Joshua 1:7: God Commands Joshua’s Obedience, Part 1

Verse 7:[1] Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, (Num. 27:23; Deut. 31:7; Josh. 11:15) which Moses my servant commanded thee: (Deut. 5:32; 28:14) turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper (or, do wisely;[2] Deut. 29:9[3]) whithersoever thou goest.

[Be strengthened, therefore (thus the Septuagint), רַק֩ חֲזַ֙ק] They translate רַק as only (Malvenda, Junius and Tremellius, Montanus, Jonathan, Syriac, Munster), especially (Arabic), just (Tigurinus), nevertheless (Pagnine). In this place it is not an exceptive particle, but rather an affirmative, by all means, absolutely; or expletive, as in Genesis 20:11,[4] surely, undoubtedly, certainly (Masius).

[Valiant] Vast and heavenly vigor is needful, that we might conquer lusts, temptations, etc., and carry out the whole Law of God (Lapide). He explains here in what the courage of the General ought lie, namely, in piety and religion (Masius).

[That thou mayest keep and do (thus Pagnine, similarly the Septuagint), or, and act (Syriac, Munster, Tigurinus), that thou mayest keep in mind, and do in work (Lapide),לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ ] [Others otherwise:] To observe by doing. It is an Hypallage,[5] in the place of, that with observance thou mayest do (Junius), that thou mayest observe to do (Vatablus, Masius); thus it is explained in the next verse (Masius), that is, that thou mayest diligently fulfill the Law (Vatablus). That thou mayest give thine attention to do, lest anything prescribed in the Law be omitted (Masius). The former word signifies zeal and diligence leading to execution, from which then an accurate execution of the Law follows (Bonfrerius out of Masius). Others related the to observe to the negative precepts; the to do to the affirmative precepts (Gerundensis[6] in Masius).

[All the law] Objection: But in vain is he thus instructed, etc., since no one is able to fulfill this. I respond with Leo,[7] from the Fifth Sermon of his Concerning Lent,[8] that God commands such things, not because he that is commanded is entirely able to fulfill those things, while he is enclosed in mortal flesh; but so that He might excite our desire, and, having been asked, furnish help: and with Augustine, from Concerning Nature and Grace,[9] that He instructs both to do what thou art able, and to ask what thou art not able (Masius).

That thou mayest observe to do, etc.: Remember that though thou art the captain and commander of my people, yet thou art my subject, and obliged to observe all my commands.

[Which Moses my servant commanded thee] Namely, in Numbers 27:23; Deuteronomy 31:14 (Malvenda). Or, He speaks of the Law given at Sinai, so that Joshua might know that the common Law was especially imposed upon him, as Governor, that he himself might first keep it, and then take care that it be kept by others (Lapide out of Masius). The Laws are especially over the Princes; but then these Princes are over the people (Masius).

[Thou shalt not decline from it, אַל־תָּס֥וּר מִמֶּ֖נּוּ[10]] Thou shalt not deviate (recede not [Junius and Tremellius]) from him, that is, from Moses the Lawgiver (Vatablus), μετωνυμικῶς/metonymically, that is, from that which Moses commanded (Junius). Or, from it, namely, the book of Moses (Vatablus). Or it is an Enallage of gender, and is put in the place of מִמֶּנָּה, from her, as the Masoretes[11] here note (Vatablus, Masius).

[To the right hand or left] To decline to the right is to add something to the Law; to the left, to remove something: thus Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon[12] (Masius, thus Vatablus). Let nothing by excess or defect be admitted contrary to the Law: thus Magalianus[13] (Bonfrerius). Or rather by both it is signified, that then are the commandments of God fulfilled as rightly as possible by us, when they are most simply fulfilled (Masius): that is to say, thou shalt not decline from it in any manner, not even a nail’s breadth; as travelers are wont to proceed on the straight and royal way, and to leave paths presenting themselves on the right hand and on the left (Bonfrerius, Lapide).

To the right hand or to the left, that is, in any kind, or upon any pretence.

