Lest. Hebrew, "it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest you deny your God;" or literally, "lie unto your Elohim." (Haydock) --- The expression often means to revolt and prove faithless, Deuteronomy xxxiii. 29., &c.
And after, &c. If Josue wrote this book, as is commonly believed, these last verses were added by Samuel, or some other prophet. (Challoner) --- Scholastic History. (Worthington) --- Josue had governed Israel 17 years with the greatest prudence and fidelity. (Calmet) --- Some extend his administration to a longer period. (Haydock) --- He paid the debt of nature [i.e., he died] probably not long after the ratification of the covenant. It does not appear that he was ever married. (St. Jerome, contra Jov. 1.; St Chrysostom) --- The Scripture does not mention that the people mourned for him, as they had done for Moses, &c. Yet we cannot doubt but they would shew this mark of respect to his memory, on account of the many benefits which they had received from him. The Holy Ghost has vouchsafed to be his panegyrist, Numbers xxvii. 12., and Ecclesiasticus xlvi. 1., &c. Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 1,) represents him as a most universal character, equally perfect in everything that he took in hand. His greatest honour is to have been so striking a figure of Jesus, whose name he bore, (Calmet) and whose sacred office in administering a second circumcision after he had caused the people to cross the Jordan, he so well described. Like him he introduces the faithful into the land of promise, overthrows their enemies, and establishes them in peace, taking care both at the beginning and at the end of his administration, to set before their eyes the will of the heavenly Father, the God who is both holy and jealous, ver. 19. Under Josue the Israelites are invincible, only as long as they continue faithful, chap. vii. But Jesus secures his Church both from infidelity and from the attacks of all her enemies, by his all-powerful grace. (Haydock) --- The Jews have attributed to Josue ten regulations, which are too trifling to have been made by him. (Selden, Jur. vi. 2.) --- The Samaritan chronicle embellishes the account of this great man with many surprising and puerile fictions, as if the true history were not sufficient to excite our attention. See Basnage and Serarius. (Calmet) --- The Jews say Josue died on the 26th of Nisan, unmarried. The Roman martyrology honours his memory on the 1st of September. (Salien, in the year before Christ 1453.) It is probable that the Egyptian or Tyrean Hercules, who encountered so many giants and difficulties, was no other than Josue, whose history the pagans have obscured with fables. (Vossius.) (Haydock)
Thamnathsare. Judges ii. 9. The last word is written hares (eros) the first and last letters being transposed in one of these places. It may probably be in this verse, as we read of Mount Hares, Judges i. 35. Kennicott rather thinks that Sare is the proper reading, as it is found in the Syriac, Arabic, and Vulgate versions of the Book of Judges. He observes, that if we were to read in an English historian that the renowned Marlborough was buried at Blenheim, near Woodstock, and a few pages after that his remains were interred "at Blenmein, &c., we should naturally conclude that two letters had exchanged their places. And may we not allow the same in this part of the sacred history, as it is universally printed" in Hebrew? (Dis. i.) Some, however, maintain that Thamnath hares was so called, on account of "the image of the sun" being placed in the tomb of Josue, along with the knives of stone used by him in circumcision, which last the Septuagint and St. Augustine (q. 30,) admit. But these must be reckoned among the Jewish or Oriental fables, (Calmet) though it is not improbable but the circumcising knives might be thus preserved, as a monument of the covenant made with the Israelites. (Haydock) --- Gaas. This was another name for Mount Sare, or Hares, a part of Mount Ephraim; where St. Jerome tells us St. Paula visited the tomb of Josue. It was shewn near Thamna in the days of Eusebius. (Calmet) --- No mention is made of mourning, as for Moses, &c., to insinuate that under the law the saints descended into limbo, but are admitted into paradise under the gospel. (St. Jerome, mans. 34.) (Worthington)
Long time; perhaps fifteen years. These ancients kept the people in order by their authority (Calmet) and good example, so great an influence have the manners of superiors upon those of the subjects. (Menochius) --- Regis ad exemplar totus componitur orbis. See 2 Paralipomenon xxiv. 2, 16. After the death of these virtuous rulers, who had been formed in the school of Moses and of Josue, and had beheld the wonders of God, (Haydock) the people began to embrace the worship of Baalim, Judges ii. 11.
