Joshua 1:14, 15: The Commitment of the Transjordanian Tribes, Part 3

Verse 14:[1]  Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed (Heb. marshalled by fire:[2]  as Ex. 13:18[3]), all the mighty men of valour, and help them…

[And children, טַפְּכֶם[4]Your little ones (Junius and Tremellius, Drusius, Pagnine, similarly the Septuagint, Josephus, Jerome, Aquila in Drusius).  Thus Genesis 34:29.[5]  It signifies those under twenty years of age (Ibn Ezra[6] in Drusius and in Masius); or, those that are almost to the point that they might be educated in catechism (Gerundensis in Drusius).  But Symmachus[7] translates it, φορτίον, that is, baggage and burdens.  Thus the Septuagint elsewhere, πλὴν τῆς ἀποσκευῆς, besides the baggage[8] (Drusius).  In no word do the Septuagint translators agree less among themselves (Drusius).

[Your beasts, וּמִקְנֵיכֶם[9]]  Rather, sheep (Masius), herds (Junius and Tremellius), acquisitions (Malvenda).

[They shall remain[10]]  Hebrew:  let them sitTo sit is taken in the place of to remain in Genesis 22:5[11] and elsewhere (Drusius).

[Pass over armed, חֲמֻשִׁים[12]]  [They vary.]  Armed (Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Aquila in Drusius, Serarius).  But whence had they such an abundance of arms (Drusius, Masius)?  Response:  From the spoils of the drowned Egyptians, and the Moabites and Ammonites (Serarius).  But they were obliged to trust in the sufficient protection of God (Masius).  Response:  The grace of God does not despise human works and protections (Serarius).  Others render it, by ranks of five (Montanus, Malvenda), in military order (Junius and Tremellius, Drusius).  Five at a time.  Thus generally soldiers advance (Drusius).  A great many derive it from חוֹמֶשׁ, which is that part of the body where the fifth rib is located, 2 Samuel 2:23, where the Septuagint translates it ψόαν, muscle of the loins.[13]  And it is certainly plausible that חֲמֻשִׁים is derived from חוֹמֶשׁ/loins, when it is altogether certain that חֲלוּצִים, equipped for war, a perfect twin to the former, is formed from חֲלָצָיִם/Halazaim, that is, loins.[14]  Moreover, those חֲמֻשִׁים/ Hamusim and חֲלָצָיִם/Halazaim some translate, covered with arms unto the fifth rib; others, girded with a military girdle; εὐζώνους/girded[15] (Septuagint) (so also in Drusius).  This is more satisfying to me:  It is most common in Sacred Scripture by girded loins to signify unencumbered strength and ready zeal, etc. (Masius).  Concerning this word see the many things said on Exodus 13:18 (Bonfrerius).  Pass ye over armed, etc.  Among all citizens, as there is a fellowship of law, so also of arms.  Now, these words of Moses are not found elsewhere, but the sense is in Numbers 32:6 (Grotius).

[Before your brethren[16]]  It signifies, either, 1.  that they should go before the other Tribes (Jerome and the Septuagint in Drusius, Lapide, Serarius, Bonfrerius).  For, 1.  this is fair, because these first obtained an inheritance:  2.  so that they might commend their faith and zeal to Joshua:  3.  because they had no impediments (Serarius):  4.  so that they might impart courage to their brethren (Lapide).  Thus לִפְנֵי/before is often taken, and indeed in this very narration, Numbers 32:21, 22, 27, 29[17] (Serarius).  Or, 2.  it does not signify an anterior place, but presence (Junius, Malvenda, Masius, Drusius).  For it is not plausible that they were always in the first battle line (Drusius).  Neither do I remember that it was ever mention that that was done (Masius).  In this sense לִפְנֵי/before is taken here and there:  before the Lord, and before the brethren, are used for the same things.  Therefore, the sense is, Ye shall be present with your brethren, etc. (Masius).

Ye shall pass, to wit, over Jordan.  Before your brethren; either, 1.  In their presence.  Or, 2.  In the front of all of them; which was but reasonable; partly, because they had the advantage of their brethren, having actually received their portion, which their brethren had only in hope, and therefore were obliged to more service, the rather to prevent the envy of the other tribes; partly, because they were freed from those impediments which the rest were exposed to, their wives, and children, and estates being safely lodged; and partly, to prevent their retreat and withdrawing themselves from the present service, which they otherwise should have had opportunity and temptation to do, because of the nearness of their habitations.  Armed; for by this time they were well furnished with arms, which they had either from the Egyptians, or Amalekites, or Amorites, from whom they had taken them; or by purchase from those people by whose borders they passed.  Or, in military order.  See on Exodus 13:18.

