Joshua 3:2
And it came to pass after three days, that the officers went through the host;
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(2) After three days.—See Joshua 1:2.

(2-6) PRELIMINARY ORDERS.—The priests are to bear the ark. This was usually the duty of the Levites of the family of Kohath; but both at the passage of Jordan and the taking of Jericho, the priests were employed as bearers. The people must be sanctified, as they were in preparation for the giving of the law at Sinai (in Exodus 19). And the ark itself takes, in some sense, a fresh position. The space of 2,000 cubits was left between the head of the column of Israelites and the ark, in order that they might all see it. Up to this time, during the whole of the Exodus, they had been led by the pillar of cloud and fire. The ark had led the van ever since they left Sinai (Numbers 10:33-34). But as the cloud had moved above the ark, where all the people could see it, the head of the column might follow the ark as closely as possible, without any inconvenience. Now the cloud was no longer with them. It was a visible token of God’s presence especially granted to Moses, and with him it disappeared. The ark was now to be the only leader, and therefore it must be placed in a somewhat more conspicuous position. This difference of arrangement appears to be indicated by the words in Joshua 3:4, “Ye have not passed this way heretofore.” The words may mean, “You are marching over untrodden ground;” but if so, they are not more applicable to this march than to many previous marches. They may also mean, “You have not marched in this manner heretofore,” and this interpretation seems more to the purpose.

It may be of use to consider here, what was the actual significance of the position assigned to the ark in Joshua. What was the ark? It was a chest containing the ten commandments, written with the finger of God on two tables of stone prepared by Moses (Deuteronomy 10:1-5; Exodus 34:1; Exodus 34:28). But the ark was made for the law, not the law for the ark. The mercy-seat above was the covering of the law—the shield between that law and the people. Between the cherubim that formed the mercy-seat, was the throne of Jehovah. But the central thing, the only thing not of human workmanship, that remained in the ark, was “the law written with the finger of God.” If we would exactly describe the position before us, we must say that the Israelites marched into Jordan led by the written law of God. The same written law, borne round the walls of Jericho, was the minister of vengeance to the Canaanites, as indeed it became afterwards to Israel when incautiously handled or invoked, as at Eben-ezer (1 Samuel 4), and as at Beth-shemesh (1 Samuel 6; comp. 2 Samuel 6), and also to the Philistines (1 Samuel 5). As soon as the army of Joshua reached the centre of Canaan, this same law was written on great stones in the heart of the country and became the law of the land. It is consistent with what we have already noted (Joshua 1:1) as to the difference between Moses and Joshua, that under Moses the people should follow the cloudy pillar, and under Joshua, the written law of God. But it is a strange picture, and one that may well call up our reverent wonder, that the Israelites should pass over Jordan and assail the Canaanites, with the ten commandments carried before them, and as it were leading the way. Was not this the direct object of the conquest of Canaan, that God’s law should not only have a people to obey it, but a country in which its working might be exhibited to the nations, as the law of the land?

Joshua 3:2-3. After three days — The three days mentioned Joshua 1:11, either at the end of them, or upon the last of them. The officers went through the host — To give them more particular directions, as they had given a general notice before. They commanded the people — In Joshua’s name, and by his authority. When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God — The sign and symbol of his presence, and of his being in covenant with you, and engaged to protect and conduct you, as your God. What greater encouragement could they have than this, that Jehovah was in covenant with them, as their God, and that here was the ark, the token of it, going before them? Usually, and in their common marches, the ark was carried in the middle of the camps, according to the direction given Numbers 2:17; but now it was to be carried in the front, or at the head of the whole army, as it had been on their first march, when they left mount Sinai. And the priests and Levites bearing it — The Levites of the family of Kohath had the office of carrying the ark assigned them, Numbers 4:15; but the priests, all of whom were also Levites, might perform that office, and were appointed to do so on extraordinary occasions. Then ye shall — go after it — Toward Jordan, in such a manner as is here described.

3:1-6 The Israelites came to Jordan in faith, having been told that they should pass it. In the way of duty, let us proceed as far as we can, and depend on the Lord. Joshua led them. Particular notice is taken of his early rising, as afterwards upon other occasions, which shows how little he sought his own ease. Those who would bring great things to pass, must rise early. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty. All in public stations should always attend to the duty of their place. The people were to follow the ark. Thus must we walk after the rule of the word, and the direction of the Spirit, in everything; so shall peace be upon us as upon the Israel of God; but we must follow our ministers only as they follow Christ. All their way through the wilderness was an untrodden path, but most so this through Jordan. While we are here, we must expect and prepare to pass ways that we have not passed before; but in the path of duty we may proceed with boldness and cheerfulness. Whether we are called to suffer poverty, pain, labour, persecution, reproach, or death, we are following the Author and Finisher of our faith; nor can we set our feet in any dangerous or difficult spot, through our whole journey, but faith will there see the prints of the Redeemer's feet, who trod that very path to glory above, and bids us follow him, that where he is, we may be also. They were to sanctify themselves. Would we experience the effects of God's love and power, we must put away sin, and be careful not to grieve the Holy Spirit of God.These days (Joshua 1:11 note) were no doubt occupied in preparations of various kinds. The host consisted not of armed men only, but of women and children also; and many arrangements would be necessary before they actually advanced into a hostile country. 2-4. the officers went through the host; And they commanded the people—The instructions given at this time and in this place were different from those described (Jos 1:11). After three days; either,

1. At the end of the three days mentioned Joshua 1:11, or upon the last of them, as this phrase is used. See Poole "Deu 16:1". Or,

2. After those days were expired. See Poole "Joshua 1:11". The officers went through the host the second time to give them more particular directions, as they had given them a general notice, Joshua 1:10,11.

