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.
Verse 1. - NOW Joshua was old. This is usually regarded as the second part of the Book of Joshua; the first being devoted to the history of the conquest of Palestine, while the second is engaged with the history of its division among the conquerors. Dean Stanley, in his 'Sinai and Palestine,' as well as in his 'Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church,' describes this portion of the Book of Judges as the 'Domes. day Book' of the land of Canaan, and the remark has been constantly repeated. There is, however, a considerable difference between the great survey of the Conqueror and this one. The former was an accurate account, for purposes of taxation, national detente, and public order, of the exact extent of soil owned by each landowner, and it went so far as to enumerate the cattle on his estate, to the great disgust of the Saxon chronicler, who had an Englishman's dislike of inquisitorial proceedings. There is no trace either of such completeness, or of such an inquisitorial character in this survey, neither has it quite the same object. It assigns to each tribe the limits of its future possessions, and enumerates the cities contained in each portion of territory. Bat it makes scarcely any effort to describe the possessions of particular families, still less of individual landowners. Joshua and Caleb are the only exceptions. Knobel observes that the most powerful tribes were first settled in their territory - those, namely, of Judah and Joseph. He remarks that the author must have had written sources for his information, for no single Israelite could have been personally acquainted with all the details here given. And stricken in years. Rather, advanced in age. There is no foundation for the idea of some commentators that the Jews, at the time this book was written, made any formal distinction in these words between different stages of old age. The Hebrew language rejoiced in repetition, and this common phrase is only a means of adding emphasis to the statement already made. And there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. The Hebrew מְאֹד is stronger than our version. Perhaps the best equivalent in modern English is, "And the amount of land that remaineth for us to occupy is very great indeed." We may observe here that, as with the literal so with the spiritual Israel, whether the antitype be the Christian Church or the human heart, the work of subduing God's enemies is gradual. One successful engagement does not conclude the war. The enemy renews his assaults, and when force fails he tries fraud; when direct temptations are of no avail he resorts to enticements. The only safeguard in the war is strength, alertness, courage, patience. The faint hearted and unwatchful alike fail in the contest, which can be carried on successfully only by him who has learned to keep guard over himself, and to direct his ways by the counsels of God.
This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri,
Verse 2. - This is the land which yet remaineth. The powerful league of the Philistines, as well as the tribes near them, remained unsubdued. In the north, likewise, the neighbourhood of Sidon, and the territory of Coele, Syria, which lay between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, was as yet in the hands of the enemy. Rabbis Kimchi and Solomon Jarchi translate by "borders." Masius suggests the French marque (which was the old German mark), and the modern German grenze. All the borders of the Philistines. Literally, all the circles (Geliloth) of the Philistines. The expression is found in several places in this book (see Joshua 18:17; Joshua 22:10, 11). We may compare the expression the circles of Swabia, Franconia, etc., in the history of Germany. The expression here may have more affinity with what is known as the "mark system" in the history of ancient Germany, and refer to the patch of cultivated ground which extended for some distance round each city. But this is rendered improbable by the fact that one circle only retained its name (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32), and is still known as Galilee (see notes on these passages). Galilee was too large a district to have been originally a clearing round a town. Geshur (see note on Joshua 12:5). Ewald (see also Hitzig,' Geschichte des Volkes Israel,' p. 20) conjectures that these Geshurites were the aboriginal inhabitants of the country (see 1 Samuel 27:8), and were the same as the Avites or Avvites. See next verse, where the Avvites are distinguished from the five lords of the Philistines. It is worthy of remark that the name Talmai, the name of one of the "sons of Anak" (Joshua 15:14), comes in again as the name of a king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3 13:37). It occurs, however, as a Hebrew name in Bartholomew, or Bar-Tolmai, i.e., the son of Talmai, or Tolmai, one of the twelve apostles. Ewald supposes that these aborigines were dispossessed by the Canaanitish tribes, and that the old name of Geshur was still applied to those regions on which this primitive race had retained its hold.
