The Book of Joshua
The book begins with the history, not of Joshua’s life (many remarkable passages of that we had before in the books of Moses) but of his reign and government. In this chapter, I. God appoints him to the government in the stead of Moses, gives him an ample commission, full instructions, and great encouragements (v. 1-9). II. He accepts the government, and addresses himself immediately to the business of it, giving orders to the officers of the people in general (v. 10, 11) and particularly to the two tribes and a half (v. 12?15). III. The people agree to it, and take an oath of fealty to him (v. 16?18). A reign which thus began with God could not but be honourable to the prince and comfortable to the subject. The last words of Moses are still verified, Happy art thou, O Israel! Who is like unto thee, O people?” Deu. 33:29.
In this chapter we have an account of the scouts that were employed to bring an account to Joshua of the posture of the city of Jericho. Observe here, I. How Joshua sent them (v. 1). II. How Rahab received them, and protected them, and told a lie for them (v. 2-7), so that they escaped out of the hands of the enemy. III. The account she gave them of the present posture of Jericho, and the panic-fear they were struck with upon the approach of Israel (v. 8?11). IV. The bargain she made with them for the security of herself and her relations in the ruin she saw coming upon her city (v. 12?21). V. Their safe return to Joshua, and the account they gave him of their expedition (v. 22?24). And that which makes this story most remarkable is that Rahab, the person principally concerned in it, is twice celebrated in the New Testament as a great believer (Heb. 11:31) and as one whose faith proved itself by good works, James 2:25.
This chapter, and that which follows it, give us the history of Israel’s passing through Jordan into Canaan, and a very memorable history it is. Long afterwards, they are told to remember what God did for them between Shittim (whence they decamped, v. 1). and Gilgal, where they next pitched, ch. 4:19, Mic. 6:5, that they might know the righteousness of the Lord. By Joshua’s order they marched up to the river’s side (v. 1), and then almighty power led them through it. They passed through the Red Sea unexpectedly, and in their flight by night, but they have notice some time before of their passing through Jordan, and their expectations raised. I. The people are directed to follow the ark (v. 2-4). II. They are commanded to sanctify themselves (v. 5). III. The priests with the ark are ordered to lead the van (v. 6). IV. Joshua is magnified and made commander in chief (v. 7, 8). V. Public notice is given of what God is about to do for them (v. 9?13). IV. The thing is done, Jordan is divided, and Israel brought safely through it (v. 14?17). This was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.
This chapter gives a further account of the miraculous passage of Israel through Jordan. I. The provision that was made at that time to preserve the memorial of it, by twelve stones set up in Jordan (v. 9) and other twelve stones taken up out of Jordan (v. 1-8). II. The march of the people through Jordan’s channel, the two tribes first, then all the people, and the priests that bore the ark last (v. 10?14). III. The closing of the waters again upon their coming up with the ark (v. 15?19). IV. The erecting of the monument in Gilgal, to preserve the remembrance of this work of wonder to posterity (v. 20?24).
Israel have now got over Jordan, and the waters which had opened before them, to favour their march forward, are closed again behind them, to forbid their retreat backward. They have now got footing in Canaan, and must apply themselves to the conquest of it, in order to which this chapter tells us, I. How their enemies were dispirited (v. 1). II. What was done at their first landing to assist and encourage them. 1. The covenant of circumcision was renewed (v. 2-9). 2. The feast of the passover was celebrated (v. 10). 3. Their camp was victualled with the corn of the land, whereupon the manna ceased (v. 11, 12). 4. The captain of the Lord’s host himself appeared to Joshua to animate and direct him (v. 13?15).
Joshua opened the campaign with the siege of Jericho, a city which could not trust so much to the courage of its people as to act offensively, and to send out its forces to oppose Israel’s landing and encamping, but trusted so much to the strength of its walls as to stand upon its defence, and not to surrender, or desire conditions of peace. Now here we have the story of the taking of it, I. The directions and assurances which the captain of the Lord’s host gave concerning it (v. 1-5). II. The trial of the people’s patient obedience in walking round the city six days (v. 6?14). III. The wonderful delivery of it into their hands the seventh day, with a solemn charge to them to use it as a devoted thing (v. 15?21 and 24). IV. The preservation of Rahab and her relations (v. 22, 23, 25). V. A curse pronounced upon the man that should dare to rebuild this city (v. 26, 27). An abstract of this story we find among the trophies of faith, Heb. 11:30. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.”
