IS THERE SOMETHING IN THE BIBLE THAT PUZZLES YOU?
FREE Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.
By Dr Peter Pett BA BD (Hons-London) DD
Chapters 13-21 The Division of the Land.
The division of the conquered land, and of some which was not yet conquered, is now outlined. But we must recognise what we mean by conquered. When ancient’ relatively minor kings moved into a land and conquered it, they did not necessarily remain there or station troops there (see Genesis 14). They followed it up by demanding tribute. The question then was whether the conquest would hold. Would the people accept the position as subject people? That depended both on the strength of the king’s own forces and on the strength or weakness of the conquered people. It was a position that would have to be continually maintained by force.
That was also true in this case. Joshua had conquered the land. But settlement was a different matter. The conquered people might object, especially as they were to be driven out. In the terms of his times Canaan was conquered, but it was certainly not totally under Joshua’s control. He had not left occupying forces. The vacuum left by his invasion would soon be filled by returning refugees and those who had avoided his forces. Thus the conquest would need to be enforced, or otherwise. That was to be the task of the tribes Israel, partly by conquest and partly by slow infiltration.
Canaan was a land of forests so that those who chose to do so could advance into a forested part of the land allocated to them and establish themselves there, cutting back the forest and setting up their settlements. This would cause minimal interference to the present inhabitants. As they then became more settled they could then expand. Others more belligerent could take over smaller cities and settle in them, taking over the fields round about them. Once they grew stronger they could then expand further. The benefit of what Joshua had done lay in the fact that they were now accepted, even if with hostility, as having a right to be in the land. They were a part of the landscape which it was best not to trifle with, because if they were trifled with they had brother tribes whom they could call on for assistance.
The descriptions of the division of the land partly reflect the efficiency of the different surveyors set to the task. Some gave full details of borders, others far sparser details, while others merely named cities in the area.
Chapter 13. The Land That Remained to be Possessed - The Division of the Land Begins - Transjordan.
The writer now outlines the parts of the land that Joshua’s activities have not touched, or had not effectively brought under control, and then goes on to describe the land which had been allocated to Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh in Transjordan.
The Land Not Yet ‘Possessed’ (13.1-6).
13.1 ‘Now Joshua was old and bearing the signs of old age (well stricken in years). And YHWH said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to be possessed.” ’
Reference here is to lands untouched or uncontrolled by Joshua. ‘Possessed’ here refers not so much to the initial conquest of land and weakening of the peoples in preparation for moving in and taking over, but to that moving in and taking over. Joshua had expressed Israel’s ‘right’ of ownership. Such peoples were now vulnerable and weakened, and it would be up to the different tribes to take advantage of the situation and possess them literally. But some had still not been ‘possessed’. It must be remembered that conquering kings saw land as ‘possessed’ once they had conquered it, thus in terms of the times most of Canaan was ‘possessed’. But that possession then had to be continually enforced in order that tribute or settlement might be achieved. That was a more difficult matter, and was the problem that Israel faced.
Most of Canaan probably did not see themselves as possessed. In contrast Israel now considered that the land was theirs, not only by promise but by conquest. Final possession would, however, only become evident when tribute was claimed or the conquerors began to settle in the land. This case was especially unusual in that Israel were a stateless people and would therefore actually want to settle in the ‘possessed’ land and take it over, whilst YHWH had demanded the expulsion of the local inhabitants. This task, a very different thing from the initial ‘conquering’, would now pass on to the individual tribes. But meanwhile a new problem had arisen. The arrival of the Philistines en masse in the coastal plain.
‘Old and advanced in years.’ Forty years (a generation) had passed since Joshua had been one of the spies in Canaan (Numbers 13.8), and we must add the time spent in conquering Canaan. Thus he was at least in his seventies, or even older.
13.2-4a “This is the land that yet remains. All the regions of the Philistines, and all the Geshurites, from the Shihor which is before (east of) Egypt even to the border of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanites; the five Tyrants of the Philistines, the Gazites and the Ashdodites, the Ashkelonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites. Also the Avvim to the South.”
All this up to verse 7 at least is described as words of YHWH (see verse 6b, 7a). What this means is that as Joshua summarised the situation he was conscious that he was expressing YHWH’s will communicated to him probably through his thoughts. He saw all his plans as YHWH’s plans because he was seeking to fulfil God’s requirements as outlined in the Books of Moses.
The mention of these as yet unpossessed lands was a reminder that even Joshua’s ‘conquests’ had not covered the whole of the land promised to Israel, most of which, if not all, would be in the hands of the people of God at one time or another before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. YHWH wanted it to be known that their present exclusion was not intended to be permanent, therefore they are mentioned first.
It is clear that the Philistines were now seen as in the land although not yet as a major threat to Israel. This would date this statement to around 1200 BC and support the 13th century BC date for the conquest (the alternative suggested is the 15th century BC).
It is always possible that the particular phrase ‘ the five Tyrants (seranim) of the Philistines’ was inserted later by a scribe to bring the passage up to date, (with ‘land of the Philistines’ also possibly being an update, although this could refer back to the earlier occupation by a trading station - Genesis 26) and it would then read ‘which is counted to the Canaanites; the Gazites and the Ashdodites, the Ashkelonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites. Also the Avvim.’ But ‘counted to’ fits well with the idea of the references to the Philistines being original, with the idea being that in spite of being Philistine it belonged to the land of Canaan, and the phrase itself makes better sense that way. The Philistines were a race of warriors who arrived from the Aegean and brought the Canaanites under their own domination, with they themselves being the military aristocracy. They did not try to drive the Canaanites out of the country in the way that, at least theoretically, the Israelites did. (Altering the text to fit a theory without any other evidence usually casts doubt on the theory).
As the text stands the Geshurites (compare 1 Samuel 27.8) were a people living in the Negeb between the Philistines and the Egyptian border. They were thus not directly identifiable with the Geshurites mentioned in 12.5; 13.11, although possibly racially connected. The Shihor is given as the border. In Isaiah 23.3; Jeremiah 2.18 the Shihor (egyptian ‘s-hr’, waters of Horus) is the Nile proper, thus here the branch in the Delta nearest to Canaan is considered roughly to be the boundary so as to include the Wilderness of Shur. The idea is that anything east of the Egyptian Delta is included in the inheritance. In view of this there is no real justification for seeing the ‘Torrent-Wadi (nahal) of Egypt’ (15.4, 47 - probably Wadi el-Arish) as being in mind.
Ekron was the northernmost of the five major Philistine cities, ruled over by five ‘Tyrants’ (seranim - a word uniquely used of Philistine lords) whose inhabitants are mentioned. Thus the description covers both Philistine and Geshurite territory. All this was seen as Canaanite territory, ‘counted to the Canaanites’, and thus included in the inheritance. If we connect ‘on the South’ to the Avvim, who ‘lived in villages as far as Gaza’ (Deuteronomy 2.23) and were displaced by the Philistines, this would place the Avvim within the broad description of Geshurite territory.
13.4b-5 ‘All the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah which belongs to the Zidonians, to Aphek, to the border of the Amorites and the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon toward the sunrising (the east), from Baal-gad under Mount Hermon to the entering in of Hamath.’
These refer to northern areas. ‘Canaanites’ probably here signifies ‘Phoenicians’ south of Zidon (see Judges 3.3). ‘Canaanites’ does not necessarily just refer to people who lived in the land of Canaan, for it is also regularly used extra-Biblically of Phoenicians further to the north. Me‘arah was presumably an important area on the southern Zidonian border (although ‘Me’ may be ‘from’ followed by the name of a town). Mention of ‘the Amorites’ here probably has reference to the kingdom of the Amurru in Lebanon, well known from Hittite and Egyptian sources. Aphek, which means ‘fortress’ and was a common name, was probably on its southern border. Designations of peoples were very fluid and depended on the viewpoint of those who used them.
Gebal (Byblos) was an important coastal town north of Zidon. The land of the Gebalites would possibly be in some way connected with it and this may have in mind its southern border. ‘All Lebanon’. The adjoining regions to the Lebanon Range, probably again thinking of its southern border. It is not likely that Joshua had these territories in mind as part of the promised land, but rather saw their southern borders as indicative of where the promised land extended to. Baal-gad (compare 11.17) was in the far north of Israel’s territories at the foot of and to the west of Mount Hermon. It may be Tell Haus or Hasbeiyah, both in the Wadi et-Teim. ‘The entering in of Hamath’ or more probably ‘Lebo of Hamath’ (mentioned in inscriptions), is modern Lebweh at the head of the road north to Hamath.
13.6 “All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim, even all the Zidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel. Only allot it to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you.”
For Misrephoth-maim compare 11.8. The reference is to the Zidonians in the hill country south of Zidon. This too was allotted to Israel as an inheritance. For the whole range of unpossessed territory compare Judges 3.3. Thus God confirmed His promise that the whole land would be theirs. He always gives full measure. It was not His fault if they did not go ahead and take it.
The Command to Divide the Land (13.7).
13.7 ‘Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance for the nine tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh.’
‘This land’ is the whole land of Canaan not just the part mentioned above. God has now turned from the land yet to be possessed to the whole land. It was to be divided between all but the two and a half tribes Beyond Jordan. The inheritance was under the covenant. It was a fruit of the covenant promises, reminding them that it was a gift from God.
The Land Allocated to the Two and a Half Tribes Beyond the Jordan - Reuben, Gad and half of Manasseh - And Levi’s Inheritance (13.8-14).
13.8 ‘With him the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance, which Moses gave them Beyond Jordan Eastward, even as Moses the Servant of YHWH gave them.’
This takes up the previous reference to Manasseh. Manasseh (‘with him’) also received, along with Reuben and Gad, an inheritance east of Jordan. Note the double stress on it being ‘given by Moses’. The writer wishes the listener to be aware that they too, as with the nine and a half tribes in Canaan, received what was promised and in the will of YHWH, as expressed by Moses, and that that was also an inheritance under the covenant. This inheritance will now be delineated.
It will be noted that in Joshua there is a continually heavy emphasis on the allotment to the two and a half tribes (1.12-15; 4.12; 12.1-6; 13.8-13; 22.1-34). This points to the early date of the narrative. It was written when there was a great consciousness of the fact that they had received their inheritance outside the land, and to justify their having done so. The writer wanted it made clear that they were equally a part of Israel, within the covenant and in obedience to YHWH.
13.9-10 ‘From Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the valley, and all the tableland of Medeba to Dibon, and all the cities of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, to the border of the children of Ammon.’
This was the kingdom of Sihon. Aroer was on the edge of the southern border (Moab’s northern border) marked by the Arnon River as it flowed through the deep valley of Arnon. It had its guardpost actually in the deep valley right on the edge of the river (see 12.2; also Deuteronomy 3.12). ‘The tableland of Medeba to Dibon’ was describing from north to south. The two cities were joined by a highway. It refers to the high plateau of Moab at a level of around six hundred metres (two thousand feet). Together with ‘the cities’ it was intended to represent the whole of ‘half Gilead’ to the Ammonite border (see 12.2).
Medeba (modern Medaba) was ten kilometres (six miles) south of Heshbon. It was situated on a high mound and could be seen across the whole plain of Medeba. It was an old Moabite town originally captured by Sihon (Numbers 21.21-30) and then taken from him by Israel, becoming a Reubenite city (13.16). It was mentioned along with Dibon (where the Stone was found) on the Moabite Stone as being later taken from Moab by Omri (of Israel), and then recovered by Mesha, king of Moab. These towns thus changed hands fairly regularly.
Dibon was modern Dhiban, six kilometres (four miles) north of the Arnon. In 13.17 it is reckoned to Reuben. Along with Aroer it was rebuilt by Gad (Numbers 32.34), being renamed Dibon-gad (Numbers 33.45). Gad were presumably giving assistance to Reuben in order to guard the southern border. Dibon was also later the name of a town in Judah (Nehemiah 11.25). (Alternately Dibon-gad may have been given that name in order to distinguish it from the Dibon in Reuben, just as there was another Aroer (13.25)).
Gad and Reuben were closely connected tribes which was no doubt why they wished to settle down together. They shared a position on the south side of the Tabernacle with Simeon (Numbers 2.10-16). They were in ‘the camp of Reuben’. Compare Numbers 32.1 where they together desired ‘the land of Jazer’, connected with the city of Jazer (Numbers 21.32 - Khirbet Gazzir?) and the land of Gilead, of which the southern part was divided between them. They cooperated fully with each other in possessing the land, and Gad helped Reuben with their defences. But Reuben would take the full force of Moabite invasions and would become weaker and weaker so that Gad eventually became the major tribe and Reuben virtually disappeared from view. By the time of the Moabite Stone (c. 830 BC) they had lost any significance and were not mentioned on it.
13.11-12 ‘And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maacathites, and all Mount Hermon, and all Bashan to Selecah. All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, the same (Og) was left of the remnant of the Rephaim, for these did Moses smite and drove them out.’
See for this on 12.4-5. The last phrase must refer to the people (the kingdom) of Og. The Rephaim had been dealt with by Moab and Ammon (Deuteronomy 2.9-12, 21).
13.13 ‘Nevertheless the children of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites, nor the Maacathites, but Geshur and Maacah dwelt in the midst of Israel to this day.’
These peoples were Aramaeans to the north of Bashan, south west of Mount Hermon (see Deuteronomy 3.14). This is the first of a series of similar statements, compare 15.63; 16.10; 17.12. These were people living ‘in the land’ who worshipped ‘the gods of Aram’ (Judges 10.6). It was important land as the main trade route to Damascus ran through it (and it was south of Laish where Dan finally settled). They should have been driven out, but even at this stage, while Joshua was still alive, Israel were disobedient and did not seek to do it. Israel were content with what they had. God had done His part, but they did not do their part.
This is often the case with God’s people. Having achieved a certain amount they then relax and do not go on to greater things. They settle down and miss the opportunities that face them, and allow things to linger in their lives that may one day be their ruin or make them second best. Let us each take care that that does not happen to us.
13.14 ‘Only to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance. The offerings of YHWH, the God of Israel, made by fire are his inheritance.’
As the inheritances of the tribes were now revealed it was made clear that for the tribe of Levi there was no earthly inheritance. Their inheritance was to partake of the holy things (but see also 14.4). The inference was that this was something better than earthly riches could supply.
For the inheritance of Levi, compare:
Thus the idea of the inheritance of Levi was other-worldly, spoken of within the context of those tribes whose inheritance was also outside the land. So their inheritance was ‘outside’ the land, and it was referred to again by Joshua when finally settling the distribution (18.7). The pattern is consistent and clear.
The phrase ‘offerings of YHWH made by fire’ or similar is found regularly in the Law of Moses referring to various offerings and sacrifices which were burnt by fire and where certain parts went to the priests and Levites (over sixty times - see for example Leviticus 1.9; 2.3; 3.3; 7.5; Deuteronomy 18.1; 1 Samuel 2.28). Fire was the means by which holy things could be put beyond the reach of men and separated to God.
The Portion of Reuben (13.15 - 23).
13.15 ‘And Moses gave to the tribe of Reuben according to their families.’
This describes the extent of the land given by Moses at YHWH’s command to the tribe of Reuben. The division of the land took account of the sizes of the tribes (Numbers 26.53-54). Note how the ‘numbers’ are expressed as ‘according to their families’. Thus ‘families’ is basically a number word in these contexts. The word for ‘tribe’ also signifies a staff or rod of authority, also used for chastisement. It is used especially in formal lists and descriptions where authority over, and responsibility for chastisement of, the people is in mind. In a sense the tribe was the rod, to direct and to punish.
Between verses 14 and 15 LXX adds ‘This is the division which Moses divided to the sons of Israel in the plains of Moab beyond Jordan over against Jericho.’ This was clearly an insertion in order to explain ‘Moses gave’. It is stressed that the original division in the land Beyond Jordan Eastward was arranged by Moses.
13.16-20 ‘And their border was from Aroer which is on the edge of the valley of Arnon, and the city which is in the middle of the valley, and all the tableland by Medeba; Heshbon and all her cities which are in the tableland; Dibon and Bamoth-baal and Beth-baal-meon, and Jahaz and Kedemoth and Mephaath, and Kiriathaim and Sibmah, and Zereth-shahar in the mount of the valley, and Beth-peor, and the slopes of Pisgah and Beth-jeshimoth.’
The inheritance was deliberately listed in terms of cities and villages rather than borders (see verse 23), although borders were briefly mentioned. This was to bring out the splendour of what they had received. Possessing cities was seen as very advantageous. As they had already been settled the identification of borders was not so important (they were already practically determined). For the first mentioned cities see on 12.2; 13.9.
Bamoth-baal means ‘high places of Baal’ (Numbers 22.41). Thus it had almost certainly been a centre of Baal worship. It is also mentioned in Numbers 21.19-20. Balak took Balaam to it when he wanted to look down over the full extent of the forces of Israel so it must have been in a commanding position. For Beth-baal-meon, modern Ma‘in, compare ‘Beth-meon’ (Jeremiah 48.23) and Beon (Numbers 32.3). Built by the Reubenites it was later captured by the Moabites and along with Kiriathaim and Jahaz was mentioned in the Moabite Stone.
For Jahaz see 21.36; Numbers 21.23; Deuteronomy 2.32; Judges 11.20. It was the place where Sihon fought Israel and was vanquished. Residence in it was soon to be assigned to the Merarite Levites (21.24, 36). Israel later lost it. Its site is in doubt. Kedemoth is probably modern ez-Za‘feran about sixteen kilometres north of the Arnon just inside Sihon’s territory on the eastern border. It became a levitical city (21.37; 1 Chronicles 6.29) giving its name to a nearby desert area (Deuteronomy 2.26). The site of Mephaath is unknown (but see 21.37; Jeremiah 48.21) although Tel el-Yawah has been suggested. Kiriathaim is the dual form of qirya (city, town) and therefore means double city. See Numbers 32.37; Genesis 14.5). Its site has not yet been located.
‘Sibmah, and Zereth-shahar in the mount of the valley, and Beth-peor, and the slopes of Pisgah and Beth-jeshimoth.’ Sibmah is identical with Sebam (Numbers 32.3, 38). Originally a land for cattle (Numbers 32.4) it became famous for its vines and summer fruit. It later reverted to Moab. Isaiah 16.8-9 and Jeremiah 48.32 bewailed its desolation. It is possibly to be identified with Khirbet Qurn el-Qibsh near Heshbon. Zereth-shahar was probably situated on a height overlooking the Jordan Rift valley (compare verse 27). It has been connected with es-Sara, the hot springs on the north west slope of Mount ‘Attarus.
Beth-peor (House or Temple of Peor) was probably related to the worship of Baal-peor (Numbers 25.3-5). It was near here that Israel gathered to hear Moses’ final exhortation (Deuteronomy 3.29;4.44-46) and that Moses was buried (Deuteronomy 34.6). It was thus near Mount Nebo. It is remarkable that the site of Moses’ sepulchre was so quickly forgotten (Deuteronomy 34.6), a sign of how involved the people were with the conflicts in Canaan. Possibly he was buried secretly by Joshua at his own request to prevent an obsession with his tomb, because he did not want men’s eyes fixed outside the land of God’s promises and covenant. Or it may simply be that his body was never found. (While we are told that ‘He (YHWH) buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth-peor’, we cannot be sure what that actually indicates, and whether He was to be seen as using a human instrument).
Beth-jeshimoth (house of the deserts) was near the north east shore of the Dead Sea (Numbers 33.49) in the Jordan Rift valley. The ‘slopes of Pisgah’ (Ashdoth-pisgah’) may refer to the entire edge of the Moabite plateau east and north east of the Dead Sea (compare 13.20; Deuteronomy 3.17; 4.49). Pisgah also refers to a specific peak or ridge associated with Mount Nebo (Numbers 21.20; Deuteronomy 3.27; 34.1).
So all these towns and cities had been redeemed for YHWH. But because of Israel’s later disobedience they were lost and seized by Moab. It is a warning of what happens if we start well but fail to go on in the same way.
13.21-22 ‘And all the cities of the tableland and all the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the chiefs of Midian, Evi and Rekem, and Zur and Hur, and Reba, the princes of Sihon who dwell in the land. Balaam also, the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among the rest of their slain.’
For ‘cities of the tableland’ compare Deuteronomy 3.10. This was clearly a local name for the whole area. (Contrast ‘the cities of the plain’ - Genesis 19.29).
The whole description is a brief summary of larger events occurring at different times, the slaying of Sihon and his forces at one time (Numbers 21.21-31) and the slaying of the ‘leaders of Sihon’ and Balaam at another (Numbers 31 where they are also named). It would appear that these Midianite chiefs were vassals to Sihon, probably due to receiving certain rights to the use of lands for grazing, who were not present when Sihon was slain. Their subsequent appearance to avenge Sihon was met with by the denunciation of YHWH and their defeat at the hands of Israel (Numbers 31). The word translated ‘princes’ is a rare one occurring only five times in the Old Testament. See especially Psalm 83.11 where it refers to Midianite leaders as here. Thus it was seemingly a term especially applied to Midianite leaders. The other references are Ezekiel 32.30 where it refers to vague ‘princes of the north’; Micah 5.4 where it refers to subordinate leaders to the shepherds; and Daniel 11.8 where it has a different meaning altogether.
Balaam was said in Numbers 24.25 to have ‘returned to his place’ (see Numbers 22.5). However it appears from this that either he dwelt among the Midianites or was recalled by the Midianites to obtain revenge for Sihon, for here he was slain along with them. The slaying of such a powerful soothsayer (compare Deuteronomy 8.14), who was made wealthy by divining on behalf of people against their enemies, would be looked on as a great feat, as well as a reminder of what happens to those who oppose YHWH and His plans for His people. Balaam had sought to prevent Israel receiving its inheritance, and thus Balaam was slain.
13.23 ‘And the border of the children of Reuben was Jordan, and its border. This was the inheritance of the children of Reuben according to their families, its cities and villages.’
Literally ‘the border was --- Jordan and a border.’ The phrase occurs in verse 27; in 15.12, 47 of the Great Sea; Numbers 34.6 of the Great Sea; Deuteronomy 3.16-17 of the Arnon in its valley and of Jordan. It seems to be a technical term to describe water as forming a continuing border.
The Portion of Gad (13.24-28).
13.24 ‘And Moses gave to the tribe of Gad, to the children of Gad according to their families.’
The land was given to them by Moses at God’s command. It was thus in their eyes land that YHWH had given them, something they never forgot and always counted on.
‘The tribe of Gad’ indicates Gad as a unity under its leaders. ‘The children of Gad’ sees them as inheriting from YHWH as ‘children’ of Gad. They too received ‘according to their families’ (see verse 15).
The southern border of Gad was indicated as north of Heshbon (verse 26), its eastern border as ‘half the land of the children of Ammon to Aroer east of Rabbah’, a different Aroer from that on Reuben’s southern border. It also incorporated in it the Jazir towns and ‘all the cities of Gilead’ (verse 25) which was probably a technical term similar to ‘the cities of the tableland’ in Reuben.
‘All the land of Gilead’ was used of the whole of Transjordanian territory from the northern border of Bashan to the Arnon (2 Kings 10.33). In Deuteronomy 34.1 it reached as far as Dan (the northernmost part of Israel). This ‘land of Gilead’ was then distinguished as comprising Bashan and ‘Gilead’ (2 Kings 10.33), the latter specifically stated as including territory in Manasseh, Gad and Reuben . So ‘Gilead’ could refer to both the whole and the part. But each Transjordanian tribe also applied the term to their own section of Gilead.
More confusingly ‘half the hill country of Gilead’ could be applied to the combined territory of Reuben and Gad (Deuteronomy 3.12) with ‘the rest of Gilead’ being applied to the territory of Manasseh (Deuteronomy 3.13). However ‘half Gilead’ could refer separately to the part of Gilead that was in Reuben (12.2), as compared with the part that was in Gad (12.5).
Here then it represents part of the northern ‘half Gilead’ (12.5) in contrast with the southern ‘half Gilead’ (12.2) of ‘all Gilead’ (Deuteronomy 3.10) which included both, as in Numbers 32.29. The term ‘Gilead’ was also used elsewhere of the portion of Machir (Manasseh) - Numbers 32.39-40. (Deuteronomy 3.13 describes this as ‘the rest of Gilead’). Compare Judges 11. Thus ‘Gilead’ was a flexible term.
The reference to cities in Numbers 32.34-36 in respect of ‘building’ activities possibly included cities that Gad fortified in Reubenite territory, while Reuben were fortifying others, and would not then refer to cities they inherited. Gad did not fear invasion from Reuben but did fear the Moabites and so assisted in rapidly building defence points in Reuben before they dared cross the Jordan with Joshua. Alternately they may have included cities of a similar name.
13.25 ‘And their border was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, to Aroer that is east of (‘before’) ‘Rabbah.’
Strictly this was indicating the border in terms of the cities and towns contained within it. Jazer was a group of towns as well as a city and was frequently mentioned (see 21.39; Numbers 21.32; 32.1, 3, 35). It fell on the border between the (defeated) Amorites and the Ammonites. During David’s time it furnished ‘mighty men of valour’ (1 Chronicles 26.31) and was one of the towns on the route of the census taking (2 Samuel 24.5). In Isaiah 16.6-12 and Jeremiah 48.28-34 it was once more regained by Moab, and even later by Ammon (1 Maccabees 5.4). It may possibly be identified with Khirbet Gazzir on the Wadi Sza‘ib near es-Salt.
‘All the cites of Gilead’ was an identifiable area clearly consisting of an area within Gad. ‘Half the land of the children of Ammon’ was a third area on the western side of the north-south extension of the Jabbok, stretching to Aroer east of Rabbah, originally taken from Ammon by the Amorites. Rabbath was the capital of Ammon (Rabbath-ammon - Judges 11.33 - now called Amman)
13.26 ‘And from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpeh, and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the border of Lidebir.’
