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Commentary On Joshua by Jean Calvin

Joshua 17:11-18

11. And Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher Bethshean and her towns, and Ibleam and her towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Endor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even three countries.

11. Fuitque ipsi Manasse in Issachar, et in Aser, Beth-sean, et oppida ejus: et Ibleam, et oppida ejus: et habitatores Dor, et oppida ejus: et habitatores Endor, et oppida ejus: et habitatores Thaanach, et oppida ejus: et habitatores Magiddo, et oppida ejus, tres regiones.

12. Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.

12. Et non potuerunt filii Manasse expellere habitatores urbium istarum, sed coepit Chananaeus habitare in terra ipsa.

13. Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out.

13. Quum autem roborati essent filii Israel, posuerunt Chananaeum tributarium, nec expellendo expulerunt eum.

14. ¶ And the children of Joseph spoke unto Joshua, saying, Why has thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD has blessed me hitherto?

14. Loquui sunt autem filii Joseph ad Josue, dicendo, Cur dedisti mihi in haereditatem sortem unam, et haereditatem unam, quum ego sim populus multus, ita quod hucusque benedixerit mihi Jehova?

15. And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.

15. Dixitque ad eos Josue, Si populus multus es, ascende in sylvam, et succide tibi illic in terra Perizaei, et Rephaim, si angustus est tibi mons Ephraim.

16. And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.

16. Cui responderunt filii Joseph, Non sufficiet nobis mons ille: et currus ferrei sunt in omni Chananaeo qui habitat in terra vallis, et ei qui habitat in Beth-sean et oppidis ejus, et ei qui habitat in valle Jezrael.

17. And Joshua spoke unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and has great power: thou shall not have one lot only:

17. Dixitque Josue ad domum Joseph, nempe ad Ephraim et Manasse, dicendo, Populus multus es, et fortitudo magna est tibi: non erit tibi sors unica.

18. But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shall cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.

18. Mons enim erit tibi, quia sylva est: succides ergo eam, et erunt tibi exitus ejus: quia expelles Chananaeum, quanquam currus ferrei sint ei, quanquam fortis sit.

11. And Manasseh had in Issachar, etc How they were so mingled as to possess some cities in the lot of Asher and Issachar, while the tribe of Ephraim dwelt between their limits, it is not easy to divine, unless, perhaps, it was perceived that a more commodious habitation would not be liable to many complaints, or, perhaps, after the whole country had become more certainly known, some change was made on principles of equity in the former partition. This, therefore, seems to have been a new acquisition after it was discovered that the children of Manasseh might occupy a wider extent without loss to others. Nor was the habitation given to them a subjugated one, which they might immediately enjoy, but it was an inheritance treasured up in hope, and founded more upon heavenly promise than on actual possession. And yet their not gaining possession of those cities is attributed to their fault, because the lot assigning it to them was an indubitable pledge of victory. The reason, therefore, why they could not expel the inhabitants was, because they were not fully persuaded in their minds that God is true, and stifled his agency by their own sluggishness. But another crime still less pardonable was committed when, having it in their power easily to destroy all, they not only were slothful in executing the command of God, but, induced by filthy lucre, they preserved those alive whom God had doomed to destruction. For persons, on whom we impose tribute, we in a manner take under our faith and protection. God had appointed them the ministers of his vengeance, and he supplies them with strength to execute it: they not only delay, but deprive themselves of the liberty of acting rightly. It is not strange, therefore, that God severely punished this perverse heartlessness, by making those nations whom they had pardoned in the face of a clear prohibition, to become like thorns to pierce their eyes and pricks to gall their sides.

Here, again, a question arises, How were cities granted to them in the tribe of Asher and Issachar, when the portions of both were as yet unknown? Here, therefore, that which had not yet taken place is related by way of anticipation. Be this as it may, we gather that from ignorance of the localities, single portions were not divided so exactly as not to make it necessary afterwards to correct what had been more or less decided. And we must hold in general, with regard both to the tribe of Ephraim and the others, that many of the cities which they gained were of no account because of the devastation. I doubt not that many ruins here lie buried. On the other hand, we must conclude that in fertile spots, or spots possessed of other advantages, where petty villages only existed, their famous cities were founded. It is certain that Sichem was of sufficient importance to hold both a name and rank, and yet there is no mention of it here. The same is the case with Samaria, which, as is well known, belonged to the same tribe of Ephraim when it was the metropolis of the kingdom of Israel. It is plain, therefore, that each tribe possessed several cities, which are here passed over in silence.

14. And the children of Joseph spoke unto Joshua, etc Although they clothe their complaint with some color of excuse, yet they dishonestly disguise the fact, that more was comprehended in one lot than was proper for one tribe. I know not, however, whether or not the lot was cast indefinitely for the sons of Joseph: it certainly does not seem congruous that it should be so. Joshua and the other dividers were not unaware that Ephraim and Manasseh formed two heads, or two stems: and it has repeatedly been said before that the land was divided into ten tribes, which number was not accurate, unless the tribe of Manasseh was considered distinct from that of Ephraim. It is certain, therefore, that they had not fallen into such a gross blunder as to throw the two names into one lot. Now, to conceal two tribes under the name of Joseph, in order to defraud them of half their right, would have been intolerable injustice. We may add, that the domain of each was distinctly explained and described by its proper boundaries.

We are therefore led to conclude, that when the lots were cast for the two tribes, the admirable counsel of God arranged that the brothers, who had a common father, should be contiguous and neighbors to each other. It is unworthy in them, therefore, to complain and plead that only one inheritance had been given to them, because Joshua had neither such heartlessness nor so much malice as to defraud them of a clear right either through thoughtlessness or envy. But herein lay the falsehood of their complaint concerning narrow boundaries, that they counted all that was yet to be acquired by warlike prowess as nothing; as if the lot had assigned portions to the other tribes only in subjugated territory. Joshua, accordingly, in a single sentence, refutes and disposes of their plea, and retorts upon them a charge by which they were trying to throw obloquy upon him. If your resources and your numbers are so great, why, he asks, do you not make an inroad on the enemy, whose country has been given to you? Nor will the event disappoint you, if, trusting to the promise of God, you boldly proceed to the inheritance which he has bestowed upon you. We see how, although proper provision had been made for them, they were so blinded by sloth as to complain that they were straitened for room, because they were unwilling to move their finger to seek the full possession of their inheritance. Wherefore, this passage teaches us, that if at any time we think less is performed for us than is due, we ought carefully to shake off all delays, and not rashly throw upon others the blame which is inherent in ourselves.

16. And the children of Joseph said, etc It is too apparent that they were thinking only of themselves, because they quibble as much as they can, in order to avoid following the suggestion of Joshua, than which, however, nothing was more reasonable. They object, that the mountain is rugged and little better than a desert, and therefore, though it were added to them, they would derive very little benefit from it. In regard to the plain, which was cultivated and fertile, they object that they are shut out and debarred from it because of the formidable array of the enemy. Accordingly, they make mention of their iron chariots, as if they had not already learned by experience that the Lord was able, without any difficulty, to trample down both horses and chariots. Joshua, however, by a simple and right-hearted answer, administers due castigation, as well to their avarice as their effeminacy and torpor. If the forest, as it now stands, is not sufficiently productive, cut down the trees and convert it into good fields; provided you are not sparing of your labor, you will have no reason to be dissatisfied with your habitation. Iron chariots, moreover, cannot prevent the Lord from performing what he has promised to you. The inheritance is yours; do only your part by entering with due confidence on the possession of it.

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