Joshua 22:23-25: The Answer of the Transjordanian Tribes, Part 2

Verse 23:[1] 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 (Deut. 18:19; 1 Sam. 20:16) require it

[If with this intention we have acted, that burnt offerings, etc., לִבְנ֥וֹת לָ֙נוּ֙ מִזְבֵּ֔חַ וגו״] To build for ourselves an altar (Montanus). [Some connect it with the preceding verse, verse 22:] If in rebellion…we have acted…namely, that we might build (Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio). [Others thus supply:] If we have built, etc. (Septuagint, Jonathan). If so that we might build, etc. (Junius and Tremellius). If we intend to build (Pagnine). We built for ourselves an altar. I render the infinitive verb by a finite. For that mode, as Grammarians relate, has the force of all the other modes. Now, they mention the three principal sorts of sacrifices for all the others (Masius). Thus they exclude every sort of sacrifice concerning which there could be suspicion (Bonfrerius).

[So that we might place upon, לַעֲשׂוֹת[2]] To do, that is, offer (Vatablus).

[Let He Himself inquire and judge, יְבַקֵּשׁ] Let Him require (Montanus, Syriac, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, thus the Septuagint, Jonathan). Understanding, us, and afterwards let Him judge against us (Vatablus). Let Him avenge: בִּקֵּשׁ is properly to seek; but, because questions are often administered so that deserved punishments might be able to be exacted, it happened that it was used in the place of to avenge. Thus Job 10:6;[3] and elsewhere (Masius). Let Him punish (Arabic).

Let the LORD himself require it: that is, Call us to an account, and punish us for it; as that phrase is oft used, as Deuteronomy 18:19; 1 Samuel 20:16; Job 10:6; Psalm 10:13.


Verse 24:[4] And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time (Heb. to morrow[5]) to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?

[And not with the intention, etc., וְאִם־לֹ֤א מִדְּאָגָה֙ מִדָּבָ֔ר וגו״] And if not rather in fear of this sort of thing did we this (Pagnine, English). If not rather out of concern and for definite reason, etc. (Munster). Indeed, if not from concerning over this matter have we acted (Junius and Tremellius, similarly Masius, Tigurinus). And if not because of concern over a word, etc. (Montanus). But because of precaution over the word, etc. (Septuagint). They explain, that is, so that we might avoid false and idle words, as the empty rumors of our descendants. Which sense is illustrated by what follows (Masius).

[That we might say, לֵאמֹר] In saying (Pagnine, Montanus, Vatablus), understanding, among ourselves (Vatablus); in thinking. To say is often taken for to think, and to determine in one’s heart (Masius). To say (Jonathan); namely, that we said (Tigurinus); saying (Septuagint, Arabic, Munster).

[What is to you and to the Lord?[6]] It is able to be doubted whether it is a Hebraism or a Hellenism (Drusius). This phrase occurs in Judges 11:12;[7] 2 Samuel 16:10;[8] 1 Kings 17:18;[9] 2 Kings 3:13;[10] similarly Joel 3:4[11] (Bonfrerius). Similarly in the New Testament, Matthew 8:29;[12] John 2:4.[13] The Greeks also speak in this way, τί μοι καὶ μακροῖς αὐλοῖς, what have I to do with long trumpets?[14] as does Demosthenes, τί νόμῳ καὶ βασάνῳ, what has the law to do with interrogation?[15] (Drusius). This phrase signifies that no matter, no business, comes between them (Bonfrerius). There is nothing in common between you and Jehovah: Jehovah is not your God. In the next verse he makes himself clear (Vatablus).

What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?: You have no relation to him, nor interest in him, or his worship.


Verse 25:[16] 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.

[He placed a border] They speak not of the actual matter, but of the false assessment of their descendants. For thus it is often wont to be done, that the following age incorrectly interprets the sayings, deeds, institutions, and finally all the monuments of their ancestors; and indeed all the more willingly, the less they imitate their integrity in life and manners (Masius). [Would that the Roman Theologians, who are perpetually harping on Traditions, and requiring that complete faith be had in the sayings of the fathers (as they are received by them), might consider this.]

A border between us and you, to shut you out of the Land of Promise, and consequently from the covenant made between God and our fathers.

[Ye have no part in the Lord] That is, ye are not the people of the Lord (Masius). Ye are not heirs of the peculiar worship and of the promises made to the fathers. Thus, we have no part in David, in 2 Samuel 20:1 and 1 Kings 12:16, that is, we refuse to share with thee, or to be subject to thee (Lapide): and in John 13:8, thou wilt have no part in me (Masius); similarly in Deuteronomy 14:27; 18:2, there is no part to thee with me (Drusius).

Ye have no part in the Lord; nothing to do with him; no right to serve him or expect favour from him. See the like phrase 2 Samuel 20:1; Ezra 4:3; John 13:8.

[They shall divert…from the fear of the Lord] But, if they had been restrained from the sanctuary of God, no force was inflicted upon their souls. But such is the nature of mortal men, that they need helps by which they might raise their minds to heaven. Because of which it generally happens that where the external worship of God is neglected, there also the religion of the heart gradually decays and is diminished. But contrariwise, piety and religion especially dwell in the souls of men when they give attention to Divine things. Therefore, they rightly gather that, if the ritual worship long impeded, it is at the same time going to destroy the spiritual, if I might speak so, piety of the soul (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: לִבְנ֥וֹת לָ֙נוּ֙ מִזְבֵּ֔חַ לָשׁ֖וּב מֵאַחֲרֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה וְאִם־לְהַעֲל֙וֹת עָלָ֜יו עוֹלָ֣ה וּמִנְחָ֗ה וְאִם־לַעֲשׂ֤וֹת עָלָיו֙ זִבְחֵ֣י שְׁלָמִ֔ים יְהוָ֖ה ה֥וּא יְבַקֵּֽשׁ׃

[2] Joshua 22:23:  “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 (לַעֲשׂוֹת) peace offerings thereon, let the Lord himself require it…”

[3] Job 10:6:  “That thou enquirest (תְבַקֵּשׁ) after mine iniquity, and searchest after my sin?”