Sichem. Joseph had charged his brethren to take his bones with them, Genesis l. 24., and Exodus xiii. 19. Masius supposes that they were solemnly interred after the altar was erected near Sichem, and the covenant ratified, when all the people were together. Others think that they deferred doing this till the country was conquered and divided. Josue would lose no time unnecessarily in performing these last rites to the revered patriarch. --- Field. Jacob had given this field to his son. He had first purchased it; (Genesis xxxiii. 19,) and when the Amorrhite had taken possession again, after the unhappy affair at Sichem, he recovered it by the sword, Genesis xlviii. 22. --- Ewes. Hebrew Kesita may denote also some species of money, though not perhaps marked with any figure of a lamb, &c. (Calmet) --- Protestants, "pieces of silver." (Haydock) --- The mausoleum of Joseph at Sichem, was to be seen in St. Jerome's time. (q. Heb. in Gen.) (Worthington)
Eleazar, the second high priest, was succeeded by his son Phinees. They were both of a very unexceptionable character. The Holy Ghost says, (Ecclesiasticus xlv. 28,) Phinees, the son of Eleazar, is the third in glory, by imitating him (his father or grandfather) in the fear of the Lord, &c. The Jews seem to have adopted the doctrine of Pythagoras, with respect to Phinees, (Haydock) as they say that he was the man of God, (3 Kings ii. 27,) who appeared to Heli, (Trad. Heb. in Reg.) and that he was consulted by Jephte, and gave him advice to fulfil his vow; that he was the same person with Elias, and with one Phinees, who returned from the captivity with Esdras, 1 Paralipomenon ix. 20. They will even have him to be an incarnate angel. (Ap. Munster, &c.) But without dwelling any longer on these fabulous accounts, (Calmet) he was surely a man of the greatest zeal and piety. (Haydock) --- In consideration of his extraordinary merit, the city of Gabaath was given to him, though it was not properly a sacerdotal city, and priests could not regularly possess any land as their inheritance. Grotius supposes that he obtained this city along with his wife, as she was an heiress of the tribe of Ephraim. But if that had been the case, must she not have married some of the same tribe? Numbers xxxvi. 8. (Calmet) --- Septuagint (Grabe) add, "In that day the children of Israel taking the ark of the covenant of God, carried it about among themselves, and Phinees was priest instead of his father, till he died, and he was buried in Gabaath, his own city. But the Israelites went each to his own place and city; and the children of Israel worshipped Astarte and Asteroth, and the gods of the surrounding nations, and the Lord delivered them into the hands of Eglon, the king of Moab, and he held them in subjection 18 years. See Judges iii. 12, 14. Why this is recorded in this place does not appear, unless it be to insinuate that the servitude under Eglon did not commence till after the death of Phinees, who had been high priest 40 years. Abisue, his son, entered upon the pontificate in the first year of the administration of Aod, 1 Paralipomenon vi. 4, 50. (Salien, in the year of the world 2641, in the year before Christ 1412.) Josue and Eleazar had reigned nearly during the same period of time, and finished their course together. They had assisted each other in keeping the people of God under due restraint. Their successors in office acted with the like zeal and concord, though they were not quite so successful. It is probable that Phinees would have the chief sway in "the aristocracy" of the ancients, which Josephus says took place between Josue and Othoniel. Their government is acknowledged by most authors, though Salien supposes that their authority, as distinct from the Sanhedrim, consisted in giving good example. Many assert that Phinees ruled the people twenty-three years. (Haydock)