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The inheritance of the tribe of Judah is described first by its general boundaries on all four sides Joshua 15:1-12; then reference is again made, for the sake of completeness, to the special inheritance of Caleb which lay within these boundaries Joshua 15:13-20; and lastly a list of the towns is given Joshua 15:21-63. Consult the marginal references.
The stone of Bohan - This stone perhaps commemorated some deed of valor belonging to the wars of Joshua (compare 1 Samuel 7:12). The stone was erected on the slope of a hill (see the marginal reference), no doubt one of the range which hounds the Jordan valley on the west. But its exact site is wholly uncertain.
The going up to Adummim - Rather, “the ascent or pass of Adummim” (compare Joshua 15:3, margin), on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Its name signifies “red” and is explained by Jerome as given because of the frequent bloodshed there by robbers. This road is the scene of the parable of the Good Samaritan. Possibly the name may be due to some aboriginal tribe of “red men,” who held their ground in these fastnesses after the invaders had driven them from the face of the country elsewhere.
En-shemesh - i. e. “fountain of the sun;” no doubt that now called “the Fountain of the Apostles,” about two miles from Jerusalem, and the only well on the road to Jericho.
En-rogel - i. e. “fountain of the fullers” near the walls of Jerusalem. It was here that Jonathan and Ahimaaz concealed themselves after the rebellion of Absalom, in order to procure tidings for David, and here Adonijah gave a feast to his adherents preparatory to making an attempt on the crown (compare the marginal references). It is probably the modern “Fountain of the Virgin,” the only real spring near Jerusalem, from which the Pool of Siloam is supplied. Others identify it, less probably, with the “Well of Job,” situated where the valleys of Kedron and Hinnom unite.
The valley of the son of Hinnom - This valley begins on the west of Jerusalem at the road to Joppa, and turning southeastward round the foot of Mount Zion joins the deeper valley of Kedron on the south of the city. It was in this ravine, more particularly at Tophet in the more wild and precipitous part of it toward the east, that the later kings of Judah offered the sacrifices of children to Moloch (2Ch 28:3; 2 Chronicles 33:6, etc.). After these places had been defiled by Josiah, Tophet and the whole valley of Hinnom were held in abomination by the Jews, and the name of the latter was used to denote the place of eternal torment Matthew 5:22. The Greek term Gehenna (γεέννα geenna) is in fact formed from the Hebrew הנם גיא gay' hı̂nnôm, “valley of Hinnom.” Hinnom is regarded either as the name of some ancient hero, or as an appellative ( “groaning” or “moaning”), bestowed on the spot because of the cries of the victims here offered to Moloch, and of the drums with which those cries were drowned.
The valley of the giants - Rather “the plain of Rephaim.” This plain, named after an ancient and gigantic tribe of the land Genesis 14:5, lies southwestward of Jerusalem, and is terminated by a slight rocky ridge forming the brow of the valley of Hinnom. The valley is fertile Isaiah 17:5 and broad, and has been on more than one occasion the camping ground for armies operating against Jerusalem 2 Samuel 5:18, 2Sa 5:22; 2 Samuel 23:13.
Nephtoab is probably the modern “Ain Lifta”, two miles and a half northwestward of Jerusalem: and Mount Ephron is conjecturally connected with the city Ephrain 2 Chronicles 13:19 or Ophrah Joshua 18:23.
Mount Seir is not the well-known range of Edom. The name ( “shaggy mountain”) is applicable to any rugged or well-wooded hill. Here it probably denotes the range which runs southwestward from Kirjath-jearim to the Wady Surar. Mount Jearim, i. e. “woody mountain,” is through its other name, Chesalon, identified with the modern “Kesla”.
Beth-shemesh - i. e. “house of the sun,” called “Ir-shemesh” or “city of the sun” (Joshua 19:41; Compare 1 Kings 4:9), a place assigned to Dan, and one of the cities which fell by lot to the Levites Joshua 21:16. Beth-shemesh was the first place at which the ark rested after its return from the hands of the Philistines 1 Samuel 6:12. It was the residence of one of Solomon’s purveyors 1 Kings 4:9, and was the spot where at a later date Amaziah was defeated and slain by Jehoash (2 Kings 14:11 ff). It is no doubt the modern “Ain Shems”.
