Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Men. Masius and Salien (Haydock) suppose that Josue selected out of them 30,000; 5000 of whom were to be placed in ambush, and the rest were to pretend that they were terrified at the approach of the king of Hai, and to flee with Josue. But the text seems to assert that all accompanied their general, (Calmet) excepting such as were left to guard the camp. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. King. There was this difference, that the king of Hai was to be gibbeted, and his corpse stoned, while the city was to be plundered by the Israelites. — It. This mode of warfare is equally just, as if the enemy was attacked in the open field. Dolus an virtus quis in hoste requirat? (Virgil) — God was pleased to authorize it on this occasion, that his people might be less exposed, being under some apprehensions on account of the former defeat. Some nations have preferred to encounter the enemy openly. (Grotius, Jur. iii. 1, 20.) But their example is no law for others. “When the war is just, it matters not whether a person gain the victory by open fighting or by stratagem.” (St. Augustine, q. 10.) “It is often prudent to conceal the truth.” (contra Mend. x.) People engaged in warfare, allow each other to take such advantages. God could easily have routed these few men by means of the army of Israel, or by a miracle, as he did at Jericho. (Haydock) — But he is at liberty to act as he thinks proper. The ambush was laid on the south-west side of Hai, so that those of Bethel might not perceive it, as they came out to the assistance of their countrymen, ver. 17. Five thousand were placed in one place, and 25,000 in another, while the main body of the army, under Josue, took a circuit by the east, and came to attack the city on the north side. (Calmet)
Ver. 4. Ready to enter the city, when its soldiers are all in pursuit of us. (Haydock)
Ver. 5. And turn, &c. Josue had not fled before. (Calmet) — Hebrew, “against us, as at the first, we will flee before them.”
Ver. 8. Fire. They were to set some houses on fire for a signal, but the whole city was not to be destroyed (Calmet) till the Israelites had collected the plunder. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Ancients, who had a command in the army, and assisted Josue with their counsel. They gave him an account of the state and numbers of the army. (Calmet)
Ver. 12. Five thousand. These were part of the 30,000 mentioned above, ver. 3 . (Challoner) — Josue had given orders to have them placed in ambush apart; (Calmet) unless, perhaps, he places these himself in some secret place. (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Night. He spent the forepart of it at Galgal, to prevent any suspicion, ver. 9. But setting out very early, (ver. 10,) he arrived at Hai before sun-rise.
Ver. 14. Desert of Bethel, fit only for pasturage, chap. xviii. 12.
Ver. 15. Afraid. Hebrew, “made as if they were beaten before them, and fled.” Thus they drew on the king of Hai, so as to leave the ambush in his rear. (Calmet)
Ver. 17. Not one fit to bear arms. (Worthington) — Bethel. As soon as the people of this city perceived the Israelites fleeing, they rushed out to assist the king of Hai in the pursuit. But when they saw the former rally, before they had joined their friends, (Calmet) they very prudently retired, and left the unhappy citizens of Hai to their fate. (Haydock) — Hence all who were slain belonged to the latter city, ver. 25.
Ver. 18. Shield, as Moses lifted up his hands, Exodus xvii. 11. Some translate, “dart, spear,” or “sword.” (Septuagint; Ecclesiasticus xvi. 3.) (Calmet) — The buckler might be suspended on a spear, (Menochius) that it might be seen afar off (Worthington) by some appointed to keep watch on purpose. (Haydock)
Ver. 23. Josue. This king was reserved for greater torments and ignominy. It was the ancient custom to present kings and chief commanders to the victorious general, who rewarded those who brought them. (Grotius)
Ver. 28. For ever, or for a long time. It was rebuilt before the captivity, 2 Esdras vii. 31.
Ver. 29. Gibbet. Septuagint, “a cross.” Some say that the king was first killed; but that assertion is destitute of proof. The corpse was taken down before night, Deuteronomy xxi. 22.
