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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 7: Joshua, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at


Joshua 13:1-14

1. Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

1. Quum autem senuisset Josue, et venisset in dies, dixit ei Jehova, Tu senuisti, venisti in dies, et multa terra admodum superest ad possidendum.

2. This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri,

2. Haec est terra quae residua est, omnes limites Philisthinorum, et omnis Gessuri.

3. From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:

3. A Nilo qui est e regione AEgypti usque ad terminum Ecron, qui est ab aquilone, quae Chananeae reputatur, quinque principatus Philisthinorum, Azathaeus, Asdodaeus, Ascalonaeus, Gitthaeus et Ekronaeus et Auaei.

4. From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:

4. Ab austro universa terra Chananaei et Meara, quae est Sidoniorum usque ad Paera, usque ad terminum Aemorrhaei.

5. And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath.

5. Et terra Gibli, et totus Libanus ad ortum solis a Baal-gad sub monte Hermon, donec pervenias Hemath.

6. All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee.

6. Omnes habitotores montis a Libano usque ad fervores aquarum: omnes Sidonios ego expellam a facie filiorum Israel: tantum jacias sortem, ut sit in haereditatem Israel, sicut praecepi tibi.

7. Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh;

7. Nunc ergo divide terram istam in haereditatem novem tribubus, et dimidiae tribui Manasse.

8. With whom the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them;

8. Praeter eam Rubenitae, et Gaditae acceperunt partes suas, quas dedit iis Moses trans Jordanem ad orientem, sicut dedit eis Moses servus Jehovae.

9. From Aroer, that is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain of Medeba unto Dibon;

9. Ab Aroer quae est juxta ripam fluminis Arnon, et urbem ipsam quae est in medio vallis, et totam planitiem Medeba usque ad Dibon.

10. And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, unto the border of the children of Ammon;

10. Et omnes urbes Sihon regis Aemorrhaei, qui regnabat in Hesbon, usque ad terminum filiorum Ammon.

11. And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah;

11. Et Gilead et terminum Gessuri, et Maachati, et totum montem Hermon, et universum Basan usque ad Salchah.

12. All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out.

12. Universum regnum Og in Basan, qui regnabat in Astaroth, et in Edrei: hic supererat ex residuo Rephaim, quos percussit Moses et expulit.

13. Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.

13. Non expulerunt autem filii Israel Gessuri et Maachati: propterea habitavit Gessur et Maachat in medio Israel usque ad hunc diem.

14. Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them.

14. Tantum tribui Levi non dedit haereditatem, sacrificia Jehovae Dei Israel sunt hereditas ejus, quemadmodum loquutus est de ea.


1. Now Joshua was old, etc  127 Since we have seen above that the land was pacified by the subjugation of thirty-one kings, it is probable that some cessation now took place for the purpose of resting from their fatigues, lest the people should be worn out by continual service. Nor could that justly be blamed, provided they rested only for a time and continued always intent on the goal set before them. But lest that intermission which was given for the purpose of recruiting new vigor might prove an occasion of sloth, the Lord employs a new stimulus to urge them to proceed. For he orders the whole inheritance to be divided into tribes, and the whole line of the Mediterranean coast which was possessed by the enemy to be put into the lot. A division of this kind might indeed seem absurd and ludicrous, nay, a complete mockery, seeing they were dealing among themselves with the property of others just as if it had been their own. But the Lord so appointed for the best of reasons. First, they might have cast away the hope of the promise and been contented with their present state. Nay, although after the lot was cast they had security in full for all that God had promised, they by their own cowardice, as far as in them lay, destroyed the credit of his words. Nor was it owing to any merit of theirs that his veracity did not lie curtailed and mutilated. The allocation by lot must therefore have been to them an earnest of certain possession so as to keep them always in readiness for it. Secondly, Those who happened to have their portion assigned in an enemy’s country, inasmuch as they were living in the meanwhile as strangers on precarious hospitality beyond their own inheritance, must have acted like a kind of task-masters spurring on the others. And it surely implied excessive stupor to neglect and abandon what had been divinely assigned to them.

