Matthew Poole's Commentary
Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,JOSHUA Chapter 1
God commands Joshua to lead the people unto the land of Canaan, Jos 1:1-3. Its borders, Jos 1:4. God promises to assist him, Jos 1:5,6; commanding him to observe the law, Jos 1:7-9. He prepares the people to pass over Jordan, Jos 1:10,11. Reminds the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh of their promise to Moses, Jos 1:12-15; which they are ready to do, and all promise to obey, Jos 1:16-18.
After the death of Moses; either immediately after it, or when the days of mourning for Moses were expired. Joshua was appointed and declared Moses's successor in the government before this time, and therefore doubtless entered upon the government instantly after his death; and here he receives confirmation from God therein.
The servant of the Lord: this title is given to Moses here and Jos 1:2, as also Deu 34:5, and is oft repeated, not without cause; partly, to reflect honour upon him; partly, to give authority to his laws and writings, in publishing whereof he only acted as God's servant, in his name and stead: and partly, that the Israelites might not think of Moses above what was meet, remembering that he was not the Lord himself, but only the Lord's servant; and therefore not to be worshipped, nor yet to be too pertinaciously followed in all his institutions, when the Lord himself should come and abolish part of the Mosaical dispensation; it being but reasonable that he who was only a servant in God's house, should give place to him who was the Son, and Heir, and Lord of it, as Christ was. See Heb 3:3,5,6. The Lord spake; either in a dream or vision, or by Urim, Num 27:21.
Moses's minister, i.e. who had waited upon Moses in his great employments, and thereby been privy to his managery of the government, and so fitted and prepared for it.
Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.This Jordan; this which is now near thee, which is tho only obstacle in thy way to Canaan.
Which I do give, i.e. am now about to give the actual possession of it, as I formerly gave a right to it by promise.
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.Every place, to wit, within the following bounds.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.This Lebanon; this emphatically, as being the most eminent mountain in Syria, and the northern border of the land: or this which is within my view; as if the Lord appeared to him in the form of a man, and pointed to it.
Of the Hittites, i.e. of the Canaanites, who elsewhere are all called Amorites, as Genesis 15:16, and here Hittites, by a synecdoche; the Hittites being the most considerable and formidable of all, as may appear from Numbers 13:33 14:1 2 Kings 7:6; and many of them being of the race of the giants, dwelling about Hebron. See Genesis 25:9,10 26:34 Genesis 27:46.
The great sea; the midland sea, great in itself, and especially compared with those lesser collections of waters, which the Jews called seas.
Object. The Israelites never possessed all this land.
Answ. 1. That was from their own sloth and cowardice, and disobedience to God, and breach of those conditions upon which this promise was suspended. See Judges 2:20.
2. This land was not all to be possessed by them at once, but by degrees, as their numbers and necessities increased; but Canaan being fully sufficient for them, and many of the Israelites being from time to time either cut off or carried captive for their sins, there was never any need of enlarging their possessions.
3. Though their possessions extended not to Euphrates, yet their dominion did, and all those lands were tributary to them in David’s and Solomon’s time.
There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.As I was with Moses, to assist him against all his enemies, and in all the difficulties of governing this stiff-necked people, which Joshua might justly fear no less than the Canaanites.
I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee; I will not leave thee destitute either of inward support, or of outward assistance.
Be strong and of a good courage: for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.Joshua, though a person of great courage and resolution, whereof he had given sufficient proof, yet needs these exhortations, partly because his work was great, and difficult, and long, and in a great measure new; partly because he had a very mean opinion of himself, especially if compared with Moses; and remembering how perverse and ungovernable that people were, even under Moses, he might very well suspect the burden of ruling them would be too heavy for his shoulders.
Thou shalt divide the land; which supposeth the full conquest of the land. That honour and assistance which I denied to Moses I will give to thee.
Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.Remember that though thou art the captain and commander of my people, yet thou art my subject, and obliged to observe all my commands.
To the right hand or to the left, i.e. in any kind, or upon any pretence.
That thou mayest prosper, or, that thou mayest do wisely; whereby he instructs him in the true art of government; and that his greatest wisdom will lie in the observation of all God’s commands. and not in that pretended reason of state which other princes govern all their affairs by. And this plainly shows that God’s assistance promised to him and to the Israelites was conditional, and might justly be withdrawn upon their breach of the conditions.
Whithersoever thou goest, i.e. whatsoever thou doest. Men’s actions are oft compared to ways, or journeys, or steps, by which they come to the end they aim at.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.Shall not depart out of thy mouth, i.e. thou shalt constantly read it, and upon occasion discourse of it, and the sentence which shall come out of thy mouth shall in all things be given according to this rule.
