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Song of Solomon
Joshua 8 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)
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And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land:
Joshua was down cast at his former failure, and well he might. "Treacherous Israelites are to be dreaded more than malicious Canaanites" (Matthew Henry).
Take all the people of wax with thee.
Not, as has been before stated, because 3,000 men were too few to take the city, for the capture of Jericho was a far greater marvel than that of Ai with this number of men. The true reason is indicated by Calvin, and is indeed suggested by the words "Fear not, neither be thou dismayed." It was to reassure the people, whose hearts had "melted and become as water." Sometimes God calls upon His people for a display of faith, as when He led them through the Jordan, or commanded them to compass Jericho seven days. But in days of despondency He compassionates their weakness and permits them to rely upon visible means of support (see also below, ver. 3). Matthew Henry thinks that a tacit rebuke is here administered to Joshua for sending so few men to Ai on the frowner occasion. He ought to have permitted all to have shared the toil and glory.
I have given into thy hand.
The work, let man do his best, is God's after all.
For the political condition of Palestine before the Israelitish invasion see Introduction.
And his land.
As in the case of the early Germanic peoples, there was a certain portion of their land in the neigbourhood attached to each city which was used for agricultural purposes (see Introduction; also
And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.
Only the spoil thereof.
Ai was not solemnly devoted, like Jericho, though (see
Deuteronomy 20:16, 17
) the Canaanitish people were.
Joshua was advancing from the southeast. The ambush (
literally, "a lier in wait," here a band of liers in wait, the word itself originally signifying
to plait, weave
, hence to
) was therefore (ver. 12) on the opposite, or west side of the city. The question which has been raised whether God could rightly command a stratagem seems scarcely to require discussion.
So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night.
In ver. 12 we read 5,000, and this must be the true reading. Thirty thousand men could hardly have been posted, without detection, in the ravines around Ai, whereas we are informed by travellers that there would have been no difficulty in concealing 5,000 men there. See, however, the passage cited from Lieut. Conder's Report in the note on Joshua 7:2. The confused condition of the numbers in the present text of the Old Testament is a well known fact, and it is proved by the great discrepancies in this respect between the Books of Chronicles and those of Samuel and Kings. Some have thought (
, Haverniek, 'Introduction to the Old Testament,' II. 1:15) that
bands were laid in ambush, one on the northwest and the other on the southwest. This is a possible, though not probable, solution of the difficulty (see below). Then we must suppose that the city was nearly surrounded, Joshua and the main body on the southeast, the larger detachment on the north (ver. 13), and the smaller ambush on the west (see note on ver. 13). Keil, in his earlier editions, supposed that Joshua assaulted Ai with 30,000 men, out of whom he chose 5,000 as an ambush. So also Hengstenberg's 'Geschichte des Reiches Gottes,' p. 219. But this only introduces a third contradiction, for we are told both in vers. 1 and 3 that Joshua took with him "all the men of war." Keil has, however, abandoned that supposition, which is contrary to all the ancient versions, including the present text of the LXX. The Bishop of Lincoln suggests that 5,000 men may have been detached to reinforce the former detachment of 30,000. But to say nothing of the improbability of an ambush of 35,000 men remaining undetected (and they were specially instructed - see next verse - not to station themselves far from the city), we have the plain statement in ver. 12
וַיָּשֶׂם אותָם אורֵב
"he stationed (or
) them as an ambush."
And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city,
behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready:
And I, and all the people that
with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them,
We will flee before them.
A common expedient of a sagacious general when contending with undisciplined troops is a strong position. Many instances will occur to the student of history, and among others the celebrated feigned flight of William the Conqueror at Hastings. St. Augustine doubts whether this stratagem were lawful. Cajetan and the Jesuit commentators reply that it was so "quia mendacium non tam facile committitur factis, quam verbis" (Cornelius a Lapide).
(For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them.
For they will come.
they will come."
We have drawn.
caused to pluck away
(see note on Joshua 4:18). Luther translates well by
, and the LXX. by
Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand.
And it shall be, when ye have taken the city,
ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you.
According to the commandment of the lord.
The LXX. seems to have
׃דרוו סךהת ות גנךדרושׂשׂא כִדְבַר הַזֶה
Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.
Between Bethel and Ai.
And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai.
And numbered the people.