We now see to what intent the whole land behooved to be divided by lot, and the seat of each tribe allocated. It was also necessary that this should be done while Joshua was alive, because after his death the Israelites would have been less inclined to obedience, for none of his successors possessed authority sufficient for the execution of so difficult a task. Moreover, as God had already by the mouth of Moses commanded it to be done, had he not performed the business thus committed to him, the whole work might have gone to wreck when the lawful minister was removed. Although the exact time is not stated, still it is probable that as there was no hope that while Joshua continued alive the people would again take up arms with the view of giving a wider extent to their boundaries, he then only attempted to divide the land, as if he were proclaiming and promising, by a solemn attestation, that the distribution would certainly be carried into effect, because the truth of God could not fail in consequence of the death of any man.

2. This is the land, etc The ancient boundaries long ago fixed by God, are recalled to remembrance, in order that Joshua. and the people may feel fully persuaded that the covenant made with Abraham would be fulfilled in every part. Wherefore they are enjoined to make it their study to acquire the parts still remaining to be possessed. The inference will be appropriate if we make a practical application of this perseverance to that which is required of us, viz., to forget the things which are behind, and reach forth unto those that are before, and press toward the mark for the prize of our high calling. (Php 3:14.)  128 For it would be of no use to run in the race without endeavoring to reach the goal.

The boundary commenced with a river separating Egypt toward the sea from the Holy Land, and most probably the river Nile, as we interpret it according to the received opinion, or a small stream which flowed past the town of Rhinocornea, believed by many to be Raphia or Raphane.  129 It is indeed beyond dispute that the inheritance of the people commencing in that quarter was contiguous to Egypt. But although I have followed the opinion of the majority of expositors, that the boundaries were not extended further than to the less cultivated and in a manner desert land, lest greater proximity might have been injurious by leading to too close familiarity with the Egyptians, I by no means repudiate a different opinion.

The third verse raises a question. After it is said that the territories towards the sea-coast were five, a sixth is added, namely, that of the Avites. Some think that it is not counted among the five because it was an insignificant province. But I would have my readers to consider whether there may not be an indirect antithesis between a free people, their own masters, and five territories ruled by sovereigns. Hence the Avites being in different circumstances are mentioned separately, the plural number being used for the sake of distinction. In the enumeration of the sovereignties they are not arranged in the order of their dignity or opulence, but the first place is given to Aza because of its nearness to Egypt, and the same remark applies to Ashdod and the others.

The Septuagint translators, according to their usual custom, employ the Greek γ (gamma) to express the Hebrew ע (ain), and thus give the name of Gaza to that which in Hebrew is Aza, in the same way as they convert Amorrha into Gomorrha.  130 This sufficiently exposes the mistake of those who suppose that its name is Persian, and derived from its resources  131 in consequence of Cambyses, when about to carry on war in Greece, having made it the depot of his treasures. But as in the Acts, (Ac 8:26,) Luke speaks of “Gaza which is desert,” it appears that a city of the same name was erected near it, but on a different site. Ashdod is the same as that which the Greeks called Azotus. The whole of this tract, which is either on the sea-coast or verging towards it, extends as far as Sidon. And there are some who think that the Phoenicians were once masters both of Gaza and Azotus. How far Lebanon extends is sufficiently known.  132 For it sometimes comprehends Mount Hermon; and on account of its length part of it is surnamed Antilibanus.  133 The reader will find the subject of Mount Hermon considered in De 4. Towards the east is Hamath, which is also Antioch of Syria.

6. All the inhabitants of the hill country, etc Joshua is again admonished, though the Israelites do not yet possess those regions, not to defer the partition, but trust to the promise of God, because it would detract injuriously from his honor if there were any doubt as to the event. It is accordingly said: Only do what is thy duty in the distribution of the land; nor let that which the enemy still hold securely be exempted from the lot; for it will be my care to fulfil what I have promised. Hence let us learn in undertaking any business, so to depend on the lips of God as that no doubt can delay us. It is not ours, indeed, to fabricate vain hopes for ourselves; but when our confidence is founded on the Lord, let us only obey his commands, and there is no reason to fear that the event will disappoint us.

He afterwards assigns the land of Canaan to nine tribes and a half tribe, because the portion of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh had already been assigned beyond the Jordan. Though there is a seeming tautology in the words, Which Moses gave them, as Moses gave them, there is nothing superfluous, because in the second clause the donation is confirmed; as if God were ordering that which was done to be ratified, or saying, in other words, As Moses gave them that land, so let them remain tranquil in the possession of it.  134 For this reason also he is distinguished by the title of servant of God, as if it were said, Let no one interfere with that decree which a faithful minister has pronounced on the authority of God. It was certainly necessary to provide by anticipation against the disputes which otherwise must have daily arisen.

