And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spoke Joshua, saying,…
The response of the people was as noble in its way as that of their leader. There is a holy rivalry between Israel and Joshua. They stir each other up to the great work that has to be done. The outstanding feature in the response of the people is its enthusiasm. It is plain from their response that they are heart and soul in the work before them, that they are only waiting for their leader's command to march forth a band of heroes. To say that their reply to Joshua was hearty would be to do them injustice; it was enthusiastic. Every soul in the camp was stirred to its utmost depth. This is plain from the readiness with which they replied. They did not hang back, waiting for each other to speak out. Much less did they hunt up excuses why they should not march. They did not modify or minimise their responsibilities. They were as eager to follow Joshua as Joshua was to follow Jehovah. This enthusiasm was also manifested by their cheerfulness. These men had not only promised to put their hands to this work, but also made if plain that they felt it their highest privilege to be able to do so. Oh! for such holy enthusiasm in the work of the Lord in these days! The best of us are but half-hearted at the best, and some, alas! seem utterly unable to get up the least spark of enthusiasm for holy things. If we profess to be Christians, if we profess to do God's work, if we profess to respond to the call of the true Joshua, let us do it, not like galley-slaves, but like God's freemen; let us do it as those who think His service our highest honour. Joshua's followers were also unreserved in acknowledging their allegiance. They kept nothing back and made no reservation. They asked no questions and imposed no conditions. Is obedience, prompt and unquestioning, the first duty of a soldier? See how splendidly it was possessed by these Israelites. They declare that it is not for them to make reply, not for them to reason why, but simply, constantly, to do all that was commanded them. And if such glorious allegiance was due to Joshua, much more it is due to our great Captain of salvation, Jesus Christ. Whatsoever He commands in His Word we should do. Wheresoever He sends us in His providence we should go. The response of the people was also humble, sincere, earnest, and hopeful. A slight transformation in the opening words of ver. 17 makes their meaning more clear. It should read thus: "According to all in which we hearkened to Moses so will we hearken unto thee." They do not here brag of their obedience to Moses. Though better than their fathers, they had nothing to boast of, and conscious of their own weakness they merely said, "We will try to make our best obedience to Moses the model of our obedience to you." And there is good hope that they will succeed in carrying out this promise, for it is plain that they make it in a prayerful spirit, inasmuch as they follow it up by saying, "Only the Lord be with thee as He was with Moses." This is no impertinent limitation, qualifying their full allegiance as already given; but an earnest prayer that Joshua might constantly enjoy the Divine guidance, protection, and blessing vouchsafed to Moses. Then they finish their response by words vehement and uncompromising: "Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, let him be put to death." What more could a leader desire than such a spontaneous manifestation of fidelity? How must this declaration have strengthened Joshua's heart, showing so clearly as it did that his appointment to the leadership by Jehovah was so heartily ratified by all the people.
(A. B . Mackay.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,