Timnah, called also Timnath, and Timnathah, belonged likewise to Dan, and is to be distinguished from other places of like name Genesis 38:12; Joshua 24:30. Timnah ( “portion”) was evidently, like Gilgal, Ramah, Kirjath, and several other towns, of frequent use in Canaanite topography.
Jabneel - The modern “Yebna”, about three miles from the coast and twelve miles south of Joppa. It is called Jabneh in 2 Chronicles 26:6, where Uzziah is recorded to have taken it from the Philistines and destroyed its fortifications. The town is repeatedly mentioned with its haven in the wars of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 4:15; 2 Macc. 12:8), and by Josephus under the name of Jamnia. It is described by Philo as a very populous town; and after the destruction of Jerusalem was, for a long time, the seat of the Sanhedrin, and was a famous school of Jewish learning. Its ruins, which are still considerable, stand on the brink of the “Wady Rubin”.
See the marginal references.
The name Debir belonged to two other places; namely,, that named in Joshua 15:7, between Jerusalem and Jericho, and the Gadite town mentioned in Joshua 13:26. The Debir here meant appears (and its site has been conjecturally placed at Dhaheriyeh (Conder)) to have been situated in the mountain district south of Hebron. It was one of the towns afterward assigned to the Levites. Its other name Joshua 15:49, “Kirjath-sannah”, i. e. perhaps, “city of palm branches,” or “city of law, or sacred learning,” no less than the two given in the text, would indicate that Debir was an ancient seat of Canaanite learning, for Debir probably is equivalent to “oracle,” and Kirjath-sepher means “city of books.” This plurality of names marks the importance of the town, as the inducement held out in Joshua 15:16, by Caleb, to secure its capture (compare 1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Samuel 18:17), points to its strength.
Othniel was probably Caleb’s younger brother; the expression “son of Kenaz” being only an equivalent for the “Kenezite” Joshua 14:6.
Afield - In Judges 1:14, “the field,” i. e. the well-known field asked by Achsah and given by Caleb as a “blessing,” i. e. as a token of goodwill, which when the Book of Judges was written had become historical. The “field” in question was doubtless in the neighborhood of Debir, and was especially valuable because of its copious springs. Achsah’s dismounting was a sign of reverence.
A south land - This term (“negeb”) which is often equivalent to a proper name Joshua 15:21, importing the well-defined district which formed the south of the promised land (Numbers 13:17 note), seems here used in its more general sense Psalms 126:4, for a dry or barren land. The rendering of this passage adopted by Septuagint, several versions, and Commentators, etc., “thou hast given me into a south land,” i. e. “hast given me in marriage into a south land” is forced; the construction of the verb “to give,” with two accusatives, is natural and common to many languages.
Springs of water - The Hebrew words מים גלה gûllâh mayı̂m are found only here and in the parallel passage, Judges 1:15. Hence, some take it as a proper name, “Gulloth-maim,” which like Beth-horon Joshua 16:3, Joshua 16:5, was applied to two distinct but adjoining places - distinguished as “the upper” and “the lower.” The tract in question was no doubt a mountain slope which had springs both on its higher and lower ground; possibly the modern “Kurmul”.
List of the towns of the tribe of Judah. These are arranged in four divisions, according to the natural features of the district; namely,, those of the Negeb or south country Joshua 15:21-32; of “the valley,” or “the plain” (“Shephelah”, Joshua 15:33-47); of “the mountains” Joshua 15:48-60; and of “the wilderness” Joshua 15:61-62. Many of the identifications are still conjectural only.
Joshua 15:21-32. The Negeb was for the most part rocky and arid, and cannot have been at any time very thickly populated.
Kabzeel was the native place of Benaiah 2 Samuel 23:20, who was famous as a slayer of lions. The Negeb was a principal haunt of these beasts.
Telem may be the Telaim of 1 Samuel 15:4, where Saul mustered his army for the expedition against the Amalekites. It is possibly to be looked for at “El-Kuseir”, a spot where the various routes toward different parts of the Negeb converge, and which is occupied by the Arab tribe the “Dhullam”, a word identical with Telem in its consonants. Bealoth is probably the “Baalath-beer - Ramath of the south” Joshua 19:8, and was one of the towns afterward assigned to the Simeonites. It is identified with the modern Kurnub.
