Joshua 15:18: Achsah’s Dowry Request, Part 1

Verse 18:[1] (Judg. 1:14) And it came to pass, as she came unto him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and (see Gen. 24:64; 1 Sam. 25:23) she lighted off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou?

[Who, while they were going together, וַיְהִ֣י בְּבוֹאָ֗הּ] Verbatim: And it was in her coming (Montanus); when she had come to him (English, Dutch); dum/while (or quum/while [Piscator]) she was going to meet (Junius and Tremellius); συνελθεῖν, to come together. See Matthew 1:18.[2] Before they had come together into one house (Drusius). When she entered unto him (Munster); while she was entering (Tigurinus, Vatablus, Syriac); while she was coming (Pagnine, Masius, Drusius), understanding, into the house of her bridegroom (Vatablus, Drusius). That is, while she was going there. For בָּא signifies both to come, and to go (Drusius). The Latins make use of the language of coming, when they say that a bride is led home. Here the Septuagint has ἐκπορεύεσθαι, to go forth, namely, from the house of her parents; elsewhere (Judges 1:14), εἰσπορεύεσθαι, to go in, that is, into the house of her bridegroom (Masius). The sense: while she was being conducted to the house of her bridegroom (Vatablus, Masius, Lapide, Bonfrerius on Judges 1:14). The heart of parents is wont to be more indulgent toward their daughters, when they, settling their daughters in marriage, appear as about to part (Masius).

As she came unto him, or, as she went, to wit, from her father’s house to her husband’s, as the manner was: see on Matthew 1:18.

[She was moved by her husband to ask from her father a field: but the Hebrew has it contrariwise (Lapide); for the affixed pronoun is masculine, and the verb feminine (Bonfrerius on Judges 1:14); וַתְּסִיתֵ֙הוּ֙ לִשְׁא֤וֹל מֵֽאֵת־אָבִ֙יהָ֙ שָׂדֶ֔ה] And she moved him to ask from her father a field (Montanus, Munster, Vatablus); or, she had moved him, that is, her bridegroom, etc. (Masius); she persuaded him to ask, etc. (Pagnine, Tigurinus). She began to persuade him to ask from her father a certain field, that is, some arable and fertile region (Vatablus). Because Achsah, with a certain feminine modesty, and at the same time reverence for her father, was not daring herself to ask another dowry, she moved her husband to do so (Masius). [Nevertheless, others refer this to Achsah, in this manner:] She persuaded him concerning the asking of a field from her father (Pisctor, Junius and Tremellius), that is, that it might be permitted to her to ask (Piscator, Junius). She while going (since she had obtained from her husband that she might ask a field of her father) was lamenting, etc. (Castalio). And since she had been made his wife, she was anxious to ask an inheritance of a field from her father (Syriac). Whom, when she had entered, he urged to ask a certain field from her father (Arabic). Achsah urged her husband, so that either he might ask, or he might permit her to ask, and suggest which might be better in this situation: now, her husband responded by assenting, and suggested that she ask (Lapide, similarly Bonfrerius). What things follow indicate that the maiden was rather persuaded by her bridegroom, than the bridegroom by the bride, since not he, but she, asked this (Masius). [But see what things follow.]

She moved him to ask; she persuaded her husband; either, 1. That he would ask; or rather, 2. That he would suffer her to ask, as she did.

