Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

Joshua 15

Verse 1

XV.

(1) This then was the lot.—Rather, And the lot came to the tribe of Judah. We might perhaps better begin this section with the last sentence of Joshua 14, and read thus: “And the land had rest from war; and the lot fell to the tribe of Judah (i.e., the tribe of Judah received its allotment), according to their families.”

The question arises at this point how the position of the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh was determined. As to the remaining seven, see Note on Joshua 18:5-10. It is noticeable that Hebron appears to have been promised to Caleb (Joshua 14:12), and Shechem assigned to Joseph by Jacob (Genesis 48:21-22; Joshua 24:32). Did not this necessarily bring the tribe of Judah into the south, the neighbourhood of Hebron, and Ephraim (with his brother Manasseh) into the centre of the country?

Verse 2

(2) Their south border.—The southern boundary of Judah is thus described by Conder (Bible Handbook, p. 257):—“The south boundary of Judah is described from east to west, and became afterwards that of Simeon (see Joshua 19:1). Although the points mentioned along the border are not all certainly known, there is no doubt that the great mountain wall which extends from the Dead Sea to the water-shed south of Rehoboth (Er-Ruheibeh) formed the natural and recognised boundary of Palestine, while the river of Egypt (Joshua 15:4) is generally supposed to be the present Wâdy-el’-Arish, the northern boundary between Syria and Egypt. The north branch of this valley ( Wâdy-el-Abiad) rises near ‘Abdeh (Ebodah), south of Rehoboth, and thus carries on the boundary from the mountain rampart. A new identification of importance may be here mentioned, namely, Hezron (Joshua 15:3), the next point to Kadesh-barnea on the west side. Kadesh has been shown to lie probably in the neighbourhood of Wâdy-el-Yemen, and immediately west of that valley is the mountain called Hadîreh, a name radically identical with Hezron.”

Verse 4

(4) This shall be your south coast.—This phrase does not seem to fit in with the language of the rest of the passage. But it is extremely like a reminiscence of the language of Moses in Numbers 34:3; Numbers 34:6; Numbers 34:9; Numbers 34:12. “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth” was the instruction to Joshua, and in describing the border of Judah, he is really describing also the southern border of all Israel; and he does it throughout in language very like that of Moses in Numbers 34. But Moses wrote it in the second person and in the future tense throughout; Joshua wrote it in the third person and in the past tense, with this one exception, in which he seems to have unconsciously adopted the phraseology of the lawgiver instead of the historian.

Verse 5

(5) Their border in the north quarter.—This can be followed with the Ordnance Survey of Palestine, and is described by Conder in the following way:—“It started from the Jordan mouth, but did not apparently follow the river, as Beth Arabah (unknown) and Beth Hogla (’Ain Hajlah, about two miles west of Jordan—sheet 18) belonged to Benjamin. Passing along the valley of Achor (Wâdy Kelt), it left Gilgal on the north, and ascended the pass to the going up of Adummim (Tal’at-ed-Dumm), the ancient and modern name ‘bloody’ being apparently derived from the brick-red marls here found amid a district of white chalk.” (It is easy to conjecture other reasons.) A line of Roman road on the map is a very fair guide to the boundary here described, and thus far it lies on sheet 18 En Rogel, the next known point (on sheet 17), close to Zoheleth (Zahweileh, 1 Kings 1:9), was evidently the present spring ‘Ain Umm-ed-Deraj, in the Kedron Valley (this may be sought in the separate survey of Jerusalem, which is upon a larger scale). Thence the border ran across the slope (Cataph, Joshua 15:8, “side”), beside the valley of Ben Hinnom (Wâdy Rabâby), south of Jebus, and thus reached the watershed. (Here the boundary-line takes a turn to the northward.) It then apparently passed along the broad vale (Emek, Joshua 15:8) of Rephaim (“valley of the giants”), which Josephus makes to extend towards Bethlehem. This valley is identified with El-Bukeia (sheet 17). The waters of Nephtoah are apparently identical with ‘Ain ’Atân, south-west of Bethlehem.

Verse 9

(9) Kirjath-jearim is by Conder identified as ’Arma (spelt ’Erma on the Ordnance map), four miles east of Beth-shemesh (’Ain Shemes, or Shems).

Verse 10

(10) Mount Seir.—Of course, entirely distinct from the place in Edom, but not precisely identified.

Chesalon is identified with Kesla, two and a quarter miles due north of Khurbet ’Erma, on sheet 17 Timnah is Tibneh (on sheet 16).

