Joshua 15:1: The Southern Border of Judah, Part 1

Verse 1:[1] This then was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah by their families; (Num. 34:3) even to the border of Edom the (Num. 33:36) wilderness of Zin southward was the uttermost part of the south coast.

[Therefore, the lot of the children of Judah, etc.] It is to be discussed here first of those things that pertain generally to the division of the land. It is asked first, By whose arbitration were those parts made, concerning which there was now to be a casting of lots? For at Shiloh certainly nothing shall be done, except with those portions first described. Now, it appears that Canaan was not divided into certain parts by any surveyors before the coming to Shiloh. (Bonfrerius, nevertheless, thinks the contrary, and maintains that the inspection of the land was actually set before this division by lots, although Scripture does not mention this [Bonfrerius on Joshua 14:6].) I think, therefore, that these two portions of Judah and Joseph in a certain rougher demarcation were first set forth to be divided by lot, so that the camp in Gilgal might be safer. For, with its Southern part [where was the Tribe of Judah], and the Northern part [where was the Tribe of Joseph], defended by their garrison and their commanders, no enemy was able to be feared either from the East (where were Jordan and the Reubenites, etc.), or from the West (where was the Great Sea). And, since these parts [of Judah and Joseph] appeared greater than what was equitable, an equitable division of the entire land was pushed back to a future time. For, as it certainly appears, this prior division by lots did not with all propriety absolutely assign to them their possessions. Concerning which see on Joshua 18, Judah shall abide in their coasts, etc. In addition, since the Tribe of Judah obtained the first place, and surpassed any other tribe in number; and either a double portion or a portion and half was owed to the children of Joseph; in this way a certain rationale is able to be seen to be held in that distribution. But, whether all the Tribes obtained by lot equally from those two portions, or only these two, I am not able sufficiently to resolve. But the latter appears more probable to me from the things already said. Moreover, many things indicate that in the former and later casting of lots there was an order of privilege of the tribes among themselves. For we see that the lots come forth first to Judah and Joseph (to which two tribes the right of Reuben was given up[2]), but then to the sons of the free free mothers, and finally to the sons of the handmaids (Masius). Question: What then was the manner of the casting of lots? Responses: 1. By Urim and Thummim (Montanus in Lapide). But this was an oracle, not a lot (Lapide). 2. That Tribe, whichever the lot named, chose the better option from the parts set forth (Josephus in Masius). But this casting of lots is defective, that is, as of the tribes alone, but not the regions; neither is it so much a casting of lots as an option and choice (Lapide). Moreover, what would thus be the Divine harmony of the lots and the sacred predictions (Masius)? 3. The surveyors and delineators of Canaan divided that into twelve unequal parts, and assigned a proportionate part to each Tribe; which division the lot now cast by them confirmed (Tostatus in Lapide). But from this passage, and from Numbers 26:55, 56 and 33:54, it is demonstrated that the lot brought this division to completion in the first place (Lapide). 4. There was a single vessel in which were the names of the regions, and these were taken out one by one for each Tribe, and those, one after the other, were divided by lot according to the prerogative of each (Masius). Masius thinks that Canaan was marked out in twelve equal portions, and that to each Tribe fell their portion of the land equal to whatever other Tribe. But this was unjust, since the Tribes were rather unequal (Lapide out of Tostatus). 5. There were two vessels of lots, into one of which were cast the names of the twelve tribes, into the other the names of the twelve regions. Now, Eleazar, with the vessels shaken, drew from the one the name of a Tribe, and from the other the name of a region (the Rabbis is Masius, Lapide). But it is to be observed that this division was not made with an equal measure, but according to the worth of the regions: τιμητοὺς μᾶλλον ἢ μετρητοὺς τοὺς κλήρους, the lots were valued rather than measured, says Josephus (Grotius, thus Lapide). One difficulty appears to be imbedded in all these (methods): Since it was fitting that the parts be unequal on account of the inequality of the multitude in the tribes, how do these methods ascribe a greater portion to a Tribe of greater number? If you say that God combined the lots of the vessels in such a way that a greater portion fell to a greater Tribe: 1. In vain then did God command that the distributors take account of this inequality, since He would do it all Himself. 2. They ought already to have made the parts unequal: and so before the lot, it was almost obvious which part was to be given to each. I say, that it was permitted by God to the distributors to circumscribe each portion with its boundaries, and to expand and contract the parts proceeding from the vessel according to the greatness or fewness of the tribes, as it is evident from Numbers 35:8. Now, this was able to be done either before the casting of lots, or after it. Indeed, it was able to be done before, that there might be ten parts, etc., concerning each of which it might be established by common sense that, if this one should fall to this or that Tribe, it ought to be such or such, greater or lesser. Or, it was able to be done after the casting of the lots in two ways. 1. If the distributors, when they had seen a lot extracted, by their concurring votes, either might add or take away (as it appeared agreeable to them). 