Joshua 5:1: The Trembling of God’s Enemies

Verse 1:[1] And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, (Num. 13:29) which were by the sea, (Ex. 15:14, 15; Josh. 2:9-11; Ps. 48:6; Ezek. 21:7) heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, (1 Kings 10:5) neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.

[The kings of the Amorites] We heard that they had previously melted for fear, Joshua 2:11, and were overwhelmed with Divine terror; yet we saw no one stationing forces at Jordan against the crossing enemies (Masius). Although this was nevertheless customary to be done by enemies, to oppose armed men at a river. This is observed by Cæsar,[2] Livy,[3] and Vegetius Military Institutions[4] 3:7. Question: For what reason? Responses: 1. Too great security: Because the Israelites appeared to come to a standstill for so many days in the plains of Moab, they persuaded themselves that they did not will to proceed further; indeed, that they were not able, because Jordan impeded them, especially at this time of the harvest, when it is wont to flood (Serarius). They were melting and dissolving with such effeminacy that in the contemplation of any danger they were not able easily to be recalled unto manly deeds; or rather, in the stupor of mind blinded by vice, they did not perceive the dangers, although close at hand (Masius). 2. An immoderate fear carried away their prudence and spirit (Serarius). 3. God for the present restrained all motions and efforts, while they, somewhat used to living in an unknown region, and encouraged by victory over one city, dared to bear the sight of the enemy (Masius). Moreover, the seven Canaanite nations were called by two names here, Amorites and Canaanites (Masius, Lapide). The Amorites and Canaanites were the principal of those nations; with which dismayed the rest would be even more dismayed (Drusius). Whoever are less removed from Jordan are now called Amorites; but those that are closer to the sea are called Canaanites (Masius, Lapide). The Amorites are twofold, Eastern, on this side of Jordan, whom Moses conquered; and Western, on the other side of Jordan, of whom Joshua was afraid, Joshua 7:7 (Drusius out of Ibn Ezra). The name of the Amorites is here taken broadly, so that it might comprehend the Hivites, Jebusites, etc. (Bonfrerius).

[On the other side of Jordan[5]] Comparatively, with respect to those regions from which they had moved away: Otherwise by the expression of Scripture, on the other side of Jordan, are designated those regions that are to the East of Jordan (Bonfrerius). Others: in the passage of Jordan, that is, that were dwelling in those place that were beyond Jordan, crossed over by the Hebrews. Others: to the side of Jordan. Thus they wish for עֵבֶר to be taken in Exodus 25:37[6] (Malvenda).

[And the kings of Canaan] The kings of Phœnicia (Septuagint). Therefore, they thought that Phœnicia and Canaan were the same (Drusius). The Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:22 is called a Syro-phœnician in Mark 7:26 (Masius). For trade and navigation, and for ingenuity in those, the Canaanites are celebrated in Sacred Scripture, Proverbs 31:24;[7] Isaiah 23:8;[8] Hosea 12:7.[9] Likewise are the Phœnicians celebrated in Homer’s Odyssey 15 because of the harbor-rich sea on which they dwell (Masius). Again, as the Canaanites are precisely the inhabitants of the sea north of the Palestinians, yet sometimes they comprehend the Palestinians, as in this place and in Genesis 10. Thus they are Phœnicians to the Greeks. Sometimes the Greeks extend Phœnicia all the way to Egypt. Hence Dionysius Afer[10] locates Gaza in Phœnicia, but Moses in Canaan. And this also was written by Strabo, Geography 16. It is, therefore, the same nation (Masius). And, that certainly Tyre and Sidon, which were Phœnician metropolises, formerly pertained to Canaan, all acknowledge, even if the Hebrews on account of their idleness never got possession of them (Lapide). The lords of the almost individual cities were called Kings, who (while modesty was not yet driven from the world) were reigning over their own domains content. Soon Kings, not only of cities, but of regions, and finally of provinces also, etc., began to be appointed, while the immense lust for power brought the empire to foreigners (Masius).