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:
Verse 3. - From Sihor. This word, which has the article in Hebrew, is literally the black river. This has been thought to be the Nile, known to both Greeks and Latins by that title. The Greeks called it μέλας. So Virgil says of it, "AEgyptum nigra foecundat arena." The Vulgate has "a fluvio turbido qui irrigat AEgyptum." The LXX. translates by ἀοίκητος. The phrase which is "before" (עַל־פְנֵי) Egypt seems to exclude the idea of the Nile, since the Nile flowed through the centre of Egypt, and it is impossible to make עַל־פְנֵ equivalent to בְּקֶרֶב. As Drusins remarks, moreover, the Nile is always called either יְאֹר or "the river of Egypt." The interpreation which has found most favour of late, therefore, refers this expression to a small river that flows into the sea at the extreme southern border of Palestine. This river was known as the "river of Egypt" (Genesis 15:18), and is now called the Wady-el-Arisch (cf. also Joshua 15:4, 47, as well as Numbers 34:5; 1 Kings 8:65; Isaiah 27:12, where the word is nahal, or winter torrent, a word inapplicable to the Nile). For Sihor, or Shichor, see Isaiah 23:3; Jeremiah 2:18, and especially 1 Chronicles 13:5, which seems decisive against the Nile. Which is counted to the Canaanite. These words are connected by the Masorites with what follows: The five lords of the Philistines are reckoned to the Canaanite. The five lords of the Philistines. The Philistines (Deuteronomy 2:23. Cf. Genesis 10:14, and 1 Chronicles 1:12) are supposed to be of Egyptian origin. Ewald (also Hitzig, 'Geschichte des Volkes Israel,' p. 20) believes Caphtor to be Crete, and supposes the Cherethites and Pelethites who formed David's body-guard (2 Samuel 15:18) to be Cretans and Philistines (see Ezekiel 25:16). But this opinion is disputed by many commentators of note, and is far from probable in itself. They were David's most trusted and faithful troops, and it seems hardly probable that so truly national a monarch would have assigned the post of honour around his person to the hereditary enemies of his race. Ritter, however, believes the Cherethites and Pelethites to be Philistines, and appeals to 1 Samuel 30:14, and still more forcibly to Zephaniah 2:4, 5. It should be remembered, too, that Ittai was a Gittite, or native of Gath (see 2 Samuel 15:21). The term here used, translated lords (satraps, LXX.), is peculiar to the Philistines. It is to be found also in Judges 3:3; 1 Samuel 5:8, etc. In 1 Kings 7:30 the word means an axle, or perhaps the outside plating of the wheel, and in the kindred languages it signifies a wheel. The expression is remarkable in connection with the phrase "circles of the Philistines." The Eshkalalonites. The inhabitants of Ashkelon, as the Gittites are of Gath. Also the Avites. Literally, "and the Avites." There is no "also" in the original, though the Avites or Avim are supposed (see Deuteronomy 2:23, and note on Geshuri in the last verse)to have been aborigines preceding the Canaanites, and dispossessed by the Philistines. Keil, however, disputes this view, and holds that we have no evidence that any but a Canaanitish people dwelt in southwestern Palestine. This Canaanitish tribe, he thinks, was driven out by the Philistines. Some few of the Avites, or rather Avvites, continued to dwell among their conquerors. But the coincidence between Deuteronomy 2:22, 23, and 1 Samuel 27:8, makes strongly for Ewald's view above. And Keil and Delitzsch, in their later joint work, incline to it. See Introduction III. The word Avvim, like Havoth, or Havvoth (see ver. 30), is supposed to mean villages, or inhabited enclosures.
From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:
Verse 4. - From the south. The LXX. and the best modern commentators connect these words with what precedes. This gives a better sense than joining it to what follows. For the south was not "all the land of the Canaanites," but a large part of it belonged, as we have just seen, to a tribe not of Canaanitish origin, while the land of the Canaanites (see note on Joshua 3:10) extended far to the northward. Therefore we must understand the words "all the land of the Canaanites" to begin a fresh section, and to be descriptive of the territory extending from Philistia northward towards Sidon. So the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. Mearah. The margin has "the cave." But there is no article in the original The LXX. reads ἀπὸ Γάζης for Mearah, having clearly, as Masius observes, substituted Zain for Resh. But this mistaken reading compels a mistranslation of the passage. Vandevelde supposes it to be a remarkable cave still existing near Sidon, which is mentioned by William of Tyre as having been fortified by the Crusaders. He speaks of it as municipium quoddam, and states that it was commonly known as the "cave of Tyre." "spelunca inexpugnabilis." It was afterwards "the last retreat of the Emir Fakkr-ed-Din" (Vandevelde, s.v. Mearah). There is a village now, north of Sidon, called Mog-heiriyeh, or the village of the cave. So also Kuobel. Beside the Sidonians. Rather, near, or in the direction of, or which belong to the Sidonians. Aphek. Or Aphekah. This (Knobel) was the northern Aphek (Joshua 19:30; Judges 1:31), in the tribe of Asher, known later as Aphaca, and now as Afka. Not the Aphekah of Joshua 15:53, probably the Aphek of 1 Samuel 4:1. It is the same Aphek which in later times was captured by the Syrians, and was the scene of several decisive victories of Israel (1 Kings 20:26, 30; 2 Kings 13:17). It is doubtful which Aphek is meant in Joshua 12:18, though it is probably the southern Aphek. The situation is described as one of "rare beauty" (Delitzsch), "on the northwest slopes of Lebanon," amid exquisite groves (Conder). Here the Syrian Astarte was worshipped, and the ruins of her temple, dedicated to her as mourning for Tammuz, or Adonis, may still be seen. See Kenrick, 'Phoenicia,' 310,311, and Mover's 'Die Phonizier,' 1:192. Perhaps it was never actually occupied by the Asherites, but remained in the hands of Syria, and as a place of great resort was the natural point to which the attacks of Israel would be directed. Vandevelde, however, believes in four and Conder in seven cities of this name, and they suppose the Aphek which was the scene of the battle with the Syrians to have been on the east of Jordan, from the occurrence of the word "Mishor" in the narrative in 1 Kings 20. The term "Mishor" is, however, applied to other places beside the territory east of Jordan (see Gesenius, s.v. Mishor). The Aphek in 1 Samuel 29:1 cannot be identified with any that have been named. To the borders of the Amorites. This can hardly be anything but the northern border of the kingdom of Bashan, in the neighbourhood of Mount Hermon.