Ver. 30. Hebal. The Samaritan Chronicle says, on Mount Garizim. No doubt Josue complied with the injunctions of Moses: but we have seen that there are reasons to doubt which mountain he pitched upon, Deuteronomy xxvii. 4. (Haydock) — It seems more probable that the altar would be upon Garizim, where the blessings were proclaimed, if the texts of Moses and of Josue did not formally assert the contrary. (Calmet) — But if they have been interpolated, nothing certain can be deduced from those passages. Josephus ([Antiquities?] iv. 8,) says that the altar was between the two mountains, not far from Sichem, which was built at the foot of Garizim; and it is not probable that this historian, the mortal enemy of the Samaritans, would have hesitated to assert that the altar was upon Hebal, if the texts had been so positive, in his time. It is undeniable that the tribes of Levi, and of Ephraim, were upon Garizim; and consequently Josue and the priests must have been there; and who would then officiate at the altar on Hebal? See Kennicott, who ably refutes the insinuations of the infidel, Collins, against the character of the Samaritans. When this altar was erected the learned are not agreed. (Haydock) — Some say, immediately after the passage of the Jordan, and that the 12 stones taken from the bed of the river, were used for that purpose. Josephus says five years elapsed, and R. Ismael supposes that the altar was not built during the 14 years after the passage of the Jordan. But it is most probable that Josue complied with the command of God as soon as he had procured a sort of peace, (Haydock) by the conquest of these two cities, and was thus enabled to penetrate into the heart of the country, where Garizim was situated, not in the plain of Jericho, as Eusebius imagined, but near Sichem, (Calmet) about 30 or 40 miles to the north-west of Jericho. (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Iron. Spencer complains that the Protestants have not translated barzel, “iron tool,” as [in] Deuteronomy xxvii. 5. This translation is found in their more ancient editions of 1537-49, &c. (Kennicott) — But the difference is very unimportant. The reason of this prohibition is given, Exodus xx. 25. — He offered; so we read that he wrote, blessed and cursed, &c., because these things were done at least by his authority. It is not necessary to suppose that he engraved the words of the law with his own hands, or that he passed from Garizim, where he had been pronouncing the blessings, to Hebal, in order to denounce the curses. (Haydock) — He probably commissioned some of the princes on Hebal to perform the office of cursing, after he had repeated the blessings himself from Garizim; and the select company of Levites before the ark, having answered or repeated the words, the whole multitude stationed at the foot of each mountain, testified their entire approbation by shouting Amen; the six tribes near Garizim thus ratifying the blessings; and the rest, at the foot of Hebal, giving their consent that the transgressors should be cursed. (Kennicott) — Hence Josue must have sacrificed by the hands of the priests. (Haydock) — Various instances are produced to shew that princes and prophets have, on extraordinary occasions, performed this office themselves, 1 Kings vi. 15., and vii. 9., and 3 Kings xviii. 32. (Calmet) — But these must have either received a dispensation from God, or they must have employed the ministry of the legal priests; or, in fine, their actions, like that of Saul, (1 Kings xiii. 9,) of Absalom, (1 Kings i. 9,) Herod, &c., may have been deserving of blame. (Haydock) — The Jews assert that in the desert no one was permitted to sacrifice, except in the tabernacle; but that this prohibition ceased at Galgal, as the ark had no fixed abode, and thus Josue might offer sacrifice himself. Afterwards the law was enforced, while the ark was at Silo. But upon its being removed to Nobe, Maspha, and Gabaon, people resumed their former liberty; and hence there was nothing to hinder Samuel, Saul, and David from offering sacrifice, till the temple was erected. (Outram de Sac. i. 2; Grotius in Deuteronomy xii. 8.) This sacred office was formerly exercised by kings, particularly at Athens, where, after the people became more numerous, Theseus appointed the king of sacrifices to keep up the memory of the ancient practice. (Demost. c. Neream.) (Calmet) — The like was done at Rome under the republic. (Haydock)
