Joshua 12:2: Kings Conquered by Moses, Part 2

Verse 2:[1] (Num. 21:24; Deut. 2:33, 36; 3:6, 16) Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and from the middle of the river, and from half Gilead, even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon…

[He ruled from Aroer, which was situated upon the bank of the torrent Arnon, and of the middle part in the valley, and of half Gilead: It is obscure by what these expressions, of the middle part in the valley, and of half Gilead, are governed: and nearly the same difficulty is in the Hebrew (Bonfrerius): מֹשֵׁ֡ל מֵעֲרוֹעֵ֡ר אֲשֶׁר֩ עַל־שְׂפַת־נַ֙חַל אַרְנ֜וֹן וְת֤וֹךְ הַנַּ֙חַל֙ וַחֲצִ֣י הַגִּלְעָ֔ד] [They render it variously.] And he was ruling from Aroer, which is (or, which was situated [Pagnine]) near, or at, or upon, the bank (lip [Montanus, Drusius]) of the torrent, or river, Arnon (Munster, Pagnine, similarly Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic, Montanus, Tigurinus, Masius), and ruling the midst of the torrent (Montanus, similarly Jonathan, Arabic), and in the inmost part of the torrent (Syriac), and the half Gilead (Montanus). Others: from the midst of the torrent, and the half of Gilead (Tigurinus, similarly Munster). This version makes all governed by the preposition מִן/from, by which Aroer is governed. Objection: It is not fittingly said that he governed from half Gilead, since the middle of Gilead comprehended his entire kingdom. Response: Gilead here signifies, not the region, but the mountain. Compare Deuteronomy 3:16. And so the sense is that he governed from Aroer, which was on the bank…of Arnon, proceeding from there to the midst of the torrent, and finally arriving at mount Gilead. Therefore, with these words he described the Southern and Eastern boundaries (Bonfrerius). [Some refer those words, וְתוֹךְ וגו״, and the middle, etc., to מֹשֵׁל/ruled, or to the dominion of Sihon.] And who ruled from Aroer, which was situated near the bank of the torrent Arnon, both in the midst of the torrent, and in the middle part of Gilead. [Thus Pagnine, whom Bonfrerius incorrectly understand concerning the situation of the city of Aroer.] Who ruled from Aroer, which is near the bank of the river Arnon, both to the midst of that river, and to half Gilead (Junius and Tremellius). Who, with his government placed, from Aroer unto the bank of Arnon, was possessing those things that were contained in the midst of the sea, and half Gilead (Castalio). That, and half Gilead, I would assert to be dative, and to be governed by the verb, he ruled, and would think the same concerning the Hebrew text, except everywhere I see מָשַׁל, to rule, taking a servile ב/in, which does not happen here; although perhaps the ב is able to be said to be understood (Bonfrerius). [Others understand this of the situation of the city of Aroer.] Thus a great man, as Bonfrerius testifies. Thus Masius [says Bonfrerius], within the torrent, and in the middle part of Gilead. It is elsewhere expressly called the city within the torrent, Deuteronomy 2:36.[2] That city appears to have been positioned relative to the Arnon in such a way that houses of great size were built all the way into the midst of the river-basin. The words are able thus to be interpreted, that the side of the kingdom of Sihon that was extended to the East was from the city of Aroer…upward through Gilead, unto the torrent Jabbok. Josephus’ Antiquities 4: The kingdom of Sihon was situated in the midst of three rivers, as if it were an island; for it was surrounded by Arnon on the south, Jabbok on the North, and the bank of Jordan on the West. If he had placed the mountains of Arabian to the East, he would have omitted nothing from this most clearly defined description. Moreover, the Southern borders were extending from the Dead Sea in the direction of Arnon to the foot of mount Pisgah. The torrent Jabbok was separating the dominion of Sihon from the Ammonites, just as Arnon from the Moabites. Now, עֲרוֹעֵר/Aroer, which is often expressed with the word halved, עַר/Ar,[3] is the Ἀρεόπολις/Areopolis of the Greeks, and the רַבַּת מוֹאָב, Rabbath Moab, of the Hebrews, that is to say, a most populous city of the Moabites.[4] Now, mount Gilead is extended upward toward Libanus, of which it is, as it were, an appendage, or, as Jerome maintains, the beginning. On the same mountain is also the city of Gilead, Numbers 32:39. Between this mountain and Jordan lies open a pleasant region called Gilead, Josephus’ Antiquities 1:27 (Masius). What the others translate as torrent, the Greeks translate as valley. But it invalidates this interpretation, that it is said, upon the bank, or lip. For what is the lip of a valley (Drusius)?

