Joshua 23:12, 13: Threats Discouraging Disobedience

Verse 12:[1] Else if ye do in any wise (Heb. 10:38, 39; 2 Pet. 2:20, 21) go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall (Deut. 7:3) make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you…

[But if ye desire, etc., כִּ֣י׀ אִם־שׁ֣וֹב תָּשׁ֗וּבוּ] For if (or, but if [Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, similarly Pagnine], else if [Munster, English]) by turning away ye turn away (Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic) (or, ye draw back [Arabic], ye shall turn back [Jonathan], ye fall away), understanding, from God (Vatablus). For if by turning around ye change the design, etc. שׁוּב signifies to go back, but it is often transferred to the soul, and is to depart from the design, to change the manner of life (Masius). [What things follow in Masius, and the explanation of the remaining part of this verse, see on verse 7.]

If ye go back, from God, and from his worship and service. Go in unto them; the phrase notes the matrimonial act.

 

Verse 13:[2] Know for a certainty that (Judge. 2:3) the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; (Ex. 23:33; Num. 33:55; Deut. 7:16; 1 Kings 11:4) but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.

[They shall be for a pit, לְפַח[3]] For a snare [thus all interpreters]. But the Latin appears to have read פַּחַת/pit (Masius).

[And a snare, וּלְמוֹקֵשׁ[4]] And for a stumbling-block (Montanus, Munster, Pagnine, English, Dutch, Jonathan, Syriac), a snare (Osiander, Dutch); and for a trap (Junius and Tremellius, English), an obstacle (Castalio).

They shall be snares and traps unto you: by your indulgence to them, and converse with them, you will be enticed and drawn by degrees into their errors, and impieties, and brutish lusts.

[And a stumbling-block at your side, וּלְשֹׁטֵ֤ט בְּצִדֵּיכֶם֙] A scourge in your sides [thus nearly all interpreters]; that is, with which your sides are beaten, or flogged (Vatablus). There was an ancient custom of beating the sides, Ecclesiasticus 30:12;[5] 42:5[6] (Junius, Drusius, Grotius). שׁוֹטֵט is the same as שׁוֹט/scourge/whip (Drusius); and it signifies that by which we prod and beat one, so that we might urge to movement (Masius). Spurs in your sides (Tigurinus, Castalio). Ἥλους, that is, nails, is used in the place of spurs by the Septuagint (Masius); spears in your times (Syriac). In Numbers 33:55 it is read, and for thorns in your sides[7] (Vatablus).

[And stakes in your eyes, וְלִצְנִנִ֣ים בְּעֵינֵיכֶ֔ם] And for thorns in your eyes (Montanus) [thus nearly all interpreters]; barbs (Syriac), darts (Septuagint); for knives/points, Numbers 33:55. Moses said, thorns (or knives/points) in your sides; see the annotation there; that is, with which your sides are jabbed; which is to say, afflicting you in extraordinary manner (Vatablus). The Chaldean, in the place of scourge, said, troops taking up arms against you; and, in the place of thorn, etc., rendered it, armies surrounding you: evidently because the verb שָׁטַט sometimes signifies to wander and to roam here and there for the sake of taking prey; and since צִנָּה is used, not only of a thorn, but also of a shield; he transferred it to an army that surrounds its enemies, as a shield does the body of a man, says Rabbi Salomon. Moreover, it is clear enough why these metaphors would be used of idolaters. For by the traps and snares of alluring pleasure progress in the worship of God is first impeded: Then, after the soul is once bound fast by that pleasure, it is easily impelled to every shameful thing by that, as by a whip: But soon, he is also so blinded that he is no longer able to see the shining light of truth. Now, it is evident that all these things happened to them (Masius). First, they are going to be for a trap, etc., that is, by their friendly behavior and marriages they are going to seize you, so that you might become entangled in their impieties, just as a fowler captures birds, or a hunter wild animals, with a trap and snare. Then, these nations shall nevertheless become troublesome to you: gradually they shall recover their strength, and afflict you: and they shall be the scourges of God, as it were, by which He would put you to grief; and, like thorns in your eyes, they shall become intolerable to you (Osiander). This passage is able to be taken, not only of the stumbling-block of Divine punishment and vengeance, but also of the stumbling-block of guilt (Lapide).

Scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes: when they have inveigled, and seduced, and thereby weakened you, then they will molest and vex you, no less than a severe scourge doth a man’s sides which are lashed by it, or than a small thorn doth the eye when it is got within it.

[Until He remove you…from the land, etc.] This was goading their souls exceedingly. For, while after the greatest hardships, which they had endured in another’s land, they, having at last gained their own possessions, appeared to themselves to be altogether happy, and in them were resting most pleasantly, no case more bitter to them was albe to be set before their eyes than a new exile (Masius on verse 3).

Until ye perish from off this good land: they shall so persecute you, and fight against you with such success, that you shall be forced to quit your own land, and wander you know not whither; which must needs be very terrible to them to think of, when they compared this present case, and plenty, and safety, with the pains, and weariness, and hazards, and wants of their former wanderings.