14. Only unto the tribe of Levi, etc This exception was also necessary, lest the Levites might allege that they were unjustly disinherited, and thus excite great commotions in regard to their right. He therefore reminds them that Moses was the author of this distinction, and, at the same time, shows that they have no reason to complain of having been in any way defrauded, because an excellent compensation was given them. For although the sacrifices were not equally divided among the Levites, their subsistence was sufficiently provided for by all the first-fruits and the tithes. Moreover, as God allures them by hire to undertake the charge of sacred things, so he exhorts the people in their turn to be faithful in paying the sacred oblations by declaring that their sacrifices are the maintenance of the Levites.  135

Joshua 13:15-33

15. And Moses gave unto the tribe of the children of Reuben inheritance according to their families.

15. Dedit ergo Moses tribui filiorum Ruben per familias suas:

16. And their coast was from Aroer, that is on the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain by Medeba;

16. Fuitque illis terminus ab Aroer, quae est juxta ripam torrentis Arnon, et urbs quae est in medio vallis, et universa planities quae est juxta Medeba.

17. Heshbon, and all her cities that are in the plain; Dibon, and Bamothbaal, and Bethbaalmeon,

17. Hesbon et omnes urbes ejus, quae erant in planitie: Dibon et Bamoth-baal, et Beth-baalmeon.

18. And Jahazah, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath,

18. Et Jahassah, et Cedemoth, et Mephaath.

19. And Kirjathaim, and Sibmah, and Zarethshahar in the mount of the valley,

19. Et Ciriathaim, et Sibmah, et Sereth-sahar in monte vallis.

20. And Bethpeor, and Ashdothpisgah, and Bethjeshimoth,

20. Et Beth-peor, et Asdoth-Pisgah, et Beth-jesimoth.

21. And all the cities of the plain, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the princes of Midian, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, which were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country.

21. Et omnes urbes planitiei, et universum regnum Sihon regis Aemorrhaei, qui regnabat in Hesbon, quem percussit Moses: et principes Midian, Evi, et Rekem, et Sur, et Hur, et Reba duces Sihon habitatores terrae.

22. Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.

22. Et Bileam filium Beor divinatorem occiderunt filii Israel gladio cum interfectis eorum.

23. And the border of the children of Reuben was Jordan, and the border thereof. This was the inheritance of the children of Reuben after their families, the cities and the villages thereof.

23. Fuit autem terminus filiorum Ruben, Jordanes et terminus. Haec est haereditas filiorum Ruben per familias suas, urbes et villae earum.

24. And Moses gave inheritance unto the tribe of Gad, even unto the children of Gad according to their families.

24. Deditque Moses tribui Gad, filiis Gad per familias suas.

25. And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before Rabbah;

25. Et fuit eis terminus Jazer, et omnes urbes Gilead, et dimidium terrae filiorum Ammon usque ad Aroer, quae est coram Rabbah.

26. And from Heshbon unto Ramathmizpeh, and Betonim; and from Mahanaim unto the border of Debir;

26. Et ab Hesbon usque ad Ramath ipsuis Mispe, et Bethonim: et a Mahanaim usque ad terminum ipsius Debir.

27. And in the valley, Betharam, and Bethnimrah, and Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, Jordan and his border, even unto the edge of the sea of Chinnereth on the other side Jordan eastward.

27. Et in valle Beth-haram, et Beth-nimrah, et Succoth, et Saphon: residuum regni Sihon, regis Hesbon, Jordanem, et confinium, usque ad extremum maris Chinnereth, trans Jordanem ad orientem.

28. This is the inheritance of the children of Gad after their families, the cities, and their villages.

28. Haec est haereditas filiorum Gad per familias suas, urbes et villae earum.

29. And Moses gave inheritance unto the half tribe of Manasseh: and this was the possession of the half tribe of the children of Manasseh by their families.

29. Dedit praeterea Moses dimidiae tribui Manasse: fuitque dimidiae tribui filiorum Manasse per familias suas:

30. And their coast was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, threescore cities:

30. Fuit, inquam, terminus eorum a Mahanaim omnis Basan totius regni Og regis Basan, et omnes Havoth-Jair, quae sunt in Basan, sexaginta urbes.

31. And half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were pertaining unto the children of Machir the son of Manasseh, even to the one half of the children of Machir by their families.