The word is frequently translated
Scripture. It then came to mean a visit for the sake of inspection.
The elders of Israel.
Joshua's council, alike of war and of peace.
Before the people.
in their sight
, at their head.
And all the people,
even the people
of war that
with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now
a valley between them and Ai.
And all the people, even the people of war that were with him.
all the people, the war that were with him.
Probably the word
has been omitted by an early copyist. Implying, no doubt, that the non-warlike portion of the community had been left under a guard at Jericho (see also ver. 1).
On the north side.
Joshua made a
, and encamped on a hill on the other side of the wady.
Now there was a valley.
and the valley was.
This valley, the Wady Mutyah (see Robinson 17. sec. 10, and note on ver. 2, ch. 7.), is a remarkable feature of the country round Ai. Our version misses this sign of personal acquaintance with the locality on the part of the historian.
And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city.
And he took about five thousand men
(see above, ver. 3). We must translate
The repetition is quite in the manner of the Hebrew writers. This passage is of course, according to the Jehovist and Elohist theory, "quite irreconeilable" with the rest of the narrative. So we are told that this is a Jehovistic interpolation (Knobel).
Of the city.
The Masorites and LXX. prefer the reading
.), in the margin of our Bibles, to that in the text, which is followed by the Vulgate and Luther.
And when they had set the people,
all the host that
on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.
And when they had set.
This may mean the leaders of the detachment of 30,000. Joshua does not appear to have been with them, for he is not mentioned till the latter part of the verse (see note on ver. 3).
Joshua went that night.
Having made all his dispositions, he descended in the evening from his vantage ground on the hill into the plain, so as to invite attack in the morning, a stratagem which (see next verse) was completely successful. Some MSS., however, have
"and he rested," for
"and he went" here.
The word here is
as in ver. 11. Therefore the narrow waterless ravine in which the troops in ambush were to lie hid is not meant here, but a wider valley. A consideration of this fact might do something to settle the much disputed question of the situation of Ai. The
though deep, as the name implies, was a valley large enough for cultivation or luxuriant vegetation (
; Psalm 65:14;
Song of Solomon 2:1
). Even a battle might be fought there (
). Such a valley as that of Chamonix or Lauterbrunnen would answer to the description, and so would the passes of Glencoe and Killiecrankie.
And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw
, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that
liers in ambush against him behind the city.
When the king of Ai saw it.
here employed signifies
At a time appointed.
Keil, following Luther, would prefer
at the place appointed
, which seems to agree best with what follows. Some copies of the LXX. have
Before the plain.
in sight of
the direction of
And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness.
Made as though they were beaten.
"Joshua conquered by yielding. So our Lord Jesus Christ, when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost, seemed as if death had triumphed over Him; but in His resurrection He rallied again, and gave the powers of darkness a total defeat" (Matthew Henry).
By the way of the wilderness.
Northwestward, in the direction of the wilderness of Bethel (
And all the people that
in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city.
Were called together.
So the Masorites. Perhaps it would be better to translate,
raised a cry
("at illi vociferantes." Vulgate. "Da schrie das ganze Volk." Luther). This gives us the scene in all its picturesque detail. We hear the exultant shout of the men of Ai, as they thought the victory won. The LXX. appear to have read
for they translate
The Masorites correct here again into "Ai." But the LXX. and Vulgate render as the English translation.
And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.
These words are not in the LXX., and they may possibly have been a marginal gloss, for the intervention of the people of Bethel in this battle is very unintelligible. See note on Joshua 7:2. On the other hand, it is quite possible that the difficulty involved in their retention may have caused their omission from the LXX., and it may perhaps be thought possible that, on the capture of Ai, the Bethelites returned with all speed to their city, and that Joshua postponed its capture in consequence of the formidable confederacy (
Joshua 9:1, 2
), which his success had called into existence, or, perhaps, by a desire to signalise at once the victory at Ai by the ceremony (vers. 30-35) at Gerizim. We read in
that Bethel was taken. In
we read that it was not (see note on Joshua 12:16).
And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that
in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that
in his hand toward the city.
