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Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 6: Harmony of the Law, Part IV, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at

Numbers 34

Numbers 34:1-29

1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

1. Et loquutus est Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

2. Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan, (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan, with the coasts thereof,)

2. Praecipe filiis Israel, et dices eis, Quum intraveritis terram Chenaan (ista est terra quae cadet vobis in haereditatem, terra Chenaan per terminos suos.)

3. Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin, along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward.

3. Erit vobis plaga meridiei a deserto Sin usque ad terminos Edom: erit inquam vobis terminus meridiei ab extremo maris salis ad orientem.

4. And your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass on to Zin: and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadesh-barnea, and shall go on to Hazar-addar and pass on to Azmon.

4. Et circuibit vobis iste terminus a Maale Acrabim, et transibit usque ad Sin: et erunt egressus ejus a meridie in Cades-Barnea, atque illinc egredietur ad villam Addar, et transibit usque ad Asmon.

5. And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river of Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea.

5. Praeterea circuibit terminus iste ab Asmon usque ad flumen Aegypti: et erunt illinc egressus ejus ad occidentum.

6. And as for the western border, ye shall even have the great sea for a border: this shall be your west border.

6. Terminum autem occidentalis erit vobis mare magnum, terminus, inquam, iste erit vobis terminus occidentalis.

7. And this shall be your north border: from the great sea ye shall point out for you mount Hor.

7. Iste vero erit vobis terminus aquilonaris, a mari magno describetis vobis Hor montem.

8. From mount Hor ye shall point out your border unto the entrance of Hamath; and the goings forth of the border shall be to Zedad.

8. Ab hoc monte describetis usque ad introitum Hamach: et erunt eggressus termini illius ad Sedad.

9. And the border shall go on to Ziphron, and the goings out of it shall be at Hazar-enan: this shall be your north border.

9. Et illinc egredietur terminus iste ad Ziphon, eruntque egressus ejus ad villam Enan: iste erit vobis terminus aquilonaris.

10. And ye shall point out your east border from Hazar-enan to Shepham.

10. Describetis praeterea vobis terminum ad orientem, a villa Enan usque ad Sepham.

11. And the coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah, on the east of Ain; and the border shall descend, and shall reach unto the side of the sea of Chinnereth eastward.

11. Et destendet iste terminus a Sepham usque ad Riblah ab oriente Ain: et descendet terminus iste, provenietque ad latus maris Cinnereth ad orientem.

12. And the border shall go down to Jordan, and the goings out of it shall be at the salt sea: this shall be your land, with the coasts thereof round about.

12. Et descendet iste terminus ad Jordanem, erunt que egressus ejus ad mare salis: ista erit vobis terra per terminos suos, per circuitum.

13. And Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying, This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot, which the Lord commanded to give unto the nine tribes, and to the half-tribe.

13. Praecepit autem Moses filiis Israel, dicendo: Haec est terra quam possidebitis sorte, et quam princepit Jehova dare novem tribubus, et dimidiae tribui.

14. For the tribe of the children of Reuben, according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of the children of Gad, according to the house of their fathers, have received their inheritance, and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance:

14. Acceperunt enim tribus filiorum Rubenitarum per domos patrum suorum, et tribus filiorum Gaditarum per domos patrum suorum, et dimidia tribus Manasse: acceperunt inquam haereditatem suam:

15. The two tribes and the half-tribe have received their inheritance on this side Jordan near Jericho eastward, toward the sun-rising.

15. Duae tribus et dimidia acceperunt possessionem suam citra Jordanera Jericho ad orientem ad exortum solis.

16. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,

16. Loquutus est praeterea Jehova ad Mosen, dicendo:

17. These are the names of the men which shall divide the land unto you; Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun.

17. Ista sunt nomina virorum qui possidendam vobis distribuent terram, Eleazar sacerdos, et Josue filius Nun.

18. And ye shall take one prince of every tribe, to divide the land by inheritance.

18. Et principes singulos de qualibet tribu capietis ad possidendam terram.

19. And the names of the men are these: Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb, the son of Jephunneh.

19. Ista sunt nomina virorun: de tribu Jehudah, Caleb filius Jephune.

20. And of the tribe of the children of Simeon, Shemuel the son of Ammihud.

20. Et de tribu filiorum Simeon, Samuel filius Ammihud.

21. Of the tribe of Benjamin, Elidad the son of Chislon.

21. Et de tribu Benjamin, Elidad filius Chislon.

22. And the prince of the tribe of the children of Dan, Bukki the son of Jogli.

22. Et de tribu filiorum Dan, princeps Bucci filius Jogli.

23. The prince of the children of Joseph, for the tribe of the children of Manasseh, Harmtel the son of Ephod.

23. De filiis Joseph, de tribu filiorum Manasse, princeps Huiel filius Ephod.

24. And the prince of the tribe of the children of Ephraim, Kemuel the son of Shiphtan.

24. Et de tribu filiorum Ephraim, princeps Cemuel illius Siphtan.

25. And the prince of the tribe of the children of Zebulun, Elizaphan the son of Parnach.

25. Et de tribu filiorum Zabulon, princeps Elisaphan filius Parvaeh.

26. And the prince of the tribe of the children of lssachar, Paltiel the son of Azzan.

26. Et de tribu filiorum Issachar, princeps Paltiel illius Azzam.

27. And the prince of the tribe of the children of Asher, Ahihud the son of Shelomi.

27. Et de tribu filiorum Aser, princeps Ahihud filius Selomi.

28. And the prince of the tribe of the children of Naphtali, Pedahel the son of Ammihud.

28. Et de tribu filiorum Nephthali, princeps Pedahel filius Ammihud.

29. These are they whom the Lord commanded to divide the inheritance unto the children of Israel in the land of Canaan.

29. Isti sunt quibus praecepit Jehova, Ut distribuerent haereditatem filiis Israel in terra Chenaan.


1. And the Lord spake unto Moses. God here undertakes the office of a prudent and careful father of a family, in fixing the boundaries of the land on every side, lest their right to posses it should ever be called in question. He begins on the southern side, where it must be observed that the district of Bashan is included in it, and all that the Israelites had acquired before their passage of the Jordan, so that this addition was approved of by God. He extends this part as far as the wilderness of Sin, and the borders of Edom, and brings it round from Kadesh-barnea to Addar, and the passage of Azmon, and, finally, to the stream which washes  228 the city of Rhinocorura, in the immediate vicinity of Egypt; for by “the river of Egypt” the Nile is by no means to be understood, the course of which was not at all in that direction. The southern boundary, therefore, was from the Mediterranean Sea towards Arabia. On the western side the land was washed by the Mediterranean Sea, which is here called “the Great Sea,” in comparison with the Lake of Gennesareth, and the Salt Sea, by which name the Lacus Asphaltires is here meant. The beginning of the northern boundary was the promontory of Hor, for it would not accord to suppose that the mountain is here referred to in which Aaron died, and which was far away, and situated on the opposite side of the land. It extended from hence to Epiphania in Syria, which is called Hamath; for I agree with Jerome in thinking that there were two cities of this name, and it is undoubtedly probable that Antioch is called “Hamath the great” by the Prophet Amos (Am 6:2,) in comparison with the lesser city here mentioned, the name of which was given it by that wicked and cruel tyrant (Antiochus) Epiphanes; whether, however, the greater Antioch was formerly called Hamath and Riblab, as Jerome states, I leave undecided. It then passed on to Zedad and Ziphron, and its extremity was the village of Enan. The eastern boundary passed from thence through Shephan, Riblah, and Ain, until it reached the Lake of Gennesareth, a lake sufficiently well known, and here called the Sea of Chinnereth. Thus the eastern boundary pointed from Arabia in the direction of Persia, and Babylon was situated to the north-east of it.

13. And Moses commanded the children of Israel. Though this is a repetition, yet it is not a superfluous one; for he contrasts the new allotment of the nine tribes and a half with the former grant;  229 for the exception, which is immediately added, as to the lands beyond Jordan, given to the Reubenites, and Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, does not exclude them from their part of the promised inheritance was if they were disinherited, and therefore banished beyond the boundaries prescribed by God — but only from being subject to the casting of lots, because they had by special privilege obtained from their brethren what would else have been included in the common inheritance. Not that this had been revealed from the beginning, but because God in His indulgence had complied with their request, whereby they enlarged the boundaries of the land. And assuredly it would have been absurd that no place should be given them among their brethren in the promised land, as if they were cast off from the family of Abraham. We have lately seen that this part, which seemed to be separated from the others, was included in the limits laid down by God. Moses, therefore, merely wished to declare that what remained was to be divided by lot.

16 And the Lord spake unto Moses. The question here arises, if the Israelites were to divide the land among themselves by lot, wherefore was the authority of the judges required, as if there was anything for them to decide? But if we consider what has been lately shown, that reference was to be had, in the distribution of the land, to the numbers in every tribe, it was requisite for two purposes, — first, that God might show by His decree the districts respectively assigned to them; and, secondly, that their dimensions might be proportionate to the number of their occupants. For the casting of lots was still necessary, because many would have been averse to the sea-coast, or would have preferred the center of the land to its extremities, or would have been unwilling to be banished to the mountains; in short, they would have contended with each other beyond measure in murmurings and strife. On this account the lots were cast, by the decision of which God placed the several tribes in whatever position He pleased, although the judges, together with the High Priest and Joshua, had before divided the land into ten portions. But after it was declared in what district the several tribes were to dwell, as if God had there designated their abodes, the determination of men was again necessarily had recourse to, as to how far, and in what direction, the boundaries of the greater tribes were to extend; otherwise the lesser tribes would have refused to be cooped up in a less convenient position. And although the supreme authority was justly vested in Eleazar and Joshua, lest God should expose them to calumny and ill-will, He associated with them a council, in which also there was a prudent precaution against rivalry, for each of the twelve tribes contributed its judge to preside over the distribution, so that none might complain of being aggrieved. Moreover, inasmuch as it was of great importance that the possession, once established, should be secured to posterity, first of all the names of the princes are recorded, in order to give certainty to the history; and, secondly, as had been stated at the beginning of the chapter, so also it is repeated at the end that they were chosen by God, from whence the Israelites learnt that the boundaries then fixed could not be altered without overthrowing the authority of God Himself.



There has been much discussion amongst the commentators on this point. The conclusion to which Dr. Kitto comes, after due examination of the opposite theory, is, that “the river of Egypt,” when mentioned as a boundary, cannot mean the Nile. “The present ‘river of Egypt’ (he adds) probably denotes a stream which formed the extreme boundary of the country eastward of the Nile, which Egypt, even in these early times, professed to claim, and which derived its name from that circumstance. It was probably not far from El-Arish, to which, under the name of Rhinocorura, it is expressly referred by the Septuagint. That it was a stream somewhere between the southern frontier of Palestine and the Nile we are deeply convinced.” — Illustr. Com., in loco.


“La donation qui avoit este desia faite de la region de Basan;” the grant which had been already made of the district of Bashan. — Fr.

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