Joshua 14:3-5: The Division of the Land by Lot, Part 2

Verse 3:[1] (Josh. 13:8, 32, 33) For Moses had given the inheritance of two tribes and an half tribe on the other side Jordan: but unto the Levites he gave none inheritance among them.


Verse 4:[2] For (Gen. 48:5; 1 Chron. 5:1, 2) the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.

[But into their (that is, the Levites’) place succeeded the sons of Joseph] This translation does not satisfy Masius: For the Levites did not cease to be one Tribe; neither were the sons of Joseph granted the one, that twelfth part (that is, the portion of the double inheritance) of the Levites, but of Reuben; but Judah obtained the other, that is, the preeminence (Masius). But Masius unjustly carps at the Vulgate. I say that these succeeded into the place of the Levites, not into the right and possession, but so that they might fulfill the number of twelve in the division by lot of the tribes (Bonfrerius out of Lapide).

[Divided into two tribes] Hebrew: the sons of Joseph (or, of the sons of Joseph [Junius and Tremellius]) were two tribes[3] (thus most interpreters).

Were two tribes, that is, had the double portion, or the portion of two tribes, 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2, and therefore though Levi was excluded, there remained nine tribes and a half, was said Joshua 14:2, to be provided for in Canaan.

[And their suburbs (concerning which see what things gathered by us on Numbers 35:4-6), וּמִגְרְשֵׁיהֶם[4]] But they are named from casting out and moving away; that is to say, places remote and separated from dwellings. Question: Why were certain cities assigned to them, without them being allowed to dwell here and there where it might be agreeable? Responses: 1. Thus they would have easily assigned themselves all the most pleasant regions. 2. Unless they had dwelt separately, there would have been reason to fear that they would have grown accustomed to the vices of the common people by continual cohabitation with them. But now many, conjoined in one college, were more stirred up by mutual encouragement, teaching, and example; they were cities of that sort, γυμνάσια καὶ φροντιστήρια, gymnasia and schools, of piety, as it were, in which the doctrine of the worship of God would be best preserved, and propagated to neighboring cities (Masius).

[Their beasts and cattle: not fields, not vineyards; but pasture-land, and that for use more than produce (Grotius): לְמִקְנֵיהֶ֖ם וּלְקִנְיָנָֽם׃] For their herds and flocks, namely, the feeling of them (Vatablus). For animals greater and smaller (Chaldean in Masius, Hebrews in Munster). Rather מִקְנֶה signifies cattle, both greater and lesser, κτήνη/herds to the Greeks; but קִנְיָן whatever we possess in goods, κτῆσιν/acquisition and κτήματα/possessions[5] (Drusius out of Masius). In Numbers 35:3, where that Law is instituted, in the place of מִקְנֶה/cattle is בְּהֵמָה/beast, which signifies brute animals of every sort; and in the place of קִנְיָן is רְכוּשׁ, which embraces whatever resources and acquired goods[6] (Masius).


Verse 5:[7] (Numb. 35:2; Josh. 21:2) As the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did, and they divided the land.

[And they divided the land] Not in act, but in decree, or intention. Thus in Genesis 37:21, he delivered, that is, he strove to deliver; in Exodus 12:48, and he keeps the Passover, that is, he desires to keep; in Joshua 24:9, Balak fought against Israel, that is, he intended to fight; in Joshua 10:15, Joshua returned, that is, he was considering returning; in Jonah 1:16, the sacrificied, that is, they said that they were going to sacrifice; for at sea how were they able? So also perhaps 1 Maccabees 1:6, he divided his kingdom, that is, he decided, or thought, to divide[8] (Drusius).

They, that is, the persons named verse 1, who represented and acted in the name of the children of Israel, divided it, either now, or presently after; which is here spoken by anticipation.

[1] Hebrew: כִּֽי־נָתַ֙ן מֹשֶׁ֜ה נַחֲלַ֙ת שְׁנֵ֤י הַמַּטּוֹת֙ וַחֲצִ֣י הַמַּטֶּ֔ה מֵעֵ֖בֶר לַיַּרְדֵּ֑ן וְלַ֙לְוִיִּ֔ם לֹֽא־נָתַ֥ן נַחֲלָ֖ה בְּתוֹכָֽם׃

[2] Hebrew: כִּֽי־הָי֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יוֹסֵ֛ף שְׁנֵ֥י מַטּ֖וֹת מְנַשֶּׁ֣ה וְאֶפְרָ֑יִם וְלֹֽא־נָתְנוּ֩ חֵ֙לֶק לַלְוִיִּ֜ם בָּאָ֗רֶץ כִּ֤י אִם־עָרִים֙ לָשֶׁ֔בֶת וּמִ֙גְרְשֵׁיהֶ֔ם לְמִקְנֵיהֶ֖ם וּלְקִנְיָנָֽם׃

[3] Hebrew: כִּֽי־הָי֧וּ בְנֵֽי־יוֹסֵ֛ף שְׁנֵ֥י מַטּ֖וֹת.

[4] מִגְרָשׁ is related to the verbal root גָּרַשׁ, to drive or cast out.

[5] Joshua 14:4b:  “…therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance לְמִקְנֵיהֶ֖ם) וּלְקִנְיָנָֽם׃; τοῖς κτήνεσιν καὶ τὰ κτήνη αὐτῶν, in the Septuagint).”

[6] Numbers 35:3:  “And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts (לִבְהֶמְתָּם֙ וְלִרְכֻשָׁ֔ם וּלְכֹ֖ל חַיָּתָֽם׃).”

[7] Hebrew: כַּאֲשֶׁ֙ר צִוָּ֤ה יְהוָה֙ אֶת־מֹשֶׁ֔ה כֵּ֥ן עָשׂ֖וּ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַֽיַּחְלְק֖וּ אֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ׃

[8] 1 Maccabees 1:6:  “Wherefore he called his servants, such as were honourable, and had been brought up with him from his youth, and parted his kingdom among them, while he was yet alive.”

1 thought on “Joshua 14:3-5: The Division of the Land by Lot, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘The tribes among whom this dividend was to be made were nine and a half. 1. Not the two and a half that were already seated (Joshua 14:3), though perhaps now that they saw what a good land Canaan was, and how effectually it was subdued, they might some of them repent their choice, and wish they had now been to have their lot with their brethren, upon which condition they would gladly have given up what they had on the other side Jordan; but it could not be admitted: they had made their election without power of revocation, and so must their doom be; they themselves have decided it, and they must adhere to their choice. 2. Not the tribe of Levi; this was to be otherwise provided for. God had distinguished them from, and dignified them above, the other tribes, and they must not now mingle themselves with them, nor cast in their lot among them, for this would entangle them in the affairs of this life, which would not consist with a due attendance on their sacred function. But, 3. Joseph made two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, pursuant to Jacob’s adoption of Joseph’s two sons, and so the number of the tribes was kept up to twelve, though Levi was taken out, which is intimated here (Joshua 14:4): The children of Joseph were two tribes, therefore they gave no part to Levi, they being twelve without them.’

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