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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 13

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-7

Joshua - Chapter 13

Undivided Land, vs. 1-7

Verse one of this chapter indicates the passage of considerable time since the conquest of the land. The Lord seems to be chiding Joshua for attempting to retire before his task is done. Thus the great leader of Israel commits the third serious error of his career. Though it is not so strikingly apparent as those relative to Achan’s sin and Ai, and the deceit of the Gibeonites, its consequences may be of as great, or greater, scope than the others. It is always wrong for God’s children to quit before He gets ready for them to quit, (Galatians 6:9).

The Lord describes the land which has been conquered on the west side of Jordan and now should be possessed by the tribes. Another indication of the passage of time since its initial conquest is noted in the fact that the Philistines had occupied the coastal land and settled in the towns of Gaza, Ashdod, Askelon, Gath, and Ekron. The Israelites would never dislodge them, but the Lord intended for Israel to possess the land nevertheless. Sihor was east of Egypt and the conquered land, to be possessed, reached from this place northward to the country of the Geshurites in the area of Lebanon.

The Avites were probably a desert people who were dwelling among the Philistines in the southwestern most part of the coastland. All the Canaanite lands were included.

God promised to drive out the inhabitants of the Sidonian and Lebanese countries and cities, areas in the present nation of Lebanon. Mearah was between Tyre and Sidon, the strong harbor cities of the ancient Phoenicians.

Several Bible towns were named Aphek, but this one was north of Sidon, while Gebal (the Giblites) was also Phoenician. Mount Hermon was the highest mountain in Palestine, at over 9,000 feet. Baal-gad was at the foot of Hermon, and Misrephoth-maim, in the same vicinity, is one of the places where the fleeing men of Jabin were pursued by the victorious Israelites after they had defeated them at the waters of Merom (Joshua 11:8). .

The "entering into Hamath" means to the borders of that country, which was in upper Syria, northwest of Damascus.

Joshua is told to divide this land to the nine and a half remaining tribes of Israel. The other two and a half had their allotment already on the east of Jordan The allotment was to be determined by casting the lot.

Verses 8-14

Trans-Jordan, vs. 8-14

Once again the area east of Jordan, which was allotted to the tribes of Reuben and Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh, is described. For comments on the things of verses 8 and 12 see Joshua 12:1-6.

The "plain of Medeba unto Dibon," which is not mentioned in the foregoing passage, is located in the southern portion of Reuben’s inheritance, east of the Dead Sea. Dibon was very near Aroer, on the north bank of Arnon, while Medeba was some eighteen miles east of the northeastern corner of the Dead Sea.

While the Lord promised these lands to the Israelites they neglected to drive out the Geshurites and the Maachathites, but allowed them to live among them.

In later centuries they were a source of trouble. David married Maacah, a princess of Geshui the mother of Absalom (2 Samuel 3:3), and Absalom rebelled against his father and tried to wrest the kingdom from him (2 Samuel chapters 13-18).

Verse 14 refers to the failure of the Levites to receive an allotment of land because the Lord had appointed them to wait upon the tabernacle, and to make sacrifices and offerings on behalf of the people. This fact is mentioned several times in the books of the Pentateuch (Numbers 18:20-24; Numbers 26:57-62; Deuteronomy 10:8-9, and others).

Verses 15-23

Reuben’s Lot, vs. 15-23

Reuben’s lot is the first to be described, possibly because he was the oldest son of Jacob. The word "coast" means about the same as "border" in modern English vernacular.

The chief cities in Reuben’s lot are named, some of them having been noted in earlier comments. Aroer was on the north bank of the Arnon. "In the midst of the river" refers to the city’s location, about midway in the valley from its source to its mouth.

The land took in the plain from Dibon to Medeba, including Heshbon and its dependent towns. The cities named in verse 17-19 were in the plain, while the others lay fartherto the north.

It was at Baal-peor that the "doctrine of Balaam" caused the Israelites to commit fornication with the Midianite prostitutes, causing the execution of many guilty persons. Five of the Midianite princes, whose people were then residing among the Amorites, were killed, along with Balaam the false prophet, in the ensuing war ( Nu chapter 25 and 31).

The western border of Reuben was the Jordan river.

Verses 24-28

Gad’s Lot, vs. 24-28

Gad’s allotment was the central portion of the eastern lands. The east border seems to be indefinite, with Jazer being definitely within the tribe, and having a kind of uncertain claim to lands further east to Aroer (different from the city on the Arnon) to the vicinity of Rabbah, chief city of the Ammonites. The south border skirted the Reubenite cities of Heshbon and Beth-peor. Moving northward one came to Betonim, then Jazer, then Mahanaim, where Jacob met the angel host (Genesis 32:2) and where David found refuge from Absalom (2 Samuel 17:27-29). Nearby was Debir, probably the same place as Lo-debar, where Mephibosheth was found (2 Samuel 9:4).

On the west, along the Jordan valley was Beth-nimrah, and moving north from here one came to Succoth and Zaphon. The latter vicinity is called the "edge of Chinnereth", though it does not seem Gad’s inheritance reached to the sea itself.

Verses 29-33

Half-Manasseh’s Lot, vs. 29-33

Area-wise the family of Machir, of the tribe of Manasseh, got by far the largest portion of the eastern lands. This included all the kingdom of Og, king of Bashan, as well as the half of Gilead not allotted to Gad. While some of the finest grazing land in Israel was in this area, it also included wild, unsettled wilderness areas. The Geshurites and Maacha­thites, who were left in the land were also occupants of large areas here. The southern border skirted the Gadite city of Mahanaim, then moving northward took in the sixty cities of Jair. Edrei was in the east border and Ashtaroth in the heights of Golan.

The family divisions of the tribes was the unit by which the tribal inheritances were determined. All of these eastern allotments had been decided by Moses before his death and before the crossing of Jordan and conquest of Canaan. Once more it is stated that no land inher­itance was assigned to Levi.

Some lessons to be learned from this chapter are: 1) As long as His children live the Lord has a purpose for them, their work is not done; 2) God has a place for His people to occupy, and He will give it to them if they will accept it; 3) God’s people do not enjoy all they might if they would cast out the things He wants them to get rid of.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 13". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/joshua-13.html. 1985.
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