From the middle of the river: it is not unusual, even amongst us, for a river to be divided between two lords, and for their territories or jurisdictions to meet in the middle of the river; and besides, here is a very particular reason for this expression, because the city Ar, which was no part of Sihon’s dominions, but belonged to the Moabites, Deuteronomy 2:9, 18, was in the middle of the river Arnon, Deuteronomy 2:36; 3:16; and therefore the middle of the river is most fitly and properly here mentioned, as the bound of Sihon’s dominion on that side. And from half Gilead; Hebrew, and the half Gilead,[5] that is, half of the country of Gilead: the particle from is not in the original, and this doth not seem to denote the term or bound from which his dominion begun, as our version implies, for so indeed it was not; but the place or country in and over which his dominion was, which, as is here said, began at Arnon, and took in half Gilead, and ended at Jabbok, beyond which was the other half of Gilead, which belonged to Og, as is expressly said, Joshua 12:5, where the words being wholly the same that are here, it is most reasonable to understand and translate them in the same manner.

[1] Hebrew: סִיחוֹן֙ מֶ֣לֶךְ הָאֱמֹרִ֔י הַיּוֹשֵׁ֖ב בְּחֶשְׁבּ֑וֹן מֹשֵׁ֡ל מֵעֲרוֹעֵ֡ר אֲשֶׁר֩ עַל־שְׂפַת־נַ֙חַל אַרְנ֜וֹן וְת֤וֹךְ הַנַּ֙חַל֙ וַחֲצִ֣י הַגִּלְעָ֔ד וְעַד֙ יַבֹּ֣ק הַנַּ֔חַל גְּב֖וּל בְּנֵ֥י עַמּֽוֹן׃

[2] Deuteronomy 2:36a:  “From Aroer, which is by the brink of the river of Arnon, and from the city that is by the river (מֵעֲרֹעֵ֡ר אֲשֶׁר֩ עַל־שְׂפַת־נַ֙חַל אַרְנֹ֜ן וְהָעִ֙יר אֲשֶׁ֤ר בַּנַּ֙חַל֙), even unto Gilead, there was not one city too strong for us…”

[3] See Numbers 21:15, 28; Deuteronomy 2:9, 18, 29.

[4] רַבָּה/Rabba signifies great or populous.

[5] Hebrew: וַחֲצִ֣י הַגִּלְעָ֔ד.

1 thought on “Joshua 12:2: Kings Conquered by Moses, Part 2

  1. John Calvin: ‘This chapter…enumerates the kings of whose territories the Israelites gained possession. Two of them are beyond the Jordan, Og and Sihon, whose rule was extensive; in the land of Canaan there are thirty-one. But though each of those now summarily mentioned was previously given more in detail, there is very good reason for here placing before our eyes as it were a living picture of the goodness of God, proving that there had been a complete ratification and performance of the covenant made with Abraham as given in the words, “Unto thy seed will I give this land” (Genesis 12:7; 13:15; 15:18). This living image of the grace of God is here set before us as if the reality were actually present. Joshua was eighty years of age when he entered the land. In this aged man how could there be so much vigor as to fit him for carrying on so many wars and enduring the fatigues of warfare, had not celestial virtue furnished him with more than mortal strength? And were not his uninterrupted career of victory, his success under all circumstances, the ease, free from doubt and uncertainty, with which he stormed cities, the rapidity of his movements, and his inflexible firmness — were not all these clear evidences of the hand of God, just as if it had appeared from heaven?’

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