Attention!
For 10¢ a day you can enjoy StudyLight.org ads
free while helping to build churches and support pastors in Uganda.
Click here to learn more!

Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 15

Introduction

Chapters 13-21 The Division of the Land.

The division of the conquered land, and of some not yet conquered, is now outlined. But we must recognise what we mean by conquered. When ancient relatively minor kings moved into a land and conquered it they did not necessarily remain there or station troops there. They followed it up by demanding tribute. The question then was whether the conquest would hold. Would the people accept the position as subject people? That depended both on the strength of the king’s own forces and on the strength or weakness of the conquered people. It was a position that would have to be continually maintained by force.

That was also true in this case. Joshua had conquered the land. But settlement was a different matter. The conquered people might object, especially as they were to be driven out. In the terms of his times Canaan was conquered, but it was certainly not totally under Joshua’s control. He had not left occupying forces. The vacuum left by his invasion would soon be filled by returning refugees and those who had avoided his forces. Thus the conquest would need to be enforced, or otherwise. That was to be the task of the tribes Israel, partly by conquest and partly by slow infiltration. Canaan was a land of forests so that those who chose to do so could advance into a forested part of the land allocated to them and establish themselves there, cutting back the forest and setting up their settlements. This would cause minimal to the present inhabitants. As they then became more settled they could then expand. Others more belligerent could take over smaller cities and settle in them, taking over the fields round about them. Once they grew stronger they could then expand further. The benefit of what Joshua had done lay in the fact that they were now accepted, even if with hostility, as having a right to be in the land. They were a part of the landscape which it was best not to trifle with, because if they were trifled with they had brother tribes whom they could call on for assistance.

The descriptions of the division of the land partly reflect the efficiency of the different surveyors set to the task. Some gave full details of borders, others far sparser details while others merely named cities in the area.

Chapter 15 The Lot of the Tribe of Judah.

In this chapter we have details given of the boundaries of ‘the lot’ allocated by lot to the tribe of Judah. This is followed by the assignment of Hebron to Caleb, from where he drove out the Anakim, and the assignment of Debir, which was taken by Othniel his nephew, to whom, because of it, he gave his daughter in marriage. She then made a special request to her father, which was granted. This is followed by an account of several cities by name, which fell to the tribe of Judah. The further advances of Judah would be described in Judges 1:0.

If the gathering of the twelve tribes around the central sanctuary had not been firmly in place at this stage it would never have survived. At times, when faith was weak, it was only deeply inbuilt custom that held it together. Indeed Judah, with Simeon, went off on their own and were rarely seen working with the other tribes. And yet when the vital call came they were there, both in the affair of Gibeah and in the activities of Samuel. It was rooted in their history, so much so that the idea even survived the seemingly decisive split following the death of Solomon.

Verses 1-2

Chapter 15 The Lot of the Tribe of Judah.

In this chapter we have details given of the boundaries of ‘the lot’ allocated by lot to the tribe of Judah. This is followed by the assignment of Hebron to Caleb, from where he drove out the Anakim, and the assignment of Debir, which was taken by Othniel his nephew, to whom, because of it, he gave his daughter in marriage. She then made a special request to her father, which was granted. This is followed by an account of several cities by name, which fell to the tribe of Judah. The further advances of Judah would be described in Judges 1:0.

If the gathering of the twelve tribes around the central sanctuary had not been firmly in place at this stage it would never have survived. At times, when faith was weak, it was only deeply inbuilt custom that held it together. Indeed Judah, with Simeon, went off on their own and were rarely seen working with the other tribes. And yet when the vital call came they were there, both in the affair of Gibeah and in the activities of Samuel. It was rooted in their history, so much so that the idea even survived the seemingly decisive split following the death of Solomon.

Joshua 15:1-2

And the lot for the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families, was to the border of Edom, even to the wilderness of Zin southward at the uttermost part of the south. And their south border was from the uttermost part of the Salt Sea, from the tongue that looked southward.’

The lot for the tribe of Judah is detailed in this chapter, giving first its boundaries and then its prospective cities. These were in the south of Canaan. This will be followed in the next chapter by the lot for the children of Joseph, which includes both Ephraim and Manasseh, in the central north. As the two major tribes their portions needed to be settled first in order to establish the nation in the land and because they were so numerous and needed space. The hill country had to be settled and secured before further extension could take place.