[And she sighed as she sat on the ass, וַתִּצְנַ֖ח מֵעַ֣ל הַחֲמ֑וֹר] And she cried out (or, was lamenting [Castalio]) from the ass (Septuagint). Others otherwise: She fixed herself from upon the ass (Montanus); and she brought herself down (Jonathan, Tigurinus), or, she unhorsed herself (Vatablus); she dismounted (Pagnine); she lighted off her ass (Vatablus, Drusius). Thus she lighted off as if she were fixed to the earth (Drusius). That is, by descending from the ass by which she was carried, she threw herself at his feet; that is, since her father would not acquiesce to her petition (Vatablus). Since her husband, about to lead her home from her father, had set her upon an ass, she lighted off again, lest she should go without a better dowry. She urged her bridegroom to ask…a better field, that is, with her hesitating, while she let herself slip from the mule again, and feigned (in a certain measure) as if shrinking from the undertaking. But, however this may be, the character of women, avaricious and impudent, if any lust assail, and their spirit, unbridled and deranged, finally, with unnatural complaining; and opportune and importunate solicitation of pledges, are depicted for us in Achsah. Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon thus explains it: At the advice of his bride Othniel had asked a dowry from his father-in-law, and obtained it. But, since the field was quite dry, she asked for waters in addition (Masius). Achsah persuaded her bridegroom to ask a field, etc., that is, a better field; but her bridegroom, impeded by modesty, did not dare to do it: wherefore the bride herself judged that her father was to be addressed concerning this matter, and came down from her as as a suppliant, etc. (Osiander, Munster). The verb צָנַח, to descend, is used only in this narration, and in Judges 4:21, in which Jael let fall (Masius) (or, fastened down, thus all translate it there [Bonfrerius]) the nail through the head of Sisera into the earth (Masius, Bonfrerius). The Jews here translate it, to hang down toward a fall; as if the young woman did not descend, but, with her body leaning, gave indications descent or fall: others, to unhorse herself with great force; I, to let fall (Masius). I translate it, to descend from the ass. For it is a sign of reverence, Genesis 24:64. See Valerius Maximus’[3] Nine Books of Memorable Deeds and Sayings[4] 2:10:4 (Grotius). She descended, so that she, prostrate at the knees of her father, might obtain what she desired. Others translate it, and she fixed herself upon her ass, feigning faintness, or sadness, bent over the mule (Masius). I translate it, she waited, sitting upon an ass, verbatim, from above her ass. The sense: Since she was about to go in to her husband, she persuaded him that, before they come together, she would ask a field of her father; which, so that it might be given effect immediately, she remained upon her ass, expecting the success of the matter. Whence, since her father easily gathered that there was some reason why his daughter was not descending, nor entering into her husband; he asked what it might be to her. Thus I take the צָנַח, because in Ethiopic it is used for to remain, Matthew 15:32; Mark 8:2, and for to wait, Luke 1:21. This signification also agrees with that other place, namely, Judges 4:21, וַתִּצְנַ֖ח בָּאָ֑רֶץ, and it, namely, the nail, remained in the ground; that is, nail transfixed the temple with such force that it stuck in the earth (Dieu on Judges 1:14).

She lighted off her ass, that she might address herself to her father in a humble posture, and as a suppliant, which he understood by her gesture.

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֣י בְּבוֹאָ֗הּ וַתְּסִיתֵ֙הוּ֙ לִשְׁא֤וֹל מֵֽאֵת־אָבִ֙יהָ֙ שָׂדֶ֔ה וַתִּצְנַ֖ח מֵעַ֣ל הַחֲמ֑וֹר וַיֹּֽאמֶר־לָ֥הּ כָּלֵ֖ב מַה־לָּֽךְ׃

[2] Matthew 1:18:  “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise:  When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together (πρὶν ἢ συνελθεῖν αὐτούς), she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”

[3] Valerius Maximus was a first century Roman collector of antiquities.

[4] Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilium Libri Novem.

1 thought on “Joshua 15:18: Achsah’s Dowry Request, Part 1

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘Because the historian is now upon the dividing of the land, he gives us an account of Achsah’s portion, which was in land, as more valuable because enjoyed by virtue of the divine promise, though we may suppose the conquerors of Canaan, who had had the spoil of so many rich cities, were full of money too. [1.] Some land she obtained by Caleb’s free grant, which was allowed while she married within her own tribe and family, as Zelophehad’s daughters did. He gave her a south land, Joshua 15:19. Land indeed, but a south land, dry, and apt to be parched. [2.] She obtained more upon her request; she would have had her husband to ask for a field, probably some particular field, or champaign ground, which belonged to Caleb’s lot, and joined to that south land which he had settled upon his daughter at marriage. She thought her husband had the best interest in her father, who, no doubt, was extremely pleased with his late glorious achievement, but he thought it was more proper for her to ask, and she would be more likely to prevail; accordingly she did, submitting to her husband’s judgment, though contrary to her own; and she managed the undertaking with great address. First, She took the opportunity when her father brought her home to the house of her husband, when the satisfaction of having disposed of his daughter so well would make him think nothing too much to do for her. Secondly, She lighted off her ass, in token of respect and reverence to her father, whom she would honour still, as much as before her marriage. She cried or sighed from off her ass, so the Septuagint and the vulgar Latin read it; she expressed some grief and concern, that she might give her father occasion to ask her what she wanted. Thirdly, She calls it a blessing, because it would add much to the comfort of her settlement; and she was sure that, since she married not only with her father’s consent, but in obedience to his command, he would not deny her his blessing. Fourthly, She asks only for the water, without which the ground she had would be of little use either for tillage or pasture, but she means the field in which the springs of water were. The modesty and reasonableness of her quest gave it a great advantage. Earth without water would be like a tree without sap, or the body of an animal without blood; therefore, when God gathered the waters into one place, he wisely and graciously left some in every place, that the earth might be enriched for the service of man. See Psalm 104:10, etc. Well, Achsah gained her point; her father gave her what she asked, and perhaps more, for he gave her the upper springs and the nether springs, two fields so called from the springs that were in them, as we commonly distinguish between the higher field and the lower field. Those who understand it but of one field, watered both with the rain of heaven and the springs that issued out of the bowels of the earth, give countenance to the allusion we commonly make to this, when we pray for spiritual and heavenly blessings which relate to our souls as blessings of the upper springs, and those which relate to the body and the life that now is as blessings of the nether springs.’

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