And it came to pass after three days,.... At the end of the three days they were bid to prepare food for their expedition, and to go over Jordan, Joshua 1:11,

that the officers went through the host; the camp of Israel; very probably the same as in Joshua 1:10; this was, no doubt, by the order of Joshua, and who was directed to it by the Lord.

And it came to pass after {b} three days, that the officers went through the host;

(b) Which was given to prepare food Jos 1:11.

2. after three days] See above, Joshua 1:11.

the officers went through the host] Or, overseers: Vulg. præcones. The word denotes (i) the head man of the people (Exodus 5:6-19; Numbers 11:16); (ii) the magistrates in the towns (Deuteronomy 16:18; 1 Chronicles 23:4).

Verse 2. - The officers. LXX., γραμματεις (see Joshua 1:10). This is evidently the history of the fulfilment of the command there given by Joshua. There he orders the officers to pass through the host; here the command is fulfilled. There is no reasonable doubt that the spies had returned before the order recorded in Joshua 1:10 had been given. Many commentators have raised objections to the order of the narrative in this and in the following chapter; and commentators like Houbigant, Masius (who says, "Narrationis ordo admodum perturbatus"), and Bishop Horsley, have suggested a different order of the verses. But Delitzsch has observed that the narrative is drawn up in a threefold order. First, the commencement of the crossing is detailed, from vers. 7-17 of this chapter; then (Joshua 4:1-14), its further progress; lastly (Joshua 4:15-24), its conclusion. And in each separate paragraph we have

(1) God's command to Joshua;

(2) Joshua's command to the people; and

(3) their fulfilment of his command.

Thus the Divine command, the human leadership, and the measures taken in obedience to that leadership are kept in close connection throughout. We need not suppose (he adds) that each separate act was enjoined at the moment when the necessity for the injunction arrived. Nor, we may add, is it necessary to suppose that every intimation given by God to Joshua is necessarily recorded in chronological order (see note on Joshua 2:1.) We are only to understand by the order followed by the sacred historian, that he desires to impress fully upon his readers how entirely every step taken by Joshua was taken at the express command of God. The idea of Paulus, Eichhorn, Ewald, Knobel, and others, that this account is compiled from two or more different documents, would not only require us to suppose great clumsiness in the compiler, if their view of his work be true, but is wholly unnecessary. The text involves no contradictions; only an amount of repetition, which is an essential feature of all the early Hebrew historical narratives, as is evident to the most casual observer, and is a proof, not of compilation, but of the antiquity of the document, and the simplicity and absence of art of the writer. Ewald has remarked that it is characteristic of the Hebrew historians to mention the termination of the event as soon as possible, and then to fill in their outline by the narration of intermediate circumstances (see chs. 1, 3, 6, 7. of the Book of Joshua). As a specimen of the way in which contradictions are manufactured, we may take Knobel's assertion that the two statements that the people came to Jordan, and that there was a space of 2,000 cubits between them and the priests, are irreconcilable. As though it were not possible that the 2,000 cubits were to be measured along the river, and that the priests were ordered to walk along the bank until it was signified to them that they had arrived at the place of crossing. For we are plainly told that this distance was to be preserved that the people might "know the way which they must go" (ver. 4). Joshua 3:2"Arrangements for the Passage through the Jordan. - When they reached the Jordan, the Israelites rested till they passed over. לוּן, to pass the night; then in a wider sense to tarry, Proverbs 15:31; here it means to rest. According to Joshua 3:2, they stayed there three days. "At the end (after the expiration) of three days" cannot refer to the three days mentioned in Joshua 1:11, if only because of the omission of the article, apart from the reasons given in the note upon Joshua 1:11, which preclude the supposition that the two are identical. The reasons why the Israelites stayed three days by the side of the Jordan, after leaving Shittim, are not given, but they are not difficult to guess; for, in the first place, before it could be possible to pass into an enemy's country, not only with an army, but with all the people, including wives, children, and all their possessions, and especially when the river had first of all to be crossed, it must have been necessary to make many preparations, which would easily occupy two or three days. Besides this, the Jordan at that time was so high as to overflow its banks, so that it was impossible to cross the fords, and they were obliged to wait till this obstruction was removed. But as soon as Joshua was assured that the Lord would make a way for His people, he issued the following instructions through the proper officers to all the people in the camp: "When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and (see) the Levitical priests bear it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it: yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it; that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way yesterday and the day before." On the expression "the Levitical priests," see at Deuteronomy 31:25, as compared with Joshua 3:9 and Joshua 17:9. בּינו, both here and in Joshua 8:11, should probably be pointed בּינו (vid., Ewald, 266, a.). This command referred simply to the march from the last resting-place by the Jordan into the river itself, and not to the passage through the river, during which the priests remained standing with the ark in the bed of the river until the people had all passed through (Joshua 3:8 and Joshua 3:17).

(Note: Knobel maintains that this statement, according to which the Israelites were more than 2000 cubits from the place of crossing, is not in harmony with Joshua 3:1, where they are said to have been by the Jordan already; but he can only show this supposed discrepancy in the text by so pressing the expression, they "came to Jordan," as to make it mean that the whole nation was encamped so close to the edge of the river, that at the very first step the people took their feet would touch the water.)

The people were to keep about 2000 cubits away from the ark. This was not done, however, to prevent their going wrong in the unknown way, and so missing the ford, for that was impossible under the circumstances; but the ark was carried in front of the people, not so much to show the road as to make a road by dividing the waters of the Jordan, and the people were to keep at a distance from it, that they might not lose sight of the ark, but keep their eyes fixed upon it, and know the road by looking at the ark of the covenant by which the road had been made, i.e., might know and observe how the Lord, through the medium of the ark, was leading them to Canaan by a way which they had never traversed before, i.e., by a miraculous way.

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