Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister…
There are many curious legends regarding the way in which land grants were given in former times. We read of one man who got from his king as much land as he could ride round while the king slept; of another who was granted as much land as could be covered by a bull's hide, which he cut into a continuous narrow strip, capable of enclosing a large area; of a third who was promised as much land as a bushel of barley would sow, which he was careful to sow as sparsely as possible, so that it might extend the borders of his farm to the utmost limits. At an annual fair, held in August, at the village of Carnwath, in Scotland, a foot-race is run as the tenure by which the property in the neighbourhood is held by the Lockhart family. The prize is a pair of red hose or stockings, and the proprietor used to have a messenger ready whenever the race was run to tell the result to the Lord Advocate of Scotland. In conformity with these ancient methods of land-measuring, God promised to Moses first, and renewed His promise to Joshua after the death of Moses, that He would give the Israelites every place that the sole of their foot should tread upon. It was a primitive custom to measure out the land that was to be cultivated or built upon by the foot; and a foot is still one of the terms of measurement among us derived from the human member. By primitive people the footprint was regarded as the symbol of possession, denoting that the land had been marked out by the foot of the individual, and so acquired as his own property. Some scholars derive the origin of the word "possession" itself from pedis positio, the position of the foot; and it was a maxim of the ancient jurists that whatever a person's foot touched was his. On the tombs of the ancient Romans, Christians and pagans alike, is often sculptured the symbol of a foot, to indicate that these tombs were the property of the persons who reposed in them. This primitive ceremony will also explain the allusion in Psalm 108., where God speaks of dividing Shechem and meting out the valley of Succoth, casting His shoe over Edom, and triumphing over Philistia, and in this way taking possession for His people of the whole land of Canaan, while the Book of Ruth informs us that taking off the shoe from the foot signified the transfer or renunciation of property or of rights.
(H. Macmillan, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Now after the death of Moses the servant of the LORD it came to pass, that the LORD spake unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses' minister, saying,