Joshua 7:6
And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
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(6) Joshua rent his clothes . . .—The words of Joshua and his behaviour on this occasion are consistent with all that we read of him, and confirm the notion that he was not a man of a naturally daring and adventurous spirit, but inclined to distrust his own powers; and yet utterly indomitable and unflinching in the discharge of his duty—a man of moral rather than physical courage.

Joshua 7:6. And Joshua rent his clothes — In testimony of great sorrow for the loss felt, the consequent mischief feared, and the sin which he suspected. The outward marks of sorrow exhibited on this occasion by Joshua and the elders, are well known to have been usually shown in those ages when people were afflicted with grief on account of any great calamity, or the commission of any extraordinary crime. Fell to the earth upon his face — In deep humiliation and fervent supplication. Before the ark of the Lord — Not in the sanctuary, but with his face toward it. Until the even-tide — Continuing the whole day in fasting and prayer. And put dust upon their heads — Which was still a higher expression of great grief, and of a deep sense of their unworthiness to be relieved.

7:6-9 Joshua's concern for the honour of God, more than even for the fate of Israel, was the language of the Spirit of adoption. He pleaded with God. He laments their defeat, as he feared it would reflect on God's wisdom and power, his goodness and faithfulness. We cannot at any time urge a better plea than this, Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name? Let God be glorified in all, and then welcome his whole will.On these signs of mourning, compare the marginal references and Leviticus 10:6; Numbers 20:6; 1 Samuel 4:12. 6-9. Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth … before the ark … he and the elders—It is evident, from those tokens of humiliation and sorrow, that a solemn fast was observed on this occasion. The language of Joshua's prayer is thought by many to savor of human infirmity and to be wanting in that reverence and submission he owed to God. But, although apparently breathing a spirit of bold remonstrance and complaint, it was in reality the effusion of a deeply humbled and afflicted mind, expressing his belief that God could not, after having so miraculously brought His people over Jordan into the promised land, intend to destroy them, to expose them to the insults of their triumphant enemies, and bring reproach upon His own name for inconstancy or unkindness to His people, or inability to resist their enemies. Unable to understand the cause of the present calamity, he owned the hand of God. Joshua rent his clothes, in testimony of great sorrow, as Genesis 37:34 44:13, for the loss felt, the consequent mischief feared, and the sin which he suspected.

Fell to the earth upon his face, in deep humiliation and fervent supplication.

Until the eventide; continuing the whole day in fasting and prayer.

Put dust upon their heads; as was usual in case of grief and astonishment, 1 Samuel 4:12 2 Samuel 1:2 13:19 Jonah 3:6 Micah 1:10.

And Joshua rent his clothes,.... As was usual in those ancient times, on hearing bad news, and as expressive of grief and trouble (r); see Genesis 37:29,

and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the Lord, until the eventide; in a posture of adoration and prayer, in which he continued till even; how long that was cannot be said, since the time is not mentioned when the army returned from Ai; very probably it was some time in the afternoon: this was done before the ark of the Lord, the symbol of the divine Presence, not in the most holy place, where that usually was, and into which Joshua might not enter, but in the tabernacle of the great court, over against where the ark was:

he and the elders of Israel; either the elders of the people in the several tribes, or rather the seventy elders, which were the sanhedrim or council, and which attended Joshua, and assisted him as such:

and put dust upon their heads; another rite or ceremony used in times of mourning and distress, and that very anciently, before Joshua's time and after, see Job 2:12; and among various nations; so when Achilles bewailed the death of Patroclus, he is represented by Homer (s) taking with both his hands the black earth, and pouring it on his head; so Aristippus among the Athenians is said (t) to sprinkle dust on his head in token of mourning on a certain account.

(r) "Tum pius", Aeneas, &c. Virgil. Aeneid. l. 5. prope finem. (s) , &c. Iliad. 18. ver. 23. Vid. Odyss. 24. "Sparsitque cinis", &c. Seneca, Troad. Acts 1. Chorus. (t) Heliodor. Aethiop. l. 1. c. 13.