Mention of Heshbon, which was in Reuben, indicated that the southern border of Gad commenced north of Heshbon. Ramath-mizpeh (the watchtower Ramath) was clearly the northern border. It was possibly the same as Ramoth-gilead (Ramoth in Gilead - 21.38). This was a walled city that featured regularly in wars with Syria. It provided residence for the Merarite Levites (Joshua 21.38; 1 Chronicles 6.80). Betonim means ‘pistachio nuts’. It has not been identified directly but Batneh, three miles west of es-Salt, recalls the name. Mahanaim means ‘two camps’. It was on the border of Gad with Manasseh (see verse 30), probably close to the northern bank of the River Jabbok. (Gad extended some kilometres north of the Jabbok). It was where Jacob met the angels of God before meeting Esau (Genesis 32.2). It was a Merarite Levite city in the territory of Gath (21.38). Lidebir may have been Lo-debar (2 Samuel 9.4), probably not far from Mahanaim.
13.27 ‘And in the valley, Beth-haram and Beth-nimrah, and Succoth and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon, king of Heshbon, Jordan and a border to the uttermost part of the Sea of Chinnereth Beyond Jordan eastward.’
‘The valley’ is the Jordan Rift valley from the Sea of Chinnereth (later the Sea of Galilee) to the Dead Sea. These cities were in the Jordan valley with Jordan as the border. Beth-haram (Beth-haran - Numbers 32.36) is probably to be identified with Tell Iktanu, twelve kilometres north east of the mouth of the Jordan. It was probably a border strongpoint to protect their cattle. Beth-nimrah (Nimrah - Numbers 32.3; Nimrim - Isaiah 15.6; Jeremiah 48.34) is possibly Tell Nimrin beside the Wadi Shaib. Succoth (see Psalm 60.6) was not far from a water passage (8.5, 16) and from Zarethan (1 Kings 7.46) in the Jordan Rift valley. It refused sustenance to the men of Gideon (Judges 8.5-6) and its leaders were severely punished for it (Judges 8.14-16). Zaphon was near Succoth and is mentioned in Judges 12.1.
These formed the remainder of the kingdom of Sihon, with Jordan up to the Sea of Chinnereth as the border.
13.28 ‘This is the inheritance of the children of Gad according to their families, the cities and the villages of it.’
The children of Gad inherited all these towns and cities and their surrounding countryside, both on the Transjordan tableland and in the Jordan Rift valley.
The Portion of the Half-tribe of Manasseh (13.29-31).
13.29 ‘And Moses gave to the half-tribe of Manasseh and it was for the half-tribe of the children of Manasseh according to their families.’
Half of the tribe of Manasseh were also given a portion in Transjordan. For this compare 13.15, 24. It is noteworthy that their portions are said to be given by Moses, not by YHWH. It must not be overemphasised but it is suggesting that it was not directly YHWH Who gave them this land east of Jordan. It was theirs by concession. Later much of it would be lost because of their disobedience to YHWH.
13.30-31 ‘And their border was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair which are in Bashan, sixty cities, and half Gilead, and Ashtaroth and Edrei, the cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were for the children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, even for the half of the children of Machir according to their families.’
The description of the portion of the half-tribe of Manasseh is succint and to the point. It included the whole of the former kingdom of Og, king of Bashan, including the towns of Jair. Jair was a descendant of Manasseh who took several towns and villages in Bashan and Gilead when Bashan was invaded (Numbers 32.41) calling them Havvoth-jair (‘the towns of Jair’ - see also Deuteronomy 3.14). He seems originally to have had sixty ‘cities’ (mainly tent villages?), which reduced to twenty three, which at some time Geshur and Aram (Syria) took from him (1 Chronicles 2.22). But later in the period of the Judges his descendant ruled over thirty cities (Judges 10.3) so he or one of his descendants must have re-established them.
This brings out the precarious nature of life in Bashan. It was a land of cattle and sheep farming and pasturage (Psalm 22.12; Ezekiel 39.18; Amos 4.1; Jeremiah 50.19) and of mighty oaks (Isaiah 2.13; Ezekiel 27.6), but there were enemies to the north. If only they had obeyed God and removed the Geshurites and the Maacathites (13.13) they would have avoided many of these troubles. As well as Bashan they possessed north Gilead.
Ashtaroth was presumably a centre for the worship of the Canaanite goddess Ashtaroth and is probably Tell Ashtarah thirty kilometres (eighteen miles) east of the Sea of Galilee (Chinneroth). It is also probably to be identified with the strt of the records of Tuthmosis III, the astarte of the Amarna letters and the astartu of Assyrian inscriptions. Edrei is probably modern Der‘a. It occupies a key point for communications in the Bashan area and has remains dating from the early bronze age.
‘Were for the children of Machir, the son of Manasseh, even for the half of the children of Machir according to their families.’ Manasseh’s son Machir was clearly a strong character and a powerful man for his name to be applied to the family tribe of Manasseh (Asriel may well have died young - 1 Chronicles 7.14). He represented the whole of Manasseh both east and west. He established his own sub-tribe, the Machirites, and was the father of Gilead, the ancestor of the Gileadites (Numbers 26.29). The warlikeness of his sub-tribe was one reason why they were given Bashan and Gilead (17.1). See also Numbers 32.39-40; 36.1; Deuteronomy 3.15.
(‘Father of’ and ‘son of’ are relationships that can have wide meaning. They may indicate direct descent, distant descent or adoption. Note how in Genesis 10 indication is given of tribes ‘descended from’ patriarchs because they were connected with patriarchal descendants).
13.32-33 ‘These are the inheritances which Moses distributed in the plains of Moab Beyond Jordan at Jericho eastward. But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance. YHWH the God of Israel is their inheritance.’
The contrast is again drawn between the inheritance Moses gave and the inheritance he could not give. That which was Beyond Jordan eastward was gifted by Moses. But Levi had their inheritance directly from YHWH, and He was their inheritance. The two and one half tribes coveted Transjordan because it was good and suited their way of life. They did not consider the fact that it was outside the promised land, even though granted with YHWH’s permission. But Levi had all their heart set on God, and all they had came from Him. They were truly blessed and could never lose their inheritance, for it was untouchable. It is a reminder to us that we do well not to look at the things that are seen, but at the things that are not seen, for the things that are seen are temporal, but the things that are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4.18).
‘The plains (or ‘steppes’) of Moab.’ These were a plain in the land taken from Moab by Sihon, north of the Dead Sea eastward (see Numbers 22.1; 26.3, 63).
Chapter 14 Distribution of the Land - The Lot Allocated to Caleb.
This chapter commences the account of the distribution of land to the children of Israel in the land of Canaan itself. However, prior to that distribution it describes the claim of Caleb to Hebron, through a promise made to him by Moses forty five years earlier, after his report that the land to which he was sent as a spy was good. Joshua granted it to him with his blessing.
14.1-2 ‘And these are the inheritances which the children of Israel took in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed to them, by the lot of their inheritance, as YHWH commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes and for the half tribe.’
In Numbers 34.16-29 the names of those who would take part in the distribution of the land under Eleazar, the son of Aaron, and Joshua, the son of Nun, were given. There were ten ‘heads of the fathers’ (princes over the elders) for the nine and a half tribes. Eleazar had precedence over Joshua here because as ‘the Priest’ he would be responsible for the use of the Urim and Thummim (compare Numbers 27.21-22). (When Eleazar is mentioned first it is always because consultation has to take place ‘before YHWH’ - 14.1; 17.4; 19.51; 21.1). The word for ‘tribes’ is again the word signifying ‘jurisdiction over’.
The land was to be distributed by lot (Numbers 26.55), ‘the lot of their inheritance’. So their inheritances (verse 1) were divided to them by lot. This would probably be by the Urim and Thummim, but it may have been by sticks being tossed with each of their tribal names on them, or with the names of each territory on them. Unlike the division of Transjordan this division was looked on as directly the work and will of YHWH. But a great deal of hard work would already have gone into determining the lands to be divided, and how they were to be divided. The whole land had to be surveyed. The first surveys probably mainly took place during the course of Joshua’s campaigns.
‘As YHWH commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes and for the half tribe.’ See Numbers 34.13; compare 26.55; 33.54. The two and a half tribes had already received their inheritance. Note the stress on the participation of YHWH.
14.3 ‘And Moses had given the inheritance of the two tribes, and the half tribe Beyond Jordan, but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them.’
The repetition of this for the third time in a short space (see 13.14, 33) illustrates the importance that the writer laid on it. The inheritance of the Levites was not given by Moses, it was from God. This was in direct contrast with the Transjordanian tribes whose inheritance was given by Moses. The contrast is deliberate.
14. 4 ‘For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, and they gave no portion to the Levites in the land, except for cities to dwell in with their suburbs, for their cattle and for their substance.’
With the separation of Levi to the service of YHWH the twelve tribes had been maintained by the split of Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh to ‘take over’ Levi’s portion. Thus the land would be fully occupied while Levi could be freed for their service. This demonstrates how important the ‘twelveness’ was seen to be. Twelve appears to have been a recognised number of covenant relationship which had to be maintained, compare Genesis 22.20-24; 25.13-16. Yet it was not said of Manasseh ‘this is the inheritance of the children of Manasseh’ although that is said of all the other tribes. They were still not seen as fully separate from Ephraim, but shared the inheritance with them. This is an indication of the early date of the sources. They would not have thought that way later.
The portion of Levi has previously been described as ‘the offerings of YHWH, the God of Israel, made by fire’ (13.14) and ‘YHWH, the God of Israel’ (13.33). Thus it represented participation in supernatural things and special closeness to and separation to YHWH Himself. Now they were to be provided with the means of sustenance, but only as ‘sojourners’ in the land. The Levites were regularly described as sojourners (e.g. Deuteronomy 18.6; Judges 17.7, 8, 9; 19.1), that is, those who dwell in but have no permanent rights in the land. This in their case was not because they were second class, but because they were super-class. In Leviticus 25.23 a similar concept was applied to all Israel demonstrating that the land belonged to YHWH and could not be sold in perpetuity but should be returned to its former owners at the year of yubile (jubilee) if not before.
‘Cities to dwell in with their suburbs, for their cattle and for their substance.’ The ‘suburbs’ were the common land round a city which were shared by all. Cities were to be set aside in the portions of all the tribes for the Levites to dwell in so that they could carry out their responsibilities to YHWH. This included the collection of tithes, watching over the covenant and the giving of guidance on matters to do with the sanctuary and the Law.
14.5 ‘As YHWH commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did, and they divided the land.’
The obedience of the people at this point is stressed. They carried out Moses’ commands as given by YHWH. They divided and allocated the land.
The Special Allocation to Caleb (14.6-15).
14.6 ‘Then the children of Judah drew near to Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb, the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, said to him, “You know what it was that YHWH spoke to Moses the man of God, concerning me and concerning you, in Kadesh-barnea.” ’
After the initial wars Joshua and Israel had returned to their camp at Gilgal, and at this time Caleb came to Joshua accompanied by his fellow elders of the tribe of Judah. It was important that his request be seen as official and backed by the elders lest he and Joshua be charged with favouritism. Furthermore as a result of the request the portion of Judah was being fixed as connected with Hebron.
Caleb, with Joshua, had been one of the two princes of Israel who had spied out the land of Canaan forty years before and had returned with a positive view, in contrast with the other ten whose viewpoint had been negative and had caused Israel to sin grievously by refusing to go forward into the land (Numbers 13.1-14.10). As a reward for his faithfulness he was then promised that he would one day receive as his possession the land that he had spied out (Numbers 14.24; Deuteronomy 1.36). Now he was laying claim to that promise, a promise made to him by YHWH through Moses.
But what was a Kenizzite doing as a prince of Israel? The Kenizzites had been in the land of Canaan from at least the time of Abraham (Genesis 15.19). But like Israel they too would seek shelter in Egypt in times of famine, and a group of them too may have been made slaves as ‘Canaanites’ after the Hyksos expulsion, and have joined up with the Israelites on their departure from Egypt, taking advantage of the parlous situation Egypt found itself in. Thus they would have been incorporated at Sinai into the covenant and have become Israelites. We note later how many Israelites had such different designations (e.g. Uriah the Hittite - 2 Samuel 11). Alternatively they may have been descendants of those who were previously servants in the households of the patriarchs.
14.7-9 “I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of YHWH, sent me from Kadeshbarnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again, as it was in my heart. Nevertheless, my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed YHWH my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden will be an inheritance to you, and to your children for ever, because you have wholly followed YHWH your God’.”
Caleb outlined the basis of his claim. He had been true to YHWH when ten of the spies had proved unworthy. (He hardly had to point out Joshua’s participation when he was speaking to Joshua. Indeed that is a sign of authenticity). They had discouraged the people, but he had encouraged them. Then Moses had promised him the land on which his foot had trodden. Now he was laying claim to it, to Hebron (verse 13). Note the double stress on the fact that he followed God.
‘Forty years old.’ A figure regularly used of a man’s age, not to be applied literally but as signifying full maturity (Genesis 25.20; 26.34; 2 Samuel 2.10).
Kadesh-barnea was an oasis on the edge of the wildernesses of Paran and Zin (Numbers 13.26; 20.1), possibly modern ‘Ain Qudeirat. Through the ages it has been a recognised landmark (Genesis 14.5-9; 16.7, 14; Numbers 34.4; Joshua 15.3; Ezekiel 47.19; 48.28). If the identification is correct it was eventually fortified around 10th century BC. It was from there that the spies went out (Numbers 13.26; Deuteronomy 1.19) and to it that they returned after their abortive attempt to enter the land (Deuteronomy 1.46; Numbers 20.1), and it was from there that messengers were sent to the king of Edom (Numbers 20.14). Israel were in its vicinity for thirty eight years (Deuteronomy 2.14 compare Deuteronomy 1.46).
14.10-11 “And now, behold, YHWH has kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, from the time that YHWH spoke this word to Moses while Israel walked in the wilderness, and now, see, I am eighty and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me. As my strength was then, even so is my strength now for war, and to go out and come in.”
His words were with a view to contrasting his own situation with that of the other spies (apart from Joshua) who had been unfaithful, who had died of the plague (Numbers 14.37). YHWH had kept him strong and in good health through the years. They are the words of an old man still conscious of vigour and strength, and still able to fight. He did not need the help of a stick to go in and out. They are probably not to be applied too literally. They were the words of a man confident in his strength. They were simply intended to say that he was in remarkable health for his age.
‘Forty and five.’ A few years over forty. ‘Eighty and five’, in the third stage of life. He had experienced a remarkable amount over those forty or so years, the long stay at Kadesh and its surrounding oases, and then the movement forward through various battles to where they were now, and yet he still saw himself as being as strong as ever.
14.12 “Now therefore give me this mountain, of which YHWH spoke in that day, for you yourself heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and cities that were great and fenced. It may be that YHWH will be with me, and I will drive them out, as YHWH said.”
Caleb’s words indicated that he also knew that the Anakim and the fenced cities were still there, but the personal reminiscence with Joshua is a sign of authenticity. ‘This mountain’ means ‘this hill country’. Joshua had defeated the cities there during his first campaign, and had ‘devoted’ Hebron (burning it with fire?) although the Anakim had been absent or had escaped (10.36). It had, however, been restored and reoccupied. Here Caleb is requesting the right to retake the city and destroy the Anakim. His fulfilment of this is described in 11.21. This time they had all been ‘devoted’. (Note that the phrase ‘the land had rest from war’ followed both the incident in 11.21 and the incident here (11.23; 14.15), confirming that they are related and occurred around the same time). The incident is again described in 15.13-19.
‘It may be that YHWH will be with me, and I will drive them out, as YHWH said.’ It was not that Caleb doubted it but that he wished to express himself modestly. He did not want to appear to be boasting. His confidence was in YHWH’s promise not in himself.
14.13 ‘And Joshua blessed him, and gave Hebron to Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, for an inheritance.’
Joshua gave his consent and allocated the land to Caleb with the blessing of YHWH. ‘Hebron’ here stands for the whole area around, including ‘all the cities of it’ (10.37).
14.14. ‘Hebron therefore became the inheritance of Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kennizite to this day, because he wholly followed YHWH, the God of Israel.’
The writer now sums up both the act and its consequence. It was given to Caleb and by the time this was written he had succeeded in taking it, simply because he was fully obedient to YHWH.
14.15 ‘And the name of Hebron before was Kiriath-arba, the greatest man among the Anakim. And the land had rest from war.’
‘The name of Hebron was previously Kiriath-arba.’ This means ‘the city of four’ or ‘city of Arba’ - see Genesis 23.2. Thus the idea is that it was named after Arba, the greatest man among the Anakim. LXX has ‘it was the mother-city of the Anakim’, referring ‘greatest’ to the city. But there is no reason to reject Arba as a name or nickname and it is certainly related to the Anakim in some way, so when we are told here that it was named after a famous ancestor of the Anakim, named Arba, possibly because he had the strength or usefulness of four men, it makes good sense. Consider 15.13, 21.11 which say that Arba was the father of Anak. (LXX translated as ‘mother’ because it related the idea of ‘motherhood’ more to a city).
‘And the land had rest from war.’ Compare 11.23. The two incidents there and here clearly parallel one another.
The whole story of Caleb is a reminder that God does not forget a man’s faithfulness. Men may not reward us, but God will in His own way. He had had to wait a long time for his blessing but at last it had come, although he still had to prove his constant trust and obedience in possessing it.
The Settling of the Land.
In describing the settling of the land Judah, and Joseph, the latter incorporating Ephraim and Manasseh who would at first work together, were dealt with first as composing the largest and most powerful tribes (chapters 15 & 16). Joshua would inevitably be swayed by the Patriarchal blessing in Genesis 49, for such blessings were looked on as affecting things into the future. Thus the prophecy that Judah would be like a lion and have royal power (Genesis 49.10) and that Joseph would, being a fruitful bough, be strong at arms by the hand of YHWH (Genesis 49.22, 24-25) almost guaranteed their first selection for the lot when the taking and defending of the important hill country was involved. At this stage Levi was still numbered among the tribes and thus Manasseh and Ephraim were seen as one, another indication of the early date of the narrative.
Their allocation in the northern and southern hill countries necessarily had to be settled first because it was vital that they take full possession of that part of the land as soon as possible. It had been invaded by Joshua, who had left it weak and vulnerable, but it had not in the main yet been settled. Now it was necessary to settle there and finally drive out what remained of the inhabitants for good. Joshua was therefore concerned that they receive their allocation quickly. And he had been spurred on by the eagerness of Caleb to go forward and possess his inheritance.
We should note that very little land had actually been settled under Joshua. There was a great gap between conquest and settlement. He had conquered, but he had moved on. His aim had been to establish their presence in the land and make them safe from attack, and he had defeated the enemy all around while maintaining their central headquarters at Gilgal. Some land was already possessed during the life of Joshua thanks to the persistence of men like Caleb (15.13-19; 11.21-23), but it was only a beginning and Joshua was now old. His twofold aim was thus to spur the tribes into active possession (24.28) and seal them together in the tribal covenant (chapter 24). He wanted to arouse their enthusiasm and to maintain their unity in diversity around the central sanctuary, for he knew that for him death was not far away (24.29). Then the actual final settlement of the whole of the land must continue in earnest.
What a different picture is presented as Joshua grows old. While he was in command and subduing the inhabitants all was optimism. They went from victory to victory. But now there was hesitancy. Judah under Caleb had commenced possession of the southern hill country and lowland hills, as had Ephraim and Manasseh in the northern hills, but the latter had already declared that the task was too much for them (17.16) and the other tribes were even more hesitant (18.3). Conquest under Joshua had been ‘great’. Settling the land and removing the inhabitants without him was different. A covenant treaty with Shechem had been fine but it prevented them taking up all the land in that area, and thus the hills were not sufficient for them (17.16) and in the plains they now knew that there were chariots with iron accoutrements (17.16).
Chapter 15 The Lot of the Tribe of Judah.
In this chapter we have details given of the boundaries of ‘the lot’ allocated by lot to the tribe of Judah. This is followed by the assignment of Hebron to Caleb, from where he drove out the Anakim, and the assignment of Debir. The latter was taken by Othniel his nephew, to whom, because of it, he gave his daughter in marriage. She then made a special request to her father for valuable water sources, and this he granted. This is followed by an account naming several cities which fell to the tribe of Judah. The further advances of Judah would be described in Judges 1.
If the gathering of the twelve tribes around the central sanctuary had not been firmly in place at this stage the confederacy would never have survived. At times, when faith was weak, it was only deeply inbuilt custom that held it together. Indeed Judah, with Simeon, went off on their own and were rarely seen working with the other tribes. And yet when the vital call came they were there, both in the affair of Gibeah (Judges 19-20) and in the activities of Samuel. It was rooted in their history, so much so that the idea even survived the seemingly decisive split following the death of Solomon.
15.1-2 ‘And the lot for the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families, was to the border of Edom, even to the wilderness of Zin southward at the uttermost part of the south. And their south border was from the uttermost part of the Salt Sea, from the tongue that looked southward.’
The lot for the tribe of Judah is detailed in this chapter, giving first its boundaries and then its prospective cities. These were in the south of Canaan. This will be followed in the next chapter by the lot for the children of Joseph, which includes both Ephraim and Manasseh, in the central north. As the two major tribes their portions needed to be settled first in order to establish the nation in the land and because they were so numerous and needed space. The hill country had to be settled and secured before further extension could take place.
Perhaps at this stage we should very briefly consider the geography of Canaan. If we look at it from the point of view of the south as we come from Egypt the first land we come to, having passed through the wilderness is the Negeb, the semi-desert area south of Canaan, dependent on oases, and with little rainfall which has to be carefully preserved and utilised. In good times, however it was irrigated by rainwater from the hills.
Then as we move northward the land is divided roughly into four types going from west to east;
The hill country (often called ‘The Mountain’) goes from south to north split by ravines, and then turns westward to Carmel on the coast, split by ravines and valleys. Large parts of the whole territory were covered by forests. In the plain and the valleys chariots could operate which made conquest by Israel difficult, and cities were numerous. The hill country was relative sparsely populated with fewer cities, shortage of water and rougher land which was harder to cultivate. For this reason it was not so desirable and was thus easier to conquer and control. The remainder of the land was heavily populated with large numbers of cities clustered together, apart from the forests.
The borders of Judah’s allotment were to reach to the border of Edom, that is the south side of the wilderness of Zin, where Kadesh was, taking in the Negeb. This was its furthest extent southwards. They are then described in more detail as commencing from the southern tongue of the Dead Sea, its southernmost bay, and going westward. The Dead Sea, or Salt Sea, is the lowest point on earth, well below sea level. It has no outlet and the water therefore disappears by evaporation in the hot sun leaving large residues of salt, which makes the water so buoyant that you can actually sit in the sea. No fish can live in it and no vegetation grows near it.
15.3-4 ‘And it went out southward of the ascent of Akrabbim, and passed along to Zin, and went up by the south of Kadesh-barnea, and passed along by Hezron, and went up to Addar and turned about to Karka, and it passed along to Azmon and went out at the torrent-wadi of Egypt. And the goings out of the border were at the Sea. This shall be your south border.’
We have here a description of Judah’s southern border stretching from the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea (Great Sea). For these verses compare Numbers 34.4-5. ‘The Ascent of Akkrabim’ is ‘the Scorpion’s Pass’, a mountain pass at the southern end of the Dead Sea (Numbers 34.4; Judges 1.36), between the Arabah (Jordan Rift valley) and the hill country of Judah. It is identified with Naqb es-safa. The border then passed along the south of Kadesh-barnea (south of the Wilderness of Zin), and by Hezron, Addar and Karka which are unknown (but compare Hazar-addar in Numbers 34.4). Possibly they were well known oases.
It then went along to Azmon and to ‘the torrent-wadi of Egypt’, Wadi el-‘Arish (verse 47; Numbers 34.5; 1 Kings 8.65; Isaiah 27.12), often called the ‘River of Egypt’, until it reached the Great Sea. This long and deep valley, dry except after heavy rain, rises in the middle of the desert of et-Tih in the north of the Sinaitic peninsula and joins the Mediterranean some eighty kilometres (fifty miles) south of Gaza, at el-‘Arish. It has nothing to do with the Nile.
‘This shall be your south border.’ The change to direct speech may be partly due to the fact that it was taken from Numbers 34. 3, 6 where it is in an address by Moses, but it also reminds us that these are directions being given to Judah.
15.5a ‘And the east border was the Salt Sea, even to the end of Jordan.’
The east border of Judah was simple to describe. It went from below the Dead Sea and along its western side up to where the Jordan entered it. At the time that this was written the Sea probably extended a few miles further north. It is slowly getting smaller due to rapid evaporation.
15.5b-6 ‘And the border of the north quarter was from the bay of the sea at the end of Jordan. And the border went up to Beth-hoglah, and passed along by the north of Beth-arabah, and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben.’
We now trace the northern border westward. It begins at the northern tongue of the Dead Sea. Beth-hoglah was near Jericho (18.21) and was a Benjamite city. It has been identified with the ruins of Kasr Hajleh, and is four kilometres (three miles) north of the present Dead Sea. Beth-arabah (‘house of the Arabah’) was in the barren, rocky country between the Central Range and the Dead Sea, sometimes called Jeshimon (waste, desert) mentioned in 1 Samuel 23.19, 24. In verse 61 it belongs to Judah. In 18.21 it is a Benjamite border town. As a border town it was probably shared between them, the boundary going through it. It would have lands at both sides, some allocated to one and some to the other.
