Joshua 1 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Joshua 1
Pulpit 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,
Verse 1. - Now after the death of Moses. The form of the Hebrew is the usual historical one for the continuation of a narrative before commenced. The Book of Joshua is thus shown to be, and to be intended to be, a continuation of the Book of Deuteronomy, which ends with the death of Moses (see Speaker's Commentary in loc.). This link of connection is lost in the English version. The question forces itself upon the critic, At what time was this consecutive narrative written, as is admitted, in various styles, in the language of obviously distinct periods - first composed and palmed off upon the Jews as the genuine work of a writer contemporary, or nearly contemporary, with the events he describes? The servant of the Lord. This term (Keil) is applied to the heavens and the earth (Psalm 119:91), to the angels (Job 4:18), to the prophets (Jeremiah 7:25, etc.), to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the Jewish people (Exodus 19:5), to Zerubbabel (Haggai 2:23), and even to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 25:9, etc.), as the appointed minister of God's wrath, and to pious men in general (Gesenius; see Psalm 34:23, etc.). It is also applied to the Messiah (Zechariah 3:8; comp. the word παῖς similarly applied in Acts 4:27). It originally implies the position of a slave, whether born in the house or bought with money (see Leviticus 25:39; and Genesis 9:25; Exodus 13:3, 14). In all cases it expresses a closer and more familiar relation than the term minister below. Keil says that it is applied so frequently to Moses that it has become almost his "official title" (see Deuteronomy 34:5, and the Book of Joshua passim, and cf. Hebrews 3:5). It is, however, still more frequently applied to David. But it suits well with the special and peculiar mission which Moses had above the rest of mankind. He was, as it were, the household servant of the Most High, His steward and representative, ruling over the family of God in His name, and giving to them the directions of which they stood in need. That the Lord spake unto Joshua. Either by Urim and Thummin, which seems at least probable (see Numbers 27:21, and Joshua 9:14). But the great majority of commentators prefer the idea of an inward revelation, since the words are frequently used in this Book of God's revelations to Joshua (Joshua 3:7; Joshua 4:1, 15; Joshua 5:2, 9; Joshua 6:2, etc.). The manner of these inward revelations is also a matter on which much difference of opinion exists. They, no doubt, were frequently made through a vision or dream, as to Abraham at Sodom (Genesis 18:1), Jacob at Bethel, and Joshua him. self (Joshua 5:13). But it is by no means clear that they were always so. The voice of God in answer to prayer is recognised by Christians in a strong inward persuasion of the desirability or necessity of a particular course. Of this kind would seem to be the answer to St. Paul's prayer in 2 Corinthians 12:9. And it is quite possible that in passages such as Genesis 12:1, 22:1, 2, nothing more is meant than that the persuasion, by God's permission or inspiration, was strongly felt within. And so it is possible that one so specially and divinely commissioned as Joshua discerned in a strong and apparently irresistible conviction, the voice of God (cf. Acts 16:7; 2 Corinthians 1:17). Joshua's name was originally Hoshea (like the prophet and the Israelitish king of that name). The name originally meant salvation, or deliverance, but it was changed, either when he entered into Moses' service, or when he was about to fight the Amalekites (Numbers 13:8, 16; Deuteronomy 32:44), into Jehoshua, or Joshua (either "God shall save," or "God's salvation"). It is not stated in Holy Writ when the name Joshua was given. In Exodus 17:9, where Joshua is named for the first time, he is called by the name Moses gave him, and is mentioned incidentally as a person well known to the writer and his readers. The reader need hardly be reminded that in the form Jeshua (Gr. Ἰησοῦς) it was the name of our Blessed Lord Himself, and that the Name which is now above all other names is used of Joshua in two places in the New Testament, in Acts 7:45, in Hebrews 4:8. It was a common name in later times, as Colossians 4:11 and Acts 13:6 will serve to show. In later Hebrew, as in Nehemiah 8:17, Joshua is called Jeshua, and the names of Joshua and Jeshua are given indiscriminately to the high priest, the son of Josedeeh, who was contemporary with the building of the second temple. For Joshua as a type of Christ the reader may consult a deep passage in 'Pearson on the Creed,' Art. II., from which some of the most striking parts are here quoted: - "First, it was he alone, of all which passed out of Egypt, who was designed to lead the children of Israel into Canaan, which land, as it is a type of heaven, so is the person which brought the Israelites into that place of rest a type of Him who only can bring us into the presence of God, and there prepare our mansions for us. Besides, it is further observable, not only what Joshua did, but what Moses could not do. The hand of Moses and Aaron brought them out of Egypt, but left them in the wilderness. Joshua, the successor, only could effect that in which Moses failed. Moses must die that Joshua may succeed (Romans 3:20-22). The command of circumcision was not given to Moses, but to Joshua; nor were the Israelites circumcised in the wilderness under the conduct of Moses and