Joshua 8:34
And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
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Joshua 8:34-35. Afterward — After the altar was built, and the stones plastered and written upon; he read — That is, he commanded the priests or Levites to read, Deuteronomy 27:14. Blessings and cursings —

Which words come in, not by way of explication, as if the words of the law were nothing else besides the blessings and curses; but by way of addition, to denote that these were read, over and above the words of the law. There was not a word which Joshua read not — Therefore, he read not the blessings and curses only, as some think, but the whole law, as the manner was when all Israel, men and women, were assembled together. The strangers that were among them — Who were proselytes, for no others can be supposed to have been with them at this time. Thus, after Joshua had gained these victories, and had had such manifest proofs that God was with the Israelites, and was fighting for them, he laboured the more earnestly to set before them the whole of their duty, and to engage them to walk therein, that they might in that way testify their thankfulness to God at the same time when he was fulfilling his promises to them. Reader, learn from his example thy duty to those whom God hath committed to thy care and government, and endeavour that thy own faith and confidence in the divine goodness, as well as theirs, may thus work by love!

8:30-35 As soon as Joshua got to the mountains Ebal and Gerizim, without delay, and without caring for the unsettled state of Israel, or their enemies, he confirmed the covenant of the Lord with his people, as appointed, De 11; 27. We must not think to defer covenanting with God till we are settled in the world; nor must any business put us from minding and pursuing the one thing needful. The way to prosper is to begin with God, Mt 6:33. They built an altar, and offered sacrifice to God, in token of their dedicating themselves to God, as living sacrifices to his honour, in and by a Mediator. By Christ's sacrifice of himself for us, we have peace with God. It is a great mercy to any people to have the law of God in writing, and it is fit that the written law should be in a known tongue, that it may be seen and read of all men.All the words of the law - See Deuteronomy 31:11 ff It would seem that Joshua, on the present occasion, must have read at least all the legislative portion of the Pentateuch before the people (compare on Deuteronomy 27:3). The terms of this verse cannot be satisfactorily explained as importing only the blessings and curses of Deuteronomy 27-28. 34. afterward he read all the words of the law—caused the priests or Levites to read it (De 27:14). Persons are often said in Scripture to do that which they only command to be done. Afterward; after the altar was built, and the stones plastered and writ upon.

He read, i.e. he commanded the priests or Levites to read, Deu 27:14.

The blessings and cursings; which words come in not by way of explication, as if the words of the law were nothing else besides the blessings and curses; but by way of addition, to note that these were read over and above the words of the law.

He saith not, according to all that was written upon those stones, but in the book of the law, which shows the mistake of them that think the same things were both read and written upon these stones.

And afterwards he read all the words of the law,.... Not the whole Pentateuch, nor the whole book of Deuteronomy, but either some parts of it, the decalogue, or whatsoever he had written on the stones, and as follows:

the blessings and cursings, according to all that was written in the book of the law; Deuteronomy 27:14; See Gill on Deuteronomy 27:11.

And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
34. the blessings and cursings] “The twelve curses are directed against idolatry (Deuteronomy 27:15), contempt of parents (Deuteronomy 27:16), removing a neighbour’s land-mark (Deuteronomy 27:17), inhumanity towards the blind, strangers, orphans, widows (Deuteronomy 27:18-19), incest and unnatural crimes (Deuteronomy 27:20-23), murder (Deuteronomy 27:24-25), and finally, in general against the transgression of the Law in any manner (Deuteronomy 27:26). Blessings are promised in the city and on the field (Deuteronomy 28:3), on all births (Deuteronomy 28:4), on the basket and on the kneading-trough (Deuteronomy 28:5), on going out and coming in (Deuteronomy 28:6), a blessing in particular on the arms of Israel in contest with their enemies (Deuteronomy 28:7), a blessing on their position among the nations (Deuteronomy 28:9-14). A people standing as the Israelites then did on the scale of morality needed stern discipline, and not only might be allured by promises but must be alarmed by threats.” Keil.

Verse 34. - All the words of the law, the blessings and the curses. The form of this expression, combined with the words of the next verse, seems to include not only the special curses in Deuteronomy 27, but ch. 28, at least, and possibly chs. 29. and 30. as well. Joshua 8:34"And afterwards (after the people had taken the place assigned them) he read to them all the words of the law," i.e., he had the law proclaimed aloud by the persons entrusted with the proclamation of the law, viz., the Levitical priests. קרא, lit. to call out of proclaim, then in a derivative sense to read, inasmuch as reading aloud is proclaiming (as, for example, in Exodus 24:7). The words "the blessing and the curse" are in apposition to "all the words of the law," which they serve to define, and are not to be understood as relating to the blessings in Deuteronomy 28:1-14, and the curses in Deuteronomy 27:15-26 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68. The whole law is called "the blessing and the curse" with special reference to its contents, inasmuch as the fulfilment of it brings eo ipso a blessing, and the transgression of it eo ipso a curse. In the same manner, in Deuteronomy 11:26, Moses describes the exposition of the whole law in the steppes of Moab as setting before them blessing and cursing. In Joshua 8:35 it is most distinctly stated that Joshua had the whole law read to the people; whilst the expression "all Israel," in v. 33, is more fully explained as signifying not merely the congregation in its representatives, or even the men of the nation, but "all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were in the midst of it."

