Joshua 22:30-33: Israel Receives the Just Defense of the Transjordanian Tribes

Class on Christian Political Theory

Verse 30:[1] And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them (Heb. it was good in their eyes[2]).

[And the princes of the legation with him, etc.] Greek: πάντες οἱ ἄρχοντες τῆς συναγωγῆς, all the rulers of the synagogue, that is, of the Eldership and highest magistracy. These made a προβούλευμα, preliminary decree, which the people follow in verse 33. See Joshua 8:33 and 9:11 (Masius). Hebrew: וּנְשִׂיאֵ֙י הָעֵדָ֜ה וְרָאשֵׁ֙י אַלְפֵ֤י, the princes of the congregation and heads of thousands. The princes of assemblies, that is, the leaders of thousands (Junius and Tremellius). Thus the ו/and is ἐξηγητικόν/exegetical (Drusius).

It was good in their eyes: They were fully satisfied with this answer.


Verse 31:[3] And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the LORD is (Lev. 26:11, 12; 2 Chron. 15:2) among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the LORD: now (Heb. then[4]) ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the LORD.

[Since ye are averse to this transgression, etc., אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹֽא־מְעַלְתֶּ֥ם בַּֽיהוָ֖ה] Because ye have not transgressed, or, as being those that have not transgressed, etc. (Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, similarly the Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic). They rightly gather that God is present among the Israelites, because agreement in Religion is maintained by them, in accordance with Matthew 18:19. Or, if you would rather, Phinehas gathers this from the fact that they have not yet sinned. For it is certain that mortals are cast headlong into all vice when they are first left without the support of God (Masius).

[And ye have delivered the children of Israel, etc., אָ֗ז הִצַּלְתֶּ֛ם וגו״] At that time (or, at this time, or now [Tigurinus, Syriac], by that, or, in this matter, that is, because ye are not rebels, or, plainly, certainly, entirely, just as אֲוַי is more frequently used, Psalm 124[5] [Masius]) ye deliverd, or, rescued, etc. (Pagnine, Montanus, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Arabic), that is, by not giving a reason for the inflicting of a stroke (Bonfrerius): that is, Otherwise the Lord would have punished them (Vatablus); and on account of the schism and new religion He would have chastened all Israel sharply (Lapide).

The Lord is among us, by his gracious presence and preventing goodness, in keeping you from so great an offence, and all of us from those dismal calamities that would have followed upon it. Out of the hand of the Lord, that is, from the wrath 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 unexpected or approaching disease or mischief, doth as truly deliver a man from it, as he that cures or removes it after it hath been inflicted.


Verse 32:[6] And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children of Reuben, and from the children of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again.

[From the land of Gilead of the boundaries of Canaan] That is, which is on the boundaries of Canaan (Lapide). Hebrew: from the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan[7] (Malvenda).


Verse 33:[8] And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel (1 Chron. 29:20; Neh. 8:6; Dan. 2:19; Luke 2:28) blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt.

[And they praised God] Hebrew: they blessed.[9] Let us be sure, 1. To rejoice over the salvation of brethren, with the Angels, Luke 15:7, 10. 2. To refer with a grateful heart the constancy of our brethren in Religion, and all such holy counsels received, to God, who alone by His most benign grace restrains the viciousness of men, and upholds them in good deeds (Masius).

To go up against them in battle, to destroy the land, etc.: As they were by the law of God obliged to do, if they had been guilty and persisted therein; as afterwards they did they tribe of Benjamin for the same reason.

[1] Hebrew: וַיִּשְׁמַ֞ע פִּֽינְחָ֣ס הַכֹּהֵ֗ן וּנְשִׂיאֵ֙י הָעֵדָ֜ה וְרָאשֵׁ֙י אַלְפֵ֤י יִשְׂרָאֵל֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אִתּ֔וֹ אֶת־הַ֙דְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֧ר דִּבְּר֛וּ בְּנֵי־רְאוּבֵ֥ן וּבְנֵי־גָ֖ד וּבְנֵ֣י מְנַשֶּׁ֑ה וַיִּיטַ֖ב בְּעֵינֵיהֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיִּיטַ֖ב בְּעֵינֵיהֶֽם׃.

[3] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֣אמֶר פִּֽינְחָ֣ס בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָ֣ר הַכֹּהֵ֡ן אֶל־בְּנֵי־רְאוּבֵ֙ן וְאֶל־בְּנֵי־גָ֜ד וְאֶל־בְּנֵ֣י מְנַשֶּׁ֗ה הַיּ֤וֹם׀ יָדַ֙עְנוּ֙ כִּֽי־בְתוֹכֵ֣נוּ יְהוָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹֽא־מְעַלְתֶּ֥ם בַּֽיהוָ֖ה הַמַּ֣עַל הַזֶּ֑ה אָ֗ז הִצַּלְתֶּ֛ם אֶת־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל מִיַּ֥ד יְהוָֽה׃

[4] Hebrew: אָז.