Aaron, but in the land of Canaan under their successor. Which speaketh Jesus to be the true circumciser, the author of another circumcision than that of the flesh (Romans 2:29; Colossians 2:11). If we look on Joshua as the 'minister of Moses,' he is even in that a type of Christ, 'the minister of the circumcision for the truth of God.' If we look on him as the successor of Moses, in that he represented Jesus, inasmuch as 'the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.' If we look on him as judge and ruler of Israel, there is scarce an action which is not predictive of our Saviour. He begins his office at the banks of Jordan, where Christ was baptized and enters upon the public exercise of His prophetical office; he chooseth there twelve men out of the people to carry twelve stones over with them, as our Jesus thence began to choose His twelve apostles, those foundation stones in the Church of God (Revelation 21:14). Joshua smote the Amalekites and subdued the Canaanites, By the first making way to enter the land, by the second giving possession of it. And Jesus in like manner goeth in and out before us against our spiritual enemies, subduing sin and Satan, and so opening and clearing our way to heaven; destroying the last enemy, death, and so giving us possession of eternal life." Pearson quotes Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Theodoret, and others as justifying his view of the history. Theodoret, moreover, in his 'Questions on Joshua,' remarks on the coincidence between Joshua 1:17 and John 5:46. And Origen, in his first 'Homily on Joshua,' remarks on the fact that the first time the sacred name meets us in the Book of God, it is as the leader of an army (Exodus 17:9). Another way in which Joshua was a type of Christ is this. Under Moses there are constant murmurings and disputings, for "the law made nothing perfect" (Hebrews 7:19). Under Joshua all is confidence and triumph, for "by one offering Jesus hath perfected forever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14). Moses' minister. This word is principally used of service in the house of God. Thus it is used of Aaron and his sons, Exodus 28:43; Exodus 39:41, etc.: of Samuel, 1 Samuel 2:11; 1 Samuel 3:1, etc.: of the priests and Levites, 1 Chronicles 6:32; 1 Chronicles 16:4; Ezekiel 14:5; Joel 1:9, etc. In these places it seems to be equivalent to the LXX. λειτουργός. But it is by no means confined to such service. In Exodus 33:11, where it is applied to Joshua, it is rendered in the LXX. by θεράπων, and it is quite clear that Joshua's service to Moses was not exclusively of a religious character. Some commentators have suggested the word aide de camp, but this would be equally incorrect in the opposite direction, since Joshua's services (see Exodus 24:13; Exodus 33:11) were clearly not rendered only in time of war. The word is used of Abishag the Shunamite, 1 Kings 1:4, 15; and of Elisha, 1 Kings 19:21.
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.
Verse 2. - Moses my servant is dead. "When you see Jerusalem overthrown, the altar forsaken, no sacrifices, no holocausts, no drink offerings, no priests, no Levitical ministry, when you see all these things cease, say it is because Moses the servant of God is dead, and Jesus the Sou of God obtains the leadership" (Origen, Hom. 2 on Joshua). This Jordan. Called "this" because it was now close to them, just as we have "this people, .... this Lebanon" (see note on ver. 4), etc. The name Jordan signifies "Descender," from the verb יָרַד to descend. The word fitly describes the headlong current of the river, which, according to Mr. Macgregor ('Rob Roy on the Jordan,' p. 282), has a fall of fifteen feet per mile, and if we subtract the Lake of Gennesareth and the lake and attendant marshes of Huleh, of thirty feet. Between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea, however, the average fall is much less. Just after leaving the Sea of Galilee its fall is over forty feet. (Conder, 'Handbook,' p. 216). It may be interesting to compare with this the average inclination of some of our own English rivers. The swiftest is the Dee, in Aberdeenshire, which has a fall of 16.5 ft. per mile. The Tweed and Clyde have a fall of 16 ft. and 14 ft. respectively, while the Severn has but 26.5 in., the Thames 18 in., and the Shannon 9 in. per mile. This comparative table will give the best idea of the rapidity of the Jordan. The various explorers bear testimony to the swiftness of its current. Thus Robinson, in his 'Biblical Researches,' says, "The current was so strong that even Komeh, a stout swimmer of the Nile, was carried down several yards in crossing." "It was so swift," says Dr. Bartlett ('Egypt and Palestine,' p. 452), "that a gentleman of another company, who went to bathe, was not suffered by his friends to do so without a rope most un-romantically attached to his person." This was in March, at the time of the overflowing (see chap. 3.), and he adds, "the turbid stream rushed along like a mill ace." Canon Tristram, visiting it in April, describes it as "rushing with tremendous force." It rises among the snows of Hermon, dashes down headlong into the lake Huleh, the Merom of the Book of Joshua, and thence, with a descent of 60 ft. per mile, into the Sea of Galilee. Thence it shapes its course, as we have seen, with greatly diminished velocity into that strange depression where the Dead Sea lies, at a level of 1,290 ft. beneath the level of the Mediterranean. I do give, literally, I am giving; i.e., at this moment, when you are preparing to enter it.
Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
Verse 3. - Every place that the sole of your foot doth tread upon. These words are a quotation, almost word for word, from Deuteronomy 11:24, but the original promise is to be found in Genesis 12:1-7, with which we may compare Genesis 13:14-17; Genesis 15:18; Genesis 17:8. Comp. also Joshua 14:9; Exodus 23:30, 31, etc. It was God's purpose that the whole land should belong to the children of Israel; a purpose which, as usual in Hebrew prophecy, is signified by the use of the perfect tense here. The conquest was intended to be complete. Not a foot's breadth was to rest in the hands of its former owners. But here, as elsewhere in Holy Writ, we may mark the way in which man's sin and want of faith has marred the purposes of God. In the Book of Judges we read that the Canaanites were not only not driven out, but that the children of Israel made marriages with them, worshipped their gods, and practised their abominations. Jerusalem remained in the hands of the Jebusites until the time of David, while the Philistines remained in possession of their portion of Palestine until it was reduced under the power of the king of Babylon. We may observe that, according to all the ordinary laws of criticism, this citation of Deuteronomy is a proof that that Book existed when the Book of Joshua was written. For the cumbrous scheme of Elohists, Jehovists, Deuteronomists, and the like, by which this natural conclusion is overruled, see Introduction. Have I given it. The preterite here denotes God's purpose (cf. Genesis 1:29).
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.
Verse 4. - From the wilderness and this Lebanon. The words suppose a line to be drawn from the desert of Arabia on the south and the range of Lebanon on the north, to the River Euphrates on the one hand and the Mediterranean Sea on the other, including the land of the Hittites (see 1 Kings 4:24; 2 Chronicles 9:26). Tiphsah, the later Thapsacus, was far north of the utmost limits of Palestine, and almost in the latitude of Antioch. Azzah is generally termed Gaza in our version. See note on Joshua 11:22. The land of the Hittites here (Keil) seems to be taken for the land of Canaan in general (see 1 Kings 10:29; 2 Kings 7:6; Ezekiel 16:3), but extending far beyond their border, and including Syria, Moab, Ammon, the land of Bashan, and part of Arabia. This was never actually in the hand of the Israelites save during the reigns of David and Solomon, when these regions were either tributary to them, or had been actually reduced under their immediate sway. "The promise," says Theodoret, "was not undefined, but if ye shall keep my commandments and ordinances" (Deuteronomy 11:22, 23). But they, inasmuch as they immediately transgressed the law, did not obtain the perfect promises. The Divine Apostles, on the contrary, not only conquered those places on which they set their foot, but even those in which their all wise writings were read; and the land that was before a desert they displayed as a Divine Paradise." This Lebanon. This expression is no doubt used because Lebanon was visible from the spot where Joshua was standing. There is nothing surprising in this. We learn from travellers that its range, which there is no doubt included that of Anti-Lebanon, with its lofty peak Hermon, the highest point in Palestine, is visible from all parts of the Holy Land, even from the depths of the Jordan valley near the Dead Sea. Dr. Thomson ('Land and the Book,' p, 2) says that it is visible from Cyprus. Canon Tristram ('Land of Israel,' p. 609) tells how he had seen Hermon from Type, Sidon, Carmel, Gerizim, from the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, from Gilead, from Nebo, and from the Dead Sea. The name Lebanon, derived from לָבָן to be white, like the Arabic lebanon, milk, is supposed by Robinson to have been given from the whitish colour of the chalk or limestone rock (so Conder, 'Handbook,' p. 206). But it is at least equally probable that it derives its name, like Mont Blanc in Savoy, from its snowy peaks. Hermon is still called by the Arabs Jebel-el-Thelj, or "the snowy peak." The Jordan, the river of Palestine par excellence, derived its copious and ever-flowing streams, so essential in that "thirsty land," from the Anti-Lebanon range. "Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus," as well as the Orontes, and the Litany or Leontes, derive their waters from the same source (see Tristram, 'Land of Israel,' chap. 25; Thomson, 'Land and the Book,' pp. 172, 173). We have a vivid description of the region of Lebanon and the adjacent range of Anti-Lebanon and Hermon, in the spring, at the time of the melting of the snows, in the 42nd Psalm. There David, recalling to