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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 15

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-4


At first sight, the listing of the names of borders and cities does not seem to give much food for the heart. But “all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). When we read through such lists of names, we often find something in between that affects us. This chapter suddenly contains the history of Caleb and his daughter (Joshua 15:13-Psalms :).

Caleb’s daughter shows the same faith as her father. Two things are said of her. First, she encourages her husband to ask her father for a piece of land. Secondly, she also asks for a blessing herself. Women take a different place in the Bible than men, but not a lesser one. They can stimulate their husbands in being busy with the blessings of heaven and they themselves can enjoy them as well.

The South Border

The LORD makes it clear by lot which part of the land will belong to Judah. In Acts 1 we read for the last time in Scripture about the use of the lot to know the will of the Lord (Acts 1:26). In Acts 2 the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the church. From that moment on He leads God’s children “into all the truth” (John 16:13).

Judah gets the southern part of the land, from the wilderness to the mountain on which Jerusalem lies. The southern border separates the land of Canaan from other peoples, including Edom and Egypt.

Verses 5-12

East Border, North Border and West Border

The description of the east border and the west border of Judah is simple. These borders are indicated by two waters: ‘the Salt Sea’, or the Dead Sea, ‘as far as the mouth of the Jordan River’ in the east (Joshua 15:5) and ‘the Great Sea’, or the Mediterranean Sea, in the west (Joshua 15:12). The north border is described in detail (Joshua 15:5-1 Kings :) because it delimits Judah’s territory from the other tribes.

Verses 13-14

Caleb Gets and Conquers His Inheritance

Here we read that Caleb really takes possession of his inheritance. He has got it and driven out the enemies. Caleb knows these children of Anak from the past. All Israelites who have been afraid of them (Numbers 13:33) have died.

Anak means ‘long-necked’ or ‘giant’. In him we can see a picture of satan. His three sons are together a picture of all that is in the world and is in rebellion against God. Sheshai means ‘free’, Ahiman means ‘brother of the gift’, Talmai means ‘audacious’.

In connection with these names and “all that is in the world” (1 John 2:16) the following application can be made. It is the desire of the flesh to be free, to do what you want. In addition, one is guided by the desire of the eyes to possess what is presented as ‘a gift’. Finally man is so audacious that he takes in the pride of life what the devil offers him.

These giants do not impress Caleb because he compares them to the power of God. He is now eighty-five years old, but still as fearless to take possession of the land as when he had just spied it out. The giants have not become smaller in the course of time, but neither has the faith of Caleb in the power of God.

Even old believers can fight the battle. Unfortunately, it may be possible that in the course of Christian life, old habits have crept in that form an obstacle to this struggle. But if there is faith in the power of God, even in old age giants can still be expelled and blessings taken into possession.

Verses 15-19

Caleb, Othniel and Achsah

Kiriath-sepher means ‘city of the book’. It will have been a city of scholarship and literature of the Canaanites. Young people sometimes have to deal with books of the world, with modern literature, which defiles the mind. Then spiritual strength is needed to take and eradicate this stronghold so it will not harm the soul.

It is possible to confront in spiritual power. Parents have a responsibility in this. They need to know what their children need to take in. They don’t have to read such literature themselves, but as Caleb they can offer a reward, a stimulus to overcome in the strength of faith. Parents have a duty to help their children capture that city.

Othniel will not only be inspired by the reward. He himself must have been longing for the land. He will have often heard Uncle Caleb talk about it and seen what it means to him in his uncle’s life. This preparation, together with the victory he gets and the woman he gets, makes him ready to be the first judge (Judges 3:9).

The city is captured by Othniel, a young man. His name means ‘lion of God’ or ‘my power is God’. Young people often have to deal with ‘the city of the book’, which is the wisdom of the world. If that city is overcome in spiritual power of faith, the city is renamed Debir, which means ‘place of demand’. This reminds us of the most holy place, the place where God speaks to the High Priest and to the people. Debir can also mean ‘a word of God’. Both meanings point to the speaking of God to our hearts.

It is to be desired that all old believers want to be like Caleb who has taken Kiriath-arba, which means ‘city of giants’, to make Hebron, that means ‘fellowship’, out of it. It is to be desired that all young believers want to be like Othniel who takes ‘the city of the book’ to make it ‘a word of God’.

Caleb knows how to encourage young people to fight. He promises the conqueror of Kiriath-Sepher his daughter. Othniel seizes that opportunity. Achsah will not only have been attractive to him externally. He will have known her interest in the land, for she shows that.

Caleb also has sons (1 Chronicles 4:15). They will also have received their share. But the blessings of the land and taking possession of them is not only for brothers. May the Lord give that there are women like Achsah, who are interested in the inheritance of God and ask for a part.

Achsah’s interest in the land is first expressed by her stimulating her husband Othniël to ask her father for a field. Women who stimulate their husbands in this way are a real help. Such women are not interested in their husbands taking a prominent position in the church. Such women want that their husbands will achieve spiritual victories.