‘And the border went up to the stone of Bohan, the son of Reuben.’ Compare 18.17. This was clearly an important recognised landmark. Bohen means ‘a thumb’. This may refer to a large stone shaped like a thumb, near to an eminence or larger rock called Reuben (not necessarily connected with the patriarch). It is alternatively possible that a famous man Bohan was buried there who was son to an unknown Reuben, or even that it commemorated some famous exploit by a Reubenite who had crossed the river with Joshua. But the impression is of an ancient landmark. The portion of the Biblical Reuben was across the river.
15.7 ‘And the border went up to Debir from the valley of Achor, and so northward looking towards Gilgal, that is over against the Ascent of Adummim, which is on the south side of the river, and the border passed along to the waters of Enshemesh and its goings out were at En-rogel.’
This Debir was not the one mentioned in 13.26; 15.15 but probably one above the Wadi Debr which is the lower part of the Wadi Mukallik, or near Tughret ed-Debr, south of the Ascent of Adummim. It is also not mentioned in the parallel 18.17. It was thus clearly not an important place. For ‘the valley of Achor’ possibly we should translate ‘low lying plain of Achor’. El Buqei‘a is suggested as a possibility. It would be seen as an abandoned place, a place to be avoided. This was where Achan was stoned to death (7.25).
‘And so northward looking towards Gilgal, that is over against the Ascent of Adummim.’ At this point the boundary moved northward towards the Ascent of Adummim, towards Gilgal. This would be a different Gilgal from the Israelite encampment. Its name, ‘a rolling’ suggests that some religious activity took place at these sites involved with rolling stones, possibly to set up as altars, or bodies rolling in ecstasy in their depraved sexual rites. Some relate it to stone circles but if it were so we would have expected them to be discovered. It was probably the same as Geliloth (18.17).
The Ascent of Adummim was a steep pass on the border of Judah and Benjamin, probably Tal‘at ed-Damm (the ascent of blood). This name was probably given because of the redness of the soil, but it may also have been a place where murderous robberies were common. This may have been the place in mind where the good Samaritan was pictured as finding the victim of robbery with violence.
‘Which is on the south side of the river, and the border passed along to the waters of Enshemesh and its goings out were at En-rogel.’ The ‘south side of the river’ must refer to the impressive gorge of the Wadi el-Kelt. The waters of Enshemesh (‘spring of the sun’) is probably the modern ‘Ain Haud, four kilometres (three miles) east of Jerusalem, just south of the Jericho road. ‘Its goings out’ refers to the point at which a line comes to an end (see verses 4 and 11), thus there was now a deviation at En-rogel (‘well of the launderer’). This was just outside Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17.17; 1 Kings 1.9) and is known today as Job’s Well.
15.8 ‘And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the side (shoulder, sloping hillside) of the Jebusite southward, the same is Jerusalem, and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the furthest extent of the vale of Rephaim northward.’
The next stage from En-rogel went through the valley of Hinnom (probably, but not certainly, the Wadi al-Rababi) up to the shoulder of the south east hill of Jerusalem (Jerusalem was later built on a south east hill and a south west hill, with a valley in between. This valley would later be partly filled up). The border then went to the height which was to the west of the valley of Hinnom, at the northern end of the valley of Rephaim (see 2 Samuel 5.18). The latter may once have been the dwelling place of that extremely tall race called the Rephaim.
15.9 ‘And the border was drawn from the top of the mountain, to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah, and went out to the cities of Mount Ephron, and the border was drawn to Baalah, which is Kiriath-jearim.’
From the mountain at the northern end of the vale of Rephaim the border went to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. This is probably to be identified as Lifta, four kilometres (two to three miles) north west of Jerusalem. From there it went to the cities (cluster of villages) of Mount Ephron. Mount Ephron lies between Jerusalem and Kiriath-jearim. Then on to Baalah, which later became Kiriath-jearim (‘city of forests’). (This was thus first recorded before the change of name -see 1 Samuel 7.1-2). This is probably modern Kuriet el-‘Enab, fourteen kilometres (ten miles) west of Jerusalem on the Jaffa Road. It was one of the cities of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9.17).
15.10 ‘And the border turned about from Baalah westward to Mount Seir, and passed along to the shoulder (sloping hillside) of mount Jearim on the north, the same is Chesalon, and went down to Bethshemesh, and passed along by Timnah.’
There was a change of direction of the border towards the south west to an unidentified mount Seir, from where it passed along to the northern side of the tree covered mount Jearim, later called Chesalon (Kisla?). These were the ridges south west of Kuriet el-‘Enab.
‘And went down to Bethshemesh (‘house of the sun’ - a name given to a number of towns probably connected with sun worship), and passed along by Timnah.’ For Bethshemesh in Judah see 21.16. This was an important city on Judah’s northern border with Dan, situated in a west facing valley of the hill country some twenty four kilometres (fifteen miles) west of Jerusalem, known to Dan as Ir-shemesh (‘city of the sun’ - 19.41). This is probably the site known as Tell er-Rumeileh, situated on the saddle of a hill spur to the west of the later settlement of ‘Ain Shems. It was a strongly fortified Canaanite city during the middle and late bronze ages. Quantities of Philistine pottery demonstrate Philistine occupation at some stage, showing how far inland they penetrated, but this would be after this time. It was, however, in Israelite hands in 1 Samuel 6 when the Ark was returned there by the Philistines, and it was later strongly fortified under David.
‘Passed along by Timnah.’ This was another town on the Danite border (19.43) but in the lowlands and allocated to Judah (15.57), and also possibly to Dan (19.43). Whether it was also partially allocated to Dan, like a number of such border areas between tribes, is not certain (it may have been a border marker). In Judges 14.1, 2 it had strong Philistine connections. It was where Samson sought a Philistine wife. This may be the Tamna later mentioned in the annals of Sennacherib (c. 701 BC). It is probably Tell Batashi, nine kilometres south of Gezer, although its name is preserved by Khirbet Tibneh.
15.11 ‘And the border went out to the sloping hillside of Ekron northward, and the border was drawn to Shikkeron, and passed along to Mount Baalah, and went out at Jabneel, and the goings out of the border were at the sea.’
The border then continued north westward to the northern side of Ekron, which was later one of the five-city confederation, with their towns, of the Philistines. If it is to be identified with Khirbet al-Muqanna‘ surface excavations suggest that it was occupied in the early bronze age and then not again until the early iron age (when the Philistines arrived) at which point the walled city covered forty acres, and was characterised by Philistine pottery Thus at the time of allocation it was not at a high level of occupation although prominent enough to be a border marker and have villages connected with it (15.45). It was twice captured by the Israelites (Judges 1.18; 1 Samuel 7.14) but not permanently retained (1 Samuel 5.10; 17.52).
‘And the border was drawn to Shikkeron, and passed along to Mount Baalah, and went out at Jabneel, and the goings out of the border were at the sea.’ Shikkeron is possibly Tell el-Ful. Mount Baalah is probably the ridge of el-Mughar. Jabne-el (‘God causes to build’) is probably to be connected later with the Philistine city Jabneh (2 Chronicles 26.6), later Jamnia where the Sanhedrin was reformed after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Its modern name is Yebneh.
‘And the goings out of the border were at the sea.’ Compare verses 4, 7. The phrase indicates the point where a line ends, in this case at the Great Sea.
So the northern border of Judah turned north west from the shore of the Dead Sea, passed south of Jericho and Wadi Qelt, skirted the southern edge of Jerusalem with a foothold in Jerusalem and possession of the fields to the south, went past Kiriath-jearim and descended via the forested slopes of the Judean hills to Bethshemesh from where it followed the Sorek valley to the sea.
15.12 ‘And the west border was to the Great Sea, and its border. This is the border of the children of Judah round about according to their families.’
The west border was the coast of the Mediterranean, the Great Sea. Thus were described the borders of Judah, allocated by lot in accordance with the numbers of their tribe.
15.13 ‘And to Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a portion among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of Yahweh to Joshua, even Kiriath-arba, the father of Anak, the same is Hebron.’
The importance given to this first real settlement of the land comes out in that it is repeated three times (14.6-15; 15.13-19; Judges 1.10-15; compare Joshua 11.21-23). It was seen as a highlight, and an indicator of what was to come. It was the first major settlement of the land. Caleb, although a Kennizite (Numbers 32.12), was a recognised prince of Judah (Numbers 13.3, 6). We must remember that Israel were made up of many nations (Exodus 12.38), incorporated into the tribal system, something not likely to be invented later. Later the Israelites looked back proudly to their ancestry as children of the patriarchs, but it was largely by adoption. For details of the giving of this portion see 14.6-15.
‘Even Kiriath-arba.’ This means ‘the city of four’ or ‘city of Arba’ - see Genesis 23.2. LXX described it as ‘the mother-city of the Anakim’. But there is no reason to reject Arba as a name or nickname and it is certainly related to the Anakim in some way, so when we are told here that it was named after a famous ancestor of the Anakim, named Arba, possibly because he had the strength or usefulness of four men (compare 15.13; 21.11 - which suggests that LXX translated ‘father’ as ‘mother’ because it related the latter more to a city) it makes good sense. It was the ancient name of Hebron.
‘According to the commandment of YHWH to Joshua.’ See 14.13. Joshua would not have acted without YHWH’s command. Compare Deuteronomy 1.26.
15.14 ‘And Caleb drove from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahinam and Talmai, the children of Anak.’
For these three sons of Anak compare Numbers 13.22. Their size was one of the main reasons for the fear of the Israelite scouts who surveyed the land of Canaan. They are mentioned here in order to demonstrate YHWH’s final victory over them by one of the two faithful scouts. Joshua 1.10 says that they ‘smote them’. Hebron and its towns, having been originally weakened and ‘devoted’ by Joshua, probably being burned with fire (10.36-37), were now to be finally possessed and settled. The Canaanites, once driven out, would not be allowed to return. From now on Hebron belonged to Israel and was a thoroughly Israelite city (1 Samuel 30.31; 2 Samuel 2.1, 3, 11).
Their names suggest a possible Aramaic origin. For Sheshai compare Ezra 10.40. For Ahiman consider ‘brother of Meni’ (Isaiah 65.11 - Meni is ‘Destiny’, the god of fortune). The name Talmai is found among the Geshurites, an Aramean tribe (13.13; 2 Samuel 3.3; 13.7), and in Nabatean inscriptions from North Arabia.
15.15 ‘And he went up from there against the inhabitants of Debir. Now the name of Debir was previously Kiriath-sepher.’
The mention of the ancient names may suggest that this record was written shortly after the change of name. Debir or Kiriath-sepher was at the end of the Judean hills. It is also called Kiriath-sannah (city of palm leaf) in Joshua 15.49. Here it is called Kiriath-sepher (city of writing) as in Judges 1.11. Both names connect with scribal activity (palm leaves were writing materials) which suggests it was well known as a scribal city. Thus its ancient local names
15.16 ‘And Caleb said, “He who smites Kiriath-sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife”.’
This was a kind of test of suitability. Chief’s daughters were given to mighty champions to ensure continual strong leadership. Compare Saul’s offer in 1 Samuel 17.25. It is understandable, in terms of those days, why Saul did not fulfil his promise in that case. When he made it he was expecting a champion not an inexperienced young man. He was not to know what David would become.
15.17 ‘And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it, and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.’
It was probably Kenaz who was Caleb’s younger brother. The son and daughter were thus cousins. Othniel was probably Caleb’s hope in the first place. ‘Son of Kenaz’ might simply indicate that he too was a Kenizzite, but it is unlikely that Caleb would give his daughter to his younger brother in this way (Leviticus 18.9), and there is no reason why a Kenizzite should not be called Kenaz.
15.18-19 ‘And it happened that when she came to him, she moved him to ask of her father a field, and she lighted from her ass, and Caleb said to her, “What is it you want?” And she said to him, “Give me a blessing, for you have set me in the land of the Negeb. Give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.’
The dowry Othniel requested, at her suggestion, was land, and when his wife discovered where this was, in the Negeb, she lighted from her ass (a gesture of maidenly courtesy and submission - compare Genesis 24.64) and approached her father to ensure good water supplies, which were necessary in that region, by asking for permanent springs, which he gave her as a wedding gift. The word translated alighted may mean ‘clap one’s hands’, a signal to a servant to be helped down.
This account is paralleled in Judges 1.11-15. The latter may have been copied from here, but more probably both were taken from an early record made of the wars in Canaan similar to ‘the book of the wars of YHWH’ (Numbers 21.14). For such were looked on as religious events and as covenant documents confirming the covenant, not just as history.
15.20 ‘This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Judah, according to their families.’
For this summary description with respect to the tribes compare 13.23 (Reuben); 13.28 (Gad); 15.20 (Judah); 16.8 (Ephraim); 18.28 (Benjamin); 19.8 (Simeon); 19.16 (Zebulun); 19.23 (Issachar); 19.31 (Asher); 19.39 (Naphtali); 19.48 (Dan). By this phrase the inheritance of each tribe was summed up.
It is noticeable that the portion of the half tribe of Manasseh in Transjordan was not described in this way but as ‘even for the half of the children of Machir according to their families’ (13.31), nor was the other part of Manasseh specifically so, although both did ‘inherit’ - see 13.32; 16.9;17.4. As the children of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh shared a joint inheritance (16.4, 9; 17.14; compare Deuteronomy 34.2), even though it was in separate lots because they were so large (compare 14.4; 17.17). Ephraim also had possessions in the midst of Manasseh (16.9). This in itself points to the early date of these records. In the Psalms (60.7; 80.2; 108.8) Ephraim and Manasseh were totally separate tribes (but see 1 Chronicles 9.3). At this point Levi is still seen as the twelfth tribe, but with no inheritance apart from YHWH (13.14, 33; 14.4), and gradually being replaced among the twelve by Manasseh (14.4), who is not, however, at this stage a separate inheriting tribe.
This detailed description of the inheritance of Judah (and later of the other tribes) was seen as important because it demonstrated the fulfilment of God’s promises to His people. He had promised them much land, they received much land. He had promised them cities to dwell in. They received cities to dwell in. Thus did they gain confidence and faith in the One Who fulfilled His promises. We too gain in confidence when we walk with God and receive His blessings. It gives confidence to go on to greater things.
The Listing of Cities and Towns, Villages and Encampments of Judah (15.21-63).
The making of lists of places is well testified to in the ancient world, and the cities and towns and encampments of Judah are now listed. We do not know whether these were as first surveyed, or as compiled at the time of the writer himself. They seem to be split into twelve groups, probably representing a theoretical twelve sub-tribes. Twelve seems to have been seen as the number for a confederacy. Thus Judah were setting up an inner confederacy on the pattern of the tribal confederacy, anticipating expanding it into twelve.
The twelve groups are:
And then in the eastern hill country:
15.21-32 ‘And the uttermost cities of the tribe of the children of Judah toward the border of Edom in the Negeb were Kabzeel, and Eder, and Jagur, and Kinah, and Dimonah, and Adadah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Ithnan. Ziph, and Telem, and Bealoth, and Hazor-hadattah, and Kerioth-hezron (the same is Hazor). Amam, and Shema, and Moladah, and Hazar-gaddah, and Heshmon, and Beth-pelet, and Hazar-shual, and Beersheba, and Biziothiah. Baalah, and Iim, and Ezem, and Eltolad, and Chesil, and Hormah, and Ziklag, and Madmannah, and Sansannah, and Lebaoth, and Shilhim, and Ain, and Rimmon. All the cities are twenty nine with their villages.’
The list of towns and encampments in the Negeb includes a number also found in 19.1-9, e.g. Beersheba (or Sheba), Moladah, Hazar-shual, Balah (Baalah), Ezem, Eltolad, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth-lebaoth (Lebaoth), Ain, and Rimmon. Not similar are Bethul (although possibly the same as Chesil), Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah, Sharuhen, Ether and Ashan. This was because those who surveyed on behalf of Judah included within their count many of the encampments of Simeon which were within their borders, and over which they shared control. ‘Hazor’ (hazar) specifically indicates an enclosure or camp of wandering shepherds and was therefore a common name/name attachment in the area. As camps tended to move on in the Negeb the marking of their movements was far from easy. They were a moving city.
Kabzeel, called Jekabzeel in Nehemiah 11.25, was the native place of Benaiah, one of David's mighty men (2 Samuel 23.20). Eder and Jagur are unknown. Kinah may be connected with a Kenite encampment. Dimonah may be the Dibon of Nehemiah 11.25 (compare Isaiah 15.2 with 9). Adadah has been posited as ‘Arara, a ruined site twenty five kilometres (fifteen miles) south east of Beersheba, Kedesh as possibly Kadesh-barnea, Hazor as another encampment, and Ithnan is unknown. Ziph is unknown. Telem may be Telaim in the east of the Negeb (1 Samuel 15.4), Bealoth the same as Baalath-beer (19.8), Hazor-hadattah means ‘new Hazor’, another encampment, and Kerioth-hezron (the same is Hazor) a further encampment.
Amam, Shema, Moladah (the Malatha mentioned by Josephus?), Hazar-gaddah, Heshmon, and Beth-pelet have no details known. Hazar-shual means ‘foxes den’, which may signify human foxes, and Beersheba is ‘the well of the seven’ (or ‘the oath’), abundantly supplied with water and often cited as the furthest extent of the land (‘from Dan to Beersheba’ - Judges 20.1; 1 Samuel 3.20; 2 Samuel 3.10; 17.11; 24.2, 15; 1 Kings 4.25; 1 Chronicles 21.2; 2 Chronicles 30.5; Amos 8.14).
Biziothiah, Baalah, Iim, Ezem, Eltolad and Chesil are not known. Hormah means ‘devoted’ and could be any devoted site, but possibly that mentioned in Numbers 20.3. Ziklag is probably that mentioned in 1 Samuel 27.6; 30.1, 14, 26 where David was a Philistine mercenary leader. Madmannah, and Sansannah, and Lebaoth, and Shilhim, are all unknown. Rimmon may be Khirbet Umm er-Rumamin, fifteen kilometres (nine miles) north east of Beersheba on the border of the Negeb and the Shephelah, in which case Ain may be the nearby spring of Khuweilfeh.
As will be noted the Negeb was in no way an empty place, although its occupation depended very much on where water could be found.
15.33-36 ‘In the Shephelah, Eshtaol, and Zorah, and Ashnah, and Zanoah, and En-gannim, Tappuah and Enam, Jarmuth, and Adullam, and Socoh and Azekah, and Shaaraim, and Adithaim, and Gederah, and Gederothaim. Fourteen cities and their villages.’
The Shephelah were the lowlands to the west between the mountains and the coastal plain, the lower, shallower slopes of the hill country. Apart from the Coastal Plain it was the land that offered most, but was vulnerable to attack. As it stands there are in fact in this list fifteen names, but Gederothaim (plural ending) probably represents ‘the villages of Gederah’ thus making one with Gedarah. These fourteen cities were clustered to the north of the area.
Zorah and Eshtaol were on the Danite border (19.41; see also Judges 13.25; 18.2, 8, 11). Judah and Dan may have shared them and their related lands, Dan the land to the north, Judah the land to the south, or it may be that after receiving their lot Judah passed the cities on to Dan. But the probability is that they were settled by both, some looking to Dan and some to Judah. Zorah was mentioned in the Amarna letters as Zarkha and is probably Sar‘a, a Canaanite city twenty five kilometres (fifteen miles) west of Jerusalem, on the north side of the Wadi al-Sarar (the valley of Sorek), with Eshtaol close by. Both places overlook the broad basin of the Wadi, near its entrance into the Judaean highlands.
Ashnah in the north east must be distinguished from Ashnah in the south in verse 43. Zanoah is Khirbet Zanu‘ (Nehemiah 3.13; 11.30), three kilometres south of Bethshemesh, west of modern Zanoah. This is to be distinguished from Zanoah in the hill country (verse 56). En-gannim means ‘spring of gardens’ and was near Zanoah. Tappuah meaning ‘quince’ was east of Azekah, possibly Beit Netif. The place name may derive from a Calebite of Hebron (1 Chronicles 2.43). It was not the Tappuah of 12.17; 16.8. The name was a popular one.
‘And Enam, Jarmuth, and Adullam, and Socoh and Azekah, and Shaaraim, and Adithaim, and Gederah, and Gederothaim.’ For Enam compare Enaim (Genesis 38.14, 21). It means ‘two springs’. It stood on the way from Adullam to Timnah and was where Tamar seduced Judah. Jarmuth was a member of the first confederacy that attacked Gibeon (see on 10.3). Adullam is identified as Tell esh-Sheikh Madhkur midway between Jerusalem and Lachish. Its king was slain by Joshua (12.15). David later hid in a nearby cave when running from Saul (1 Samuel 22.1, 2; 2 Samuel 23.13). It was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11.7).
Socoh was south-east of Azekah and was where the Philistines were defeated when Goliath was killed (1 Samuel 17.1). It was later an important administrative centre in the days of Hezekiah, mentioned on inscriptions found in Lachish. There was another Socoh in the highlands (15.48). The site of Azekah is unknown but its signal lights could be seen from Lachish in the days of Sennacherib of Assyria as described in inscribed potsherds discovered in the remains of the gatehouse in Lachish, written in Hebrew. For Shaaraim compare 1 Samuel 17.52. It was on the way from Azekah towards the parting of the ways to Ekron and Gath. On the basis of the LXX rendering Sakareim it has been identified with Tell Zakariyeh, north west of Socoh at the entrance of the Wadi es-Sunt. Adithaim is not identified (LXX omits). Gederah is different from Gederoth (verse 41). It may be the same as Geder (12.13). It means a wall or fence. It may be identified with Khirbet Judraya on the north side of the Vale of Elah opposite Socoh. Gederothaim, rendered in LXX ‘and its villages’ was probably a technical name for villages connected to Gederah. These fourteen cities with their villages were in the north eastern part of the Judaean Shephelah.
15.37-41 ‘Zenan, and Hadashah, and Migdal-gad, and Dilan, and Mizpeh, and Joktheel. Lachish, and Bozkath, and Eglon, and Cabbon, and Lahmam, and Chithlish, and Gederoth, Beth-dagon, and Naamah, and Makkedah; sixteen cities with their villages.’
These were situated in the north western part of the Judaean Shephelah (lowlands). Zenan was possibly the Zaanan of Micah 1.11. Its site and that of Hadashah are unknown. Migdal-gad, ‘the fortress of Gad’, is possibly Khirbet Mejadil (twenty kilometres) thirteen miles south of Beit Jibrin. Gad was a pagan deity worshipped by the Canaanites as the god of fortune (Isaiah 65.11). Dilan and Jokteel are unknown. Mizpeh means ‘watchtower’ and a number of Mizpehs are known. Possible identifications for this Mizpeh are Khirbet Safiyeh, four kilometres (three miles) north east of Beit Jibrin, or Sufiyeh, ten kilometres (seven miles) north of Beit Jibrin.
Lachish was a major city but was not at this time walled, although its outer houses may have formed a defensive ring. It was surrounded on three sides by the River (Nahal - wadi torrent) Lachish. It was one of the cities earlier taken by Joshua (10.32) whose king was slain, but there is no suggestion that he burned it. It was mentioned in the Amarna letters earlier, and we know that it was sacked about 1200 BC, after which there were strong Egyptian connections. It was sacked again about 1130 BC. There is no direct evidence of actual occupation by the Israelites, and it is nowhere claimed in Scripture that it was again captured and occupied by them until the time of the Monarchy. However we must beware of drawing too many conclusions from this kind of evidence. Such identifications are always tentative. Its guilt before God was later seen as responsible for His judgments (Micah 1.13).
For Bozkath compare 2 Kings 22.1. For Eglon compare 10.34. Cabbon and Chithlish are unknown. Lahmam (or Lahmas) is possibly el-Lahm, four kilometres (three miles) south of Beit Jibrin. For Gederoth compare 2 Chronicles 28.18. Beth-dagon was clearly a shrine to the god Dagon, of which there were a number by this name (e.g. 19.27). Naamah is possibly identical to modern Na‘neh, and means ‘pleasant’, ten kilometres (seven miles) south of Lydda. For Makkedah see 10.28.
15.42-44 ‘Libnah, and Ether, and Ashan. And Iphtah, and Ashnah, and Nezib, and Keilah, and Achzib, and Mareshah. Nine cities with their villages.’
These are not all specifically identifiable to a particular area but are related to the Shephelah. The site of Libnah, a royal city, has not been satisfactorily identified. Its position is generally indicated by the order of events in 10.28-37. Ether and Ashan also appear in 19.7 as Simeonite cities ‘with their villages’, shared with Judah, which demonstrates that they are more to the south. See also 1 Chronicles 4.32; 6.59. Iphtah, Ashnah, and Nezib are unidentifiable at present.
Keilah is mentioned in Nehemiah 3.17-18, and in 1 Samuel 23.1-5 as subject to Philistine invasion resulting in a great victory for David. It is probably the Kelti of the Amarna letters, and may be Khirbet Qila on a hill ten kilometres east of Beit Guvrin which commands the ascent to Hebron south from Socoh, in the valley between the Shephelah and the hills. Achzib is possibly the Chezib of Genesis 38.5 and later conquered by Sennacherib (see also Micah 1.14). Mareshah is a town in the Shephelah covering the road up the Wadi Zeita to Hebron. It is now Tell Sandahanna. The inhabitants claimed descent from Shelah (1 Chronicles 4.21). See also Micah 1.15.
15.45-47 ‘Ekron, with her towns (daughters) and her villages, from Ekron even to the sea, all that were by the side of Ashdod, with their villages. Ashdod, her towns and her villages, Gaza, her towns and her villages, to the Brook of Egypt and the Great Sea and its border.’