[All mighty in deed, כֹּ֚ל גִּבּוֹרֵ֣י הַחַ֔יִל]  All military men.  Not with respect to all that might be able to fight, but with respect to none except soldiers (Masius).  But this is a marvelous exposition, all, that is, not all (Serarius).  It is certain that there were more than one hundred and thirty of them numbered, Numbers 26:7, 18, 34, who were ripe for military service (Masius).  It is asked, therefore, whether Joshua acted rightly, since Moses said, Let every man of war pass over.[18]  Response:  Even if he was able to compel all, nevertheless Moses left it to the prudence of the future Leader, how many were to be summoned for this matter:  In this matter, Joshua knew the mind of Moses (Bonfrerius).  Moses signified this privately to him (Serarius).  It was not prudent to leave the Trans-jordanian regions defenders (Bonfrerius, Serarius).  Thus they render the Hebrew, men of strength (Septuagint), mighty in valor (Montanus, Vatablus, similarly the Syriac, Arabic).  The stout men of the army, that is, stout soldiers, or, men strong for military service, that is, who are vigorous in military service (Drusius).  However many are mighty in strength (Vatablus).  The most vigorous, as in Deuteronomy 3:18[19] (Malvenda).  The most illustrious for strength and experience in military matters (Bonfrerius).

The mighty men of valour; all such were obliged to go over if occasion required it, but Joshua took only some of them, partly because they were sufficient for his purpose, and partly because some were fit to be left, both to secure their own wives, children, and possessions, and to prevent their enemies on that side from giving them disturbance or hinderance in their enterprise upon Canaan.


Verse 15:[20]  Until the LORD have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the LORD your God giveth them:  (Josh. 22:4, etc.) then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the LORD’S servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.

[1] Hebrew: נְשֵׁיכֶ֣ם טַפְּכֶם֮ וּמִקְנֵיכֶם֒ יֵשְׁב֕וּ בָּאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֙ר נָתַ֥ן לָכֶ֛ם מֹשֶׁ֖ה בְּעֵ֣בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן וְאַתֶּם֩ תַּעַבְר֙וּ חֲמֻשִׁ֜ים לִפְנֵ֣י אֲחֵיכֶ֗ם כֹּ֚ל גִּבּוֹרֵ֣י הַחַ֔יִל וַעֲזַרְתֶּ֖ם אוֹתָֽם׃

[2] Hebrew:  חֲמֻשִׁים.

[3] Exodus 13:18:  “But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea:  and harnessed (וַחֲמֻשִׁים) the children of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt.”

[4] טַף, little ones, appears to be related to the verbal root טָפַף, to trip, or to take little, quick steps.

[5] Genesis 34:29:  “And all their wealth, and all their little ones (וְאֶת־כָּל־טַפָּם), and their wives took they captive, and spoiled even all that was in the house.”

[6] Abraham Ibn Ezra (c. 1089-1164) was a renowned Spanish Rabbi.  At the heart of his work is his commentary on the Hebrew Bible.  He commented on all of the books, with the exception of Chronicles, and his exegesis manifests a commitment to the literal sense of the text.

[7] Symmachus (second century) produced a Greek translation of the Old Testament, which survives only in fragments.  Symmachus’ work is characterized by an apparent concern to render faithfully the Hebrew original, to provide a rendering consistent with the rabbinic exegesis of his time, and to set forth the translation in simple, pure, and elegant Septuagint-style Greek.

[8] See Exodus 12:37:  “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot that were men, beside children (לְבַ֥ד מִטָּֽף׃; πλὴν τῆς ἀποσκευῆς, in the Septuagint).”  See also Deuteronomy 20:14:  “But the women, and the little ones (וְהַטַּף; καὶ τῆς ἀποσκευῆς, in the Septuagint), and the cattle, and all that is in the city, even all the spoil thereof, shalt thou take unto thyself; and thou shalt eat the spoil of thine enemies, which the Lord thy God hath given thee.”

[9] מִקְנֶה, from the verbal root קָנָה, to acquire, can be taken more broadly for any domesticated animal, or more narrowly for herd animals.

[10] Hebrew:  יֵשְׁבוּ.

[11] Genesis 22:5:  “And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye (שְׁבוּ־לָכֶם) here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.”

