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


Joshua 18:1-10

1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.

1. Congregata est autem universa multitudo filiorum Israel in Silo, et collocaverunt ibi tabernaculum conventionis, postquam terra subjecta erat coram eis.

2. And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.

2. Remanserunt autem e filiis Israel quibus non diviserant haereditatem suam, septem tribus.

3. And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are you slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?

3. Dixitque Josue ad filios Israel, Usquequo cessatis ingredi, ut possideatis terram quam dedit vobis Jehova Deus patrum vestrorum?

4. Give out from among you three men for each tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me.

4. Tradite ex vobis tres viros per tribum, quos mittam: surgentque et ambulabunt per terram, describentque eam juxta haereditatem suam, postea revertentur ad me.

5. And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north.

5. Et parientur eam in septem portiones: Judas stabit in finibus suis a meridie: et familia Joseph stabunt in finibus suis ab aquilone.

6. You shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.

6. Vosque describatis terram in septem partes, et afferatis ad me huc: tum projiciam vobis sortem hic coram Jehova Deo nostro.

7. But the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.

7. Non est enim pars Levitis in medio vestri, quia sacerdotium Jehovae est haereditas ejus: Gad autem et Ruben, et dimidia tribus Manasse acceperunt haereditatem suam citra Jordanem ad orientem, quam dedit ei Moses servus Jehovae.

8. And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the LORD in Shiloh.

8. Surrexeruntque viri illi, atque abierunt, praecepitque Josue istis qui ibant, ut describerent terram, dicendo: Ite, et ambulate per terram, ac describite eam: postea revertemini ad me, et hic projiciam vobis sortem coram Jehova in Silo.

9. And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book, and came again to Joshua to the host at Shiloh.

9. Abierunt itaque viri, et transierunt per terram, atque descriperunt eam per urbes in septem partes, in libro: reversique sunt ad Josuam ad castra in Silo.

10. And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.

10. Misit autem eis Josua sortem in Silo coram Jehova: partitusque est ibi Josua terram filiis Israel secundum partes eorum.


1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel, etc Here we have a narrative of the celebrated convention held in Shiloh, where it was deliberated, as to the casting of the remaining lots. For although with pious zeal they had attempted the casting of lots, yet the proceeding had been interrupted, as if victory behooved to precede the distribution which depended solely on the mouth of God. They assemble, therefore, in Shiloh to determine what was necessary to be done in future. And there is no doubt that Joshua summoned this meeting in order to raise them from their lethargy. For they do not come forward spontaneously with any proposal, but he begins with upbraiding them with having been sluggish and remiss in entering on the inheritance which God had bestowed upon them. It is easy to infer from his speech that they had shown great alacrity at the outset, but that there had been no perseverance.

And yet that obedience, which shortly after grew languid, was honored with the approbation of the Holy Spirit. It is to be observed that the people are blamed, not for neglecting to proceed to the lot, but for not occupying the inheritance divinely offered to them. And, certainly, as the distribution by lot was a sign of confidence, so each district which fell out to each was a sure and faithful pledge of future possession; for the Lord was by no means deluding them in assigning to each his portion.

The word דפה, which I have translated “to cease,” signifies also to be remiss or feeble. He charges them, therefore, with base heartlessness, in that while the full time for routing the enemy had arrived, they by their delays retard and suspend the effect of the divine goodness. For had they been contented with the bare lot, and faithfully embraced the results which it gave, they would doubtless have been prompt and expeditious in carrying on the war, nay, would have hastened like conquerors to a triumph.

The ark is said to have been stationed at Shiloh,  161 not only that the consultation might be graver and more sacred, as held in the presence of God, but because it was a completely subjugated place, and safe from all external violence and injury. For it behooved to be their special care to prevent its exposure to sudden assault. No doubt the hand of God would have been stretched to ward off attacks of the enemy from any quarter; still, however, though God dwelt among them, they were to be regarded as its guardians and attendants.