More than once we have found the affairs of Israel, even when they were in the happiest posture and gave the most hopeful prospects, perplexed and embarrassed by sin, and a stop thereby put to the most promising proceedings. The golden calf, the murmuring at Kadesh, and the iniquity of Peor, had broken their measures and given them great disturbance; and in this chapter we have such another instance of the interruption given to the progress of their arms by sin. But it being only the sin of one person or family, and soon expiated, the consequences were not so mischievous as of those other sins; however it served to let them know that they were still upon their good behaviour. We have here, I. The sin of Achan in meddling with the accursed thing (v. 1). II. The defeat of Israel before Ai thereupon (v. 2-5). III. Joshua’s humiliation and prayer on occasion of that sad disaster (v. 6-9). IV. The directions God gave him for the putting away of the guilt which had provoked God thus to contend with them (v. 10?15). V. The discovery, trial, conviction, condemnation, and execution, of the criminal, by which the anger of God was turned away (v. 16?26). And by this story it appears that, as the laws, so Canaan itself, made nothing perfect,” the perfection both of holiness and peace to God’s Israel is to be expected in the heavenly Canaan only.
The embarrassment which Achan’s sin gave to the affairs of Israel being over, we have them here in a very good posture again, the affairs both of war and religion. Here is, I. The glorious progress of their arms in the taking of Ai, before which they had lately suffered disgrace. 1. God encourages Joshua to attack it, with the assurance of success, and directs him what method to take (v. 1, 2). 2. Joshua gives orders accordingly to the men of war (v. 3-8). 3. The stratagem is managed as it was projected, and succeeds as it was desired (v. 9?22). 4. Joshua becomes master of this city, puts all the inhabitants to the sword, burns it, hangs the king, but gives the plunder to the soldiers (v. 23?29). II. The great solemnity of writing and reading the law before a general assembly of all Israel, drawn up for that purpose upon the two mountains of Gerizim and Ebal, according to an order which Moses had received from the Lord, and delivered to them (v. 30?35). Thus did they take their work before them, and make the business of their religion to keep pace with their secular business.
Here is in this chapter, I. The impolite confederacy of the kings of Canaan against Israel (v. 1, 2). II. The polite confederacy of the inhabitants of Gibeon with Israel, 1. How it was subtly proposed and petitioned for by the Gibeonites pretending to come from a far country (v. 3?13). 2. How it was unwarily consented to by Joshua and the Israelites, to the disgust of the congregation when the fraud was discovered (v. 14?18). 3. How the matter was adjusted to the satisfaction of all sides, by giving these Gibeonites their lives because they had covenanted with them, yet depriving them of their liberties because the covenant was not fairly obtained (v. 19?27).
We have in this chapter an account of the conquest of the kings and kingdoms of the southern part of the land of Canaan, as, in the next chapter, of the reduction of the northern parts, which together completed the glorious successes of the wars of Canaan. In this chapter we have an account, I. Of the routing of their forces in the field, in which observe, 1. Their confederacy against the Gibeonites (v. 1-5). 2. The Gibeonites’ request to Joshua to assist them (v. 6). 3. Joshua’s speeds march under divine encouragement for their relief (v. 7-9). 4. The defeat of the armies of these confederate kings (v. 10, 11). 5. The miraculous prolonging of the day by the standing still of the sun in favour of the conquerors (v. 12?14). II. Of the execution of the kings that escaped out of the battle (v. 15?27). III. Of the taking of the particular cities, and the total destruction of all that were found in them. Makkedah (v. 28). Libnah (v. 29, 30). Lachish (v. 31, 32) and the king of Gezer that attempted its rescue (v. 33). Eglon (v. 34, 35). Hebron (v. 36, 37). Debir (v. 38, 39). And the bringing of all that country into the hands of Israel (v. 40?42). And, lastly, the return of the army to the head-quarters (v. 43).
