Joshua 22:24
And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?
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22:21-29 The tribes took the reproofs of their brethren in good part. With solemnity and meekness they proceeded to give all the satisfaction in their power. Reverence of God is expressed in the form of their appeal. This brief confession of faith would remove their brethren's suspicion that they intended to worship other gods. Let us always speak of God with seriousness, and mention his name with a solemn pause. Those who make appeals to Heaven with a careless God knows, take his name in vain: it is very unlike this. They express great confidence of their own uprightness in the matter of their appeal. God knows it, for he is perfectly acquainted with the thoughts and intents of the heart. In every thing we do in religion, it highly concerns us to approve ourselves to God, remembering that he knows the heart. And if our sincerity be known to God, we should study likewise to let others know it by its fruits, especially those who, though they mistake us, show zeal for the glory of God. They disdained the design of which they were suspected to be guilty, and fully explained their true intent in building this altar. Those who have found the comfort and benefit of God's ordinances, cannot but desire to preserve them to their seed, and to use all possible care that their children may be looked upon as having a part in him. Christ is the great Altar that sanctifies every gift; the best evidence of our interest in him is the work of his Spirit in our hearts.The repeated invocation of God, and that by His three names - אל 'êl, אלהים 'ĕlohı̂ym, יהוה yehovâh: compare Psalm 50:1 - marks the earnestness of the protestation. The conduct of the two tribes and a half has often been noted as exemplary. They had had a grave and capital crime most unexpectedly laid to their charge, of which they were entirely innocent. Yet there is no word of reproach or recrimination in their vindication of themselves. They are contented simply to repudiate the false accusation and to explain the real motives of conduct perhaps suggested to them by a precedent set by Moses Exodus 17:15.

Save us not this day - The words are a direct appeal to God, exactly equivalent in effect to our form "So help me God."

21. Then the children of Reuben … answered—repudiating, in the strongest terms, the alleged crime, and deponing that so far from entertaining the intention imputed to them, their only object was to perpetuate the memory of their alliance with Israel [Jos 22:24, 25], and their adherence to the worship of Israel's God [Jos 22:26, 27]. You have no relation to him, nor interest in him, or his worship.

And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing,.... So far they suggest were they from doing this, in order to turn from the pure worship of God, and introduce idolatrous worship, that it was to guard against everything of that kind for the future; and through fear of it, and anxiety and distress of mind, lest some time or another there should be any temptation to it in their posterity, had they built this altar:

saying, in time to come your children might speak unto our children; or "tomorrow" (m), in a short time after your heads, and ours, are laid in the grave, your posterity will accost us:

saying, what have you to do with the Lord God of Israel? you are aliens and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel, live in a foreign land, and not in the land, of Canaan; are separated from us by the river Jordan, are a different people from us, and have nothing to do with the tabernacle of the Lord, and the service of it, or with the altar of the Lord, to offer sacrifice on it. Now as they returned to their own country, or when got there, such anxious thoughts and fears rose up in their minds, which they communicated to one another, and thought of this expedient to prevent what would be so fatal to their posterity. The Targum is,"you have no part in the Word of the Lord God of Israel;''see John 13:8.

(m) "cras", Pagninus, Montanus, &c.

And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?
24. and if we have not] More literally, and if not rather from anxiety, for a reason we have done this thing. The word rendered “fear” is translated “care” in Ezekiel 4:16; “carefulness” Ezekiel 12:18-19.