But although a station for the ark was then chosen, it was not a perpetual abode, but only a temporary lodging. For it was not left to the will or suffrages of the people to fix the seat where God should dwell, but they behooved to wait for the period so often referred to in the Law, when he was to establish the memorial of his name elsewhere. This was at length accomplished when Mount Zion was set apart for the Temple. For this reason it is said in the Psalm,

“Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.”
(Ps 122:2)

These words intimate that up to that time the ark was pilgrimating. At last the ruin and devastation of Shiloh showed that no rank or dignity can screen those who corrupt the blessings of God from his vengeance. Up to the death of Eli, God allowed his sacred name to be worshipped there; but when all religion was polluted by the impiety of the priests, and almost abolished by the ingratitude of the people, that spot became to posterity a signal monument of punishment. Accordingly, Jeremiah tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were proudly boasting of their Temple, to turn their eyes to that example. Speaking in the name of the Lord, he says,

“Go you now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.” (Jer 7:12)

4. Give out from among you three men, etc Caleb and Joshua had already surveyed those regions, and the people had learned much by inquiry: Joshua, however, wishes the land to be divided as if according to actual survey  162 and orders three surveyors to be appointed for each of the seven tribes, in order that by the mouth of two or three persons every dispute may be settled. But nothing seems more incongruous than to send twenty-one men, who were not only to pass directly through a hostile country, but to trace it through all its various windings and turnings, so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, to calculate, its length and breadth, and even make due allowance for its inequalities. Every person whom they happened to meet must readily have suspected who they were, and for what reason they had been employed on this expedition. In short, no free return lay open for them except through a thousand deaths. Assuredly they would not have encountered so much danger from blind and irrational impulse, nor would Joshua have exposed them to such manifest danger had they not been aware that all those nations, struck with terror from heaven, desired nothing so much as peace. For although they hated the children of Israel, still, having been subdued by so many overthrows, they did not dare to move a finger against them, and thus the surveyors proceeded in safety as through a peaceful territory, under the pretext either of trading, or at least of making a harmless visit.  163 It is also possible that they arranged themselves in different parties, and thus made the journey more secretly. It is certain, indeed, that there was only one source from which they could have derived all this courage and confidence, from trusting under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty, and thus having no fear of blind and stupid men. Hence the praise here bestowed on their ready will. For had they not been persuaded that the hands of those nations were tied up by supernal power, they would have had a just and honest cause for refusing.  164

9. And the men went and passed, etc Here not only is praise bestowed on the ready obedience by which their virtue shone forth conspicuous, but the Lord gives a signal manifestation of his favor by deigning to bestow remarkable success on pious Joshua and the zeal of the people. Had they crept along by subterranean burrows, they could scarcely have escaped innumerable dangers, but now, when they are taking notes of the cities and their sites, of the fields, the varying features of the districts, and all the coasts, and without meeting with any adverse occurrence, return in safety to their countrymen, who can doubt that their life had been kept safe among a thousand deaths by a wonderful exertion of divine power? It is accordingly said emphatically, that they returned to celebrate the grace of God, which is just equivalent to saying that they were brought back by the hand of God. This made the people proceed more willingly to the casting of lots. For their minds would not yet have been well purged of fastidiousness had they not perceived in that journey a signal display of divine favor, promising them that the final issue would be according to their wish. Joshua is hence said to have divided according to the inheritance of each, as if he were sending them to enter on a quiet possession, though the effect depended on the divine presence, because it ought to have been enough for them that the whole business was carried on by the authority of God, who never deceives his people, even when he seems to sport with them. In what sense the ark of the covenant is called God, or the face of God, I have already explained in many passages.

Joshua 18:11-28

11. And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families: and the coast of their lot came forth between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph.

11. Ascendit autem sors tribus filiorum Benjamin per familias suas, et exivit terminus sortis eorum inter filios Jehuda, et filios Joseph:

12. And their border on the north side was from Jordan; and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains westward; and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.

12. Fuitque eis terminus ad latus Aquilonis a Jordane: et ascendit terminus ad latus Jericho ab Aquilone, ascenditque in montem ad mare, ac exitus ejus sunt ad desertum Bethaven.

13. And the border went over from thence toward Luz, to the side of Luz, which is Bethel, southward; and the border descended to Atarothadar, near the hill that lieth on the south side of the nether Bethhoron.