, a kind of long and slender lance, probably, like those of our lancers, with a flag attached. It is thus described by Kimchi. Jahn, in his 'Archesologia Biblica,' takes this view (sec. 276). But the Vulgate here, followed apparently by Grotius and Masius, suppose it to be a shield, though the LXX. render by
1 Samuel 17:6
the LXX. render by
, and our version by
It is to be distinguished from the lighter
or flexible javelin (see, for instance,
1 Samuel 13:22
1 Samuel 18:10
, which was thrown at the adversary, whereas the
was used to transfix him in close combat.
And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire.
And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers.
And they had no power.
no hands. Our
version here follows the Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldee versions. The LXX. and Vulgate render no
in which to fly. But in this case
would seem preferable to
. The Vulgate translates the last clause of the verse, "Praesertim cum hi, qui simulaverint fugam... fortissime restitissent." They could not flee back to the city, for it was in flames. They could not advance northward, because the Israelites had faced about and were coming to meet them. To flee in any other direction would be to cut off the last hope of saving the city. For
in the sense of
, however, see
, and especially the dual, as here, in
And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai.
And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape.
So that they let none of them remain or escape.
until there remained to them neither remainder nor fugitive.
And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.
And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword.
In the wilderness.
The LXX. must have read
in the going down
Returned unto Ai and smote it.
According to God's command, the defenceless inhabitants must share the fate of the army (see
all that fell that day, both of men and women,
all the men of Ai.
All the men of Ai.
Clearly all the population, as the context shows.
For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai.
(see note on Joshua 6:17).
Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua.
Only the cattle
(see ver. 2).
And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever,
a desolation unto this day.
And Joshua burnt Ai.
He continued the work of destruction which the ambush had begun, until the city was entirely destroyed. The word in ver. 19 (
) has rather the sense of kindling a fire; the word here (
), more the sense of destruction by fire.
A heap forever.
a heap of eternity;
, a heap forever, at least up to the time of our writer. But the Ai mentioned in
may have been a city built, not on precisely the same spot, but near enough to it to take its name. And if Ai signifies ruins, and Dean Stanley be right in regarding it as referring to ruins in the days of the Philistines, the name would be particularly suitable to this particular city. Travellers have identified the place with Tel-el. Hajar, immediately to the south of the Wady Mutyah. But see note on ch. 7:2 for Robinson's conclusion, which is confirmed by Canon Tristram, from the belief that Tel-el-Hajar does not answer to the description of Ai in the Scripture narrative.
Hanged on a tree.
Literally, "on the tree." Perhaps after his death, But see
We find here a remarkable coincidence with the precept in
. The fact that no notice is here taken of that passage is conclusive against its having been inserted with a view to that precept in later times, and this affords a strong presumption against the Elohist and Jehovist theory.
, an expression usually applied to a heap of stones, a
, though not always in precisely this sense (see
CHAPTER 8:30-35. THE COPY OF THE LAW. -
And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones,
unto this day.
Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal,
Then Joshua built an altar unto the Lord God of Israel in Mount Ebal.
This passage has been pronounced to be an interpolation by Meyer, De Wette, Maurer, Rosenmuller, Knobel, and others. The LXX. does not introduce it here, but after
. For other authorities see below. It is very easy to see why its genuineness has been disputed. The Book of Joshua has many marks of having been written not so very long after the events described in it. But it has been a favourite opinion with the school which disputes the authenticity of the books of the Bible, that Deuteronomy was a late revision by Ezra of the law of Moses, though this (see Introduction) has lately been discarded for another hypothesis. But we have, if the present passage be genuine, a distinct proof that the Book of Joshua was written after the Book of Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy is here quoted as the "book of the law of Moses" (cf.