[1] Hebrew: כִּ֣י׀ אִם־שׁ֣וֹב תָּשׁ֗וּבוּ וּדְבַקְתֶּם֙ בְּיֶ֙תֶר֙ הַגּוֹיִ֣ם הָאֵ֔לֶּה הַנִּשְׁאָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אִתְּכֶ֑ם וְהִֽתְחַתַּנְתֶּ֥ם בָּהֶ֛ם וּבָאתֶ֥ם בָּהֶ֖ם וְהֵ֥ם בָּכֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: יָדוֹ֙עַ֙ תֵּֽדְע֔וּ כִּי֩ לֹ֙א יוֹסִ֜יף יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֗ם לְהוֹרִ֛ישׁ אֶת־הַגּוֹיִ֥ם הָאֵ֖לֶּה מִלִּפְנֵיכֶ֑ם וְהָי֙וּ לָכֶ֜ם לְפַ֣ח וּלְמוֹקֵ֗שׁ וּלְשֹׁטֵ֤ט בְּצִדֵּיכֶם֙ וְלִצְנִנִ֣ים בְּעֵינֵיכֶ֔ם עַד־אֲבָדְכֶ֗ם מֵ֠עַל הָאֲדָמָ֤ה הַטּוֹבָה֙ הַזֹּ֔את אֲשֶׁר֙ נָתַ֣ן לָכֶ֔ם יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃

[3] A פַּח is a bird-trap.

[4] מוֹקֵשׁ, a fowler’s trap or its bait, is derived from the verbal root יָקשׁ, to lure.

[5] Ecclesiasticus 30:12:  “Bow down his neck while he is young, and beat him on the sides while he is a child, lest he wax stubborn, and be disobedient unto thee, and so bring sorrow to thine heart.”

[6] Ecclesiasticus 42:5:  “And of merchants’ indifferent selling; of much correction of children; and to make the side of an evil servant to bleed.”

[7] Numbers 33:55:  “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes (לְשִׂכִּים֙ בְּעֵ֣ינֵיכֶ֔ם), and thorns in your sides (וְלִצְנִינִ֖ם בְּצִדֵּיכֶ֑ם), and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.”

1 thought on “Joshua 23:12, 13: Threats Discouraging Disobedience

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘He gives them fair warning what would be the fatal consequences of apostasy (Joshua 23:12, 13, 15, 16): “If you go back, know for a certainty it will be your ruin.” Observe,

    1. How he describes the apostasy which he warns them against. The steps of it would be (Joshua 23:12) growing intimate with idolaters, who would craftily wheedle them, and insinuate themselves into their acquaintance, now that they had become lords of the country, to serve their own ends. The next step would be intermarrying with them, drawn to it by their artifices, who would be glad to bestow their children upon these wealthy Israelites. And the consequence of that would be (Joshua 23:16) serving other gods (which were pretended to be the ancient deities of the country) and bowing down to them. Thus the way of sin is downhill, and those who have fellowship with sinners cannot avoid having fellowship with sin. This he represents, (1.) As a base and shameful desertion; “it is going back from what you have so well begun,” Joshua 23:12. (2.) As a most perfidious breach of promise (Joshua 23:16): “It is a transgression of the covenant of the Lord your God, which he commanded you, and which you yourselves set your hand to.” Other sins were transgressions of the law God commanded them, but this was a transgression of the covenant he commanded them, and amounted to a breach of the relation between God and them and a forfeiture of all the benefits of the covenant.

    2. How he describes the destruction which he warns them of. He tells them, (1.) That these remainders of the Canaanites, if they should harbour them, and indulge them, and join in affinity with them, would be snares and traps to them, both to draw them to sin (not only to idolatry, but to all immoralities, which would be the ruin, not only of their virtue, but of their wisdom and sense, their spirit and honour), and also to draw them into foolish bargains, unprofitable projects, and all manner of inconveniences; and having thus by underhand practices decoyed them into one mischief or other, so as to gain advantages against them, they would then act more openly, and be scourges in their sides and thorns in their eyes, would perhaps kill or drive away their cattle, burn or steal their corn, alarm or plunder their houses, and would be all ways possible be vexatious to them; for, whatever pretences of friendship they might make, a Canaanite, unless proselyted to the faith and worship of the true God, would in every age hate the very name and sight of an Israelite. See how the punishment would be made to answer the sin, nay, how the sin itself would be the punishment. (2.) That the anger of the Lord would be kindled against them. Their making leagues with the Canaanites would not only give those idolaters the opportunity of doing them a mischief, and be the fostering of snakes in their bosoms, but it would likewise provoke God to become their enemy, and would kindle the fire of his displeasure against them. (3.) That all the threatenings of the word would be fulfilled, as the promise had been, for the God of eternal truth is faithful to both (Joshua 23:15): “As all good things have come upon you according to the promise, so long as you have kept close to God, so all evil things will come upon you according to the threatening, if you forsake him.” Moses had set before them good and evil; they had experienced the good, and were now in the enjoyment of it, and the evil would as certainly come if they were disobedient. As God’s promises are not a fool’s paradise, so his threatenings are not bugbears. (4.) That it would end in the utter ruin of their church and nation, as Moses had foretold. This is three times mentioned here. Your enemies will vex you until you perish from off this good land, Joshua 23:13. Again, “God will plague you until he have destroyed you from off this good land,” Joshua 23:15. “Heaven and earth will concur to root you out, so that (Joshua 23:16) you shall perish from off the good land.” It will aggravate their perdition that the land from which they shall perish is a good land, and a land which God himself had given them, and which therefore he would have secured to them if they by their wickedness had not thrown themselves out of it. Thus the goodness of the heavenly Canaan, and the free and sure grant God has made of it, will aggravate the misery of those that shall for ever be shut out and perish from it. Nothing will make them see how wretched they are so much as to see how happy they might have been. Joshua thus sets before them the fatal consequences of their apostasy, that, knowing the terror of the Lord, they might be persuaded with purpose of heart to cleave to him.’

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