Joshua 23:6-8: Aged Joshua’s Exhortation

Verse 6:[1] (Josh. 1:7) Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, (Deut. 5:32; 28:14) that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left…

[Take courage, וַחֲזַקְתֶּם] Ye shall take courage (Montanus). It is very common among the Hebrew to use the future in the place of the imperative. See what things are on Joshua 1:7 concerning these words (Masius).

Be ye therefore very courageous; for it will require great courage and resolution to execute all the commands of Moses, and particularly that of expelling and destroying the residue of the Canaanites.

[And not decline from them, מִמֶּנּוּ] From it, understanding, the book; that is, from those things that are written in that (Vatablus).

[To the right hand, etc., יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאול׃] Right hand and left hand (Malvenda). Here ו/and means אוֹ/or, as in this, he that cursed father and mother, that is, or mother.[2] Neither unto the right hand, etc., that is, in neither direction. Rabbi Levi understands by the right hand whatever is added to the Law; and by the left hand whatever is taken from it (Drusius).

To the right hand or to the left, that is, in one kind or other, by adding to the law, or diminishing from it, as Moses speaks.

 

Verse 7:[3] That ye (Ex. 23:33; Deut. 7:2, 3; Prov. 4:14; Eph. 5:11) come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither (Ex. 23:13; Ps. 16:4; Jer. 5:7; Zeph. 1:5; see Num. 32:38) make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them…

[Lest, after ye come among the nations…ye swear, etc. (similarly Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio, Osiander) [who all suspend the sense, and refer this first clause unto what follows: but others take is distinctly],לְבִלְתִּי־בוֹא֙ בַּגּוֹיִ֣ם הָאֵ֔לֶּה וגו״] Verbatim: Lest ye come to, or, enter among, those nations (Masius). Lest ye mingle with those nations (Pagnine, similarly Vatablus, Jonathan, Syriac). Lest ye come together (Junius and Tremellius). Lest ye have intercourse, etc. (Masius). Lest ye dwell with them, or, in them, or, among them (Drusius). All familiarity with them is here restrained, but especially that which is contracted through marriages, as it is evident from verse 12 (Masius on verses 7 and 12, similarly Bonfrerius, Piscator). That בוֹא, to come into, is used of Sexual Intercourse.[4] (See what things are on Joshua 2:3[5] [Masius].) But I doubt whether בוֹא, to come into, constructed with a ב, is thus to be taken. For usually it is construced with אֶל/unto, הַ֭בָּא אֶל־אֵ֣שֶׁת רֵעֵ֑הוּ, he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife[6] (Drusius). Moreover, the דָּבַק in verse 12 signifies to cleave,[7] and is used by Moses in Genesis 2:24 of the union between husband and wife[8] (Masius on verse 12).

Come not among these nations, that is, avoid all familiar converse and contracts, but especially marriages, with them, as it is explained, verse 12, and as the Hebrew word intimates, being oft used of coming or going in to a woman.

[Neither make mention of the name of their gods] Consult Ephesians 5:3 (Masius), and that saying of David, Psalm 16:4, I will not take up their names into my lips; likewise in Hosea 2:16, thou shalt not call me בַּעְלִי/BAALI, but אִישִׁי/ISHI: Both signify the same thing,[9] but Baal is a name common to idols. Therefore, the Jews do not even name Swine in the presence of their children, lest they should desire its flesh; for, when they speak of that, they say, דָבָר אַחֵר, another thing (Drusius). The more religious Jews even now so strictly observe this that they never name idols or gods, Jove, Venus, Mars, etc. Let Christians hear and imitate this, in whose mouth Hercules, Jupiter, Venus, etc., frequently sounds; let them see that this is sin (Lapide). Indeed, the Jew do not even take up the names of heretics in writing, unless they first ask for peace and pardon, by that symbolic stroke of brevity, חס ושׁלום, Chas veshalem, O pardon, and let there be peace. Which is worthy of observation by those that always have in their mouths, By Hercules!,[10] By Castor!,[11] By the god of truth!, the Day of Jove,[12] the Day of Venus,[13] etc. (Tirinus). It is scarcely able to be happen, that those things of which we often make mention would have no affect on us, nor cleave to our consciousness. And so, in the end, from that custom of appealing to the gods a suspicioun could easily be conveyed to the mind that they are something (Masius).

