Joshua 24:8-10: Memorial of God’s Covenant Faithfulness to Israel, Part 3

Verse 8:[1] And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; (Num. 21:21, 33; Deut. 2:32; 3:1) and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you.


Verse 9:[2] Then (see Judg. 11:25) Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and (Num. 22:5; Deut. 23:4) sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you…

[And he fought against Israel[3]] But he neither fought, nor even quarreled with him by words, as it is evident from Judges 11:25 (Masius). How is this then true? Response 1: He fought, not with force, but with stratagems, which what follows explains, and the very history shows (Grotius). Balak and Balaam assailed them with magical arts; who are said to attempt war in this passage (Masius, similarly Lapide). Response 2: He is said to have fought, because, with an army, he was determined to attack them, namely, after the cursing of Balaam, relying upon which he plainly supposed that he was going to be the victor. But, since this malediction had been without success, it happened that he dared not to attack the Israelites (Bonfrerius). He did battle; that is, in his mind and will (Vatablus). See that the words of the Hebrew here often signify an action not completed, but begun; indeed, a disposition and attempt only, not an effect.[4] Thus in verse 11, the men of Jericho are said to have fought, that is, to have prepared themselves to fight; and in Amos 9:3, if they hide themselves from my eyes, that is, if they attempt to hide themselves (Lapide). [Our Gataker sets forth here similar examples from other authors.] Thus Suetonius;[5] when Cæsar pacified his adversaries, etc., that is, he wished to pacify.[6] The same on “Nero”; he ordained that gifts thereafter were to be paid out on the spot, that is, he said that they were going to be ordained.[7] Juvenal; Bid the fasting Grecian to go to heaven, that is, let him promise himself that he is going to go.[8] Dio, History of Rome 54; he declared that Lepidus was killed at that time, that is, was ordered to be killed, not actually killed. Thus in the writings of the Jurisconsults many things are undertaken with execution/completion, as they say. Thus Casaubon in Suetonius. Thus Trypon, Concerning the Signification of Words 1:225,[9] One is able to call a man a thief, an adulterer, and a gambler from the intention of the mind alone, hence also one that never carried off another’s property without the Owner’s consent, that never corrupted another’s wife, if only it be his intention that he is going to do it when the occasion presents itself, that is, as far as God is concerned, out of Matthew 5:28. Condemned κατὰ προπάθειαν, with respect to pre-passion, as Jerome has it; by intention, the Grammarians. Thus Cicero in his Aratea[10] 420, That formerly Orion violated Diana with his hands, that is, sought to violate. And Virgil in his Æneid 8:657, The Gauls arrived through the thorn bushes and were holding the citadel, that is, were trying to hold: Alciatus.[11] Isidore of Pelusium in his Letters[12] 2:289, Ἀπὸ τῆς γνώμης τὰ πράγματα κρίνεται, etc., that is, by resolution, purpose, or intention, actions are evaluated. Wherefore one that wounds another, although he does not kill him, is justly punished; but to one that involuntarily kills another pardon is granted. Thus one that plots an ambush for another, even if he does not find him, is a murderer. ἐκ γὰρ τοῦ ἐπιχειρήματος, οὐ τοῦ ἀποτελέσματος, τοιοῦτος εἶναι κρίνεται, etc., that is, for, from the attempt, not success, it is judged to be such. So also a woman that adorns herself, and looks out through a window, so that she might entirce young men, although she be deprived of her prey, is condemned just as if she had taken it; for she mixed the cup, etc., even if she did not find one to drink it. Thus Isidore. Salvian’s Concerning Providence[13] 6, And by this, even if they should do lesser evils, because they are less able, they are no less evil, for they are unwilling to be less if they are able. Thus Pythia to Glaucus in Herodotus’ Histories 6, τὸ πειρηθῆναι τοῦ Θεοῦ καὶ τὸ ποιῆσαι ἶσον δύναται, that is, To undertake a matter and to carry it through are the same to God.[14] When an evil thing is not done by a man out of necessity alone, the lust for the shameful thing itself is condemned in the place of the action; Matthew 5:28; 2 Maccabees 9:4.[15] Compare 1 Chronicles 28:2 (Gataker). Often in Scripture what is attempted, or sought, is said to be done: as in Genesis 37:21, and he delivered, that is, he was trying to deliver; Ezekiel 24:13, I have purged thee, that is, I have tried to purge thee; John 5:34, I do not receive, that is, I do not seek to receive; thus John 5:44; Romans 2:4, it leadeth, that is, it attempts to lead; 1 Corinthians 10:33, I please all, that is, I try to please; Galatians 5:4, who are justified by the law, that is, attempt to be justified (Glassius’ “Grammar” 3:3:8:250). Response 3: And he fought, is put in the place of, so that he might fight. Thus in Isaiah 53:2, and we were desiring, is put in the place of, that we should desire (Gataker). [Thus Junius and Tremellius translate it here, so that he might contend; and the Septuagint has, and he drew up the army.]

Balak warred against Israel. Question. How is this true, when Balak did never fight against Israel, Judges 11:25? Answer. One prince may commence a war against another, though he never come to a battle, nor strike one stroke; so Balak warred, though not by open force, yet by crafty counsel and warlike stratagems, by magical arts, by wicked devices, by making bate betwixt them and God their confederate; or by warlike preparations, in case Balaam’s charms had succeeded, as may be gathered from Numbers 22:11; or at least by design or intention; things being oft said to be done both in Scripture and other authors which were only designed or intended, as here, Joshua 24:11; Genesis 37:21; Ezekiel 24:13; Matthew 5:28; John 10:32, 33. And the old lawyers note, That he is rightly called a thief or an adulterer, etc., who wanted nothing but occasion to be so.