It will have been a joy for Caleb to comply with Othniel’s request. He gives him a field. But Achsah sees that something is missing in the inheritance. Not only does she want to have a land, but she wants to enjoy fruit from the inheritance. We can point at the amount of bible comments that we have received or purchased or that we know to find them on the Internet. But if we don’t want to use those comments to bear fruit, we only own dry land.

Four times in one verse there is talk of ‘give’ (Joshua 15:19). Achsah knows her father as a giving father. If we know God like this, we will ask Him a lot. It is His joy to give to us, but He desires us to ask Him. He loves to give to those who expect something from Him.

Achsah addresses her father appropriately, not boldly or compellingly. She alights from the donkey. Caleb understands that she wants to ask something. She asks for a wedding gift. The dry land does not yield anything. Water is needed and she asks for it. She will have known that Moses has spoken of a land with an abundance of water, both in the valley and on the hill (Deuteronomy 8:7). The water from a spring speaks of the Word of God which is made alive by the Holy Spirit. Upper springs in the mountains make the water flow from top to bottom. Lower springs are in the valleys.

In our lives of faith we are at highlights, but also in valleys. Conferences and personal Bible study can be from those upper springs, where we are refreshed. But also in the struggles of the life of faith, in the valleys, we need the clear water of the Word to refresh ourselves. Above all, we need the desire of faith of an Achsah to desire such springs.

Often women have a better and greater understanding of what is needed than men. Because they long for it and know how to obtain it, they also get what they long for. Such a one is Mary “who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word” (Luke 10:39). The Lord Jesus says of her: “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). One may still be so familiar with the land, but to enjoy fruit requires a desire.

Verses 20-62

Cities and Villages in Judah

Here the towns and villages are named according to the different territories in which they are located. In this way, the inheritance is enjoyed, in these different contexts. A village is not what we understand by it. It is more like a hamlet consisting of one or two families living and working together. It speaks of individual believers who share blessings with each other in a smaller context, for example a family context.

A city speaks more of a local church. Every family is different, as is every local church. We notice this when we read the letters to the various churches in the New Testament. Taking possession of the land is not something of the study room, to enjoy those things only for ourselves. It is something we share with our families, fathers, mothers and children or also with the brothers and sisters with whom we form a local church.

If we don’t, we will capture the inheritance as Reuben and Gad did. Of these tribes only the men have captured the inheritance. Although, they did not do this for themselves, but for others. Their wives and children have never seen the inheritance. Not sharing with others what we have taken possession of is also visible in Ephraim and Manasseh: there are hardly any villages and towns mentioned of them. Judah really is a tribe after the thoughts of God.

Can any local authority be seen as a city, in the wilderness or in the mountains? We are all needed to build up each other and complement each other. This happens mainly in the local Bible reading. Can the church where we are be considered a church in the wilderness or in the mountain? Is it a city in the land, i.e. is it a church where the blessings of heaven are enjoyed, either in relation to life on earth or in relation to the position of believers in Christ?

Spiritually speaking, the border of Judah is a curious border. No tribe has a view like Judah. Those who live in the south have the view on Edom (Joshua 15:21-Jonah :). Edom is a brother nation and at the same time the most hateful enemy. Edom speaks of the flesh in the believer. That limit may not be crossed, that is to say that the flesh may not have the opportunity to enter the inheritance, because that will result in destruction of (the enjoyment of) the inheritance.

Then Joshua 15:33-2 Corinthians : mention the cities in the lowland. That is the low part of the land between the sea and the mountains of Judea. The low speaks of the realm of Christian life where heavenly blessings are shown, the practical life of faith of every day. In the letter to the Ephesians, those territories are seen in marriages and families and working environment. Women and men, children and parents, slaves and gentlemen are all addressed (Ephesians 5:22-Micah :; Ephesians 6:1-Numbers :Ephesians 6:5-1 Samuel :).

There are also cities in the hill country (Joshua 15:48-1 Peter :). This relates to knowing the victories in Christ in the heavenly places. Paul prays for the believers in Ephesus that they will know their blessings (Ephesians 1:17-Ecclesiastes :). John is taken “in the spirit to a great and high mountain” to see the new Jerusalem, that is the church (Revelation 21:10). Churches like Ephesus are located “in the hill country”. Are there still such churches in Christianity today?

Finally, the cities are mentioned in the wilderness of Judea, east of the mountains to the Dead Sea (Joshua 15:61-1 John :). Judea is constantly reminded of the wilderness, its aridity. The awareness of all the blessings in heaven also includes the awareness that this world has nothing to offer for faith. In the kingdom of peace, however, the wilderness will “blossom like a crocus” (Isaiah 35:1). That is what faith looks forward to.

Verse 63

Enemies That Judah Could Not Drive Out

However much the Judeans may occupy a special place in God’s people, however much there are men and women in Judah like Caleb and Achsah, it is no guarantee for complete faithfulness. As a tribe they lack the strength (faith) to drive the enemy out to the last man.

Every testimony, every family has the responsibility to ensure that every enemy is driven out and that the land is possessed, so that all are saturated. The history of the church on earth unfortunately shows that the enemy has not been completely eliminated.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 15". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-15.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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