Neither make mention of the name of their gods, to wit, unnecessarily and familiarly, lest the mention of them breed discourse about them, and so by degrees bring a man to the approbation and worship of them. Compare Exodus 23:13; Deuteronomy 12:3; Psalm 16:4; Ephesians 5:3.

[That ye might not swear (thus Montanus [but not Pagnine, as Drusius maintains], Jonathan, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus, Castalio, Masius [which is strange, since the verb is passive[14] (Drusius)]), וְלֹ֣א תַשְׁבִּ֔יעוּ] That ye not cause to swear (Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius, Pagnine, English, Bonfrerius), understanding, others by their idols (Vatablus); causing them [that is, the nations] to commemorate them, Exodus 23:13; Deuteronomy 12:3 (Junius). That ye might not swear: For what we swear, we establish, even unintentionally, that some Deity is involved in it. Moreover, those, ye worship, ye adore, are even more grevious. And so, in the order a progression is made; from familiarity with Barbarians to the naming of their gods, hence to swearing, hence to service, and finally from worship to adoration. For each subsequent thing of those is generally wont to be born from the preceding thing, unless great caution is employed, and the Holy Spirit of God rules over our hearts, etc. (Masius). By certain degrees men gradually sink into idolatry. And it is certainly not very laudable that some Christian in their songs invoke and celebrate Jove and the other vain deities of the nations (Osiander). Or perhaps this is the σχῆμα, rhetorical form, that they call ἐξήγησιν/exegesis, that is, Interpretation, inasmuch as the latter things explain the former. For to worship and to adore differ little from each other. Now, to swear is put in the place of to worship. But to name a God is the same thing as to worship, as it is evident out of 2 Timothy 2:19, let every one that nameth the name of Christ be averse to iniquity; and out of Psalm 16:4, their drink offerings of blood will I not offer, nor take up their names into m lips; which marvelously agrees with this place (Masius). That ye might not make mention of the name: Understand this of honorific commemoration, whereby either it is indicated that those gods give pleasure to one’s self, or they are praised, or even, with an oath interposed, are summoned as witnesses (Bonfrerius).

Nor cause to swear by them; nor require nor compel the Gentiles to swear by them, as they used to do; especially in leagues and contracts, which therefore the Israelites are here implicitly forbidden to make with them. Neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them; neither give them any inward reverence, or outward adoration. Here is an observable gradation, whereby he shows what notable progress sin usually makes, and what reason there is to look to the beginnings of it, forasmuch as a civil and common conversation with their persons was likely to bring them, and indeed did actually bring them, by insensible steps, to the worship of their gods. So it is no wonder if some things not simply and in themselves evil be forbidden by God, as here the naming of their gods is, because they are occasions and introductions to evil.

 

Verse 8:[15] But (Deut. 10:20; 11:22; 13:4; Josh. 22:5) cleave unto the LORD your God (or, for if ye will cleave unto the LORD your God[16]), as ye have done unto this day.

[But that ye might cleave] To cleave to the Lord is to place all hope in Him alone, and to expect no help from elsewhere (Masius).

Cleave unto the Lord, by firm affiance, constant obedience, entire affection, faithful service and worship of him alone.

[As ye have done unto this day] For, while Joshua was living, the people generally kept the laws of Moses: for the sins of individual men are not treated here (Masius). Moreover, he sets forth their praise as the sharpest spur. For praised virtue increases, and glory has an immense spur[17] (Masius on verse 3).