Verse 10:[16] (Deut. 23:5) But I would not hearken unto Balaam; (Num. 23:11, 20; 24:10) therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand.

I would not hearken unto Balaam, who hereby appears to have desired of God leave to curse Israel; and therefore it is not strange that God, who permitted him simply to go, was highly angry with him for going with so wicked an intent, Numbers 22:20, 22, 32. Out of his hand, that is, from Balak’s malicious design against you.

[1] Hebrew: וָאָבִ֣אָה אֶתְכֶ֗ם אֶל־אֶ֤רֶץ הָאֱמֹרִי֙ הַיּוֹשֵׁב֙ בְּעֵ֣בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֔ן וַיִּֽלָּחֲמ֖וּ אִתְּכֶ֑ם וָאֶתֵּ֙ן אוֹתָ֤ם בְּיֶדְכֶם֙ וַתִּֽירְשׁ֣וּ אֶת־אַרְצָ֔ם וָאַשְׁמִידֵ֖ם מִפְּנֵיכֶֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיָּ֙קָם בָּלָ֤ק בֶּן־צִפּוֹר֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ מוֹאָ֔ב וַיִּלָּ֖חֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּשְׁלַ֗ח וַיִּקְרָ֛א לְבִלְעָ֥ם בֶּן־בְּע֖וֹר לְקַלֵּ֥ל אֶתְכֶֽם׃

[3] Hebrew: וַיִּלָּ֖חֶם בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל.

[4] וַיִּלָּחֶם is in the imperfect tense.

[5] Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c. 75- c. 130) was a Roman historian.

[6] De Vita Cæsarum “Divus Julius” 29.

[7] De Vita Cæsarum “Nero” 5.

[8] Satires 3:74.

[9] Tryphon of Alexandria (c. 60-c. 10 BC) was a Greek grammarian.

[10] Cicero’s Aratea is a Latin translation of the Phænomena of Aratus (c. 310-c. 240 BC), a Greek poet.  Aratus’ Phænomena is a description of the heavenly bodies and their movements.

[11] Commentary concerning the Signification of Words 4.  Andrea Alciato (1492-1550) was an Italian jurist and writer.

[12] Isidore of Pelusium (died c. 450) was a revered desert ascetic.  He dwelt at the monastery at Pelusium, Egypt, where he may have served as abbot.  He was involved in extensive correspondence, a portion of which has been preserved.

[13] Salvian was a fifth century Christian author.  He addresses the theological difficulty of the invasion of the Roman Empire by the barbarians in his De Vero Judicio et Providentia.

[14] The story is told of one Glaucus, who had received some items on trust.  Contemplating defrauding the heir, Glaucus sent a messenger to the Oracle of Delphi, who prophesied his doom.

[15] 2 Maccabees 9:4, 5a:  “Then swelling with anger, he thought to avenge upon the Jews the disgrace done unto him by those that made him flee.  Therefore commanded he his chariotman to drive without ceasing, and to dispatch the journey, the judgment of God now following him.  For he had spoken proudly in this sort, That he would come to Jerusalem and make it a common burying place of the Jews.  But the Lord Almighty, the God of Isreal, smote him with an incurable and invisible plague…”

[16] Hebrew: וְלֹ֥א אָבִ֖יתִי לִשְׁמֹ֣עַ לְבִלְעָ֑ם וַיְבָ֤רֶךְ בָּרוֹךְ֙ אֶתְכֶ֔ם וָאַצִּ֥ל אֶתְכֶ֖ם מִיָּדֽוֹ׃

2 thoughts on “Joshua 24:8-10: Memorial of God’s Covenant Faithfulness to Israel, Part 3

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘He gave them the land of the Amorites, on the other side Jordan (Joshua 24:8), and there defeated the plot of Balak and Balaam against them, so that Balaam could not curse them as he desired, and therefore Balak durst not fight them as he designed, and as, because he designed it, he is here said to have done it. The turning of Balaam’s tongue to bless Israel, when he intended to curse them, is often mentioned as an instance of the divine power put forth in Israel’s favour as remarkable as any, because in it God proved (and does still, more than we are aware of) his dominion over the powers of darkness, and over the spirits of men.’

  2. William Gurnall, “Christian in Complete Armour”: ‘His love cannot be corrupted. There have been such that have dared to tempt God, and court, yea bribe, “the Holy One of Israel” to desert and come off from his people. Thus Balaam went to win God over to Balak’s side against Israel; which to obtain, he spared no cost, but built altar after altar, and heaped sacrifice upon sacrifice, yea, what would they not have done to have gained but a word or two out of God’s mouth against his people? But he kept true to them; yea, left a brand of his displeasure upon that nation for hiring Balaam, and sending him on such an errand to God, Deuteronomy 23:4. This passage we find of God minding his people, to continue in them a persuasion of his sincere steadfast love to them: “O my people, remember what Balak king of Moab consulted, and what Balaam the son of Beor answered him from Shittim unto Gilgal,” Micah 6:5. And why should they remember this? “That ye may know the righteousness of the Lord;” that is, that you may know how true and faithful a God I have been to you. Sometimes he makes use of it to provoke them to be sincere to him, as he, in that, proved himself to them, Joshua 24:9; he tells them how Balak sent Balaam to set God a cursing them, but, saith the Lord, “I would not hearken unto him,” but made him that came to curse you, with his own lips entail a blessing on you and yours. And why is this story mentioned? see Joshua 24:14, “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and truth”—a most natural and reasonable inference from the premises of God’s truth and faithfulness. O Christian! wouldst thou have thy love to God made incorruptible, embalm it often in thy thoughts, with the sweet spices of God’s sincere love to thee, which is immortal, and cannot see corruption. Believe God is true to thee, and be false to him if thou darest. It is a solecism and barbarism in love to return falseness for faithfulness.’

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