- Joshua's dismission of the two tribes and an half, and their return to their own country, verse 1-9.
- The altar they built on that side of Jordan, which offended the other tribes, verse 10-20.
- Their apology, with which the rest were satisfied, verse 21-34.
Your tents - That is, to your settled habitations. Tho' their affections to their families could not but make them very desirous to return, yet like good soldiers, they would not move 'till they had orders from their general. So, tho' we desire to be at home with Christ ever so much, yet we must stay here till our warfare is accomplished, wait for a due discharge, and not anticipate the time of our removal.
V.5. Take heed - Watch over yourselves and all your actions. Commandment and law - Two words expressing the same thing, the law of commandments delivered by Moses. All your heart and soul - With the whole strength of your minds, and wills, and affections.
With your brethren - That is, with them who stayed 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. But for them, 1 Samuel 30:24, their share was equal, because their danger was equal.
Built an altar - About that time when they came to them, they designed it, and as soon as they were got over Jordan, which was in a very little time, they effected and perfected it. They built it, no doubt, on their own side of the water: for how could they build on other men's land, without their consent? And it is said, in the following verse, to be over against the land of Jordan. Nor would there have been cause to suspect that it was designed for sacrifice, if they had not built it among themselves.
At the passage - Where they passed over Jordan, either at their first entrance into Canaan, or afterwards, and usually.
The children of Israel - Not in their own persons, not by their elders, who used to transact all affairs of this kind in the name of all the people. Against them - As apostates from God, according to God's command in that case, Deuteronomy 13:13. &c.
The congregation - Who do and are resolved to cleave unto that God from whom you have revolted. What trespass - How heinous a crime is this! This day - That is, 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. Rebel - With a design to rebel against God, and against his express command of worshipping him at one only altar.
Of Peor - That is, of our worshipping of Baal-peor, Numbers 25:3. Probably this is mentioned the rather, because Phinehas, the first commissioner in this treaty, had signalized himself in that matter: and because they were now at or near the very place, where that iniquity was committed. Are not cleansed - For though God had pardoned it, as to the national punishment of it, Numbers 25:11, yet they were not yet throughly purged from it; partly because the shame and blot of that odious practice was not yet wiped off: and partly, because some of that corrupt leaven still remained among them, and though smothered for a time, yet was ready to break forth upon all occasions, See Joshua 24:33. And God also took notice of these idolatrous inclinations in particular persons, and found out ways to punish them.
To-morrow - That is, suddenly, as that word is often used. Congregation - With you for doing so, and with us for suffering, or not punishing it.
Be unclean - 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 more frequent opportunities of his service. Among us - We will readily resign part of our possessions to you for the prevention of this sin and mischief. Against us - For all the tribes were united in one body politick, 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.
Of Zerah - That is, one of his posterity. Not alone - But brought destruction upon his whole family, and part of our forces sent against Ai.
The Lord - 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, shew their zeal and earnestness in this matter. He knoweth - To him we appeal who knoweth all things, and the truth of what we are now saying. Not only our present words, but our future and constant course shall satisfy all Israel of our perseverance in the true religion. In rebellion - If this have been done by us with such design, or in such a manner. Save us not - Thou, O Lord, to whom we have appealed, and without whom we cannot be saved and 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.
Require it - That is, call us to an account and punish us for it.
With the Lord - You have no relation to him, nor interest in him, or his worship.
A border - To shut you out of the land of promise, and consequently from the covenant made between God and our fathers. No part - Nothing to do with him; no right to serve him or expect favour from him. Cease from fearing the Lord - For they that are cut off from public ordinances, usually by degrees lose all religion. It is true, the form and profession of godliness, may be kept without the life and power of it. But the life and power will not long be kept, without the form and profession of it.
Before him - That we and ours may have and hold our privilege of serving and worshiping God, not upon this altar, but in the place of God's presence, in your tabernacle, and upon your altar.
The pattern - An exact representation and resemblance. A witness - That we both serve one God, and approve and make use of one and the same altar.
Pleased them - They were fully satisfied with this answer.
Is among us - By his gracious presence, and preventing goodness, in keeping you from so great an offence, and all of us from those calamities that would have followed it. Hand of the Lord - That is, from the wroth 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 approaching disease or mischief, doth as truly deliver a man from it, as he that cures or removes it after it hath been inflicted.
Destroy the land - As they were by the law of God obliged to do, if they had been guilty and persisted therein; as afterwards they did the tribe of Benjamin for the same reason.
The altar Ed - That is, a witness: a witness of the relation they stood in to God and Israel, and of their concurrence with the other tribes in the common faith, that Jehovah he is God. It was a witness to posterity, of their care to transmit their religion pure and entire; and would be a witness against them, if ever they should turn from following the Lord their God.