King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Joshua 22

Reuben and Gad, with the half tribe of Manasseh, dismissed to their homes. (1-9) They build an altar of testimony, The congregation offended thereat. (10-20) The answer of the Reubenites. (21-29) The children of Israel satisfied. (30-34)

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Reuben and Gad, with the half tribe of Manasseh, dismissed to their homes

1 Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh,

2 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:

3 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.

4 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.

5 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.

6 So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.

7 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,

8 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.

9 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.

They build an altar of testimony, The congregation offended thereat

10 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.

11 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.

12 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.

13 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,

14 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.

15 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,

16 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?

17 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,

18 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.

19 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.

20 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 answer of the Reubenites

21 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,

22 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,)

23 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;

24 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?

25 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.

26 Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice:

27 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.

28 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.

29 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.

The children of Israel satisfied

30 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.

31 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.

32 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.

33 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.

34 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.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. Time; before the assembly broke up. The 40,000 had continued to fight along with their brethren, (C.) as long as there was occasion. Now peace being obtained, they are permitted to return to their families. H.

Ver. 4. And peace. This is a farther explication of rest, (H.) which alone occurs in Hebrew. It may denote a fixed and permanent abode. Deut. iii. 20. Ruth i. 9.

Ver. 6. Blessed them, like a good magistrate, having given them a solemn admonition not to forget God, the source of all blessings. H. — This expression may also intimate that he loaded them with praises and with presents, and wished them all prosperity. — Dwellings. Lit. “tents,” in which they had been accustomed to live, in the desert. Hence they gave the name to houses, temples, &c.

Ver. 8. Riches. Heb. Sept. &c. “cattle.” — Brethren. Grotius pretends that they were to keep what they had gotten. But his proofs rather shew that they were to follow the ancient custom and law, which prescribed that those who had remained at home to guard the country, should share the booty with those who had gone to battle, 1 K. xxx. 24. Num. xxxi. 27. Some suppose that the booty was divided into equal parts, and the 40,000 would retain as much as all the rest of their brethren, who had been less exposed. The Israelites, however, made all alike, as other nations seem to have been. Ex. xv. 9. &c.

Ver. 9. Galaad here denotes all that country, (C.) as Chanaan does that on the west of the Jordan (H.) and Ephraim, the ten tribes. C.

Ver. 10. Banks. Heb. Goliluth, which is (C. xiii. 2, &c.) rendered Galilee, Galgal, “limits,” &c. H. — Chanaan, consequently on the western banks. Vatable, however, says that the eastern country went sometimes by this name, on account of the Amorrhites having dwelt in it. Josephus (v. 1.) and the Jews affirm, that the altar was built on that side; and it seems natural that these tribes would erect it in their own territories, for the benefit of their children. C. — The effect would nevertheless have been equal, on which side soever it appeared, as the Jordan was not so broad but they might see over. H. — Immensely. Heb. “a great altar to be seen,” like those heaps which Bacchus and Alexander raised to perpetuate the memory of their victories. Plin. vi. 16.

Ver. 12. In Silo, without being called, as they were all fired with a holy zeal, (M.) to prevent the growth of idolatry among their brethren. H. — They knew that one altar was to be allowed M. in the place which the Lord should appoint. Lev. xvii. 8. Deut. xii. 5. &c. H. — God had ordered such cities as embraced idolatry among them, to be exterminated. Deut. xiii. 12. C.

Ver. 14. Tribe. Another of the tribe of Levi, and deputies from the other nine tribes, accompanied Phinees on this important occasion. The Levites were most of all concerned, as their rights seemed to be particularly invaded. H. — The princes of the tribes did not (C.) perhaps (H.) go, but only men of high rank. Kimchi says, men set over a thousand. Heb. “ten princes with him of each chief house, a prince of all the tribes of Israel.” C. — These were commissioned by Eleazar, Josue, and all the congregation, to endeavour to bring back their brethren to a sense of their duty, if they had so soon forgotten God, (H.) or if they should persist in their rebellion, to denounce an eternal war against them. M.

Ver. 16. Lord. Thus Phinees shews that he speaks in the name of those who still continued faithful to the Lord. He imputes the crime of apostacy to Ruben, &c. that they may declare more openly for what reason they had built this altar. M.