31. Et dimidium Gilead, et Astaroth, et Edrei, urbes regni Og in Basan, filiorum Machir, filii Manasse, dimidiae parti filiorum Machir, per familias suas.

32. These are the countries which Moses did distribute for inheritance in the plains of Moab, on the other side Jordan, by Jericho, eastward.

32. Istae sunt hereditates quas tradidit Moses in campestribus Moab a transitu Jordanis ipsi Jericho ad orientem.

33. But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the LORD God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them.

33. Tribui autem Levi non dedit Moses haereditatem: Jehova Deus Israel ipse est haereditas eorum, quemadmodum dixit illis.


15. And Moses gave unto the tribe, etc What he seemed to have said with sufficient clearness he now follows more fully in detail, not only that the reading might incite the people to gratitude, seeing the divine goodness recorded in public documents, and, as it were, constantly before their eyes, but also that each might enjoy his inheritance without molestation and quarrel. For we know how ingenious human cupidity is in devising pretexts for litigation, so that no one can possess his right in safety unless a plain and perspicuous definition of his right make it impossible to call it in question. That country had been given without casting lots. It was therefore open to others to object that the just proportion had not been kept, and that the inequality behooved to be corrected. Therefore, that no unseasonable dispute might ever disturb the public peace, the boundaries are everywhere fixed by the authority of God, and disputes of every kind are removed by setting up landmarks. God does not by one single expression merely adjudge the whole kingdom of Sihon to the tribe of Reuben, but he traces their extreme limit from Aroer to the banks of the Arnon, and thus, making an entire circuit, contracts or widens their territory so as not to leave the possession of a single acre ambiguous. Moreover, how useful this exact delineation was may be learned from profane history, where we everywhere meet, not only with invidious but pernicious disputes among neighbors as to their boundaries.

We may add that the care which the Lord condescended to take in providing for his people, and in cherishing mutual peace among them, demonstrates his truly paternal love, since he omitted nothing that might conduce to their tranquillity. And, indeed, had not provision been thus early made, they might have been consumed by intestine quarrels.  136

I again beg my readers to excuse me if I do not labor anxiously in describing the situation of towns, and am not even curious in regard to names. Nay, I will readily allow those names which it was thought proper to leave as proper nouns in Hebrew to be used appellatively, and so far altered as to give them a Latin form.  137

It is worthy of notice, that when the land of the Midianites is referred to, the princes who ruled over it are called Satraps of Sihon, to let us know that they shared in the same overthrow, because they had involved themselves in an unjust war, and belonged to the government of Sihon, an avowed enemy. And to make it still more clear that they perished justly, it is told that among the slain was Balaam, by whose tongue they had attempted to wound the Israelites more grievously than by a thousand swords;  138 just as if it had been said that in that slaughter they found the hostile banner, by which they had declared themselves at open war with the Israelites. When it is said that the Jordan was a boundary, and a boundary, it will be proper, in order to prevent useless repetition, to interpret that Jordan was a boundary to them according to its limits.  139

24. And Moses gave inheritance unto the tribe of Gad, etc The observation made above applies also to the tribe of Gad, namely, that their legitimate boundaries were carefully defined in order to prevent disputes as to their possession. Meanwhile God is extolled for his liberality in having expelled nations of great celebrity, and substituted them in their stead. This is expressed more clearly in regard to the half tribe of Manasseh, when sixty cities are enumerated as included in their inheritance. Hence, too, it is manifest that Moses was not munificent through mistake, because it was well known to God how many cities he was giving them out of his boundless liberality. In a short clause the tribe of Levi is again excluded, that the Levites might not be able at some future period to pretend that the grant which the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh had obtained without the casting of lots, belonged in common to them also; for they are expressly forbidden to share with their brethren. This made it easy for them to interpret shrewdly for their advantage, that they were entitled to share with others. Here, however, it is not the sacrifices, as a little before, but God Himself that is said to be their inheritance; if they are not satisfied with it, they only convict themselves of excessive pride and insufferable fastidiousness.  140



The words, “old and stricken in years,” do not contain a tautology, but accurately express the period of life according to a division which was long familiar to the Jews, and may have been not unknown to them even at this early period. According to this division, old age consisted of three stages, — the first extending from the sixtieth to the seventieth year, constituting the commencement of old age properly so called; the second extending from the seventieth to the eightieth year, and constituting what was called hoary, or hoary-headed age; and the third extending from the eightieth year to the end of life, and constituting what was called advanced age, and caused the person who had reached it to be described as one stricken in years. At this closing stage Joshua had now arrived. — Ed.