Deuteronomy 31:9, 24, 26
). The grounds on which the genuine. ness of the passage has been denied are these: First, the passage begins with
followed by an imperfect, or future, as does the interpolated passage in
. This is Maurer's theory. But in this case we must reject every passage which begins thus, and certainly we should do so on grounds which, to say the least, are very slender. Next, we are told that Joshua could not have ventured to trust himself so far in the heart of a hostile country. But why not? Gerizim was not more than twenty miles from Ai. The Canaanites, we are told, were panic stricken at Joshua's success. The Gibeonites were not disposed to offer any hindrance to his progress; on the contrary, they hastened to form an alliance with him. And these solemn religious rites, performed by a people so clearly under the protection of the Most High, were more likely to increase than lessen the awe felt by the surrounding tribes. The only difficulty is that the women and children (v. 35) are expressly said to have gone thither also, and it seems improbable that they, whom we have supposed to have been left under a guard at Gilgal, should have been brought so far while the country was as yet unsubdued. And the difficulty is increased by finding Joshua again at Gilgal in
. But there is the hypothesis that this was another Gilgal to fall back upon, and this (see note on the passage just mentioned) is an extremely probable one. The suggestion of many commentators, that the passage has been transposed, is of course possible. We can only leave the difficulty unsolved, as one which a fuller knowledge of the facts, could we obtain it, would clear up at once. But we may be sure that if the passage were an interpolation, some explanation would have been given of the circumstances which seem to us so perplexing. And on the other hand we must remember that, as has been already contended, the notion that the whole camp of Israel performed this journey at a time when stupefaction had seized upon the Canaanitish tribes, though involving some amount of impossibility, is by no means impossible. (See also note on ver. 33). A number of extraordinary interpretations of this passage have been given. A favourite Rabbinical interpretation (see note on next verse) was that this altar was erected on the very day on which the Israelites crossed the Jordan. This was of course a physical impossibility. Josephus, on the contrary, supposes that five years elapsed before its erection, while Rabbi Israel, in the Jerusalem Talmud, thinks that it was deferred until after the expiration of fourteen years, and after the land had been divided. So Masius
In Mount Ebal.
Between it and Gerizim stood the city of Shechem, or Sychar, as it is called in St.
. Gerizim was close to this city, as
Judges 9:6, 7
testify, as well as
, compared with
. Dr. Maclear, in the 'Cambridge Bible for Schools,' suggests that the Israelites took this opportunity of interring the bones of Joseph (
Genesis 1:25, 26
) in the piece of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor (
As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up
iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings.
As Moses the servant of the Lord commanded
Deuteronomy 27:4, 5
). Here, and in ver. 33, we find the writer making an extract from the Book of Deuteronomy. As has been before said, the natural explanation is that the Book of Joshua was written after the Book of Deuteronomy, and that the Book of Deuteronomy was written by Moses, or how could Joshua have carried out instructions which had never been given? The Elohist, Jehovist, and Denteronomist theory supposes the compiler of the Book of Joshua to have done his work in so perfunctory a fashion, that it is quite possible for critics living at a distance of three thousand years and more to detect the various fragments of which his mosaic is constructed. He is so void of common sense as to have inserted this narrative in a place so obviously unsuitable that it involves a palpable contradiction to probability and common sense, and this when he could have placed it in a dozen other parts of the book where no such improbability would be involved. Yet, in spite of the incredible carelessness with which he put his materials together, we are required to believe that "the Deuteronomist" had the foresight to insert the fulfilment of the command of Moses which he had invented in
; and that in so doing he abbreviated the narrative so as to leave out many details of his own invention. Now, under the supposition of a later fabrication of supplementary observances to be imposed upon the children of Israel, it is hardly probable that the account of the plaster with which the stones were to be plastered, and the enumeration of the tribes and the curses, would be omitted, since by the hypothesis the object of the Deuteronomist was to secure implicit obedience to the sacerdotal enactments he was inventing. But on the hypothesis of the genuineness of both writings everything fits in naturally enough.
An altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron.
As though to intimate (see
) that all should be natural and spontaneous in the worship of God, and that as little of human devising should be introduced as possible. The altar must be raised by man, but the principles of the worship must not be devised by him. This interpretation, however, is rejected by Calvin, who thinks that all that was meant was to preclude the perpetual existence of the altar (though how the substitution of whole for hewn stones could effect this is not apparent); and Keil and Bahr ('Symbolik,' 1. pp. 487, 488),who think that the altar ought (
) properly to be of earth, since sacrifice is rendered necessary by man's earthly or carnal nature, and that unhewn stone is the only substitute for earth which is allowed. But surely man's handiwork is the offspring of his unregenerate nature, and therefore may, from this point of view, be rightly employed in sacrifice. Hengstenberg ('Gesehichte des Reiches Gottes,' p. 223) thinks that the reason of the command was that, since only one place of worship was permitted for all Israel, an altar had sometimes to be hastily thrown up. But when we consider the symbolic character of the Mosaic worship, we are compelled to reject this interpretation as unsatisfactory. Benjamin of Tudela (see Drusius
) appears to have supposed that these stones were those which had been taken out of Jordan. Masius devotes considerable space to the refutation of this opinion (see also note on last verse).