We must remember that all these cities, both those mentioned before and those described here, were allotted to Judah for her to possess. (These Philistine cities were specifically stated as not being possessed during Joshua’s lifetime - 13.3). As with the other tribes mentioned later it was their responsibility under God to go forward and possess them. That they failed in God’s purpose history has revealed, and the Book of Judges makes clear the reason for the failure, loss of impetus, failure to fully observe the covenant and sin, even though in the time of Samuel some of them appear to have been in Israel’s hands (1 Samuel 7.14).
‘Ekron, with her towns (daughters) and her villages, from Ekron even to the sea, all that were by the side of Ashdod, with their villages.’ The sea is of course the Mediterranean, ‘the great Sea’. Ekron, along with Ashdod and Gaza, was one of the five major Philistine cities. This use of ‘daughters’ is reminiscent of Numbers 21.25; 32.42. For ‘and her villages’ compare Genesis 25.16; 1 Chronicles 6.56. The description indicates Ekron’s sphere of influence. It should be noted that it is elsewhere described as one of the cities that had been ‘taken from Israel’ by the Philistines (1 Samuel 7.14). That may be referring to Judges 1.18. It was on the border with Dan (19.43).
If Ekron is to be identified with Khirbet al-Muqanna‘ it was occupied in the early bronze age and then not in any density until the early iron age. It was at one stage a walled city of some forty acres.
‘Ashdod, her towns and her villages, Gaza, her towns and her villages, to the River (Nahal) of Egypt and the Great Sea and its border.’ This boldly makes clear that all Philistine territory was Judah’s by divine right. The River of Egypt was the torrent-wadi of el-‘Arish. The description covers the whole coastal plain within Judah’s boundaries. Ashdod is Tel Ashdod, six kilometres south east of the modern village. It had a principal port (Asudimmu in Akkadian sources) and a temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5.1). Gaza was the southernmost of the Philistine cities, and it occupied an important position on the trade routes. It would appear that Joshua possibly captured it (10.41 - although the reference may only mean that he reached that landmark). The site of the ancient city lies within the modern city. Limited excavation has revealed evidence of both late bronze age and iron age occupation and the presence of Philistine pottery.
15.48-51 ‘And in the hill country Shamir, and Jattir, and Socoh, and Dannah, and Kiriath-sannah, the same is Debir, and Anab, and Eshtemoh, and Anim, and Goshen, and Holon, and Giloh. Eleven cities with their villages.’
The hill country (literally ‘the mountain’) signifies the central mountain range west of Jordan. It was divided up on the basis of the tribes occupying it (20.7) into the hill country of Judah (21.11), the hill country of Ephraim (17.15-18) and the hill country of Naphtali (20.7). But they recognised that it composed a single mountain range, even though interrupted by ravines and the Plain of Esdraelon. Thus they called it ‘the mountain’ (9.1; 10.40; 11.16). This was where Judah initially settled and carved out its territory, establishing itself securely in the hill country before expanding.
The hill country of Judah is broken up into grey limestone hills, generally bare of vegetation, but not altogether unfruitful, for olives and terraced vineyards are found on their slopes, and in the valleys small patches of cultivable soil. There are no perennial streams and few springs, the water supply depending chiefly on the winter rains stored in pools and cisterns.
Shamir is perhaps Khirbet Somerah, twenty kilometres (thirteen miles) south west of Hebron and 650 metres (2,100 feet) up. Jattir is Khirbet Attir on the south west escarpment of the hill country of Judah, twenty one kilometres (fourteen miles) from Hebron. It was offered as residence to the priests (21.14). David shared the spoils of the Amalekites with its inhabitants (1 Samuel 30.27). Socoh is probably Khirbet Suweike, three kilometres (two miles) east of Dhahriya, not the same as Socoh in verse 35. Danna is not known.
Kiriath-sanna (‘city of palm leaf’ - palm leaves were writing materials) is the ancient name of Debir. Compare verse 15 and Judges 1.11 where it is Kiriath-sepher (‘city of writing’). It would thus appear to have been a scribal city. The use of the names demonstrates the age of the sources. Debir was probably Khirbet Rabbud, thirteen kilometres (eight miles) south west of Hebron, a strong position overlooking the River Hevron. Anab (11.22) was a small city which is now a ruin but still called ‘Anab, and was eight kilometres (five miles) south of Debir. It is mentioned as Kart-‘anabu in Papyrus Anastasi I and in the Amarna letters. For Eshtemoh compare Eshtemoa, one of the priests’ towns (21.14; 1 Chronicles 6.57). It is now es-Semu‘a and still inhabited, fourteen kilometres (eight miles) south south west of Hebron at a height of 680 metres (2200 feet).
Anim may be el-Ghuwein, four kilometres (three miles) south of es-Semu‘a. Goshen is not specifically identified, but is probably connected with the Judaean ‘country of Goshen’ (10.41; 11.16), the area of which is not yet known. Holon was a priestly town (21.15 - compare Hilen (1 Chronicles 6.58)). Giloh was the home of Ahithophel, David’s adviser (2 Samuel 15.12; 23.34), possibly grandfather of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11.3 with 2 Samuel 23.34). ‘Eleven cities with their villages,’ possibly looking to Debir as their centre.
15.52-54 ‘Arab, and Dumah, and Eshan, and Janim, and Beth-tappuah, and Aphekah, and Humtah, and Kiriath-arba, the same is Hebron, and Zior. Nine cities with their villages.’
For Arab compare 2 Samuel 23.35. Perhaps er-Rabiyeh, eleven kilometres (seven miles) south west of Hebron. Dumah is probably ed-Domeh, five kilometres (three miles) west of Arab, a site of considerable ruins. Eshan and Janim are unknown. Beth-tappuah (‘house of apples’) is probably Teffuh, five kilometres (three and a half miles) north west of Hebron in a district which abounds in fruit trees. Apheka is south west of Hebron and possibly Khirbet ed-darrame or Khirbet Kana‘an. Humtah is unknown. For Kiriath-arba/Hebron see 14.15. Zior is perhaps Sa‘ir, seven kilometres (four and a half miles) north of Hebron. ‘Nine cities with their villages’. This was the second group of towns in the hill country, possibly looking to Hebron as their centre.
15.55-57 ‘Maon, Carmel, and Ziph, and Jutah, and Jezreel, and Jokdeam, and Zanoah. Kain, Gibeah and Timnah. Ten cities with their villages.’
The towns of this group were situated south of Hebron. Maon lay on the edge of the wilderness of Judah, known in this neighbourhood as the wilderness of Maon, signifying rough pasture land. It was here that David took refuge from Saul (1 Samuel 23.24-25) and where the churlish Nabal lived (1 Samuel 25.2). It is probably Khirbet el-Ma‘in, fourteen kilometres (nine miles) south of Hebron. Carmel is sited at present day Khirbet el-Karmil, twelve kilometres (eight miles) south south east of Hebron in a rolling pastoral region ideal for flocks. Nabal’s wife was a Carmelitess.
15.58 ‘Halhul, Beth-zur and Gedor, and Maarath, and Beth-anoth, and Eltekon. Six cities with their villages.’
This is the fourth section of cities and townships in the hill country, lying to the north of Hebron. Halhul survives as the name of a village seven kilometres (four miles) north of Hebron. Two kilometres (a mile or so) further on are the ruins of Beth-zur, ‘house of rock’. This once strong fortress with its massive defence walls on the slope of the mound was destroyed by the Egyptians when the Hyksos were driven from Egypt (early sixteenth century BC) and remained largely abandoned until the arrival of the Israelites. In the twelfth and eleventh centuries BC it became a flourishing city once again, but declined somewhat in the tenth century, although ‘fortified’ by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11.7). Its site is Khirbet et-Tubeiqah.
Gedor is Khirbet Jedur, two kilometres west of Beit Ummar and five kilometres (three miles) north of Beth-zur, just off the central ridge. It is possibly the Beth-gader of 1 Chronicles 2.51. Maarath and Eltekon are unknown. Beth-anoth means ‘house of Anath’, probably having a shrine to the goddess Anath. A number of places would be so named (see 19.38; Judges 1.33). It is modern Beit ‘Anun, six kilometres (three miles or so) north north east of Hebron. ‘Six cities with their villages’.
Note Re a Possible Twelfth Group.
Up to this point we have had eight specific groups or districts mentioned, together with Ekron and her towns and villages, specifically distinguished from Ashdod, and Ashdod/Gaza with their towns and villages, both larger conurbations than elsewhere described. It may well be that these were intended to represent two districts. Note that there is no final statement conjoining them as with the other districts. With the two groups yet to come that would make up twelve groups or districts. As twelve appears to have been an important number in tribal confederacy this would appear a reasonable supposition. It was an act of faith, for not all the territory was even partially possessed. But such large views are held by men at times when faith is strong.
However at this point in the text LXX has a further group included in the text which reads generally as follows. ‘Tekoa, and Ephrath, the same is Beth-lehem, and Peor, and Etam, and Kolon, and Tatam, and Sores, and Kerem, and Gallim, and Bether, and Manahath. Eleven cities and their villages.’ This may have been a later addition in order to introduce Bethlehem-judah which was of later significance (Judges 17.7; 19.1). Otherwise the non-mention of the Bethlehem district is strange, although it may be that the mentioning of Jerusalem was originally seen as covering this section (verse 63). It may thus be that it was in the original text and dropped out accidentally in copying. The reference to Bethlehem as Ephrath (compare Genesis 35.19; 48.7) would support the age of the addition.
Tekoah was the home of the prophet Amos (Amos 1.1) and is now Tekua, ten kilometres (six miles) south of Bethlehem. It was from there that Joab later sought a wise woman to seek to reconcile David and Absalom (2 Samuel 14). The neighbouring land to the east was called ‘the wilderness of Tekoa’ (2 Chronicles 20.20). Ephrath was the ancient name of Bethlehem (Genesis 35.19; 48.7; 1 Chronicles 4.4) and often added (Micah 5.2) to distinguish it from Bethlehem in Zebulun (19.15). It was at one stage garrisoned by the Philistines (2 Samuel 23.14). Bethlehem was the birthplace of Boaz, David, and supremely Jesus. Some of the other cities have tentative identifications.
End of note.
15.60 ‘Kiriath-baal, the same is Kiriath-jearim, and Rabbah, two cities with their villages.’
Kiriath-baal (city of Baal) or Kiriath-jearim (city of the forests) was on the Judah-Benjamite border. It is first shown as belonging to Judah (15.60) and then to Benjamin (18.28). This is not unlikely. Many border cities would be jointly possessed because of the land on each side of the border. Its alternative name Kiriath-baal suggests that it was an old Canaanite high place. It is possibly to be identified with modern Kuriet el-‘Enab (Abu Ghosh). Beeroth means ‘wells’. This may be el-Bireh where there are several wells and ruins. It is eight kilometres (five miles) north east of Gibeon. Rabbah is possibly the Rubute of the Amarna letters, also mentioned in the inscriptions of Tuthmosis III. It lay in the region of Gezer. ‘Two cities with their villages.’ This district was on the Benjamite border.
15.61 ‘In the Wilderness, Betharabah, Middin, and Secacah, and Nibshan, and the City of Salt, and En-gedi. Six cities with their villages.’
The Wilderness of Judah was the barren rocky country, also called Jeshimon (‘devastation’ - 1 Samuel 23.19, 24). It lay between the Central Range and the western side of the Dead Sea. It was a violent and devastated area, barren and waterless, and exceedingly hot, not enjoying the more abundant rains of the western side of the Central Range. Existence in it was hard, only made possible by a few springs, the careful preservation of water in cisterns and a hardy nature. Yet in this area such hardy people eked out an existence.
Beth-arabah, (house of the Arabah), as its name suggests was connected with the Arabah (the Jordan Rift Valley) near the Dead Sea and was on the border of Judah and Benjamin. They appear to have shared a number of cities on their borders. Middin is possibly Khirbet Abu Tabaq, Secacah, possibly Khirbet es-Samrah, and Nibshan is possibly Khirbet el-Maqari. They would later become fortified sites in 9th century BC controlling irrigation work. But at this stage they were small and insignificant, with their villages. The City of Salt was south of them and a frontier post near the Dead Sea, probably to be identified with Khirbet Qumran. An iron age fortress would later be built there. En-gedi, (‘spring of the kid’), was an important oasis and fresh water spring west of the Dead Sea. David hid there at one stage (1 Samuel 23.29; 24.1 on), its rugged terrain and provision of necessities making it an ideal hiding place. It was famous for aromatic plants and perfumes (Song of Solomon 1.14). Later it was another fortress city. ‘Six cities with their villages.’ But a tough and hard existence.
15.63 ‘As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.’
The Jebusites were safe in their mountain fortress and Judah could not displace them. Yet we note that Judah at one stage did capture Jerusalem (Judges 1.8). This was probably because, with Benjamin, they captured one of its hills and its lower city but could not capture the hill of the citadel. Alternately it may be that they did at an early stage capture the citadel but had to move on, leaving it to be re-established by the Jebusites who had escaped (or been away on an expedition - compare David at Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30.1) and then returned. Later when Benjamin could have captured the citadel (note ‘did not’ not ‘could not’ - Judges 1.21) they allowed the Jebusites to remain rather than driving them out. Jerusalem was a mirror of Canaan, -- ‘could not’, then ‘partly did’, then ‘could have’, then ‘failed to fully obey God’ and finally ‘allowed the inhabitants to remain’.
Thus the triumphant passage ends with a note of caution. Not all was success, for Israel were not fully obedient to YHWH. As they settled down and relaxed so did their obedience. The maintaining of a high level of trust and obedience requires great vigilance and much prayer.
It is important to note that there is no suggestion that Joshua himself captured Jerusalem. He defeated her confederacy and slew her king (10.1-27), but he did not take the city. That he left for others who finally failed in obedience.
Chapter 16 The Lot For the Children of Joseph.
In this chapter the lot allocated to the children of Joseph, seen as one tribe and yet two, is described. It was the portion north of that of Benjamin and Dan. It was not necessary to deal with it in such detail because it was discernible from the boundaries of the other tribes. Their prospective possessions occupied the centre of Palestine, bounded on the north by the Plain of Esdraelon, and the territories of Asher and Issachar, and on the south by those of Dan (19.41-46) and Benjamin (18.11-28). No list of towns is given, possibly because of the stress on their need to clear the forest land (17.15-18). That was what they should have been concentrating on rather than towns. Furthermore their area included Shechem and its related towns which were probably to be left alone having joined the tribal confederacy. No suggestion was to be given that they had been possessed.
16.1 ‘And the lot for the children of Joseph went out from the Jordan at Jericho, at the waters of Jericho on the east, even the wilderness going up from Jericho through the hill country to Bethel.’
Once again the sacred lot was called on to determine the land allocated to Ephraim and Manasseh. Yet as the other large tribe, their activity in the Central Highlands was necessary. Thus did the sacred lot and what was necessary for success go hand in hand.
The border parallels that of Benjamin, but here was looking northward, commencing with ‘the Jordan of Jericho’, that part of the Jordan close to Jericho (compare Numbers 22.1). The ‘waters of Jericho on the east’ refers to some copious spring on the east of, and connected with, the wilderness going up from Jericho through the hill country to Bethel.
16.2 ‘And it went out from Bethel to Luz, and passed along to the border of the Archites to Ataroth.’
Here Bethel, the sacred place, is distinguished from the city Luz as in Genesis 28.19. Elsewhere the two are identified (8.13; Genesis 35.6; Judges 1.23). At this point Luz is not yet named Bethel, a further indication of the age of the sources, and the sacred place is identified separately by the name Bethel. As in 13.11 the borders of a people are called into play to define the boundary, ‘the border of the Archites’. The Archites were presumably a Canaanite ‘family group’, mentioned again in connection with Hushai the Archite, David’s friend (2 Samuel 15.32-37). ‘To Ataroth.’ There is no preposition in the Hebrew but it must be assumed. It is possibly the same as Ataroth-addar (verse 5, see also 18.13).
16.3 ‘And it went down westward to the border of the Japhletites, to the border of Beth-horon the Lower, even to Gezer. And its goings out were at the sea.’
The Japhletites were another Canaanite family group prominent enough for their border to act as a border marker. The border then went on to lower Beth-horon (see 10.10-11), and then to Gezer, which is fifteen kilometres (nine miles) further west, and on to the Great Sea where the border inevitably changed course (‘its goings out’ - see on 15.7).
16.4 ‘And the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.’
Having outlined the southern border of their inheritance we are told that the combined tribe ‘took their inheritance’. We are probably to understand by this their acceptance of their lot. First Judah received their lot, and now Joseph. Progress in dividing the land is now being made. Note that it is a joint inheritance which will now be expanded in detail. Manasseh is unusually named first, here specifically as the firstborn (17.1; Genesis 48.1, 13-14), stressing the inheritance aspect. But the thought may include that they began to take possession of what they could.
16.5-7 ‘And the border of the children of Ephraim according to their families was thus; even the border of their inheritance, eastward was Attaroth-addar to Upper Beth-horon, and the border went out to the sea. Michmethath on the north, and the border turned about eastward to Taanath-shiloh, and passed along it on the east of Janoah. And it went down from Janoah to Ataroth, and to Naarah, and reached to Jericho, and went out at Jordan.’
This first summarises briefly the southern border as previously depicted, Ataroth to Beth-horon (this time Upper Beth-horon) to the sea. The slight change may indicate a different surveyor. Then the northern border is given. Michmethath indicates the northern border. Michmethath is ‘before Shechem’ (17.7) and therefore east of Shechem. Khirbet Makhneh el-Foqa has been tentatively suggested as the site. Then eastward and southward to Taanath-shiloh (Khirbet Ta‘na el-Foqa), Janoa (Khirbet el-Yanum), Ataroth, Naarah (Tell el-Jisr beside ‘Ain Duq), Jericho and Jordan. ‘Went down -- to Ataroth’ suggests a town near or in the Jordan valley and therefore a different one from that in verses 2 & 5.
‘Went out at Jordan.’ Once Jordan was reached it was the eastern border.
16.8-9 ‘From Tappuah the border went along westward to the brook of Kanah, and its goings out were at the sea. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Ephraim according to their families, together with the cities which were separated for the children of Ephraim in the midst of the inheritance of the children of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.’
The line from Michmethath to Tappuah is not mentioned but assumed (compare 17.7-9). The author had many surveyor’s records and reports to select from, many probably made on Joshua’s campaigns, and he did so to present a certain picture without too much repetition. Tappuah (meaning ‘quince’) is possibly modern Sheikh Abu Zarad, about twelve kilometres (eight miles) south of Shechem. Its Canaanite king was defeated by Joshua (12.17) but nothing is said about the actual town. The Wadi Qanah ran west from the watershed at the head of the Michmethath valley, eight kilometres (five miles) south west of Shechem. This was its lower course which ran on to the Great Sea.
‘This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Ephraim according to their families.’ These are the technical descriptions that finish off the allotment to each of the twelve tribes apart from Levi, whose inheritance was YHWH, and Manasseh who were counted with Ephraim, indicating the early date of the descriptions (see on 15.20). Note that Ephraim and Manasseh were conjoined in that Ephraim had cities within Manasseh indicating joint rule.
‘Together with the cities which were separated for the children of Ephraim in the midst of the inheritance of the children of Manasseh.’ We are not told why this was so. Possibly it occurred through Ephraimite assistance to Manasseh at an early point, but it confirms the oneness between them and suggests combined rule to some extent.
16.10 ‘And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer, but the Canaanites dwelt in the midst of Ephraim to this day and became servants to do taskwork.’
Compare 13.13; 15.63, (although in the latter case Judah ‘could not’ drive them out). The suggestion here is that at some stage Gezer was subdued, but that instead of driving them out they made them bondmen, and this was the situation at the time that this was written. This was in direct disobedience to the command of YHWH. This final phrase may, however, refer to a much later time, but the roots of sin began very early. They allowed the Canaanites to dwell among them. Thus the Israelites began to sample Canaanite life, and especially their sexually depraved religion. The Book of Judges will outline what an effect this later had on their faith and obedience.
Gezer was an important city on the road from Jerusalem to Joppa and on the most northern ridge of the Shephelah, overlooking the Aijalon valley, twelve kilometres from the main highway between Egypt and Mesopotamia. It was important for trading purposes. In fact, although the king of Gezer, and its army, were defeated by Joshua, Gezer was not taken. The ageing Pharaoh Merenptah claims to have recaptured it in late 13th century BC, but if so it was only temporary. Archaeology suggests that after 1200 BC the Philistines controlled the city, possibly with Egyptian approval. It definitely became an Israelite possession when the Pharaoh, having seized it, slew the Canaanites and gave it to his daughter on her marriage to Solomon (1 Kings 9.15-17). All this agrees with the fact that Ephraim did not ‘drive them out, allowing them to dwell in their midst’. Possibly like Jebusite Jerusalem for Judah (15.63) it was at most times too strong for them. But there would also be other times when if they had exerted themselves they could have achieved it and driven them out. But the impetus was gone and obedience was lacking. They accepted the situation as it was. Once again Israel failed.
This is also a warning to us that we must not settle down in complacency but that by studying the Law of God we should always keep on the alert to do God’s will and to drive out all that offends Him.
Chapter 17 The Allotment to Manasseh - Joseph’s Complaint.
In this chapter Manasseh’s allotment is described, as part of the allotment to the tribe of Joseph. Ephraim and Manasseh then complain that there is not sufficient room for them and are told to use their initiative and cut down the forests so that they have virgin land on which to live.
17.1 ‘And this was the lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. As for Machir, the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, because he was a man of war therefore he had Gilead and Bashan.’
It was possibly because of its relationship with Ephraim that Manasseh was such a mixture of a tribe. It was not centrally unified and the section who remained in Transjordan were clearly a militant lot, useful to have as guarding the northern borders from the Aramaeans and wandering desert tribes, but more brotherly at a distance. Although the tribe of the firstborn of Joseph, Manasseh were from the beginning secondary to Ephraim (Genesis 48.10-22). At this time it was a separate tribe and yet not a separate tribe.
‘Because he was a man of war.’ This may suggest that in Egypt Machir had been a military commander and had influenced his family in that direction so that certain sections of them had become military specialists. or it may just suggest that they had inherited his fierceness. ‘Father of Gilead’ may here, in contrast to verse 3, be referring to that portion of Manasseh seen as ‘Gilead’ because of their residence in Transjordan. But there may be a play on the names.
17.2 ‘And this lot was for the remainder of the children of Manasseh according to their families; for the children of Abiezer, and for the children of Helek, and for the children of Asriel, and for the children of Shechem, and for the children of Hepher, and for the children of Shemida. These were the male children of Manasseh, the son of Joseph, according to their families.’
These were in fact depicted as Manasseh’s great-grandchildren in Numbers 26.9-32, and as children of Gilead (see verse 3 below). Family terminology was applied loosely. ‘Son of’ can simply mean ‘descendant of’ or ‘tribally connected with’. A man ‘bore’ tribes as well as children (Compare Genesis 10.15-18). They then all became his ‘children’. Thus these were tribes connected with the name of Manasseh and connected with his descendants. There is an interesting midway between direct family inheritance and tribal inheritance reminiscent of early days.
It may be that Manasseh had a direct descendant named Shechem, or this may indicate Manasseh as taking Shechem under their umbrella and incorporating them into their tribe at a date prior to the conquest, through messengers sent to make early contact with their brother tribe who were not seen as Canaanites. Either is feasible. There was also a town in Canaan called Hepher whose king was slain by Joshua (12.17). But duplication of names was quite common without it necessarily having any significance.
17.3 ‘But Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but daughters. And these are the names of his daughters, Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.’
We note first that in verse 2 it is made clear that Hepher was not necessarily the direct descendant of Machir, and the connection may be tribal, although it is always possible for there to be two or more bearing the same name. This inheritance of daughters where men had no sons was confirmed by YHWH to Moses at an earlier time when these forthright daughters of Zelophehad had approached Moses about their position (Numbers 27.1-11). But in this case they were required to marry within the tribe so that their inheritance would not pass outside the tribe (Numbers 36). To inherit directly brought tribal responsibility. The names of the daughters are represented elsewhere, but if actual women, princesses of the sub-tribe, had not been directly involved there would have been no reason for inventing an artificial situation. See for Mahlah a family of Manasseh (1 Chronicles 7.18), for Hoglah compare Beth-hoglah (15.6), for Tirzah see 12.24. This merely demonstrates a similar environment with similar names in use.
The whole situation is interesting in bringing out the fact that the subject of dividing the land did not just begin here. It had been under serious consideration for a considerable period of time. Preparatory land surveys had probably already taken place under Moses, and information recorded ready for when the time came.
17.4 ‘And they came near before Eleazar the priest, and before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the princes, saying, “YHWH commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers”, therefore according to the commandment of YHWH he gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father.’
As they had previously brought their case to Moses and Eleazar the priest of the tribal confederacy, now they brought it to Joshua and Eleazar, and the tribal princes. The dividing of the land satisfactorily was a huge task. It was clearly carried out with great care and much consideration had been given to it. The casting of lots was not in order to make life easy but in order to gain the mind of YHWH about the distribution and to rule out charges of favouritism. Here the daughters were ensuring the portion of their own family.
17.5-6 ‘And there fell ten portions (literally ‘lines’ - portions set off by lines) to Manasseh, beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is Beyond Jordan, because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons, and the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh.’
The portions would not be equal portions but probably divided according to the land involved and the numbers of members or families in each sub-tribe. Thus the portion for the daughters would be that which would have been allocated to Hepher, divided between them, taking those factors into account. So Manasseh received portions in both Beyond Jordan East and Beyond Jordan West.
17.7-9a ‘And the border of Manasseh was from Asher to Michmethath which is before Shechem, and the border went along to the right hand, to the inhabitants of Entappuah. The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the children of Ephraim. And the border descended to the river Kanah, southward of the river. These cities belonged to Ephraim among the cities of Manasseh.’