And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath.
Verse 5. - The Giblites. The inhabitants of Gebal, called Jebail (i.e., hill city, from Jebel) by the Arabs, and Byblus by the Greeks. This is Masius's idea, and other commentators have accepted it (see 1 Kings 5:32; Psalm 83:7; and Ezekiel 27:9, where the LXX. translates by Byblus). In the first named passage the word is translated "stone squarers," in our version (where it is the 18th and not the 32nd verse). All the other versions render "Giblites" as here, and no doubt the inhabitants of the Phoenician city of Jebail are meant, since in the ruins of Jebail the same kind of masonry is found as is seen in Solomon's temple. Byblus (Kenriek, 'Phoenicia,' l.c. Movers, l.c. Lenormant, 'Manual of the History of the East,' if. 223) was the great seat of the worship of Tammuz, or Adonis. Here his father Cinyras was supposed to have been king, and the licentious worship, with its corrupting influences, was spread over the whole region of Lebanon and even Damascus. This territory was never actually occupied by the Israelites (see for this passage also Joshua 11:8, 17; and Joshua 12:7). Hamath. The spies penetrated nearly as far as this (Numbers 42:21), and David reduced the land into subjection as far as the borders of this territory. But the Israelites never subdued it. Toi, king of Hamath, was an ally, not a tributary of David (2 Samuel 8:9). The border of Israel is always described as extending "to the entering in of Hamath" (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25), though Jeroboam II. is said to have "recovered" (v. 28) Hamath itself. This "entering in of Hamath" commences at the end of the region called Coele Syria, according to Robinson, 'Later Biblical Researches,' see. 12, at the northeast end of the Lebanon range. So Vandevelde and Porter. Vandevelde remarks that the expression refers to an "entrance formed by Nature herself," namely, the termination of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges. The city of Hamath, which gave its name to the territory, is situated on the Orontes, and was known later as Epiphaneia, no doubt after Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria.
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.
Verse 6. - All the Sidonians. The word כֹל here, as elsewhere, must be taken in a restricted sense. A large portion of the Sidonian territory was taken, but Sidon retained its independence (see Judges 1:31, 32). It is clear, too, that the promise was conditional. Had not the Asherites been willing to tolerate the existence of the Canaanites in their midst, they need not have done so (see Judges 1:28).
Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh,
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;
Verse 8. - With whom. Literally, with him. The construction is defective, but the meaning is clear enough. To avoid the repetition of the words "the half tribe of Manasseh," the historian writes עִמּו meaning thereby the other half of the tribe.
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;
Verse 9. - Aroer. Three, or even four, cities of this name were known, and have been identified by modern travellers under names somewhat similar.
1. Aroer upon Aruon, on the north bank of that river, at the extreme south of the territory of Reuben (see Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12; Deuteronomy 4:48; Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:9, 16; and probably Jeremiah 48:19).
2. Aroer in Gad (Joshua 13:25), described there as "before," i.e., on the way to "Rabbah." It was no doubt some short distance to the westward of this chief city of the Ammonites (see also Numbers 32:34, where the Gadites are said to have built it). These two are probably the "cities of Aroer" referred to in Isaiah 17:2 (but see next note but one, where also 2 Samuel 24:5 will be discussed).
