Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Preamble - Jos 1:1-9
After the death of Moses the Lord summoned Joshua, the servant of Moses, whom He had appointed as the leader of Israel into Canaan, to go with all the people across the Jordan, and take the land which had been promised to the fathers on oath, assuring him at the same time of His powerful aid, on condition that he observed the law of Moses faithfully. This summons and promise of God form the preamble to the whole book, which is linked on to the conclusion of the Pentateuch by the introductory words, "And it came to pass after the death of Moses, the servant of the Lord," though it is not so closely connected as to warrant the conclusion that the two works have been written by the same author.
The imperfect with vav consec., the standing mode of expressing a continued action or train of thought, "simply attaches itself by the conjunction 'and' to a completed action, which has either been mentioned before, or is supposed to be well known" (Ewald, 231, b.). "After the death of Moses," i.e., after the expiration of the thirty days of general mourning for him (vid., Deu 34:8). "Servant of Jehovah" is a standing epithet applied to Moses as an honourable title, and founded upon Num 12:7-8 (vid., Deu 34:5; Kg1 8:56; Kg2 18:12; Psa 105:26, etc.). On "Joshua, Moses' minister," see at Exo 17:9 and Num 13:16. Minister (meshareth), as in Exo 24:13, etc. Although Joshua had already been called by the mouth of the Lord to be the successor of Moses in the task of leading the people into Canaan (Num 27:15.), and had not only been presented to the people in this capacity, but had been instituted in this office by the Lord, with the promise of His help (Deu 31:3-7 and Deu 31:23), the word of the Lord came to him a second time after the death of Moses, with the command to enter upon the office to which he had been called, and with the promise that He would help him to fulfil its duties, as he had already helped His servant Moses. "Because even some of the bravest men, although fully prepared beforehand, either stand still or hesitate when the thing has to be done: this exhortation to Joshua, to gird himself at once for the expedition, was by no means superfluous; though his call was ratified again not only for his own sake, but in order that the people might not hesitate to follow him with their minds collected and calm, when they saw that he took no step without the guidance of God" (Calvin). - Joshua received this word of the Lord by a direct address from God, and not through the intervention of the Urim and Thummim of the high priest; for this appointed medium for the revelation of the will of God, to which he had been referred on the occasion of his first call (Num 27:21), whenever difficulties should arise in connection with his office, was not sufficient for the renewal and confirmation of his divine calling, since the thing required here was not merely that the will of God should be made known to him, but that he should be inspired with courage and strength for the fulfilment of it, i.e., for discharging the duties of his office, just as he afterwards was then in front of the fortified town of Jericho which he was directed to take, where the angel of the Lord appeared to him and assured him of its fall (Jos 5:13). Moreover, the conquest of Canaan formed part of the work which the Lord entrusted to His servant Moses, and in which therefore Joshua was now Moses' successor. Consequently the Lord would be with him as He had been with Moses (Jos 1:5); and for this reason He revealed His will directly to him, as He had done to Moses, though without talking with him mouth to mouth (Num 12:8).
As Moses had died without having brought the Israelites to Canaan, Joshua was to arise and go with all the nation over this Jordan (i.e., the river then before him) into the land which the Lord would give them.
"Namely, every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon," i.e., I have given you the whole land, not excepting a single foot's breadth. The perfect, "I have given," refers to the counsel of God as having been formed long before, and being now about to be carried into execution. These words, which are connected with Deu 11:24, so far as the form is concerned, rest upon the promise of God in Exo 23:30-31, to which the words "as I said unto Moses" refer.
