Josh. 15 notes


וְעָבַר עַצְמוֹנָה וְיָצָא נַחַל מִצְרַיִם (וְהָיָה) [וְהָיוּ] תֹּצְאוֹת הַגְּבוּל יָמָּה זֶה־יִהְיֶה לָכֶם גְּבוּל נֶגֶב׃   15:4

Josh. 15:4   Then it would cross to Azmon and go out of the Brook of Egypt; and the extensions of the territory would be to the sea.  This shall be your southern border.

I find several peculiarities in this verse.  First, the sixth word, וְהָיָה, is considered to be in error.  The claim is that the word, a verb, should be plural, because its subject is plural.  I would ordinarily be of the opinion that the error is not in that word but in the subject, תֹּצְאוֹת, itself.  It seems more reasonable to say the “extension of the border,” which would make the word singular rather than plural.  The problem with this is that the phrase is repeated elsewhere, and it always appears as the “extensions of the border.”

My second difficulty involves the final statement of the verse.  What does it mean?  Whose is the “your” the scribe is referring to?  And why is the statement written in the imperfect tense?  The four verses, 15:1 to 15:4, are about the territory of the children of Judah.  When I first pondered this verse, I had the fleeting idea that the scribe was actually writing this chapter at the time Judah took itself out of Israel some one hundred years before the destruction of Solomon’s Temple.  But I’ve already concluded that the book of Joshua was written at most sixty years after the conquest of Canaan.  Then, I thought that the scribe was being prophetic and predicting that the southern border of Judah would be here after it left Israel.  That would make the cryptic statement also mystical.

I finally concluded with a suspicion that bordered on belief that there were indeed three errors in the verse.  First we have the וְהָיָה:  It should be plural in number as shown in the brackets but it should also be in the perfect tense.  The corrected word would then be וְהָיוּ.  Secondly, the third word from the end, translated as your, לָכֶם, should become their, לָהֶם.

With these corrections, the verse would translate as

    “Then it would cross to Azmon and go out of the Brook of Egypt; and the extensions of the territory

    would be to the sea.  This would be their southern border.”

Now there is no longer anything cryptic about the verse and it is consistent with the rest of the chapter.  It seems that this scribe was a bit careless.  Maybe he presumed he was merely recording history.                                                                                                                        [Back]                  [Return to Josh. 18:12]