3. A city in Judah (1 Samuel 30:28). To one of these cities probably belonged Shammah or Shammoth, the Hararite or Harorite (2 Samuel 23:11; he is called Harodite in ver. 25, and 1 Chronicles 11:27). The river Arnon (see note on Joshua 12:2). The city that is in the midst of the river. This city (or perhaps cities) has received but little attention from commentators, probably by reason of its bearing no name. Those who have tried to identify it have failed In Deuteronomy 2:36, in this passage, and in 2 Samuel 24:5, it is mentioned in connection with Aroer. In Joshua 7:2, instead of "the city that is in the midst of the river," we find simply "the middle (תוך) of the river." But as 2 Samuel 24:5 stands in our version, the city referred to stood in the middle of the river of Gad. This would suggest the idea that the old derivation of Aroer by Wells and others from the word עִיר (city) doubled, with the signification of the double city, is nearer the mark than that of wasteness, or desolateness, or nakedness, as of a region bare of trees, which has found favour of late, and it is not without support in Hebrew forms. A city, moreover, in the midst of or "on the brink of" a winter torrent would be less likely to be waste or desolate than in other situations. But we are not yet at the end of our difficulties. The word Nahal, which comes before Gad in the passage of which we are now speaking, has the article. Thus the translation, "river of Gad" cannot be maintained. And besides, the enumeration of the people must have begun at the Arnon, or southern border of Israel beyond Jordan. It is possible that the text may be corrupt here, as it is in other parts of 2 Samuel, and possibly the meaning may be that the officers pitched in Aroer, passed through Reuben, and having come within the confines of Gad arrived at Jazer. This again is rendered doubtful by the close connection of Aroer and Jazer in Joshua 13:25. It is of course, therefore, possible that the reference in 2 Samuel 24. is to the Jabbok, not the Arnon ravine. A question, of such intricacy can only be Settled, if settled at all, by an investigation on. the spot. The plain. The word here is מִישׁור. This derived from the root יָשָׁר signifies level ground, and is applied to the region north of Moab, especially that part of it which belonged to Reuben. Flat, and almost unbroken, even by trees, it was particularly adapted for grazing land (see also note above, and on ver. 4). Medeba. This is mentioned in Scripture, together with Dibon, as here in Numbers 21:30; Isaiah 15:2. It was on the level ground before mentioned (see Gesenius, s.v. מִישׁור). Dibon (see Jeremiah 48:18, 22, called Dimon in Isaiah 15:9; but Dibon in Isaiah 15:2; see also Numbers 33:45, 46). It was one of the cities built by the children of Gad (Numbers 32:34). It is now called Dhiban, and is a short distance north of the Arnon. The Moabite stone, found at Dibon in 1868, mentions the occupation of Medeba by Omri, and implies that Dibon, the principal city in those parts, was also subject to him, but recovered finally by Mesha.
And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, unto the border of the children of Ammon;
And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah;
Verse 11. - Geshurltes and Maachathites. See note on Joshua 12:5, of which this passage is little else but a repetition.
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.
Verse 12. - Giants. See note on Joshua 12:4.
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.
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.
Verse 14. - Only unto the tribe of Levi. See Numbers 18:20-24, where the original command is recorded. Like the clergy under the Christian dispensation, it was seen that they could not at once perform the duties of the priesthood, and act as instructors of the people, if they were burdened, like the rest, with the duty of carrying on war. Their place was supplied by the division of the tribe of Joseph into two, so that the inheritance of Israel was still divided among twelve tribes. Bahr, in his 'Symbolik des Alten Testaments,' 2:48, 49, gives other reasons for the dispersion of the Levites throughout the land. If the Levites were to keep the Law and Word of God, to take measures for its being properly kept by the nation in general, to spread abroad a knowledge of the precepts of the religion of Israel, to stir up the tribes to a devout and religious life, it was not merely desirable, but absolutely necessary, that they should be scattered among the tribes. On the other hand, to secure a proper esprit de corps, a mutual sustaining influence, and a common action, too complete a dispersion would have been a mistake. Hence their collection into the Levitical cities, which, however (see note on Joshua 21:11), were not given up wholly to them. The Divine wisdom which dictated the provisions of the Mosaic law is clearly visible here. The instinct of the Christian Church in early times devised a similar provision for the evangelisation of the people in the organisation of the ancient and mediaeval cathedrals. As he said unto them. This quotation of Numbers 18:20, 24 by a later writer would, under all ordinary circumstances, be regarded as a proof that the Book of Joshua was quoting one of the books of Moses. But the "Elohistic" and "Jehovistic" theory escapes this conclusion in the cumbrous fashion to which reference has been already made. Origen regards this passage as symbolical of the more spiritually earnest among the laity, who" so excel others invirtue of mind and grace of merits, as that the Lord should be called their inheritance." "How very rare," he says, "are those who devote themselves to wisdom and knowledge and preserve their mind clear