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Friday, June 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 14

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-5

Tribal Allotments West of the Jordan (14:1-19:51)

Preliminary Explanation (14:1-5)

The reader of Joshua 13:1-7 would conclude that the division of the land was made by Joshua alone shortly before his death. From 18:2-10 one would conclude also that, as a result of the casting of lots in the presence of the Lord, it was Joshua who declared how land should be assigned. Two other traditions exist concerning the way in which allotments were determined. Some passages suggest that the responsibility lay with "the people of Israel" (14:5; 19:49-50). Still others ascribe a prominent role to Eleazar the priest and to "the heads of the fathers’ houses" (14:1; 19:51). It is likely that all three points of view contain truth. Since it was the practice of Israel’s leaders to determine the will of God by the use of lots (Urim and Thummim; see comment on Deuteronomy 33:1-29), we would expect Israel’s priests and political leaders to share in the ceremony. The act could then be referred to as Israel’s doing, or Joshua’s, or the priests’ and the heads of families’. But behind all three explanations is the conviction that it was God who made the allotment.

That some kind of formal division of the land was made is inherently likely. Otherwise the land-hungry tribes would have consumed each other’s strength by infighting and all would have become easy prey for their powerful Canaanite enemies.

Verses 6-15

Caleb’s Inheritance (14:6-15)

The allotment to the tribe of Judah is recorded first (14:6¬15:63). It is prefaced by a story concerning the assignment of the Judean city of Hebron to Caleb, one of the courageous spies of the Mosaic period (Numbers 13-14; Deuteronomy 1:19-40).

Caleb is called here a Kenizzite, a tribe descended from Kenaz in the land of Edom (Genesis 36:9-11). He is said in Numbers 13:6; Numbers 34:19 to belong to the tribe of Judah. This is to be explained by the fact that the early Hebrews sometimes assimilated outside tribal groups. These accepted Israel’s religion and culture and gained full rights in the Israelite community. It is interesting that Caleb, a "foreigner," should occupy a position of honor in Israel’s traditions and stand along with Joshua as a great hero of the faith (Numbers 13-14; Deuteronomy 1:34-38). Of a piece with this is the tradition that Ruth, a Moabite, became an honored Israelite and an ancestress of King David (Ruth 4:13-17). It is a commonplace with biblical scholars that Israel’s assimilative powers brought great enrichment to its life—to its faith, its worship, its laws, its institutions, its architecture, its total culture. But what it assimilated it transformed into new and higher creations.

The story of Caleb’s reward in long, vigorous life and now in inheritance of land is designed to show how God keeps his promise to those who wholly follow him (vss. 8, 9, 14). Caleb is thus to the Deuteronomic writer a symbol of the kind of obedience God expects from the readers and of the results that will follow on such obedience.

The time notation in verse 10, when joined with that in Deuteronomy 2:14, indicates that the writer regards the period of the conquest up to the moment of Caleb’s request as about seven years.

Caleb’s courage is shown to rest both on his physical vigor and on his deep trust in the Lord. Although he is now eighty-five, his strength is unabated; but this alone will not suffice. "It may be that the LORD will be with me, and I shall drive them out as the LORD said" (vs. 12). This statement shows the proper posture of faith. We have no right to make demands on God. We can only wage our war, whatever it may be, and trust that he will help us to win the victory.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Joshua 14". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/joshua-14.html.
 
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