Joshua 7:8
O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua 7:8-9. What shall I say? — In answer to the reproaches of our insulting enemies? When Israel — God’s people, which he hath singled out of all nations for his own. Turneth their backs — Unable to make any resistance. What wilt thou do unto thy great name? — Which will upon this occasion be blasphemed, and charged with inconstancy, and with inability to resist them, or to do thy people that good which thou didst intend them. The name of God is a great name, above every name. And whatever happens, we ought to pray that this may not be polluted. This should be our concern more than any thing else: on this we should fix our eye: and we cannot urge a better plea than this, “Lord, what wilt thou do for thy great name?” Let God in all be glorified, and then welcome his whole will!

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. What shall I say, in answer to the reproaches cast by our insulting enemies upon us, and upon thy name?

Israel; God’s own people, which he hath singled out of all nations for his own peculiar.

See Poole "Genesis 1:1", See Poole "Genesis 1:2"

O Lord, what shall I say,.... For the comfort and encouragement of the people of Israel, in vindication of thy power and faithfulness, and against the charge of weakness in thyself, unfaithfulness to thy promises, and unkindness to thy people, brought by our enemies:

when Israel hath turned their backs before their enemies? or after they have done it; what is to be said now, this being the case? he speaks as a man confounded, and at the utmost loss how to account for the power, the providence, and promises of God.

O LORD, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies!
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 8. - What shall I say? To encourage the people who will be downcast by this defeat, while their enemies will gather courage. Joshua 7:8The question which Joshua addresses to God he introduces in this way: "Pray (בּי contracted from בּעי), Lord, what shall I say?" to modify the boldness of the question which follows. It was not because he did not know what to say, for he proceeded at once to pour out the thoughts of his heart, but because he felt that the thought which he was about to utter might involve a reproach, as if, when God permitted that disaster, He had not thought of His own honour; and as he could not possibly think this, he introduced his words with a supplicatory inquiry. What he proceeds to say in Joshua 7:8, Joshua 7:9, does not contain two co-ordinate clauses, but one simple thought: how would God uphold His great name before the world, when the report that Israel had turned their back before them should reach the Canaanites, and they should come and surround the Israelites, and destroy them without a single trace from off the face of the earth.

(Note: Calovius has therefore given the correct interpretation: "When they have destroyed our name, after Thou hast chosen us to be Thy people, and brought us hither with such great wonders, what will become of Thy name? Our name is of little moment, but wilt Thou consult the honour of Thine own name, if Thou destroyest us? For Thou didst promise us this land; and what people is there that will honour Thy name if ours should be destroyed?")

In the words, "the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land," there is involved the thought that there were other people living in Canaan beside the Canaanites, e.g., the Philistines. The question, "What wilt Thou do with regard to Thy great name?" signifies, according to the parallel passages, Exodus 32:11-12; Numbers 14:13., Deuteronomy 9:28, "How wilt Thou preserve Thy great name, which Thou hast acquired thus far in the sight of all nations through the miraculous guidance of Israel, from being misunderstood and blasphemed among the heathen?" ("what wilt Thou do?" as in Genesis 26:29).

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