Matthew Poole's Commentary
Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh,The two tribes and half are sent home with, a blessing, strict charge to fear the Lord, and great booty, Joshua 22:1-9. They build an altar of testimony at the brink of Jordan, Joshua 22:10. The Israelites are offended, and assemble to wage war against them, Joshua 22:11,12. They first send Phinehas and ten princes ambassadors to reprove them, Joshua 22:13-20. They clear themselves; their brethren rest satisfied, Joshua 22:21-34.
No text from Poole on this verse.
And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you:No text from Poole on this verse.
Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.These many days, i.e. for divers years together, so long as the war lasted. See Joshua 11:18 14:10.
And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.Unto your tents, i.e. to your settled habitations, as appears from Deu 22:8, which are oft called
tents, as Judges 19:9 2 Samuel 17:17 Hosea 9:6 Malachi 2:12.
But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.Take diligent heed; watch over yourselves and all your actions.
The commandment and the law; two words expressing the same thing, the law of commandments delivered by Moses.
With all your heart and with all your soul; with the whole strength of your minds, and wills, and affections.
So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.No text from Poole on this verse.
Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given possession in Bashan: but unto the other half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them away also unto their tents, then he blessed them,No text from Poole on this verse.
And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.i.e. With them who staid beyond Jordan for the defence of their land, and wives, and children, who therefore were to have a share, though not an equal share, with these. See Numbers 31:27. But for them, 1 Samuel 30:24, their share was equal, because their danger was equal.
And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to.Or, built then, as this particle is elsewhere used; and so learned interpreters understand it, Psalm 14:5 36:12 Ecclesiastes 3:17 Hosea 2:15. And in the Latin tongue adverbs of place are sometimes put for adverbs of time: so I take it here. First, Because this best answers to the when in the beginning of the verse. Secondly, This seems to me to clear a great difficulty as to the place where the altar-was built, which though according to our translation it seems, and is generally thought by interpreters to have been, in the land of Canaan; yet if things be more narrowly examined, it may be thought to have been on the other side Jordan in Gilead; and that both, first, from Joshua 21:11, where it is said to have been built over against, or in the sight of the land of Canaan, therefore not in it. And secondly, from the reason they gave of the building of this altar, for fear lest the Israelites within Jordan and in Canaan should say unto their children dwelling beyond Jordan, The Lord hath made Jordan a border between us and you, &c.; which jealousy would have been much confirmed by building the altar in Canaan, but would be satisfied and confuted by having on the other side of Jordan, and in their own land, a pattern of that altar at which God was served in the land of Canaan, as a witness that they owned the same God, and the same way of worship, with their brethren that lived in Canaan. But whether the Hebrew particle be rendered then or there, it is not to be taken too strictly: if then, the meaning is not, that they did this as soon as ever they came to the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan; but about that time when they came to them, that they thought and designed it, and as soon as ever they were got over Jordan, which was in a very little time, they effected and perfected it: if it be rendered there, it is not to be limited to the very same spot of ground mentioned before, as if it was built at that border of Jordan that was in the land of Canaan; but to be a little more largely understood; to be built at one or other of the borders of Jordan; or, in general,
by Jordan; which is here purposely added, for the explication of the word there, and to prevent the restraint of it to the border of Jordan, within Canaan.
And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.Where they passed over Jordan, either at their first entrance into Canaan, or afterwards, and usually.
And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.The children of Israel; not in their own persons, but by their elders, who used to transact all affairs of this kind in the name and stead of all the people.
To go up to war against them; as apostates from God, according to God’s command in that case, Deu 13:13, &c.
And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest,No text from Poole on this verse.
And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel.No text from Poole on this verse.
And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying,No text from Poole on this verse.
Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD?The whole congregation of the Lord, who do and are resolved to cleave unto that God from whom you have revolted, and who speak this to you in the name of the Lord.
What trespass is this? how heinous a crime is this! To turn away this day, i.e. so soon after God hath obliged you by such wonderful favours, and when God is now conducting you home to reap the fruits of all your pains and hazards.
That ye might rebel; with a design to revolt from and rebel against God, and against his express command of worshipping him at one only altar, Exodus 20:24 Leviticus 17:8,9 Deu 12:5,11,13.
Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD,The iniquity of Peor, i.e. of our worshipping of BaalPeer, Num 25.