This is a very brief summary of the border relying on familiarity. ‘Asher’ may have been in some way connected with the southern border of Asher later described (at the north west corner of Manasseh) or more probably relates to a town of that name, whereabouts now unknown, possibly north of Michmethath. Michmethath was east of (‘before’) Shechem.
‘And the border went along to the right hand, to the inhabitants of Entappuah.’ This means southward, to the right hand of someone facing the Jordan. Tappuah, a border town, seemingly belonged to Ephraim (16.8-9) but some of the peoples of the area were in Manasseh. It was possibly Sheikh Abu Zarad, about twelve kilometres south of Shechem.
To reach Tappuah the border descended to the south side of the Wadi Qana. ‘These cities’ are presumably those already mentioned, the border cities Michmethath and Tappuah, and possibly Asher, which while seen as on territory belonging to Manasseh, themselves belonged to Ephraim. 17.9a should be seen as connected with verse 8.
17.9b-10 And the border of Manasseh was on the north side of the river, and its goings out were at the sea. Southwards it was Ephraim's, and northwards it was Manasseh's, and the sea his border, and they reached to Asher on the north, and to Issachar on the east.’
‘On the north side of the river.’ The Wadi Qanah ran west from the watershed at the head of the Michmethath valley, eight kilometres (five miles) south west of Shechem. Its lower course ran on to the Great Sea. It was the border between Ephraim and Manasseh, with Manasseh to the north and Ephraim to the south, until it reached the Great Sea. The Great Sea was its western border.
‘And they reached to Asher on the north, and to Issachar on the east.’ ‘They’ means the children of Manasseh. This vague definition connecting them with Asher to the north west and Issachar to the east of Asher may have been deliberately vague because at this time the borders were not exactly fixed.
17.11 ‘And Manasseh had to Issachar, and to Asher, Beth-shean and her towns (daughters), and Ibleam and her towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, and the inhabitants of En-dor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even the three heights.’
This probably signifies that these cities with their surrounding towns, making up regions, were on the border, and were seen as belonging to Manasseh while the connecting lands belonged to Issachar and Asher, with the borders not too clear. They were in territory which was dangerous to enter in order to survey it accurately because it contained a chain of fortified cities. Of these Megiddo was the largest city in Canaan with around 60,000 inhabitants, and along with other similar large cities in the area (e.g. Taanach) would be suspicious of strangers who were in any way connected with the invaders from the east who had taken over the hill country. Dor and her towns formed a region which must have reached to Carmel (19.26).
Beth-shean and her towns were situated at the important junction of the Valley of Jezreel with the Jordan Valley. It is at Tell el-Husn. Two 14th century BC royal stelae of Sethos I were found there, one recording that he had a clash with the ‘pr.w (Hapiru). Thus at this time it had come back into Egyptian control. The 13th century BC level contained a temple in which a stela was found depicting a goddess with a two-horned headdress. A similar temple and a statue of Raamses III were found in the 12th century level together with anthropoid clay coffins reminiscent of the Philistines. It would seem that it was controlled by the Philistines as vassals of Egypt.
‘Ibleam and her towns.’ Ibleam is now Khirbet Bil‘ameh, about sixteen kilometres south east of Meggido on the road from Beth-shean (2 Kings 9.27). It occurs in Egyptian lists as Ybr‘m.
‘And the inhabitants of Dor and her towns.’ Dor was the important seaport on the Mediterranean coast south of Carmel mentioned by Raamses II and later conquered by the Sea Peoples (the Tjeker, with whom the Philistines were connected)). Its towns seemingly stretched up to Carmel.
‘And the inhabitants of En-dor and her towns.’ This was modern ‘En-dur, six kilometres south of Mount Tabor. It lay outside the chain of fortified towns from Beth-shean to Dor described here which prevented Manasseh’s advance on the plains.
‘And the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns.’ This was one of the major cities of Canaan, situated at one side of the Plain of Esdraelon, having a large population in the tens of thousands. It was an important city on the main trade route through Canaan. Excavations in Taanach produced fourteen tablets written in Akkadian cuneiform demonstrating that the language was used even between local officials. In the debris of a late bronze age destruction a tablet was found in the Canaanite cuneiform alphabet. Taanach is mentioned by Thothmes III, by Shishak, and in the Amarna letters because it raided Megiddo which was loyal to Egypt.
‘And the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even the three heights.’ This was the second of the two major cities of Canaan which were situated on either side of the Plain of Esdraelon, again having a large population in the tens of thousands. Megiddo was the largest of the two, controlling the pass that led onto the Plain. It also was an important city on the main trade route through Canaan, and for this reason was a main target for Egypt when Egypt was strong. It also had connections with Mesopotamia, and a fragment of the Babylonian epic of Gilgamesh was found on the site.
Megiddo was destroyed in about 1150 BC, well after the time of Joshua and before the time of Deborah. This may conceivably have been the work of Israel, but it could in fact have had any number of causes. Israel were not the only predators. The small settlement then built on the site may well have been an Israelite village. But Megiddo was shortly to be rebuilt by Egypt.
‘Even the three heights.’ It will be noted that the line from Beth-shean to Dor is covered by the first three towns mentioned, and then the further three were added on in no particular order. This may be because the latter were known as ‘the three heights’ and therefore thought of together. This chain of fortified towns (excluding En-dor, slightly further to the north) protected the valley through which the trade routes passed. ‘With their towns’ demonstrates how towns proliferated in the plains making it difficult for Israel to make inroads there.
17.12 ‘Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities, but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. And it was so that when the children of Israel were grown strong they put the Canaanites to taskwork and did not utterly drive them out.’
This summary, like those in 15.63; 16.10, summarises the failure of Israel. At first they could not drive out the Canaanites. That was excusable. The Canaanite cities were too strong and the Canaanites insisted on staying in the land (‘would stay in the land’). But then in each case, as Manasseh grew stronger and the cities were affected by outside interference (they were in the main route between the north and Egypt), the opportunity did arise to deal with them once and for all but Manasseh failed to take advantage of it. Thus when they did for a while obtain control over the cities they took advantage of the fact to make gains for themselves, making the Canaanites work for them rather than driving them out. The covenant with God was ignored. Their failure to drive out the Canaanites would result in compromise and breach of the covenant through fraternising with the debased Canaanite religion. Compromise and greed are similarly two ever present enemies for the Christian.
17.14 ‘And the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people forasmuch as Yahweh has blessed me up to now?” ’
When the children of Joseph considered the portion that had been allotted to them they were aggrieved. They did not consider their portion large enough once it was taken into account that much of it was covered by forest and that other parts were controlled by people with chariots with iron accoutrements. They were pessimistic and unbelieving. They failed to see what God and hard work could do. We find later that Ephraim continually had this belligerent attitude in view of what they saw as the importance of their tribe (e.g. Judges 8.1; 12.1). They were a prickly people.
Their show of piety, ‘YHWH has blessed me’, hid an ungrateful heart. Their lot had been allocated by YHWH and it was therefore Him Whom they were blaming. They had no doubt sent out scouts to check up on what they were receiving, and their reports had seemingly made them dissatisfied. They had, of course at this stage no real knowledge of what others were receiving, apart possibly from some inkling of what Judah had received. They were simply angry at the size of the task given them and the sparsity of occupiable land in their large allotted area. (They were in fact favourably treated).
Their anger was also very much caused by considering what they saw as unfair treatment (regardless of the facts about their allotment). They saw themselves as the equivalent of two tribes and yet only given ‘one lot and one portion’. This again stresses that this was written at a time when their separation as two tribes was still emerging. It had been officially and explicitly commenced by Moses (Numbers 1.10; 1.32-34) based on the realities of the situation and the need to maintain ‘twelveness’ once Levi were separated off to Yahweh. And the size of their lot had taken it fully into account. (Indeed ‘one lot and one portion’ may have been an admission that they had received extra with the further portion in Transjordan).
This kind of incident serves to demonstrate the accuracy and reliability of the narrative. No one would later invent Ephraim’s dissatisfaction expressed thus, or Manasseh’s, and it arose precisely because they were in association with Joshua and with the other tribes, entering the land at the same time. And it would have been pointless had they not believed that Joshua could do something about it.
This incident reminds us of the difficult task Joshua was facing. He had twelve groups all looking suspiciously at what they were receiving and what others were receiving. Each probably thought their task the hardest, and many in the tribes would be begrudging what had been given to others. They had arrived expecting to find a land flowing with milk and honey and had instead found one full of forests and mountains and flowing with chariots.
To have openly given Ephraim and Manasseh two allotments would have caused great ill-feeling There was still too much of a sense among others that they were still one tribe of the twelve. Yet the use of the lot and the extra land in Transjordan had made it possible for them to receive a portion commensurate with their size, and within their allotment each had received separate allotments (we should note that Joshua was also involved in the divisions within the tribes (17.4-5)). But inevitably in such a situation no one was really happy. They were all jealous of each other. And this was the situation Joshua had to deal with.
So when he replied he had to do so in such a way as to pacify Ephraim and Manasseh and at the same time not arouse resentment among the other tribes, especially as he himself was of the tribe of Ephraim (Numbers 13.8). Joshua revealed his quality and statesmanship by the nature of his reply. He wanted positively to encourage them into activity and he must not let the other tribes think that the tribe of Joseph were being favoured. And yet he must also not let the tribe of Joseph feel that they were being treated unfairly. It required great tact.
17.15 ‘And Joshua said to them, “If you are a great people, get yourselves up to the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” ’
If Joshua had emphasised the size of their territory and their extra portion in Transjordan he would have engendered perpetual jealousy among the other tribes. But wisely he desisted. Instead he took up their own claim to be a great people. As they were a great people let them clear land in ‘the forest’ where they only had to deal with village dwellers (Perizzites) and ‘ghosts’ (the Rephaim were mysterious and shadowy forest dwellers), thus making more land for themselves, land which had possibly not been included when determining the divisions.
The Perizzites were village dwellers. The Rephaim were a very tall people who engendered awe because of their height, but were in fact not on the whole very good fighters (Genesis 14.5; Deuteronomy 2.11; 2.19-21). They had been driven out by the Moabites and Ammonites and possibly haunted the forests, flitting with their long thin forms between the trees. Indeed it may be that the later use of the word of spirits and ghosts (Psalm 88.10-11; Proverbs 2.18; 9.18; 21.16; Job 26.5; Isaiah 14.9; 26.14, 19) was in Joshua’s mind, thus signifying a contemptuous ‘village dwellers and ghosts’. In Phoenician tomb inscriptions rp’m was used in the sense of ghosts.
‘The forest’ was possibly a word that covered large swathes of forests just as ‘the mountain’ meant the whole of the hill country. What he was pointing out was that there was much forest land on mountains that could be cleared. It might also refer to the wooded highlands on the east of Jordan next to Manasseh’s territory there. That would certainly be something they had to climb to (from the Jordan valley). This would then be a discreet reminder of what they had been given in Gilead and Bashan. Verse 18 refers the forest to ‘hill country’. Both sides of the Jordan may in fact be in mind.
17.16 ‘And the children of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are in Beth-shean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.” ’
The reply came back from the elders of the tribe of Joseph that even when forest land was cleared the hill country would be insufficient, and the valleys would be out of the question because of the strength of the Canaanite armaments. Like many they wanted ease and comfort without effort or the exercise of faith. But they had summed up their problems accurately. Their eyes were on the strong fortress of Bethshean with its related towns and other Canaanite enclaves in the valley of Jezreel, the deep broad valley of Nahr Jalud which descends eastward from Jezreel. And they were timid and afraid.
‘The children of Joseph.’ See 14.4; 16.1, 4; 17.14. Sometimes also described as ‘the house of Joseph’ (14.17; 18.5; Judges 1.22). There seems little difference between the expressions although the latter appears to be used to stress the combination of two tribes as one under a joint patriarch as his ‘household’.
17.17-18 ‘And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, “You are a great people, and have great power, you shall not have one lot only, but the hill country will be yours, for though it is a forest you will cut it down and its goings out will be yours, for you will drive out the Canaanites although they have iron chariots, and although they are strong.’
Joshua then made a prophetic declaration. He first gave them a feeling of their great power and importance. Let them cease their fear and as a large people look to YHWH Whose power they could enjoy. Then he forecast that they could indeed cut down a forest to make way for themselves among the mountains and that eventually they would defeat the Canaanites with their iron chariots. Certainly later Megiddo and Taanach did become available to their control.
‘You shall not have one lot only.’ This did not meant that they would receive a second lot but that they could make for themselves a second lot by utilising what had been seen as unusable land.
‘Its goings out shall be yours.’ They would not be confined to the hill country but through victories over the Canaanites would be able to go out into the plains. They were thus to have faith in YHWH and go forward.
‘Even to Ephraim and to Manasseh.’ Note the change of order from 16.4. What followed 16.4 had in fact put Ephraim first. As with the blessing of Jacob the position of the sons was transposed. This would later be the established order.
So all these words were included in the narrative as an encouragement for God’s people to take the initiative and make opportunities where they do not seem to exist, and not to sit around moaning. They were to go forward in faith. Then all would open up to them, even what seemed unachievable.
It is a reminder to us that lack of opportunity often arises from our unwillingness to look around and see what is available. We want to have it easily, without effort. Thus we miss the opportunities that are there.
Chapter 18 The Further Seven Allotments - The Allotment to Benjamin.
In this chapter is described the gathering at Shiloh where the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle) was set up, for the allotting by lot of the allotments to the remaining seven tribes. Men were to be sent out to divide up the remainder of the land, which up to this time had been treated as one mainly unsurveyed section. It was to be divided up into seven portions, and this was accomplished. Movement through the country was easily possible, for travelling traders, and strangers passing through were a regular feature of life in Canaan. Then they returned and the remaining land was divided by lot. The lot of Benjamin is then described.
18.1 ‘And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled themselves together at Shiloh, and set up the Tent of Meeting there. And the land was subdued before them.’
The movement of the Tabernacle from Gilgal to Shiloh was an historic move. It was an indication that Israel were firmly settled in the land. It did not take place until after the victories of Joshua, even though Shechem, to the north of Shiloh, was early within the covenant (see on 8.30-35). It was first necessary that the hill country should come into their safe possession. Then the people gathered at Shiloh, probably to celebrate one of the great feasts. No movement had as yet been made to settle the remaining seven tribes and this moving of the Tabernacle to Shiloh was probably partly Joshua’s method of hastening the process.
‘The whole congregation of the children of Israel.’ See 22.12. The phrase is found regularly in the Law of Moses, eight times in Exodus, twice in Leviticus, nine times in Numbers. It comprehensively sums up the whole people as gathered together in the covenant.
‘Assembled themselves together at Shiloh, and set up the Tent of Meeting there.’ From now on Shiloh (modern Seilun) would be the place where the Tabernacle remained permanently until Shiloh was probably destroyed by the Philistines in the days of Eli, when Samuel was a young prophet. Archaeologically speaking a destruction of Shiloh took place around 1050 BC. Shiloh, and its fate, was ever remembered as the site of the Tabernacle which finally came under the judgment of God because of Israel’s failure and sin (Psalm 78.60; Jeremiah 7.12, 14; 26.6, 9). But that was yet in the future.
The tabernacle was variously stationed at Gilgal (5.10; 10.15, 43), Shiloh (18:1, 9-10), possibly temporarily at Bethel (Judges 20.18-28; 21.1-4 - although only the Ark is mentioned and that sometimes left the Tabernacle at time of war), Shiloh (Judges 18.31; 21.19 by implication; 1 Samuel 1.3- 4.4), possibly at Mizpah (1 Samuel 7.5, 9-10) and Gilgal (1 Samuel 10.8; 11.14; 13.8-10), Nob (1 Samuel 21:1-9), and finally at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 16.39-40; 21.29; 1 Kings 3.4; 2 Chronicles 1.3), There are hints that at Shiloh various permanent elements were added to the site of the Tabernacle but this is not certain (1 Samuel 1.9; 3.15). Such language could be used elsewhere of tents, and ‘the house of YHWH’ could equally refer to the Tabernacle. Thus it may well have been seen as a ‘temple’ after being there for so long.
‘And the land was subdued before them.’ The reference here is probably twofold, referring firstly to the widespread victories of Joshua which had crushed resistance temporarily throughout Canaan, and then to the further victories by which Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh had taken possession of the hill country and had established themselves there, together with certain parts of the lowlands, the Shephelah, and the Negeb.
18.2 ‘And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet divided their inheritances.’
At this stage Judah, Ephraim, Manasseh, Gad and Reuben had received their inheritances in principle, the first three by the casting of lots. How the process was carried through we do not know. Judah’s choice by lot was to some extent restricted by the fact that one of their princes, Caleb, was to have the regions around Hebron. Thus they would need to be in that area. The general direction of Joseph’s portion (Manasseh and Ephraim) was probably determined by recognising the need for the hill country to be occupied quickly and lots being cast for which tribe(s) should occupy the area, the lot falling to Joseph. Further allocations to Ephraim and Manasseh then being made to take into account their size. Now the remainder of the land had to be divided up.
‘Seven tribes.’ While this was mathematically the result of deducting five from twelve it would almost certainly be seen as significant. This was the number of divine perfection. It represented the whole of Israel who were not yet settled seen from the divine point of view.
‘Divided their inheritance.’ The inheritance was there to be allotted but it had not yet been divided up. The need to allocate, and settle, the hill country before this was done demonstrates that in Joshua we have no theoretical division. The procedure went forward carefully as circumstances permitted. It was not just a glib theoretical process of ‘taking over’.
18.3 ‘And Joshua said to the children of Israel, “How long are you dallying from going in to possess the land, which YHWH the God of your fathers has given you?” ’
Joshua now challenged the remainder of the tribes on the need to advance into the unknown. Eleazar was ‘the priest’ who acted with regard to the casting of lots but Joshua was still the recognised leader and Servant of YHWH. The whole book is consistent in presenting this picture. Notice the words which link specifically with the covenant with Abraham, ‘YHWH, the God of your fathers’. What lay before them was because of the God Who was the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, and because of the promises that He had made to them that He would give their descendants the land. Thus they should not have been hanging around and delaying. They should have been eager for action.
Clearly in fact the first enthusiasm had worn off and as they foresaw the difficulties ahead, which had already become apparent with the efforts of Judah and Joseph to take their inheritances, they were hesitating to go forward. They were prepared to settle back and enjoy what they had, scraping out an existence in the hills and in the Jordan Rift Valley.
To some extent we can sympathise. They had entered the promised land, and all had seemed to be swept before them. They had probably begun to think that now all they had to do was move in easily and take over. And then had come the unexpected opposition. Though ‘defeated’, the opponents would not lie down. There were still battles to fight, opponents to defeat, cities to be subdued, hard work to be done. And they had lost heart. Later these people would be praised as being faithful to YHWH (Judges 2.10). But they were not models of perfection.
It is similar in the Christian life. Often the first enthusiasm begins to wane because of temptation and spiritual battle, because life can suddenly becomes hard, and because the expected blessings are preceded by soul testing. But we too must heed the words of Joshua and arise and possess the land.
18.4-6 “Appoint for yourselves three men for each tribe, and I will send them and they will arise and walk through the land and describe it according to their inheritance, and they shall come to me, and they will divide it into seven portions. Judah shall abide in his border on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their border on the north, and you shall describe the land into seven portions and bring it here to me, and I will cast lots for you here before YHWH your God.”
‘Three men’ might mean literally three, or it may mean ‘a few’ as so often with ‘three’. But the onus was thrown on the tribes for selection. As a wise leader Joshua wanted them involved in all the decisions so that then they would feel that they were theirs and would be more enthusiastic. But it was Joshua who would send them. Their final instructions and guidance would come from him. He did not want them to make mistakes and make the future more difficult by carelessness.
‘And they will arise and walk through the land.’ This would pose no difficulties for a few sensible travellers. They could take on various guises and routes were already well travelled by strangers and traders of all kinds passing through the land. Not that there would not be dangers. There were always dangers when travelling, especially as they might be connected with the invaders. That was why they needed careful instruction and guidance from an expert.
‘And describe it (write it down) according to their inheritance.’ Writing was a familiar art to any educated Israelite (Judges 8.14). Careful records had to be made by these surveyors so as to divide up the remaining land of their inheritance accurately and in accordance with the situations in each. They were to divide it up into seven sections, which would then be allocated by lot in the sight and presence of God at the Tabernacle.
‘I will cast lots for you.’ For the princes as representing the people.
18.7 “For the Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of YHWH is their inheritance, and Gad and Reuben and the half tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance Beyond Jordan Eastward, which Moses the Servant of Yahweh gave them.”
The explanation is given as to why there were only seven portions required. It was because Levi had a special inheritance. Their inheritance was the priesthood and serving the Tabernacle. Their portion was YHWH (14.33). This has been constantly stressed. To partake in the service of God is the greatest possession a man can have, and in order to enjoy it he should put aside all earthly possessions and have his whole heart fixed on God and His service. It should be noted that the Levites were only provided with the minimum required to enable them to survive.
The other factor involved was that an inheritance had been given to Reuben, Gad and half Manasseh in Transjordan.
18.8 ‘And the men arose and went, and Joshua charged those who went to describe the land, saying, “Go and walk through the land and describe it in writing, and come again to me, and I will cast lots for you here before YHWH in Shiloh.” ’
So Joshua gave his last instructions to the men in accordance with what he had told the princes (verse 4). The repetition enabled the listener to remind himself of what had been said and to be able to say it along with the narrator. It encouraged participation. The surveyors were to go through the land (whether together as a caravan, or separately in small groups is not said) and record in writing all the information needed for a fair division of the land. Then the information would be used to cast lots before YHWH at Shiloh, where they then were, in order to discover His will.
18.9 ‘And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven portions in a book, and they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh.’
Note that the camp of Israel has now moved from Gilgal to Shiloh along with the Tabernacle. (Gilgal is never again mentioned as the place of encampment. There is absolutely no genuine reason for denying this move, and they were not likely to leave the Tabernacle unattended at this stage). This is another indication that this area was now regarded as safe. And the presence of the whole army of Israel made it even safer. The accomplishment of the task of surveying the land is put in a sentence but it must have taken many a weary and dangerous month.
18.10 ‘And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before YHWH, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions.’
The survey having been completed lots were cast before YHWH and the land divided according to the divisions the surveyors had made. Again there was more to it than stated. No doubt their work would be checked and approved before the final actions were taken.
The Allotments to the Tribes (18.11-19.51).
We now have indicated how the lot divided the land among the seven remaining tribes.
1). The Lot of the Tribe of Benjamin (18.11-28).
18.11 ‘And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families, and the border of their lot went out between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph.’
In Psalm 68.27 Benjamin was called ‘little Benjamin’ but that was partly because they had been made so as a result of the war over Gibeah (Judges 19-21), although compared with Judah and Joseph they were little, and they received ‘according to their families’. Their lot was a strip of land in the passes between the hill countries of the two, with Dan to the west. It was good land but made them vulnerable to invasion.
‘The lot came up --.’ This would suggest that the lot was picked out of something such as an urn or a pocket or a plate or the high priest’s breastpouch, or suchlike
‘The tribe of the children of --.’ With the exception of 1 Chronicles 6.65 this phrase only occurs in Numbers 10.15-27; 34.14-29; 36.8 and in Joshua. The emphasis in the word for tribe is on the fact that this refers to the judicial overview of ‘the children of --’. They were under judges and princes, both in leading the people forward (Numbers 10.15-27), and in the reception of the lot of their inheritance (Numbers 34.14-29; 1 Chronicles 6.65). Numbers 36.8 does not quite use it in the same way and is not really a parallel. Thus in Numbers the phrase uniquely applied to the situation of being under princes. We cannot doubt that the thought is the same here and elsewhere in its use in Joshua.
18.12-13 ‘And their border on the north quarter was from Jordan, and the border went up to the side (shoulder, slope) of Jericho on the north, and went up through the hill country westward, and its goings out were at the wilderness of Beth-aven, and the border passed along from there to Luz, to the slope (shoulder) of Luz southward, the same is Bethel, and the border went down to Attaroth-addar, by the mountain that lies on the south of Lower Beth-horon.’
For this description compare the border of Ephraim (16.1-5). The slightly differing descriptions reveal the work of different surveyors using their own markers. The border starts from the Jordan and climbs the slope of Jericho (compare the ‘waters of Jericho’ which indicate a similar point - 16.1), probably the rising ground three miles to the north, then on north-westward via the wilderness of Beth-haven to Luz, then on to the southward slope of Luz, which was Bethel, and then via the mountain that lies to the south of Lower Beth-horon to Attaroth-addar. Note that Beth-aven, Luz and Bethel are distinguished, although at times each can be used for the other. They clearly each had a distinct significance while able to be used for the whole. Thus Luz/Bethel was a part of Benjamin while the slope of Luz (Bethel) was not.
18.14 ‘And the border was drawn and turned about on the west quarter southward, from the mountain that lies before Beth-horon southward, and its goings out were at Kiriath-baal, the same is Kiriath-jearim, a city of Judah. This was the west quarter.’
The northern border having been described, the west border is now given, from south of Beth-horon down to north of Kiriath-baal, thus excluding the latter.
18.15-16 ‘And the south quarter was from the furthest point of Kiriath-jearim, and the border went out westward and went out to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. And the border went down to the uttermost point (the base?) of the mountain which lies before the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is the vale of Rephaim northward, and it went down to the valley of Hinnom to the slope of the Jebusite southward, and went down to En-rogel.’
