A BRIEF COMMENTARY
THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
BY JOHN CALVIN,
A SHORT TIME BEFORE HIS DEATH
1. Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,
1. Fuit autem post mortem Mosis, ut Jehova alloqueretur Josue, dicendo,1
2. Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
2. Moses servus meus mortuus est: nunc ergo surge, trajice Jordanem istum tu, et omnis hic populus, ad terram quam ego do illis, nempe filiis Israel.
3. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
3. Omnem locum quem calcaverit planta pedis vestri vobis dedi; quemadmodum locutus sum Mosi.
4. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
4. A desserto et Libano isto usque ad flumen magnum, flumen Euphraten, tota terra Hittaeorum usque ad mare magnum ad occasum solis, erit terminus vester.
It may be added, that he does now begin for the first time to give them good hopes, by making a promise of which they had not previously heard, but recalls to their remembrance what Moses had formerly testified. He says, therefore, that the time had now come for exhibiting and performing that which he had promised to Moses. Should any one object that the same thing had been said to Abraham long before Moses was born, nay, that the perpetual covenant deposited with Abraham included everything which was heard by Moses four hundred years after;6 I answer, that here no notice is taken of the ancient promise which was everywhere known and celebrated, and that Moses is produced as a witness whose memory was more recent, and by whose death the confidence of the people might have been shaken, had not God declared that the accomplishment of all which he had said was at hand.
The people had it in their power to obtain possession of the prescribed boundaries in due time; they declined to do so. For this they deserved to have been expelled altogether.7 But the divine indulgence granted them an extent of territory sufficient for their commodious habitation; and although it had been foretold that, in just punishment, the residue of the nations whom they spared would prove pernicious to them, still, they suffered no molestation, unless when they provoked the Divine anger by their perfidy and almost continual defection: for as often as their affairs became prosperous, they turned aside to wantonness. Still, owing to the wonderful goodness of God, when oppressed by the violence of the enemy, and, as it were, thrust down to the grave, they continued to live in death; and not only so, but every now and then deliverers arose, and, contrary to all hope, retrieved them from ruin.8
1 The copulative particle which commences the Book, and is usually translated and, or, as in our English version, now, evidently connects it with some previous writing, and seems to vindicate the place which it holds in the Canon as a continuation of the Book of Deuteronomy. In the first verse, Calvin's Latin version omits the epithets, "Servant of the Lord," and "Moses' minister," applied respectively to Joshua and Moses. The Hebrew contains both, but the former is omitted by the ordinary text of the Septuagint, though placed among its various readings. -- Ed.
2 "A renewed commission." Latin, "
3 Or rather, "Who they saw, did not advance a single step till the Lord had preceded him." -- Ed.
4 "Which Moses had left vacant." Latin, "
5 "To actual circumstances." Latin, "
6 The French here gives the same meaning in a paraphrastic form, "
7 The two last sentences form only one in the French, which is as follows, "
8 Latin, "
9 Calvin's language here is not very clear, and seems to convey an erroneous impression. The desert or wilderness, instead of being comprehended under Lebanon, is obviously contrasted with it, and forms the south, while Lebanon forms the north frontier. We have thus three great natural boundaries -- Lebanon on the north, the desert of Sin on the south, and the Mediterranean on the west. The eastern boundary occasions more difficulty. According to some, the Euphrates is expressly mentioned as this boundary, and an attempt is made to reconcile the vast difference between the actual possession of the Israelites, even in the most prosperous period of their history, and the tract of country thus bounded, by having recourse to the explanation of St. Augustine, who, in his Commentary on Joshua 21, gives it as his opinion that the country extending eastward beyond the proper limits of Canaan was intended to be given not so much for possession as for tribute. This view receives some confirmation from the extensive conquests which were made by David and Solomon. According to other expositors, the Euphrates is intended to be taken in connection with Lebanon so as to form, by one of its windings or branches, part of the north boundary, while the east boundary is left indefinite, or rather, was so well defined by the Jordan that it did not require to be separately mentioned. In this general uncertainty, there is much practical wisdom in Calvin's suggestion in his Argument, that the indefiniteness of the boundaries assigned to the promised land, contrasted with its actual limits, tended to elevate the minds of Old Testament believers, and carry them beyond the present to a period when, under a new and more glorious dispensation, the promise would be completely fulfilled. -- Ed.