Ver. 17. Beelphegor. As they lived in the country, where this idol had been adored, Phinees was afraid lest they might have built the altar in his honour. He reminds them what destruction that worship had brought upon all Israel. He had been particularly zealous in appeasing the wrath of God, and therefore speaks with more authority. Heb. “is not the crime of Phegor enough for us, that we should not wish to expiate it until this day?” (C.) or Prot. “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 stain of this impiety still remained upon Israel. They ought, therefore, to endeavour by sincere repentance, to obliterate it entirely, and not, by fresh provocations, enkindle the dreadful wrath of God. H. — There was reason to fear lest the Lord should punish this sin still more, as he is accustomed to do, when people relapse. C. — All must therefore shew their zeal to prevent such crimes, as the multitude sometimes suffers for the offence of one, when they do not take all possible care to prevent it, v. 20. H.

Ver. 19. Unclean, as being destitute of the ark, &c. The Israelites had the greatest veneration for the land which God had chosen for their habitation. Naaman loaded two mules with some of the earth. We cannot help admiring the zeal and the disinterestedness of Phinees. He proposes to abandon some of the possessions on the other side of the Jordan, rather than that his brethren should forsake God, or offend him.

Ver. 20. Wickedness. Heb. “he did not expire in his sin,” (C.) but repented; (H.) or, Did he not? &c. The Sept. “he did not alone die in his sin.” Chal. “but this man alone did not die in his transgression.” C. — All Israel was in consternation, and 36 were slain. If this secret offence was so severely punished, what judgments will not the public apostacy of so many thousands draw upon our heads!

Ver. 21. Israel. Sept. “answered the Chiliarchs of Israel,” who had spoken by the mouth of their president. They repel the charge with earnestness. H.

Ver. 22. God. In Heb. there are three terms, (C.) El, Elohim, Yehova, “the strong, the judge, the self-existent Being.” To him they make their appeal. Him they acknowledge in the first place, as the only true God, as they had been accused of departing from him, v. 19. H. — They are willing to undergo any punishment, if they had any evil intention. M.

Ver. 23. Sacrifice. Heb. intimates particularly “of flour or libations.” C.

Ver. 24. To-morrow. At any future period. H. — Israel. The same idea is expressed, v. 27. You have no part in the Lord. You are not his peculiar people. Of this title the Israelites were always very jealous, even when they neglected the worship and covenant of the Lord. C. — Hence these tribes take these precautions, that they may not be excluded from the society and privileges of their brethren on the other side of the Jordan. They profess openly that they do not esteem it lawful to offer sacrifice in any other place, besides that which God had chosen. H.

Ver. 31. Lord, who would not have failed to punish Israel for such a crime. C. — They rejoice, therefore, not only at the fidelity of their brethren, but also on their own account, because they may now confidently look up for protection to God, instead of being in continual apprehensions of feeling his avenging arm. H.

Ver. 32. Into, &c. (finium Chanaan) “of the confines of Chanaan,” which is ambiguous. H. — But the Heb. removes the difficulty in this manner.

Ver. 34. God. Heb. seems rather defective; (C.) “called the altar, (Syriac supplies the altar of witness) for it shall be a witness between us, that the Lord he is the God. Ed, “witness,” is placed in the margin of Plantin’s edit. (Kennic.) and the Prot. have inserted it in the text, though in a different character, (H.) as “it is confirmed by the Syr. Arab. and Vulg. versions.” Kimchi quotes the Chal. paraphrase, as having the word seid, “witness,” twice, which if read in two places formerly, has been lately omitted in one, as many other alterations have perhaps been made in it, in conformity to the later copies of the Hebrew text. It is still found in one Chal. MS. and in that of Masius. Between the two last words of this verse, some Heb. MSS. read eva, “He.” “The Lord, He is the God;” which not only gives an emphasis, but is expressly confirmed by the Chal.; and indeed this seems to have been a common form of confessing the belief in the one true God, 3 K. xviii. 39. Kennic. Diss. i. — Masius would translate, “They made an inscription upon the altar, declaring that it should be an eternal witness of their attachment to the Lord.” Cora, in effect, sometimes means to write, as Alcoran, in the Arabic tongue, signifies “the scripture” (C.) of the Mahometans, which they hold in the utmost veneration, as containing the life and doctrine of their great prophet. The Sept. (Grabe) insinuate that Josue approved of what had been done, “and Jesus gave a name to the altar,…and said, it is a witness in the midst of them, that the Lord God is their God.” Thus, instead of war and destruction, which seemed to threaten Israel on all sides, all ended in peace and harmony. If Christians would imitate the conduct of the Israelites, they would not so rashly condemn their neighbours on every idle report; and, if our adversaries would condescend to examine seriously into the grounds of charging idolatry upon us, and on that account waging an eternal war against us, it is to be hoped they would pronounce our doctrine innocent, and reform their own iniquitous proceedings. H.