Joshua 7:21: Achan’s Confession, Part 3

Verse 21:[1] When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge (Heb. tongue[2]) of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.

When I saw, etc.: He accurately describes the progress of his sin, which began at his eye, which he permitted to gaze and fix upon them, which inflamed his desire, and made him covet them; and that desire put him upon action, and made him take them; and having taken, resolve to keep them, and to that end hide them in his tent.

[A scarlet pallium,[3] אַדֶּ֣רֶת שִׁנְעָר֩] Question: What is this? Of Shinar is Babylonian, says Malvenda; Shinar was near Babylon, says Bochart in Sacred Geography 1:5. [See our collectanea on Genesis 10:10; 11:2, 9; and almost all translate שִׁנְעָר, of Shinar, here as Babylonian.] Now, they translate אַדֶּרֶת,[4] pallium (Arabic, Pagnine, Montanus, Drusius), chlamys[5] (Vatablus, Tigurinus), stola[6] (Jonathan, Vatablus, Aquila in Masius), toga (Junius and Tremellius), paludamentum:[7] now, this belonged to nobles; Juvenal’s Satires 6, and with generals wearing the paludamentum, etc., and Jonah 3:6, the king took off אַדַּרְתּוֹ, his robes, so that he might put on sackcloth (Masius). אַדֶּרֶת, if the origin of the word be regarded, signifies either a tapestry, or a magnificent garment, which wins glory for him that makes use of it (Masius, Bonfrerius). Now, it is evident that Babylonian garments were prized. Plutarch relates that Marcus Cato,[8] when he had received by inheritance an embroidered Babylonian garment, immediately sold it[9] (Masius). Plautus[10] makes mention of Babylonian Coverings in Stichus. In Aristides’[11] “Regarding Rome” you find Babylonian garments (Bonfrerius). Lucretius,[12] On the Nature of Things[13] 4: When the Babylonian garments, in magnificent splendor, are drenched. See also Pliny’s Natural History 8:48 (Malvenda). Moreover, some maintain that these garments were purple or scarlet-dyed (for it is certain that these are taken promiscuously) (thus Rabbi Haninah[14] and Jerome in Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Phaleg”, thus the Vulgate). But I think that the discovery of the Babylonian purple was recent, while the ancient Babylonians sought purple from Tyre and from Hermione.[15] [Others otherwise:] The Greeks render it correctly, στολὴν ποικίλην, a stola various, that is, variegated and interwoven with diverse colors of embroidery, the invention of which weaving is owed to the Babylonians (Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Phaleg” 1:6:33). These garments were artistically woven with diverse colors, which might render whatever things and likenesses of faces. Pliny, in Natural History 8:48, says, Babylon was especially celebrated for their interweaving of diverse colors into a picture. Apuleius, Florida[16] 1: He had as a girdle a belt, which sort is variegated in striking colors with Babylonian embroidery. Martial, Epigrams 8:28: I would not prefer Babylonian garments proudly embroidered. Petronius, Satyricon:[17] clothed with plumed Babylonian gold. And Josephus, Jewish Wars 7:17 (7:24 in Latin): other garments, varied with a most meticulous embroidery, after the Babylonian art (Bonfrerius). Babylonian men are described in Ezekiel 23:15 as luxuriating in dyed (supply, head-dresses, or turbans), that is, of different colors, upon their heads.[18] And those that set forth purple here, I think to have take it of purple interwoven with various colors: concerning which Æneid 7, …neither does embroidered purple please the King (Bochart’s Sacred Geography “Phaleg” 1:5:34).

Babylonish garments were composed with great art with divers colours, and of great price, as appears both from Scripture, Ezekiel 23:15, and from divers heathen authors. [See my Latin Synopsis.]

[Two hundred shekels] That is, a hundred ounces; for the shekel was a half-ounce in weight[19] (Bonfrerius, Masius). In the place of shekels Symmachus and frequently Aquila have στατῆρας/staters.[20] Two hundred shekels are one hundred Germanic thalers[21] (Masius). Now, I do not understand this of shekel coins (which it is not evident were at that time), but of shekels paid out by weight; for at that time all things were wont to be bought, paid, and valued by weights (Bonfrerius).

Two hundred shekels, to wit, in weight, not in coin; for as yet they received and paid money by weight.