[4] Hebrew: וְאִם־לֹ֤א מִדְּאָגָה֙ מִדָּבָ֔ר עָשִׂ֥ינוּ אֶת־זֹ֖את לֵאמֹ֑ר מָחָ֗ר יֹאמְר֙וּ בְנֵיכֶ֤ם לְבָנֵ֙ינוּ֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר מַה־לָּכֶ֕ם וְלַֽיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

[5] Hebrew: מָחָר.

[6] Joshua 22:24b:  “…What have ye to do with the Lord (מַה־לָּכֶ֕ם וְלַֽיהוָ֖ה; τί ὑμῖν κυρίῳ, in the Septuagint) God of Israel?”

[7] Judges 11:12b:  “…What hast thou to do with me (מַה־לִּ֣י וָלָ֔ךְ; τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, in the Septuagint), that thou art come against me to fight in my land?”

[8] 2 Samuel 16:10a:  “And the king said, What have I to do with you (מַה־לִּ֥י וְלָכֶ֖ם; τί ἐμοὶ καὶ ὑμῖν, in the Septuagint), ye sons of Zeruiah?…”

[9] 1 Kings 17:18a:  “And she said unto Elijah, What have I to do with thee (מַה־לִּ֥י וָלָ֖ךְ; τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, in the Septuagint), O thou man of God?…”

[10] 2 Kings 3:13a:  “And Elisha said unto the king of Israel, What have I to do with thee (מַה־לִּ֣י וָלָ֔ךְ; τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί, in the Septuagint)? get thee to the prophets of thy father, and to the prophets of thy mother…”

[11] Joel 3:4a:  “Yea, and what have ye to do with me (מָה־אַתֶּ֥ם לִי֙; τί καὶ ὑμεῖς ἐμοί, in the Septuagint), O Tyre, and Zidon, and all the coasts of Palestine?…”

[12] Matthew 8:29:  “And, behold, they cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee (τί ἡμῖν καὶ σοί), Jesus, thou Son of God? art thou come hither to torment us before the time?”

[13] John 2:4:  “Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee (τί ἐμοὶ καὶ σοί)? mine hour is not yet come.”

[14] Suetonius’ Life of Otho 7.  The sounding of trumpets was connected with religious sacrifice.

[15] Demosthenes’ Against Aphobus.

[16] Hebrew: וּגְב֣וּל נָֽתַן־יְ֠הוָה בֵּינֵ֙נוּ וּבֵינֵיכֶ֜ם בְּנֵי־רְאוּבֵ֤ן וּבְנֵי־גָד֙ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֔ן אֵין־לָכֶ֥ם חֵ֖לֶק בַּֽיהוָ֑ה וְהִשְׁבִּ֤יתוּ בְנֵיכֶם֙ אֶת־בָּנֵ֔ינוּ לְבִלְתִּ֖י יְרֹ֥א אֶת־יְהוָֽה׃

1 thought on “Joshua 22:23-25: The Answer of the Transjordanian Tribes, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘They fully explain their true intent and meaning in building this altar; and we have all the reason in the world to believe that it is a true representation of their design, and not advanced now to palliate it afterwards, as we have reason to think that these same persons meant very honestly when they petitioned to have their lot on that side Jordan, though then also is was their unhappiness to be misunderstood even by Moses himself. In their vindication, they make it out that the building of this altar was so far from being a step towards a separation from their brethren, and from the altar of the Lord at Shiloh, that, on the contrary, it was really designed for a pledge and preservative of their communion with their brethren and with the altar of God, and a token of their resolution to do the service of the Lord before him (Joshua 22:27), and to continue to do so.

    They gave an account of the fears they had lest, in process of time, their posterity, being seated at such a distance from the tabernacle, should be looked upon and treated as strangers to the commonwealth of Israel (Joshua 22:24); it was for fear of this thing, and the word signifies a great perplexity and solicitude of mind which they were in, until they eased themselves by this expedient. As they were returning home (and we may suppose it was not thought of before, else they would have made Joshua acquainted with their purpose), some of them in discourse started this matter, and the rest took the hint, and represented to themselves and one another a very melancholy prospect of what might probably happen in after-ages, that their children would be looked upon by the other tribes as having no interest in the altar of God and the sacrifices there offered. Now indeed they were owned as brethren, and were as welcome at the tabernacle as any other of the tribes; but what if their children after them should be disowned? They, by reason of their distance, and the interposition of Jordan, which it was not easy at all times to pass and repass, could not be so numerous and constant in their attendance on the three yearly feasts as the other tribes, to make a continual claim to the privileges of Israelites, and would therefore be looked upon as inconsiderable members of their church, and by degrees would be rejected as not members of it at all: So shall your children (who in their pride will be apt to monopolize the privileges of the altar) make our children (who perhaps will not be so careful as they ought to be to keep hold of those privileges) cease from fearing the Lord. Note, (1.) Those that are cut off from public ordinances are likely to lose all religion, and will by degrees cease from fearing the Lord. Though the form and profession of godliness are kept up by many without the life and power of it, yet the life and power of it will not long be kept up without the form and profession. You take away grace if you take away the means of grace. (2.) Those who have themselves found the comfort and benefit of God’s ordinances cannot but desire to preserve and perpetuate the entail of them upon their seed, and use all possible precautions that their children after them may not be made to cease from following the Lord, or be looked upon as having no part in him.’

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