and pure, and exercise their minds in all excellent virtues, who illuminate the way wherein they walk for simpler souls by the grace of learning, and thus attain to salvation. They are the true priests and Levites, whose inheritance is the Lord, who is wisdom" (Hom. 17 on Joshua). The Sacrifices. The word is derived from אֵשׁ fire. It does not itself, as Keil asserts, signify fire in any place in Holy Writ, but it is used of the shewbread in Leviticus 24:7, 9. It thus came to mean any sacrifice, whether offered by fire or not. And thus the tenth which (Numbers 18:21, 23, 24) was given to the Levites, as being offered for God's service, might be reckoned as in some sense a sacrifice. With this passage we may compare various passages in the New Testament, where, in this respect at least, the Christian ministry stands on the same footing (1 Corinthians 9:11, 13; Galatians 6:6, 7). Thus the maintenance of the Christian ministry is a kind of sacrifice - as we find such deeds called, in fact, in Hebrews 13:16. And an order of men who are set apart to the ministry of souls has a right to claim a sufficient maintenance at the hands of those to whom they minister - a point which in these days of affluence and clerical destitution combined ought to be more largely recognised than it is (see Numbers 18:20-24). "For the law is entrusted to the priests and Levites, and they devote their energies to this alone, and without any anxiety are able to give their time to the Word of God. But that they may be able to do this, they ought to depend upon the support of the laity. For if the laity do not allow the priests and Levites all the necessaries of life, they would be obliged, to engage themselves in temporal occupations, and would thus have less time for the law of God. And when they had no time to spare for the study of God's law, it is thou who wouldst be in danger. For the light of knowledge that is in them would grow dim, because thou hast given no oil for the lamp, and through thy fault it would come to pass, what the Lord said, 'If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch?'" (Orig., Hom. 17 on Joshua). These words are well worthy of attention now, when a multiplicity of worldly business and a weight of worldly cares are devolved upon God's ministers by a laity which has to too great an extent washed its hands of all cooperation in the work of God's Church.
And Moses gave unto the tribe of the children of Reuben inheritance according to their families.
Verse 15. - Reuben. This passage is an expansion of Numbers 32:33-42. We learn from it that the Israelites actually took possession of this land. But in the reigns of the wicked kings Omri and Ahab the power of Israel declined, and after the battle of Ramoth-Gilead, and the defeat and death of Ahab, the Moabites succeeded in shaking off the Israelitish yoke, and in wresting from Israel moreover a considerable portion of the territory of Sihon. In the next reign an attempt was made to regain possession of the lost territory. We learn from the Moabite stone that the important towns here mentioned, Medeba, Dibon, Baalmeon, Kiriathaim (or Kirjathalm, as it is here called), Ataroth, Nebo, Aroer, had fallen into the hands of Mesha at the rebellion, and that he had erected a citadel at Dibon, which had become his capital. Hence the endeavour to invade Moab from the south, recorded in 1 Kings 3, which, however, though successful as a military promenade, was attended with no permanent results. For Isaiah (ch. 15.)and Jeremiah (ch. 48.) mention most of these places, as well as Elealeh and Heshbon, the former capital of Sihon, as being strongholds of the Moabite power. Jahaz, too, the place where Sihon gave battle of the Israelites, is numbered by Mesha, as well as at a later date by Isaiah and Jeremiah, among the possessions of Moab; while Horonaim, mentioned among the Moabite cities by the two prophets, is incidentally noticed by Mesha as having been captured from the Edomites. In this early extinction of the tribe of Reuben we may see the fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy (Genesis 49.). The plain by Medeba. See ver. 10; so again in the next verse.
And their coast was from Aroer, that is on the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain by Medeba;
Heshbon, and all her cities that are in the plain; Dibon, and Bamothbaal, and Bethbaalmeon,
Verse 17. - Bamoth Baal. The high places or altars of Baal. The frequent mention of Baal in this passage shows how common the worship of Baal was in Palestine. The Moabites worshipped him under the name of Chemosh, to whom Mesha, on the Moabite stone, attributes all his victories (cf. Numbers 21:29; Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 11:7, 33. So Beth-Peor below (cf. Numbers 25:3).
And Jahazah, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath,
And Kirjathaim, and Sibmah, and Zarethshahar in the mount of the valley,
Verse 19. - Sibmah (see Numbers 32:38). The vine of Sibmah forms a feature in the lament of Isaiah (Isaiah 16:8) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:32) over Moab. It was close by Heshbon, on the borders of Reuben and Gad (cf. ver. 17 with Joshua 21:39). Zareth-shahar, or the splendour of the dawn, now garar, was on the borders of the Dead Sea. Canon Tristram, in his 'Land of Moab,' mentions the gorgeous colouring of the landscape here, more beautiful and varied, no doubt, at dawn than at any other time of the day.
And Bethpeor, and Ashdothpisgah, and Bethjeshimoth,
And all the cities of the plain, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the princes of Midian, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, which were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country.
