It is often extremely difficult to make out the sequence of a Hebrew narrative, the narrator going back and travelling over the same ground in respect of time which he had already traversed, in order to introduce some circumstances which had been omitted (see 7:25, note, and 7:4, note). This appears to be the ease With this section. The mention of Gilgal in 2:1 seems to point distinctly to the early time of the entrance into Canaan under Joshua, because it was quite in the beginning of the Israelite occupation that the camp was at Gilgal, and it was there that the angel of the Lord spake to Joshua (Joshua 5:9, Joshua 5:10, Joshua 5:13-15). We find the camp still at Gilgal in Joshua 10:9, Joshua 10:43, and it was from the camp at Gilgal that Caleb went forth to his conquest (Joshua 14:6), and also that Ephraim and Manasseh went forth to take their inheritance (chs. 16; 17.); but in Joshua 18:1, Joshua 18:9, Joshua 18:10 we find Shiloh, in the hill country of Ephraim, the place of the national gathering of "the host," and the tabernacle pitched there; and the same in Joshua 19:51; Joshua 21:2; Joshua 22:9, Joshua 22:12. Josephus tells us that Joshua moved his camp from Gilgal to Shiloh in the hill country at the close of the fifth year ('J.A.' 5. 1.19). This ascent of the angel from Gilgal in the plains of Jericho to Bochim in the hill country would seem, therefore, to have been about the beginning of the sixth year of the occupation of Canaan, and the rebuke in it to apply chiefly to Ephraim and Manasseh, though in part to Judah also. The place of this section chronologically would be between verse 29 and verse 30 of ch. 1. It should be noticed also that this section is very closely connected with Joshua 24:1-33.; for, first, 2:6 is identical With Joshua 24:28, and the verses that follow 2:6 are also identical With those that follow Joshua 24:28. It is likely, therefore, that what immediately precedes 2:6 should be very closely connected With what immediately precedes Joshua 24:28, and should relate to the same time. Now the discourse of Joshua (Joshua 24:1-15) is only an expansion of the brief address of the angel in 2:1-3. The expostulation about the strange gods in Joshua 24:14, Joshua 24:23, is in exact accordance with the complaint of the angel in 2:2; and the warm protestation of the people, "We will serve the Lord," in Joshua 24:18, Joshua 24:21, Joshua 24:24, is in full accordance with what is said 2:4 : "The people lifted up their voice, and wept." Again, the mention in Joshua 24:1 of the people presenting themselves "before God," and of "the sanctuary of the Lord" (Joshua 24:26), agrees with what is said 2:5 : "They sacrificed there unto the Lord." And lastly, the somewhat mysterious words in Joshua 24:27, "This stone … hath heard all the words of the Lord which he hath spoken to us," would have an easy solution if the message of the angel ( 2:1-8) had been spoken before it. The inference is that Joshua's address in Joshua 24:1-33. was delivered immediately after the transaction recorded in this section.
An angel of the Lord. Rather, the angel of the Lord, i.e. the angel of his presence, whose message consequently is delivered as if the Lord himself were speaking (see Genesis 16:7, Genesis 16:9, Genesis 16:11, etc.). A good example of the difference between a message delivered by a prophet and one delivered by the angel of the Lord may be seen by comparing 6:8 with 6:11-16. Bochim, i.e. weepers ( 6:4, 6:5). The site is unknown, but it was probably near Shiloh. The phrase "came up" denotes that it was in the hill country.
I said, i.e. I now declare to you my resolve. It was this that made the people weep. Thorns in your sides. This is not a translation of the Hebrew text, which only has "for sides," but a partial adaptation of Joshua 23:13, where the phrase is "scourges in your sides and thorns in your eyes." Either the words for "scourges in" have fallen out of the text, or the word here rendered "sides" should be rendered, as some think, "enemies." A snare. See 8:27, note.
They sacrificed. A clear intimation that they were near Shiloh, where the tabernacle was.
And when Joshua, etc. The same words as Joshua 22:6, marking the identity of time.