Meditate therein, i.e. diligently study, and frequently and upon all occasions consider what is God’s will and thy duty. The greatness of thy place and employments shall not hinder thee from this work, because this is the only rule of all thy private actions and public administrations.
According to all that is written therein; whereby he teacheth him that it is his duty to see with his own eyes, and to understand the mind and law of God himself, and not blindly to follow what any other should advise him to.
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.Have not I commanded thee; I whom thou art obliged to obey; I who can carry thee through every thing I put thee upon; I of whose faithfulness and almightiness thou hast had large experience?
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the LORD your God giveth you to possess it.Prepare you victuals; for although manna was given them to supply their want of ordinary provisions in the wilderness; yet they were allowed, when they had opportunity, to purchase other provisions, and did so, Deu 2:6,28. And now having been some time in the land of the Amorites, and together with manna used themselves to other food which that country plentifully supplied them with, they are warned to furnish themselves therewith for their approaching march.
Within three days.
Quest. How can this be, when the spies, who were not yet sent away, continued three days hid in the mountains, Joshua 2:22, and the people passed not over till three days after the spies returned? Joshua 3:2.
Answ. These words, though placed here, seem not to have been delivered by Joshua till after the return of the spies; such transpositions being so frequent in Scripture, that interpreters have formed this general rule, that there is no certain order, no former nor latter, in the histories of the Scripture. And hence it comes that these three days mentioned here below, after the history of the spies, are again repeated, Joshua 3:2. Besides, the Septuagint render the words yet three days; and the Chaldee, in the end of three days; others, after three days, as it is Joshua 3:2. Or these three days may be the same with those Joshua 2:22, and the matter may be conceived thus: Joshua gives the people notice of their passage over Jordan within three days here, and at the same time sends away the spies, who return ere those three days be ended. For the three days, Joshua 2:22, may be understood of one whole day, and part of two other days, as it is in that famous instance, Matthew 27:63, of which see more on that place, and on Matthew 12:40. The spies came to Jericho in the evening of the first day, and intended to lie there, Joshua 2:8; but being disturbed and affrighted by the search made after them, they go away that night into the mountains, and there abide the time mentioned. Joshua having delivered this message from God to the Israelites, and sent away the spies, removes from Shittim to Jordan, Joshua 3:1, being sufficiently assured of his safe passage over Jordan, whatsoever became of the spies; and after those three days mentioned here were past, Joshua 3:2, he sends the officers to the people with a second message about the manner of their actual passing over.
And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Remember the word which Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, saying, The LORD your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land.Remember his charge to you, and your promise to him, which they were obliged to keep; and Joshua was to see that they did so. Rest i.e. a place of rest, as that word signifies: See Poole "Genesis 49:15".
Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them;Ye shall pass, to wit, over Jordan.
Before your brethren; either,
1. In their presence. Or,
2. In the front of all of them; which was but reasonable; partly, because they had the advantage of their brethren, having actually received their portion, which their brethren had only in hope, and therefore were obliged to more service, the rather to prevent the envy of the other tribes; partly, because they were freed from those impediments which the rest were exposed to, their wives, and children, and estates being safely lodged; and partly, to prevent their retreat and withdrawing themselves from the present service, which they otherwise should have had opportunity and temptation to do, because of the nearness of their habitations.
Armed; for by this time they were well furnished with arms, which they had either from the Egyptians, or Amalekites, or Amorites, from whom they had taken them; or by purchase from those people by whose borders they passed. Or, in military order. See Poole "Exodus 13:18". The mighty men of valour; all such were obliged to go over if occasion required it, but Joshua took only some of them, partly because they were sufficient for his purpose, and partly because some were fit to be left, both to secure their own wives, children, and possessions, and to prevent their enemies on that side from giving them disturbance or hinderance in their enterprise upon Canaan.
Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD'S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.They answered, i.e. the Reubenites, &c., mentioned Joshua 1:12, to whom Joshua’s discourse is confined, Joshua 1:13-15. No doubt the other tribes expressed the same thing; but this is only recorded concerning these, because that might seem most doubtful, and the obedience of the rest was unquestionable.
According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the LORD thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.The same obedience which we owed, and those of us who are now alive generally performed, to Moses, we promise unto thee.
Only the Lord thy God be with thee: this is not a limitation of their obedience, as if they would not obey him any further or longer than he was prosperous or successful; but an additional prayer for him. As we have hereby promised thee our obedience, so our prayer shall be, that God would bless and prosper thee, as he did Moses.
Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.In all that thou commandest him, not repugnant to God’s commands; for none can be so foolish to think, that if he had commanded the people to blaspheme God, or worship idols, the people were obliged to obey him therein.