And Hezron which is Hazor - In this verse are the names of two towns only, not of four. Two places bearing the common topographical appellation, Hazor (“enclosure”) are here mentioned and distinguished as “Hazor Hadattah” and “Kerioth-Hezron,” otherwise termed Hazor, simply: the former has been identified by some with “El-Hudhera”; the latter is probably the modern “El-Kuryetein”. Kerioth, prefixed to a name, bespeaks military occupation, as Hazor points to pastoral pursuits. The place would therefore seem to be an ancient pastoral settlement which had been fortified by the Anakims, and called accordingly Kerioth; to which name the men of Judah, after they had captured it, added that of Hezron, in honor of one of their leading ancestors (compare Genesis 46:12; Ruth 4:18). Kerioth was the home of Judas the traitor, if the ordinary derivation of Iscariot (= קריות אישׁ 'ı̂ysh qerı̂yôth), i. e. man of Kerioth) be accepted: Matthew 10:4.
Moladah is probably the modern “El-Milh”, and like Hazar-shual (“Berrishail” near Gaza) ( “enclosure of foxes”) occurs Joshua 19:2-3; 1 Chronicles 4:28, as a town belonging to Simeon, and Nehemiah 11:26-27 as a place occupied by Jews after the captivity.
Baalah Joshua 19:3 is found in the modern “Deir-el-Belah”, near Gaza. Iim, i. e. “ruinous heaps” or “conical hills” (Numbers 21:11 note) is by some connected with Azem; and the compound name, “Ije Azem”, is traced in El-Aujeh, in the country of the Azazimeh Arabs, in whose name the ancient Azem may perhaps be traced. Eltolad is connected with “Wady-el-Thoula”, in the extreme south of the Negeb. Chesil appears to be the town called Bethul Joshua 19:4, and probably the Bethel 1 Samuel 30:27 situated not far from Ziklag. The name Chesil ( “fool”) was most likely bestowed by way of opprobrium (compare the change of Bethel, house of God, into Bethaven, house of vanity, Hosea 4:15). As Chesil signifies the group of stars known as Orion (compare Job 38:31; Amos 5:8), probably it was the worship of the heavenly bodies in particular that was carried on here. Bethel may have been the ancient name, and the spot was perhaps the very one near Beer-sheba where Abraham planted a tamarisk tree Genesis 21:33.
The place is probably “El Khulasah”, the Elusa of ecclesiastical writers, situated some fifteen miles southwest of Beer-sheba. Jerome testifies to the fact, that the worship of Venus as the morning star was practiced there, and Sozomen appears to be speaking of this place, when he mentions a Bethel Βηθελια Bēthelia in the territory of Gaza, populous and famous for an ancient and splendid temple. The site of Ziklag is uncertain. Madmannah and Sansannah correspond to Beth-marcaboth ( “house of chariots”) and Hazar-susah (“horse enclosure”) in Joshua 19:5 1 Chronicles 4:31. The latter names point to two stations of passage on or near the high road between Egypt and Palestine, and are represented by the modern “Minyay” and “Wady-es-Suny”, on the caravan route south of Gaza. Shilhim or Sharuhen, Joshua 19:6, and Shaaraim 1 Chronicles 4:31 is traced in “Khirbet-es-Seram”, near El Aujeh. Ain and Rimmon were possibly originally two towns, but in process of time became so connected as to be treated as one name Nehemiah 11:29. The place is probably the present “Um-er-Rummamim,” i. e. “mother of pomegranates,” a place about ten miles north of Beer-sheba.
Twenty and nine - The King James Version gives 34 names. The difference is due either to the confusion by an early copyist of letters similar in form which were used as numerals; or to the separation in the King James Version of names which in the original were one (e. g. Joshua 15:25).
“The valley” or the Shephelah, is bounded on the south by the Negeb, on the west by the Mediterranean, on the north by the plain of Sharon, on the east by “the mountains” Joshua 15:48. It is a well-defined district, of an undulating surface and highly fertile character, thickly dotted, even at the present time, with villages, which are for the most part situated on the different hills. The towns in this district, like those in the Negeb, are classed in four groups.
First group of fourteen towns: these belong to the northeastern portion of the Shephelah. Eshtaol and Zoreah were afterward assigned to the tribe of Dan, and inhabited by Danites Judges 13:25; Judges 18:2, Judges 18:8,Judges 18:11. The latter place was the home of Samson Judges 13:2. It was one of the cities fortified by Rehoboam 2 Chronicles 11:10, and was re-occupied by the Jews after the captivity Nehemiah 11:29. It is probably the modern Surah. (Eshtaol has been identified with Eshua (Conder)). Both places were in later times partly populated by Judahites from Kirjath-jearim; perhaps after the departure of the colony of Danites for Dan-Laish. Zanoah is the present “Zanna”, not far from Surah. Socoh is the modern “Shuweikah”. Sharaim is perhaps to be sought in the modern “Zakariya”. Gederah (“wall” or “fortress”) was a name borne with various terminations by several places.
Second group of towns, containing those in the middle portion of the Shephelah, and of which some only Joshua 10:3, Joshua 10:10 can be identified.
Third group; towns in the south of the Shephelah. For Libnah see Joshua 10:29. Mareshah is believed to be near Beit-jibrin, the ancient “Eleutheropolis.”
Fourth group: the towns of the Philistine seacoast: see Joshua 13:3.
This highland district extends from the Negeb on the south to Jerusalem, and is bounded by the Shephelah on the west, and the “wilderness” Joshua 15:61-62 on the east. The mountains, which are of limestone, rise to a height of near 3,000 feet. At present, the highlands of Judah present a somewhat dreary and monotonous aspect. The peaks are for the most part barren, though crowned almost everywhere with the ruins of ancient towns, and bearing on their sides marks of former cultivation. Many of the valleys, especially toward the south, are, however, still very productive. The towns here enumerated are given in six groups.
First group: towns on the southwest. Dannah (is identified with “Idnah” (Conder)). Jattir (“Attir”), and Eshtemoh (“Semua”) were priestly cities Joshua 21:14; 1 Chronicles 6:57, and the place to which David, after routing the Amalekites, sent presents 1 Samuel 30:27-28. Socoh is “Suweikeh.”
Second group of nine towns, situated somewhat to the north of the last mentioned. Of these Dumah is perhaps the ruined village “Ed Daumeh,” in the neighborhood of Hebron; and Beth-tappuah, i. e. “house of apples,” “Teffuh,” a place which has still a good number of inhabitants, is conspicuous for its olive groves and vineyards, and bears on every side the traces of industry and thrift.
Third group; lying eastward of the towns named in the last two, and next to “the wilderness.”
The four towns retain their ancient names with but little change. Maon 1 Samuel 23:24; 1 Samuel 25:2, the home of Nabal, is to be looked for in the conical hill, “Main,” the top of which is covered with ruins. It lies eight or nine miles southeast of Hebron Carmel 1 Samuel 25:2, the modern “Kurmul,” is a little to the north of “Main.” The name belongs to more than one place Joshua 12:22. Ziph gave its name to “the wilderness” into which David fled from Saul 1 Samuel 23:14.
Joshua 15:58, Joshua 15:59
Fourth group. Towns north of the last mentioned, of which Beth-zur and Gedor are represented by “Beit-sur” and “Jedur.”
After Joshua 15:59 follows in the Greek version a fifth group of eleven towns, which appears to have dropped in very ancient times out of the Hebrew text, probably because some transcriber passed unawares from the word “villages” at the end of Joshua 15:59, to the same word at the end of the missing passage. The omitted group contains the towns of an important, well-known, and populous district lying immediately south of Jerusalem, and containing such towns as Tekoah 2 Samuel 14:2; Nehemiah 3:5, Nehemiah 3:27; Amos 1:1; Bethlehem, the native town of David and of Christ Genesis 35:19; and Aetan, a Grecised form of Etam 2 Chronicles 11:6.
Joshua 15:61, Joshua 15:62
This district, including the towns in “the wilderness,” the scene of David’s wanderings (1 Samuel 23:24; Psalms 63:1-11 title), and of the preaching of the Baptist Matthew 3:1, and perhaps of our Lord’s temptation Matthew 4:0, extended from the northern limit of Judah along the Dead Sea to the Negeb; it was bounded on the west by that part of “the mountains” or highlands of Judah, which adjoined Bethlehem and Maon. It abounds in limestone rocks, perforated by numerous caverns, and often of fantastic shapes. It is badly supplied with water, and hence, is for the most part barren, though affording in many parts, now quite desolate, clear tokens of former cultivation. It contained only a thin population in the days of Joshua.
“The city of Salt” is not mentioned elsewhere, but was no doubt connected with “the valley of salt” 2 Samuel 8:13. The name itself, and the mention of En-gedi (Genesis 14:7 note) suggest that its site must be looked for near the Dead Sea.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Joshua 15". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany