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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 14

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verses 1-5


(Joshua 14-19, inclusive).

(1) And these are the countries which . . . Eleazar . . . and Joshua . . . distributed.—Here we enter upon the record of the third portion of Joshua’s great work. He had (1) to bring Israel over Jordan; (2) to conquer the land; (3) to divide it among the tribes.

Eleazar . . . and Joshua.—Not Joshua and Eleazar, observe. This is in strict accordance with the law of Moses, and the form of government which he was ordered to establish in Israel, to continue after his death. See Numbers 27:0, where, in answer to Moses prayer for a shepherd in Israel, the Lord says, “Take thee Joshua (here a figure of the great “Shepherd, the stone of Israel”), and lay thine hand upon him; and (Numbers 27:21) he (Joshua) shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord; at his (Eleazar’s) word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he (Joshua) and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.” (Comp. also Deuteronomy 17:9 : “Thou shalt come unto the priests (at the place which the Lord shall choose), and unto the judge that shall be in those days, and enquire; and they shall shew thee the sentence of judgment.”) In these passages we see delineated the nature of the government established in Israel by Moses, to continue until there was a king. The priest had the legislative authority, the executive power rested with the judge. Of these judges, Joshua stands first; those who followed, until Samuel, held the same relation to the priest. Joshua was also a prophet. Samuel (a prophet likewise) established a third power in the constitution, and made the supreme executive power continuous and hereditary, giving to Israel a form of government by prophet, priest, and king. For the present, however, Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun (the answer to Moses’ prayer for a shepherd) were the rulers. “To lead them out and to bring them in” was what Moses asked that the shepherd of Israel might do. Joshua had led them out to victory; he was now to bring in each of the tribes into the home that the Lord had chosen for it in the promised land.

And the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel.—These men are all named in Numbers 34:16-28 : one from every tribe, in addition to Eleazar and Joshua. The names were then given by God to Moses, as the narrative states in Numbers 34:16-19. But is it not remarkable that before the land was conquered, in view of all the battles that were to be fought before it could be divided, the names of the men who were to divide it should be revealed? Man could not have arranged it so. The bow drawn at a venture, or one false step in the heat of battle, or the hurry of pursuit or flight, might have made a gap in the list. But it was not to be. “The Lord hath kept me alive,” says Caleb (the first man after Joshua on this list) in Joshua 14:10. But all the twelve commissioners might have said the same. We cannot forbear to ask the question—Is it conceivable that, were the narrative in Numbers 34:0 anything but simple truth, it should contain such an unlikely statement as this? It will not do to say the names in the Book of Numbers were added afterwards; the form of the language in which they are given forbids this, and, with the single exception of Caleb, we know nothing of these twelve commissioners except their names.

Verse 2

(2) By lot . . . as the Lord commanded . . . Moses.—See Numbers 26:52-56; Numbers 34:17-29.

The nine tribes, and for the half tribe; and (3) For Moses had given; and (4) For the children of Joseph were two tribes.—The argument of these verses can only mean that the tribal inheritances were to be twelve in number, and therefore the Levites were excluded from any distinct territorial position, for the children of Joseph were to be two tribes. Of Ephraim and Manasseh, Jacob had said to Joseph, “as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine:” i.e., though grandsons, they shall count as sons of Jacob, and each one shall be the head of a tribe. Thus there are two ways of counting Jacob’s sons, each making twelve; and these two seem to be recognised as distinct in Exodus 28:0. There we are told that the high priest should bear the names of the children of Israel on his shoulders according to their birth (i.e., Joseph being counted as well as Levi, but not Ephraim and Manasseh). On his breastplate he must have them according to the twelve tribes (i.e., Ephraim and Manasseh being specified, but Joseph and Levi left out). Both ways of reckoning were necessary in order that the complete Israel might be represented by the high priest. And in each way the number twelve was preserved and emphasised, as it is evidently intended to be in this place,

Verse 6

INHERITANCE OF JUDAH (Joshua 14:6 to Joshua 15:63).

(6) Caleb the son of Jephunneh—Caleb was the commissioner appointed from the tribe of Judah to divide the land (Numbers 34:19). His coming forward on this occasion to ask for his own inheritance first of all might appear to savour of self-interest, if the post of honour for which he applied had not been also the most dangerous and difficult position in the inheritance of his tribe. He applied for the territory of the gigantic sons of Anak, whom he undertook to drive out in the strength of Jehovah. Therefore “Joshua blessed him” and gave him Hebron for his inheritance. It is noticeable that of the two faithful spies whom Moses sent, Caleb received his inheritance first, and Joshua last of all Israel. (See Joshua 19:49.) The characters of the two men are well seen in this contrast—the one foremost in a service of danger; the other last to seek the things that were his own. Thus, “even Christ pleased not Himself” (comp. Joshua); but “the reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me,” as the conquest of the sons of Anak fell to the lot of Caleb. Observe how the slayer of Goliath is said to take away the reproach from Israel, 1 Samuel 17:26. Who can stand before the children of Anak?”

Verse 7

(7) Forty years old was I . . . and (10) I am this day fourscore and five years old.—In this speech we have the only direct evidence as to the duration of the wars of Canaan under Joshua. The spies were sent from Kadesh-barnea in the second year of the Exodus, about 38½ years before the passage of Jordan (see Deuteronomy 2:14). Thus Caleb would be 40+38=78 years old when they crossed the Jordan. He was 85 when they began to divide the country. Therefore the conquest itself must have extended over a period of seven years. It is manifest that the record of the capture of Jericho and Ai, with the two campaigns of Joshua against the southern and northern confederacies, does not give all the details of the war.

Verse 9

(9) And Moses sware on that day . . . the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine.—Whether Moses referred to Hebron specifically in this promise, it is impossible to say.

Verse 11

(11) As yet I am as strong this day . . .—But by Joshua 13:1, “Joshua had aged.” Yet Joshua died at the age of 110, only 25 years older than Caleb was at this time. They were contemporaries. But the far greater responsibility lying upon Joshua (with a possible difference of temperament) may very naturally account for the one man’s having aged so much more rapidly than the other.

Verse 14

(14) The Kenezite.—This epithet seems to be connected with Kenaz (Joshua 15:17).

Verse 15

(15) Kirjath-arba.—“Arba the father of Anak” (Joshua 21:11). Arba means four in Hebrew, and therefore some have endeavoured to interpret it as the city of four. Rashi, for example, says it was “the city of Ahiman, and Sheshai, and Talmai, and their father.” Others have tried to make it one of four confederate cities like Gibeon and its allies. But the text of Joshua seems to leave no doubt that Arba was a man’s name, whatever may have been the

occasion of his being so named. Unless the Anakim are of the same date as the Zuzim, and Rephaim, and Emim of Genesis 14:0 (who are known to be giant races by Deuteronomy 2:3) Hebron must have been named Hebron before it was Kirjath-arba. But the text of Genesis 23:2 seems to make Kirjath-arba the name of the place where Sarah died, at the time of her death; and it is perfectly possible that it was so. (See Note on Numbers 13:22.)

A great man.—Rather, the great man among the Anakim.

And the land had rest from war.—This clause appears in Joshua 11:23, where its position is perfectly natural. It closes the record of the wars of Joshua. It is not so easily accounted for here. If we were quite certain at what period the Anakim were dispossessed and slain, we might connect it with that portion of the story; but see Note on Joshua 15:14, and also on the next verse.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 14". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/joshua-14.html. 1905.
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