Nothing is said about the march of Joshua and all Israel to Gerizim and Ebal. All that we know is, that he not only took with him the people of war and the elders or heads of tribes, but all the people. It follows from this, however, that the whole of the people must have left and completely vacated the camp at Gilgal in the valley of the Jordan. For if all Israel went to the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, which were situated in the midst of the land, taking even the women and children with them, it is not likely that they left their cattle and other possessions behind them in Gilgal, exposed to the danger of being plundered in the meantime by the Canaanites of the southern mountains. So again we are not informed in what follows (Joshua 9:1) in which direction Joshua and the people went after these solemnities at Ebal and Gerizim were over. It is certainly not stated that he went back to Gilgal in the Jordan valley, and pitched his tent again on the old site. No doubt we find Gilgal still mentioned as the encampment of Israel, not only in Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6, Joshua 10:9, Joshua 10:15, Joshua 10:43, but even after the defeat and subjugation of the Canaanites in the south and north, when a commencement was made to distribute the land (Joshua 14:6). But when it is asked whether this Gilgal was the place of encampment on the east of Jericho, which received its name from the circumcision of the whole nation which took place there, or the town of Gilgal by the side of the terebinths of Moreh, which is mentioned in Deuteronomy 11:30, and by which Moses defines the situation of Gerizim and Ebal, this question cannot be answered unhesitatingly according to the traditional view, viz., in favour of the encampment in the Jordan valley. For when not only the army, but all the people with their wives and children, had once proceeded from the Jordan valley to the mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, we cannot imagine any reason why Joshua should go back again to the plain of Jericho, that is to say, to the extreme corner of Canaan on the east, for the purpose of making that the base of his operations for the conquest and extermination of the Canaanites. And there is just as much improbability in the assumption, that after Joshua had not only defeated the kings of southern Canaan, who had allied themselves with Adonizedek of Jerusalem in the battle fought at Gibeon (Joshua 10), but had also overthrown the kings of northern Canaan, who were allied with Jabin of Hazor at the waters of Merom above the Sea of Galilee (Joshua 11), he should return again to Gilgal in the Jordan valley, and there quietly encamp with all the people, and commence the distribution of the land. The only thing that could bring us to assent to such extremely improbable assumptions, would be the fact that there was no other Gilgal in all Canaan than the encampment to the east of Jericho, which received the name of Gilgal for the first time from the Israelites themselves. But as the other Gilgal by the side of the terebinths of Moreh-i.e., the present Jiljilia, which stands upon an eminence on the south-west of Shiloh at about the same distance from Jerusalem as from Sichem-was a well-known place even in Moses' days (Deuteronomy 11:30), and from its situation on a lofty ridge, from which you can see the great lowlands and the sea towards the west, the mountains of Gilead towards the east, and far away in the north-east even Hermon itself (Rob. Pal. iii. p. 81), was peculiarly well adapted for a place of encampment, from which Joshua could carry on the conquest of the land toward both the north and south, we can come to no other conclusion than that this Gilgal or Jiljilia was the Gilgal mentioned in Joshua 9:6; Joshua 10:6, Joshua 10:9,Joshua 10:15, Joshua 10:43, and Joshua 14:6, as the place where the Israelites were encamped. We therefore assume, that after the setting up of the law on Gerizim and Ebal, Joshua did not conduct the people with their wives and children back again to the camp which they had left in the Jordan valley on the other side of Jericho, but chose the Gilgal which was situated upon the mountains, and only seven hours' journey to the south of Sichem, as the future place of encampment, and made this the central point of all his further military operations; and that this was the place to which he returned after his last campaign in the north, to commence the division of the conquered land among the tribes of Israel (Joshua 14:6), and where he remained till the tabernacle was permanently erected at Shiloh, when the further distribution was carried on there (Joshua 18:1.). This view, which even Van de Velde (Memoir, p. 316) has adopted as probable, is favoured still further by the fact that this Gilgal of Jiljilia, which is still a large village, is frequently mentioned in the subsequent history of Israel, not only in 2 Kings 2:1 and 2 Kings 4:38, as the seat of a school of the prophets in the time of Elijah and Elisha, and in Hosea 4:15; Hosea 9:15; Hosea 12:12; Amos 4:4; Amos 5:5, as a place which was much frequented for the purpose of idolatrous worship; but even at an earlier date still, namely, as one of the places where Samuel judged the people (1 Samuel 7:16), and as the place where he offered sacrifice (1 Samuel 10:8; cf. Joshua 13:7-9), and where he gathered the people together to confirm the monarchy of Saul (1 Samuel 11:14-15), at a time when the tabernacle at Shiloh had ceased to be the only national sanctuary of Israel, on account of the ark having been taken away. Gilgal had no doubt acquired this significance along with Bethel, which had been regarded as a holy place ever since the time of Jacob, from the fact that it was there that Joshua had established the camp of Israel with the ark of the covenant, until the land was divided, and Shiloh was appointed as the site for the national sanctuary.

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