[A golden bar, וּלְשׁ֙וֹן זָהָ֤ב] A tongue of gold (Montanus, Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Drusius, Masius); a strip (Arabic, Junius and Tremellius, Drusius); a sheet (Vatablus, Kimchi in Masius); of gold shaped into the figure of a tongue (Kimchi in Masius). It was a hunk of unformed gold (Masius, Josephus’ Jewish Antiquities 5). The Latins call it laterem, a brick/ingot (Junius). It appears that the broad clasp of a toga or pallium is called a tongue metaphorically, because of the similarity of shape (Piscator).

[Of fifty shekels] It is able to be understood, either, of the shekel coin, and thus it would be worth twenty-five thalers; or (which I prefer), of the weight of the shekel, and thus it would be worth three hundred thalers (Masius).

[I buried it in the earth] Hebrew: under it,[22] namely, the earth.[23] Thus the Vulgate understands it (Malvenda).

[תַּחְתֶּיהָ] Under it (Pagnine, Montanus, Vatablus), namely, the pallium (Vatablus, Drusius, similarly Masius, Junius and Tremellius). For אַדֶּרֶת/ garment has a feminine form (Drusius). Others: under those (Septuagint, Jonathan, Arabic, Munster, Tigurinus). Who would not conclude that the golden tongue was hidden even in the bottom (Masius)?

Under it, that is, under the Babylonish garment; covered with it, or wrapt up in it.

[1] Hebrew: וָאֶ֣רְאֶה בַשָּׁלָ֡ל אַדֶּ֣רֶת שִׁנְעָר֩ אַחַ֙ת טוֹבָ֜ה וּמָאתַ֧יִם שְׁקָלִ֣ים כֶּ֗סֶף וּלְשׁ֙וֹן זָהָ֤ב אֶחָד֙ חֲמִשִּׁ֤ים שְׁקָלִים֙ מִשְׁקָל֔וֹ וָֽאֶחְמְדֵ֖ם וָֽאֶקָּחֵ֑ם וְהִנָּ֙ם טְמוּנִ֥ים בָּאָ֛רֶץ בְּת֥וֹךְ הָאָֽהֳלִ֖י וְהַכֶּ֥סֶף תַּחְתֶּֽיהָ׃

[2] Hebrew: וּלְשׁוֹן.

[3] A pallium is a large, rectangular cloak.

[4] אַדֶּרֶת signifies glory or cloak; it appears to be related to the verbal root אָדַר, to be great or wide.

[5] A chlamys was a short cloak, worn by Grecian men.

[6] A stola was a long, outer garment.

[7] A paludamentum was a military cloak.

[8] Cato the Elder, or Marcus Porcius Cato (234-149 BC), was a Roman senator and statesman, and the first to right history in Latin.

[9] In Vita Catonis 4.

[10] Titus Maccius Plautus (254-184 BC) was a Roman playwright.  Only twenty-one of his nearly one hundred and thirty comedies survive.

[11] Publius Ælius Aristides Theodorus (117-181) was a second century Greek rhetorician.

[12] Titus Lucretius Carus (c. 99-c. 55 BC) was a Roman poet and Epicurean philosopher.  He was a proponent of a materialistic atomism, and thus a critic of religions.

[13] De Rerum Natura.

[14] Rabbi Haninah ben Teradion (second century) was a Tenna, and one of the Ten Martyrs, killed for ignoring the Roman ban on the teaching of the Torah.

[15] Hermione was a port town on the east coast of the Greek Peloponnese.  It was famous for its shipbuilders and for its porphyra (a reddish-purple dye).

[16] Apuleius’ (c. 125-c. 180) was a Latin-language, prose author. Florida contains portions of Apuleius’ speeches; and his novel, Metamorphoses, or The Golden Ass, is the only Latin novel from this period that has survived in its entirety.

[17] Gaius Petronius Arbiter (c. 27-66) was a Roman courtier during the reign of Nero, and is believed to be the author of Satyricon, a satirical novel of that period.

[18] Ezekiel 23:15:  “Girded with girdles upon their loins, exceeding in dyed attire upon their heads (סְרוּחֵ֤י טְבוּלִים֙ בְּרָ֣אשֵׁיהֶ֔ם), all of them princes to look to, after the manner of the Babylonians of Chaldea, the land of their nativity…”

[19] It appears that there was somewhat more than six pounds of silver.

[20] The weight of the stater would vary from place to place, but the average ranges from a quarter- to a half-ounce.

[21] Again, the weight of the thaler would vary from place to place, but the average ranges from a half to two-thirds of an ounce.

[22] Hebrew: תַּחְתֶּיהָ.

[23] אֶרֶץ/earth is feminine.