This chapter continues and concludes the history of the conquest of Canaan; of the reduction of the southern parts we had an account in the foregoing chapter, after which we may suppose Joshua allowed his forces some breathing-time; now here we have the story of the war in the north, and the happy success of that war. I. The confederacy of the northern crowns against Israel (v. 1-5). II. The encouragement which God gave to Joshua to engage them (v. 6). III. His victory over them (v. 7-9). IV. The taking of their cities (v. 10?15). V. The destruction of the Anakim (v. 21, 22). VI. The general conclusion of the story of this war (v. 16?20, 23).
This chapter is a summary of Israel’s conquests. I. Their conquests under Moses, on the other side Jordan (for we now suppose ourselves in Canaan) eastward, which we had the history of, Num. 21:24, etc. And here the abridgment of that history (v. 1-6). II. Their conquests under Joshua, on this side Jordan, westward. 1. The country they reduced (v. 7, 8). 2. The kings they subdued, thirty-one in all (v. 9?24). And this comes in here, not only as a conclusion of the history of the wars of Canaan (that we might at one view see what they had got), but as a preface to the history of the dividing of Canaan, that all that might be put together which they were not to make a distribution of.
At this chapter begins the account of the dividing of the land of Canaan among the tribes of Israel by lot, a narrative not so entertaining and instructive as that of the conquest of it, and yet it is thought fit to be inserted in the sacred history, to illustrate the performance of the promise made to the fathers, that this land should be given to the seed of Jacob, to them and not to any other. The preserving of this distribution would be of great use to the Jewish nation, who were obliged by the law to keep up this first distribution, and not to transfer inheritances from tribe to tribe, Num. 36:9. It is likewise of use to us for the explaining of other scriptures: the learned know how much light the geographical description of a country gives to the history of it. And therefore we are not to skip over these chapters of hard names as useless and not to be regarded; where God has a mouth to speak and a hand to write we should find an ear to hear an eye to read; and God give us a heart to profit! In this chapter, I. God informs Joshua what parts of the country that were intended in the grant to Israel yet remained unconquered, and not got in possession (v. 1-6). II. He appoints him, notwithstanding, to make a distribution of what was conquered (v. 7). III. To complete this account, here is a repetition of the distribution Moses had made of the land on the other side Jordan; in general (v. 8?14), in particular, the lot of Reuben (v. 15?23), of Gad (v. 24?28), of the half tribe of Manasseh (v. 29?33).
Here is, I. The general method that was taken in dividing the land (v. 1-5). II. The demand Caleb made of Hebron, as his by promise, and therefore not to be put into the lot with the rest (v. 6?12). And Joshua’s grant of that demand (v. 13?15). This was done at Gilgal, which was as yet their head-quarters.
Though the land was not completely conquered, yet being (as was said in the close of the foregoing chapter) as rest from war for the present, and their armies all drawn out of the field to a general rendezvous at Gilgal, there they began to divide the land, though the work was afterwards perfected at Shiloh, ch. 18:1, etc. In this chapter we have the lot of the tribe of Judah, which in this, as in other things, had the precedency. I. The borders or bounds of the inheritance of Judah (v. 1?12). II. The particular assignment of Hebron and the country thereabout to Caleb and his family (v. 13?19). III. The names of the several cities that fell within Judah’s lot (v. 20?63).
It is a pity that this and the following chapter should be separated, for both of them give us the lot of the children of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, who, next to Judah, were to have the post of honour, and therefore had the first and best portion in the northern part of Canaan, as Judah now had in the southern part. In this chapter we have, I. A general account of the lot of these two tribes together (v. 1-4). II. The borders of the lot of Ephraim in particular (v. 5?10). That of Manasseh following in the next chapter.
The half tribe of Manasseh comes next to be provided for; and here we have, I. The families of that tribe that were to be portioned (v. 1-6). II. The country that fell to their lot (v. 7?13). III. The joint request of the two tribes that descended from Joseph, for the enlargement of their lot, and Joshua’s answer to that request (v. 14?18).