We have here an extraordinary messenger, the angel of the Lord, but the message is one which in its spirit might be addressed to men at any time, and at any place. For it speaks of God's flowing mercy arrested by man's stubbornness. "I made you to go up out of Egypt—I have brought you into the promised land. I have faithfully kept my covenant, but you have altogether failed to do your part. Ye have not obeyed my voice." The one requirement of God that, when they took possession of the land, they should make no league with its inhabitants, but should throw down their abominable altars, they had neglected to fulfil. They had thought of their own interest and convenience, and not of the honour of God. They had taken God's earthly gifts, but had rejected his word. They bad shown themselves to be self-seekers, greedy, carnal, and forgetful of him from whom they had all. It was the old story of self slipping into the place of God—self as the supposed giver, and self as the person for whose glory the gift was to be used. "My power and the might of mine hand bath gotten me this wealth," and therefore I will use it to my own ends. "Is not this great Babylon that I have built for the house of the kingdom, by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty?" This is the spirit that is constantly slipping in, in a greater or less degree, even in the Church of God. and frustrating the purposes of his unbounded grace. For it is just as in the case of Israel. When they used the gift of Canaan not for God's purposes but for their own, which were quite contrary to God's—for God's purpose was the extirpation of idolatry; their purpose was the enjoyment of vineyards which they had not planted, and wells which they. had not digged—they at once closed up the fountain of God's grace. "I will not drive them out from before you; they shall be as thorns in your side, and their gods shall be a snare unto you." And their future history was the history of the fulfilment of this threat. So it was in the history of the Church. The grace of God bestowed in such rich abundance upon the early Church at Pentecost and afterwards, that those who named the name of Christ might be patterns to an evil world of love and purity and unselfish service, was soon stayed and checked by strife and discord, by worldly ambitions, by compromises with sin, and by fellowship with the corruptions of heathenism. So too it is with individual Christians. We check God's grace by not using it to the full; we hinder his mercy by not appropriating it, and not valuing it; we stop the flow of his good-will to us by setting up the objects of our own carnal desires and pursuing them, while we neglect the things which make for the glory of God. And just as the entire conquest of the Canaanites was not stopped by any deficiency of power in Almighty God, nor by any failure in love or faithfulness on his part, but simply by the sin of Israel, so now we may be quite,; sure that there is an infinite fulness of grace in Christ Jesus for all the Church's needs, and all the spiritual wants of each individual disciple, if only the hindrances of man's selfish disobedience are taken away, and an open channel is kept for God's free mercy to flow unimpeded in its gracious course. But, be it ever remembered, the disobedience to God's word, whatever it be, must be taken away. It is not enough to lift up the voice and weep over the consequences of sin past; it is not enough to sacrifice unto the Lord in hopes of averting his threatened punishments; there must be an entire return to the path of obedience, to walk with a whole heart in the way of God's commandments, and to obey his voice. For that is the end for which God bestows his grace "Elect unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ." Let the Church, let the individual disciple, throw themselves unreservedly into this path of obedience, and God will fulfil in them all the good pleasure of his goodness, and their peace shall flow like a river.
HOMILIES BY A.F. MUIR
Who this "angel of the Lord" was we do not, probably were not meant to, know. He might have been Phinehas, the same who, according to Rabbinical interpreters, was the mouth-piece of Jehovah after the death of Joshua (verse 1). But the probabilities are decidedly against such a supposition. It is "an angel," or messenger. At any rate the personality of the messenger (surely no celestial visitant, else why the journey and apparently public discourse?) is kept in the background. He is nothing, a mere "voice," but a voice giving utterance to Israel's consciousness of offending, and addressing and rousing it. The mere circumstance that he came from Gilgal, the first spot touched by Israel in Canaan, gave significance to his message. Bochim was probably at Shiloh, the appointed meeting-place of the tribes.
I. A PLACE OF SOLEMN RECOLLECTION AND RE-STATEMENT. Shiloh, the place of Israel's worship and sacrifice, is also the place of Israel's repentance. A name, Bochim, is given to it. "They named the place from their tears." So the house of God becomes the monument and memorial of our deepest religious experiences. No new revelation is here made. The simple facts of the Divine deliverance of the people, their perfidy and faithlessness, are recited; in contrast with which God's steadfastness is mentioned. The foundation article of the covenant is rehearsed, and the question asked, "Why have ye done this?" And then the connection of their punishment with their sin is set forth.