[Their heart melted, and spirit did not remain] Heart is that part of the soul in which fortitude and courage are placed: but Spirit, that is, רוּחַ, is that power of soul by which we understand, and consider what is to be done, and what is to be left undone. When fortitude falters through fear, it is also necessary that the faculty of understanding be disturbed (Masius). There was no prudence in them (Septuagint). In this manner they were demoralized, as if life and spirit had failed them (Lapide).

[וַיִּמַּס וגו״] It melted: that is, their spirit began to grow slack. Neither was there spirit, etc., that is, they began to be altogether destitute of spirit (Vatablus). Thus the meanness of the Israelites, if I may so speak, God made formidable to the loftiest dignity of others (Masius). He does this lest they should dare anything against the Israelites, who were soon to be circumcised, and so that they might be the more easily conquered (Bonfrerius).

[Fearing the invasion of the sons of Israel, מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃] [They render it variously.] From the face of (Septuagint, Jonathan, Pagnine); on account of the presence of (Munster); because of (Syriac); for fear of (Arabic, Tigurinus, Targum Jerusalem) the sons of Israel (almost all interpreters).

The Amorites and the Canaanites are mentioned for all the rest, as being the chief of them for number, and power, and courage. Westward: this is added to distinguish them from the other Amorites, eastward from Jordan, whom Moses had subdued. All the kings of the Canaanites; so the proper place of this nation was on both sides of Jordan. By the sea; the midland sea, all along the coast of it, which was the chief seat of that people, though divers colonies of them were come into and settled in other places. Jordan was their bulwark on the east side, where the Israelites were; for it is very probable they had taken away all bridges near those parts; and the Israelites having been so long in that neighbouring country, and yet not making any attempt upon them, they were grown secure; especially now, when Jordan swelled beyond its ordinary bounds; and therefore they did not endeavour to hinder their passage. Their heart melted; they lost all their courage, and durst attempt nothing upon the Israelites; not without God’s special providence, that the Israelites might quietly participate of the two great sacraments of their church, circumcision and the passover, and thereby be prepared for their high and hard work, and for the possession of the holy and promised land, which would have been defiled by an uncircumcised people.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֣י כִשְׁמֹ֣עַ כָּל־מַלְכֵ֣י הָאֱמֹרִ֡י אֲשֶׁר֩ בְּעֵ֙בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֜ן יָ֗מָּה וְכָל־מַלְכֵ֤י הַֽכְּנַעֲנִי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עַל־הַיָּ֔ם אֵ֠ת אֲשֶׁר־הוֹבִ֙ישׁ יְהוָ֜ה אֶת־מֵ֧י הַיַּרְדֵּ֛ן מִפְּנֵ֥י בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל עַד־עָבְרָ֑נוּ וַיִּמַּ֣ס לְבָבָ֗ם וְלֹא־הָ֙יָה בָ֥ם עוֹד֙ ר֔וּחַ מִפְּנֵ֖י בְּנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

[2] The Gallic Wars 1.

[3] For example, History of Rome 21:5.  Titus Livius’ (c. 59 BC-17 AD) history of Rome, Ab Urbe Condita, chronicles events from Rome’s founding to the time of Augustus.

[4] Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus was a writer of the late Roman Empire (late fourth century).  He wrote Epitoma Rei Militaris, and Digesta Artis Mulomedicinæ on veterinary medicine.

[5] Hebrew: אֲשֶׁר֩ בְּעֵ֙בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֜ן יָ֗מָּה.

[6] Exodus 25:37:  “And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof:  and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it (עַל־עֵ֥בֶר פָּנֶֽיהָ׃).”

[7] Proverbs 31:24:  “She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant (לַכְּנַעֲנִי, to the Canaanite).”

[8] Isaiah 23:8:  “Who hath taken this counsel against Tyre, the crowning city, whose merchants are princes, whose traffickers (כִּנְעָנֶיהָ/Canaanites) are the honourable of the earth?”

[9] Hosea 12:7:  “He is a merchant (כְּנַעַן/Canaan), the balances of deceit are in his hand:  he loveth to oppress.”

[10] Dionysius Periegetes (Dionysius of the Description) wrote a description of the inhabited world.  This description was written in Greek verse, probably in the second century.