2. If they sought direction from the Urim and Thummim, etc. (Serarius). It seems probable that the land of Canaan was marked out in twelve equal parts (equal, not so much in size as in value), and that those were again subdivided into other lesser portions, as it is sufficiently gathered from the description of the towns through the individual regions in this chapter, verses 32, 41, 44, 57, 62; and that then these delineators had a view of the size of the tribes, and formed an estimation of the proportion of them among themselves. Therefore, certain Tribes were either greater or lesser than the others either by a fourth, or third, or half part. Accordingly, the lesser (Tribes), of the twelve portions of Canaan already distributed, asked for themselves either a quarter, or third, or half part of one portion according to their smallness: But the other greater Tribes were rightfully asked that, according to their size, beyond one and entire twelfth portion of Canaan, another quarter, or third, or half part of another portion be added to them. With this accomplished, they cast tokens of the twelve tribes into one vessel, and tokens of the twelve portions of the region with their subdivisions into the other; and thereupon they first drew the name of a Tribe from the one vessel, and from the other the name of a portion which they assigned to that Tribe, but with a geometrical proportion, according to the size of the Tribe; that is, in such a way that according to that they drew out the markers of the region, which would contain the whole, or half, or one and a half, or other proportion of the portion owed to each Tribe. For example, If we suppose that the tribe of Judah was double the others; it is to be asserted that by lots was given to them a double portion of land, but neighboring and contiguous, so that the whole Tribe might dwell together. Morever, in this first survey the delineators appear to have made an error in designating the portion of Judah, which, being too large, fell to him, as it is demonstrated from this, that this Tribe yielded some part of its region to the Tribe of Simeon, Joshua 19:1, and also to the the Tribe of Dan, as it is evident from Zorah and Eshtaol, which in Joshua 15:33 are assigned to Judah, but in Joshua 19:41 to the Tribe of Dan. And Joshua, being somewhat doubtful for this reason, that is, concerning the error committed, so that he might correct it, in chapter 18 sent new surveyors, etc. (Lapide). Now, with respect to the rite and method of the division by lots, I am inclined to think that the Sacred history everywhere hides this from us, lest we superstitiously imitate it in our affairs (Masius). Moreover, I am afraid that the barbarous names of places in this and the following chapters may occasion a repugnance in the reader, as in which the value of the effort shall appear to be none, in tracing the boundaries of the inheritance of each, especially since those citites are either ruined or exceedingly deformed, and the Tribes confused and forever cast out of their possessions. But there is to be a very different estimation of those things that are recorded in the Divine books, and of those things that are recorded in profane books. For, since the former are θεόπνευστοι/inspired,[3] nothing in them is idle or useless. Chrysostom says it best, Many of the mechanics, when (with the book taken up into the hands) either the calculated reckoning of numbers, or the more lengthy and continuous account of the names, presents itself, they soon, with many pages rapidly turned over, direct their eyes and mind to another passage: and, if they are perhaps criticized, they respond that there is nothing but names, and that there is nothing fruitful in those things that thus speed past. But what, asks he, art thou saying, good man? Art thou not ashamed to say that there is no advantage in knowing those things that God Himself speaks? Miners (says the same Chrysostom) do not pass by arid and barren mountains, but penetrate into them, and search for veins of gold, silver, etc. Why then do we pass by any passage of Sacred Scripture unexplored, since every passage is altogether superabounding in heavenly mysteries, if we examine it more deeply with the Holy Spirit leading us? Now, I admit that the knowledge of these things of itself is useless; but (I contend that it is) not only useful, but even necessary, for comprehending the Sacred history. Therefore, if judge those guilty of no more than excessive curiousity, that, so that they might more accurately understand the registers of Livy, Cæsar, and Tacitus, and the odious monuments of Roman tyranny, with the utmost effort strive to accommodate the barbarous names of places, which those writers generally present most corruptly, to cities of our memory by whatever conjectures; why would it displease us to weigh those names of places that are preserved in Sacred Scripture with complete integrity, and to pursue the knowledge of those things that are conducive to understanding the monuments the beginnings of our eternal salvation (Masius)? It will not be without use with these chapters of Joshua that treat of the division of the land, and of the establishment of the possessions of the tribes, to compare those chapters of 1 Chronicles that recount the fathers and principal men in each tribe. Thus with Joshua 13 compare 1 Chronicles 5; with Joshua 15 compare 1 Chronicles 2:1-4:23; with Joshua 16; 17 compare 1 Chronicles 7:14-29; with Joshua 18:11-28 compare 1 Chronicles 7:6-12; 8; with Joshua 19:1-9 read 1 Chronicles 4:24-43; with Joshua 19:17-23 read 1 Chronicles 7:1-5; with Joshua 19:24-31 read 1 Chronicles 7:30-40; with Joshua 19:32, etc., read 1 Chronicles 7:13; with Joshua 21 read 1 Chronicles 6; and with these chapters of Joshua read 1 Chronicles 9 (Lightfoot).

