Joshua 8:35
There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
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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. 35. There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not—It appears that a much larger portion of the law was read on this occasion than the brief summary inscribed on the stones; and this must have been the essence of the law as contained in Deuteronomy (De 4:44; 6:9; 27:8). It was not written on the stones, but on the plaster. The immediate design of this rehearsal was attained by the performance of the act itself. It only related to posterity, in so far as the record of the event would be handed down in the Book of Joshua, or the documents which form the groundwork of it [Hengstenberg]. Thus faithfully did Joshua execute the instructions given by Moses. How awfully solemn must have been the assemblage and the occasion! The eye and the ear of the people being both addressed, it was calculated to leave an indelible impression; and with spirits elevated by their brilliant victories in the land of promise, memory would often revert to the striking scene on mounts Ebal and Gerizim, and in the vale of Sychar. 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, as we read, Deu 31:10-12. That were conversant among them, i.e. who were proselytes, for no others can be supposed to be with them at this time.

There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not,.... So punctually, precisely, and exactly did he observe the instructions and commands that were given him by Moses; and this he did in the most public manner:

before all the congregation of Israel; who were on this occasion called together, and not before the men only, but

with the women, and little ones: who all had a concern in the things that were read to them: yea, even

and the strangers that were conversant among them; not the proselytes of righteousness only, but the proselytes of the gate, that dwelt, walked, and conversed with them.

There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the {o} women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.

(o) So neither young nor old, man nor woman, were exempted from hearing the word of the Lord.

35. There was not a word] The acoustic properties of the valley between Ebal and Gerizim are interesting, the more so that several times they are incidentally brought before us. Comp. with this passage Jdg 9:7, “And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.” “It is impossible to conceive a spot more admirably adapted for the purpose than this one, in the very centre of the newly acquired land, nor one which could more exactly fulfil all the required conditions. Let us imagine the chiefs and the priests gathered in the centre of the valley, the tribes stretching out as they stood in compact masses, the men of war and the heads of families, half on the north and half on the south, crowding the slopes on either side, the mixed multitude, the women and the children extending along in front till they spread into the plain beyond but still in sight: and there is no difficulty, much less impossibility in the problem. A single voice might be heard by many thousands, shut in and conveyed up and down by the enclosing hills. In the early morning we could not only see from Gerizim a man driving his ass down a path on Mount Ebal, but could hear every word he uttered, as he urged it; and in order to test the matter more certainly, on a subsequent occasion two of our party stationed themselves on opposite sides of the valley and with perfect ease recited the commandments antiphonally.” Tristram’s Land of Israel, pp. 149, 150. “The people in these mountainous countries are able, from long practice, so to pitch their voices as to be heard distinctly at distances almost incredible. They talk with persons across enormous wâdies, and give the most minute directions, which are perfectly understood; and in doing this they seem to speak very little louder than their usual tone of conversation.” Thomson’s Land and the Book, pp. 473, 474.

Verse 35. - That were conversant with them. Literally, who were going in the midst of them; i.e., the strangers who had attached themselves to them, either at their departure from Egypt, or since their conquest of Eastern Palestine.

Joshua 8:35"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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