Here the southern border of Benjamin is given which corresponds with the northern border of Judah (15.6-9) but is traced in the opposite direction. Again evidence of different surveyors. We also note again that Kiriath-jearim is excluded. The border begins by going westward but then proceeds eastward to the waters of Nephtoah near Jerusalem (15.9), proceeds to the base of the mountain (compare 15.8) as described and then through the valley of Hinnom to the southern slope of the Jebusite and on to En-rogel, thus encompassing at least part of Jerusalem. En-rogel (‘well of the launderer’) was just outside Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17.17; 1 Kings 1.9) and is known today as Job’s Well
Jerusalem as a whole was divided between Benjamin and Judah. It was built on two mountains with a valley between, and with the Jebusite stronghold being on top of the southeast ridge with terraces constructed eastward. Houses would also be built outside the walls forming part of ‘Jerusalem’. It may well be these that Judah captured (Judges 1.8) although they may have caught the fortress unprepared and empty of troops away on an expedition. But they did not permanently occupy it and later could not drive the Jebusites out (15.63). Benjamin made no attempt to drive out the Jebusites in their part (Judges 1.21).
18.17-19 ‘And it was drawn on the north, and went out at Enshemesh, and went out to Geliloth, which is over against the Ascent of Adummim, and it went down to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. And it passed along to the side over against the Arabah northward, and went down to the Arabah. And the border passed along to the side of Beth-hoglah northwards, and the goings out of the border were at the north tongue of the Salt Sea at the south end of Jordan. This was the south border.’
See on 15.5b-7 where more detail is given, in the reverse direction. (Note that 15.7 calls Geliloth (‘regions’) ‘Gilgal’ (a cartwheel). It is not the Gilgal in the Jordan valley). The whole description is an interesting contrast between two surveyors. Some of the language was no doubt technical so that we are not able to follow it fully. Even LXX translators had difficulty with it.
18.20 ‘And Jordan was the border of it on the east quarter. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, by its borders round about, according to their families.’
The final quarter (border) was the Jordan, which made up the eastern border. Then follows a formula similar to the official formula found at the end of each portion (see 18.28b), here applied to the Benjamite boundaries for solemn confirmation.
18.21-24 ‘Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin, according to their families, were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and Emek-keziz, and Betharabah, and Zemaraim,and Bethel, and Avvim, and Parah, and Ophrah, and Chephar-ammoni, and Ophni, and Geba. Twelve cities with their villages.’
We have described here the first of two regions into which Benjamin was divided, east and west of the road between Jerusalem and Shechem. While Jericho was not rebuilt as a city the area around it was inhabited, and probably called Jericho. And its mound stood there as a reminder of its presence.
Beth-hoglah has been identified with the ruins of Kasr Hajleh, and is four kilometres (three miles) north of the present Dead Sea. Beth-arabah (‘house of the Arabah’) was in the barren, rocky country between the Central Range and the Dead Sea, sometimes called Jeshimon (waste, desert) mentioned in 1 Samuel 23.19, 24. In verse 18.61 it belongs to Judah. Here it is a Benjamite border town. As with many border towns it was probably shared between them, the boundary going through it. It would have lands at both sides. Each might see it as their own. Emek-keziz (‘the valley or plain of Keziz’ whose name is applied to the city) is unknown. Zemariam was probably situated near Mount Zemaraim in the hill country of Ephraim (2 Chronicles 13.4). Various sites have been suggested (e.g Khirbet al-Samra; Ras al-Zaimara and Ras al-Tahuna).
Bethel is slightly complicated in that it can later be represented by Luz (Judges 1.23), Beth-aven (Hosea 4.15; 5.8; 10.5) and the Bethel sanctuary (Genesis 28.19 - compare ‘the shoulder of Luz’? (Joshua 18.13)), although in Joshua Bethaven is distinguished from Bethel (7.2) . In Judges 1.22-25 Luz was captured from the Canaanites by Ephraim (we are never told of it being taken earlier). See also 1 Chronicles 7.28. Here some section of what was called Bethel was named as Benjamite.
‘And Avvim, and Parah.’ Avvim may be a variation of the name Ai (7.2 - both have the article). The name Parah may survive in Khirbet Farah, five kilometres (three miles) north east of Anathoth, near the junction of Wadi Farah with Wadi es-Suweinit. Ophrah (not that in Judges 6.11) is the one which was in the direction to which the Philistine spoilers came in 1 Samuel 13.17. Called Ephron in 2 Chronicles 13.19, it is modern et-Tayibeh, about eight kilometres (five miles) east of Bethel.
‘Chephar-ammoni, and Ophni, and Geba.’ Chephar-ammoni means ‘the village of the Ammonite’. Its site is unknown. Ophni is also unknown. Geba (meaning ‘a hill’) was eleven kilometres (seven miles) north of Jerusalem and five kilometres (three miles) from Gibeah (see verse 28; Judges 19.12) from which it is to be distinguished, and is the modern town of Jeba. It was assigned to the Levites and it was on the descent from here that Jonathan and his armourbearer made themselves known to the Philistines during their daring attack (1 Samuel 14.5). It was seen as the northernmost point of Josiah’s kingdom (2 Kings 23.8). ‘’Twelve cities with their villages.’ Forming the eastern region of Benjamin.
18.25-28a ‘Gibeon, and Ramah, and Beeroth, and Mizpeh, and Chephirah, and Mozah, and Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah, and Zelah, Eleph and the Jebusite (the same is Jerusalem), Gibeath, Kiriath. Fourteen cities with their villages.’
These were the cities of the western region of Benjamin. Gibeon is the city from where the Gibeonites came to deceive Israel, along with its companion cities, also mentioned here, Beeroth and Chephirah (9.17). It was a fairly important ‘city’ over a small confederation of smaller ‘cities’ (it was ‘as one of the royal cities’ - 10.2 and see 9.17) inhabited by the Hivites/Horites (verse 7 - compare Genesis 26.2 with 20) and ruled over by a council of elders (verse 11). It was what we now know as El-Jib, nine kilometres (five to six miles) north of Jerusalem. The handles of storage jars were found at the site, stamped with a royal seal or inscribed with the owners’ names and the name Gibeon. In the time of David the Tabernacle was set up there (1 Chronicles 16.39; 21.29 see also 1 Kings 3.4-5)
The site has not yet revealed traces of a late bronze age settlement but burials at the time do indicate that it was then occupied. Thus it was probably not then a large city or one with good defensive capability. It was described as ‘greater than Ai’ (10.2), but Ai were ‘but few’.
Ramah is probably er-Ram, eight kilometres (five miles) north of Jerusalem at a height of about 700 metres (2,300 feet). It was a resting place on the way north (Judges 19.13). From Ramah Samuel would judge Israel (1 Samuel 7.17). Part of it was pulled down by Asa in order to use the materials to fortify Geba and Mizpah (1 Kings 15.17, 21-22), and it was where Nebuzaradan later gathered the exiles after the fall of Jerusalem, releasing Jeremiah (Jeremiah 40.1). It featured in the messages of the prophets (Isaiah 10.29; Jeremiah 31.15; Hosea 5.8).
Beeroth, one of the Gibeonite confederacy, means ‘wells’. This may be el-Bireh where there are several wells and ruins. It is eight kilometres (five miles) north east of Gibeon.
Mizpeh was in the neighbourhood of Gibeon and Ramah (1 Kings 15.22). The word means ‘watchtower, place for watching’, which suggests that it was built on an elevated place. It was here that Israel gathered to revenge the rape and murder of the Levite’s concubine (Judges 20-21), and that Samuel gathered Israel for prayer after the Ark had been returned to Kiriath-jearim (1 Samuel 7.5-6). It was one of the three places visited regularly by Samuel as judge of Israel (1 Samuel 7.16). The site was probably Tell en-Nasbeh (note the similarity by assonance), an isolated hill about thirteen kilometres (eight miles) north of Jerusalem. An alternative would be Nebi Samwil, seven kilometres (four to five miles) north west of Jerusalem, 895 metres (2900 feet) above sea level and 150 metres (490 feet) above the surrounding country.
Chephirah was a Hivite fortress on a spur eight kilometres (five miles) west of Gibeon, now modern Khirbet Kefireh, dominating the Wadi Qatneh that leads down to Aijalon. Ezra 2.25; Nehemiah 7.29 link it with Kiriath-jearim. Mozah, and Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah are unknown.
Zelah was the burial place of Saul and his family (2 Samuel 21.14), Eleph is unknown, Jebusi (the Jebusites) was probably a short form of ‘the city of the Jebusites’, compare ‘the shoulder of the Jebusites’ (verse 16), and refers to Jerusalem. Gibeath is the town of Gibeah, Tell el-Ful, a bare, conical hill five kilometres (three miles) north of Jerusalem. This was where the great crime would be committed against the Levite’s concubine that almost resulted in the extermination of Benjamin (Judges 19). It was later the birthplace of Saul (1 Samuel 10.26) and served as his residence while he was king, containing a small fortress. Because it was away from running water it depended on preserving water in cisterns and at the time of Joshua only a small settlement was found there, developing in the iron age. An iron plough-tip was found from this latter period. Later occupation of the site was spasmodic.
Kiriath (‘city’) is probably Kiriath-jearim (‘city of forests’), a border city between Benjamin and Judah, partially claimed by each. It is possibly Kuriet el-‘Enab, fourteen kilometres west of Jerusalem in a once well wooded district on the Jaffa Road. ‘Fourteen cities with their villages.’ Making up the western region.
18.28b ‘This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.’
This is the formula, (sometimes with as an addition ‘the (these) cities with their villages’), that finalises the inheritance of each of the eleven tribes apart from Levi. It is not used of Manasseh.
Chapter 19 The Portions of the Remaining Six Tribes.
In this chapter an account is given of the lots of the six remaining tribes, and the cities in them. Thus we have the lots of Simeon, whose cities were chiefly within the tribe of Judah (19.1); of Zebulun, with its border and cities (19.10); of Issachar, with its border and cities (19.17); of Asher, with its border and cities (19.24); of Naphtali, with its border and cities (19.32); of Dan, with its border and cities (19.40); and lastly of a gift of inheritance to Joshua (19.49).
19.1 ‘And the second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the children of Simeon, according to their families, and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah.’
The first lot was of course the children of Benjamin’s (18.11). This is the second of the seven. The patriarchal name is given without qualification only for Simeon and Issachar. In the other cases only the tribal name ‘children of --’ is given. There is no obvious reason for this unless it is connected with the fact that neither is mentioned as directly spoken to in the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33 - Issachar is included with Zebulun). This might suggest that Joshua or the writer took full note of the blessing of Moses and wished to include Simeon and Issachar in it by codicil.
Why the blessing of Moses excluded a direct reference to them is debatable. It was very possibly because Moses wished deliberately to name only ten names. Numbers had a great significance in those days and ten would for example, parallel the ten words of the covenant. It would also parallel the ten patriarchs in Genesis 5 and 11. Thus he deliberately included Issachar with Zebulun. The total omission of Simeon may have been for some judicial reason (e.g. Numbers 25.14) as an indication of Moses’ displeasure, although he may have seen them as indirectly included with their twin Levi as in Genesis 49.5. But the exclusion was not permanent. They were elsewhere regularly mentioned with the twelve. And it may be that the situation is here seen as partly remedied by Joshua. (If Moses wished to omit two names, sons of Leah were obvious choices due to their preponderance. But the non-mention at all of Simeon must be seen as having some significance even though we may not know what it was).
After Judah had received their portion, with its cities, further consideration made Joshua recognise that Judah had been allocated too much. This is an indication of the genuineness of the narrative. He had to revise his allocations. Thus Simeon was chosen by lot to receive cities in the midst of Judah. This would later bring about a special relationship between the two tribes (Judges 1.3). But they remained separate tribes although working in close unison and Simeon is regularly mentioned as such in later history (1 Chronicles 4.42-43; 12.25; 2 Chronicles 15.9; 34.6).
19.2 ‘And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, that is Sheba, and Moladah, and Hazar-shual, and Balah, and Ezem, and Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah, and Ziklag, and Beth-marcaboth, and Hazar-susah, and Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen. Thirteen cities with their villages.’
The cities in which Simeon would have a part are now listed. It would seem that Beersheba, or a part of it, was regularly called Sheba (Genesis 26.33) and therefore both names were given. Possibly one name was used by Judah and the other by Simeon (in virtually the same listing in 1 Chronicles 4.28 Sheba is omitted, presumably for this reason). Beersheba was the place where Abraham made a covenant with the Philistine trading settlement and which he established as a sacred place. It means ‘well of the seven’ referring to the seven ewes which sealed the covenant (Genesis 21.32-33). It was later a favourite place of pilgrimage and thus continued in Israelite eyes as a sacred place (Amos 5.5; 8.14), and Sheba (see Genesis 26.33) may have been a section of it populated by Simeon so that ‘Beersheba and Sheba’ are one ‘city’.
Note in respect of these cities named here the similar list in 15.26-32 in the portion of Judah, where most are duplicated. They had been allocated to Judah but were now reallocated to Simeon. There was possibly joint oversight. Judah and Simeon were both sons of Leah, (as indeed were Issachar and Zebulun who also developed closely together). City names not similar are Bethul (although possibly the same as Chesil), Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah and Sharuhen (compare 1 Chronicles 4.30-31).
Beth-marcaboth (‘house of chariots’) is uncertain but its connection with Hormah and Ziklag suggests it was probably a strong-point on the Judaean-Philistine border. The name suggests that it might have been a Canaanite arsenal at this time. Hazar-susah (‘horse encampment’) was probably nearby. Sharuhen is possibly Tell el-Far‘a, twenty four kilometres (fifteen miles) south of Gaza or Tell el-Huweilfeh, half a kilometre (less than half a mile) north of Khirbet Rammamein. A ‘Srhn’ is referred to in Egyptian sources as a Hyksos fortress which resisted Ahmose for three years around 1550 BC. Some of these may be alternative names to those mentioned in 15.31-32.
19.7 ‘Ain, Rimmon and Ether and Ashan. Four cities with their villages.’
For the first two see 15.32 and 1 Chronicles 4.32. Ether and Ashan were in the Shephelah (15.42).
LXX here combines Ain and Rimmon as one city and includes a further city Tochen (1 Chronicles 4.32), but in 1 Chronicles 4.32 LXX keeps Ain and Rimmon as separate ‘cities’. This suggests that the Hebrew text is correct.
19.8 ‘And all the villages which were round about these cities to Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negeb. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families.’
An all inclusive statement is now given taking in any villages not seen as already included as far as Baalath-Beer, Ramah of the Negeb. For the latter see 1 Samuel 30.27. The sites have not been identified to date.
‘This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families.’ This is the official statement that followed each allocation. The fact that it is not applied to Manasseh demonstrates that it was applied at that time. Later writers would also have applied it to Manasseh.
19.9 ‘Out of the part of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon, for the portion of the children of Judah was too much for them. Therefore the children of Simeon had inheritance in the midst of their inheritance.’
Coming after verse 8 this is probably the writer’s explanation added to the official record. It confirms that because too much had been allocated to Judah, Simeon were allotted part of their portion. In view of the fact that all was given by lot under YHWH’s direction no one would later have dared suggest such an idea unless it had been so.
19.10-11 ‘And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families, and the border of their inheritance was to Sarid. And their border went up westward, even to Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and it reached to the river that is before Jokneam.’
The third lot fell for Zebulun. Their territory lay north of the Great Plain (Esdraelon). It included the hills around Nazareth and the fertile, marshy plain further north. The site of Sarid is unknown, although it has been postulated that it is Sadud and thus Tell Shadud. but the southern border went from there east and west. Westward it went to Maralah, Dabbasheth and the torrent-wadi ‘before (east of?) Jokneam’. For Maralah and Dabbesheth identifications with Tell Thorah and Tell esh-Shammam have been suggested. As Jokneam was in Zebulun (21.34) this may have been a wadi east of Jokneam which then ran round Jokneam. Jokneam was a Canaanite city mentioned in the list of Tuthmosis III of Egypt, and is possibly Tel Yoqneam, and the wadi possibly a tributary of the Kishon.
19.12-14 ‘And turned from Sarid eastward, toward the east to the border of Chisloth-tabor, and it went out to Daberath, and went up to Japhia. And from there it passed along eastward to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and it went out at Rimmon which stretches to (or ‘as it bends towards’) Neah. And the border turned about it on the north to Hannathon, and its goings out were at the valley of Iphtah-el.’
Description of the border continues. Chisloth-tabor (‘the flanks of Tabor’) is probably related to Chesulloth, an Issachar border town in the plain west of Tabor (19.18) and to modern Iksal. Daberath, another Issachar border town (21.8; 1 Chronicles 6.72), is usually identified with the ruins near the modern village of Deburiyeh at the foot of Mount Tabor. Japhia must lie in a northerly direction from Daberath and cannot therefore be Yafa as suggested by some.
From Japhia the border went eastward to Gath-hepher (‘winepress of digging’) on the border of Naphtali, the birthplace of the prophet Jonah (2 Kings 14.25). It can be identified with Khirbet ez-Zurra‘ and nearby el-Meshhed, five kilometres (three miles) north east of Nazareth. Then it went on to Eth-kazin which is unknown. Rimmon is possibly modern Rummaneh, ten kilometres (six miles) north north east of Nazareth. Neah is unknown.
The border now turned westward to Hannathon, which is possibly to be identified with ‘Hinaton in the land of Canaan’ in the Amarna letters. Some identify it with Tell el-Bedeiwiyeh. It finishes at the valley of Iphtah-el, which is possibly the Wadi el-Malik. The westward border is not given although Zebulun was bordered by Asher. We do not know whether Zebulun had access to the sea.
19.15 ‘And Kattath, and Nahalal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Bethlehem. Twelve cities with their villages.’
These five cities are in addition to those previously mentioned. The twelve presumably included those of the latter which were seen as in Zebulun’s borders. Kattath is unidentified. Nahalal (21.35; Judges 1.30) was probably not far from modern Nahalal, nine kilometres (six miles) west of Nazareth. Some identify it with Tell el-Beida. Shimron was allied with Hazor (see 11.1) and defeated by Joshua. Some have suggested Tell es-Semuniyeh about five kilometres south-south-east of the Bethlehem mentioned here. Idalah has been connected with Tell Hawwareth through its being identified in the Talmud as Hiriyeh, two kilometres (one mile) south of Bethlehem. Bethlehem ( a different one from Bethlehem-judah) is now Bet-lahm, eleven kilometres (seven miles) north west of Nazareth.
19.16 ‘This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun, according to their families, these cities with their villages.’
Again we have the final seal on the allotment to a tribe in due form. Each received according to their size, ‘according to their families’. No mention has been made here of Kartah and Dimnah (Joshua 21.34). Thus there may have been a special reason in the minds of the particular surveyors for numbering up to twelve.
19.17. ‘For Issachar came out the fourth lot, for the children of Issachar according to their families.’
Contrast for the phrases ‘the children of Naphtali -- even the children of Naphtali’ in verse 32. Thus ‘Issachar’ contrasts with ‘the children of Naphtali’. See note on Simeon (19.1) with respect to the otherwise unusual direct mention of the patriarchal name (‘Issachar’, not ‘the children of Issachar’, although here soon remedied). Issachar is regularly tied in with Zebulun, and in the Blessing of Moses is mentioned co-jointly with them as a junior partner (Deuteronomy 33.18). This co-unity no doubt increased with having their inheritances next to each other and as a result of the circumstances in which they found themselves, surviving in the countryside and forests among strong Canaanite cities. They are probably to be seen as included in Zebulun in Judges 1.30, 4.6 and 5.18, although mentioned separately in Judges 5.15 as performing valiantly, which demonstrates that they played a full part in the battle. Like their patriarchal ancestor they probably enjoyed their pleasures and lacked initiative (Genesis 49.14-15). But there is no evidence that suggests that they ever became a slave nation, although no doubt harassed by the Canaanites in their area until they became strong enough, with others, to drive them out.
19.18-21 ‘And their border was to Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Shunem, and Hapharaim, and Shion, and Anaharath, and Rabbith, and Kishion, and Ebez, and Remeth, and En-gannim, and En-haddah and Beth-pazzez.’
Issachar’s borders appear to have been fluid and its area mainly delineated by cities. This ties in with their close relationship with Zebulun and the fact that some of their area was allocated to Manasseh (17.11). Their area was to the south east of Zebulun and the south of Naphtali, in the south east of the Great Plain of Jezreel/Esdraelon. Esdraelon is the Greek for Jezreel and the latter name is often applied to the whole of the Great Plain, but they are also often seen as two sections of the Plain. Manasseh were to the south. Possibly the writer saw Issachar’s borders as sufficiently delineated elsewhere. Settling in the plains was made difficult by the prevalence of Canaanite cities and Issachar would therefore first settle in cleared forest land and the mountains. Whether some gave themselves up to forced labour in return for the comforts of Canaanite civilisation, like their ancestor (see Genesis 49.14-15), we do not know.
Jezreel (Hebrew Yizra’el - ‘God sows’) was at the east end of the Jezreel Plain ninety kilometres north of Jerusalem, and is identified with Zer’in. It was not a fortified site until the time of Ahab, when it was his chariot centre. Parts of Israelite buildings have been found there. It was by its spring that Israel gathered before engaging the Philistines at Gilboa where Saul and Jonathan died (1 Samuel 29.1; 31.1).
Chesulloth was in the Plain, west of Tabor. Whether it was different from Chisloth-tabor (Joshua 19.12) is open to question. If the same it was clearly a joint city on the border. Shunem is possibly modern Solem, five to six kilometres (three and a half miles) north of Jezreel. It was where the Philistines camped before they moved on to Aphek prior to the battle of Gilboa (1 Samuel 28.4), and where Elisha often found shelter (2 Kings 4.8) and raised a dead child to life (2 Kings 4.34-35). It was possibly the place named in the Egyptian lists of Thothmes III (about 1550 BC) and of Shishak (about 950 BC) as Shanema.
‘And Hapharaim, and Shion, and Anaharath, and Rabbith, and Kishion, and Ebez.’
Hapharaim is also found in Shishak’s list as Hapurama. Khirbet Farriyeh, nine kilometres (five to six miles) north west of el-Lejjun has been suggested. Shion is perhaps ‘Ayun esh-Sha‘in, five kilometres (three miles) north west of Tabor. Anaharith is possibly the ’Anuhertu of Thothmes list. ‘Arraneh, four kilometres (two and a half miles) north east of modern Jenin has been suggested as a possible site. Rabbith could be Raba, eleven kilometres (seven miles) south east of Janin (En-gannim? - 19.21). Kishion (see 21.28) and Ebez are unknown.
‘And Remeth, and En-gannim, and En-haddah and Beth-pazzez.’ Remeth (rmth) is possibly the Jarmuth (yrmth) of 21.29 and the Ramoth (rmth) of 1 Chronicles 6.73. The Egyptians called the area ‘the hills of Yarmuta’, the elevated region north west of Beth-shean. A stele of Seti I (about 1300 BC) stated that various ‘Apiru tribes were settled there and had been subjected to Egypt. But these were not necessarily Israel (compare the ‘Apiru at Shechem - 8.30 - mentioned in the Amarna letters). En-gannim (‘spring of gardens’) is possibly modern Jenin where there is still a plentiful spring. See for it 21.29 and 1 Chronicles 6.73 where it is abbreviated as Anem. (Other possible identifications are Olam or Khirbet Beit Jann). En-haddah and Beth-pazzez are unidentified but probably close by. The whole area was very fruitful.
19.22 ‘And the border reached to Tabor, and Shahazumah, and Bethshemesh, and the goings out of their border were at Jordan. Sixteen cities with their villages.’
Tabor is clearly a town connected with Mount Tabor on the Zebulun border and shared with Zebulun (see Judges 4.6, 14; 8.18; 1 Chronicles 6.77). Shahazumah is unknown. Beth-shemesh (‘house of the sun (or of Shemesh)’) was a popular name for towns related to sun worship. This one may have been shared with Naphtali being on the Issachar-Naphtali border (19.38). These sixteen cities with their villages delineate the inheritance of Issachar.
19.23 ‘This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar, according to their families the cities with their villages.’
This is the usual formula for sealing the inheritance of a tribe, a sign that this is included in an official record.
19.24 ‘And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher, according to their families.’
Once again we are reminded that the portions were given by lot in the presence of YHWH. This was not seen just as a method of selection. It was seen as a solemn seeking of God for His will at the Tabernacle by The Priest using God provided methods.
Egyptian inscriptions of 14th and 13th century BC mention a state called isr occupying Western Galilee. However, not too much must be made of this for it is philologically difficult to relate isr to Asher and ‘Asher’ is itself attested under another form as the name of a female servant in an Egyptian papyrus list. Thus the two are distinct.
19.25-26 ‘And their border was Helkath, and Hali, and Beten, and Achshaph, and Allammelech, and Amad, and Mishal, and it reached to Carmel westward, and to Shihor-libnath.’
These surveyors mainly depicted the border in terms of cities contained within the border. It is interesting to note the different approaches taken by the different surveyors. But all used the same technical terms.
Helkath (see also 21.31) was probably located in the Kishon valley. It was also known as Hukok (1 Chronicles 6.75). One possibility is Tell el-Harbaj ten kilometres (six miles) south east of Haifa, another is Tell el-Qasis, eight kilometres (five miles) south south east of Tell el-Harbaj. It is probably the hrkt in the lists of Tuthmosis III. Hali is unknown. Beten may be modern Abtun, east of Mount Carmel.
Achshaph was an important Canaanite city near Acco (11.1; 12.20) mentioned in Egyptian lists and in Papyrus Anastasi I. Possibly Tell Keisan or Tell Regev (Khirbet Harbaj). Allamelech may be the rtmrk of the Tuthmosis list. It may connect with the Wadi el-Melek, a tributary of the Kishon, which it joins six kilometres (four miles) from the coast. Amad is unknown. Mishal is possibly the msir of the Tuthmosis list and Tell Kisan has been suggested as a possible site. It is also mentioned in the execration texts (inscriptions on small figurines in the form of prisoners dated 19th century BC) and an Egyptian grain and beer ration list (along with Achshaph).