In this chapter we have, I. The setting up of the tabernacle at Shiloh (v. 1). II. The stirring up of the seven tribes that were yet unsettled to look after their lot, and the putting of them in a method for it, by Joshua (v. 2-7). III. The distributing of the land into seven lots, by certain men employed for that purpose (v. 8, 9). IV. The determining of these seven portions to the seven tribes yet unprovided for by lot (v. 10). V. The particular lot of the tribe of Benjamin, the borders of it (v. 11?20). And the cities contained in it (v. 21?28). The other six tribes we shall find well provided for in the next chapter.
In the description of the lots of Judah and Benjamin we have an account both of the borders that surrounded them and of the cities contained in them. In that of Ephraim and Manasseh we have the borders, but not the cities; in this chapter Simeon and Dan are described by their cities only, and not their borders, because they lay very much within Judah, especially the former; the rest have both their borders described and their cities names, especially frontiers. Here is, I. The lot of Simeon (v. 1-9). II. Of Zebulun (v. 10?16). III. Of Issachar (v. 17?23). IV. Of Asher (v. 24?31). V. Of Naphtali (v. 32?39). VI. Of Dan (v. 40?48). Lastly, The inheritance assigned to Joshua himself and his own family (v. 49?51).
This short chapter is concerning the cities of refuge, which we often read of in the writings of Moses, but this is the last time that we find mention of them, for now that matter was thoroughly settled. Here is, I. The law God gave concerning them (v. 1-6). II. The people’s designation of the particular cities for that use (v. 7-9). And this remedial law was a figure of good things to come.
It had been often said that the tribe of Levi should have no inheritance with their brethren,” no particular part of the country assigned them, as the other tribes had, no, not the country about Shiloh, which one might have expected to be appropriated to them as the lands of the church; but, though they were not thus cast into a country by themselves, it appears, by the provision made for them in this chapter, that they were no losers, but the rest of the tribes were very much gainers, by their being dispersed. We have here, I. The motion they made to have their cities assigned them, according to God’s appointment (v. 1, 2). II. The nomination of the cities accordingly out of the several tribes, and the distribution of them to the respective families of this tribe (v. 3-8). III. A catalogue of the cities, forty-eight in all (v. 9?42). IV. A receipt entered in full of all that God had promised to his people Israel (v. 43?45).
Many particular things we have read concerning the two tribes and a half, though nothing separated them from the rest of the tribes except the river Jordan, and this chapter is wholly concerning them. I. Joshua’s dismission of the militia of those tribes from the camp of Israel, in which the had served as auxiliaries, during all the wars of Canaan, and their return thereupon to their own country (v. 1-9). II. The altar they built on the borders of Jordan, in token of their communion with the land of Israel (v. 10). III. The offence which the rest of the tribes took at this altar, and the message they sent thereupon (v. 11?20). IV. The apology which the two tribes and a half made for what they had done (v. 21?29). V. The satisfaction which their apology gave to the rest of the tribes (v. 30?34). And (which is strange), whereas in most differences that happen there is a fault on both sides, on this there was fault on no side; none (for aught that appears) were to be blamed, but all to be praised.
In this and the following chapter we have two farewell sermons, which Joshua preached to the people of Israel a little before his death. Had he designed to gratify the curiosity of succeeding ages, he would rather have recorded the method of Israel’s settlement in their new conquests, their husbandry, manufacturers, trade, customs, courts of justice, and the constitutions of their infant commonwealth, which one would wish to be informed of; but that which he intended in the registers of this book was to entail on posterity a sense of religion and their duty to God; and therefore, overlooking these things which are the usual subjects of a common history, he here transmits to his reader the methods he took to persuade Israel to be faithful to their covenant with their God, which might have a good influence on the generations to come who should read those reasonings, as we may hope they had on that generation which then heard them. In this chapter we have, I. A convention of the states called (v. 1, 2), probably to consult about the common concerns of their land, and to set in order that which, after some years’ trial, being left to their prudence, was found wanting. II. Joshua’s speech to them as the opening, or perhaps at the concluding, of the sessions, to hear which was the principal design of their coming together. In it, 1. Joshua reminds them of what God had done for them (v. 3, 4, 9, 14), and what he was ready to do yet further (v. 5, 10). 2. He exhorts them carefully and resolutely to persevere in their duty to God (v. 6, 8, 11). III. He cautions them against all familiarity with their idolatrous neighbours (v. 7). IV. He gives them fair warning of the fatal consequences of it, if they should revolt from God and turn to idols (v. 12, 13, 15, 16). In all this he showed himself zealous for his God, and jealous over Israel with a godly jealousy.