mind his sojourn in the "land of the Jordan," and of Hermon, speaks of the "deep calling unto deep," of the noise of the cataracts as they dashed from rock to rock and foamed along the mountain sides; and he describes his sorrows as overwhelming him by their number and magnitude, just as the multitudinous torrents that rose in that snowy region threatened to engulf the unwary traveller in their onward sweep. The far-famed cedars of Lebanon are indigenous to this region, and to it alone, but the climatic changes which Palestine has undergone have reduced their number largely, and comparatively few specimens now remain, in a wild condition, of that noble tree, once the pride of the dwellers in the land. "We cannot study all the passages in the Old Testament which refer to the cedar, without feeling certain that in ancient times it was a far more conspicuous feature in the landscape than it is now" (Tristram, 'Land of Israel,' p. 631). The great river, the river Euphrates. Das grosse Wasser Phrath (Luther). The Hebrew name is as Luther gives it. The Greeks added the euphonic syllable at the commencement, according to those who assign to the word a Semitic derivation. Others, however, derive it from an Aryan source, and regard it as equivalent to "the flowing river." This mighty stream, especially after its junction with the Tigris, far transcended in size any other with which the Israelites were acquainted. The plains of Mesopotamia, even as far as Nineveh and Babylon, were destined to have been occupied by the Jewish race, had not their impiety and rebellion prevented; and the world empire obtained by Nineveh and Babylon might, and had they been obedient would, have been theirs. All the land of the Hittites. The Hittites, or Chittites, seem to have been the most considerable of the tribes which inhabited Canaan. We find them in possession of Hebron in the time of Abraham (Genesis 23.), but their more usual dwelling place was in the valley. They appear from the narrative above quoted to have been a peaceable people. We have records of them in Egyptian and Assyrian inscriptions. Thus we hear of the Khita in the inscriptions of Rameses II., who reigned between 1383 and 1322, B.C.; that is, about the time of Deborah and Barak ('Records of the Past,' 2:67-78; 4:25-32). They were the inhabitants, however, of a region further to the northward, beyond the borders of the Holy Land, on the banks of the Orontes. So a Mohar, or scribe, of Rameses II., in an account of a tour in Palestine, in which he mentions Kirjath Anab, Achsaph, Megiddo, and the land of Hamath, describes Khita as to the north, bordering on this latter territory ('Records of the Past,' 2:106). The various translators of the Assyrian inscriptions of Assur-bani-pal, Tiglath Pileser, Shalmaneser, and Sennacherib recognise the Hittites in the people mentioned as dwelling to the north of Palestine (ibid. 3:52; 5:21, 32, 33; 7:61), though Ewald thinks that the Khatta there mentioned must be sought still further north. Prof. Sayce, in a recent lecture, regards the Hittites as having occupied a large portion of Asia Minor, and as having had great influence upon early Greek art, and adds, "Till within the last few years the Bible alone has preserved the name of a people who must have had almost as great an influence on human history as Assyria or Egypt." Shalmaneser mentions the kings of the Hittites, just as they are mentioned in the later narratives of Kings and Chronicles (see note on Joshua 3:10). Unto the great sea. As the Euphrates was the greatest river, the Mediterranean was the greatest sea, known to the Jews. Unlike the race they displaced, the Canaanites - or, to call them by a title by which they are better known to profane history, the Phoenicians - the Jews were no sailors. It may have been even before the conquest of Canaan under Joshua that the Phoenician fleets sailed out beyond the pillars of Hercules, and brought back tin from the British isles. For Canaan, or Phoenicia, was a powerful and civilised country when conquered by the Jews. But whether it were before this period that Britain was discovered, or whether the fleets of Tyre and Sidon first sailed thither at a later period, to the Jews the Mediterranean still remained the great sea. They knew nothing of the vaster ocean into which it flowed. It seems strange that, with the example of Tyre and Sidon before them, the Israelites should have been so indifferent to navigation. Even in the time of David, it was Hiram's ships that brought him his treasures and building materials. The later navies of Solomon and Jehoshaphat did but coast along the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf to Ophir, which has been identified with India, or more probably with Arabia.