Verse 11

(11) Ekron is Akir (on sheet 16). Here we are in the Sheph

Verses 13-19

(13-19) And unto Caleb . . . This paragraph occurs also in Judges 1:10-15, with some slight variations. Which is its original place? In Judges it is connected with the continuation of the conquest of Canaan by the tribe of Judah after Joshua’s death, and there we read they slew (literally, smote) Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai. If this is the death, and not merely the defeat of the Anakim (the Hebrew word is not absolutely decisive), we have two stages in the conquest of Hebron described—viz., (l) the expulsion of the Anakim sufficiently for Caleb to occupy the place; and (2) their final defeat and death. It seems hardly possible to make the narrative in Judges 1 a mere repetition of an earlier story, because it is presented as a part of that which happened after Joshua’s death. It would seem, then, that the entire conquest of the Anakim was not effected at once, but begun by Caleb and Joshua in Joshua’s lifetime, and completed by the tribe of Judah, under the leadership of Caleb, after Joshua’s death. It is remarkable that Ahiman, Sheshai, and Talmai are mentioned as apparently living when the twelve spies went up from Kadesh-barnea (Numbers 13:22), forty years before. But it has been thought that the three names were the names of three clans of the Anakim. (See Notes on Judges 1:10.)

Upon the whole, it seems most reasonable to conclude that the proceedings by which Caleb secured his inheritance, and fulfilled the promise of Joshua 14:12, have been recorded here for the sake of completeness, though not necessarily belonging to this time.

(15) Kirjath-sepher.—“City of books.”

(17) Othniel the son of Kenaz.—Comp. Judges 3:9.

(19) A south land—i.e., land in the Negeb: “a series of rolling hills clad with scanty herbage here and there.” Conder does not identify Debir, but others have taken it to be identical with Dewir-ban, about three miles west of Hebron.

The upper springs, and the nether springs—i.e., the upper and lower “bubblings,” or pools of a rivulet in a valley among the hills in this neighbourhood.

Verses 21-32

(21) And the uttermost cities.—The cities of the tribe of Judah are given under four heads: (a) towards Edom; (b) in the Shephêlah, or plain of the coast (Joshua 15:33, &c.); (c) in the mountains (Joshua 15:48); (d) in the wilderness (Joshua 15:61).

Of those in Joshua 15:21-32, the first twenty-nine, Conder identifies only four—viz., Adadah, Joshua 15:22 (Ad’adah); Kerioth Hezron (some see a trace of Kerioth in the sobriquet of Judas Is-cariot, the man of Kerioth), Joshua 15:25 (Hudîreh); Beer-sheba, Joshua 15:28 (Bîr es-seb’a); and Ain Rimmon, Joshua 15:32 ( Umm er-Rumânûn). It is not easy to say precisely how the twenty-nine are to be obtained from the thirty-three, but evidently some of the Hazors are villages attached to the cities.

(31) Ziklag.—It is noticeable that Ziklag became the property of the kings of Judah by the gift of Achish, who bestowed it on David (1 Samuel 27:6). not by the gift of Joshua to Judah. The partial character of the conquest and the division of unconquered territory to the tribes is thus illustrated.

Verse 33

(33) In the valley—i.e., the Shephêlah, or plain of the coast. Of the fourteen that follow in Joshua 15:33-36, Conder identifies ten.

Eshtaol, and Zoreah, were afterwards assigned to Dan (Joshua 19:41).

Verse 41

(41) Of the sixteen towns in Joshua 15:37-41, Conder identifies seven.

Verse 44

(44) Of the nine towns in Joshua 15:42-44, Conder identifies five.

Verse 45

(45) Ekron was afterwards given to Dan (Joshua 19:43).

Verse 46-47

(46, 47) Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza are all identified. Observe that the Philistine territory is assigned to Judah here.

Verses 48-51

(48-51) Nine of these eleven are identified.

Verse 51

(51) Goshen is thought by some to give a name to the land of Goshen in Joshua 10:41, but the place is insignificant, and not identified; and to take the land of Goshen as frontier or border land seems a very much more reasonable interpretation.

Giloh—the home of Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s and Absalom’s counsellor (2 Samuel 15:12, &c).

Verse 54

(54) Of this total of nine, six have been found.

Verse 57

(57) The four first and the four last of these are all found. Maon, Carmel, and Ziph became famous in David’s wanderings (see the story of Nabal, 1 Samuel 25); and the Ziphites have covered themselves with infamy by their repeated efforts to betray him to Saul, who sought his life (1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1).

Verse 59

(59) Five of these six have been identified.

Verse 60

(60) Kirjath-jearim has been already pointed out on the boundary-line of the tribe (Joshua 15:9). Rabbah is marked as Rubba.

Verse 63

(63) Could not drive them out.—It is observable that the failure of the three great tribes of Judah and Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) to clear the inheritance assigned to them is specially noticed in the Book of Joshua—viz., Judah in this place, and Ephraim and Manasseh in Joshua 16:10; Joshua 17:11-12. A list of the failures of all the tribes is given in Judges 1.

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Joshua 15". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/joshua-15.html. 1905.