Joshua 7:14: The Lot Prescribed for the Discovery of the Sin, Part 2

Verse 14:[1] In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which (Prov. 16:33) the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man.

[And ye shall approach, וְנִקְרַבְתֶּם] It is in the Niphal, but use has given to it a reflexive sense, as in the Hithpael (Masius).

[By your tribes[2] (thus Junius and Tremellius, Masius, Vatablus, Pagnine)] According to your tribes (Jonathan, Munster, Tigurinus). Ye shall assemble to your Tribes (Vatablus), to tribes (Montanus).

[Which the lot may find] Hebrew: which Jehovah shall take[3] (Vatablus), that is, He indicates, or accuses (Masius, Drusius). Which He might take, as a wild beast is taken in a snare, trying to flee the hunter (Piscator). It is asked concerning the mode of inquisition. 1. The Rabbis imagine that, while the Tribes, etc., stood before the Ark, the guilty was not able to move (Masius). 2. Others maintain that this was accomplished through the Urim and Thummim, and that the gem that had the name of the Tribe of the guilty revealed the fault by the obscuring of its name. But then perhaps the inquiry into the discovered Tribe’s families, households, and individuals was by the drawn lot. Thus the Ancients in the Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer[4] (Masius). But if lots were used in the case of the latter questions, why not in that former question concerning the tribe (Bonfrerius). 3. By lot (thus Lapide, Bonfrerius, Masius, Vatablus, Drusius, Piscator, Serarius, Malvenda): and that by the hands of a Prophet before the Ark, as in the sight of God. Thus elsewhere they made use of the lot, 1 Samuel 14:41, 42; Jonah 1:7; Acts 1:26 (Masius). Now, the casting of lots is ascribed to God, because the lot falls correctly at His will. See Proverbs 16:33. The process is by steps, from tribes to families, etc., 1. for the sake of avoiding confusion; 2. for the sake of avoiding fraud: For who would not suppose that the individual Tribes had a known number of their families and had a knowledge of the names; and thus the families of their households, and the households of their individuals? Now, in such a multitude hardly any vessel would be able to contain the names of the individuals, and anyone was easily able to give no name, or another name, instead of his own (Masius). Moreover, in the place of the whole tribe were present φύλαρχοι or tribunes, in the place of a family δήμαρχοι or heads of families, in the place of households fathers of households. Finally, with the household brought forward, all and each came into the midst (Masius, Menochius). 3. So that the guilty, while he sees that he is continually sought be God, 1. in his tribe, 2. in his family, 3. in his household, might of his own accord give himself up as a suppliant, before being revealed by the lot, and might beg forgiveness; for which even at that point there was clearly a place (Masius). And his stubbornness was extreme, because he waited for the judgment of God to be made concerning him by name. It was similar in the case of Judas, Matthew 26. But Satan has a thousand ways by which he hardens the minds of men, so that it might not be possible for them to repent of their sins. For example, 1. Achan was able to think that compliance was not to be yielded to that new edict concerning the anathema as contrary to the will of God, Deuteronomy 20:14, thou shalt take the spoils for thyself. 2. Or, he thought that many others were guilty, and that they were sought by the lot, not him. 3. Or, a fear of infamy, or vainglorious ostentation, moved him (Masius). Question: How did it happen that, with so severe a sentence given, Achan did not then give himself to flight? Responses: 1. There were the camps, and those surrounded on every side guards and watches, and all now full of suspicion. 2. Perhaps he though his deed hidden from God, like those in Job 22:13. 3. He was suspicious of the Prince, as if he feigned that the lot was prescribed by God. 4. There was a remarkable thoughtlessness and stupor in him, of which sort we often observe in murderers. 5. He willed to take exception against the mode of inquisition, as false, especially when the life or reputation of a man is treated (Serarius). And therefore the ancient Jews say that the tribe of Judah took up arms over this matter, and did not put them down until the confession of Achan (Masius). 6. Perhaps he, repenting of the deed, stayed to await judgment from God (Bonfrerius).

Which the Lord taketh; which shall be discovered or declared guilty by the lot, which is disposed by the Lord, Proverbs 16:33, and which was to be cast in the Lord’s presence before the ark. Of such use of lots, see 1 Samuel 14:41, 42; Jonah 1:7; Acts 1:26.

[1] Hebrew: וְנִקְרַבְתֶּ֥ם בַּבֹּ֖קֶר לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶ֑ם וְהָיָ֡ה הַשֵּׁבֶט֩ אֲשֶׁר־יִלְכְּדֶ֙נּוּ יְהוָ֜ה יִקְרַ֣ב לַמִּשְׁפָּח֗וֹת וְהַמִּשְׁפָּחָ֞ה אֲשֶֽׁר־יִלְכְּדֶ֤נָּה יְהוָה֙ תִּקְרַ֣ב לַבָּתִּ֔ים וְהַבַּ֙יִת֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִלְכְּדֶ֣נּוּ יְהוָ֔ה יִקְרַ֖ב לַגְּבָרִֽים׃

[2] Hebrew: לְשִׁבְטֵיכֶם.

[3] Hebrew: אֲשֶׁר־יִלְכְּדֶ֙נּוּ יְהוָ֜ה.

[4] Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus was one of the greatest rabbis of the first and second centuries of the Christian era, and was a member of the Sanhedrin at Jamnia.  His work is marked by great commitment to the Scriptures and strict adherence to the traditional teaching of the rabbis that preceded him. Pirke de-Rabbi Elizer is an aggadic retelling of Biblical stories; although its compositional history is complex, it is traditionally ascribed to Rabbi Eliezer.

1 thought on “Joshua 7:14: The Lot Prescribed for the Discovery of the Sin, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: “God directs Joshua in what method to make this enquiry and prosecution. 1. He must sanctify the people, now overnight, that is, as it is explained, he must command them to sanctify themselves, Joshua 7:13. And what can either magistrates or ministers do more towards sanctification? They must put themselves into a suitable frame to appear before God and submit to the divine scrutiny, must examine themselves, now that God was coming to examine them, must prepare to meet their God. They were called to sanctify themselves when they were to receive the divine law (Exodus 19), and now also when they were to come under the divine judgment; for in both God is to be attended with the utmost reverence. ‘There is an accursed thing in the midst of you, and therefore sanctify yourselves,’ that is, Let all that are innocent be able to clear themselves, and be the more careful to cleanse themselves. The sin of others may be improved by us as furtherances of our sanctification, as the scandal of the incestuous Corinthian occasioned a blessed reformation in that church, 2 Corinthians 7:11. 2. He must bring them all under the scrutiny of the lot (Joshua 7:14); the tribe which the guilty person was of should first be discovered by lot, then the family, then the household, and last of all the person. The conviction came upon him thus gradually that he might have some space given him to come in and surrender himself; for God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. Observe, The Lord is said to take the tribe, and family, and household, on which the lot fell, because the disposal of the lot is of the Lord, and, however casual it seems, is under the direction of infinite wisdom and justice; and to show that when the sin of sinners finds them out God is to be acknowledged in it; it is he that seizes them, and the arrests are in his name. God hath found out the iniquity of thy servants, Genesis 44:16. It is also intimated with what a certain and unerring judgment the righteous God does and will distinguish between the innocent and the guilty, so that though for a time they seem involved in the same condemnation, as the whole tribe did when it was first taken by the lot, yet he who has his fan in his hand will effectually provide for the taking out of the precious from the vile; so that though the righteous be of the same tribe, and family, and household, with the wicked, yet they shall never be treated as the wicked, Genesis 18:25.”

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