Ver. 32. Stones, of which the altar was formed, (Calmet) or on a separate monument, (Masius) consisting of two stones of black marble, so as to leave the letters prominent, and to fill up the vacuities with white plaster, that they might be seen more plainly, and might, at the same time, be more durable than if they had been only written on the cement, whatever some may have said of the tenacity of the ancient plaster. — Deuteronomy. &c., or copy of the Decalogue, which, by way of eminence, is called the law, Acts vii. 53. It is distinguished from the blessings and the curses; (ver. 34,) and Moses referred to it, as already existing, (Deuteronomy xxvii. 3, 8,) though the Book of Deuteronomy was not finished till afterwards. He might point to the very tables contained in the ark. “This law, consisting of only 16 verses, might easily be engraved on this solemn day; whereas to engrave the 80 verses of blessings and cursings, would be improbable; and engraving the Pentateuch, or indeed the Book of Deuteronomy, had been impossible.” That the Decalogue was to be thus solemnly proclaimed is evident, from the Samaritan text, Exodus xx. 18. (Kennicott) — This was the covenant which God had made with his people, (Deuteronomy iv. 13,) and which Moses cautions the Israelites to observe; as upon their fidelity, their present and future happiness entirely depended. It was on this title alone that they could hold the land of Chanaan; and therefore Josue takes care thus publicly to admonish them of their duty. (Haydock) — The Rabbins say that the whole Pentateuch was written on this occasion in 70 languages, that no nation might plead ignorance. But we can hardly believe that even the Book of Deuteronomy could be written, and read, and explained to the people, as that would require many days. (Calmet)
Ver. 33. Hebal. “Gerizim and Ebal, says Maundrell, p. 59, are separated by a narrow valley, not above a furlong broad; and Naplosa, (the ancient Sychem) consisting chiefly of two streets lying parallel, is built at the foot of, and under Gerizim.” The princes, representing the different tribes, were stationed on these mountains, and the crowd at the foot of them, while a select company of Levites attended the ark in the midst, and repeated what the princes proclaimed, that the multitude might answer Amen, as they turned successively to them; (Kennicott) or the princes might answer Amen, from the top of the two hills. (Calmet) — And first. Protestants, “as Moses….had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.” But if Josue blessed them himself, (Haydock) all superiors might do so, as parents bless their children. (Worthington)
Ver. 34. Words. Hebrew, “words of the law, the blessings,” &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 35. Repeated. Coverdale’s Bible has “Josua caused it to be proclaimed.” “It is very common in Scripture to represent a person as doing that which is done by another, in his name and by his authority.” (Kennicott) — Josue might be in the midst to preside, (Calmet) or rather he would be along with the princes of the six tribes on Mount Garizim, ver. 30. (Haydock) — Thus the covenant entered into between God and the Israelites, was solemnly ratified when the latter first entered the promised land. The greatest part of those who had been present at Horeb had perished in the wilderness. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Hai is taken and burnt, and all the inhabitants slain. An altar is built, and sacrifices offered. The law is written on stones, and the blessings and cursings are read before all the people.
1 And the Lord said to Josue: *Fear not, nor be thou dismayed: take with thee all the multitude of fighting men, arise, and go up to the town of Hai: Behold I have delivered into thy hand the king thereof, and the people, and the city, and the land.
2 And thou shalt do to the city of Hai, and to the king thereof, *as thou hast done to Jericho, and to the king thereof: but the spoils, and all the cattle, you shall take for a prey to yourselves: lay an ambush for the city behind it.
3 And Josue arose, and all the army of the fighting men with him, to go up against Hai: and he sent thirty thousand chosen valiant men in the night.
4 And commanded them, saying: Lay an ambush behind the city: and go not very far from it: and be ye all ready.
5 But I, and the rest of the multitude which is with me, will approach on the contrary side against the city. And when they shall come out against us, *we will flee, and turn our backs, as we did before:
6 Till they pursuing us be drawn farther from the city: for they will think that we flee as before.
7 And whilst we are fleeing, and they pursuing, you shall arise out of the ambush, and shall destroy the city: and the Lord your God will deliver it into your hands.
