Joshua 22:12
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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) To go up to war against them.—There is no more striking proof of Israel’s obedience to the law and veneration for it in the days of Joshua than this. A single altar to Jehovah, besides the one in Shiloh. is sufficient cause for war against the builders of it. But see what is the language of the prophet. “According to the number of thy cities were thy gods, O Judah; and according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to Bosheth (disgrace), even altars to burn incense to Baal” (Jeremiah 11:13). What stronger proof could we require of the veracity of the narrative in this place, and that it is genuine contemporary history? What writer of the days of Jeremiah, to which date some have referred the Book of Deuteronomy and its requirements, could have conceived such a scene as this, when altars to Jehovah on the high places were hardly regarded as illegal, and altars to Baal were as numerous as the very streets?

Another passage in a different part of the Old Testament corroborates indirectly, but in a striking manner, the tone of this (Nehemiah 8:17): “The congregation. . . . made booths, and sat under the booths” (as required by the law of Moses in the Feast of Tabernacles); “for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun unto that day had not the children of Israel done so.”

Joshua 22:12. The whole congregation of the children of Israel — Not in their own persons, but by their elders, who were used to transact all affairs of this kind in the name of all the people. Gathered themselves together against them — As apostates from God, and the true religion, according to God’s command in such a case. For they too hastily inferred, from the erection of this altar, that their brethren were either going to serve other gods, or to worship the God of Israel in a manner different from that which he had prescribed. For they were expressly commanded that, as there was but one God, so they should offer only upon one altar, and in that one place which the Lord should choose, Deuteronomy 12:5-18.22:10-20 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.Gathered themselves together - The various tribes had already dispersed to their homes, and were now summoned together again. Jos 22:11-29. Contention Thereupon.

11-29. and the children of Israel heard say—Fame speedily spread intelligence of what the trans-jordanic tribes had done. The act being suspected of some idolatrous design, the tribes rose in a mass, and repairing to the tabernacle at Shiloh, resolved to declare war against the two tribes and a half as apostates from God. On calmer and more mature consideration, however, they determined, in the first instance, to send a deputation consisting of the son of the high priest, and ten eminent persons from each tribe, to make inquiry into this rumored rebellion against God (De 13:13-15). The quality of the deputies evinced the deep solicitude that was felt on the occasion to maintain the purity of the divine worship throughout Israel. In the presumptive belief that the two tribes and a half had really built an altar, the deputies expressed astonishment at their so soon falling into such a heinous crime as that of violating the unity of divine worship (Ex 20:24; Leviticus 17:8, 9; De 12:5-13). They reminded their eastern brethren of the disastrous consequences that were entailed on the nation at large by the apostasy at Peor and by the sin of Achan, and finally exhorted them, if they felt the want of the tabernacle and altar and repented of their rash choice in preferring worldly advantages to religious privileges, to remove to the western side of the Jordan, where all the tribes would form a united and obedient community of worshippers.

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

To go up to war against them; as apostates from God, according to God’s command in that case, Deu 13:13, &c. 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.

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 {g} to war against them.

(g) Such was their zeal, that they would rather lose their lives, that allow the true religion to be changed or corrupted.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
12. gathered themselves together] The act of their trans-Jordanic brethren, done without any authority of the High Priest, appeared at first sight to be a direct infringement of the express commands against another altar and other worship (Leviticus 17:8-9; Deuteronomy 12:5-7; Deuteronomy 13:12-18). It was open to the suspicion that they meant, if not to adopt another worship, at least to set up another and an independent establishment for worship, which, besides the obvious tendency to idolatry, could not fail in the event to destroy the connection by which the tribes were linked together. “The obligation of all the Israelites to resort three times in the year for worship to the sole altar of the people, was admirably suited to retain them as one people by continually keeping before their minds their common origin and common obligations; but if a separate establishment were allowed to exist there could be no difficulty in divining that they would cease to put themselves to the trouble of visiting the parent establishment in Canaan, and would, in no long time, come to regard themselves, with a country so congenial to their pastoral character and a geographical separation so complete, as a distinct people.”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?" Thus Joshua dismissed them with blessings. - In Joshua 22:7, the writer, for the sake of clearness, refers again to the fact that only half of Manasseh had received its inheritance from Moses in Bashan, whereas the other had received its inheritance through Joshua on the west of the Jordan (cf. Joshua 14:3, and Joshua 18:7). To us such repetitions appear superfluous; but they are closely connected with the copious breadth of the early historical style of the Hebrews, which abounded in repetitions. The verb נתן (gave) wants its object, אחזּתו or נחלתו, which may easily be supplied from the context. This interpolation involved a further repetition of the fact, that Joshua also dismissed them (the Manassites of the other side) with a blessing, in order that the words might be appended with which Joshua dismissed the two tribes and a half to their homes, namely, the admonition to share the rich booty which they had accumulated with their brethren at home, in accordance with the instructions which Moses had given them with reference to the war with the Midianites (Numbers 31:25.).
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