The original text had the reference to Php 2:14, an obvious typesetting error. —fj.


The opinion generally entertained in Calvin’s time, that the river here meant was the Nile, or at least one of its branches, was founded partly on the meaning of the word sihor, which is literally black, and was explained by expositors as equivalent to turbid, a term strictly applicable to the Nile; and partly from a passage in Jeremiah, (Jer 2:18) in which the Prophet asks, “What has thou to do in the way of Egypt to drink the waters of Sihor?” — Sihor being here undoubtedly used as a proper name for the Nile. The second opinion mentioned by Calvin is now almost universally admitted to be the only one tenable. Even the description here given of Sihor, (Jos 13:3,) as “before Egypt,” is totally inapplicable to the Nile which, instead of being before Egypt, or on its frontiers, flows nearly through its center. The river meant and expressly referred to both by Moses (Nu 34:5) and by Joshua (Jos 15:4) under the name of the river of Egypt, is now called the Wady El-Arisch, from the town of that name situated near its mouth, and not far from the site of the ancient Rhinocolura, or perhaps more properly Rhinocorura. Calvin spells Rhinocornea, which if it had not been repeated by the French, might seem to be a misprint. — Ed.


It is here assumed that the only genuine sound represented by the Hebrew letter Ain is that of a. Is this the fact? Gesenius, on the contrary, while repudiating the modern Jewish pronunciation of it by the nasal gn or ng as decidedly false, says that its hardest sound is that of a g referring to Gaza and Gomorrha, the two words referred to by Calvin in illustration of the contrary. See Gesenius’s Hebrew Grammar. (Bagster, 1852.)


The French adds, “Et qu’il signifie Richesses;” “And that it means Riches.” — Ed.


French, “Quant au Liban, c’est une chose assez notoire quelle longeur d’etendue il a;” “As to Lebanon it is sufficiently well known what length of extent it has.”


This is certainly incorrect. Antilibanus received its name, not from its length, but from its being a mountain chain opposite and parallel to Libanus or Lebanon proper, from which it is separated by the beautiful valley known to the Greeks and Romans by the names of Coele-Syria, or rather Koile (Hollow) Syria, and watered by the Leontes. — Ed.


The Septuagint avoids the appearance of tautology, both by abridging the verse and adopting a different punctuation, rendering it thus: “To Reuben and Gad the Lord gave (an inheritance) on the other side of the Jordan; towards the sun-rising did Moses the servant of the Lord give it to them.” This, however, is not the only alteration made by the Septuagint version. For immediately before the verse now quoted, it interpolates another in the following terms, “From the Jordan unto the Great Sea on the west shall thou give it: the Great Sea will be the boundary of the two tribes and of the half tribe of Manasse.” — Ed.


To the end of this verse the Septuagint adds the following clause: “καὶ οὖτος ὁ καταμερισμὸς ὅν κατεμέρισε Μωνσὢς τοῖς υἱοῖς Ισραὴλ ἐν Αραβὼθ Μωὰβ ἐν τῷ πέραν τοῦ Ιορδάνου κατὰ Ιεριχὼ;” “And this is the division which Moses divided to the children of Israel in Araboth-Moab beyond Jordan opposite to Jericho.” — Ed.


French, “Et de faict, s’il n’euste pourveu a cela de bonne heure, ils se fussent mangez et consumez les uns les autres en debatant entre eux;” “And in fact, had not this been provided for in good time, they would have eaten and consumed one another while debating among themselves.” — Ed.


French, “Qui plus est, je suis content qu’on traduise en d’autres langues certains noms, qu’il m’a semble bon de laisser ici en la langue Hebraique comme noms propres;” “Moreover, I am content that certain words which I have thought good to leave here in the Hebrew tongue as proper names be translated into other languages.” — Ed.


The curious contradictions in the behavior of this remarkable man whose fate is here recorded, and analogous exemplification’s of them in ordinary life, are admirably delineated by Bishop Butler in a sermon on the subject. — Ed.


Latin, “Terminum illis fuisse Jordanem secundum suos fines.” French, “Que le Jordain estoit leur borne selon ses limites;” “That the Jordan was their boundary according to its limits.” The repetition is omitted by the Septuagint. — Ed.


The thirty-third verse is entirely omitted by the Septuagint. — Ed.

Next: Chapter 14