8 And when you shall have taken it, set it on fire, and you shall do all things so as I have commanded.
9 And he sent them away, and they went on to the place of the ambush, and abode between Bethel and Hai, on the west side of the city of Hai. But Josue staid that night in the midst of the people,
10 And rising early in the morning, he mustered his soldiers, and went up with the ancients in the front of the army, environed with the aid of the fighting men.
11 And when they were come, and were gone up over-against the city, they stood on the north side of the city, between which and them there was a valley in the midst.
12 And he had chosen five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Hai, on the west side of the same city:
13 But all the rest of the army went in battle array on the north side, so that the last of that multitude reached to the west side of the city. So Josue went that night, and stood in the midst of the valley.
14 And when the king of Hai saw this, he made haste in the morning, and went out with all the army of the city, and set it in battle array, toward the desert, not knowing that there lay an ambush behind his back.
15 But Josue, and all Israel gave back, making as if they were afraid, and fleeing by the way of the wilderness.
16 But they shouting together, and encouraging one another, pursued them. And when they were come from the city,
17 And not one remained in the city of Hai and of Bethel, that did not pursue after Israel, leaving the towns open as they had rushed out,
18 The Lord said to Josue: Lift up the shield that is in thy hand, towards the city of Hai, for I will deliver it to thee.
19 And when he had lifted up his shield towards the city, the ambush, that lay hid, rose up immediately: and going to the city, took it, and set it on fire.
20 And the men of the city, that pursued after Josue, looking back, and seeing the smoke of the city rise up to heaven, had no more power to flee this way or that way: especially as they that had counterfeited flight, and were going toward the wilderness, turned back most valiantly against them that pursued.
21 So Josue, and all Israel, seeing that the city was taken, and that the smoke of the city rose up, returned, and slew the men of Hai.
22 And they also that had taken and set the city on fire, issuing out of the city to meet their own men, began to cut off the enemies who were surrounded by them. So that the enemies being cut off on both sides, not one of so great a multitude was saved.
23 And they took the king of the city of Hai alive, and brought him to Josue.
24 So all being slain that had pursued after Israel, in his flight to the wilderness, and falling by the sword in the same place, the children of Israel returned and laid waste the city.
25 And the number of them that fell that day, both of men and women, was twelve thousand persons, all of the city of Hai.
26 But Josue drew not back his hand, which he had stretched out on high, holding the shield, till all the inhabitants of Hai were slain.
27 And the children of Israel divided among them, the cattle and the prey of the city, as the Lord had commanded Josue.
28 And he burnt the city, and made it a heap for ever:
29 And he hung the king thereof on a gibbet, until the evening and the going down of the sun. Then Josue commanded, and they took down his carcass from the gibbet: and threw it in the very entrance of the city, heaping upon it a great heap of stones, which remaineth until this present day.
30 Then Josue built an altar to the Lord, the God of Israel, in Mount Hebal,
31 *As Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded the children of Israel, and it is written in the book of the law of Moses: an altar of unhewed stones, which iron had not touched: and he offered upon it holocausts to the Lord, and immolated victims of peace-offerings.
32 And he wrote upon stones, the Deuteronomy of the law of Moses, which he had ordered before the children of Israel.
33 And all the people, and the ancients, and the princes, and judges, stood on both sides of the ark, before the priests that carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord, both the stranger and he that was born among them, half of them by Mount Garizim, and half by Mount Hebal, as Moses, the servant of the Lord, had commanded. And first he blessed the people of Israel.
34 After this, he read all the words of the blessing and the cursing, and all things that were written in the book of the law.
35 He left out nothing of those things which Moses had commanded, but he repeated all before all the people of Israel, with the women and children, and strangers, that dwelt among them.
1: Year of the World 2553.
2: Josue vi. 24.
5: Josue vii. 4.
31: Exodus xx. 25.; Deuteronomy xxvii. 5.