Joshua 7:7: Joshua’s Complaint, Part 2

Verse 7:[1] And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, (Ex. 5:22; 2 Kings 3:10) wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan!

[Alas! אֲהָהּ] Alas! (Masius). An interjection of sorrow and entreaty (Drusius out of Masius). Δέομαι, I implore (Septuagint). Receive my prayer (Chaldean in Masius).

[Lord God, אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֗ה] With a twofold name he addresses Him. יְהוִה/ JEHOVAH denotes the essence of God;[2] אֲדֹנָי/ADONAI denotes rule, and it certainly is suited to Christ, through whom God the Father, as He made the world, so also He governs it, Hebrews 1:2, 3. Thus also, at least in words, the Hebrew Kabbalists:[3] That name ADONAI is like a key by which an approach is opened to Jehovah God, that is, to God hidden in His essence; There is a treasure in which those things that are bestowed upon us by JEHOVAH are all stored away; Moreover, there is that great Steward that dispenses all things, nourishes, and invigorates through Jehovah; Finally, no one is able to penetrate to Jehovah except through Adonai; and therefore the Church thus enters upon her prayers, ADONAI, that is, LORD, OPEN THOU MY LIPS, etc. These things are found in Gate of Light,[4] and in a book called שֵׁם הַמְפוֹרָשׁ, The Explicit Name (Masius).

[Why hast thou willed to bring across?] The Talmudists[5] and not a few of our men maintain that Joshua makes his complaint with God, and breaks forth in an impious vow of remaining outside the Holy Land. But the very fury of the words, which would have been monstrous if it be thus taken, moves me to take it otherwise. Who would believe that this most divine man with these most unworthy words would quarrel with God? or would think that God could not destroy those remaining beyond Jordan? or on account of this little defeat would reject such and so great promises? Therefore, it is not to be supposed that he spoke these words out of mind of the same sort as those in Numbers 14 (although prima facie the speech might appear the same). For he, not at all despairing of the power and mercy of God, casts himself at His feet; while those take counsel, with God rejected, to flee to Egypt. The thought of Joshua is this: In an oblique manner through questioning by contraries he sets before God’s eyes His own promises; for it follows, would that we had been content, etc., that is to say, If those thy promises be in vain because of our sins, it would have been better for us to have remained on the other side of Jordan: For it will not well agree with Thy Name (Masius).

[That thou mightest deliver us] It is to be taken either permissively, that thou mightest allow us to fall into their hands; or consecutively, that is to say, because thou hast led us across Jordan, behold, now it happens that we are slaughtered by them (Serarius).

[Would that, as we began, we had remained, וְלוּ֙ הוֹאַ֣לְנוּ וַנֵּ֔שֶׁב[6]] Would that we had begun (we had restrained ourselves [Arabic]), and had remained (Montanus). Would that we had willed (we had been content [Masius]), and had remained (Pagnine, Junius). It is a Hebraism (Vatablus), for, would that it had been satisfying, or pleasing, to us to remain (Tigurinus, Munster, Vatablus). Would that we had willed to stay (Junius and Tremellius, Glassius). Two verbs coupled by a conjunction are used among the Hebrews just like a verb with an infinitive among the Latins (Glassius’ “Grammar” 334). The Chaldean has שְׁרָא, which is ambiguous, for it signifies both to begin, and to delay (Masius).

And Joshua said, Alas, etc.: These clauses, though well intended, and offered to God only by way of expostulation and argument, yet do savour of human infirmity, and fall short of that reverence, and modesty, and submission which he owed to God; and are mentioned as instances that the holy men of God were subject to like passions and infirmities with other men.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר יְהוֹשֻׁ֜עַ אֲהָ֣הּ׀ אֲדֹנָ֣י יְהוִ֗ה לָ֠מָה הֵעֲבַ֙רְתָּ הַעֲבִ֜יר אֶת־הָעָ֤ם הַזֶּה֙ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֔ן לָתֵ֥ת אֹתָ֛נוּ בְּיַ֥ד הָאֱמֹרִ֖י לְהַאֲבִידֵ֑נוּ וְלוּ֙ הוֹאַ֣לְנוּ וַנֵּ֔שֶׁב בְּעֵ֖בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃

[2] The name Jehovah, יְהוָה, is derived from the verb of being, הָיָה.  See Exodus 3:14:  “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM (אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֶֽהְיֶ֑ה):  and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM (אֶהְיֶה) hath sent me unto you.”

[3] The Kabbalah is a set of secret, esoteric Rabbinic doctrines, handed down orally and based on a mystical interpretation of the Hebrew Scripture.

[4] Joseph ben Abraham Gikatilla (1248-died after 1305) was a Spanish Kabbalist and student of Abraham Abulafia. Sha’are Orah, Gate of Light, is Gikatilla’s most influential work.  In it he discusses the names of God.

[5] See Tractate Sanhedrin 6:2.

[6] יָאַל, in the Hiphil, can signify to undertake, or to will.

Joshua 7:4, 5: The Defeat at Ai

Verse 4:[1] So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: (Lev. 26:17; Deut. 28:25) and they fled before the men of Ai.

[Three thousand] He prudently chooses the greater of the two proposed numbers, evidently judging that the enemy was not to be despised. Now, that men of exceptional fortitude were selected for this expedition, is indicated by the word אִישׁ/man,[2] and by Josephus in his Jewish Antiquities 5. Otherwise the blame would have been assigned unto their idleness, and the affront to God would not be attended to, which was needful (Masius).

