Joshua 22:17
Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,
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(17) The iniquity of Peor.—A very natural subject for reference on the part of Phinehas, who had distinguished himself by his zealous opposition to it.

Joshua 22:17. Is the iniquity of Peor — That is, of worshipping Baal-peor; too little for us? — Is it not enough that we provoked God to wrath then, but we must provoke him again now? Probably this is mentioned the rather, because Phinehas, the first commissioner in this treaty, had signalized himself in that matter; and because they were now at, or near, the very place where that iniquity was committed. From which we are not cleansed to this day — For though God had pardoned it, as to the national punishment of it, (Numbers 25:11,) yet they were not yet thoroughly purged from it; partly because the shame and blot of that odious practice were not yet wiped off, and partly because some of that corrupt leaven still remained among them; and though smothered for a time, yet was ready to break forth upon all occasions: see Joshua 24:33. And God also took notice of these idolatrous inclinations in particular persons, and found out ways to punish them.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.From which we are not cleansed until this day - Phinehas, who had borne a conspicuous part in vindicating the cause of God against those who fell away to Baal-peor, means that terrible as the punishment had been, there were still those among them who hankered after Baal worship, and even practiced it in secret. (Compare Joshua's words, Joshua 24:14-23.) 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 iniquity of Peor, i.e. of our worshipping of BaalPeer, Num 25.

From which we are not cleansed until this day; for though God had pardoned it, as to the national punishment of it, Numbers 25:11, yet they were not yet thoroughly purged from it; partly because the shame and blot of that filthy and odious practice was not yet wiped of; and partly because some of that corrupt leaven still remained among them, and though it smothered for a time, yet was ready to break forth upon all occasions. See Joshua 24:23. And God also took notice of these idolatrous inclinations in particular persons, and found out ways to punish them one time or other. Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us,.... The worshipping of that idol, when in the plains of Moab; the history of which, see in Numbers 25:2, was that so small a sin, that another must be added to it, or a greater committed? since building an altar seemed designed not for a single action of idolatrous worship, but for the continuance of it, whereas the sin of Peor was only committed at one time, and not continued in:

from which we are not cleansed until this day; not cleared from the shame and disgrace of it, or the guilt of it expiated or removed; but it might be expected, as in the case of the golden calf, that God would still at times punish for it, when provoked by new crimes; or the sense is, that there were those among them that were infected with the same contagion, and whose inclinations were to commit the same, or like sin of idolatry:

although there was a plague in congregation of the Lord; of which twenty four thousand died, Numbers 25:9.

Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not {l} cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,

(l) Meaning, God is not fully pacified, in that no punishment can be sufficient for such wickedness and idolatry.

17. the iniquity of Peor] i. e. of Baal Peor. In four passages Peor occurs as a contraction for Baal Peor, (a) Numbers 25:18, twice; (b) Numbers 31:16; and (c) in this place. He makes allusion to the apostasy in the staying of which he himself had borne so memorable a part, and many have suspected that there were still some amongst them who were hankering after the licentious orgies of Baal worship. We shall find Joshua himself alluding to the same propensity (Joshua 24:14-23).

although there was a plague] Of which upwards of 24,000 of the people died.Verse 17. - Is the iniquity of Peer too little for us? How natural the illustration in the mouth of the speaker! It was Phinehas who had avenged the iniquity of Peer, and arrested the judgment for that offence as it was about to fall. How natural that the occurrence should be, as it were, branded upon his memory with a hot iron, and that the mention of it should spring at once to his lips when he saw his brethren, as he thought, upon the verge of a similar offence! Peor is, of course, a contraction for Baal-Peor (Numbers 25:3). This god derives his name probably from Mount Peer, or "the cloven mountain" (Numbers 23:28). From which we are not cleansed until this day. Here we have the expression of the feeling which was never removed until Christ came. It was not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sin. No ceremonial lustrations could "cleanse us from its guilt and power." No destruction of the prime mover of the offence, though it may avert the wrath of God, can remove the moral reproach which lies upon the sinner. Not even the destruction of twenty-four thousand persons (Numbers 25:9) can purify Israel from the taint of pollution. In the eyes of a sincere servant like Phinehas, the stigma rests upon Israel still, nor could anything avail to take it away. Truly, the law was, indeed, "our schoolmaster, to bring us to Christ." What Keil says of Calvin's explanation, that "the remembrance was not yet quite buried, nor the anger of God extinct," is unsatisfactory. His own explanation, that "the heart of Israel still delighted in their sin," is even more so, since we have no evidence whatever that this was the case at the time of which we are speaking. We have here again to remark that the history in Numbers is here presupposed, and an allusion to an incident in Numbers is here placed in the mouth of one of the chief actors in it. How natural, if the history be a veracious one! How marvellously ingenious, if it he not! The circumstance is mentioned again in Hosea, in the time of Jotham or Hezekiah, and again in Psalm 106, which would appear to have been written during the captivity. Thus we have a chain of testimony concerning it which makes it difficult to assign a time for the invention of the story, if it be invented, since all references to it in Scripture are perfectly consistent with each other, and display none of the signs of gradual growth which we invariably find in the case of legends. A plague. The original is noticeable, the plague; a natural mode of speech for one who well remembered it. The Israelites (on this side) heard that the tribes in question had built the altar "opposite to the land of Canaan" (lit. in the face or in front of the land of Canaan), אל־אבר, "at the opposite region of the children of Israel" (two descriptions which may be explained on the supposition that the name of Canaan is used in a restricted sense, the valley of the Jordan being expressly excepted, and Canaan considered as only extending to the valley of the Jordan). When they heard this, the whole congregation (in its heads and representatives) assembled at Shiloh, to go up, i.e., with the intention of going, to make war against them. The congregation supposed that the altar had been built as a place for sacrifice, and therefore regarded it as a wicked violation of the commandment of God with regard to the unity of the sacrificial altar (Leviticus 17:8-9; Deuteronomy 12:4.), which they ought to punish according to the law in Deuteronomy 13:13. This zeal was perfectly justifiable, and even praiseworthy, as the altar, even if not erected as a place for sacrifice, might easily be abused to that purpose, and thus become an occasion of sin to the whole nation. In any case, the two tribes and a half ought not to have erected such a building without the consent of Joshua or of the high priest.

(Note: "We know how sternly the law prohibited the use of two altars: because it was the will of God that His worship should be restricted to one place. When, therefore, from the very appearance it could not fail to occur to the mind of any one that they were establishing a second altar, who would not have condemned them as guilty of sacrilege, for introducing rites and ceremonies at variance with the law of God? And since it might so naturally be regarded as a wicked deed, they ought certainly to have consulted their brethren in so grave and important a matter; and it was especially wrong to pass by the high priest, when the will of God might have been learned from his lips. They were deserving of blame, therefore, because they acted as if they had been alone in the world, and did not consider what offence might easily arise from the novelty of their proceedings." - Calvin.)

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