‘And it reached to (or touched) Carmel westward, and to Shihor-libnath.’ Carmel was clearly the border at this point. Shihor-libnath may be at the mouth of the Kishon and the harbour town Tell Abu Huwam has been suggested as the site. This was also the northern border of Manasseh (17.11).
19.27-28 ‘And it turned towards the sunrising (the east) to Beth-dagon, and reached to Zebulun and to the valley of Iphtah-el northward, to Bethemek and Neiel, and it went out to Cabul on the left hand, and Ebron and Rehob, and Hammon, and Kanah, even to Great Zidon.’
The eastern boundary (where the sun rises) is now given. Beth-dagon was a name given to a number of cities, signifying ‘house of Dagon’. They were probably sanctuaries of the god Dagon. ‘Reached to Zebulun’ suggests that the boundary was not clearly identified in view of the relationship between the two tribes (although Zebulun may have been the name of a city, but see 19.34). Then follows the northern boundary. The valley of Iphtah-el is possibly the Wadi el-Malik (see 19.14). Bethemek and Neiel would be near or in the valley.
‘It went out to Cabul on the left hand.’ The left hand may signify north (compare its use in Genesis 14.15, and Joshua 17.7 where ‘the right hand’ probably means south). Cabul is probably Horvat Rosh Zayit, one to two kilometres (one mile) from modern Kabul which is today the name of a village north west of the Sahl el-Battof, and thirteen kilometres (eight miles) south east of Acco. Excavations have discovered Iron Age II buildings and a later fortress marking the border between Phoenicia and Israel. It was a frontier village between the two exchanged by Solomon’s treaty with Hiram of Tyre (1 Kings 9.13) to rectify the border.
Ebron (Abdon in some Hebrew MSS) is probably Abdon (21.30), probably Khirbet ‘Abdeh six kilometres (nearly four miles) in from Achzib (19.29), ten miles north north east of Acco, and commanding a way into the hills (In Hebrew writing d and r are almost indistinguishable except in the most careful writing). Rehob - ‘broad place’ - (Joshua 21.31; 1 Chronicles 6.75) is possibly Tell Bir el-Gharbi, south east of Acco. It was one of the cities from which the Canaanites were not driven out (Judges 1.31), although there may have been two Rehob’s (19.30). A Rehob (rhb) is mentioned in the Thutmose III lists. Hammon (‘glowing’) has been suggested as Umm el-‘Awamid where ruins still exist. A Phoenician inscription from nearby Ma‘sub refers to ‘the citizens of Hammon’ and ‘the deity of Hammon’. Kanah is probably Qana in the Lebanon foothills, ten kilometres (six miles) south east of Tyre.
‘Even to Great Zidon.’ That is, to the borders of the territory belonging to Zidon. The use of Great Zidon rather than Tyre indicates the age of the narrative. Later Tyre would become more prominent.
19.29 ‘And the border turned to Ramah, and to the city of Mibzar Zor (or ‘the fortress of Tyre’), and the border turned to Hosah, and its goings out were at the sea by the region of Achzib.’
Ramah is unidentified, although Ramiyeh, twenty one kilometres (thirteen miles) south east of Tyre, has been suggested. (But the name is too common for certainty). For Mibzar Zor see 2 Samuel 24.7. This may be Tyre itself (Zor) or a strong fortress connected with Tyre, possibly the island city. Tyre consisted of an island and a mainland port, the latter probably called Ussu in Assyrian inscriptions and Usu in Egyptian. Hosah may be a reflex of this. Tyre would later supersede Zidon. The site is Tell Rashidiyeh. These cities were boundary indicators only and would include their surrounding territory. The description could be seen as excluding them from the territory of Asher for the boundary reached the sea at Achzib.
‘Its goings out were at the sea by the region of Achzib.’ Achzib was a Canaanite harbour town, probably to be identified with modern ez-Zib fourteen kilometres north of Acco (Acre) The Canaanites were never driven out from it (Judges 1.31). An alternative translation is ‘from Hebel to Achzib’.
19.30-31 ‘Ummah also, and Aphek, and Rehob. Twenty two cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.’
Having completed the border description the writer now included these three cities, making twenty two in all. The count does not include those which were only border indicators. Ummah is unknown. Aphek (‘fortress’) is a common name but here may be modern Tell Kurdaneh at the source of the River Na’amein which flows into the Bay of Haifa. For Rehob see on 19.28.
Again the allotment is concluded with the familiar formula, ‘this is the inheritance of --’.
19.32 ‘For the children of Naphtali came out the sixth lot, for the children of Naphtali, according to their families.’
Note the slight differences in the opening formulae - 18.11; 19.1, 10, 17, 24, 32, 40. These are clearly deliberate variations to prevent exact repetition and monotony. Benjamin, Simeon, Asher, and Dan (as was Judah ( 15.1) and Reuben (13.15)) are called ‘the tribe (matteh) of the children of --’. Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali only ‘the children of --’ (as was Joseph (16.1) and Gad (13.24), although the latter was first called in context ‘the tribe (matteh) of Gad’). Levi was called ‘the tribe (shebet) of Levi’ (13.14, 33) and ‘the Levites’ (14.3, 4). But as Benjamin is also called ‘the children of --’ (18.28) and Issachar and Naphtali ‘the tribe of the children of --’ (19.23, 39) and there are changes in the order of words it seems simply to be a matter of scribal variation.
Simeon and Issachar also have the patriarch’s name by itself. Naphtali alone has ‘the children of --’ repeated, but there is no obvious reason for it. Note also that the lot ‘came up’ for Benjamin and Zebulun, and ‘came out’ for the remainder. This would suggest that they were drawn from a container.
19.33 ‘And their border was from Heleph, from the oak in Zaanannim, and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel to Lakkum, and its goings out were at Jordan.’
In view of the fact that ‘the oak in Zaanannim (or ‘of Bezaanannim’)’ is in each case identified by a place name (Heleph here, compare Judges 4.11 where it is Kedesh(-naphtali?)), this may be a description of a certain type of sacred oak rather than the same tree. Thus the border begins from the sacred tree at Heleph (possibly Khirbet ‘Irbadeh at the foot of Mount Tabor). However some have placed Zaanannim at Khan et-Tuggar four kilometres north east of Tabor.
Adami-nekeb (‘the pass Adami’) has been identified with modern Khirbet ed-Damiyeh eight kilometres (five miles) south west of Hammath on the sea of Galilee (near the later Tiberias). For Jabneel modern Khirbet Yamma (or Tell en-Na’am), eleven kilometres (seven miles) south west of Hammath has been suggested. For Lakkum Khirbet el-Mansurah has been posited. The border then finished at the Jordan. This seems to be describing the south east border of Naphtali.
19.34 ‘And the border turned westward to Aznoth-tabor, and went out from there to Hukkok, and it reached to Zebulun on the south, and reached to Asher on the west, and to Judah at Jordan towards the sunrising (eastwards).’
Aznoth-tabor is probably Khirbet el-Jabeil at the foot of Mount Tabor. Hukkok is generally identified with Yakuk, eight kilometres (five miles) west of where Capernaum is thought to have been. Another suggestion is Khirbet el-Jemeijmeh. Zebulun may here be a city (compare 19.27) or may refer to the Zebulun border. The same may be true of Asher. Yehutha-hayarden (Judah at Jordan) must refer to some recognised place on the Jordan, site unknown. Thus Asher were to the west, Zebulun (and Issachar) to the south, Jordan to the east and the northern border was indeterminate.
19.35-38 ‘And the fenced cities were Ziddim, Zer and Hammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth, and Adamah, and Ramah, and Hazor, and Kedesh, and Edrei, and En-hazor, and Iron, and Migdal-el, Horem and Ben-anath, and Beth-shemesh. Nineteen cities with their villages.’
These cities number sixteen, thus we must also probably include Aznoth-tabor, Hukkok and Yehutha-hayarden which would leave Zebulun and Asher as tribal borders. (Alternately they could be cities not counted to Naphtali).
Ziddim is unknown. A Zer in Bashan is mentioned in the Egyptian execration texts which was a town of a similar name. Hammath (‘hot springs’) was just on the lower part of the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (Chinnereth) as it begins to narrow, possibly the Hammoth-dor of 21.32. They were probably the hot springs to the south of the later city of Tiberias.
The western shore of the Sea was pitted with small fertile valleys. Rakkath was nearby to the north leading up to the town of Chinnereth, the latter probably being Khirbet el-Oreimah, which was in the plain on the north west side of the lake.
Adamah has been posited as Qarn Hattin, possibly the smsitm (shemesh-adam) of the Thutmose III list, built on top of the extinct volcano ‘the horns of Hattin’ at the eastern end of the valley of Tur’an, apart from Mount Tabor the most distinct landmark in Lower Galilee. Ramah was in the valley of es-Shaghur, the northernmost of the four major valleys that cross Lower Galilee from east to west.
‘Hazor, and Kedesh, and Edrei.’ Hazor was one of the most important cities in Canaan. See 11.1-13. Sacked by Joshua it was slowly re-established and was head of a confederacy of cities, later extending its control more heavily over the area (Judges 5.6-7) until again defeated by Barak and Deborah (Judges 4-5). Kedesh is the modern Tell Kudeish, north west of Lake Huleh, which was occupied during the early and late bronze ages. It was on the route south from Hamath and the north and thus a target for any invaders from the north. Edrei is probably the itr in the list of Thutmose III, near the town of Abel-beth-Maacah (2 Kings 15.29; 2 Samuel 20.14-15 - modern Abil el-Qamh), even further north than Kedesh and almost directly east of Tyre.
‘And En-hazor, and Iron, and Migdal-el, Horem and Ben-anath, and Beth-shemesh.’ En-hazor, ‘the spring of Hazor’, was not directly connected with Hazor above. The name Hazor was common in Galilee. It was possibly the ‘ny of Thutmose III’s list. Its identification is uncertain. It has been linked with Khirbet Hasireh, ten miles west of Kedesh, or with ‘Ain-itha nine kilometres (five to six miles) west north west of Kedesh. Iron is probably Yarun, eleven kilometres (seven miles) south west of Kedesh, mentioned in the inscriptions of Tiglath Pileser III as Irruna(?). Migdal-el means ‘the tower of El’ and is possibly Mejdel Islim, thirteen kilometres (eight miles) north west of Kedesh. Horem is unknown. Beth-anath means ‘the house of Anath’, possibly a sanctuary for the goddess Anath. It is perhaps Safed el-Battikh and probably the bt‘nt listed by Seti I and Raamses II. Beth-shemesh, another ‘house of the sun’ (compare verse 22 and 15.10 (in Judah) of which there were a number. Its site is unknown.
‘Nineteen cities with their villages.’ See above.
19.39 ‘This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali, according to their families, the cities and their villages.’
Again we have the official seal on the boundaries and cities of a tribe.
19.40 ‘The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan, according to their families.’
The other six lots having been taken, the seventh remained. This was the allotment to the children of Dan. No strict borders are given, simply a list of towns. This may be because Dan’s borders were not closely defined, or simply arise because of the surveyor’s methods. Or the writer may have been satisfied that the borders were made clear by the borders of Benjamin on the east, Ephraim on the north and Judah on the south. They were the only ones whose towns were not numbered, possibly because of disapproval over the removal of a large part of the tribe to Laish.
The land allotted to them was good and fertile land, but it was hotly contested. Thus the Danites found the opposition of the Amorites severe and were driven back into the hills (Judges 1.34). We must not therefore think of all these places as having been actually occupied by Dan. They revealed the area in which Dan was to operate. Some they took; others they infiltrated; and even others they could do nothing about. Once the Philistines arrived their position became even more precarious, as is depicted in the days of Samson. Thus a large part of the tribe decided to leave the place allotted to them by God and find the cosier and easier spot at Laish. But it led to gross sin and the setting up of a rival sanctuary (Judges 17-18).
19.41-46 ‘And the border of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Ir-shemesh, and Shaalabbin, and Aijalon, and Ithlah, and Elon, and Thimnathah, and Ekron, and Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath, and Jehud, and Bene-berak, and Gath-rimmon, and Me-jarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Japho.’
Zorah and Eshtaol were on the Danite border (compare 15.33; see also Judges 13.25; 18.2, 8, 11). Judah and Dan shared them and their related lands, Dan the land to the north, Judah the land to the south, or it may be that after receiving their lot Judah passed the cities on to Dan as having too much. But the probability is that they were settled by both, some looking to Dan and some to Judah. Zorah was mentioned in the Amarna letters as Zarkha and is probably Sar‘a, a Canaanite city twenty five kilometres (fifteen miles) west of Jerusalem, on the north side of the Wadi al-Sarar (the valley of Sorek), with Eshtaol close by. Both places overlook the broad basin of the Wadi, near its entrance into the Judaean highlands.
‘Ir-shemesh, and Shaalabbin, and Aijalon.’ Ir-shemesh means ‘city of Shemesh (of the sun)’. Some Hebrew MSS have En-shemesh (‘spring of Shemesh’). Names compounded with the god Shemesh were common so its direct connection with Beth-shemesh (on the Danite/Judah border, see 15.10) is uncertain, but they were certainly near neighbours. Shaalabbin, a non-Semitic name, probably the Shaalbim (which may mean ‘haunt of foxes’) in Judges 1.35; 1 Kings 4.9 compare 2 Samuel 23.32 near Mount Heres, (an ancient word for sun). It has been connected with Salbit, five kilometres (three miles) north west of Yalo, although the names do not agree phonetically. Inhabited by the Amorites in the valley of Aijalon it withstood Danite pressure but eventually became tributary to Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). The same was true of Aijalon. Aijalon (modern Yalo) was on a hill and commanded from the south the entrance to the valley of Aijalon about eleven kilometres (six or seven miles) from Gezer. It later guarded the north west approach to Jerusalem.
‘And Ithlah, and Elon, and Thimnathah, and Ekron.’ Ithlah is unknown.Elon is possibly Khirbet Wadi ‘Alin, two kilometres east of Bethshemesh. Compare 1 Kings 4.9. The name means ‘terebinth’ or ‘oak’. Thimnathah is probably Timnah (Timnath, Thimnathah) which was where Samson sought a Philistine wife. This may be the Tamna later mentioned in the annals of Sennacherib (c. 701 BC). It is probably Tell Batashi, nine kilometres (six miles) south of Gezer, although its name is preserved by Khirbet Tibneh. It was a border town of Judah (15.10). Whether shared or merely a border marker we do not know. Ekron (see on 15.45) was one of the five major Philistine cities on the border of both Judah and Dan. It may have been occupied by Judah as a small village on a mound before the Philistines arrived, but from then on it was built up by the Philistines as a Philistine enclave.
‘And Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath, and Jehud, and Bene-berak.’ Eltekeh (see 21.23) is named by Sennacherib (Altaku) together with Timna among his conquests in his annals for 701/700BC. It may be Tell-esh-Shalaf, sixteen kilometres (ten miles) north east of Ashdod (Khirbet el-Muqanna‘ is now thought to be Ekron). Gibbethon (see 21.23) is probably Tell el-Mellat, west of Gezer. It was in Philistine hands for some time and was the scene of battles between them and Israel (1 Kings 15.27). Baalath is possibly el-Mughar. It was fortified by Solomon (1 Kings 9.18). Jehud has been thought to be el-Yehudiyeh on the plain between Joppa and the hills. Bene-berak is identified with modern el-Kheiriyeh (Ibn Ibraq), six kilometres (four miles) east of Joppa. According to Sennacherib it was one of the cities belonging to Ashkelon besieged and taken by him (Benebarka). Thus it was then in Philistine hands.
‘And Gath-rimmon, and Me-jarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Japho (Joppa).’ Gath-rimmon (‘winepress of Rimmon’) is possibly Tell Jarisheh on the River Yarkon. Me-yarkon and Rakkon are unknown, but the former also connected with the Yarkon. The final city on the border is Joppa. Joppa was the only major harbour between Acco and the Egyptian border, and controlled by the Philistines. Excavation shows occupation from 17th century BC, and a pre-Philistine temple of the 13th Century BC witnesses to the existence of a lion cult. The temple has wooden columns on stone bases to support the ceiling (compare Judges 16.25-27). ‘Over against’ may indicate that Joppa was a border marker and not actually part of their territory.
19.47 ‘And the border of the children of Dan went out from them. And the children of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and took it and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt in it. And they called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father.’
This note was not a part of the original surveyor’s report, being added as a comment by the writer. ‘Went out from them’ may signify that they were unable to expand to their borders, and were prevented from doing so. That is how LXX sees it (see below). The great constraint they were under comes out in their subsequent action. Many of them forsook the land God had given them and sought a better land, although some remained. This invasion of Laish (Leshem) is described more fully in Judges 17-18, and resulted in the setting up of the sanctuary of Dan. The whole disreputable story is recounted with obvious disapproval by the writer of Judges.
Laish was at the foot of Mount Hermon by the source of the Jordan to the north of the promised land, probably modern Tell el-Qadi (‘the judges’ mound’). It had been settled since about 5000 BC and had been a wealthy city covering thirty acres, named in the Egyptian execration texts as rws, and in the Mari texts as Lasi. It was captured by Thutmose III. But it had allowed itself to become isolated and although it was reasonably strongly fortified with an earthen rampart, Dan ‘took it and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt in it’, renaming it Dan.
LXX places verse 48 immediately after verse 46 and then incorporates here material from Judges 1.34-35. It says ‘and the children of Dan did not drive out the Amorite who afflicted them in the mountain, and the Amorite would not allow them to come down into the valley, but they forcibly took from them the border of their portion. And the sons of Dan went and fought against Lachis, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword; and they dwelt in it, and called the name of it Lasendan. and the Amorite continued to dwell in Edom and in Salamin: and the hand of Ephraim prevailed against them, and they became tributaries to them.’
This whole incident brings home how difficult the Israelites were finding it when they sought to settle the valleys and plains where the Canaanites dwelt in comparatively large numbers. Joshua’s victories had weakened Canaanite resistance but it had not destroyed it, and the delay in taking advantage of his victories had enabled Canaanite resistance to harden.
19.48 ‘This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan, according to their families, these cities with their villages.’
Here we have the official seal on the allotment to Dan, as found after the inheritance of each tribe has been delineated. This was their inheritance, and it was a prosperous one, but they failed through weakness and lack of faith to take possession of it.
19.49-50 ‘So they made an end of distributing the land for inheritance by their borders, and the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua the son of Nun among them. According to the commandment of YHWH they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, and he built the city and dwelt in it.’
The land having been distributed by lot with a view to the Israelite tribes proceeding with its settlement, Joshua then received his own portion in Ephraim. ‘The commandment of YHWH’ may suggest that this too was by lot or by Urim and Thummim (but see Joshua 14.6, 9).
For Timnath-serah see also 24.30, but Judges 2.9 has Timnath-heres. It may be that the consonants were switched around in Joshua to avoid the reference to Heres (sun) because the writer did not want Joshua’s name connected with sun worship. It is possibly Khirbet Tibneh, twenty seven kilometres (seventeen miles) south west of Shechem, which lies on the south side of a deep ravine (see 24.30). ‘Built the city’ probably means that he fortified it. No one was more aware than he of the difficulties that lay ahead.
The painstaking work of dividing up the land had now been accomplished, with the different tribes each allotted the portion which it was their responsibility to conquer, and settle, and from which they were to drive out the inhabitants. It was not a task that would be accomplished easily. The hill country had been made safe but the valleys and plains would take longer. They were infested with Canaanite cities. Furthermore the arrival of the Philistines in force would make it even more difficult. Settlement would slowly proceed by taking, and settling in, weaker cities, settling in cleared forest land, and gradually expanding and taking advantage of every opportunity as it arose. But they were intended to ever keep before their eyes their responsibility to drive out the Canaanites, although it would not be accomplished all at once (Exodus 23.28-30. See also Exodus 33.2, 5; 34.11-13; Numbers 33.52-56). Joshua had done the work of ‘softening up’ but possession would take longer. They were no longer one great, victorious army, but a people seeking to permanently establish themselves in the land in smaller groups. Without that they could not possess the whole land. But what they had not to do was fraternise with the people of the land, for Canaanite society and religion was debased.
To begin with they went about the task faithfully (Judges 2.6-7), but it would not be long before they began to compromise, neglect their unity in the covenant with YHWH, settle among the Canaanites, fraternise with them, and forget their main responsibility, the clearing from the land of those very Canaanites.
19.51 ‘These are the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance by lot in Shiloh before YHWH, at the door of the Tent of Meeting. So they made an end of dividing the land.’
This summarises 18.1-19.51 (see 14.1; 18.1). Eleazar was ‘the Priest’ at the central sanctuary, here called the Tent of Meeting, who was responsible for the use of Urim and Thummim and for casting lots before YHWH. Joshua was the Servant of Yahweh, successor to the great Moses. The heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel were princes from each tribe appointed for this service, whose names are given in Numbers 34.18-29. It was their responsibility to arrange the distribution of the inheritances of the tribes.
This distribution took place before YHWH by lot at the door of the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle), beyond which the princes could not go, and which was now sited at Shiloh, see 18.1. Previously it had been at Gilgal (14.2 with 6).
Chapter 20 The Cities of Refuge Appointed.
This chapter now recounts the renewal of the command to appoint cities of refuge so that they could be available for those who committed manslaughter ‘unwittingly’ to flee to. There they would find refuge from the avenger of blood. The orders are then seen as carried out, with cities being appointed. To appreciate the importance of this we need to recognise the stress laid in those days, in all societies in the area, on the fact that it was the responsibility of the family to revenge the blood of a member of the family. It was felt that they should not rest until the family member was avenged. This had been so from earliest times (Genesis 4.14).
20.1-3 ‘And YHWH spoke to Joshua, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘Assign for yourselves the cities of refuge of which I spoke to you by the hand of Moses, so that the manslayer who kills a person unwittingly and unawares may flee there. And they shall be to you for a refuge from the avenger of blood.’ ” ’
How God spoke to Joshua we are not told. It may be that it occurred in the Tent of Meeting where God communed with Joshua in some mystic way, for like Moses Joshua appears to have had special access into the presence of YHWH (Exodus 33.11). Or it may have been as he meditated on the Book of the Law (see Numbers 35.9-15; Deuteronomy 19.1-13).
Whilst the people were in the wilderness the right of sanctuary had been obtainable at the altar (Exodus 21.14), a right later exercised by Adonijah and Joab (1 Kings 1.50-52; 2.28), although finally to no avail for they were found guilty. But once the people were spread throughout the land the altar was far away and it was therefore necessary for closer sanctuary to be provided in order to prevent blood vengeance on innocent men.
It was for this reason that YHWH had provided for the establishment of cities of refuge so that once a man reached such a city he was safe from family vengeance until the case had been heard before a proper court. At this point, if he was found innocent, he would be able to return to (or remain in, depending on where the court was held) the city of refuge and be safe (Numbers 35.9-15; Deuteronomy 19.1-13).
The refuge was for those who had killed accidentally, not for deliberate murder. To take blood vengeance on a man in a city of refuge was a heinous crime and made the perpetrator himself a murderer, whereas seemingly blood vengeance elsewhere did not. But the blood relative did have the right to demand that there should be a trial.
‘The avenger of blood’ is literally ‘redeemer of blood’. The Hebrew is ‘goel had-dam’. A ‘goel’ is one who acts as next of kin, whether by marrying a kinsman’s widow (Ruth 3.12 on); by exacting a payment due to the deceased (Numbers 5.8); by buying a kinsman out of slavery; by buying back a field which had been sold through poverty (Leviticus 25.48, 25) or by buying back an estate into the family (Jeremiah 32.7 on). As redeemer of blood he exacts recompense on behalf of the dead man. It was thus not seen as murder but as justice, a life for a life. Indeed to fail to exact vengeance would bring the family into disrepute.
20.4 ‘And he shall flee to one of those cities, and shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city and declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, and they shall take him into the city to them, and give him a place, that he might dwell among them.’
The man seeking refuge would come to the gate of the city. It was in the square just inside the gate that all official public activity took place for it was the public meeting place. There the elders of the city would hear his case, and if they were satisfied that the man appeared innocent of deliberate murder, they would allow him in to take refuge there, and provide somewhere for him to live. It would appear that houses were assigned in such cities for such occasions.
The ‘elders of the city’ were the ruling men of the city who were also responsible for justice. They were usually, although not always, older men. They were always men of recognised status.
‘They shall take him into the city to them.’ The verb is used of a wife being taken into a home (2 Samuel 11.27), and a forsaken child being taken in by God (Psalm 27.10). It contains an element of welcome and protection.
20.5 ‘And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the manslayer up into his hand, because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and did not hate him beforehand.’
The man who escapes to a city of refuge and claims innocency of intent must be protected until tried and only handed over to the avenger of blood if then found guilty of deliberate murder.
20.6 ‘And he shall dwell in that city until he stand before the congregation for judgment, until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days. Then shall the slayer return, and come to his own city, and to his own house, to the city from where he fled.’
The manslayer must eventually be tried. If found guilty of deliberate murder he is to be handed over to those who seek blood vengeance. If innocent he is to be allowed to remain in the city of refuge. But the death of the high priest finally provides for his release. On the death of the high priest his innocent manslaying is in some way expiated and blood vengeance must no longer be required. Such blood vengeance would then itself be looked on as murder. This suggests that the high priest is in some way seen as representing the whole of the people, and his death is therefore seen as substitutionary on their behalf in respect of non-deliberate sin.
