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Territories of the Eastern Tribes
1-7. These vv. describe the land which, though still unconquered, is to be assigned to the 9½ tribes. It includes the W. and N. borders of Palestine. Wellhausen (’History of Israel’) remarks, ’The conquest was at first but an incomplete one. The plain which fringed the coast was hardly touched: so also the valley of Jezreel with its girdle of fortified cities stretching from Accho to Beth-shean. All that was subdued in the strict sense of the word was the mountainous land, particularly the southern hill-country of Mt. Ephraim; yet even here the Canaanites retained possession of not a few cities, such as Jebus, Shechem, Thebez.’
2. Geshuri] Distinct from the Geshurites of Joshua 13:13 and Joshua 12:5. We should perhaps read ’the people of Gezer,’ S. of Ephraim.
3. Sihor] the Wady el Arish, or Brook of Egypt.
4. Aphek] in Asher.
5. Giblites] Gebal was at the foot of Lebanon, on the coast.
7, 8. The LXX has a much more intelligible reading—’And now divide this land for an inheritance to the nine tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh, from Jordan to the great sea and toward the sunsetting shalt thou give it: the great sea shall be the border (Joshua 13:8). To the tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh, Reuben and Gad, gave Moses on the other side of Jordan, toward the sun-rising...’
8-33. The territory of the two tribes and a half, including territory previously taken from Moab by Sihon (Numbers 21:26): CP. Numbers 32:1-3, Numbers 32:33-42. Reuben had from the Arnbn on the S. to Heshbon (=Hesbân), a little north of the Dead Sea. Gad had the eastern side of the Jordan valley, from the N. boundary of Reuben to the Sea of Galilee (Sea of Chinnereth) and the western slopes of Mt. Gilead; Manasseh had the eastern half of Mt. Gilead, all the great plateau of Bashan, running up to the range of Hermon.
14. He gave none inheritance] assigned no district as a tribal territory, gave them only scattered cities within the lots of the other tribes. The sacrifices of the Lord] (In Joshua 13:33, simply ’The Lord’) Cp. Numbers 18:20-32. Their professional absorption in spiritual things made it, however, all the more necessary that their material wants should be provided for (see 1 Corinthians 9:13-14 for an enunciation of this principle and its application to the Christian ministry). Accordingly we find their promised cities duly assigned to the Levites in Joshua 21 (cp. Numbers 35).
15-23. Territory of Reuben: see on Joshua 13:8-33.
16, 17. Plain] RM ’table-land.’ The plateau of Madebah includes the sites of Hesbân, the ancient capital, Dibon (=Dhîban, where the famous 9th cent. b.c. monument of Mesha, known as the ’Moabite Stone,’ was discovered in 1868) and other towns of Reuben. Dibon (Numbers 32:34; Numbers 33:45) was actually occupied by Gad.
22. The reference to the slaying of Balaam comes in strangely here: but it occurs also in Numbers 31:8 in a parallel context. Evidently there is here trace of a very ancient document.
24-28. Territory of Gad: see on Joshua 13:8-33.
26. Ramath-mispeh] possibly the later Ramoth Gilead (Raimûn), N. of the Jabbok. Debir] not the Debir of Joshua 10:38 or Joshua 15:7. The Hebrew is Ledebir, which may be the Lo-debar of 2 Samuel 9:4.
27. Sea of Chinnereth] i.e. the Sea of Galilee.
29-31. Territory of the half-tribe of Manasseh.
33. See on Joshua 13:14.
The summaries of Joshua 12 mark the end of one section of the book, and the opening words of Joshua 13 as clearly introduce the beginning of another.
This central portion, embracing Joshua 13-21, has been called ’The Domesday Book of the Old Testament,’ and is invaluable as a groundwork for modern scientific explorers. ’The Book of Joshua’ (writes Col. Conder) ’is the great geographical book of the Old Testament, and the study of its geography is important, as showing that it was written in Palestine by an author who was familiar with the whole land... A proportion of about three-quarters of the towns mentioned in this book are more or less certainly known, having either never been lost, or. having recently been recovered by exploration, through the survival of the ancient name to our own time, or by other indications—as, for instance, in the case of Lachish, where other indications are confirmed by the discovery of a tablet referring to Zimrida (who is known to have been the ruler of Lachish about 1480 b.c.) which has been dug up in the ruins of the city.’ It may be noted that in Joshua 13-22 the Priestly narrative is predominant; just as the Primitive is in Joshua 1-12, although some of the most interesting incidents, e.g. Caleb’s inheritance (Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:14-19), are from the earlier source.
The section may be thus analysed:—(a) Joshua 13:1-33; Territories of the Eastern Tribes, (b) Joshua 14:1 to Joshua 19:51; Territories of the Western Tribes.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Joshua 13". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany