The land had rest; either, first, It rested about forty years, or the greatest part of forty years; it being most frequent in Scripture to use numbers in such a latitude. Thus the Israelites are said to bear their iniquities forty years in the wilderness, Num_14:34, when there wanted near two years of that number; and to dwell in Egypt four hundred and thirty years, when there wanted many years of that number. Thus Joseph’s kindred, sent for and called by him into Egypt, are numbered seventy-five souls, Act_7:14, although they were but seventy, as is affirmed, Gen_46:27Exo_1:5. So here
the land is said to
rest forty years, although they were in servitude eight of those years, Jud_3:8. And in like manner the land is said to have rest eighty years, though eighteen of them they served the king of Moab, Jud_3:14. And so in some other instances. Nor is it strange and unusual, either in Scripture or in other authors, for things to be denominated from the greater part, as here it was; especially when they did enjoy some degrees of rest and peace, even in their times of slavery, which here they did. Or, secondly, It rested, i.e. began to rest, or recovered its interrupted rest, in the fortieth year, either after Joshua’s death, or after the first and famous rest procured for them by Joshua, as is noted, Heb_4:9, when he destroyed and subdued the Canaanites, and gave them quiet possession of the land; and the land had rest from war, as is said, Jos_11:23 14:15. So there is this difference between the years of servitude and oppression, and those of rest, that in the former he tells us how long it lasted; in the latter, when it began; by which, compared with the other years, it was easy also to know how long the rest lasted. To strengthen this interpretation, two things must be noted.
1. That resting is here put for beginning to rest, as to beget is put for beginning to beget, Gen_5:32 11:26; and to reign, for to begin to reign, 2Sa_2:10; and to build, 1Ki_6:15,36, for to begin to build, 2Ch_3:1.
2. That forty years is put for the fortieth year; the cardinal number for the ordinal, which is common both in the Holy Scripture, as Gen_1:5 2:11 Exo_12:2Hag_1:1Mar_16:2 and in other authors.