Joshua 7:8, 9: Joshua’s Complaint, Part 3

Verse 8:[1] O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs (Heb. necks[2]) before their enemies!

[My Lord, בִּ֖י אֲדֹנָ֑י[3]] I beg, or I entreat, O Lord (Jonathan, Arabic, Munster). On me, O Lord (Septuagint, Montanus, Masius), that is, have regard (Lapide, Menochius). Attend to me, etc. (Junius and Tremellius).

[What shall I say?] What shall I think (Masius, Serarius, Menochius)? Thus to say is taken elsewhere[4] (Masius). Saying is both of the soul, which is thinking, and of the mouth (Serarius). What counsel shall I take (Masius)? This oration of Joshua is shortened and imperfect, and interrupted by the speedy response of God, who, being kind, breaks in and answers in the midst of the prayers themselves (Masius). Others: What shall I answer to those that want to detract from thy Name, that is, to pursuing enemies (Vatablus)? But the following orations manifestly refutes this sense (Masius).

What shall I say, in answer to the reproaches cast by our insulting enemies upon us, and upon thy name? Israel; God’s own people, which he hath singled out of all nations for his own peculiar.


Verse 9:[5] For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and (Ps. 83:4) cut off our name from the earth: and (see Ex. 32:12; Num. 14:13) what wilt thou do unto thy great name?

[The Canaanites] The same here as the Amorites in verse 7 (Masius).

[Being massed together, they shall surround us] Hebrew: upon the earth they shall come together against us[6] (Masius).

[What wilt thou do, etc.?] Who hast promised to give this region: and the Nations shall say that thou art not able to do this. That is to say, Consider thy Name (Masius).

Thy great name: Which will upon this occasion be blasphemed and charged with inconstancy, unkindness, and unfaithfulness to thine own people, and with inability to resist them, or to do thy people that good thou didst intend them. Compare Exodus 32:12; Numbers 14:13; Deuteronomy 33:27; Joel 2:17.

[1] Hebrew: בִּ֖י אֲדֹנָ֑י מָ֣ה אֹמַ֔ר אַ֠חֲרֵי אֲשֶׁ֙ר הָפַ֧ךְ יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל עֹ֖רֶף לִפְנֵ֥י אֹיְבָֽיו׃

[2] Hebrew: עֹרֶף.

[3] בִּי is a particle of entreaty.

[4] See, for example, Exodus 2:14.

[5] Hebrew: וְיִשְׁמְע֣וּ הַֽכְּנַעֲנִ֗י וְכֹל֙ יֹשְׁבֵ֣י הָאָ֔רֶץ וְנָסַ֣בּוּ עָלֵ֔ינוּ וְהִכְרִ֥יתוּ אֶת־שְׁמֵ֖נוּ מִן־הָאָ֑רֶץ וּמַֽה־תַּעֲשֵׂ֖ה לְשִׁמְךָ֥ הַגָּדֽוֹל׃

[6] Hebrew: הָאָ֔רֶץ וְנָסַ֣בּוּ עָלֵ֔ינוּ.

2 thoughts on “Joshua 7:8, 9: Joshua’s Complaint, Part 3

  1. A precious thought on pleading in prayer from Robert Hawker, “Poor Man’s Portions”: “‘O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies? For the Canaanites, and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?’—Josh 7:8-9