And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads.
6–15. The Defeat before Ai. Joshua’s Prayer

6. And Joshua rent his clothes] in token of sorrow and distress (comp. Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10). The clothes were torn in front over the breast, yet for not more than a handbreadth. In Patriarchal times we read of Reuben rending his clothes, because “Joseph was not in the pit” (Genesis 37:29); of Jacob rending his clothes, and “mourning for his son many days” (Genesis 37:34); of Joseph’s brethren that they rent their clothes, when they found the cup in Benjamin’s sack (Genesis 44:13). For the same custom among the Romans compare Juvenal xiii. 131

“Nemo dolorem Fingit in hoc casu, vestem diducere summam Contentus.”

and put dust upon their heads] Likewise a sign of mourning. Comp. the young man of Benjamin running to Shiloh with tidings of the battle, his clothes rent, and with earth upon his head (1 Samuel 4:12); the man coming from the camp to David with his clothes rent, and earth upon his head (2 Samuel 1:2). See also 2 Samuel 13:19; 2 Samuel 15:32. Comp. Hom. Il. 18:25, 24:164.

Verse 6. - And Joshua rent his clothes. A token of grief usual among the Jews (see Genesis 37:29, 84; 44:13, etc. Knobel cites Leviticus 21:10); and though Joshua was not the high priest, yet from his peculiar position he might be expected to adopt somewhat of the high priest's demeanour, and at least not to display this outward sign of grief without the strongest reason. The words "before the ark" are omitted in the LXX. And put dust on their heads. A sign of still more abject humiliation. The head, the noblest part of man, was thus placed beneath the dust of the ground from whence he was taken (see 1 Samuel 4:12; 2 Samuel 1:2; 2 Samuel 13:19; 2 Samuel 15:32; 1 Kings 20:38; Job 2:12; Lamentations 2:10). It was a common custom among the Greeks. (See Lucian, De Luetu, 12). Homer mentions the custom (Iliad, 18). Pope's translation runs thus: -

"Cast on the ground, with furious hands he spread
The scorching ashes o'er his graceful head.
His purple garments and his golden hairs,
Those he deforms with dust, and these he tears."
Lines 26-30.
Joshua 7:6Joshua and the elders of the people were also deeply affected, not so much at the loss of thirty-six men, as because Israel, which was invincible with the help of the Lord, had been beaten, and therefore the Lord must have withdrawn His help. In the deepest grief, with their clothes rent (see at Leviticus 10:6) and ashes upon their heads, they fell down before the ark of the Lord (vid., Numbers 20:6) until the evening, to pour out their grief before the Lord. Joshua's prayer contains a complaint (Joshua 7:7) and as question addressed to God (Joshua 7:8, Joshua 7:9). The complaint, "Alas, O Lord Jehovah, wherefore hast Thou brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us?" almost amounts to murmuring, and sounds very much like the complaint which the murmuring people brought against Moses and Aaron in the desert (Numbers 14:2-3); but it is very different from the murmuring of the people on that occasion against the guidance of God; for it by no means arose from unbelief, but was simply the bold language of faith wrestling with God in prayer - faith which could not comprehend the ways of the Lord - and involved the most urgent appeal to the Lord to carry out His work in the same glorious manner in which it had been begun, with the firm conviction that God could neither relinquish nor alter His purposes of grace. The words which follow, "Would to God that we had been content (see at Deuteronomy 1:5) to remain on the other side of the Jordan," assume on the one hand, that previous to the crossing of the river Israel had cherished a longing for the possession of Canaan, and on the other hand, that this longing might possibly have been the cause of the calamity which had fallen upon the people now, and therefore express the wish that Israel had never cherished any such desire, or that the Lord had never gratified it. (On the unusual form העברתּ for העברתּ, see Ges. 63, anm. 4, and Ewald, 41, b.) The inf. abs. העביר (with the unusual i in the final syllable) is placed for the sake of emphasis after the finite verb, as in Genesis 46:4, etc. The Amorites are the inhabitants of the mountains, as in Genesis 46:4, etc.
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