Perhaps at this stage we should very briefly consider the geography of Canaan. If we look at it from the south coming from Egypt the first land we come to after the desert is the Negeb, the semi-desert, dependent on oases, and with little rainfall which has to be carefully preserved and utilised. In good times, however it was irrigated by rainwater from the hills. Then as we move northward the land is divided roughly into four types going from west to east, sand dunes along the coast, especially in the south, then the coastal plain, a strip of fertile, comparatively flat ground which commences at the coast to the east of the sand dunes, and varies between three and twenty five miles in width), then as we go eastwards there is the Shephelah, the lowlands, the foothills gently undulating (five to fifteen miles wide) and sloping upwards towards the hill country, and then the hill country itself containing mountains above 950 metres ( 3000 feet) high. On the other side of these mountains continuing eastward is the Jordan Rift valley which contains the Jordan. This descends to well below sea level, with fertile sections in the north and desert in the south. The Sea of Chinnereth is 180 metres (600 feet) below sea level, the surface of the Dead Sea about 427 metres (1400 feet) below sea level.

The hill country (called ‘The Mountain’) goes from south to north split by ravines, and then turns westward to Carmel on the coast, split by ravines and valleys. Large parts of the whole territory were covered by forests. In the plain and the valleys chariots could operate which made conquest by Israel difficult, and cities were numerous. The hill country was relative sparsely populated with fewer cities, shortage of water and rougher land which was harder to cultivate. For this reason it was not so desirable and easier to conquer and control. The remainder of the land was heavily populated with large numbers of cities clustered together, apart from the forests.

The borders of Judah’s allotment were to reach to the border of Edom, that is the south side of the wilderness of Zin, where Kadesh was, taking in the Negeb. This was its furthest extent southwards. They are then described in more detail as commencing from the southern tongue of the Dead Sea, its southernmost bay, and going westward. The Dead Sea, or Salt Sea, is the lowest point on earth, well below sea level. It has no outlet and the water therefore disappears by evaporation in the hot sun leaving large residues of salt, which makes the water so buoyant that you can actually sit in the sea. No fish can live in it and no vegetation grows near it.

Verses 3-4

And it went out southward of the ascent of Akrabbim, and passed along to Zin, and went up by the south of Kadesh-barnea, and passed along by Hezron, and went up to Addar and turned about to Karka, and it passed along to Azmon and went out at the torrent-wadi of Egypt. And the goings out of the border were at the Sea. This shall be your south border.’

For these verses compare Numbers 34:4-5. ‘The Ascent of Akkrabim’ is ‘the Scorpion’s Pass’, a mountain pass at the southern end of the Dead Sea (Numbers 34:4; Judges 1:36), between the Arabah (Jordan Rift valley) and the hill country of Judah. It is identified with Naqb es-safa. The border then passed along the south of Kadesh-barnea (south of the Wilderness of Zin), and by Hezron, Addar and Karka which are unknown (but compare Hazar-addar in Numbers 34:4). Possibly they were well known oases.

It then went along to Azmon and to ‘the torrent-wadi of Egypt’, Wadi el-‘Arish (Joshua 15:47; Num 34:5 ; 1 Kings 8:65; Isaiah 27:12), often called the ‘River of Egypt’, until it reached the Great Sea. This long and deep valley, dry except after heavy rain, rises in the middle of the desert of et-Tih in the north of the Sinaitic peninsula and joins the Mediterranean some eighty kilometres (fifty miles) south of Gaza, at el-‘Arish. It has nothing to do with the Nile.

“This shall be your south border.” The change to direct speech may be partly due to the fact that it was taken from Numbers 34:3; Numbers 34:6 where it is in an address by Moses, but it also reminds us that these are directions being given to Judah.

Verse 5

Joshua 15:5 a

‘And the east border was the Salt Sea, even to the end of Jordan.’

The east border of Judah was simple. It went from below the Dead Sea and along its western side up to where the Jordan entered it. At the time that this was written the Sea probably extended a few miles further north. It is slowly getting smaller due to rapid evaporation.