Verse 24. - From fear of this thing. This translation cannot be correct. Had the Hebrew original intended to convey this meaning, we should have had מִדְּאָגַת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה The literal rendering is, "from anxiety, from a word." The word here translated "anxiety" (LXX. εὐλάβεια) is applied to the sea, and is translated "sorrow" in Jeremiah 49:23. It is translated "heaviness" in Proverbs 12:25. In Ezekiel 4:16; Ezekiel 12:18, 19, it is translated "care," "carefulness," and is applied to eating food. It obviously refers to agitation or anxiety of mind, and the proper translation here is, "we did it out of anxiety, for a cause." So Masius and Rosenmuller, who render the word דְאָגָה here by sollicitudo. Verse 24, 25. - What have you to do with the Lord God of Israel? For the Lord hath made Jordan a border. Literally, What to you and to Jehovah the God of Israel, since He hath given a border between us and between you, sons of Reuben and sons of Gad, even the Jordan. Thus the reason for the erection of the altar was the very converse of what it had been supposed to be. So far from considering themselves as shut out from the communion of Israel by the natural boundary formed by Jordan, the two and a half tribes were resolved that no one else should ever think so. If the descendants of the remainder of the Israelites should ever venture to assert anything of the kind, there was the altar, erected in a conspicuous position on the west side of Jordan, left as a perpetual memorial of the great struggle in which Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh had taken part, and which had resulted in the final occupation of the land of Canaan. Keil and Delitzsch remark that there was some reason for this anxiety. The promises made to Abraham and his posterity related only to the land of Canaan. For their own advantage these tribes had chosen to remain in the trans-Jordanic territory conquered by Moses. It was quite possible that in future ages they might be regarded as outside the blessings and privileges of the Mosaic covenant. For the present, at least, they value those blessings and privileges, and desired to have some permanent memorial of the fact that they had a right to share them. From fearing. It may be worth while to notice, as a sign of later, or at least of different authorship, that the Pentateuch employs a different (the feminine) form of the infinitive for the form found here. Joshua 22:24In utter amazement at the suspicion expressed by the delegates of the congregation, the two tribes and a half affirm with a solemn oath, that it never entered into their minds to build an altar as a place of sacrifice, to fall away from Jehovah. The combination of the three names of God-El, the strong one; Elohim, the Supreme Being to be feared; and Jehovah, the truly existing One, the covenant God (Joshua 22:22), - serves to strengthen the invocation of God, as in Psalm 50:1; and this is strengthened still further by the repetition of these three names. God knows, and let Israel also know, sc., what they intended, and what they have done. The אם which follows is the usual particle used in an oath. "Verily (it was) not in rebellion, nor in apostasy from Jehovah," sc., that this was done, or that we built the altar. "Mayst Thou not help us to-day," sc., if we did it in rebellion against God. An appeal addressed immediately to God in the heat of the statement, and introduced in the midst of the asseveration, which was meant to remove all doubt as to the truth of their declaration. The words which follow in Joshua 22:23, "that we have built," etc., continue the oath: "If we have done this, to build us an altar, to turn away from the Lord, or to offer thereon burnt-offering, meat-offering, or peace-offering, may Jehovah himself require it (דּרשׁ, as in Deuteronomy 18:19; cf. 1 Samuel 20:16). Another earnest parenthetical adjuration, as the substance of the oath, is continued in Joshua 22:24. "But truly (לא ואם, with an affirmative signification) from anxiety, for a reason (lit. on account of a thing) have we done this, thinking (לאמר, since we thought) in time to come your sons might say to our sons, What have ye to do with Jehovah, the God of Israel?" i.e., He does not concern you; He is our God. "Jehovah has made the Jordan a boundary between us and your sons; ye have no part in Jehovah. Thus your sons might make our sons cease to fear Jehovah," i.e., might make them desist from the worship of Jehovah (for the infinitive form ירא instead of the abbreviated form לרא used in 1 Samuel 18:29, there are analogies in יצק in Ezekiel 24:3, and לישׁון, Ecclesiastes 5:11, whereas יראה is the only form used in the Pentateuch). There was some reason for this anxiety. For, inasmuch as in all the promises and laws Canaan alone (the land on this side of the Jordan, Numbers 34:1-12) is always mentioned as the land which Jehovah would give to His people for their inheritance, it was quite a possible thing that at some future time the false conclusion might be drawn from this, that only the tribes who dwelt in Canaan proper were the true people of Jehovah.
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