    My soul, learn a most blessed lesson here, such as will be an unanswerable argument for thee at all times, and upon all occasions, to make use of at a mercyseat, and among the strongest pleas in prayer. Israel had sinned, and had fallen before the enemy in consequence of it. Joshua confesseth that all that was come upon Israel was just, and had that been all the event included in Israel’s destruction, it would have been no more than what was right. But God had promised to bring Israel into Canaan; and therefore the honour of God was concerned that this should be accomplished. Now, saith Joshua, if for our sins thou sufferest us to fall before our enemies, what will the nations of the earth say of it? How will the promise be fulfilled, and thy faithfulness and honour be secured? ‘O Lord, what shall I say? What wilt thou do unto thy great name?’ Pause, my soul, and apply the sweet truth. God will magnify his name above all his word. He saith himself, ‘I wrought for my name’s sake, that the land should not be polluted before the heathen, in whose sight they dwelt.’ And the Lord repeats it three times, to the same purpose, in one chapter, Ezekiel 20:9, 14, 22. Now, my soul, under all thy straights and difficulties, do thou adopt the plan of Joshua, and be assured that this is the great argument to ensure success. His name is engaged in and to Jesus, to give him to see the travail of his soul, now he hath made his soul an offering for sin, and to be satisfied. Hence, therefore, the name of Jehovah is pledged to this. ‘Once have I sworn,’ he saith, ‘by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David;’ Psalm 89:35. Every believer in Christ should be for ever pleading this in the blood and righteousness of Jesus. Dost thou want pardon? Ask it for his name’s sake. Dost thou want grace? Here again let the Lord’s name’s sake be the plea. To interest the name of the Lord in every petition, is the sure way to obtain it. To plead duties, or ordinances, or, in short, any thing but Jesus, and God the Father’s covenant engagements to Jesus, is to go off the ground. No reason, or shadow of a reason can be found, but God’s own name, and this engaged in a way of redemption by Jesus, wherefore the Lord should be merciful to pardon and bless a poor sinner. Do not forget this, but for ever plead with the Lord for his name’s sake, and for his glory in Christ; and the event will surely be that Jehovah must work, and, as he hath said himself, have pity for his holy name, ‘that it be not profaned among the heathen:’ and answer thy petition for grace. And Oh! how blessed that scripture in which the Lord sums up and confirms the whole, on this one account: ‘Not for your sakes do I this, saith the Lord God, be it known unto you: be ashamed, and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel;’ Ezekiel 36:22,32.”

  2. Matthew Henry: “He speaks as one quite at a loss concerning the meaning of this event (Joshua 7:8): ‘What shall I say, what construction can I put upon it, when Israel, thy own people, for whom thou hast lately done such great things and to whom thou hast promised the full possession of this land, when they turn their backs before their enemies’ (their necks, so the word is), ‘when they not only flee before them, but fall before them, and become a prey to them? What shall we think of the divine power? Is the Lord’s arm shortened? Of the divine promise? Is his word yea and nay? Of what God has done for us? Shall this be all undone again and prove in vain?’ Note, The methods of Providence are often intricate and perplexing, and such as the wisest and best of men know not what to say to; but they shall know hereafter, John 13:7…. He pleads the danger Israel was now in of being ruined. He gives up all for lost: ‘The Canaanites will environ us round, concluding that now our defence having departed, and the scales being turned in their favour, we shall soon be as contemptible as ever we were formidable, and they will cut off our name from the earth,’ Joshua 7:9. Thus even good men, when things go against them a little, are too apt to fear the worst, and make harder conclusions than there is reason for. But his comes in here as a plea: ‘Lord, let not Israel’s name, which has been so dear to thee and so great in the world, be cut off.’… He pleads the reproach that would be cast on God, and that if Israel were ruined his glory would suffer by it. They will cut off our name, says he, yet, as if he had corrected himself for insisting upon that, it is no great matter (thinks he) what becomes of our little name (the cutting off of that will be a small loss), but what wilt thou do for thy great name? this he looks upon and laments as the great aggravation of the calamity. He feared it would reflect on God, his wisdom and power, his goodness and faithfulness; what would the Egyptians say? Note, Nothing is more grievous to a gracious soul than dishonour done to God’s name. This also he insists upon as a plea for the preventing of his fears and for a return of God’s favour; it is the only word in all his address that has any encouragement in it, and he concludes with it, leaving it to this issue, Father, glorify thy name. The name of God is a great name, above every name; and, whatever happens, we ought to believe that he will, and pray that he would, work for his own name, that this may not be polluted. This should be our concern more than any thing else. On this we must fix our eye as the end of all our desires, and from this we must fetch our encouragement as the foundation of all our hopes. We cannot urge a better plea than this, Lord, What wilt thou do for thy great name? Let God in all be glorified, and then welcome his whole will.”

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