Joshua 14:1, 2: The Division of the Land by Lot, Part 1

[circa 1444 BC] Verse 1:[1] And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, (Num. 34:17, 18) which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them.

[This is what they possessed, וְאֵ֛לֶּה אֲשֶׁר־נָחֲל֥וּ] Those, or these, are what they received by inheritance (Syriac) [similarly most interpreters]. These are the inheritances which…they possessed (Vatablus). Those are the regions which, etc. This supplement I take from Genesis 26:3 (Piscator).

These, mentioned chapters 14-19.

[The princes of the families (thus Vatablus), not of the individual families, but of all the families of their Tribe (Bonfrerius), וְרָאשֵׁ֛י אֲב֥וֹת] Heads of the fathers (Pagnine, Masius, Drusius) of the tribes (Drusius); but I would prefer, heads of the paternal tribes (Drusius). The nobles of the paternal families (Junius and Tremellius). These were twelve; each was representing his own tribe, and was managing its care, so that all might acquiesce to the lot (Lapide).

[Eleazar, etc.] See on Joshua 8:33; 9:15, 18; 19:51 (Grotius).

Eleazar the priest, see on Joshua 8:33; 9:15, 18; 19:51. He best understood the laws of God, by which this division was to be regulated; and he was to consult God upon any difficult occurrence. The heads of the fathers of the tribes; twelve persons, each the head of his tribe, which were appointed and named by God, Numbers 34:19; and if any of them were now dead, no doubt Joshua and Eleazar, by God’s direction, put others in their stead.


Verse 2:[2] (Num. 26:55; 33:54; 34:13) By lot was their inheritance, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe.

[By lot, etc.] Division by lot was necessary, 1. so that to each one God Himself might appear to mark out as with His finger their seats, lest the diverse condition of the ground (or soil) should be the cause of disputes and hatred among brethren, while pleasant places fall to some, sandy places to others, etc.; additionaly, the inheritance of some would be empty, of others yet placed under the power of enemies. 2. So that the truth of the promises of God, and His fatherly providence toward His people, might appear more manifestly. For, while the predictions of Jacob (two hundred and fifty years before[3]) and of Moses[4] concerning the quality of the regions falling to the lot of most of the tribes with so certain an outcome the lot itself confirms, it would certainly be more impudent than Impudence itself, if one should refuse to acknowledge either the heavenly inspiration in Jacob and Moses, or the decision of God in the lots, or in short the Divine providence in both instances; or more stupid than Stupidity itself, if one should fail to notice. But you will say, What was the necessity of division by lot, if from those predictions it was possible with sufficient certainty to discern the inheritance of each Tribe? But their places were thus indicated for each Tribe, so that everyone might be able to recognize by the event the marvelous consent of the predictions and the lots among themselves; but more obscurely than that by them all controversies might have been able to be removed or settled among men avaricious and obstinate. 3. So that the opportunity might be cut off from calumniators, who otherwise would have said, What things Moses according to his own affection toward each tribe had set forth as the oracles of Jacob, those twelve men now by agreement do those things, having ratified them by their own judgment, inasmuch as they were bearing the reputation of Divinity both for Moses and for themselves before the people. Moreover, such scrupulousness and caution were needful in making that distribution, because, since Christ was someday going to be born of these tribes, it was altogether necessary that those remain as distinct as possible, each in its own seat, until He, at last having come forth into the light, had confirmed the predictions of the Holy Prophets. Finally, when the casting of lots, even if it appear to be a certain indication of the Divine will, nevertheless was obliged to be administered and directed by men, so that He might make the trustworthiness of these men, otherwise liable to suspicion, clear to all, God designated the men by name that woud be in charge of that service (Masius).

[בְּגוֹרַ֖ל נַחֲלָתָ֑ם, in Hebrew] In the lot, or, by the lot (or, according to the portion [Syriac, Arabic]) of their inheritance (Pagnine, Montanus, Vatablus); by the division by lot of their possession (Junius and Tremellius). That is joined to the preceding verse; that is to say, which they possessed by lots cast, or by lot, which was indicating and assigning to each their inheritance (Vatablus). In the lot was divided to them their possession (Jonathan). By lot (supply, they received [Munster, Tigurinus]) their possessions (Munster). Concerning the lot see what things were said on Numbers 34 (Grotius). Now, division by lot was to be used only in the Cis-jordanian region, where the division was more difficult, the agreement of the parties was not able easily to be extorted, and some regions were far more fruitful than others, as Josephus testifies in his Antiquities 5:1 (Bonfrerius).

[Just as He had commanded] That is, in Numbers 34, and previously in Numbers 26 (Bonfrerius).

By lot, etc.: This course God ordained, partly to prevent discontents, enmities, animosities, and quarrels among the tribes about the quality of their several portions; and partly to demonstrate the truth and wisdom of his providence, by which alone those parts fell to each of them, which Jacob long since, and Moses lately, foretold; so that, as a learned man saith, He must be more stupid than stupidity, and more impudent than impudence itself, that doth not acknowledge and confess a Divine hand and providence in this matter. The lot did only determine the several parts or provinces to the several tribes, but did not precisely fix all the bounds of it, but these might be either enlarged or diminished according to the greater or smaller number of the tribes, Numbers 26:53, 56; 33:54, and that by the direction of those persons mentioned Joshua 14:1; 17:14-18.

[To the nine tribes] Some refer this to the division by lots; by lot dividing…the nine tribes, etc. (Vulgate). Others to the precept; according to that which He commanded the nine tribes (Jonathan). Others understand, He might give; just as He had commanded…that He might give to the nine tribes, etc. (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus).

[לְתִשְׁעַ֥ת הַמַּטּ֖וֹת] To the novenary[5] of the tribes, that is, to the nine tribes. For numerical adjectives constructed with substantives appear generally to put on the nature of substantives. Thus in Genesis 17:12, the son שְׁמֹנַ֣ת יָמִ֗ים, of an octonary of days, that is, of eight days; and in Genesis 31:7, עֲשֶׂ֣רֶת מֹנִ֑ים, a decade of times, that is, ten times; likewise in Exodus 34:28, עֲשֶׂ֖רֶת הַדְּבָרִֽים׃, a decade of words, that is, the ten words, the Decalogue,[6] etc. (Glassius’ “Grammar” 121).

[1] Hebrew: וְאֵ֛לֶּה אֲשֶׁר־נָחֲל֥וּ בְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּאֶ֣רֶץ כְּנָ֑עַן אֲשֶׁ֙ר נִֽחֲל֜וּ אוֹתָ֗ם אֶלְעָזָ֤ר הַכֹּהֵן֙ וִיהוֹשֻׁ֣עַ בִּן־נ֔וּן וְרָאשֵׁ֛י אֲב֥וֹת הַמַּטּ֖וֹת לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

[2] Hebrew:  בְּגוֹרַ֖ל נַחֲלָתָ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֙ר צִוָּ֤ה יְהוָה֙ בְּיַד־מֹשֶׁ֔ה לְתִשְׁעַ֥ת הַמַּטּ֖וֹת וַחֲצִ֥י הַמַּטֶּֽה׃

[3] See Genesis 49.

[4] See Deuteronomy 33.

[5] That is, group of nine.

[6] Exodus 34:28b:  “…And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments (עֲשֶׂ֖רֶת הַדְּבָרִֽים׃).”

Joshua 14 Outline

The land and its inheritances to be divided by lot, 1-5. Caleb having on his return from spying the land encouraged the people, Moses then promised him the land of Hebron, which he now claims of Joshua, 6-12; who grants his request, 13-15.