As ye have done unto this day, to wit since you came into Canaan; since which time the body of the people (for of them he speaks, not of every particular person) had behaved themselves much better than they did in the wilderness, and had not been guilty or any gross and general apostacy from God, or rebellion against him.

[1] Hebrew: וַחֲזַקְתֶּ֣ם מְאֹ֔ד לִשְׁמֹ֣ר וְלַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֵ֚ת כָּל־הַכָּת֔וּב בְּסֵ֖פֶר תּוֹרַ֣ת מֹשֶׁ֑ה לְבִלְתִּ֥י סוּר־מִמֶּ֖נּוּ יָמִ֥ין וּשְׂמֹֽאול׃

[2] Exodus 21:17:  “And he that curseth his father, or his mother (אָבִ֛יו וְאִמּ֖וֹ), shall surely be put to death.”  Leviticus 20:9:  “For every one that curseth his father or his mother (אֶת־אָבִ֛יו וְאֶת־אִמּ֖וֹ) shall be surely put to death:  he hath cursed his father or his mother (אָבִ֧יו וְאִמּ֛וֹ); his blood shall be upon him.”

[3] Hebrew: לְבִלְתִּי־בוֹא֙ בַּגּוֹיִ֣ם הָאֵ֔לֶּה הַנִּשְׁאָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה אִתְּכֶ֑ם וּבְשֵׁ֙ם אֱלֹהֵיהֶ֤ם לֹא־תַזְכִּ֙ירוּ֙ וְלֹ֣א תַשְׁבִּ֔יעוּ וְלֹ֣א תַעַבְד֔וּם וְלֹ֥א תִֽשְׁתַּחֲו֖וּ לָהֶֽם׃

[4] See, for example, Genesis 38:18:  “And he said, What pledge shall I give thee?  And she said, Thy signet, and thy bracelets, and thy staff that is in thine hand.  And he gave it her, and came in unto her (וַיָּבֹ֥א אֵלֶ֖יהָ), and she conceived by him.”

[5] Joshua 2:3:  “And the king of Jericho sent unto Rahab, saying, Bring forth the men that are come to thee, which are entered into thine house (הַבָּאִ֤ים אֵלַ֙יִךְ֙ אֲשֶׁר־בָּ֣אוּ לְבֵיתֵ֔ךְ):  for they be come to search out all the country.”

[6] Proverbs 6:29.

[7] Joshua 23:12:  “Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave (וּדְבַקְתֶּם) unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you…”

[8] Genesis 2:24:  “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave (וְדָבַק) unto his wife:  and they shall be one flesh.”

[9] Namely, my husband.

[10] A form of oath used by men.

[11] A form of oath used by women.  Castor was one of the Gemini twins and renowned as a great horseman and soldier.

[12] Dies Jovis, the Day of Jupiter, is Thursday, Thor being equated with Jupiter.

[13] Dies Veneris, the Day of Venus, is Friday, Frigga, wife of Odin and goddess of love, being equated with Venus.

[14] Specifically, in the Hiphil conjugation.

[15] Hebrew: כִּ֛י אִם־בַּיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם תִּדְבָּ֑קוּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר עֲשִׂיתֶ֔ם עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃

[16] Hebrew: כִּ֛י אִם־בַּיהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֖ם תִּדְבָּ֑קוּ.

[17] Ovid’s Ex Ponto 4:2:35, 36.

2 thoughts on “Joshua 23:6-8: Aged Joshua’s Exhortation

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘He hereupon most earnestly charges them to adhere to their duty, to go on and persevere in the good ways of the Lord wherein they had so well set out. He exhorts them,

    (1.) To be very courageous (Joshua 23:6): “God fighteth for you against your enemies, do you therefore behave yourselves valiantly for him. Keep and do with a firm resolution all that is written in the book of the law.” He presses upon them no more than what they were already bound to. “Keep with care, do with diligence, and eye what is written with sincerity.”