Joshua 15:5-6 (5b-6)

‘And the border of the north quarter was from the bay of the sea at the end of Jordan. And the border went up to Beth-hoglah, and passed along by the north of Beth-arabah, and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben.’

We now trace the northern border westward. It begins at the northern tongue of the Dead Sea. Beth-hoglah was near Jericho (Joshua 18:21) and was a Benjamite city. It has been identified with the ruins of Kasr Hajleh, and is four kilometres (three miles) north of the present Dead Sea. Beth-arabah (‘house of the Arabah’) was in the barren, rocky country between the Central Range and the Dead Sea, sometimes called Jeshimon (waste, desert) mentioned in 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 23:24. In verse 61 it belongs to Judah. In Joshua 18:21 it is a Benjamite border town. As a border town it was probably shared between them, the boundary going through it. It would have lands at both sides, some allocated to one and some to the other.

“And the border went up to the stone of Bohan, the son of Reuben.” Compare Joshua 18:17. This was clearly an important recognised landmark. Bohen means ‘a thumb’. This may refer to a large stone shaped like a thumb, near to an eminence or larger rock called Reuben (not necessarily connected with the patriarch). It is alternatively possible that a famous man Bohan was buried there who was son to an unknown Reuben, or even that it commemorated some famous exploit by a Reubenite who had crossed the river with Joshua. But the impression is of an ancient landmark. The portion of the Biblical Reuben was across the river.

Verse 7

And the border went up to Debir from the valley of Achor, and so northward looking towards Gilgal, that is over against the Ascent of Adummim, which is on the south side of the river, and the border passed along to the waters of Enshemesh and its goings out were at En-rogel.’

This Debir was not the one mentioned in Joshua 13:26; Joshua 15:15 but probably one above the Wadi Debr which is the lower part of the Wadi Mukallik, or near Tughret ed-Debr, south of the Ascent of Adummim. It is also not mentioned in the parallel Joshua 18:17. It was thus clearly not an important place. For ‘the valley of Achor’ possibly we should translate ‘low lying plain of Achor’. El Buqei‘a is suggested as a possibility. It would be seen as an abandoned place, a place to be avoided. This was where Achan was stoned to death (Joshua 7:25).

“And so northward looking towards Gilgal, that is over against the Ascent of Adummim.” At this point the boundary moved northward towards the Ascent of Adummim, towards Gilgal. This would be a different Gilgal from the Israelite encampment. Its name, ‘a rolling’ suggests that some religious activity took place at these sites involved with rolling stones, possibly to set up as altars, or bodies rolling in ecstasy in their depraved sexual rites. Some relate it to stone circles but if it were so we would have expected them to be discovered. It was probably the same as Geliloth (Joshua 18:17).

The Ascent of Adummim was a steep pass on the border of Judah and Benjamin, probably Tal‘at ed-Damm (the ascent of blood). This name was probably given because of the redness of the soil, but it may also have been a place where murderous robberies were common. This may have been the place in mind where the good Samaritan was pictured as finding the victim of robbery with violence.

“Which is on the south side of the river, and the border passed along to the waters of Enshemesh and its goings out were at En-rogel.” The ‘south side of the river’ must refer to the impressive gorge of the Wadi el-Kelt. The waters of Enshemesh (‘spring of the sun’) is probably the modern ‘Ain Haud, four kilometres (three miles) east of Jerusalem, just south of the Jericho road. ‘Its goings out’ refers to the point at which a line comes to an end (see verses 4 and 11), thus there was now a deviation at En-rogel (‘well of the launderer’). This was just outside Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17:17; 1 Kings 1:9) and is known today as Job’s Well.

Verse 8

And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom, to the side (shoulder, sloping hillside) of the Jebusite southward, the same is Jerusalem, and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the furthest extent of the vale of Rephaim northward.’

The next stage from En-rogel went through the valley of Hinnom (probably, but not certainly, the Wadi al-Rababi) up to the shoulder of the south east hill of Jerusalem (Jerusalem was later built on a south east hill and a south west hill, with a valley in between. This valley would later be partly filled up). The border then went to the height which was to the west of the valley of Hinnom, at the northern end of the valley of Rephaim (see 2 Samuel 5:18). The latter may once have been the dwelling place of that extremely tall race called the Rephaim.

