Ver. 1. Time;
before the assembly broke up. The 40,000 had continued to fight along with their brethren, (Calmet) as long as there was occasion.
Now peace being obtained, they are permitted to return to their families. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. And
peace. This is a farther explication of rest, (Haydock) which alone occurs in Hebrew. It may denote a fixed and
permanent abode, Deuteronomy iii. 20., and Ruth i. 9.
Ver. 6. Blessed
them, like a good magistrate, having given them a solemn admonition not to forget God, the source of all blessings. (Haydock)
--- This expression may also intimate that he loaded them with praises and with presents, and wished them all prosperity.
--- Dwellings. Literally, "tents," in which they had been accustomed to live, in the desert. Hence they gave the name
to houses, temples, &c.
Ver. 8. Riches.
Hebrew, Septuagint, &c., "cattle." --- Brethren. Grotius pretends that they were to keep what they had gotten.
But his proofs rather shew that they were to follow the ancient custom and law, which prescribed that those who had remained
at home to guard the country, should share the booty with those who had gone to battle, 1 Kings xxx. 24., and Numbers xxxi.
27. Some suppose that the booty was divided into equal parts, and the 40,000 would retain as much as all the rest of their
brethren, who had been less exposed. The Israelites, however, made all alike, as other nations seem to have been, Exodus xv.
Ver. 9. Galaad
here denotes all that country, (Calmet) as Chanaan does that on the west of the Jordan (Haydock) and Ephraim, the ten tribes.
Ver. 10. Banks.
Hebrew Goliluth, which is (chap. xiii. 2, &c.) rendered Galilee, Galgal, "limits," &c. (Haydock) ---
Chanaan, consequently on the western banks. Vatable, however, says that the eastern country went sometimes by this
name, on account of the Amorrhites having dwelt in it. Josephus ([Antiquities?] v. 1.) and the Jews affirm, that the altar
was built on that side; and it seems natural that these tribes would erect it in their own territories, for the benefit of
their children. (Calmet) --- The effect would nevertheless have been equal, on which side soever it appeared, as the Jordan
was not so broad but they might see over. (Haydock) --- Immensely. Hebrew, "a great altar to be seen," like those heaps
which Bacchus and Alexander raised to perpetuate the memory of their victories. (Pliny, [Natural History?] vi. 16.)
Ver. 12. In
Silo, without being called, as they were all fired with a holy zeal, (Menochius) to prevent the growth of idolatry among
their brethren. (Haydock) --- They knew that one altar was to be allowed (Menochius) in the place which the Lord should appoint,
Leviticus xvii. 8., and Deuteronomy xii. 5., &c. (Haydock) --- God had ordered such cities as embraced idolatry among
them, to be exterminated, Deuteronomy xiii. 12. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Tribe.
Another of the tribe of Levi, and deputies from the other nine tribes, accompanied Phinees on this important occasion. The
Levites were most of all concerned, as their rights seemed to be particularly invaded. (Haydock) --- The princes of the tribes
did not (Calmet) perhaps (Haydock) go, but only men of high rank. Kimchi says, men set over a thousand. Hebrew, "ten princes
with him of each chief house, a prince of all the tribes of Israel, and each one head of the house of his fathers,
among the thousands of Israel." (Calmet) --- These were commissioned by Eleazar, Josue, and all the congregation, to
endeavour to bring back their brethren to a sense of their duty, if they had so soon forgotten God, (Haydock) or if they should
persist in their rebellion, to denounce an eternal war against them. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Lord.
Thus Phinees shews that he speaks in the name of those who still continued faithful to the Lord. He imputes the crime of apostacy
to Ruben, &c., that they may declare more openly for what reason they had built this altar. (Menochius)
Ver. 17. Beelphegor.
As they lived in the country, where this idol had been adored, Phinees was afraid lest they might have built the altar in
his honour. He reminds them what destruction that worship had brought upon all Israel. He had been particularly zealous in
appeasing the wrath of God, and therefore speaks with more authority. Hebrew, "is not the crime of Phegor enough for us, that
we should not wish to expiate it until this day?" (Calmet) or Protestants, "is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from
which we are not cleansed until this day? (although there was a plague in the congregation of the Lord)." The stain of this
impiety still remained upon Israel. They ought, therefore, to endeavour by sincere repentance, to obliterate it entirely,
and not, by fresh provocations, enkindle the dreadful wrath of God. (Haydock) --- There was reason to fear lest the Lord should
punish this sin still more, as he is accustomed to do, when people relapse. (Calmet) --- All must therefore shew their zeal
to prevent such crimes, as the multitude sometimes suffers for the offence of one, when they do not take all possible care
to prevent it, ver. 20. (Haydock)
Ver. 19. Unclean,
as being destitute of the ark, &c. The Israelites had the greatest veneration for the land which God had chosen for their
habitation. Naaman loaded two mules with some of the earth. We cannot help admiring the zeal and the disinterestedness of
Phinees. He proposes to abandon some of the possessions on the other side of the Jordan, rather than that his brethren should
forsake God, or offend him.
