Joshua 15:19: Achsah’s Dowry Request, Part 2

Verse 19:[1] Who answered, Give me a (Gen. 33:11) blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs.

[Give to me a blessing (thus all interpreters)] A blessing is here understood that is made efficacious in the furnishing of goods (Bonfrerius). That is, a Gift/Favor (Vatablus, Drusius, Bonfrerius). Something proceeding from the blessing, or beneficence, of God (Piscator). בְּרָכָה/blessing is taken as gift in Genesis 33:11; 1 Samuel 25:27; 2 Corinthians 9:5[2] (Bonfrerius). It was the custom of the ancient fathers, by solemn prayers to dispense, as it were, the favor of God to their children, when they distributed to them their inheritance. Achsah alludes to this (Masius). בְּרָכָה is translated a possession (Chaldean), a gift (Tigurinus), an increase of wealth (Kimchi). Which is the proper notion of this word, as it is evident from the things said on Joshua 14:13. Kimchi even thinks that it is able to be read בְּרֵכָה, and to be translated a pool, out of which the drier farmland might be able to be irrigated (Masius). This keen young woman acutely and fittingly made use of a word that could signify both blessing and abundance of water (Lapide out of Montanus).

Give me a blessing, that is, a gift, as that word signifies, Genesis 33:11.

[A southern land, etc., כִּ֣י אֶ֤רֶץ הַנֶּ֙גֶב֙ נְתַתָּ֔נִי] Because a land of the south, or southern, thou hast given me (Montanus, Munster). נְתַתָּנִי, thou hast given me, is in the place of נָתַתָּ לִי, thou hast given to me (Hebrews in Masius). Into the land of the Negeb (other codices have νότου, of the south) thou has given me (Septuagint). They think that the preposition אֶל/to is missing before אֶרֶץ/land (Masius). Thou hast given an arid land (Pagnine, similarly Tigurinus, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius). Verbatim: of dryness (Vatablus), that is, dry (for in Chaldean נֶגֶב signifies dry land): Southern, and hence dry; for that part is drier than the remaining part of the world (Drusius). That is to say, That earth, because of the condition of its situation, and because it was without waters, was arid and sterile (Menochius). But, since among us those fields and hills, planted with vines, that face the South, are generally more fertile, Tostatus wonders why dry land might be said to be of the South. But the same conditions are not everywhere present in the winds of the earth (Bonfrerius). In Europe, the South Wind is more rainy and fertile: yet to the Jews, it, as blowing from the vast wilderness of Arabia, is hot, burning, and dry (Lapide). The Southern Places there are baked with the heat of the Sun, not irrigated with rain (Bonfrerius). [Some translate נְתַתָּנִי otherwise:] In a souther land thou hast settled me (Syriac), or, thou hast joined me in matrimony (Arabic). [Thus ב/in is missing before אֶרֶץ/land, which is common.] We have shown in Joshua 11:16 that Southern soil is said to be dry land (Masius). That נֶגֶב/Negeb signifies dryness appears to be gathered from the antithesis of waters (Piscator).

A south land, that is, a dry land, which was much exposed to the south wind, which in those parts was very hot and drying, as coming from the deserts of Arabia.

[Join also the well-watered, וְנָתַתָּ֥ה לִ֖י גֻּלֹּ֣ת מָ֑יִם[3]] And thou shalt give to me revolutions of waters[4] (Montanus); give to me springs, etc. (Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus, Piscator), fountains (Pagnine, Drusius). That is, whence I may be able to irrigate the parched land (Vatablus). Eddies of waters, that is, those springs from which veins of the earth, as it were, bubbling waters appear to be pushed out roll upon roll (Masius). Whirlings: Thus springs are called, because they roll together the erupting water, and make many globules, as it were, and produce rings in the surface (Piscator). Give to me land irrigated with waters (Tigurinus). She expresses it in a fitting manner, Give to me; that is to say, What thou has bestowed upon my husband, it is proper that it be attributed to his merits, namely, Kirjath-sepher; but to me, that is, for my own personal possession, thou hast hitherto given nothing whereby thou mayest desire to testify to thy paternal love (Montanus). Question: What is understood by these springs? Responses: 1. Some understand only those fountains (thus Drusius, Cajetan in Bonfrerius, Masius, Magalianus in Tirinus). But the right of drawing and leading off waters into one’s field from some fountain ought not to be esteemed as a common gift, since the whole of Canaan was drier, and had perpetual need of rains, Deuteronomy 11:11. See Genesis 21; 26 (Masius). 2. Others understand the field in which the fountains were (thus Vatablus, Bonfrerius, Montanus, Lapide, Glassius). Thus the Chaldean has, Give to me a place irrigated with waters. A Metonymy of adjunct: The thing contain is often put in the place of the container, and the thing located in the place of the location (Glassius’ “Sacred Rhetoric” 55). It would not be fitting to give the waters to his daughter, and the fields either to retain for himself, or to grant to others that would put up with the liability of the waters to be drawn off without any compensation (Montanus). If one should desire that the fields were given with the fountains, with him I would not fight concerning this obscure matter (Masius).