Verse 9

And the border was drawn from the top of the mountain, to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah, and went out to the cities of Mount Ephron, and the border was drawn to Baalah, which is Kiriath-jearim.’

From the mountain at the northern end of the vale of Rephaim the border went to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. This is probably to be identified as Lifta, four kilometres (two to three miles) north west of Jerusalem. From there it went to the cities (cluster of villages) of Mount Ephron. Mount Ephron lies between Jerusalem and Kiriath-jearim. Then on to Baalah, which later became Kiriath-jearim (‘city of forests’). (This was thus first recorded before the change of name -see 1 Samuel 7:1-2). This is probably modern Kuriet el-‘Enab, fourteen kilometres (ten miles) west of Jerusalem on the Jaffa Road. It was one of the cities of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:17).

Verse 10

And the border turned about from Baalah westward to Mount Seir, and passed along to the shoulder (sloping hillside) of mount Jearim on the north, the same is Chesalon, and went down to Bethshemesh, and passed along by Timnah.’

There was a change of direction of the border towards the south west to an unidentified mount Seir, from where it passed along to the northern side of the tree covered mount Jearim, later called Chesalon (Kisla?). These were the ridges south west of Kuriet el-‘Enab.

“And went down to Bethshemesh (‘house of the sun” - a name given to a number of towns probably connected with sun worship), and passed along by Timnah.’ For Bethshemesh in Judah see Joshua 21:16. This was an important city on Judah’s northern border with Dan, situated in a west facing valley of the hill country some twenty four kilometres (fifteen miles) west of Jerusalem, known to Dan as Ir-shemesh (‘city of the sun’ - Joshua 19:41). This is probably the site known as Tell er-Rumeileh, situated on the saddle of a hill spur to the west of the later settlement of ‘Ain Shems. It was a strongly fortified Canaanite city during the middle and late bronze ages. Quantities of Philistine pottery demonstrate Philistine occupation at some stage, showing how far inland they penetrated, but this would be after this time. It was, however, in Israelite hands in 1 Samuel 6:0 when the Ark was returned there by the Philistines, and it was later strongly fortified under David.

“Passed along by Timnah.” This was another town on the Danite border (Joshua 19:43) but in the lowlands and allocated to Judah (Joshua 15:57), and also possibly to Dan (Joshua 19:43). Whether it was also partially allocated to Dan, like a number of such border areas between tribes, is not certain (it may have been a border marker). In Judges 14:1-2 it had strong Philistine connections. It was where Samson sought a Philistine wife. This may be the Tamna later mentioned in the annals of Sennacherib (c. 701 BC). It is probably Tell Batashi, nine kilometres south of Gezer, although its name is preserved by Khirbet Tibneh.

Verse 11

And the border went out to the sloping hillside of Ekron northward, and the border was drawn to Shikkeron, and passed along to Mount Baalah, and went out at Jabneel, and the goings out of the border were at the sea.’

The border then continued north westward to the northern side of Ekron, which was later one of the five-city confederation, with their towns, of the Philistines. If it is to be identified with Khirbet al-Muqanna‘ surface excavations suggest that it was occupied in the early bronze age and then not again until the early iron age (when the Philistines arrived) at which point the walled city covered forty acres, and was characterised by Philistine pottery Thus at the time of allocation it was not at a high level of occupation although prominent enough to be a border marker and have villages connected with it (Joshua 15:45). It was twice captured by the Israelites (Judges 1:18; 1 Samuel 7:14) but not permanently retained (1 Samuel 5:10; 1 Samuel 17:52).

“And the border was drawn to Shikkeron, and passed along to Mount Baalah, and went out at Jabneel, and the goings out of the border were at the sea.” Shikkeron is possibly Tell el-Ful. Mount Baalah is probably the ridge of el-Mughar. Jabne-el (‘God causes to build’) is probably to be connected later with the Philistine city Jabneh (2 Chronicles 26:6), later Jamnia where the Sanhedrin was reformed after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Its modern name is Yebneh.

“And the goings out of the border were at the sea.” Compare Joshua 15:4; Joshua 15:7. The phrase indicates the point where a line ends, in this case at the Great Sea.