And they offered thereon.
Delitzsch remarks on the inversion of the order here, as compared with
. But this is obviously the true order. The worship would naturally precede the ceremony rather than follow it.
And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel.
And he wrote there upon the stones;
, upon the plaster, as we read in
Deuteronomy 27:2, 4
. "The wall destined to receive the picture," and it was just the same with inscriptions - was covered with a coating of lime and gypsum plaster. The outline was then sketched with red chalk, and afterwards corrected and filled in with black (Keurick's 'Egypt,' 1, p. 271). Thomson ('Land and the Book,' Io. 471) says that he has seen writings in plaster which could not have been less than two thousand years old. This passage shows that our author had
Deuteronomy 28:2, 3
in his mind. The stones of the altar, which alone have been mentioned, are clearly not meant here, but the erection of plastered stone on which the law was to be written.
A copy of the law of Moses,
"Deuteronomium legis," Vulgate. So also LXX. Not the whole law, nor yet the Book of Deuteronomy, for time would not permit,but the decalogue, as the word
duplicate, from whence the word Mishna comes, signifies. It is to be observed that the word is definite, the copy, not a copy, of the law. This (
) was what was written on the two tables of stone, which (
, 31:18) God gave to Moses. Yet it is possible that, as some commentaters suggest, and as ver. 34 may be held to imply, what is meant is the curses and blessings mentioned in
, and 28. The formal setting up of this memorial was intended to remind the Israelites, by a perpetual standing witness, of the conditions on which they held the land of Canaan. And it is to be observed that the moral, rather than the positive, precepts of the law were thus solemnly enjoined on them, since neglect of the moral law of God is the invariable source of national degradation and decay.
Which he wrote.
And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel.
And all Israel
Joshua 24:1, 2
). The word
is used very loosely in Hebrew (see
). We need not, therefore, assume as a matter of course that the whole people, men, women, and children, were taken up to Shechem to behold this ceremony. It is quite possible that during all Joshua's marches and campaigns a large number of the people remained under guard at Gilgal (see
), which remained the headquarters of the Israelites until the country was subdued. All that is here meant is that a very great number of the people were gathered together, and that every tribe, every age, and each sex were largely represented at this important ceremony.
Half of them.
Origen's explanation of the spiritual meaning of this passage is noteworthy, even though somewhat farfetched. He regards those of the tribes who stood on Mount Gerizim to bless, as the type of those who are led, not by fear of God's threatenings, but by a longing for God's promises and blessings; those who stood on Mount Ebal to curse, as the type of those who are driven by the fear of punishment to obey the will of God, and these finally attain salvation. The former, he adds, are the more noble of the two; but Jesus, who reads the hearts, gives each their proper station, and places some on Mount Ebal to curse, not that they themselves may receive the curse, but, by regarding the curse pronounced on sinners, may learn thereby how to escape it.
rather, "in the direction off" The command in
is that they shall stand upon the two mountains. No doubt certain representatives of the tribes stood on the mountain, and the rest of the people at the foot of the mountain, on either side of the valley, "crowding the slopes," as Canon Tristram says. The valley is narrow here, and the voice in mountainous regions, where the air is rarer, carries far. Under special circumstances, such as frosty weather, the voices of men crying their wares have been distinctly heard across the Humber in our own country. And in mountain passes, as any one who has travelled in them may easily ascertain, conversations may be carried on from opposite sides of a valley or ravine without the slightest difficulty. In this particular place Canon Tristram tell us ('Land of Israel,' pp. 149, 150) that when on Mount Gerizim he heard every word uttered by a man who was then driving his ass down Mount Ebal, and that afterwards two of his party recited the commandments antiphonally from the two sides of the valley without the least difficulty.
And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law.
All the words of the law, the blessings and the curses.
The form of this expression, combined with the words of the next verse, seems to include not only the special curses in
, but ch. 28, at least, and possibly chs. 29. and 30. as well.
There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.
That were conversant with them.
who were going in the midst of them
, the strangers who had attached themselves to them, either at their departure from Egypt, or since their conquest of Eastern Palestine.
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