The lot, etc.: For the general understanding of this business, it must be known, 1. That this work of casting lots was transacted with great seriousness and solemnity, in God’s presence, with prayer and appeal to him for the decision of the matter. 2. That although an exact survey of this land was not taken till Joshua 18:4, 5, yet there was, and must needs be, a general description of it, and a division thereof into nine parts and a half; which as far as they could guess, were equal either in quantity or in quality. 3. That the lot did not at this time so peremptorily and unchangeably determine each tribe, that their portion could neither be increased nor diminished; as is manifest, because after Judah’s lot was fixed, Simeon’s lot was taken out of it, Joshua 19:9, though after the land was more distinctly known and surveyed, Joshua 18, it is likely the bounds were more certain and fixed. 4. That the lot determined only in general what part or quarter of the land belonged to each tribe, but left the particulars to be determined by Joshua and Eleazar, etc. For the manner of this lottery, it is probably conceived that there were two urns or pots, into one of which were put the names of all the tribes, each in a distinct paper, and into the other the names of each portion described; then Eleazar, or some other person, drew out first the name of one of the tribes out of one pot, and then the name of one portion out of the other pot, and that portion was appropriated to that tribe; and so in the rest. And with respect to these pots, in the bottom of which the papers lay, these lots are oft said to come up, or come forth. The lot of the tribe of the children of Judah came out first by God’s disposition, as a note of his preeminency above his brethren.

[From the border of Edom, etc., אֶל־גְּב֙וּל אֱד֧וֹם מִדְבַּר־צִ֛ן נֶ֖גְבָּה מִקְצֵ֥ה תֵימָֽן׃] Unto (or near [Pagnine, Vatablus]; אֶל/to is put in the place of עַל/upon [Vatablus], or toward [Munster, Tigurinus]) the border of Edom (Montanus, Jonathan, Junius and Tremellius) of the wilderness of Zin (Montanus, Munster, Tigurinus) (or, the wilderness of Zin[4] [Jonathan], or, and the wilderness of Zin [Pagnine], or, unto the desert of Zin [Syriac]) to (or towards [Jonathan]) the south (Montanus, Munster, Tigurinus, similarly Pagnine, Arabic), from the limit, or from, or on, the extremity, of the South, or southern (Munster, Tigurinus, Montanus, Vatablus, similarly Jonathan, Syriac), that is, from that side which looks toward the South, that is to say, that Tribe from the direction of the South had as a border Idumæa and the desert of Zin (Vatablus). Those expressions, southward, and on the extremity of the South, signify the same thing, that is, the utmost Southern borders are described. Wherefore in Numbers in the place of those two is only פֵּאַת נֶגֶב, the Southern coast[5] (Masius). The Arabic translates it, on the extremity of Teman.[6] Others thus: from the border of the Edomites, the wilderness of Zin southward was the Southern extremity on the West. They rightly add on the west; for Idumæa was toward the eastern corner. Some codices incorrectly had, from the border of Edom unto the desert of Zin. For Idumæa was bordering on the deser of Zin, as it is evident from Numbers 20, and from Numbers 34:3, which passage is quite serviceable in explaining this verse, and verses 2-4 following; for what are there established as the Southern borders of the whole Promised Land, the same in this place of the Tribe of Judah (Bonfrerius). This צִין/Zin, which was the thirty-third stopping place, from סִין/Sin, which was the eighth[7] (Drusius). The borders of the Tribe of Judah are very precisely described, as the chief of the tribes, where the Royal city was going to be, whence the Kings, lest one should do injury to the people by transgressing those boundaries (Grotius).

