Joshua 18:9
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.
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Joshua 18:9-10. The men went and passed through the land — Josephus tells us they were occupied seven months in taking this survey, and making the description here mentioned. And described it by cities — Or, according to the cities to which the several provisions or territories belonged. Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh — That is, according to the divisions made by the surveyors, which were so just and equal that all consented the lot should determine what part should belong to them.18:2-10 After a year or more, Joshua blamed their slackness, and told them how to proceed. God, by his grace, has given us a title to a good land, the heavenly Canaan, but we are slack to take possession of it; we enter not into that rest, as we might by faith, and hope, and holy joy. How long shall it be thus with us? How long shall we thus stand in our own light, and forsake our own mercies for lying vanities? Joshua stirs the Israelites up to take possession of their lots. He is ready to do his part, if they will do theirs.Three men for each tribe - i. e. 21 in all. Their duty would be to describe the land, especially with reference to the cities it contained Joshua 18:9, that Joshua might have the means of making a first apportionment among the tribes according to their varying numbers. 9. The men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book—dividing the land according to its value, and the worth of the cities which it contained, into seven equal portions. This was no light task to undertake. It required learning and intelligence which they or their instructors had, in all probability, brought with them out of Egypt. Accordingly, Josephus says that the survey was performed by men expert in geometry. And, in fact, the circumstantial account which is given of the boundaries of each tribe and its situation, well proves it to have been the work of no mean or incompetent hands. By cities, or, according to the cities, to which the several parts or territories belonged. And the men went and passed through the land,.... Undisturbed by the inhabitants that remained; the fear of the Israelites being still upon them, and the providence of God restraining them, so that the men passed through the whole country, and took a survey of it without any molestation:

and described it by cities, into seven parts, in a book; or map, or rather made seven maps of it, and set down the several cities in each division, with the places adjacent, hills and vales, and marked out a plain and exact chorography of the whole, by which it appears they must be men well skilled in geometry. Josephus (b) says, that Joshua added to them some that understood geometry; but doubtless the persons each tribe chose and sent were such whom they knew were well versed in that art, and so fit for the business; and which they had, no doubt, learned in Egypt, this being one part of the wisdom and learning of the Egyptians; who boasted of it as an invention of theirs, as Diodorus Siculus (c) relates; and indeed they were obliged to study it, their country being divided into several homes, and these into lesser districts, and which also were subdivided, and according thereunto were the king's taxes levied upon them; and what with the confusion frequently made by the overflowings of the Nile, they were frequently obliged to measure their land over again; and hence they became expert in this science, which is commonly believed took its rise from them, and passed into Greece, as Herodotus (d), and Strabo (e), and other authors relate; however, it is certain from this instance in the time of Joshua, that geometry was not the invention of Anaximander, about five hundred years before Christ, as some have asserted (f):

and came again to Joshua to the host at Shiloh; where the camp, as well as the people in common, and the tabernacle, were; they returned, as Josephus (g) says, at the end of seven months; and to measure so much land, and make such divisions of it, and give the plans and maps of each division, must take up a considerable time.

(b) Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 21. (c) Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 63. (d) Euterpe, sive, l. 2. c. 109. (e) Geograph. l. 17. p. 541, 542. Vid. Suidam in voce (f) Vid. Strabo. Geograph. l. 1. p. 5. Lar. l. 2. Vit. Anaximan I.((g) Ut supra. (Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 21.)

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. and passed through the land] How long they were absent we are not told. Josephus tells us it was seven months, Ant. v. i. 21. The Rabbis tell us it was seven years. Both suppositions are equally devoid of foundation.

and described it] Although the survey was connected chiefly with a general estimate of the resources and characteristics of the several districts, yet it is to be remembered that the Israelites had acquired a knowledge of the art of mensuration in Egypt, where, on account of the annual overflowing of the Nile, it had been practised from the earliest times.

by cities into seven parts] i.e. they surveyed it so as to divide the cities and then the land itself into seven parts.But, for the reasons explained in Joshua 14:1, these tribes showed themselves "slack to go to possess the land which the Lord had given them," i.e., not merely to conquer it, but to have it divided by lot, and to enter in and take possession. Joshua charged them with this, and directed them to appoint three men for each of the seven tribes, that they might be sent out to go through the land, and describe it according to the measure of their inheritance. "According to their inheritance," i.e., with special reference to the fact that seven tribes were to receive it for their inheritance. The description was not a formal measurement, although the art of surveying was well known in Egypt in ancient times, and was regularly carried out after the annual inundations of the Nile (Herod. ii. 109; Strabo, xvii. 787; Diod. Sic. i. 69); so that the Israelites might have learned it there. But כּתב does not mean to measure; and it was not a formal measurement that was required, for the purpose of dividing the land that yet remained into seven districts, since the tribes differed in numerical strength, and therefore the boundaries of the territory assigned them could not be settled till after the lots had been cast. The meaning of the word is to describe; and according to Joshua 18:9, it was chiefly to the towns that reference was made: so that the description required by Joshua in all probability consisted simply in the preparation of lists of the towns in the different parts of the land, with an account of their size and character; also with "notices of the quality and condition of the soil; what lands were fertile, and what they produced; where the country was mountainous, and where it was level; which lands were well watered, and which were dry; and any other things that would indicate the character of the soil, and facilitate a comparison between the different parts of the land" (Rosenmller). The reasons which induced Joshua to take steps for the first time now for securing a survey of the land, are given in Joshua 14:1. The men chosen for the purpose were able to carry out their task without receiving any hindrance from the Canaanites. For whilst the latter were crushed, if not exterminated, by the victories which the Israelites had gained, it was not necessary for the twenty-one Israelitish men to penetrate into every corner of the land, and every town that was still inhabited by the Canaanites, in order to accomplish their end.
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