2 thoughts on “Joshua 7:21: Achan’s Confession, Part 3

  1. Matthew Henry: “[Achan’s] confession, which now at last, when he saw it was to no purpose to conceal his crime, was free and ingenuous enough, Joshua 7:20-21. Here is, 1. A penitent acknowledgment of fault. ‘Indeed I have sinned; what I am charged with is too true to be denied and too bad to be excused. I own it, I lament it; the Lord is righteous in bringing it to light, for indeed I have sinned.’ This is the language of a penitent that is sick of his, and whose conscience is loaded with it. ‘I have nothing to accuse any one else of, but a great deal to say against myself; it is with me that the accursed thing is found; I am the man who has perverted that which was right and it profited me not.’ And that wherewith he aggravates the sin is that it was committed against the Lord God of Israel. He was himself an Israelite, a sharer with the rest of that exalted nation in their privileges, so that, in offending the God of Israel, he offended his own God, which laid him under the guilt of the basest treachery and ingratitude imaginable. 2. A particular narrative of the fact: Thus and thus have I done. God had told Joshua in general that a part of the devoted things was alienated, but is to him to draw from Achan an account of the particulars; for, one way or other, God will make sinners’ own tongues to fall upon them (Psalm 64:8); if ever he bring them to repentance, they will be their own accusers, and their awakened consciences will be instead of a thousand witnesses. Note, It becomes penitents, in the confession of their sins to God, to be very particular; not only, ‘I have sinned,’ but, ‘In this and that instance I have sinned,’ reflecting with regret upon all the steps that led to the sin and all the circumstances that aggravated it and made it exceedingly sinful: thus and thus have I done. He confesses, (1.) To the things taken. In plundering a house in Jericho he found a goodly Babylonish garment; the word signifies a robe, such as princes wore when they appeared in state, probably it belonged to the King of Jericho; it was far fetched, as we translate it, from Babylon. A garment of divers colours, so some render it. Whatever it was, in his eyes it made a very glorious show. ‘A thousand pities’ (thinks Achan) ‘that it should be burnt; then it will do nobody any good; if I take it for myself, it will serve me many a year for my best garment.’ Under these pretences, he makes bold with this first, and thinks it no harm to save it from the fire; but, his hand being thus in, he proceeds to take a bag of money, two hundred shekels, that is one hundred ounces of silver, and a wedge of gold which weighed fifty shekels, that is twenty-five ounces. He could not plead that, in taking these, he saved them from the fire (for the silver and gold were to be laid up in the treasury); but those that make a slight excuse to serve in daring to commit one sin will have their hearts so hardened by it that they will venture upon the next without such an excuse; for the way of sin is downhill. See what a poor prize it was for which Achan ran this desperate hazard, and what an unspeakable loser he was by the bargain. See Matthew 16:26. (2.) He confesses the manner of taking them. [1.] the sin began in the eye. He saw these fine things, as Eve saw the forbidden fruit, and was strangely charmed with the sight. See what comes of suffering the heart to walk after the eyes, and what need we have to make this covenant with our eyes, that if they wander they shall be sure to weep for it. Look not thou upon the wine that is red, upon the woman that is fair; close the right eye that thus offense thee, to prevent the necessity of plucking it out, and casting it from thee, Matthew 5:28, 29. [2.] It proceeded out of the heart. He owns, I coveted them. Thus lust conceived and brought forth this sin. Those that would be kept from sinful actions must mortify and check in themselves sinful desires, particularly the desire of worldly wealth, which we more particularly call covetousness. O what a world of evil is the love of money the root of! Had Achan looked upon these things with an eye of faith, he would have seen them accursed things, and would have dreaded them, but, looking upon them with an eye of sense only, he saw them goodly things, and coveted them. It was not the looking, but the lusting that ruined him. [3.] When he had committed it he was very industrious to conceal it. Having taken of the forbidden treasures, fearing lest any search should be made for prohibited goods, he hid them in the earth, as one that resolved to keep what he had gotten, and never to make restitution. Thus does Achan confess the whole matter, that God might be justified in the sentence passed upon him. See the deceitfulness of sin; that which is pleasing in the commission is bitter in the reflection; at the last it bites like a serpent. Particularly, see what comes of ill-gotten goods, and how those will be cheated that rob God. Job 20:15, He hath swallowed down riches, and he shall vomit them up again.”

  2. Westminster Confession of Faith “Of Repentance unto Life”: 15:5: “Men ought not to content themselves with a general repentance, but it is every man’s duty to endeavour to repent of his particular sins particularly.”

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