The boundaries of the land are given as in Deu 11:24, with the simple difference in form, that the boundary line from the desert (of Arabia) and Lebanon, i.e., from the southern and northern extremity, is drawn first of all towards the east to the great river, the Euphrates, and then towards the west to "the great sea, toward the going down of the sun," i.e., the Mediterranean; and then between these two termini ad quem the more precise definition is inserted, "all the land of the Hittites;" whereas in Deuteronomy the southern, northern, and eastern boundaries are placed in antithesis to the western boundary, and the more precise definition of the country to be taken is given by an enumeration of the different tribes that were to be destroyed by the Israelites (Deu 11:23). On the oratorical character of these descriptions, see at Gen 15:18. The demonstrative pronoun "this," in connection with Lebanon, may be explained from the fact that Lebanon, or at all events Anti-libanus, was visible from the Israelitish camp. The expression "the Hittites" (see at Gen 10:15) is used here in a broader sense for Canaanites in general, as in Kg1 10:29; Kg2 7:6; Eze 16:3. The promise in Jos 1:5 is adopted from Deu 11:25, where it was made to the whole nation, and specially transferred to Joshua; and Jos 1:5 is repeated from Deu 31:8, as compared with Jos 1:6.
The promise is followed by the condition upon which the Lord would fulfil His word. Joshua was to be firm and strong, i.e., well-assured, courageous, not alarmed (vid., Deu 31:6). In the first place (Jos 1:6), he was to rely firmly upon the Lord and His promise, as Moses and the Lord had already told him (Deu 31:7 and Deu 31:23), and as is again repeated here, whilst at the same time the expression, "thou shalt divide for an inheritance," recalls to mind Deu 1:38; Deu 3:28; and in the second place (Jos 1:7, Jos 1:8), he was to strive to attain and preserve this firmness by a careful observance of the law. "Observe to do," etc., as Moses had already impressed upon the hearts of all the people (Deu 5:29, cf. Deu 28:14 and Deu 2:27). The suffix in ממּנּוּ is to be explained on the supposition that the speaker had the book of the law in his mind. The further expansion, in Jos 1:8, is not only attached to the exhortations, with which Moses urges upon all the people in Deu 6:6-7, and Deu 11:18-19, an uninterrupted study and laying to heart of the commandments of God, but even more closely to the directions to the king, to read every day in the law (Deu 17:19). "Not to depart out of the mouth," is to be constantly in the mouth. The law is in our mouth, not only when we are incessantly preaching it, but when we are reading it intelligently for ourselves, or conversing about it with others. To this there was to be added meditation, or reflection upon it both day and night (vid., Psa 1:2). הגה does not mean theoretical speculation about the law, such as the Pharisees indulged in, but a practical study of the law, for the purpose of observing it in thought and action, or carrying it out with the heart, the mouth, and the hand. Such a mode of employing it would be sure to be followed by blessings. "Then shalt thou make they way prosperous," i.e., succeed in all thine undertakings (vid., Deu 28:29), "and act wisely" (as in Deu 29:8).
In conclusion, the Lord not only repeats His exhortation to firmness, but the promise that He gave in Jos 1:5 and Jos 1:6. "Have I not" (nonne) is a rhetorical mode of saying, "Behold, I have," the assurance being clothed in the form of an affirmative question. On the words "be not afraid," etc., see Deu 31:6 and Deu 31:8.
Preparations for Crossing the Jordan. - Jos 1:10-11. For the purpose of carrying out the commands of the Lord, Joshua first of all directed the officers of the people (shoterim: see at Ex 5-6), whose duty it was, as the keepers of the family registers, to attend not only to the levying of the men who were bound to serve in the army, but also to the circulation of the commands of the general, to issue orders to the people in the camp to provide themselves with food, so that they might cross the Jordan within three days, and take the land that was promised them by God. By zedah, provision for a journey (Gen 42:25, etc.), we are not to understand manna, for that had already ceased (see at Jos 5:12), but simply the natural produce of the inhabited country. The expression "in three days," i.e., as we may see from comparing Gen 40:13, Gen 40:19, with Gen 40:20, on the third day from the publication of the command, "will ye go over the Jordan," is not to be regarded as a prediction of the time when the crossing actually took place, but to be taken as the latest time that could be allowed to the people to prepare for crossing: viz., in this sense, "Prepare you victuals for crossing over the Jordan within three days," i.e., that you may be able to leave Shittim within that time, to cross over the Jordan, and commence the conquest of Canaan. If we understand the words in this way, they are in perfect harmony with Josh 2 and 3. According to Josh 2, Joshua sent out spies from Shittim to Jericho, who were obliged to hide themselves for three days in the mountains after their flight from that city (Jos 2:22), before they could return to the Israelitish camp; so that they were absent three or four days at any rate, and came back at the earliest in the evening or night of the fourth day after they had been sent out. It was not till the morning after this that the Israelites left Shittim and proceeded to the Jordan, where they halted again. Then, three days afterwards, they went across the river (Jos 3:1-2), so that at least 4 + 1 + 3, i.e., eight whole days must have intervened between the day when the spies were sent out and the day on which the people crossed the river. Joshua no doubt intended to proceed to the Jordan and cross it within three days after despatching the spies; he therefore sent the spies to Jericho on the same day on which he issued the command to the people to prepare for crossing within three days, so that he might reasonably hope that they would fulfil their commission and return in two or three days. But as they were compelled to hide themselves for three days in the mountains, in consequence of the unexpected discovery of their arrival in Jericho, and the despatch of men in pursuit of them, Joshua could not remove with the people from Shittim and proceed to the Jordan till the day after their return; and even then he could not cross the river at once, but waited three days after reaching the bank of the river before he crossed to the other side (vid., Jos 3:1.).