13. Illinc autem pertransit terminus in Luz ad latus Luz Australe, (ipsa est Beth-el) et descendit terminus in Ateroth-Adar, juxta montem, qui est a meridie ipsi Bethhoron inferiori.

14. And the border was drawn thence, and compassed the corner of the sea southward, from the hill that lieth before Bethhoron southward; and the goings out thereof were at Kirjathbaal, which is Kirjathjearim, a city of the children of Judah: this was the west quarter.

14. Et designatur terminus, circuitque ad latus maris ad meridiem, a monte qui est e regione Bethhoron ad meridiem: suntque exitus ejus ad Cirjath-Baal, (ipsa est Cirjath-Jearim,) urbem filiorum Jehuda, hoc est latus maris.

15. And the south quarter was from the end of Kirjathjearim, and the border went out on the west, and went out to the well of waters of Nephtoah:

15. Latus autem ad meridiem, ab extremo Cirjath-Jearim: itaque exit terminus ad mare, exit, inquam, ad fontem aquarum Nephthoah.

16. And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of the son of Hinnom, and which is in the valley of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom, to the side of Jebusi on the south, and descended to Enrogel,

16. Et descendit terminus ad extremum montis, qui est e regione vallis Benhinnom, quique est in valle Rephaim ad aquilonem, descenditque ad vallem Hinnom ad latus Jebusi, ad meridiem, et illinc descendit ad Enrogel.

17. And was drawn from the north, and went forth to Enshemesh, and went forth toward Geliloth, which is over against the going up of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben,

17. Et circuit ab aquilone, et exit ad En-semes, atque egreditur ad Geliloth, quae est e regione contra ascensum Adummim: et descendit Eben Bohan filii Ruben.

18. And passed along toward the side over against Arabah northward, and went down unto Arabah:

18. Illinc pertransit ad latus quod est e regione planitiei ad aquilonem, et descendit in Arabah.

19. And the border passed along to the side of Bethhoglah northward: and the outgoings of the border were at the north bay of the salt sea at the south end of Jordan: this was the south coast.

19. Inde pertransit terminus ad latus Beth-hogla ad aquilonem: suntque exitus termini ad limitem maris salis ad aquilonem, ad extremum Jordanis ad meridiem: iste est terminus austri.

20. And Jordan was the border of it on the east side. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, by the coasts thereof round about, according to their families.

20. Et Jordanes terminat eum ad latus orientis. Ista est haereditas filiorum Benjamin per terminos suos in circuitu per familias suas.

21. Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz,

21. Fueruntque urbes istae tribus filiorum Benjamin per familias suas Jericho, et Beth-hoglah, et vallis Cesis,

22. And Betharabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel,

22. Et Beth-araba, et Semaraim, et Beth-el,

23. And Avim, and Parah, and Ophrah,

23. Et Avim, et Parah, et Ophrah,

24. And Chepharhaammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba; twelve cities with their villages:

24. Et villa Haamonai, et Ophni, et Gaba: civitates duodecim, et villae carum.

25. Gibeon, and Ramah, and Beeroth,

25. Gibon, et Ramah, et Beeroth,

26. And Mizpeh, and Chephirah, and Mozah,

26. Et Mispeh, et Chephirah, et Mosah,

27. And Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah,

27. Et Recem, et Irpeel, et Tharalah,

28. And Zelah, Eleph, and Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, Gibeath, and Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.

28. Et Sela, Eleph, et Jebusi (ipsa est Jerusalem,) Gibath, Cirjath: civitates quatuordecim, et villae earum. Ista est haereditas filiorum Benjamin per familias suas.


