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Commentary On Joshua by Jean Calvin

Joshua 13:1-14

1. Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

1. Quum autem senuisset Josue, et venisset in dies, dixit ei Jehova, Tu senuisti, venisti in dies, et multa terra admodum superest ad possidendum.

2. This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri,

2. Haec est terra quae residua est, omnes limites Philisthinorum, et omnis Gessuri.

3. From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:

3. A Nilo qui est e regione AEgypti usque ad terminum Ecron, qui est ab aquilone, quae Chananeae reputatur, quinque principatus Philisthinorum, Azathaeus, Asdodaeus, Ascalonaeus, Gitthaeus et Ekronaeus et Auaei.

4. From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:

4. Ab austro universa terra Chananaei et Meara, quae est Sidoniorum usque ad Paera, usque ad terminum Aemorrhaei.

5. And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath.

5. Et terra Gibli, et totus Libanus ad ortum solis a Baal-gad sub monte Hermon, donec pervenias Hemath.

6. All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee.

6. Omnes habitotores montis a Libano usque ad fervores aquarum: omnes Sidonios ego expellam a facie filiorum Israel: tantum jacias sortem, ut sit in haereditatem Israel, sicut praecepi tibi.

7. Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh;

7. Nunc ergo divide terram istam in haereditatem novem tribubus, et dimidiae tribui Manasse.

8. With whom the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them;

8. Praeter eam Rubenitae, et Gaditae acceperunt partes suas, quas dedit iis Moses trans Jordanem ad orientem, sicut dedit eis Moses servus Jehovae.

9. From Aroer, that is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain of Medeba unto Dibon;

9. Ab Aroer quae est juxta ripam fluminis Arnon, et urbem ipsam quae est in medio vallis, et totam planitiem Medeba usque ad Dibon.

10. And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, unto the border of the children of Ammon;

10. Et omnes urbes Sihon regis Aemorrhaei, qui regnabat in Hesbon, usque ad terminum filiorum Ammon.

11. And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah;

11. Et Gilead et terminum Gessuri, et Maachati, et totum montem Hermon, et universum Basan usque ad Salchah.

12. All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out.

12. Universum regnum Og in Basan, qui regnabat in Astaroth, et in Edrei: hic supererat ex residuo Rephaim, quos percussit Moses et expulit.

13. Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.

13. Non expulerunt autem filii Israel Gessuri et Maachati: propterea habitavit Gessur et Maachat in medio Israel usque ad hunc diem.

14. Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them.

14. Tantum tribui Levi non dedit haereditatem, sacrificia Jehovae Dei Israel sunt hereditas ejus, quemadmodum loquutus est de ea.

1. Now Joshua was old, etc Since we have seen above that the land was pacified by the subjugation of thirty-one kings, it is probable that some cessation now took place for the purpose of resting from their fatigues, lest the people should be worn out by continual service. Nor could that justly be blamed, provided they rested only for a time and continued always intent on the goal set before them. But lest that intermission which was given for the purpose of recruiting new vigor might prove an occasion of sloth, the Lord employs a new stimulus to urge them to proceed. For he orders the whole inheritance to be divided into tribes, and the whole line of the Mediterranean coast which was possessed by the enemy to be put into the lot. A division of this kind might indeed seem absurd and ludicrous, nay, a complete mockery, seeing they were dealing among themselves with the property of others just as if it had been their own. But the Lord so appointed for the best of reasons. First, they might have cast away the hope of the promise and been contented with their present state. Nay, although after the lot was cast they had security in full for all that God had promised, they by their own cowardice, as far as in them lay, destroyed the credit of his words. Nor was it owing to any merit of theirs that his veracity did not lie curtailed and mutilated. The allocation by lot must therefore have been to them an earnest of certain possession so as to keep them always in readiness for it. Secondly, Those who happened to have their portion assigned in an enemy's country, inasmuch as they were living in the meanwhile as strangers on precarious hospitality beyond their own inheritance, must have acted like a kind of task-masters spurring on the others. And it surely implied excessive stupor to neglect and abandon what had been divinely assigned to them.

We now see to what intent the whole land behooved to be divided by lot, and the seat of each tribe allocated. It was also necessary that this should be done while Joshua was alive, because after his death the Israelites would have been less inclined to obedience, for none of his successors possessed authority sufficient for the execution of so difficult a task. Moreover, as God had already by the mouth of Moses commanded it to be done, had he not performed the business thus committed to him, the whole work might have gone to wreck when the lawful minister was removed. Although the exact time is not stated, still it is probable that as there was no hope that while Joshua continued alive the people would again take up arms with the view of giving a wider extent to their boundaries, he then only attempted to divide the land, as if he were proclaiming and promising, by a solemn attestation, that the distribution would certainly be carried into effect, because the truth of God could not fail in consequence of the death of any man.