From which we are not cleansed until this day; for though God had pardoned it, as to the national punishment of it, Numbers 25:11, yet they were not yet thoroughly purged from it; partly because the shame and blot of that filthy and odious practice was not yet wiped of; and partly because some of that corrupt leaven still remained among them, and though it smothered for a time, yet was ready to break forth upon all occasions. See Joshua 24:23. And God also took notice of these idolatrous inclinations in particular persons, and found out ways to punish them one time or other.
But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.To-morrow, i.e. suddenly, as that word is oft used, as Matthew 6:30 1 Corinthians 15:32.
He will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel; with you for doing so, and with us for suffering, or not punishing it.
Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD'S tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God.If the land of your possession be clean; if you apprehend it to be so for want of the tabernacle and altar there, as the following words imply; if you now repent of your former choice in preferring the worldly commodities of that country before the advantage of God’s presence and favour, and more frequent opportunities of his service.
Take possession among us; we will readily resign part of our possessions to you for the prevention of this sin and mischief; wherein they show great zeal for God’s honour, and great pity and charity to their brethren.
Nor rebel against us; for all the tribes were united in one body politic, and made one commonwealth, and one church; and each tribe was subject to the laws and commands of the whole society, and of the chief ruler or rulers thereof; so its disobedience to their just commands was properly rebellion against them.
Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.The son of Zerah, i.e. one of his posterity, Joshua 7:17,18.
Perished not alone, but brought destruction upon his whole family, and part of our forces sent against Ai.
In his iniquity, or, for his sin; of which see Joshua 7:24.
Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel,Either, first, properly, each was a governor of a thousand; for there were among them divers rulers, some of tens, some of hundreds, and some of thousands; or rather, secondly, improperly, and indefinitely, i.e. of the people of Israel, which consist of so many thousands more than you, whose authority therefore you owe a reverence to. For by comparing Joshua 22:14, these seem to be greater persons than those that were rulers of thousands.
The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,)The Lord God of gods; that Jehovah whom we, no less than you, acknowledge and adore as the God of gods, infinitely superior to all that are called gods. The multiplying of his titles, and the repetition of these words, show their zeal and earnestness in this matter, and their abhorrency of the very thoughts of it. He knoweth; to him we appeal who knoweth all things, and the truth of what we are now saying. Israel he shall know; not only our present words, but our future and constant course shall satisfy all Israel of our perseverance in the true religion.
If it be; if this have been done by us with such design, or in such a manner.
Save us not this day; thou, O Lord, to whom we have appealed, and without whom we cannot be saved or preserved, save us not from any of our enemies, nor from the sword of our brethren. It is a sudden apostrophe to God, usual in such vehement speeches.
That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require it;i.e. Call us to an account, and punish us for it; as that phrase is oft used, as Deu 18:19 1 Samuel 20:16 Job 10:6 Psalm 10:13.
And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?You have no relation to him, nor interest in him, or his worship.
For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD.A border between us and you, to shut you out of the Land. of Promise, and consequently from thee covenant made, between God and our father.
Ye have no part in the Lord; nothing to do with him; no right to serve him or expect favour from him. See the like phrase 2 Samuel 20:1 Ezra 4:3 John 13:8.
Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice:No text from Poole on this verse.
But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD.That we might do the service of the Lord before him; that we and ours may have and hold our privilege of serving and worshipping God, not upon this altar, but in the office of God’s presence, in your tabernacle, and upon your altar.
Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.The pattern; an exact representation and resemblance.
A witness between us and you, that we both serve one God, and approve and make use of one and the same altar.
God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that is before his tabernacle.No text from Poole on this verse.
And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them.They were fully satisfied with this answer.
And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the LORD is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the LORD: now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the LORD.The Lord is among us, by his gracious presence and preventing goodness, in keeping you from so great an offence, and all of us from those dismal calamities that would have followed upon it.
Out of the hand of the Lord, i.e. from the wrath and dreadful judgments of God; by avoiding that sin which would have involved both you and us in a most bloody war, you have delivered us from the evils we feared. He that prevents an unexpected or approaching disease or mischief, doth as truly deliver a man from it, as he that cures or removes it after it hath been inflicted.
And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children of Reuben, and from the children of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again.No text from Poole on this verse.
And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt.As they were by the law of God obliged to do, if they had been guilty and persisted therein; as afterwards they did they tribe of Benjamin for the same reason.
And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.No text from Poole on this verse.