This chapter concludes the life and reign of Joshua, in which we have, I. The great care and pains he took to confirm the people of Israel in the true faith and worship of God, that they might, after his death, persevere therein. In order to this he called another general assembly of the heads of the congregation of Israel (v. 1) and dealt with them. 1. By way of narrative, recounting the great things God had done for them and their fathers (v. 2?13). 2. By way of charge to them, in consideration thereof, to serve God (v. 14). 3. By way of treaty with them, wherein he aims to bring them, (1.) To make religion their deliberate choice; and they did so, with reasons for their choice (v. 15?18). (2.) To make it their determinate choice, and to resolve to adhere to it (v. 19?24). 4. By way of covenant upon that treaty (v. 25?28). II. The conclusion of this history, with, 1. The death and burial of Joshua (v. 29, 30) and Eleazar (v. 33), and the mention of the burial of Joseph’s bones upon that occasion (v. 32). 2. A general account of the state of Israel at that time (v. 31).
The Book of Ruth
In this chapter we have Naomi’s afflictions. I. As a distressed housekeeper, forced by famine to remove into the land of Moab (v. 1, 2). II. As a mournful widow and mother, bewailing the death of her husband and her two sons (v. 3-5). III. As a careful mother-in-law, desirous to be kind to her two daughters, but at a loss how to be so when she returns to her own country (v. 6?13). Orpah she parts with in sorrow (v. 14). Ruth she takes with her in fear (v. 15?18). IV. As a poor woman sent back to the place of her first settlement, to be supported by the kindness of her friends (v. 19?22). All these things were melancholy and seemed against her, and yet all were working for good.
There is scarcely any chapter in all the sacred history that stoops so low as this to take cognizance of so mean a person as Ruth, a poor Moabitish widow, so mean an action as her gleaning corn in a neighbour’s field, and the minute circumstances thereof. But all this was in order to her being grafted into the line of Christ and taken in among his ancestors, that she might be a figure of the espousals of the Gentile church to Christ, Isa. 54:1. This makes the story remarkable; and many of the passages of it are instructive and very improvable. Here we have, I. Ruth’s humility and industry in gleaming corn, Providence directing her to Boaz’s field (v. 1-3). II. The great favour which Boaz showed to her in many instances (v. 4?16). III. The return of Ruth to her mother-in-law (v. 18?23).
We found it very easy, in the former chapter, to applaud the decency of Ruth’s behaviour, and to show what good use we may make of the account given us of it; but in this chapter we shall have much ado to vindicate it from the imputation of indecency, and to save it from having an ill use made of it; but the goodness of those times was such as saved what is recorded here from being ill done, and yet the badness of these times is such as that it will not justify any now in doing the like. Here is, I. The directions Naomi gave to her daughter-in-law how to claim Boaz for her husband (v. 1-5). II. Ruth’s punctual observance of those directions (v. 6, 7). III. The kind and honourable treatment Boaz gave her (v. 8?15). IV. Her return to her mother-in-law (v. 16?18).
In this chapter we have the wedding between Boaz and Ruth, in the circumstances of which there was something uncommon, which is kept upon record for the illustration, not only of the law concerning the marrying of a brother’s widow (Deu. 25:5, etc.), for cases help to expound laws, but of the gospel too, for from this marriage descended David, and the Son of David, whose espousals to the Gentile church were hereby typified. We are here told, I. How Boaz got clear of his rival, and fairly shook him off (v. 1-8). II. How his marriage with Ruth was publicly solemnized, and attended with the good wishes of his neighbours (v. 9?12). III. The happy issue that descended from this marriage, Obed, the grandfather of David (v. 13?17). And so the book concludes with the pedigree of David (v. 18?22). Perhaps it was to oblige him that the blessed Spirit directed the inserting of this story in the sacred canon, he being desirous that the virtues of his great-grandmother Ruth, together with her Gentile extraction and the singular providences that attended her, should be transmitted to posterity.