[12] חֲמֻשִׁים appears to be related to חָמֵשׁ/five.

[13] 2 Samuel 2:23a:  “Howbeit he refused to turn aside:  wherefore Abner with the hinder end of the spear smote him under the fifth rib (הַחֹמֶשׁ; τὴν ψόαν, in the Septuagint), that the spear came out behind him; and he fell down there, and died in the same place…”

[14] See Numbers 32:29, 30:  “And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed (חָלוּץ) to battle, before the Lord, and the land shall be subdued before you; then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession:  But if they will not pass over with you armed (חֲלוּצִים), they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan.”

[15] Joshua 4:13:  “About forty thousand prepared (חֲלוּצֵי; εὔζωνοι, in the Septuagint) for war passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho.”

[16] Hebrew: לִפְנֵ֣י אֲחֵיכֶ֗ם.

[17] Numbers 32:21, 22, 27, 29:  “And will go all of you armed (חָלוּץ) over Jordan before the Lord (לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה), until he hath driven out his enemies from before him (מִפָּנָיו), and the land be subdued before the Lord (לִפְנֵ֤י יְהוָה֙):  then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the Lord, and before Israel (מֵיְהוָ֖ה וּמִיִּשְׂרָאֵ֑ל); and this land shall be your possession before the Lord (לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃)….  But thy servants will pass over, every man armed for war (כָּל־חֲל֥וּץ צָבָ֛א), before the Lord (לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָ֖ה) to battle, as my lord saith….  And Moses said unto them, If the children of Gad and the children of Reuben will pass with you over Jordan, every man armed to battle (כָּל־חָל֤וּץ לַמִּלְחָמָה֙), before the Lord (לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָ֔ה), and the land shall be subdued before you (לִפְנֵיכֶם); then ye shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession…”

[18] Numbers 32:21:  “And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the Lord (וְעָבַ֙ר לָכֶ֧ם כָּל־חָל֛וּץ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן; et omnis vir bellator armatus Jordanem transeat, in the Vulgate), until he hath driven out his enemies from before him…”

[19] Deuteronomy 3:18:  “And I commanded you at that time, saying, The Lord your God hath given you this land to possess it:  ye shall pass over armed before your brethren the children of Israel, all that are meet for the war (כָּל־בְּנֵי־חָיִל; omnes viri robusti, in the Vulgate).”

[20] Hebrew: עַ֠ד אֲשֶׁר־יָנִ֙יחַ יְהוָ֥ה׀ לַֽאֲחֵיכֶם֮ כָּכֶם֒ וְיָרְשׁ֣וּ גַם־הֵ֔מָּה אֶת־הָאָ֕רֶץ אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֖ם נֹתֵ֣ן לָהֶ֑ם וְשַׁבְתֶּ֞ם לְאֶ֤רֶץ יְרֻשַּׁתְכֶם֙ וִֽירִשְׁתֶּ֣ם אוֹתָ֔הּ אֲשֶׁ֣ר׀ נָתַ֣ן לָכֶ֗ם מֹשֶׁה֙ עֶ֣בֶד יְהוָ֔ה בְּעֵ֥בֶר הַיַּרְדֵּ֖ן מִזְרַ֥ח הַשָּֽׁמֶשׁ׃

2 thoughts on “Joshua 1:14, 15: The Commitment of the Transjordanian Tribes, Part 3

  1. Matthew Henry: “He reminds them of their agreement to help their brethren in the wars of Canaan till God had in like manner given them rest, Joshua 1:14, 15. This was, (1.) Reasonable in itself. So closely were all the tribes incorporated that they must needs look upon themselves as members one of another. (2.) It was enjoined them by Moses, the servant of the Lord; he commanded them to do this, and Joshua his successor would see his commands observed. (3.) It was the only expedient they had to save themselves from the guilt of a great sin in settling on that side Jordan, a sin which would one time or other find them out, Numbers 32:23. (4.) It was the condition of the grant Moses had made them of the land they were possessed of, so that they could not be sure of a good title to, or a comfortable enjoyment of, the land of their possession, as it is here called (Joshua 1:15), if they did not fulfil the condition. (5.) They themselves had covenanted and agreed thereunto (Numbers 32:25): Thy servants will do as my Lord commandeth.”

  2. Matthew Henry: “Thus we all lie under manifold obligations to strengthen the hands one of another, and not to seek our own welfare only, but one another’s.”

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