2. This is the land, etc The ancient boundaries long ago fixed by God, are recalled to remembrance, in order that Joshua. and the people may feel fully persuaded that the covenant made with Abraham would be fulfilled in every part. Wherefore they are enjoined to make it their study to acquire the parts still remaining to be possessed. The inference will be appropriate if we make a practical application of this perseverance to that which is required of us, viz., to forget the things which are behind, and reach forth unto those that are before, and press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling. (Philippians 3:14.) For it would be of no use to run in the race without endeavoring to reach the goal.

The boundary commenced with a river separating Egypt toward the sea from the Holy Land, and most probably the river Nile, as we interpret it according to the received opinion, or a small stream which flowed past the town of Rhinocornea, believed by many to be Raphia or Raphane. It is indeed beyond dispute that the inheritance of the people commencing in that quarter was contiguous to Egypt. But although I have followed the opinion of the majority of expositors, that the boundaries were not extended further than to the less cultivated and in a manner desert land, lest greater proximity might have been injurious by leading to too close familiarity with the Egyptians, I by no means repudiate a different opinion.

The third verse raises a question. After it is said that the territories towards the sea-coast were five, a sixth is added, namely, that of the Avites. Some think that it is not counted among the five because it was an insignificant province. But I would have my readers to consider whether there may not be an indirect antithesis between a free people, their own masters, and five territories ruled by sovereigns. Hence the Avites being in different circumstances are mentioned separately, the plural number being used for the sake of distinction. In the enumeration of the sovereignties they are not arranged in the order of their dignity or opulence, but the first place is given to Aza because of its nearness to Egypt, and the same remark applies to Ashdod and the others.

The Septuagint translators, according to their usual custom, employ the Greek g (gamma) to express the Hebrew (ain), and thus give the name of Gaza to that which in Hebrew is Aza, in the same way as they convert Amorrha into Gomorrha. This sufficiently exposes the mistake of those who suppose that its name is Persian, and derived from its resources in consequence of Cambyses, when about to carry on war in Greece, having made it the depot of his treasures. But as in the Acts, (Acts 8:26,) Luke speaks of |Gaza which is desert,| it appears that a city of the same name was erected near it, but on a different site. Ashdod is the same as that which the Greeks called Azotus. The whole of this tract, which is either on the sea-coast or verging towards it, extends as far as Sidon. And there are some who think that the Phoenicians were once masters both of Gaza and Azotus. How far Lebanon extends is sufficiently known. For it sometimes comprehends Mount Hermon; and on account of its length part of it is surnamed Antilibanus. The reader will find the subject of Mount Hermon considered in the fourth chapter of Deuteronomy. Towards the east is Hamath, which is also Antioch of Syria.

6. All the inhabitants of the hill country, etc Joshua is again admonished, though the Israelites do not yet possess those regions, not to defer the partition, but trust to the promise of God, because it would detract injuriously from his honor if there were any doubt as to the event. It is accordingly said: Only do what is thy duty in the distribution of the land; nor let that which the enemy still hold securely be exempted from the lot; for it will be my care to fulfil what I have promised. Hence let us learn in undertaking any business, so to depend on the lips of God as that no doubt can delay us. It is not ours, indeed, to fabricate vain hopes for ourselves; but when our confidence is founded on the Lord, let us only obey his commands, and there is no reason to fear that the event will disappoint us.

He afterwards assigns the land of Canaan to nine tribes and a half tribe, because the portion of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh had already been assigned beyond the Jordan. Though there is a seeming tautology in the words, Which Moses gave them, as Moses gave them, there is nothing superfluous, because in the second clause the donation is confirmed; as if God were ordering that which was done to be ratified, or saying, in other words, As Moses gave them that land, so let them remain tranquil in the possession of it. For this reason also he is distinguished by the title of servant of God, as if it were said, Let no one interfere with that decree which a faithful minister has pronounced on the authority of God. It was certainly necessary to provide by anticipation against the disputes which otherwise must have daily arisen.

14. Only unto the tribe of Levi, etc This exception was also necessary, lest the Levites might allege that they were unjustly disinherited, and thus excite great commotions in regard to their right. He therefore reminds them that Moses was the author of this distinction, and, at the same time, shows that they have no reason to complain of having been in any way defrauded, because an excellent compensation was given them. For although the sacrifices were not equally divided among the Levites, their subsistence was sufficiently provided for by all the first-fruits and the tithes. Moreover, as God allures them by hire to undertake the charge of sacred things, so he exhorts the people in their turn to be faithful in paying the sacred oblations by declaring that their sacrifices are the maintenance of the Levites.

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