In the lot of Benjamin nothing occurs particularly deserving of notice, unless that a small tribe takes precedence of the others. I admit, indeed, that its limits were narrowed in proportion to the fewness of its numbers, because it obtained only twenty-six cities; but still an honor was bestowed upon it in the mere circumstance of its receiving its inheritance before more distinguished tribes. We may add, that in this way they were conjoined and made neighbors to the other  165 children of Joseph, with whom their relationship was more immediate. For they were placed in the middle between the children of Ephraim and Manasseh on the one side, and those of Judah on the other. They had also the distinguished honor of including Jerusalem in their inheritance, though they afterwards granted it by a kind of precarious tenure to the children of Judah for a royal residence.  166

It is strange, however, that having obtained such a quiet locality, they did not live on peaceful and friendly terms with their neighbors. But we possess the prophecy of Jacob,

“Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” (Ge 49:27)

They must, therefore, have been by nature of a covetous and turbulent disposition, or from some necessity not now known to us, they must have been impelled to live upon plunder. In regard to the city of Luz, the other name is added, (“the same is Bethel,”) because then only did the name given by Jacob come into common use. (Ge 28:19) It was at no great distance from Beth-Aven, whose name, as it was opprobrious and infamous, was transferred to Bethel itself, after it was corrupted and polluted by impious superstitions.  167 It is probable that Ciriath-Baal was called Ciriath-Jeharim, to take away the name of the idol, which would have been a stain on its true piety. For it certainly would have been base and shameful that the lips of the people should have been polluted by the name of a protector who was an enemy to the true God.



This place, which afterwards became so celebrated as the fixed station of the ark and tabernacle during the remainder of Joshua’s life and the rule of the Judges, down to the tragical death of Eli, is described in Jud 21:19, as “On the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.” This minute description corresponds with a place now called Seilun, which is situated about twenty miles N.N.E. from Jerusalem, and has several ruins indicative of an ancient site. If this was the place, it stood nearly in the center of the country, and was thus the most convenient which could have been selected. While its locality made it easily accessible from all quarters, its site, in the heart of a basin completely enclosed by hills except on the south, where a narrow valley opens into a plain, admirably adapted it for the still and solemn performance of religious services. — Ed.


Latin, “Quasi ex praesenti aspectu.” French, “Comme s’ils eussent este presens sur le lieu;” “As if they had been present on the spot.” — Ed.


Latin, “Innoxii hospites.” French, “Estrangers innocens qui passent leur chemin;” “Innocent strangers passing on their way.” — Ed.


These observations are made on the understanding that the survey made on this occasion was very minute, embracing, as Calvin here expresses it, all the “various windings and turnings,” so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, and extending with the same minuteness, not only to the lands actually conquered, but to those still in the undisputed possession of the original inhabitants. Assuming this to be the fact, the dangers to be encountered by the surveyors are certainly not exaggerated in the very graphical description of them here given, and nothing but a series of miraculous interposition’s could have saved them. It may be suggested, however, that the object of the surveyors was only to obtain such a general measurement as might suffice, in the manner already explained, for the taking of the lot, and that such a measurement might possibly have been made without much danger of awakening the suspicion, or rousing the hostility of the actual inhabitants. That the survey was more cursory than minute seems to be indicated by the description given of it in Jos 18:9, “And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities.” — Ed.


Latin, “Reliquis filiis.” French, “Des autres enfans;” “The other children,” — an apparent oversight, as if Benjamin had been a son and not a brother of Joseph. — Ed.


Latin, “Postea filiis Juda quasi precario sedem regiam concederent.” French, “Depuis ils la baillerent aux enfans de Juda comme par emprunt, pour en faire le siege royal;” “Afterwards they let it to the children of Judah as by loan, to make it the royal residence.” These words seem to imply that at some time or other a regular agreement to this effect had been made, but we nowhere find any mention of such an agreement. It would rather seem from Jos 15:63, and Judg. 1:8, 21, that the inhabitants of Judah possessed Jerusalem in consequence of their having wrested it from the Jebusites. — Ed.


This refers to the setting up of the golden calves by Jeroboam, and the idolatrous worship which thus impiously originated by him was long practiced by his successors. See 1Ki 12:28-33; 1Ki 13; 2Ki 10:29-31; 2Ki 23:15; Am 4:4; Am 5:4-6; Ho 4:15; Hos. 10:5, 8. Bethel or “the house of God,” so called by Jacob the morning after he had risen from his wonderful vision, having forfeited its name in consequence of the abominations practiced at it, became afterwards known by that of Bethaven, “the house of idols,” or of vanity and iniquity. — Ed.

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