[That thou mayest understand all that thou doest,לְמַ֣עַן תַּשְׂכִּ֔יל בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ׃[14]] [They render it in a variety of ways.] That thou mayest understand (act prudently [Munster, Tigurinus, Lapide]) in all that thou goest (Montanus), in all that thou doest (Septuagint). That thou mayest be prudent in every thing in which thou shalt be involved. It shall be evident from verse 8 that prudence is here signified (Masius). That thou mayest understand all things in which thou proceedest; that is, all things that thou doest. Actions are called ways, because by them we press toward felicity (Lapide). In Deuteronomy 29:9, where these same things were written by Moses, in the place of תֵּלֵךְ, thou goest, is תַּעֲשׂוּן, ye do; that is, in every thing which ye are going to do (Masius). There is no greater prudence than to consider whether what things are done are all in conformity with the Law, etc.; neither is there any greater imprudence than when, with Religion neglected, reasons of state are considered (Bonfrerius). Others translate it: that thou mayest act prosperously, or, be happy (thus Pagnine, Vatablus, Drusius, similarly the Syriac, Arabic, Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius). In every place where thou mayest walk (Jonathan, similarly Junius and Tremellius); wherever thou mayest proceed (Vatablus). Wherever thou mayest go, that is, in thy whole life. For to go is to live (Drusius). The word, שָׂכַל, properly signifies to understand: But, since those that are wise administrate their affairs happily, on account of this it signifies to act prosperously (Vatablus).

That thou mayest prosper, or, that thou mayest do wisely; whereby he instructs him in the true art of government; and that his greatest wisdom will lie in the observation of all God’s commands, and not in that pretended reason of state which other princes govern all their affairs by. And this plainly shows that God’s assistance promised to him and to the Israelites was conditional, and might justly be withdrawn upon their breach of the conditions. Whithersoever thou goest, that is, whatsoever thou doest. Men’s actions are oft compared to ways, or journeys, or steps, by which they come to the end they aim at.

[1] Hebrew: רַק֩ חֲזַ֙ק וֶֽאֱמַ֜ץ מְאֹ֗ד לִשְׁמֹ֤ר לַעֲשׂוֹת֙ כְּכָל־הַתּוֹרָ֗ה אֲשֶׁ֤ר צִוְּךָ֙ מֹשֶׁ֣ה עַבְדִּ֔י אַל־תָּס֥וּר מִמֶּ֖נּוּ יָמִ֣ין וּשְׂמֹ֑אול לְמַ֣עַן תַּשְׂכִּ֔יל בְּכֹ֖ל אֲשֶׁ֥ר תֵּלֵֽךְ׃

[2] Hebrew: תַּשְׂכִּיל. שָׂכַל, in the Qal, signifies to be prudent; in the Hiphil, to act prudently, or to prosper.

[3] Deuteronomy 29:9:  “Keep therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that ye may prosper in all that ye do (לְמַ֣עַן תַּשְׂכִּ֔ילוּ אֵ֖ת כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּעֲשֽׂוּן׃).”

[4] Genesis 20:11:  “And Abraham said, Because I thought, Surely (רַק) the fear of God is not in this place; and they will slay me for my wife’s sake.”

[5] That is, a reversal of an expected syntactical relationship between two words.

[6] Moses Gerundensis, or Nahmanides (1194-c. 1270), was reckoned in his early teens as one of the great Spanish, Talmudic authorities.  His commentary upon the Torah is characterized by careful philology, faithfulness to traditional rabbinic interpretation, an unswerving belief in the miraculous, and even some Kabbalistic mysticism.  He also wrote a commentary on the Talmud.

[7] Leo I (c. 400-461) was bishop of Rome from 440 to 461.  He is remembered for persuading Attila to turn back from his invasion of Italy, and for his influence over the Christology of the Council of Chalcedon.

[8] De Quadragesima.

[9] De Natura et Gratia.

[10] מִמֶּנּוּ, from him (with a masculine object pronoun).  However, the expected antecedent תּוֹרָה/ Law is feminine.

[11] The Masoretes were mediæval Jewish scribes (laboring from the fifth to the tenth centuries AD), responsible for the preservation and propagation of the traditional text of the Hebrew Scriptures.

[12] Although little is known about the life of Levi ben Gershon, also known as Gersonides and Ralbag (1288-1344), his interests included, not only Biblical and Talmudic interpretation, but also philosophy, science, and mathematics.  His commentary on Joshua is extant.

[13] Cosmas Magalianus (1553-1624) was a Portuguese Jesuit Theologian.  He wrote commentaries upon Joshua and Judges.

[14] שָׂכַל, in the Qal, signifies to be prudent; in the Hiphil, to act prudently, or to prosper.

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