(Note: In this way the different statements in the three chapters harmonize perfectly well. But the majority of commentators have arranged the order of succession differently and in a very arbitrary way, starting with the unwarrantable assumption that the time referred to in this verse, "within three days," is identical with that in Jos 3:2, "it came to pass after three days." Upon the strength of this groundless assumption, Knobel maintains that there is great confusion in the order of succession of the events described in Josh 1-3, that Jos 1:11 is irreconcilable with Jos 3:1-6, and that accounts written by three different authors have been mixed up together in these chapters. (For the different attempts to reconcile the accounts, see Keil's Commentary on Joshua, pp. 72-75, note, Eng. trans. Clark, 1857.))
Joshua's appeal to the two tribes and a half, to remember the condition on which Moses gave them the land on the east of the Jordan for an inheritance, and to fulfil it, met with a ready response; to that these tribes not only promised to obey his commandments in every respect, but threatened every one with death who should refuse obedience. In recalling this condition to the recollection of the tribes referred to, Joshua follows the expressions in Deu 3:18-20, where Moses himself recapitulates his former command, rather than the original passage in Num 32. The expression "this land" shows that the speaker was still on the other side of the Jordan. חמשׁים, with the loins girded, i.e., prepared for war, synonymous with חלצים in Deu 3:18 and Num 32:32 (see at Exo 13:18). חיל כּל־גּבּורי, all the mighty men of valour, i.e., the grave warriors (as in Jos 6:2; Jos 8:3; Jos 10:7, and very frequently in the later books), is not common to this book and Deuteronomy, as Knobel maintains, but is altogether strange to the Pentateuch. The word "all" (v. 14, like Num 32:21, Num 32:27) must not be pressed. According to Jos 4:13, there were only about 40,000 men belonging to the two tribes and a half who crossed the Jordan to take part in the war; whereas, according to Num 26:7, Num 26:18, Num 26:34, there were 110,000 men in these tribes who were capable of bearing arms, so that 70,000 must have remained behind for the protection of the women and children and of the flocks and herds, and to defend the land of which they had taken possession. On Jos 1:15 see Deu 3:18; and on the more minute definition of "on this side (lit. beyond) Jordan" by "toward the sun-rising," compare the remarks on Num 32:19. The answer of the two tribes and a half, in which they not only most cheerfully promise their help in the conquest of Canaan, but also express the wish that Joshua may have the help of the Lord (Jos 1:17 compared with Jos 1:4), and after threatening all who refuse obedience with death, close with the divine admonition, "only be strong and of a good courage" (Jos 1:18, cf. Jos 1:6), furnishes a proof of the wish that inspired them to help their brethren, that all the tribes might speedily enter into the peaceable possession of the promised inheritance. The expression "rebel against the commandment" is used in Deu 1:26, Deu 1:43; Deu 9:23; Sa1 12:14, to denote resistance to the commandments of the Lord; here it denotes opposition to His representative, the commander chosen by the Lord, which was to be punished with death, according to the law in Deu 17:12.