Verse 21. - Cities of the plain. "Mishor" once more. See above, ver. 9, not as in Genesis 19, where the word is Ciccar. These, therefore, were not Sodom and its neighbours, but cities of the Amorites. Such touches as this, which display the minute acquaintance of our author with his subject, are almost of a necessity lost in a translation. But where our version has "plain," the original has Mishor when the uplands of Gilead and Bashan are meant, Arabah when the writer is speaking of the Wadys in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, Shephelah when he refers to the lowlands of Western palestine, bordering on the Mediterranean, Bik'ah when he speaks of the great valley of Coele Syria, Ciccar when he speaks of the territory due north of Jordan. With the princes of Midian. The word here used, נְשִׂיא signifies exalted persons, persons of rank, as we should say. It would seem to imply rather civil functions than the more absolute authority which the word שַׂר also rendered "prince" in Hebrew, carries with it. With this passage compare Numbers 31:8. The Hebrew has no "with," so that the difficulty some have found in the passage need not have arisen. It is nowhere said that Moses smote the "princes of Midian" together with Sihon. All that is stated is that they, as well as Sihon, were smitten, as the history in Numbers tells us they were. Dukes of Sihon. According to Gesenius, Rosenmiiller, and others, the word here translated "dukes" is derived from נָסַך to pour out, means "anointed." See Psalm if. 6, where it is translated "set." But Keil rejects this interpretation, and says that the word never signifies to anoint. It is always used, he says, of foreign princes. But he has overlooked Micah 5:4 (Hebrews). See Knobel, who explains it of drink offerings, and regards these "dukes" as men pledged by a solemn treaty to be Sihon's allies, though not vassals. Kimchi thinks that Sihon, before his reverses at the hand of Israel, had held some authority in Midian, and these were his prefects, or under-kings. The term is applied to Zebah and Zalmunna in Psalm 83:12 (in the Hebrew).
Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.
Verse 22. - The soothsayer. Or diviner, one who pretended to foretell future events. Balaam, it would seem, instead of returning to his own land, went to visit the Midianites, whose elders had joined in the invitation given by Moab (Numbers 22:7), and persuaded them to entice the Israelites into idolatry and licentiousness (see Numbers 25.) For this crime he met with the punishment he had deserved, and was involved in the destruction which fell on the Midianites by God's express command, in consequence of their treachery (Numbers 25:16-18. See Blunt, 'Undesigned Coincidences,' Part I. 24.)
And the border of the children of Reuben was Jordan, and the border thereof. This was the inheritance of the children of Reuben after their families, the cities and the villages thereof.
Verse 23. - And the border thereof. These words have been omitted in the Vulgate, which does not understand them. The LXX. translates, "And the borders of Reuben were the Jordan-border." This seems to be the meaning of the original. The phrase often occurs, as in Joshua 15:12 and Numbers 34:6. Knobel's explanation is probably the correct one, that the phrase means to refer to the natural boundary marked out by the river or sea and its banks. "The boundary of the children of Reuben was Jordan and the natural boundary thus formed." As Dean Stanley reminds us in his 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' Reuben, as predicted by Jacob (Genesis 49:4), sank at once into insignificance. No ruler, no judge arose from this tribe and its territory. Villages. Hebrew חַצְרֵי, LXX. ἐπαύλεις, Vulgate viculi. The original meaning is a piece of ground enclosed by a hedge or wall. Here it would mean,either with Gesenins and Keil, farm hamlets, or perhaps clearings of cultivated ground, which in Palestine would naturally be enclosed in some way, to prevent the ravages of wild beasts. In the primitive villages of Servia, where wild beasts are not entirely extirpated, not only are all the homesteads enclosed, but a fence is placed across the road, and removed when a vehicle has to pass through. Or perhaps the primitive Jewish community was similar to the primitive Teutonic community as described by Marshall in his 'Elementary and Practical Treatise on Landed Property,' published in 1804, who described the early distribution of land in this country as follows: "Round the village lay a few small enclosures for rearing young stock. Further a field the best land for arable purposes was chosen, and divided into three parts, for the necessary, rotation of fallow, wheat or rye, and spring crops. The meadows near the water courses were set aside for the growth of fodder for the cattle or for pasturage for milch cows, etc. The irreclaimable lands were left for what we now call 'common' uses for fuel, and the inferior pasturage." These arrangements are found to exist in India (see Sir H. Maine, 'Village Communities,' sec. 4.). But there, as in Palestine, the necessity for water was the cause of important modifications. Since the word is used to denote the court
(1) of a prison, Jeremiah 32:2;
(2) of a palace, 1 Kings 7:8;
(3) of a private house, 2 Samuel 17:18;
(4) of the temple in numberless places,
and as it is used of the enclosure of a nomadic camp (Genesis 25:16, where our version has towns; perhaps Deuteronomy 2:23, where our version has Hazerim, following the LXX. - which, however, alters the word to the more usual Hazeroth - and the Vulgate; Isaiah 42:11, with which compare the expression tents of Kedar, Psalm 120:5), the translation villages can hardly be the correct one here or elsewhere (see also ver. 28).