[Before the men of Ai, לִפְנֵי] The Septuagint not at all absurdly renders it from the face of the men of Ai, as if this was set down in the place of מִפְנֵי or מִלִּפְנֵי, from before the face of: For it is likely that they did not endure even the sight of the enemy, when, none of them in the fight, but several were smitten in flight (Masius).

They fled before the men of Ai: Not having their usual courage to strike a stroke, which was a plain evidence that God had forsaken them; and a useful instruction, to show them what weak and inconsiderable creatures they were when God left them; and that it was God, not their own valour, that gave the Canaanites and their land into their hands.


Verse 5:[3] And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down (or, in Morad[4]): wherefore (Josh. 2:9, 11; Lev. 26:36; Ps. 22:14) the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.

[They smote] The sloping and descending way from Ai to Jericho made the fleeing Israelites more liable to injury (Masius). But see, I pray, that all things turn out happily for those that love God, unhappily for those that hate Him. This splendid, as it seems, victory will shortly occasion their destruction; but the Israelites flight will bestow upon them an illustrious victory (Masius).

About thirty and six men; a dear victory to them, whereby Israel was awakened, and reformed, and reconciled to their God and Shield, and they hardened to their own ruin.

[They pursued them from the gate, לִפְנֵ֤י הַשַּׁ֙עַר֙] Toward the faces of the gate[5] (Montanus); before the gate (Jonathan); from the place which was before the gate (Junius and Tremellius); from the gate (Arabic); from before the gate (Masius out of Kimchi). לִפְנֵי/before is in the place of מִלִּפְנֵי, from before; that is, since they had advanced all the way to the gate in order to attack the city, there they were put to flight by the townspeople sallying forth (Masius).

[Unto Shebarim, עַד־הַשְּׁבָרִים[6]] Unto Shebarim (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Masius). The place is so called from the breaking of the army of the Israelites; for שָׁבַר signifies to break (Bonfrerius, Masius). To others the name is appellative; and they translate it, unto the breakings (Montanus), until they shattered them (Jonathan, thus the Septuagint in Masius). Perhaps they read, עַד הִשְׁבִּירוּם, until they broke, or crushed, them (Masius). But who would call an army of three thousand crushed because of thirty-six men struck down (Bonfrerius)? Until they were routed (Syriac); unto the place of routing (Arabic). I would rather translate it, unto the pass, as if the name came to the place from the mountain broken there, etc. (Malvenda).

[Fleeing by the descents, וַיַּכּ֖וּם בַּמּוֹרָ֑ד[7]] And they smote them in the descent (Montanus), on the sloping (Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus), understanding, place (Vatablus).

In the going down; by which it seems it was a downhill way to Jericho, which was nearer Jordan.

[It was melted after the likeness of water,וַיְהִ֥י לְמָֽיִם׃ ] And it was unto water (Montanus, Jonathan); that is, as if water (Drusius, Arabic, Syriac). Thus, they shall be unto one flesh, in the place of, as if one flesh[8] (Drusius). To such an extent that it was changed into water (Junius and Tremellius), that is, that it might flow/ melt away like water (Junius). Just like melted ice, which being resolved into water is not able to hold a place (Bonfrerius). Their heart was loosened, trembling, and weak like water (Lapide). They were in an incredibly low frame (Vatablus). As the soul, while it supports itself upon hope, is said to be firm and constant; so, having been cast down from this, it appears soft, fluid, and wavering this way and that. But what is the reason for such perturbation? It is not remarkable that three thousand men were routed by a numerous garrison. But, since they were depending upon the help of God alone, not upon their own strength, they tremble with good reason, since God now appears to stand with their enemies (Masius).

As water, soft and weak, and full of fluctuation and trembling.

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּעֲל֤וּ מִן־הָעָם֙ שָׁ֔מָּה כִּשְׁלֹ֥שֶׁת אֲלָפִ֖ים אִ֑ישׁ וַיָּנֻ֕סוּ לִפְנֵ֖י אַנְשֵׁ֥י הָעָֽי׃

[2] אִישׁ/man can convey a sense of fortitude and valor.  See 1 Samuel 4:9; 1 Kings 2:2.

[3] Hebrew: וַיַּכּ֙וּ מֵהֶ֜ם אַנְשֵׁ֣י הָעַ֗י כִּשְׁלֹשִׁ֤ים וְשִׁשָּׁה֙ אִ֔ישׁ וַֽיִּרְדְּפ֞וּם לִפְנֵ֤י הַשַּׁ֙עַר֙ עַד־הַשְּׁבָרִ֔ים וַיַּכּ֖וּם בַּמּוֹרָ֑ד וַיִּמַּ֥ס לְבַב־הָעָ֖ם וַיְהִ֥י לְמָֽיִם׃

[4] Hebrew: בַּמּוֹרָד.

[5] A woodenly literalistic reading.

[6] שְׁבָרִים/Shebarim is related to שֶׁבֶר/breaking/fracture.

[7] מוֹרָד is related to the verbal root יָרַד, to go down.

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

Joshua 7 Outline

Achan takes of the accursed and devoted thing: God is angry with Israel, 1. Joshua sends three thousand men against Ai; they flee, and thirty-six are slain, 2-5. Joshua complains to God; who discovers the cause, and enjoins a lot, 6-15. Achan is found guilty: Joshua’s advice, and his confession, 16-21. He and his are stoned and burnt: the place named The valley of Achor, 22-26.