Joshua 18:6: New Survey for the Seven Tribes, Part 4

Verse 6:[1] Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, (Josh. 14:2; 18:10) that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.

[The land in the midst between these[2]] But the land here to be divided was not in the midst of the Josephites and Judahites (Menochius out of Serarius, Serarius). [Therefore, Lapide, Bonfrerius, Serarius, and Menochius acknowledge an error in the Vulgate here, as far as they dare.] In a Latin text it was written, aliam/another, not mediam, in the midst of (Vatablus).

[And ye shall come hither to me, וַֽהֲבֵאתֶ֥ם אֵלַ֖י] And bring to me, understanding, the description (Vatablus).

[Before the Lord] That is, the Ark (Masius, Bonfrerius). There the lots were to be cast; 1. so that they might be directed by God as present: 2. so that that distribution of lots might be held as sacrosanct, and to be violated in no way (Bonfrerius): 3. otherwise they would never have lived content with their lots, being men of the stiffest neck (Masius).

[I shall cast the lot for you here] That is, with lots cast, I shall assign to each an inheritance before the Lord, by whom lots are controlled (Vatablus). He here addresses that assembly, for the surveyors were not yet chosen (Masius). The people are commanded to divide the land into seven parts, not of themselves, but through the selection of land-surveyors by them (Bonfrerius). [Others otherwise:] I shall cast the lot for you here, that is, for your tribes, as in verses 8 and 10. He addresses those to be sent out, as if he were addressing the Tribes that were sending them: It is a Syllepsis[3] (Malvenda).

Here before the LORD our God: that is, Before the ark or tabernacle, that God may be witness, and judge, and author of the division, that each may be contented with his lot, and that your several possessions may be secured to you as things sacred, and not to be alienated.

[1] Hebrew: וְאַתֶּ֞ם תִּכְתְּב֤וּ אֶת־הָאָ֙רֶץ֙ שִׁבְעָ֣ה חֲלָקִ֔ים וַֽהֲבֵאתֶ֥ם אֵלַ֖י הֵ֑נָּה וְיָרִ֙יתִי לָכֶ֤ם גּוֹרָל֙ פֹּ֔ה לִפְנֵ֖י יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ׃

[2] Thus the Vulgate.

[3] That is, a single word that must be taken in two different senses in relation to two other parts of the sentence.

2 thoughts on “Joshua 18:6: New Survey for the Seven Tribes, Part 4

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘When [the land] was surveyed, and reduced to seven lots, then Joshua would, by appeal to God, and direction from him, determine which of these lots should belong to each tribe (Joshua 18:6): That I may cast lots for you here at the tabernacle (because it was a sacred transaction) before the Lord our God, to whom each tribe must have an eye, with thankfulness for the conveniences and submission to the inconveniences of their allotment. What we have in the world we must acknowledge God’s property in, and dispose of it as before him, with justice, and charity, and dependence upon Providence. The heavenly Canaan is described to us in a book, the book of the scriptures, and there are in it mansions and portions sufficient for all God’s spiritual Israel. Christ is our Joshua that divides it to us. On him we must attend, and to him we must apply for an inheritance with the saints in light. See John 17:2, 3.’

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    Archibald Hall’s “Gospel Worship”: ‘The purposes for which a lot should be used, must now be laid open. From its sacred nature, as it carries in it a reference of some matter to the supreme Being, it is plain, a lot should not be used, any more than an oath, upon any frivolous or trifling occasion; but only when a matter is to be decided, which is, either in itself, or in its consequences, of some importance: which may be the case, when strife is to be prevented, or contentions made to cease; though the things themselves, about which the contention is raised, should not be of very great moment.

    We may likewise conclude, that a lot is not appointed for a man’s private direction in the management of his own affairs: for when it is said, “The lot parteth between the mighty,” Proverbs 18:18, there is a plain intimation, that the cases in which it is to be used are such, in the decision whereof more persons than one are concerned. Nor is there an approved instance in scripture, of its being used in any particular case, which related to a single person only, or to a man’s private affairs, in which none but himself had any concern.

    It may be farther remarked, that a lot is not to be used till other proper means of discovery or decision fail. As an oath in witness-bearing is a matter of such solemnity, that it should not be required, or, taken, till other satisfactory evidences of truth are wanting: so neither should a lot, which is of the like solemnity, be used, till we are at a loss how to come to a decision or determination of the matter in dispute by other means; that is, till we cannot find how to make a just and righteous determination of the case, by a faithful consulting the word of God, by a due attention to the rules of equity, or a careful exercise of human wisdom, judgment, and penetration.

    Each of these remarks may be well supported by a due consideration of those instances of the regular use of a lot, which stand upon record in the scriptures. From these we learn, that the people of God had recourse to the lot only in doubtful cases, and such as were of some importance, where several people were concerned; and this only when other methods of discovery or determination failed: and then they used it, as a solemn way of referring the decision to the Lord himself.

    Thus it was used upon various occasions, relating to things respectively, both of a religious and civil nature. For instance, it was used—in the dividing of lands; as when Joshua required a description of the land to be brought to him, that he might cast lots for the people before the Lord, Joshua 18:6:—in finding out secret offenders; as in the case of Achan, Joshua 7; of Jonathan, 1 Samuel 14:42 and of Jonah, Jonah 1:7:—in choosing officers; as when Saul was chosen king of Israel, 1 Samuel 10:20, 21 and Matthias was made an apostle, Acts 1:26:—in ordering the courses of the priests that were in office, 1 Chronicles 24:5; Luke 1:9:—in appointing the scapegoat, Leviticus 16:8:—in settling controversies or disputes among men about their private property, to make contentions cease, Proverbs 18:18: and—it was used likewise in a case that related to a public or state-affair after the Jews returned from their captivity; for some peculiar difficulty then attending the inhabitants of Jerusalem, we read, that “the rest of the people cast lots to bring one of ten to dwell there,” Nehemiah 11:1.

    And I cannot but observe, that in all the cases I have mentioned, and in all others that are contained in the book of God, the matter to which the lot related, was referred by the godly to the decision and determination of the great Jehovah: and so it always ought to be, when a lot is cast upon any occasion whatever. When those that have recourse to the lot, do not intend to refer the matter to God, they profane his ordinance by using it in a way of mockery; since they make a show by their actions, of what is not so much as aimed at in their hearts. However, whether they intend it or not, the very use of the lot is an open manifest declaration, that the affair to which the lot relates, is avowedly submitted to the determination of God, who is infinitely superior to men in his influence, wisdom, and all other perfections. Since actions have a voice, this must be, by fair construction, the language of all men, both good and bad, in casting lots.

    Upon the strictest review of the many cases, in which the scriptures tell us the people of God had recourse to the lot, there is not so much as one instance to be found of their ever using it in a lusory manner, or upon occasion of any diversion, sport, or pastime; as is become too common among many professing Protestants in our day. There is no part of the word of God, that can justly be thought to warrant the liberty they take in their vain practices of playing at cards or dice. These are ways, in which the footsteps of God’s ancient flock are not to be seen, nor traced.

    From the whole, it is evident, that a lot should be used only upon weighty and necessary occasions; and then it should be used, (1.) As an acknowledgment of the wisdom, sovereignty, and influence of the holy providence of God, who is the Judge of all the earth; and, (2.) As a final decision of some dispute, or contest, wherein the interest of many is concerned, that all contention may cease, in consequence of the verdict of Heaven upon the litigated cause. These are the grand purposes that should be kept in the view of all who have a call to be any way concerned in casting lots before the Lord.’

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