Edom lay south-east from Judah’s portion.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֣י הַגּוֹרָ֗ל לְמַטֵּ֛ה בְּנֵ֥י יְהוּדָ֖ה לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֑ם אֶל־גְּב֙וּל אֱד֧וֹם מִדְבַּר־צִ֛ן נֶ֖גְבָּה מִקְצֵ֥ה תֵימָֽן׃

[2] 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2.

[3] 2 Timothy 3:16:  “All scripture is given by inspiration of God (πᾶσα γραφὴ θεόπνευστος), and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness…”

[4] In apposition with the border of Edom.

[5] For example, see Numbers 34:3:  “Then your south quarter (פְּאַת־נֶגֶב) shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border (גְּב֣וּל נֶ֔גֶב) shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward…”

[6] Teman was an Edomite town in Arabia Petræa.

[7] See Numbers 33, especially verses 11, 12, and 36.

1 thought on “Joshua 15:1: The Southern Border of Judah, Part 1

  1. The observation of Masius bears repeating. Although the mastery of this ancient geography is difficult, the close study of God’s Word always repays effort with rich, spiritual dividends: ‘Moreover, I am afraid that the barbarous names of places in this and the following chapters may occasion a repugnance in the reader, as in which the value of the effort shall appear to be none, in tracing the boundaries of the inheritance of each, especially since those citites are either ruined or exceedingly deformed, and the Tribes confused and forever cast out of their possessions. But there is to be a very different estimation of those things that are recorded in the Divine books, and of those things that are recorded in profane books. For, since the former are θεόπνευστοι/inspired, nothing in them is idle or useless. Chrysostom says it best, Many of the mechanics, when (with the book taken up into the hands) either the calculated reckoning of numbers, or the more lengthy and continuous account of the names, presents itself, they soon, with many pages rapidly turned over, direct their eyes and mind to another passage: and, if they are perhaps criticized, they respond that there is nothing but names, and that there is nothing fruitful in those things that thus speed past. But what, asks he, art thou saying, good man? Art thou not ashamed to say that there is no advantage in knowing those things that God Himself speaks? Miners (says the same Chrysostom) do not pass by arid and barren mountains, but penetrate into them, and search for veins of gold, silver, etc. Why then do we pass by any passage of Sacred Scripture unexplored, since every passage is altogether superabounding in heavenly mysteries, if we examine it more deeply with the Holy Spirit leading us? Now, I admit that the knowledge of these things of itself is useless; but (I contend that it is) not only useful, but even necessary, for comprehending the Sacred history. Therefore, if judge those guilty of no more than excessive curiousity, that, so that they might more accurately understand the registers of Livy, Cæsar, and Tacitus, and the odious monuments of Roman tyranny, with the utmost effort strive to accommodate the barbarous names of places, which those writers generally present most corruptly, to cities of our memory by whatever conjectures; why would it displease us to weigh those names of places that are preserved in Sacred Scripture with complete integrity, and to pursue the knowledge of those things that are conducive to understanding the monuments the beginnings of our eternal salvation (Masius)?’

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