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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Numbers 34

 

 

Introduction

CHAP. XXXIV.

The borders of the land of Canaan are described; the princes of the tribes are named, who were to divide the land with Eleazar and Joshua.

Before Christ 1452.


Verse 1

Numbers 34:1. And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying Having given, in the foregoing chapter, a strict charge to the Israelites, how they should treat the inhabitants of the land of Canaan; the Lord proceeds to describe to them the bounds of the land, as it had been promised to Abraham; thereby to let them know where to stop their conquests, and to prevent them from making any encroachments upon their neighbours. This chapter would have begun more properly at the 50th verse of the last; a division which, in future times, may be made, more consistently with the 1st verse of that chapter. There is no way by which the sacred geography can be well understood, but by the inspection of a correct and proper map; and none, perhaps, will be found superior to those of Calmet, who has accurately considered the subject. See his Comment and Dictionary.


Verse 3

Numbers 34:3. Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin Though by the land of Canaan is sometimes understood the whole land of promise possessed by the twelve tribes; yet the signification is here and commonly restrained to the country west of Jordan. Moses himself has made this distinction, Deuteronomy 2:29. The south bounds were to end at the east point of the Salt or Dead Sea, running by the borders of Idumea, to the most northern point of the river Nile, (Numbers 34:5.) and so to the Mediterranean Sea westward, and along by the wilderness of Zin, (Numbers 34:4.) meeting the eastern bounds towards the river Jordan. See Genesis 14:3. Joshua 15:2.


Verse 4-5

Numbers 34:4-5. To the ascent of Akrabbim Or to Maaleh-akrabbim, as it is rendered, Joshua 15:3 which signifies, according to Bochart, the mount of scorpions; so called from the multitude of those creatures found there. See Deuteronomy 8:15 and Hieroz. lib. 4: cap. 29. Hence that tract adjoining to Idumea is called Arabatine, 1 Maccabees 5:3. Hazar-addar is, in the Vulgate, the village of Addar; which seems justified by Joshua 15:3 where it is simply called Addar. The river of Egypt means, as we have explained it, Numbers 34:3 the Nile; as the sea means the Mediterranean sea, called Numbers 34:6-7 the great sea. It is certain, that the Jews never did extend their territories so far as the Nile; the present is to be considered only as a permission to do so. The words in Numbers 34:4 and the going forth thereof shall be from the south to Kadesh-barnea, Dr. Waterland renders, and its utmost limits on the south shall be Kadesh-barnea.


Verse 6

Numbers 34:6. The great sea The Jews call the Mediterranean the great sea, in opposition to the lake of Gennezareth, and the Asphaltic lake, called, the one, the sea of Galilee, the other, the Salt or Dead Sea.


Verses 7-9

Numbers 34:7-9. From the great sea ye shall point out—mount Hor The north bounds reached from the north end of the Mediterranean along by the mountains Libanus and Anti-Libanus, as far as the two heads of the river Jordan, taking in the several towns, Hamath, Zedad, &c. By Hor, here, is not to be understood that mount where Aaron died; (ch. Numbers 33:38-39.) for that was on the south of Canaan, whereas this was diametrically opposite, on the north of it; and therefore by Hor, in this place, we are, probably, to understand Hermon, or some part of Mount Libanus, which bounded Canaan on the north; for we find Lebanon and Hermon joined with the entrance of Hamath, Joshua 13:5.) as mount Hor is here. Now Hermon was certainly a part of Lebanon, by some called Sirion, by others Shenir, Deuteronomy 3:9 and by others Sion, Deuteronomy 4:48. Respecting Hamath, see chap. Numbers 13:21. Ziphron is no where else mentioned in Scripture. St. Jerome takes it for Zephirium in Cilicia. Hazar-enan, Chitraeus renders the village of the source, namely, of Jordan, which took its rise in that tract. See Dr. Shaw, vol. 2 Chronicles 1 p. 267.