And Moses gave inheritance unto the tribe of Gad, even unto the children of Gad according to their families.
Verse 24. - Unto the tribe of Gad. The border of Gad extended further eastward than that of Reuben. Westward, of course, its border was the Jordan. Its northern border was nearly coincident with that of the land of Gilead, and passed by Maha-naim and Jabesh Gilead, unto the extreme southernmost point of the sea of Galilee. Many of these places also are mentioned in Isaiah 15 and Jeremiah 48. (see note above, ver. 16).
And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before Rabbah;
Verse 25. - Aroer that is before Rabbah. A different Aroer to that mentioned in ver. 9. This was near (Hebrew, opposite to, the expression being equivalent to the French en face) Rabbah, or the great city of the children of Ammon. Keil supposes that this territory had been taken from the Ammonites by Sihon, since the Israelites were not permitted to possess themselves of the land of the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2:19). For Rabbah, see 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26. It is called Rabbath in Deuteronomy 3:11.
And from Heshbon unto Ramathmizpeh, and Betonim; and from Mahanaim unto the border of Debir;
Verse 26. - Ramath-Mizpeh. This is idenitified with Ramoth-Gilead by Vandevelde, and must have been the Mizpeh of Gilead mentioned in Judges 11:29. It is supposed to be identical with the place called Mizpah, Galeed, and Jegar-sahadutha by Jacob and Laban respectively (Genesis 31:47-49). If it be the same as Ramoth-Gilead, it is the scene of the celebrated battle against the Syrians, in which Ahab lost his life (1 Kings 22.), and where the fall of the dynasty of Omri was brought about by the revolt of Jehu (2 Kings 9.). Conder, however, thinks the two are distinct places, and fixes Ramoth-Mizpeh on the north border of Gad, about 25 reties west of Bozrah. Verse 26. - Mahanaim The dual of מַהֲנהֶ two hosts or camps. It received its name from Jacob, who with his own company met the angels of God, and who commemorated the meeting by this name (see Genesis 32:2). Here Ishbesheth was crowned (2 Samuel 2:8). Here David took refuge when he crossed the Jordan, to avoid falling into the hands of Absalom (2 Samuel 17:24). Debir. Not the Debir mentioned in ch. 10, but another Debir in the land of Gilead, whose site is unknown.
And in the valley, Betharam, and Bethnimrah, and Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, Jordan and his border, even unto the edge of the sea of Chinnereth on the other side Jordan eastward.
Verse 27. - The valley. The Emek (see Joshua 8:13). Beth-Nimrah (see Numbers 32:36). Afterwards Nimrim (Isaiah 15:6; Jeremiah 48:34). Now Nimrin. Succoth. i.e., booths. Here Jacob rested after his meeting with Esau (Genesis 33:17). Here Gideon "taught the men of Succoth," who had declined to provide food for his army (Judges 8:5, 7, 16). It is mentioned in connection with Zarthan, or Zaretan (cf. Joshua 3:16) as being in the tract or כִכַּר of the Jordan, where the metal work of the temple was cast (1 Kings 7:46; 2 Chronicles 4:17). Zaphon. Perhaps, and the North; what remained of the kingdom of Sihon, i.e., as is implied above, the part which was not assigned to Reuben. Jordan and his border. Literally, Jordan and a border (see note on ver. 23). The edge. Rather, the end (see note on ver. 24).
This is the inheritance of the children of Gad after their families, the cities, and their villages.
Verse 28. - This is the inheritance of the children of Gad. The cause of the difference between the Reubenites and the Gadites may perhaps be thus explained. While both inhabited a similar tract of country, a country from its open and pastoral character likely to develop a hardy and healthy race of men, the Reubenites were exposed to the seductions of the Moabitish worship of Chemosh, which, when combined with an ancestral temperament by no means prone to resist such influences (see Genesis 49:4), soon proved fatal to a tribe, itself not numerous (Deuteronomy 33:6), and hemmed in on every side but the north by the unbelievers. The temperament inherited by the Gadites added to their more favourable situation and the nature of their pursuits, developed a hardy and warlike race ready to do battle, and fearless of their foes (1 Chronicles 5:18). Of this tribe came the valiant Jephthah, and of it also came the brave soldiers of David, whose qualifications stir to poetry the sober chronicler of Judah (1 Chronicles 12:8). We may see here the influence of circumstances on the character of a people. Originally (1 Chronicles 5:18) the Reubenites and the Gadites were alike. But the Reubenites, as we have seen, from unfavourable surroundings, lost the character which the Gadites, more favourably situated, were enabled to preserve. And the distinctions of tribes, producing as they did a separate esprit de corps in each tribe, will serve to explain why one tribe did not immediately succumb to influences which proved fatal to another. In the end, as we know, all the people of Gad fell victims to the temptations which surrounded them, and, save in the case of Levi, Judah, and Benjamin, and the few faithful Israelites who went over to them, irrevocably. The same phenomenon may be observed in the history of nations generally. As long as their manners were simple and their morals pure, they have preserved their liberty, and in many cases have acquired empire. As soon as their bodies were enervated by luxury, and their minds corrupted by vice, they fell a prey to foes whom formerly they would have despised. Thus fell the Greek and Boman republics, thus the Britons became an easy prey to the Saxons, and the Saxons to the Danes. In every instance the history of a tribe and of a nation serves to illustrate the maxim that "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."