Springs of water, that is, a field, as she desired, Joshua 15:18, wherein are springs of water, which in that country were of great price; for it is not probable that he would give her the springs, and give to another the grounds in which the springs were, who could thereby at their pleasure deprive her of the use and benefit of her springs: so she begs a well-moistened field, which also might give some relief to that which was dry and barren.

[And he gave to her the upper and lower irrigated ground,וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֗הּ אֵ֚ת גֻּלֹּ֣ת עִלִּיּ֔וֹת וְאֵ֖ת גֻּלֹּ֥ת תַּחְתִּיּֽוֹת׃] He gave to her the upper and lower springs (Junius and Tremellius), or, irrigated ground upper, etc. (Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus). Question: What is understood by these? I respond, Two springs; one of which appears to have been in an upper place, the other in a lower (Masius). Fountains in upper places and in lower places, which she might divert to the parched ground (Cajetan in Bonfrerius). Upper springs are fountains erupting from the ground; lower springs are wells (certain interpreters in Vatablus). Wells dug; for wells also are subterranean fountains, as it were (Estius). He gave springs upper, by which hilly, and lower, by which more level, places could be irrigated (Tirinus). Others take this of farms irrigated, and therefore fertile (Bonfrerius). He gave a field in which there were fountains in the upper and lower part (Vatablus, Estius, Lyra). He gave a farm in places higher, or mountainous, and in places lower, or flat (Theodoret and Serarius in Bonfrerius). Thus he calls the irrigated land upper and lower by comparison with that parched land which she had previously received (Tostatus in Bonfrerius). And so these generally maintain that two farms were newly given as part of the dowry: But to me it appears that only one dotal farm was given to her by Caleb; but it is called upper irrigated, because it was irrigated with rains from above; and lower, because it was irrigated by rivulets and fountains from below. Since the exceptional fecundity of the fields proceeds from waters, especially rains, Deuteronomy 11; Isaiah 30; Ezekiel 34. To which, if irrigation by land be added from fountains and rivulets, now nothing is wanting to that soil (Bonfrerius). Question: How does Achsah obtain the field, since daughters were excluded from inheriting estates (except when sons were wanting)? Responses: 1. Estates were also able to be given to daughters, while they married with members of their own tribe (Masius, Bonfrerius): since in this manner estates were not transferred from tribe to tribe[5] (Bonfrerius). There is no doubt that fields and farms were able to be bestowed upon a daughter as a dowry until the year of Jubilee; for so far they were albe to sell them even to one outside (Bonfrerius). He gave to her irrigated land for a dowry; not by law or custom, but of his own liberality (Grotius). He gave to her an estate, although she had three brothers, 1 Chronicles 4:15 (Lightfoot).

The upper springs, and the nether springs, that is, springs both in the higher and in the lower grounds; or two fields, one in high, another in low grounds; or rather, one above, and the other below, that south and dry ground which she complained of, that by this means it might be watered on both sides.

[1] Hebrew: וַתֹּ֜אמֶר תְּנָה־לִּ֣י בְרָכָ֗ה כִּ֣י אֶ֤רֶץ הַנֶּ֙גֶב֙ נְתַתָּ֔נִי וְנָתַתָּ֥ה לִ֖י גֻּלֹּ֣ת מָ֑יִם וַיִּתֶּן־לָ֗הּ אֵ֚ת גֻּלֹּ֣ת עִלִּיּ֔וֹת וְאֵ֖ת גֻּלֹּ֥ת תַּחְתִּיּֽוֹת׃

[2] 2 Corinthians 9:5:  “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty (εὐλογίαν/blessing), whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty (εὐλογίαν/blessing), and not as of covetousness.”

[3] גֻּלָּה is derived from גָּלַל, to roll.

[4] A woodenly literalistic rendering.

[5] See Numbers 36.

1 thought on “Joshua 15:19: Achsah’s Dowry Request, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘From this story we learn, 1. That it is no breach of the tenth commandment moderately to desire those comforts and conveniences of this life which we see attainable in a fair and regular way. 2. That husbands and wives should mutually advise, and jointly agree, about that which is for the common good of their family; and much more should they concur in asking of their heavenly Father the best blessings, those of the upper springs. 3. That parents must never think that lost which is bestowed upon their children for their real advantage, but must be free in giving them portions as well as maintenance, especially when they are dutiful. Caleb had sons (1 Chronicles 4:15), and yet gave thus liberally to his daughter. Those parents forget themselves and their relation who grudge their children what is convenient for them when they can conveniently part with it.’

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