Joshua 22:19, 20: The Embassage to the Transjordanian Tribes, Part 3

Verse 19:[1] Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, (Josh. 18:1) 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.

[If ye esteem it to be unclean, אִם־טְמֵאָה] If unclean, or polluted, in your opinion, that is, because the altar of the Lord is not in it (Vatablus, Lapide). Unclean on account of the sins of the former inhabitants, which it is not lawful for you to expiate by sacrifices, as it is lawful for us in Shiloh (Lapide).

If the land of your possession 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 favour, and more frequent opportunities of his service.

[Pass over to the land, etc.] We will rather share our possessions with you, than suffer you to sin against God. A sentence certainly noble and worthy of the sacred assembly, whence we are able to understand these things: 1. that their brethren, if they repent, are to be received unto favor again. 2. That we ought to place our own interests after the safety of the Republic and our brethren. See Genesis 19:8; Judges 19:24. 3. That crimes committed private, but especially religious defilements, unless they be emended by admonitions, or avenged by the Magistrate, are wont to be expiated by God by calamities, not only private, but also public (Masius). These were prepared to win them away from sin at their own expense (Menochius out of Lapide): which belonged either to consummate charity, or to zeal of the Divine glory (Bonfrerius).

Take possession among us; we will readily resign part of our possessions to you for the prevention of this sin and mischief; wherein they show great zeal for God’s honour, and great pity and charity to their brethren. Nor rebel against us; for all the tribes were united in one body politic, 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.


Verse 20:[2] (Josh. 7:1, 5) 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.

[Did not Achan, etc.?] This is to be referred to verse 18, for verse 19 is inserted through preoccupation (Masius).

The son of Zerah, that is, one of his posterity, Joshua 7:17, 18.

[And he was one, etc., וְהוּא֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֶחָ֔ד לֹ֥א גָוַ֖ע בַּעֲוֹנֽוֹ׃] And that man alone did not die in his perversity (Montanus, Malvenda). Who, although he was one man, died not alone in his sin (Arabic). He died not (repeat one, that is, alone) in his iniquity (Drusius, Glassius). But that man alone did not expire (Junius and Tremellius). Understanding, but many with him: Βραχυλογία/Brachylogy[3] (Piscator). Who on account of his sin were killed by the men of Ai, Joshua 7:5 (Lapide), his sons also, and his daughters (Bonfrerius). אֶחָד/one, that is, alone. Understand: How much more on account of the sins of many shall many perish? (Vatablus).

Perished not alone, but brought destruction upon his whole family, and part of our forces sent against Ai. In his iniquity, or, for his sin; of which see Joshua 7:24.

[1] Hebrew: וְאַ֙ךְ אִם־טְמֵאָ֜ה אֶ֣רֶץ אֲחֻזַּתְכֶ֗ם עִבְר֙וּ לָכֶ֜ם אֶל־אֶ֙רֶץ אֲחֻזַּ֤ת יְהוָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֤ר שָֽׁכַן־שָׁם֙ מִשְׁכַּ֣ן יְהוָ֔ה וְהֵאָחֲז֖וּ בְּתוֹכֵ֑נוּ וּבַֽיהוָ֣ה אַל־תִּמְרֹ֗דוּ וְאֹתָ֙נוּ֙ אֶל־תִּמְרֹ֔דוּ בִּבְנֹֽתְכֶ֤ם לָכֶם֙ מִזְבֵּ֔חַ מִֽבַּלְעֲדֵ֔י מִזְבַּ֖ח יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ׃

[2] Hebrew: הֲל֣וֹא׀ עָכָ֣ן בֶּן־זֶ֗רַח מָ֤עַל מַ֙עַל֙ בַּחֵ֔רֶם וְעַֽל־כָּל־עֲדַ֥ת יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל הָ֣יָה קָ֑צֶף וְהוּא֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֶחָ֔ד לֹ֥א גָוַ֖ע בַּעֲוֹנֽוֹ׃

[3] That is, a concise form of speech.

3 thoughts on “Joshua 22:19, 20: The Embassage to the Transjordanian Tribes, Part 3

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘The offer they make is very fair and kind (Joshua 22:19), that if they thought the land of their possession unclean, for want of an altar, and therefore could not be easy without one, rather than they should set up another in competition with that at Shiloh they should be welcome to come back to the land where the Lord’s tabernacle was, and settle there, and they would very willingly straiten themselves to make room for them. By this they showed a sincere and truly pious zeal against schism, that rather than their brethren should have any occasion to set up a separate altar, though their pretence for it, as here supposed, was very weak and grounded upon a great mistake, yet they were willing to part with a considerable share of the land which God himself had by the lot assigned them, to comprehend them and take them in among them. This was the spirit of Israelites indeed.’

  2. Thomas Boston, “Of Sin in its Aggravations”: ‘Sins against the common good of all, or of many; for the wider the effects of one sin go, it is still the worse, Joshua 22:20, “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.” “One sinner,” says Solomon, “destroyeth much good;” and the more the greater is his sin.’

  3. Westminster Larger Catechism 151: ‘What are those aggravations that make some sins more heinous than others?

    Answer. Sins receive their aggravations,

    1. From the persons offending…

    2. From the parties offended: if immediately against God…against any of the saints…and the common good of all or many (1 Thessalonians 2:15, 16; Joshua 22:20)….’

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