And Moses gave inheritance unto the half tribe of Manasseh: and this was the possession of the half tribe of the children of Manasseh by their families.
Verse 29. - The halftribe of Manasseh. The word used for "tribe" in the first and second half of this verse is not the same. Some German critics have derived an argument for the hypothesis that the historical and geographical portions of the book are not by the same hand, from the supposed fact that the former of these words is used almost exclusively in the first, or historical portion, and the latter in the second, or geographical portion, of the book. The word "almost" would be almost sufficient to overthrow the theory, but this verse is an insuperable objection to it. Is it seriously contended that one half of this verse is taken from one author, and the other from another? Or is it possible that the writer of the book may actually have understood the language he was using, and meant to use the two words in somewhat different senses? Gesenius, it is true, would explain the words as being precisely synonymous. But his own etymological remarks are fatal to his theory. מטה the latter of the two words, is a bough, or shoot (derived from a word signifying to grow), capable of throwing out blossoms (Ezekiel 7:10). It refers, therefore, to the natural descent of the tribe from Manasseh their father. But שבט is allied to שׁפט; to judge, and the Greek σκήπτρον, and perhaps the English shaft, and signifies a rod as the emblem of authority. Thus it is used in Genesis 49:10, of a royal sceptre. So Psalm 2:9, an iron sceptre, Psalm 45:6. Thus the latter word has reference to the tribe as an organised community, the former to it in reference to its ancestral derivation. This view would seem to be supported by ver. 24, where the מטה of Gad is further explained to mean his sons and their families, as well as by this verse, where the שׁבט is used absolutely, the מטה in connection with the family
And their coast was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, threescore cities:
Verse 30. - The towns of Jair. Literally, Havoth-Jair, as in Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14. The word חַיִּת is derived from חוה to live, and the word is compared by Gesenius to the names Eisleben and the like in Germany. So we use the phrase "five," as synonymous with "dwell." Why the term is confined to these particular cities is not known. Gesenius regards it as equivalent to "nomadic encampment." But the ruins of the giant cities of Bashan, recently rediscovered in our own time (by Mr. Cyril Graham, in 1857), and displaying all the signs of high civilisation, dispose of this idea. These cities are mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:4 as "threescore cities, all the region of Argob," and again in ver. 13, "all the region of Argob with all Bashan, which is called the land of giants." "To the east he (Abraham) would leave the barren and craggy fatnesses of the formidable Argob, still (i.e., in Abraham's time, not Joshua's) the asylum of the fiercest outlaws; and would jealously avoid the heathen haunts in groves and on high places where smoke arose to the foul image, and the frantic dance swept round." (Tomkins, 'Studies on the Time of Abraham,' p. 69. See also note on 'Judah upon Jordan,' Joshua 19:34). Threescore cities (cf. Joshua 17:1). It was the martial character, as well as the half tribe of Manasseh, that qualified him to receive and subdue this important territory with its wide extent and teeming population. In the article on Manasseh in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' reference is made to the fact that, while Ephraim only sent 20,800, and Western Manasseh 18,000, Reuben, Gad, and Eastern Manasseh sent the immense number of 120,000, and this while Abner, the supporter of Ishbosheth, had his headquarters at Mahanaim. But the numbers are suspicious, especially when Judah, always a powerful tribe, comes below the insignificant tribe of Simeon in number. And a comparison of 2 Samuel 5:1 with 1 Chronicles 12:22, 23, would lead to the idea that the coronation of David after the death of Ishbosheth is the event referred to (see also 1 Chronicles 12:38-40).
And half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were pertaining unto the children of Machir the son of Manasseh, even to the one half of the children of Machir by their families.
Verse 31. - The one half of the children of Machir. See this question fully discussed in note on Joshua 17:5, 6.
These are the countries which Moses did distribute for inheritance in the plains of Moab, on the other side Jordan, by Jericho, eastward.
But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the LORD God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them.