Ver. 20. Wickedness.
Hebrew, "he did not expire in his sin," (Calmet) but repented; (Haydock) or, Did he not? &c. The Septuagint, "he did not
alone die in his sin." Chaldean, "but this man alone did not die in his transgression." (Calmet) --- All Israel was in consternation,
and 36 were slain. If this secret offence was so severely punished, what judgments will not the public apostacy of so many
thousands draw down upon our heads!
Ver. 21. Israel.
Septuagint, "answered the Chiliarchs of Israel," who had spoken by the mouth of their president. They repel the charge with
Ver. 22. God.
In Hebrew there are three terms, (Calmet) El, Elohim, Yehova, "the strong, the judge, the self-existent Being." To
him they make their appeal. Him they acknowledge in the first place, as the only true God, as they had been accused of departing
from him, ver. 19. (Haydock) --- They are willing to undergo any punishment, if they had any evil intention. (Menochius)
Ver. 23. Sacrifice.
Hebrew intimates particularly "of flour or libations." (Calmet)
Ver. 24. To-morrow.
At any future period. (Haydock) --- Israel. The same idea is expressed, ver. 27. You have no part in the Lord.
You are not his peculiar people. Of this title the Israelites were always very jealous, even when they neglected the worship
and covenant of the Lord. (Calmet) --- Hence these tribes take these precautions, that they may not be excluded from the society
and privileges of their brethren on the other side of the Jordan. They profess openly that they do not esteem it lawful to
offer sacrifice in any other place, besides that which God had chosen. (Haydock)
Ver. 31. Lord,
who would not have failed to punish Israel for such a crime. (Calmet) --- They rejoice, therefore, not only at the fidelity
of their brethren, but also on their own account, because they may now confidently look up for protection to God, instead
of being in continual apprehensions of feeling his avenging arm. (Haydock)
Ver. 32. Into,
&c. (finium Chanaan) "of the confines of Chanaan," which is ambiguous. (Haydock) --- But the Hebrew removes the
difficulty in this manner.
Ver. 34. God.
Hebrew seems rather defective; (Calmet) "called the altar, (Syriac supplies the altar of witness) for it shall be a witness
between us, that the Lord he is the God. Ed, "witness," is placed in the margin of Plantin's edition (Kennicott) and
the Protestants have inserted it in the text, though in a different character, (Haydock) as "it is confirmed by the Syriac,
Arabic, and Vulgate versions." Kimchi quotes the Chaldean paraphrase, as having the word seid, "witness," twice, which,
if read in two places formerly, has been lately omitted in one, as many other alterations have perhaps been made in
it, in conformity to the later copies of the Hebrew text. It is still found in one Chaldean manuscript and in that of Masius.
Between the two last words of this verse, some Hebrew manuscripts read eva, "He." "The Lord, He is the God;" which
not only gives an emphasis, but is expressly confirmed by the Chaldean; and indeed this seems to have been a common form of
confessing the belief of the one true God, 3 Kings xviii. 39. (Kennicott, Diss. i.) --- Masius would translate, "They made
an inscription upon the altar, declaring that it should be an eternal witness of their attachment to the Lord." Cora,
in effect, sometimes means to write, as Alcoran, in the Arabic tongue, signifies "the scripture" (Calmet) of the Mahometans,
which they hold in the utmost veneration, as containing the life and doctrine of their great prophet. The Septuagint (Grabe)
insinuate that Josue approved of what had been done, "and Jesus gave a name to the altar,....and said, it is a witness in
the midst of them, that the Lord God is their God." Thus, instead of war and destruction, which seemed to threaten Israel
on all sides, all ended in peace and harmony. If Christians would imitate the conduct of the Israelites, they would not so
rashly condemn their neighbours on every idle report; and, if our adversaries would condescend to examine seriously into the
grounds of charging idolatry upon us, and on that account waging an eternal war against us, it is to be hoped they would pronounce
our doctrine innocent, and reform their own iniquitous proceedings. (Haydock)