Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 18:4

Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Chephar-Haammonai;   Shiloh;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Sciences;  
Dictionaries:
Easton Bible Dictionary - Shiloh;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Bochim;   Shiloh (1);   Shiloh (2);   Holman Bible Dictionary - Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Joshua;   Priests and Levites;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Shiloh ;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Describe;   Joshua, Book of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

Three men for each tribe - Probably meaning only three from each of the seven tribes who had not yet received their inheritance. It is likely that these twenty-one men were accompanied by a military guard, for without this they might have been easily cut off by straggling parties of the Canaanites.

They shall - describe it - It is likely they were persons well acquainted with geography and mensuration, without which it would have been impossible for them to have divided the land in the way necessary on this occasion.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-18.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Three men for each tribe - i. e. 21 in all. Their duty would be to describe the land, especially with reference to the cities it contained Joshua 18:9, that Joshua might have the means of making a first apportionment among the tribes according to their varying numbers.

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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/joshua-18.html. 1870.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

Give out from among you three men for each tribe,.... That is, for each of the seven tribes, in all twenty one; though some think they were to be taken out of all the nine tribes and a half, and were thirty six; and so JosephusF1Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 21. seems to understand it; but then he makes but one out of each tribe to be sent, and but ten in all, which is a great oversight in that historian:

and I will send them; Joshua would not take upon him to name the persons, but left it to their own choice for their greater satisfaction; but when chosen and presented to him, he would give them a commission and directions what to do:

and they shall rise; gird themselves, and prepare for their journey, and set out:

and go through the land; of Canaan; not the whole of it, but that part which as yet was not disposed of; though some think they were to go through and describe the whole land; but I see no reason for that, for what was described was to be divided into seven parts only, and what belonged already to Judah and Joseph, seem plainly to be excepted in Joshua 18:5,

and describe it according to the inheritance of them; take the dimensions of it, and divide it into seven parts, according to the number of the tribes that had not received their inheritance. Jarchi thinks this description and division were not to be made equally, but according to the largeness and smallness of the tribes; but this could not be done by the measurers, since the inheritance of each depended on the lot that was afterward to be cast, which by this means would have been rendered needless:

and they shall come again to me; which seems to be not only a precept or instruction to them, that when they had done their business, they should come to Joshua and give him an account of it; but an assurance also of their safety, that they should receive no disturbance nor hurt from the remaining Canaanites, but should return safe and well.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-18.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

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 c the inheritance of them; and they shall come [again] to me.

(c) That is, into seven portions, one to every tribe.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/joshua-18.html. 1599-1645.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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.

Three men — Three, not one, for more exact observation both of the measure and quality of the several portions, and for greater assurance of their care and faithfulness in giving in their account.

Of each tribe — One of each of these tribes, who were yet unprovided for.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-18.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 18:4 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.

Ver. 4. Give out from amongst you three men.] Geodaetae, men skilful in surveying and map making; men of courage also and vigour, that dare undertake and can carry on such a dangerous enterprise.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-18.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Three men; three, not one, for more exact observation both of the measure and quality of the several portions, and for greater assurance and evidence of their care and faithfulness in giving in their account.

Of each tribe; either one of each of these tribes, who were yet unprovided for; or rather, two of all the tribes, even of them who had already received their portions; which was highly expedient, that in case it should appear that there was not a sufficiency for each of these tribes who wanted their portions, their brethren might be more ready either to assist them in procuring more land, or to part with some of their own portion to them.

Go through the land; which they might now safely do, because the terror of the late war was yet upon the Canaanites, who were loth to rouse so near and potent an enemy.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-18.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.Give out — Hebrews, appoint. The commission of twenty-one was fairly constituted; each tribe was equally represented.

[Describe it — Write down in a book (compare Joshua 18:9) a list of the cities, and a description of the different localities, and, as Rosenmuller observes, “what lands were barren, and what were fertile; whether a district were hilly or flat, whether well watered or destitute of springs, and any thing else which served to show the goodness of the soil, and the comparative worth of different localities.”

According to the inheritance of them — That is, with reference to its being divided as an inheritance of the remaining seven tribes.] Josephus says, “Joshua thought the land should be divided by estimation of its goodness, rather than the largeness of its measure.” For the adjustment of the lots to the size of the tribes, see on Joshua 13:6.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-18.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Tribe: it is not clear whether any but these seven were concerned. --- Out. Josephus says, that people well skilled in geometry accompanied them. (Calmet) --- They had to mark out seven portions of land, which might suffice for these remaining tribes, (Haydock) who would receive them by lot, to take away all cause of discontent. They still received according to their numbers, Numbers xxvi. 54. (Worthington)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-18.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

men. Hebrew, plural of ish or enosh. App-14.

go through = walk to and fro.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/joshua-18.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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.

Give out from among you three men for each tribe. Though the lot determined the part of the country where each tribe was to be located, it could not determine the extent of territory which might be required; and the dissatisfaction of the children of Joseph with the alleged smallness of their possession gave reason to fear that complaints might arise from other quarters, unless precautions were taken to make a proper distribution of the land. For this purpose a commission was given to 21 persons-three chosen from each of the seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance-to make an accurate survey of the country. They "went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book" (Joshua 18:9); dividing the land according to its value, and the worth of the cities which it contained, into seven equal portions.

This was no light task to undertake. It required learning and intelligence, which they or their instructors had, in all probability, brought with them out of Egypt. Accordingly, Josephus ('Antiquities,' b. 5:, ch. 1:, sec. 21) says that the survey was performed by men expert in geometry. And, in fact, the circumstantial account which is given of the boundaries of each tribe and its situation well proves it to have been the work of no mean or incompetent hands.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-18.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

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.
three
3; 3:12; 4:2; Numbers 1:4; 13:2
describe
6,9
Reciprocal: Job 42:15 - gave;  Micah 2:5 - cast

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-18.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

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)

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 18:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-18.html. 1840-57.