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Commentary On Joshua by Jean Calvin

Joshua 18:1-10

1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.

1. Congregata est autem universa multitudo filiorum Israel in Silo, et collocaverunt ibi tabernaculum conventionis, postquam terra subjecta erat coram eis.

2. And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.

2. Remanserunt autem e filiis Israel quibus non diviserant haereditatem suam, septem tribus.

3. And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are you slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?

3. Dixitque Josue ad filios Israel, Usquequo cessatis ingredi, ut possideatis terram quam dedit vobis Jehova Deus patrum vestrorum?

4. Give out from among you three men for each tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me.

4. Tradite ex vobis tres viros per tribum, quos mittam: surgentque et ambulabunt per terram, describentque eam juxta haereditatem suam, postea revertentur ad me.

5. And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north.

5. Et parientur eam in septem portiones: Judas stabit in finibus suis a meridie: et familia Joseph stabunt in finibus suis ab aquilone.

6. You shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.

6. Vosque describatis terram in septem partes, et afferatis ad me huc: tum projiciam vobis sortem hic coram Jehova Deo nostro.

7. But the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.

7. Non est enim pars Levitis in medio vestri, quia sacerdotium Jehovae est haereditas ejus: Gad autem et Ruben, et dimidia tribus Manasse acceperunt haereditatem suam citra Jordanem ad orientem, quam dedit ei Moses servus Jehovae.

8. And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the LORD in Shiloh.

8. Surrexeruntque viri illi, atque abierunt, praecepitque Josue istis qui ibant, ut describerent terram, dicendo: Ite, et ambulate per terram, ac describite eam: postea revertemini ad me, et hic projiciam vobis sortem coram Jehova in Silo.

9. And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book, and came again to Joshua to the host at Shiloh.

9. Abierunt itaque viri, et transierunt per terram, atque descriperunt eam per urbes in septem partes, in libro: reversique sunt ad Josuam ad castra in Silo.

10. And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.

10. Misit autem eis Josua sortem in Silo coram Jehova: partitusque est ibi Josua terram filiis Israel secundum partes eorum.

1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel, etc Here we have a narrative of the celebrated convention held in Shiloh, where it was deliberated, as to the casting of the remaining lots. For although with pious zeal they had attempted the casting of lots, yet the proceeding had been interrupted, as if victory behooved to precede the distribution which depended solely on the mouth of God. They assemble, therefore, in Shiloh to determine what was necessary to be done in future. And there is no doubt that Joshua summoned this meeting in order to raise them from their lethargy. For they do not come forward spontaneously with any proposal, but he begins with upbraiding them with having been sluggish and remiss in entering on the inheritance which God had bestowed upon them. It is easy to infer from his speech that they had shown great alacrity at the outset, but that there had been no perseverance.

And yet that obedience, which shortly after grew languid, was honored with the approbation of the Holy Spirit. It is to be observed that the people are blamed, not for neglecting to proceed to the lot, but for not occupying the inheritance divinely offered to them. And, certainly, as the distribution by lot was a sign of confidence, so each district which fell out to each was a sure and faithful pledge of future possession; for the Lord was by no means deluding them in assigning to each his portion.

The word dphh, which I have translated |to cease,| signifies also to be remiss or feeble. He charges them, therefore, with base heartlessness, in that while the full time for routing the enemy had arrived, they by their delays retard and suspend the effect of the divine goodness. For had they been contented with the bare lot, and faithfully embraced the results which it gave, they would doubtless have been prompt and expeditious in carrying on the war, nay, would have hastened like conquerors to a triumph.

The ark is said to have been stationed at Shiloh, not only that the consultation might be graver and more sacred, as held in the presence of God, but because it was a completely subjugated place, and safe from all external violence and injury. For it behooved to be their special care to prevent its exposure to sudden assault. No doubt the hand of God would have been stretched to ward off attacks of the enemy from any quarter; still, however, though God dwelt among them, they were to be regarded as its guardians and attendants.

But although a station for the ark was then chosen, it was not a perpetual abode, but only a temporary lodging. For it was not left to the will or suffrages of the people to fix the seat where God should dwell, but they behooved to wait for the period so often referred to in the Law, when he was to establish the memorial of his name elsewhere. This was at length accomplished when Mount Zion was set apart for the Temple. For this reason it is said in the Psalm,

|Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.| (Psalm 122:2)

These words intimate that up to that time the ark was pilgrimating. At last the ruin and devastation of Shiloh showed that no rank or dignity can screen those who corrupt the blessings of God from his vengeance. Up to the death of Eli, God allowed his sacred name to be worshipped there; but when all religion was polluted by the impiety of the priests, and almost abolished by the ingratitude of the people, that spot became to posterity a signal monument of punishment. Accordingly, Jeremiah tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were proudly boasting of their Temple, to turn their eyes to that example. Speaking in the name of the Lord, he says,

|Go you now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.| (Jeremiah 7:12)

4. Give out from among you three men, etc Caleb and Joshua had already surveyed those regions, and the people had learned much by inquiry: Joshua, however, wishes the land to be divided as if according to actual survey and orders three surveyors to be appointed for each of the seven tribes, in order that by the mouth of two or three persons every dispute may be settled. But nothing seems more incongruous than to send twenty-one men, who were not only to pass directly through a hostile country, but to trace it through all its various windings and turnings, so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, to calculate, its length and breadth, and even make due allowance for its inequalities. Every person whom they happened to meet must readily have suspected who they were, and for what reason they had been employed on this expedition. In short, no free return lay open for them except through a thousand deaths. Assuredly they would not have encountered so much danger from blind and irrational impulse, nor would Joshua have exposed them to such manifest danger had they not been aware that all those nations, struck with terror from heaven, desired nothing so much as peace. For although they hated the children of Israel, still, having been subdued by so many overthrows, they did not dare to move a finger against them, and thus the surveyors proceeded in safety as through a peaceful territory, under the pretext either of trading, or at least of making a harmless visit. It is also possible that they arranged themselves in different parties, and thus made the journey more secretly. It is certain, indeed, that there was only one source from which they could have derived all this courage and confidence, from trusting under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty, and thus having no fear of blind and stupid men. Hence the praise here bestowed on their ready will. For had they not been persuaded that the hands of those nations were tied up by supernal power, they would have had a just and honest cause for refusing.

9. And the men went and passed, etc Here not only is praise bestowed on the ready obedience by which their virtue shone forth conspicuous, but the Lord gives a signal manifestation of his favor by deigning to bestow remarkable success on pious Joshua and the zeal of the people. Had they crept along by subterranean burrows, they could scarcely have escaped innumerable dangers, but now, when they are taking notes of the cities and their sites, of the fields, the varying features of the districts, and all the coasts, and without meeting with any adverse occurrence, return in safety to their countrymen, who can doubt that their life had been kept safe among a thousand deaths by a wonderful exertion of divine power? It is accordingly said emphatically, that they returned to celebrate the grace of God, which is just equivalent to saying that they were brought back by the hand of God. This made the people proceed more willingly to the casting of lots. For their minds would not yet have been well purged of fastidiousness had they not perceived in that journey a signal display of divine favor, promising them that the final issue would be according to their wish. Joshua is hence said to have divided according to the inheritance of each, as if he were sending them to enter on a quiet possession, though the effect depended on the divine presence, because it ought to have been enough for them that the whole business was carried on by the authority of God, who never deceives his people, even when he seems to sport with them. In what sense the ark of the covenant is called God, or the face of God, I have already explained in many passages.

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