Verse 11

Numbers 34:11. The coast shall go down from Shepham to Riblah The eastern bounds ran from the head of Jordan, along the whole course of that river, taking in the lake Cinnereth, or the sea of Galilee, or Tiberias, and so to the Dead Sea, till it meets with the south bounds, in the borders of Edom. Shepham and Riblah were two places near Jordan, along which river the eastern limits went. By Shepham, some of the Jewish interpreters understand Apamea, a city of Mesopotamia; and by Riblah, Daphne of Syria, in the suburbs of Antioch. But Bochart shews, that the land of Canaan never extended to these places. See his Can. lib. 1: cap. 16. Ain signifies a fountain, i.e. of Jordan, for this river had more sources than one. It seems to have been thus understood by the LXX and the Vulgate. The lake Cinnereth was so called, according to Chitraeus, from the Hebrew cinnor, a harp, or lute, because it was in that shape; but Reland derives the name from a canton or village of the same name, situated upon this lake, and in the tribe of Naphtali. See his Palaest. illust. tom. 1: cap. 39. We have been but brief upon this subject, as we shall have occasion to speak more fully respecting the Holy Land, its boundaries and division among the tribes, upon the fourteenth and following chapters of Joshua. In the mean time we refer our readers to Bochart's Canaan, the Univ. Hist. vol. Numbers 2:8 vo. p. 381 and to Dr. Shaw's Travels.


Verse 13

Numbers 34:13. This is the land which ye shall inherit by lot The land of Canaan, properly so called, was bounded on the south by the high mountains which separated it from Arabia, and screened it from the burning winds that blow from that quarter, after having traversed the desarts; on the west, by the Mediterranean sea, whence blew refreshing gales; on the north, by mount Libanus, which guarded it from the cold northern blasts; and on the east, by the fine champaign countries watered by the Jordan, particularly about Jericho, abounding with palm-trees, and a prodigious increase. See Lowman on the Civil Government of the Hebrews, p. 38, 39. It is repeated here, that this is the land which they should inherit, that they might not extend their desires beyond the bounds of God's gracious grant to them.


Verses 16-29

Numbers 34:16-29. And the Lord spake unto Moses, &c.— To make the foundation of the Hebrew government solid and lasting, the wisdom of their lawgiver declared, as an essential branch of their constitution, that the territory should be equally divided; so that the whole six hundred thousand should each have a full property in an equal part of it; and that every man should hold his estate as a freehold in chief, immediately from God himself, without any tenure of service to any great man whatsoever; and that this tenure should be unalienable from the family in which it was originally settled, and should descend by an indefeasible entail in perpetual succession. Lowman, p. 41. Though this division of the land was to be made by lot, Numbers 34:13 yet it was fit that there should be some persons to oversee the business; the management of it, therefore, is ordered, with great propriety, to be in the hands of the high-priest, the governor or chief general, and a principal officer chosen out of each tribe as its representative in the affair; and it was under the immediate eye of God, and at the door of his sanctuary, that the business was transacted, as will be seen upon Joshua, chap. 18: and 19: At present we only observe, that Moses names not the tribes in such order as they were at their first and second numbering, chap. 1: and 26: but according to the situation which they afterwards had in the land of Canaan: a proof that Moses, animated by the spirit of God, did nothing but by the direction of that spirit.

REFLECTIONS.—Though they had not yet possessed one foot of Canaan, God will have them look upon the conquest as certain, and the land accordingly is divided among the remaining nine tribes and half. Eleazar and Joshua are the chief commissioners, and types of Jesus, the priest and king of his people, who will divide among them his eternal inheritance. A prince of each tribe is joined with them, to take care of the interests of his people, and to avoid all suspicion of partiality in the distribution. It is not enough to do right; we should take care to have our just dealing evident to all men.

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Numbers 34:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/numbers-34.html. 1801-1803.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 11th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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