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.
Verse 5. - There shall not any man be able to stand before thee. Literally, no one shall set himself up against thee, i.e., successfully resist thee (ἀντιστήσεται, LXX.). As I was with Moses. Literally, as I have been with Moses: that is to say, was with him and remained with him unto the end. The continuity of the work of God under the old dispensation is thus as clearly marked as that of the new in Matthew 28:20, and John 20:21-23. The promises made to Abraham, the law given to Moses, the gift of a new life in Christ, are so many parts of one great work, and that work the regeneration of mankind. I will not fail thee. Literally, I will not be weak towards thee, relax towards thee. God is ever the same, If His attitude to us be altered, it is not He who has changed, but ourselves.
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.
Verse 6. - Be strong and of a good courage. Literally, be strong and vigorous. The word does not refer so much to the character of Joshua as to his actions. He was to be a man of action, alert, prompt, ready to act when occasion demanded (see Deuteronomy 31:6, 7, 8, 23). Which I sware unto their fathers (see note on ver. 3).
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.
Verse 7. - Be very courageous. The word is the same as is translated "be of good courage" above. Knobel remarks that the phraseology here is similar to that of Deuteronomy, but "strange to the other Books" of the Pentateuch. This may be from the fact that Deuteronomy is throughout hortatory, while the other Books are historical. But the recurrence of the hortatory phrases of Deuteronomy here is at least remarkable (see ver. 3). Prosper. Rather, perhaps be wise (cf. Deuteronomy 29:9, though, according to Calvin, the word means, "not only to act prudently but successfully"). The only true Wisdom is that obtained from God, whether in answer to prayer, or in meditation on His law (see 1 Corinthians 1:17-31; 1 Corinthians 2:12-16; 1 Corinthians 3:19).
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.
Verse 8. - This book of the law. The law was, therefore, embodied in a written document when the Book of Joshua was written; and as the antiquity of this Book may be regarded as proved, we may quote thus an early authority for the genuineness of at least some portions of the Pentateuch. There was a "book of the law" in Joshua's time, according to this early testimony, and we may conclude from vers. 3-7 that Deuteronomy formed a part of it (see also Deuteronomy 17:19 for a similar precept. And for the fact see Deuteronomy 31:24-26). Meditate therein (cf. Psalm 1:2, 63:7, 143:5, in the original. Also Deuteronomy 31:26). Observe to do. Literally, keep to do, thus impressing on us the care necessary in deciding on our actions. All that is written therein (cf. for the expression Deuteronomy 28:58, 61; Deuteronomy 29:19, 20, 26; Deuteronomy 30:10). Shall have good success. The word is the same as is translated "prosper" above, and not the same as that rendered "prosperous" in this verse. "Men," says Calvin, "never act skilfully, except in so far as they allow themselves to be ruled by the Word of God." Have I not commanded thee? "An emphatic inquiry is a stronger form of affirmation, and is generally employed by those who wish to infuse into another courage and alacrity" (Michaelis). Moreover repetition is a remarkable feature of Hebrew composition, as we may observe from the second chapter of Genesis onward, and is designed to give emphasis to what is commanded or related. Calvin would lay stress on I: "Have not I commanded thee?" But this is not borne out by the Hebrew.

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.
Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,
Verse 10. ? Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people. The Shoterim, a term derived from the same root as an Arabic word signifying "to write." Different ideas have been entertained of their duties. Keil, Jahn (Hebrew Commonwealth), and others believe that they were genealogists; but it seems more probable that their original duties were to keep processes and minutes, and that, like our Indian "writers" and the "Master of the Rolls" at home, they exercised some kind of judicial functions, with which, moreover, active duties were sometimes combined. The idea that they were genealogists is contrary, as Gesenius shows, to the context in many places. Thus in Exodus 5:6-19, they seem to have had to see that the specified tale of bricks was delivered up; and we know from the recently deciphered Egyptian inscriptions that very accurate registers of such matters were kept. In Deuteronomy 1:16 (cf. Deuteronomy 16:18; Joshua 8:33; Joshua 23:2; Joshua 24:1, etc.) they appear to have exercised judicial functions in connection with the "princes" (not "captains," as in our version, which would lead to the idea that they were military officers). In Numbers 11:16 they are connected with the elders. In 1 Chronicles 26:29 they seem again to have exercised judicial functions, whereas in 2 Chronicles 26:11 their duty appears to have been to keep the muster rolls. In Proverbs 6:7 we find them once more with active duties as in the text. The LXX. equivalent; γραμματεύς, is rendered in Acts 19:35 by "town clerk," an officer with active as well as merely secretarial duties. Here they seem to have acted as officers of the commissariat, civil and military functions being naturally largely interchangeable in the then condition of the Israelitish people, just as they were in the early days of our Indian empire.
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.
Verse 11. - Prepare you victuals. Literally, game, the term being applied to meat obtained by hunting. Thus it is applied by Isaac to Esau's venison in Genesis 27. Here it means food of any kind, but especially animal food. It is therefore obvious that the miraculous supply of manna was soon to cease (cf. Joshua 5:12). Within three days. Much difficulty has been created here by the fact that another three days are mentioned in chap. 3:2 as elapsing after the return of the spies, which has been supposed to have taken place between this command and the period then mentioned. Three more days were spent (Joshua 2:22) by the spies in eluding the pursuit of the men of Jericho - one day in going thither, and one more in returning to Moses. Consequently eight days, if not more (see Joshua 3:7), must have elapsed between this proclamation and the actual crossing of the Jordan. But when we remember that the Hebrew language possesses no pluperfect tense, that there are many instances, such as (very probably) Genesis 12:1, and more certainly Genesis 3:1; Genesis 6:6; Genesis 20:18; Genesis 26:18, 32, where the Hebrew narrative has clearly departed from the chronological order, and that the chronology is obscured by this chasm in the Hebrew linguistic system, we may suppose that the narrative in the second chapter is parenthetical, and relates to events which occurred before the occasion now spoken cf. This is the view taken by Josephus and the Rabbis, and our translators have adopted it in the margin - a proceeding which, as their preface shows, may frequently be held to imply that in their opinion it is the preferable interpretation. It is energetically impugned by Keil, who maintains that there are insuperable difficulties in the way of this arrangement. He does not, however, make out a very powerful case against the simple explanation of Cornelius a Lapide, that the spies left the camp on the 3rd Nisan, returned on the 6th, that Joshua gave his order on the 7th, and that on the 10th (Joshua 4:19) the crossing was effected. Stripped of all verbiage, Keil's argument appears to amount simply to this, that it was not likely that the account of the narrative would be thus interrupted by an account of a transaction out of its proper chronological order. It may be added that it seems doubtful whether we must not render the word למַר in ver. 12, by the pluperfect, for it seems very probable that the word of command to the two tribes and a half who had obtained their inheritance beyond Jordan had been given before this, and that therefore it may have preceded the command given to the spies, in which case one of Keil's chief objections fails to the ground. Other explanations than that of Cornelius a Lapide have been suggested. Thus Kimchi supposes that the spies left on the 5th Nisan and returned on the 8th; while Masius supposes that they were sent out simultaneously with these orders. Augustine's explanation, that Joshua did not speak by revelation, but was influenced by human hope, is noticeable, as proving that the early fathers did not always take the strictest view of inspiration.
And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,
Verse 12. - And to the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh (see Numbers 32:1-33). We have here a remarkable instance of undesigned agreement between the various books of the Old Testament: one of those signs of the genuineness of the narrative which would be almost impossible to a compiler of fictitious records. We are told in the passage just cited that the reason why these particular tribes desired an inheritance on the other side Jordan was because they were particularly rich in cattle. Now we learn from other passages that this region was - and travellers tell us that it is to this day - a region particularly suited for pasture. The 'Jewish Chronicle,' in December, 1879, mentions a scheme projected by Mr. Laurence Oliphant for colonising this district for agricultural purposes under the auspices of a company. The "fat bulls of Bashan" were almost proverbial in Scripture. Mesha, king of Moab, was a "sheep master," we read (2 Kings 3:4), and his tribute, rendered in sheep to the king of Israel, was a very large one; especially when we remember that Moab was at that time but little larger than an ordinary English country (see also Deuteronomy 32:14; Ezekiel 39:18). The land to the east of Jordan bore the name Mishor, or level land, as contrasted with the rocky region on the other side of Jordan.