II. A PLACE OF INQUIRY, REMONSTRANCE, AND SORROWFUL APPEAL. The tone of this address is sympathetic and yet severe. The question, "Why have ye done this?" suggests to the people how foolish and profitless their conduct has been. How fitting would such a question be to many sinners of to-day. We too have broken plain precepts and sinned against the light of truth. What reason has there been in the conduct of God, in the nature of the duties neglected, or in the advantages we supposed we should secure? An appeal to conscience like this is of infinitely more value than a speculative disquisition. He is a true angel who bears such a message.
III. A PLACE OF REPENTANCE. Israel is invited to change its mind. God is solicitous for its repentance. He has sent "an angel" to produce this result. The tears that flow so freely are precious in his sight, and may avail, if followed up, to recover his favour and to reinstate them in their lost possessions. How great a privilege was this; not that it was a place of tears only, but that it might become a place of repentance, a turning-point in Israel's history. This Esau found not, though he sought it carefully with tears. Let it therefore be seized as a blissful augury that God wills not the death of a sinner, hut that all men may turn to him and live. Such experiences are not to be artificially produced. A faithful recalling of God's real dealings with us in the past ought to make tears flow from the most hardened of sinners. But let the next step be taken, and beyond the tears, even beyond the ostentatious sacrifice, let reformation commence at once with his help and blessing. Then shall we have reason to recall our tears with gratitude when we discover that our repentance is not to he repented of.—M.
HOMILIES BY W.F. ADENEY
The preaching of repentance.
I. THE MISSION.
1. A special messenger is sent to preach repentance. There are men whose peculiar gifts and position mark them out as called to this difficult work, e.g. Elijah, John the Baptist, Savonarola, John Knox.
2. This man was sent by God. It needs a Divine call and inspiration to speak rightly to men of their sins as well as to preach the gospel of peace. He who is thus called must not shrink from fear or false kindness to men.
3. The preacher is simply commissioned to convey a message from God. The voice is a man's, but the words are God's. The true preacher must always regard himself as the messenger of God, not at liberty to indulge in his own speculations, or to claim authority for his own judgment, but simply to declare, and interpret, and apply, the truth which God has entrusted to him (1 Timothy 1:11).
4. The preacher carries the message to the people. He does not wait for an audience to assemble about him; he does not wait for a spontaneous repentance. He journeys from Gilgal to Bochim. They who most need the preacher are least likely to come to hear him. Therefore he must go after them. The visitor, the city missionary, etc; have here a special work to reach those who will never enter the church, but all preachers of repentance must learn to seek their hearers.
II. THE MESSAGE.
1. This commences with a review of God's goodness and faithfulness. If we have been sinful he has still been merciful to us. He has kept his side of the great covenant, so that if we miss the good fruits of it this must be because we fail on our side. It is well to call attention to these facts before pointing out the sin of men,
2. The message contains a definite charge of sin. This must be definite to be effective. All admit they are imperfect. The difficult and delicate task of rebuking consists in making men see their special guilt in regard to particular sins.
3. The message closes with a warning of punishment. This punishment was to be a direct consequence of their tolerance of evil. Punishment is a natural fruit of sin.
III. THE RESULTS. We see the preaching of repentance producing the most varied results. Some turn a deaf ear; some hear and resent it; some hear and approve, but apply the message to others; some hear and admit the truth of the rebuke, but have no feeling of the sting of it; some feel sorrow under the rebuke, but do not rise to the active repentance of will. In the present instance the people heard meekly, humbly, and penitently, and the word bore fruit in genuine repentance and reformation.
1. They wept. Sorrow for past sin is natural and helpful towards future amendment, though if left to itself it will be a barren sentiment.
2. They sacrificed. Thus they acknowledged guilt, sought forgiveness in the mercy of God, and reconsecrated themselves to his service. It is not repentance, but faith in Christ, the sacrifice for sin, following this, that secures to us God's forgiving mercy.
3. They served the Lord. This is the final outcome, and certain proof of genuine repentance. The depth of our repentance must be measured not by the number of tears we shed, but by the thoroughness of our amendment of life, and the faithfulness of our subsequent service of God (Luke 3:11).—A.