Stand before the congregation.’ This suggests that their judgment is seen as carried out before all the people on whose behalf the elders act. Perhaps final ratification of the verdict was required by all the men of the city in such a case. Or it may even suggest that a final verdict was obtained at the Tabernacle at the great feasts when such a man was brought before YHWH for a final verdict.
‘High priest.’ The priest at the Tabernacle is usually called ‘the Priest’. ‘High priest’ occurs in Numbers 35.25, 28; Leviticus 21.10. The latter was possibly not at this stage an official title but seen as indicating the recognised leading priest at the sanctuary. He was the representative of the people and wore the holy garments. As high priests were also common in the surrounding nations, there are no grounds for denying the authenticity of the position here. His death was clearly seen as a hugely important event, even as a sacrificial event, resulting in a general expiation for non-deliberate sin.
20.7 ‘And they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriatharba, the same is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah.’
Three cities were set aside (see Deuteronomy 19.2), a complete number, one in each part of the land. Notice that all were in the hill country, a sign of genuineness and early date, for this was where at that stage the people were mainly settled. They were all ancient sanctuaries, Kedesh in the north, Shechem more central and Hebron in the south, which would more impress hot-headed avengers of blood. Kedesh is described exactly as there were a number of cities called Kedesh. For ‘Galilee’ as meaning a ‘region, district’ compare 1 Kings 9.11, ‘the land of Galilee’. This was an ancient name for an area in northern Israel. ‘The hill country of Ephraim’ covered the northern part of the central range including Benjamin, Ephraim and Manasseh, where Shechem was.
These cities of refuge stressed God’s strong concern for justice. The idea was that those who were innocent should be given a chance to prove it and not be subject to mob law and family vengeance. Such cities were not strictly a type of Christ for Christ is a refuge for the penitent guilty whereas these were for the innocent. No man will be expelled from Christ. But they did stress mercy as well as justice.
Kiriath-arba (Hebron) was a city given to Caleb (see on 14.14-15), but like the man he was he was clearly willing for it to become a city of refuge, and indeed a Levitical city (21.11). He believed in giving God the very best. Note again the prominence of the ancient name indicating early date.
The word for ‘set aside’ is ‘sanctified’ (the same root as Kedesh). The cities were set apart by God for the purposes of justice and mercy (the name of the city may have influenced the verb used).
20.8 ‘And beyond the Jordan of Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness, in the tableland out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.’
Provision for a further three cities was necessary because of the Transjordanian tribes. These additional cities were also provided for in the Law (Deuteronomy 19.9) and resulted from the fact that Transjordan was additional to the land of promise. Thus the emphasis on ‘three’ is emphatic depicting essential completeness of provision. By the time of Numbers 35.6 the number was fixed at six because the occupation of Transjordan was then known. These latter three cities were in fact initially set apart by Moses (Deuteronomy 4.41-43). The verb ‘assigned’ = ‘given’ may signify the secondary nature of their choice as an afterthought, or may simply be an alternative to prevent repetition.
‘The Jordan of Jericho eastward.’ An unusual designation. It describes the land eastward of the Jordan. It indicates a time when the Jordan could be defined in relationship to Jericho which would be prominent in the minds of the earliest settlers and confirms an early date for the passage (but see 1 Chronicles 6.78 which, however, probably had this passage in mind. Note the mention of Bezer).
Bezer was in the territory of Reuben on the tableland in the south of Transjordan. Ramoth was central and Golan to the north. Bezer (see 21.38) is possibly Umm el-Amad‘ and is mentioned on the Moabite Stone. Ramoth in Gilead later features regularly in the conflicts with Syria. It is possibly Tell Ramith. Golan in Bashan (see 21.27) is of uncertain location although Sahm el-Jolan, twenty seven kilometres (seventeen miles) east of the Sea of Chinnereth had been suggested. The district of Gaulanitis was named after it many centuries later.
20.9 ‘These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger who sojourns among them, that whoever kills any person unwittingly might flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stood before the congregation.’
The provision was for the sojourner as well as for the true Israelite. A sojourner was a foreigner who came to live among Israel but did not wish to submit to circumcision and direct response to the covenant. He did not want directly to become an Israelite and dedicated worshipper of YHWH. His residence was not permanent, he ‘sojourned’. It was always open to him to become an Israelite if he so wished (Exodus 12.48-49; Numbers 9.14), as the mixed multitude had before him (Exodus 12.38).
The sojourner was expected to conform to local customs (Exodus 20.10); was not to be taken advantage of (Exodus 22.21; 23.9; Deuteronomy 1.16); and was commended to the charity of his neighbours (Deuteronomy 24.19; 26.13), but his children could be made bondmen (Leviticus 25.45) and, unlike with true Israelites, he could be lent money at interest (Deuteronomy 20). The law in general applied to him, especially the law of like for like (Leviticus 24.22). In the same way as Israelites he was not to offer offerings or sacrifices except at the door of the Tent of Meeting (Leviticus 17.9).
The point we should note here is the certainty that the avenger of blood would be pursuing the manslayer to kill him. It was seen as a sacred duty. Thus was provision made to ensure that the innocent received a fair trial. He was, however, necessarily punished by being confined to the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest. ‘Before the congregation.’ That is he was in some way judged by the whole of Israel, probably through their representatives, either the city authorities, the tribal authorities or the priests at the sanctuary before YHWH.
Chapter 21 The Establishment of the Levites Throughout Israel.
This chapter deals with the approach of the Levites to the leaders, in order to have cities and suburbs given to them in accordance with the command of God by Moses. Grants were made to them by lot out of the different tribes, details of which are supplied. The chapter then concludes by observing that God gave Israel all the land of Canaan, and gave them rest in it, according to his promise, and that nothing failed of all that God had promised.
We do not know the time scale for all these events. The first conquests had taken around five to seven years (based on the age of Caleb which was in round numbers - 14.10). The further surveying of the land and its division according to the size of the tribes must then have taken quite some time, and we must leave time for advancement and settlement, the cutting down of forests, the establishing of the people in various parts of the land, the reconquest of cities, and the discovery that while the conquest had been a success, in that it had enabled this settlement, there remained yet much to be done.
At what stage chapters 20 and 21 occurred in all this we are not told. But it is clear that the central sanctuary was now set up at Shiloh and was regularly visited by the tribes. We need not doubt that under Joshua the regular feasts were held and the covenant constantly renewed, with the regular sacrifices being offered. Israel were becoming established in the land.
21.1 ‘Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites, to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua, the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel.’
The land having been allocated, and cities of refuge appointed, the Levites now came to remind the leaders, who had accomplished the work, of God’s promise to them that cities, along with lands for their use, would be allocated to them throughout Israel. Note the hierarchy, ‘the heads of the fathers’. The princes of the sub-tribes (the thousands?) were over the fathers of the extended families (the hundreds?), who were over the fathers of the closer families (the tens?). These princes then approached the priest of the central sanctuary, and Joshua their great leader, and the princes of the other tribes.
21.2 ‘And they spoke to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, “YHWH commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for our cattle.” ’
The approach would probably be made before the Tent of Meeting with due solemnity. The Levites had a responsibility to Israel in respect of guidance in accordance with the Law, overseeing the tithes, and generally observing that the Law was fulfilled. In return they had to be given cities to dwell in and land for their cattle, but not land to plant and sow. (They received the tithes).
21.3 ‘And the children of Israel gave to the Levites out of their inheritance, in accordance with the commandment of YHWH, these cities with their suburbs.’
The response of the people was immediate, and cities were allocated by lot to the Levites. There was no guarantee that those cities were all available to dwell in. Like the general allocations they had in many cases still to be possessed. It was an act of faith, just like the allocation of the land, that God would give them their inheritance.
The Levites are regularly described as ‘sojourning’ in the land (Deuteronomy 18.6; Judges 17.7, 8; 19.1). They were not to have permanent possession like the other tribes for their permanent inheritance was YHWH (Numbers 18.20; 23.62). They had to have places to live in throughout the tribes so that they could fulfil their function, but these were not to be seen as their own but as lent by God. This was the ideal. And at the great feasts theirs was the responsibility of ministering at the Tabernacle (Numbers 18.22 compare Deuteronomy 18.7), although the priesthood itself was restricted to the ‘family’ of Aaron (for example, as well as in Leviticus 8 and regularly in Numbers, priests and Levites were clearly represented as distinct from each other in Deuteronomy 18.3-8). It is quite probable that suitably dedicated people could be adopted into the tribe, and indeed into the family of Aaron, as considered appropriate (e.g. Samuel), just as they could be adopted into any of the tribes, but all was no doubt done ‘before YHWH’.
Allocated along with the cities provided for the Levites was to be a certain amount of land for their cattle (Numbers 35.4-5), an ideal probably never fully realised. The distances were ideal representations and not to be treated literally. The idea would seem to be that the city was to be seen as within a square each side of which was 2000 cubits, similar to idea of the square of the Holy of Holies. Thus the first 1000 cubits of land around the city belonged to the Levites. They indicated the ‘holiness’ of the cities as being dwelt in by the representatives of YHWH (compare Joshua 3.4). But this land could never be sold (Leviticus 25.34).
What precisely was meant by the giving of the cities is not absolutely clear. They were certainly not given the cities outright with the inhabitants moving out to make way for them. What was probably given to them was a portion of the city, or selected houses within the city (see Leviticus 25.32-33 which only makes sense if Levite houses were in general walled cities), and land close to the city walls. (Certainly Shechem did not become a totally levitical city - Judges 9. Nor could that idea have been in mind in the short, or even middle, term in view of its nature). It is possible that there was in mind in the distant future that eventually most would become wholly levitical cities.
That the cities were spread throughout the land was necessary because the Levites represented the redeemed firstborn of the children of Israel (Exodus 13.2, 13 with Numbers 3.40-44) as separated to the service of YHWH.
The Cities Allocated to Kohath.
21.4 ‘And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites, and the children of Aaron the priest, who were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of the Simeonites, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities.’
The first lot that was drawn out of the pot or urn was for the descendants of Kohath, a son of Levi (Exodus 6.16). We are not told the procedures, nor whether the actual cities were chosen by lot, or whether the lot was simply to determine which of the cities was occupied by whom. The emphasis is on the fact that all was done in accordance with the will of YHWH.
The children of Aaron received thirteen cities, and these were in Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. There would certainly not be sufficient children of Aaron at this stage to fully occupy these cities, even if that had been likely. Clearly here again we are dealing with portions of cities, and dwelling rights. Their portion was given in what seemed at the time the most secure part of the land with access to the centre of the land so that they would always be relatively near the sanctuary wherever it was situated.
Judah was the obvious choice for the sons of Aaron. It had been first to establish itself and was the most surely settled of all the tribes. It is significant that they were not allocated dwelling rights in Jerusalem, which demonstrates that at the stage that this was written there was no conception that Jerusalem would finally become the central sanctuary. There were many Israelites who did dwell in their own section of Jerusalem (15.63; Judges 1.21) and other cities were allocated which were not in Israel’s full possession.
21.5 ‘And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.’
These were Levites ‘descended’ from Kohath but not descended from the line of Aaron and were spread throughout Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh. The very lack of the presence of priests in the other areas demonstrates why, as things deteriorated covenant-wise, Levites began to be treated as something like priests, especially as they received tithes and would have to give guidance on the slaughter of animals and suchlike matters and on minor interpretations of the Law.
The Allocation of the Other Cities.
21.6 ‘And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.’
These Levites, who were ‘descended’ from Gershon, were given responsibility for three northern tribes, including Transjordan Manasseh.
21.7 ‘The children of Merari, according to their families, had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.’
These were the ‘descendants’ of Merari, the third son of Levi. They were given responsibility for the Transjordan tribes of Reuben and Gad, and for Zebulun.
Thus were determined and allocated between the Levites the forty eight cities promised by YHWH (Numbers 35.6-7).
Detailed Description of the Cities Given.
21.8 ‘And the children of Israel gave by lot to the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as YHWH commanded by the hand of Moses.’
As mentioned above this ‘giving’ of the cities did not indicate that the Levites took full possession of them, although from this point in time they were levitical cities under the final jurisdiction of the Levites. The children of Aaron would not be numerous enough to take full possession of thirteen cities, indeed they were probably stretched to even provide a few inhabitants for each, although of course provision was being made for the future. The ‘suburbs’ were the lands directly surrounding the city, and did not include general lands and the villages round about (verse 12).
‘As YHWH commanded by the hand of Moses’ (see Numbers 35.2-8).
21.9-10 ‘And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name (literally ‘which one calls by name’), and these were for the children of Aaron, of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, for theirs was the first lot.’
The first lot was for the family of Aaron as priests of the land. The names of the cities allocated to them in Judah and Simeon are to be listed. Their descent is clearly outlined.
21.11 ‘And they gave them the city of Arba, the father of Anak, the same is Hebron in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it, but the fields of the city, and its villages gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh, for his possession.’
The giving of Hebron to the Levites as a city of refuge and dwelling place by Aaronids would have to be approved by Caleb, but he was no doubt delighted to do so. It gave his city great prestige and as a godly man he would not be unwilling to provide pasture land for these Levites who, as the children of Aaron, would be few in number. It probably actually cost him very little. While authority theoretically passed to the Levites there is little doubt that he himself retained the main authority, for Hebron oversaw a wide area and it is stressed that he retained authority over that area. For all practical purposes, apart from in religious matters, the Levites in Hebron were probably mainly subject to his control.
Note the emphasis on the antiquity of the city. It accentuated its importance. Kiriath-arba means ‘the city of four’ or ‘city of Arba’ - see Genesis 23.2. LXX described it as ‘the mother-city of the Anakim’. But there is no reason to reject Arba as a name or nickname and it is certainly related to the Anakim in some way, so when we are told here that it was named after a famous ancestor of the Anakim, named Arba, possibly because he had the strength or usefulness of four men (compare 15.13 which suggests that LXX translated ‘father’ as ‘mother’ because it related the latter more to a city) it makes good sense.
21.13-16 ‘And to the children of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron with her suburbs, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Libnah with her suburbs, and Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs, and Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs, and Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Beth-shemesh with her suburbs. Nine cities out of those two tribes.’
The repetition of verse 13 compared with 11 suggests that here the writer is copying an official list and therefore includes Hebron again as part of that list. The repetition was also necessary to bring out that Hebron was a city of refuge. For Libnah see 10.29, for Jattir 15.48, for Eshtemoa 15.50, for Holon 15.51, for Debir 10.38; 15.15, for Ain 19.7, for Juttah 15.55, for Beth-shemesh 15.10. Note how the two tribes of Judah and Simeon are spoken of almost as one. There is no other example in the chapter of two tribes being linked in this way. Only Ain was from Simeon directly.
21.17-19 ‘And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs, Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs. Four cities. All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs ’
With the four cities from Benjamin the priestly cities came to thirteen. Notice the phrase ‘the children of Aaron, the priests.’ The writer is making clear the distinction between priest and Levite. For Gibeon and Geba see 18.24-25. Anathoth is not mentioned in the list of cities allocated to Benjamin but was the birthplace of the priests Abiathar (1 Kings 2.26) and probably Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1.1; 32.6-8). It is now known as Anata, five kilometres (three miles) north east of Jerusalem. Almon is probably the Allemeth of 1 Chronicles 6.60 and is probably the ruined site ‘Almit, on the north east of Anathoth, and close by. Into these cities came priestly families to take up permanent residence and to take some form of authority over them, receiving the land that was close to the city boundaries.
21.20 ‘And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites, even the remainder of the children of Kohath, they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim.’
These were the descendants of Moses (see Judges 18.30) and of Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel (1 Chronicles 6.1-3). Their lot was among the Ephraimites. Thus the Kohathites had their dwellings among the two most powerful tribes.
21.21-22 ‘And they gave them Shechem, with her suburbs, in the hill country of Ephraim, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Gezer with her suburbs, and Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Beth-horon with her suburbs. Four cities.’
The Ephraimite cities were then listed. The first was Shechem, the city of refuge which was with Jerusalem the most powerful of the cities in the hill country. This was probably selected because it was seen as an ancient sanctuary connected with ‘the Lord of the covenant’ (Baalberith - at this time Baal was probably a title that could be used of Yahweh - see Judges 9). Gezer was a strong city and never fully occupied by Israel although later subjected to taskwork (16.10). It was even later captured by Merenptah of Egypt and then by the Philistines, being given by Egypt to Solomon on his marriage. The listing of this city demonstrates a very early date when the capture and driving out of its inhabitants was still seen as a probability. Kibzaim, perhaps tell el-Mazar, is otherwise unknown. Beth-horon was either Upper or Lower Beth-horon, meaning ‘house of Hauron’, a Canaanite god of the underworld. It controlled the valley of Aijalon and was thus an important city.
These four cities, with the immediate surrounding lands, were placed under Levite control. With Gezer it may never have become an actuality.
21.23-24 ‘And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs, Aijalon with her suburbs, Gath-rimmon with her suburbs. Four cities.’
For Eltekeh see 19.44, for Gibbethon see 19.44, for Aijalon see 19.42, for Gath-rimmon see 19.45.
21.25 ‘And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Taanach with her suburbs, and Gath-rimmon with her suburbs. Two cities.’
This was the half tribe of Manasseh west of Jordan. For Taanach see 12.21; 17.11. Gath-rimmon means ‘the winepress of Rimmon’. Rimmon was a well known god and it is not unlikely that winepresses in Canaan and Transjordan should have been named after him. 1 Chronicles 7.70 names these cities as Aner and Bileam (= Ibleam - 17.11) which may well be alternative later names.
(Some consider that Gath-rimmon has accidentally been picked up by a copyist from verse 24 instead of Ibleam. But without further evidence this is purely hypothetical).
21.26 ‘All the cities of the remainder of the children of Kohath were ten, with their suburbs.’
Why should the family of Aaron receive more cities than the remainder of the family of Kohath? Perhaps the answer is that the leaders were desirous of spreading the influence of the relatively few priests as widely as possible.
21.27 ‘And to the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan, with her suburbs, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Be-eshterah with her suburbs. Two cities.’
For Golan see 20.8. Be-eshterah may well be short for Beth-ashterah - ‘the house of Ashterah’. 1 Chronicles 6.71 gives it as Ashteroth, which had been the royal city of Og, king of Bashan (Deuteronomy 1.4). Thus Manasseh gave four cities in all.
21.28-29 ‘And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishion with her suburbs, Daberath with her suburbs, Jarmuth with her suburbs, En-gannim with her suburbs. Four cities.’
For Kishion see 19.20, for Daberath (Dabareh) see 19.12, for Jarmuth and En-gannim see 19.21. Remeth is probably an abbreviation for Yarmuth (compare 1 Chronicles 6.73).
21.30-31 And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs, Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs. Four cities.’
For Mishal see 19.26, for Abdon see Ebron - 19.28 (‘d’ and ‘r’ are almost the same in Hebrew), for Helkath see 19.25, for Rehob see 19.28.’
21.32 ‘And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Hammoth-dor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs. Three cities.’
For Kedesh in Galilee see 20.7, for Hammoth-dor see 19.35, Hammath (‘hot springs’), which was just on the lower part of the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (Chinnereth) as it begins to narrow. They were probably the hot springs to the south of the later city of Tiberias. Kartan is not mentioned in the list of Naphtali’s cities. In 1 Chronicles 6.76 it is Kiriathaim (meaning ‘two cities’). There was another Kiriathaim in Transjordan (Numbers 32.37; Jeremiah 48.1, 23; Ezekiel 25.9). With only three levitical cities Naphtali is seen to be a smaller tribe.
21.33 ‘All the cities of the Gershonites, according to their families, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.’
So the Gershonites acted as Levites in the northern territories, Asher, Naphtali, Issachar and Manasseh in Transjordan.
21.34-35 ‘And to the families of the children of Merari, the remainder of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs, Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs. Four cities.’
For Jokneam see 19.11; 12.22. Kartah (possibly Kattath - 19.15) and Nahalal (see 19.15) were probably on the north western edge of the plain of Jezreel. Dimnah was not mentioned in the list of cities but is possibly the same as Rimmon in 1 Chronicles 6.77 (compare 19.13).
21.36-37 ‘And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahaz with her suburbs, Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs. Four cities.’
These verses are not in the Massoretic Text but are included in many Hebrew MSS and in versions. (See also 1 Chronicles 6.78-79. Thus they are Scripture whether included here or not). The four cities are required to make up the twelve in verse 40.
Bezer was a city of refuge, the fifth to be mentioned (see 20.8). All six were necessarily levitical cities. For Jahazah (Jahaz, Jahzah), Kedemoth and Mephaath see 13.18. Jahaz is well known as being where Israel defeated Sihon, the Amorite king (Numbers 21.23; Deuteronomy 2.32; Judges 11.20). It was later lost to Moab but Omri reconquered the land ‘as far as Jahaz’. According to the Moabite Stone it was again lost to Israel when Mesha, king of Moab, drove out the Israelites and reclaimed it. Kedemoth gave its name to a nearby desert area (Deuteronomy 2.26). It is probably ez-Za‘feran, about sixteen kilometres north of the Arnon, near the Amorite’s eastern border. For Mephaath Tell el-Yawah has been suggested
21.38 ‘And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Mahanaim with her suburbs, Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs. Four cities in all.’
Ramoth in Gilead makes up the sixth of the cities of refuge (see 20.8). It later features regularly in the conflicts with Syria. It is possibly Tell Ramith. Mahanaim means ‘two camps’. It was on the border of Gad with Manasseh (see 13.30), probably close to the northern bank of the River Jabbok. (Gad extended some kilometres north of the Jabbok). It was where Jacob met the angels of God before meeting Esau (Genesis 32.2). See also 2 Samuel 2.8; 1 Kings 2.8. Heshbon was taken by Sihon of the Amorites from the Moabites and made his capital city (Numbers 21.26). It was in the mountains some miles north east of the Dead Sea. Its site has not been identified. A Tell Hesban contained buildings from the iron age but no trace of an earlier city. But there are late bronze age sites nearby one of which could be the original Heshbon.
Jazer was a group of towns as well as a city and was frequently mentioned (see 13.25; Numbers 21.32; 32.1, 3, 35). It fell on the border between the Amorites and the Ammonites. During David’s time it furnished ‘mighty men of valour’ (1 Chronicles 26.31) and was one of the towns on the route of the census taking (2 Samuel 24.5). In Isaiah 16.6-12 and Jeremiah 48.28-34 it was once more regained by Moab, and even later by Ammon (1 Maccabees 5.4). It may possibly be identified with Khirbet Gazzir on the Wadi Sza‘ib near es-Salt. These were the four levitical cities of Gad.
21.40 ‘All these were the cities for the children of Merari according to their families, who were those remaining of the families of the Levites. And their lot was twelve cities.’
So forty eight cities were set apart as levitical cities, that is were put under the authority of the Levites who were given dwelling and pasturage rights. There were thirteen for the family of Aaron (who would in number be few at that time), ten for the remainder of the Kohathites, thirteen for the Gershonites and twelve for the Merarites.
21.41 ‘All the cities of the Levites amongst the possession of the children of Israel, were forty eight cities with their suburbs. These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them. Thus it was with all these cities.’
So the Levites had rights of dwelling and authority in forty eight cities and pasturage rights over the land nearest to each city, its ‘suburbs’. And we are assured that each city had its suburb. With their tithes the Levites were fully provided for.
These cities would be huddles of small dwellings and some larger ones crammed together within their walls or boundaries without much planning. Each would have a main square by the city gate, in most cases probably the only open space within the city. How room was to be made for the Levites we are not told. The theory was that they should be satisfied with their dwellingplace, the right to feed their cattle and their tithes. In practise many moved out of the cities and established themselves prosperously as we discover later. Indeed those assigned to cities lost to Israel such as Gezer had to find somewhere to live. And the theory was certainly not put fully into practise for a long time because the Canaanites were allowed to continue in the land and live in their cities, contrary to God’s commandment.
A Summary of the Situation Preparatory to Releasing the Transjordan Contingents (21.43-45).
This summary assesses the situation at the end of Joshua’s successful campaign, as he was preparing to release the Transjordan contingents from Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh. Canaan was being divided up between the tribes and all looked rosy. They saw the land as given to them, as indeed it was. They did not consider the problems that lay ahead, or if they did they were content that Yahweh could deal with them. In the writer’s view these should not have been problems. If they were faithful to the covenant with YHWH and obeyed all His commandments the future was guaranteed.
21.43 ‘So YHWH gave to Israel all the land which he swore to give to their fathers, and they possessed it, and dwelt in it.’
For these words compare 1.6; Deuteronomy 11.31; 17.14; 19.1; 26.1.
The land was all distributed to them by lot and now they had to go in and settle it. They were securely established in the land and safe. The bridgehead had been established, and more. And the process of settlement was in progress. Indeed they had at present on the whole as much as they could hope to occupy and cultivate. The remainder would become theirs as time progressed, at which point they were to clear it of Canaanites.
21.44-45 ‘And YHWH gave them rest round about according to all that he swore to their fathers and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them. YHWH delivered all their enemies into their hands. There failed not ought of any good thing that YHWH had spoken to the house of Israel. All came about.’
These words are also based on previous statements and promises, compare 1.13; 10.8. What God had promised He had done.
The storms ahead were not yet visible, and the writer believed that God could deal with the storms as long as Israel were faithful to the covenant. They were at rest in the land. They had suffered no permanent defeat to this stage. All their enemies had in the end fallen before them. All that God had promised had happened. The Transjordan contingents could now be released to return home.
The writer has in mind chapters 1-12. Chapters 13-21 are viewed as still future in actual fulfilment. That was what yet had to be. Thus he could declare that the land was at rest (11.23; 14.15) although much land remained to be possessed (13.1), and even more to be settled.
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