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.
Verse 13. - Remember the word. The substance, and not the ipsissima verba, of the directions of Moses in Numbers 32. is here given (see also Deuteronomy 3:16-20). Hath given you rest. Perhaps, rather, hath caused you to rest - hath permitted you to settle; though the LXX. here has κατέπαυσεν, and the Vulgate, dedit vobis requiem (cf. Hebrews 3:11-18; Hebrews 4:1-11; and Psalm 95:11). This land, i.e., that in which they then were, on what we call the further side of Jordan.
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;
Verse 14. - Armed. This word, translated harnessed in Exodus 13:18, only occurs besides here in Joshua 4:12, and in Judges 7:11. In the first cited of these passages it has given rise to much discussion among those whose studies have been confined to the text of the English Bible, excluding even the margin. But its meaning is much debated among scholars. There seems no authority whatever for the translation armed or harnessed. We must either take it

(1) to mean in five divisions, the usual manner of marching under Moses (see Numbers 2.), "divided into centre, right and left wings, van and rear guard" (Ewald); or

(2) fierce, eager, brave, from a Semitic root found also in the Arabic. So Rosenmuller and Gesenius - who does not, however, as Keil asserts, derive the word from חָמַשׁ to be fat, but from a root akin to חָמָס violence, and חָמֵצ to be pungent. The former refers to the parallel passage in Numbers 32:17, where for חֲמֻשׁיס we find חֻשׁיס quick. The first interpretation is rendered probable by Numbers 2, where the order of march is described as a fivefold order, and by the similarity of the word to הָמֵשׁ five, and is not excluded by Judges 7:11, where the army, though disorganised, may have still been arranged in its fivefold divisions. The fact that there is an Arabic word, almost precisely similar, which is applied to the fivefold division of an army, makes it almost certain that this is the true meaning. But some scholars prefer to render it "brave," or "eager for war" (cf. חלוּצֵי Joshua 4:13). This last word is also found in the parallel passages in Numbers 32. and Deuteronomy 3:18-20. Its original meaning is expeditus - unencumbered. See note on the last-mentioned passage. All the mighty men of valour. The number of fighting men in these tribes would be, from a comparison of Numbers 26:7, 18, 34, remembering that half only of the tribe of Manasseh must be counted, between 110,000 and 111,000. But we read in Joshua 4:13 that 40,000 only of them went over. Above 70,000 must have remained behind to guard their women, children,and flocks, a precaution both reasonable and necessary. So indispensable, in fact, was it, that in this apparent discrepancy we may find one of the strongest proofs of the genuineness of our narrative. For, as Calvin remarks, in a country not yet pacified, all the women and children would infallibly have been massacred had they been left unprotected.

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.
And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.
Verse 16. - And they answered Joshua, saying. We may compare this joyful willingness with the murmurings of the people in the wilderness, and their rebellion after the death of those who led them into the promised land (cf. Joshua 24:31 with Judges 2:10, 11, etc.). Obedience is easy when all goes well with us, and when it makes no demand upon our faith. The Israelites murmured when the promise was as yet unfulfilled. They rebelled against God when obedience entailed serf sacrifice. But now all was hope and eagerness. So it is often with the young Christian at the outset of life's battle, before he has begun to realise the exertion and self denial that can alone ensure him victory.
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.
Verse 17. - As we hearkened unto Moses. Calvin remarks that the Israelites did not hearken unto Moses, but replies that, compared with the conduct of their fathers whose bodies lay in the wilderness, the conduct of this generation was obedience itself. It certainly appears as though for the last two years of the wandering in the wilderness there was far less rebellion against Moses than before; and after the solemn repetition of the precepts of the law to the new generation which had arisen, given in the Book of Deuteronomy, there seems to have been no rebellion at all (see Numbers 26:63).
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.
Verse 18. - Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment. A striking fulfilment of this promise appears in the case of Achan, who was put to death by the act of the whole congregation (see Joshua 7:25; and cf. Deuteronomy 17:12). Only be strong and of a good courage. The task of a leader in Israel is easy when he is sustained by the prayers of his people, and when their exhortations are an echo of the words of God (see vers. 6, 9).

Courtesy of Open Bible