    (2.) To be very cautious: “Take heed of missing it, either on the right hand or on the left, for there are errors and extremes on both hands. Take heed of running either into a profane neglect of any of God’s institutions or into a superstitious addition of any of your own inventions.” They must especially take heed of all approaches towards idolatry, the sin to which they were first inclined and would be most tempted, Joshua 23:7. [1.] They must not acquaint themselves with idolaters, nor come among them to visit them or be present at any of their feasts or entertainments, for they could not contract any intimacy nor keep up any conversation with them, without danger of infection. [2.] They must not show the least respect to any idol, nor make mention of the name of their gods, but endeavour to bury the remembrance of them in perpetual oblivion, that the worship of them may never be revived. “Let the very name of them be forgotten. Look upon idols as filthy detestable things, not to be named without the utmost loathing and detestation.” The Jews would not suffer their children to name swine’s flesh, because it was forbidden, lest the name of it should occasion their desiring it; but, if they had occasion to speak of it, they must call it that strange thing. It is a pity that among Christians the names of the heathen gods are so commonly used, and made so familiar as they are, especially in plays and poems: let those names which have been set up in rivalship with God be for ever loathed and lost. [3.] They must not countenance others in showing respect to them. They must not only not swear by them themselves, but they must not cause others to swear by them, which supposes that they must not make any covenants with idolaters, because they, in the confirming of their covenants, would swear by their idols; never let Israelites admit such an oath. [4.] They must take heed of these occasions of idolatry, lest by degrees they should arrive at the highest step of it, which was serving false gods, and bowing down to them, against the letter of the second commandment.

    (3.) To be very constant (Joshua 23:8): Cleave unto the Lord your God, that is, “delight in him, depend upon him, devote yourselves to his glory, and continue to do so to the end, as you have done unto this day, ever since you came to Canaan;” for, being willing to make the best of them, he looks not so far back as the iniquity of Peor. There might be many things amiss among them, but they had not forsaken the Lord their God, and it is in order to insinuate his exhortation to perseverance with the more pleasing power that he praises them. “Go on and prosper, for the Lord is with you while you are with him.” Those that command should commend; the way to make people better is to make the best of them. “You have cleaved to the Lord unto this day, therefore go on to do so, else you lose the praise and recompence of what you have wrought. Your righteousness will not be mentioned unto you if you turn from it.”‘

  2. A.A. Hodge, “Commentary on the Westminster Confession of Faith”: ‘WCF 22:4: “An oath is to be taken in the plain and common sense of the words, without equivocation or mental reservation. It cannot oblige to sin; but in any thing not sinful, being taken, it binds to performance, although to a man’s own hurt; nor is it to be violated, although made to heretics or infidels.”… It hence follows that it is a sin equivalent to that of worshipping a false god if we swear by any other than the only true and living God, and a sin of idolatry if we swear by any thing or place, although it be associated with the true God. Those who swear with uplifted hand swear by the God who created, preserves, and governs all things. Those who swear with hand upon or kissing the Bible, swear by the God who reveals himself in the Bible—that is, by the true Christian God. It is evident that none who believe in the true God can, consistently with their integrity, swear by a false god. And it is no less evident that it is dishonest for an atheist to go through the form of swearing at all, or for an infidel to swear with his hand upon the Christian Scriptures, thereby professing to invoke a God in whose existence he does not believe.

    This principle is fully recognized in Scripture. We are told to swear by the true God: “Unto me every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear,” Isaiah 45:23; “He that sweareth in the earth shall swear by the God of truth,” Isaiah 65:16; “Thou shalt fear Jehovah thy God and serve him, and shalt swear by his name,” Deuteronomy 6:13. We are forbidden to swear by the name of false gods: “How shall I pardon thee for this? thy children have forsaken me and sworn by them that are no gods.” Jeremiah 5:7; Joshua 23:7.’

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