[5] Psalm 124:1-5:  “If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, now may Israel say; if it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us:  then (אֲזַי) they had swallowed us up quick, when their wrath was kindled against us:  then (אֲזַי) the waters had overwhelmed us, the stream had gone over our soul:  then (אֲזַי) the proud waters had gone over our soul.”

[6] Hebrew: וַיָּ֣שָׁב פִּֽינְחָ֣ס בֶּן־אֶלְעָזָ֣ר הַכֹּהֵ֣ן׀ וְהַנְּשִׂיאִ֡ים מֵאֵ֣ת בְּנֵֽי־רְאוּבֵן֩ וּמֵאֵ֙ת בְּנֵי־גָ֜ד מֵאֶ֧רֶץ הַגִּלְעָ֛ד אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ כְּנַ֖עַן אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיָּשִׁ֥בוּ אוֹתָ֖ם דָּבָֽר׃

[7] Hebrew: מֵאֶ֧רֶץ הַגִּלְעָ֛ד אֶל־אֶ֥רֶץ כְּנַ֖עַן.

[8] Hebrew: וַיִּיטַ֣ב הַדָּבָ֗ר בְּעֵינֵי֙ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וַיְבָרֲכ֥וּ אֱלֹהִ֖ים בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְלֹ֣א אָמְר֗וּ לַעֲל֤וֹת עֲלֵיהֶם֙ לַצָּבָ֔א לְשַׁחֵת֙ אֶת־הָאָ֔רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֛ר בְּנֵי־רְאוּבֵ֥ן וּבְנֵי־גָ֖ד יֹשְׁבִ֥ים בָּֽהּ׃

[9] Hebrew: וַיְבָרֲכוּ.

1 thought on “Joshua 22:30-33: Israel Receives the Just Defense of the Transjordanian Tribes

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘We have here the good issue of this controversy, which, if there had not been on both sides a disposition to peace, as there was on both sides a zeal for God, might have been of ill consequence; for quarrels about religion, for want of wisdom and love, often prove the most fierce and most difficult to be accommodated. But these contending parties, when the matter was fairly stated and argued, were so happy as to understand one another very well, and so the difference was presently compromised.

    I. The ambassadors were exceedingly pleased when the separate tribes had given in a protestation of the innocency of their intentions in building this altar. 1. The ambassadors did not call in question their sincerity in that protestation, did not say, “You tell us you design it not for sacrifice and offering, but who can believe you? What security will you give us that it shall never be so used?” No. Charity believes all things, hopes all things, believes and hopes the best, and is very loth to give the lie to any. 2. They did not upbraid them with the rashness and unadvisedness of this action, did not tell them, “If you would do such a thing, and with this good intention, yet you might have had so much respect for Joshua and Eleazar as to have advised with them, or at least have made them acquainted with it, and so have saved the trouble and expense of this embassy.” But a little want of consideration and good manners should be excused and overlooked in those who, we have reason to think, mean honestly. 3. Much less did they go about to fish for evidence to make out their charge, because they had once exhibited it, but were glad to have their mistake rectified, and were not at all ashamed to own it. Proud and peevish spirits, when they have passed an unjust censure upon their brethren, though ever so much convincing evidence be brought of the injustice of it, will stand to it, and can by no means be persuaded to retract it. These ambassadors were not so prejudiced; their brethren’s vindication pleased them, Joshua 22:30. They looked upon their innocency as a token of God’s presence (Joshua 22:31), especially when they found that what was done was so far from being an indication of their growing cool to the altar of God that, one the contrary, it was a fruit of their zealous affection to it: You have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the Lord, that is, “You have not, as we feared, delivered them into the hand of the Lord, or exposed them to his judgments by the trespass we were jealous of.”

    II. The congregation was abundantly satisfied when their ambassadors reported to them their brethren’s apology for what they had done. It should seem they staid together, at least by their representatives, until they heard the issue (Joshua 22:32); and when they understood the truth of the matter it pleased them (Joshua 22:33), and they blessed God. Note, Our brethren’s constancy in religion, their zeal for the power of godliness, and their keeping the unity of the Spirit in faith and love, notwithstanding the jealousies conceived of them as breaking the unity of the church, are things which we should be very glad to be satisfied of, and should make the matter both of our rejoicing and of our thanksgiving; let God have the glory of it, and let us take the comfort of it. Being thus satisfied, they laid down their arms immediately, and were so far from any thoughts of prosecuting the war they had been meditating against their brethren that we may suppose them wishing for the next feast, when they should meet them at Shiloh.’

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