Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
Moses being dead, God commissions Joshua to bring the people into the promised land, Jos 1:1, Jos 1:2. The extent of the land to be possessed, Jos 1:3, Jos 1:4. Joshua is assured of victory over all his enemies, and is exhorted to courage and activity, Jos 1:5, Jos 1:6; and to be careful to act, in all things, according to the law of Moses, in which he us to meditate day and night, Jos 1:7, Jos 1:8. He is again exhorted to courage, with the promise of continued support, Jos 1:9. Joshua commands the officers to prepare the people for their passage over Jordan, Jos 1:10, Jos 1:11. The Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, are put in mind of their engagement to pass over with their brethren, Jos 1:12-15. They promise the strictest obedience, and pray for the prosperity of their leader, Jos 1:16-18.
Now after the death of Moses - ויהי vayehi, and it was or happened after the death of Moses. Even the first words in this book show it to be a continuation of the preceding, and intimately connected with the narrative in the last chapter in Deuteronomy, of which I suppose Joshua to have been the author, and that chapter to have originally made the commencement of this book, Deu 34:1-12 (note). The time referred to here must have been at the conclusion of the thirty days in which they mourned for Moses.
Moses my servant - The word, servant, as applied both to Moses and Joshua, is to be understood in a very peculiar sense. It signifies God's prime minister, the person by whom he issued his orders, and by whom he accomplished all his purposes and designs. No person ever bore this title in the like sense but the Redeemer of mankind, of whom Moses and Joshua were types.
Go over this Jordan - The account given by Josephus of this river may not be unacceptable here. "Panium is thought to be the mountain of Jordan, but in reality it is carried thither in an occult manner from the place called Phiala. This place lies on the road to Trachonitis, and is one hundred and twenty furlongs from Caesarea, not far out of the road, on the right hand. It has its name Phiala, (a bowl or basin), very justly, from the roundness of its circumference, being round like a wheel. It is always full, without ever sinking or running over. This origin of the Jordan was not known till the time of Philip, tetrarch of Trachonitis, who having ordered some chaff to be thrown in at Phiala, it was found at Panium. Jordan's visible stream arises from this cavern, (Panium), and divides the marshes and fens of the lake Semechon; and when it has run another hundred and twenty furlongs, it first passes by the city Julias, and then passes through the middle of the lake Gennesareth, after which, running a long way over the desert, it empties itself into the lake Asphaltites." - War, book iii. chap. x., sect. 7. See the note on Num 34:12.
The sole of your foot shalt tread upon - That is, the whole land occupied by the seven Canaanitish nations, and as far as the Euphrates on the east; for this was certainly the utmost of the grant now made to them; and all that was included in what is termed the promised land, the boundaries of which have already been defined. See Deu 34:1-4, and see Jos 1:4 (note) below. It has been supposed that the words, Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, were intended to express the ease with which they were to conquer the whole land, an instance of which occurs in the taking of Jericho. It was only their unfaithfulness to God that rendered the conquest in any case difficult.
From the wilderness and this Lebanon - Joshua appears to be standing with his face towards the promised land, and pointing out the different places, or their situation, with his hand, This Lebanon, etc. The utmost of their limits should be from the desert of Arabia Petraea on the South to Lebanon on the North: and from the Euphrates on the East to the Mediterranean Sea on the West. The Israelites did not possess the full extent of this grant till the days of David. See Sa2 8:3, etc., and Ch2 9:26.
Land of the Hittites - These are generally reputed to have been the most hardy and warlike of all the Canaanitish nations; and as they occupied the mountainous countries on the south of the land of Canaan, it is natural to suppose that they would be the most difficult to subdue, and on this account, it is supposed, God particularly specifies these: "Ye shall subdue and possess even all the land of the Hittites," but it is probable that under this one term all the other nations are included, as it is certain they are in other places under the term Amorites. Great sea: The Mediterranean, called great in respect of the lakes in the land of Judea, such as the sea of Gennesareth, or the sea of Tiberias, and the Dead Sea, which were comparatively small lakes; but the Hebrews gave the name of sea, ים yam, to every large collection of waters.
Be able to stand before thee - Because God shall be with thee, therefore thou shalt be irresistible. This promise was most punctually literally fulfilled.
Only be thou strong, and very courageous - Ισχυε ουν, και ανδριζου σφοδρα. - Sept. Be strong therefore, and play the man to the uttermost. Though God had promised him that no man should be able to stand before him, yet it was on condition that he should use all his military skill, and avail himself to the uttermost of all the means, natural and providential, which God should place within his reach. God will not have them who refuse to help themselves.
This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth - The law which had already been written by Moses, and from which he and the people were to take all those precepts by which their lives were to be governed. Though there was a copy of the law laid up in the sanctuary, yet this was not sufficient. Joshua must have a copy for himself, and he was to consult it incessantly, that his way might be made prosperous, and that he might have good success. If he kept God's word, God would keep him in body and soul; if he should observe to do according to that word, then God would cause all his way to be prosperous. Those who are obedient to God lack no manner of thing that is good.
Commanded the officers - שטרים shoterim. These were different from the שפטים shophetim, who were judges among the people, and whose business it was to determine in all civil cases. The shoterim have been supposed to be subordinate officers, whose business it was to see the decisions of the shophetim carried into effect. Calmet conjectures that the shoterim here may have been the heralds of the army like those so often met with in Homer, who were called the messengers both of the gods and men; who bore sceptres, and whose persons were ever held sacred. See on Deu 1:13-16 (note).
Prepare you victuals - צדה tsedah, such prey or provisions as they had taken from the conquered countries, such as corn, oxen, sheep, etc.; for the word signifies prey, or what is taken by hunting, etc. This was necessary, as they were about to undergo considerable fatigue in marching, and in making preparations for the passage of the Jordan; for although the manna had not ceased to fall, yet such other provisions as are mentioned above were necessary on this occasion.
For within three days ye shall pass - Calmet contends, with great appearance of truth, that these three days should be reckoned from the first day of their encamping at Jordan, three days after the return of the spies, i.e., on the eighth day of the first month, on the tenth of which they passed over Jordan. The text therefore is supposed to mean, Prepare victuals for three days' march, for "on the third day after your decampment from Shittim ye shall pass over this Jordan."
Remember the word - He puts the Reubenites, etc., in remembrance of the engagements they had made with Moses (See Num 32:20) when he granted them their portion on the east side of Jordan.
Your wives, your little ones - And with these it appears, from Num 32:17, were left behind 70,580 effective men to guard them and their property; only 40,000 having passed over Jordan to assist the nine tribes and half to conquer the land. See Jos 4:13.
Armed - חמשים chamushim, by fives; in several lines, five in front, probably the usual method of marching; but it seems to signify arrayed, equipped, accoutred, well-armed, and ready for battle. See the note on Exo 13:18.
Toward the sun-rising - This is the East, as toward the going down of the sun signifies the West.
All that thou commandest us we will do - Here they acknowledge the Divine mission of Joshua, as they had done that of Moses, and consequently promise to follow his directions in all things.
Only the Lord thy God be with thee - Provided God be with thee, as he was with Moses, we will implicitly obey thee. The words however may mean no more than an earnest prayer for Joshua's prosperity: May God be with thee, as he was with Moses!
He shall be put to death - This was martial law; he who disobeyed the command of his general should be put to death. To this the people agreed, and it was essentially necessary in order that proper discipline should be kept up in this great army. By insubordination their fathers had suffered much in the wilderness; they rejected the authority of Moses, mutinied and made themselves a leader to conduct them back to Egypt. (See Num 14:4). And Joshua himself, for attempting to encourage them against their fears, was near being stoned to death. It was necessary, therefore, that they should give him the most positive assurance that they would not act as their fathers had done.
1. Notwithstanding the great honor God put on his servants Moses, Aaron, Phinehas, and Joshua, yet we find him using every means to induce the people to trust in himself alone. Hence he is ever showing them that even those great men had nothing but what they had received, and that they were as fully dependent upon himself as the meanest of the people. What was even Moses without his God?
2. Is it not strange that at the death of Moses utter despair had not overwhelmed the whole camp, as he whom they expected to give them rest had died before any conquest was made in Canaan? We find, however, that they are not discouraged; he who gave them Moses, has now given them Joshua in his place; and they had now fully learned that if God be for them, none could be successfully against them.
3. From all this we may learn, that when God has a great work to accomplish, he will provide himself suitable instruments; and though one which he has greatly honored, appear to fail, we should know that he is not confined to work by that one alone. He has way every where, and all things serve the purposes of his will. He will as surely support his Church on earth, as he will support the earth itself; and while the sun and moon endure, the Church shall flourish: this is for his own honor, and he certainly is more concerned for his own glory in the administration of justice, judgment, and salvation in the earth, than any of the children of men can possibly be.
4. Though God had so implicitly promised them his help, yet he strongly insists on their own co-operation. He requires the use of every power and talent he has given; even Joshua himself must be strong and very courageous, and the people must obey him in all things, in order that they may go over the Jordan to possess the good land; and without this they had never got into the promised rest.
Shall we suppose, then, that if we be not workers together with God we shall be saved? Vain expectation! He works in us to will and to do, i.e., he gives the principle of volition in things that are holy, and the principle of power to bring the acts of will into good practical effect; therefore, says the apostle, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Will, therefore, under the influence of the gracious principle of volition; act under the influence of the principle of power. Without the power you can neither will nor do; but having the power it is your duty to will and do. It is enough that God gives the power. It is our duty, when we receive these talents, to improve them. In a million of cases a man may be both able to will and to do, and yet do neither to the salvation of his soul.