So the northern border of Judah turned north west from the shore of the Dead Sea, passed south of Jericho and Wadi Qelt, skirted the southern edge of Jerusalem with a foothold in Jerusalem and possession of the fields to the south, went past Kiriath-jearim and descended via the forested slopes of the Judean hills to Bethshemesh from where it followed the Sorek valley to the sea.

Verse 12

And the west border was to the Great Sea, and its border. This is the border of the children of Judah round about according to their families.’

The west border was the coast of the Mediterranean, the Great Sea. Thus were described the borders of Judah, allocated by lot in accordance with the numbers of their tribe.

Verse 13

And to Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a portion among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of Yahweh to Joshua, even Kiriath-arba, the father of Anak, the same is Hebron.’

The importance given to this first real settlement of the land comes out in that it is repeated three times (Joshua 14:6-15; Joshua 15:13-19; Judges 1:10-15; compare Joshua 11:21-23). It was seen as a highlight, and an indicator of what was to come. It was the first major settlement of the land. Caleb, although a Kennizite (Numbers 32:12), was a recognised prince of Judah (Numbers 13:3; Numbers 13:6). We must remember that Israel were made up of many nations (Exodus 12:38), incorporated into the tribal system, something not likely to be invented later. Later the Israelites looked back proudly to their ancestry as children of the patriarchs. For details of the giving of this portion see Joshua 14:6-15.

“Even Kiriath-arba.” This means ‘the city of four’ or ‘city of Arba’ - see Genesis 23:2. LXX described it as ‘the mother-city of the Anakim’. But there is no reason to reject Arba as a name or nickname and it is certainly related to the Anakim in some way, so when we are told here that it was named after a famous ancestor of the Anakim, named Arba, possibly because he had the strength or usefulness of four men (compare Joshua 15:13; Joshua 21:11 - which suggests that LXX translated ‘father’ as ‘mother’ because it related the latter more to a city) it makes good sense. It was the ancient name of Hebron.

“According to the commandment of YHWH to Joshua.” See Joshua 14:13. Joshua would not have acted without YHWH’s command. Compare Deuteronomy 1:26.

Verse 14

And Caleb drove from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahinam and Talmai, the children of Anak.’

For these three sons of Anak compare Numbers 13:22. Their size was one of the main reasons for the fear of the Israelite scouts who surveyed the land of Canaan. They are mentioned here in order to demonstrate YHWH’s final victory over them by one of the two faithful scouts. Joshua 1:10 says that they ‘smote them’. Hebron and its towns, having been originally weakened and ‘devoted’ by Joshua, probably being burned with fire (Joshua 10:36-37), were now to be finally possessed and settled. The Canaanites, once driven out, would not be allowed to return. From now on Hebron belonged to Israel and was a thoroughly Israelite city (1 Samuel 30:31; 2Sa 2:1 ; 2 Samuel 2:3; 2 Samuel 2:11).

Their names suggest a possible Aramaic origin. For Sheshai compare Ezra 10:40. For Ahiman consider ‘brother of Meni’ (Isaiah 65:11 - Meni is ‘Destiny’, the god of fortune). The name Talmai is found among the Geshurites, an Aramean tribe (Joshua 13:13; 2 Samuel 3:3; 2 Samuel 13:7), and in Nabatean inscriptions from North Arabia.

Verse 15

And he went up from there against the inhabitants of Debir. Now the name of Debir was previously Kiriath-sepher.’

The mention of the ancient names may suggest that this record was written shortly after the change of name. Debir or Kiriath-sepher was at the end of the Judean hills. It is also called Kiriath-sannah (city of palm leaf) in Joshua 15:49. Here it is called Kiriath-sepher (city of writing) as in Judges 1:11. Both names connect with scribal activity (palm leaves were writing materials) which suggests it was well known as a scribal city. Thus its ancient local names

Verse 16

And Caleb said, “He who smites Kiriath-sepher, and takes it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife”.’

This was a kind of test of suitability. Chief’s daughters were given to mighty champions to ensure continual strong leadership. Compare Saul’s offer in 1 Samuel 17:25. It is understandable why Saul did not fulfil his promise. When he made it he was expecting a champion not an inexperienced young man. He was not to know what David would become.

Verse 17

And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it, and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.’

It was probably Kenaz who was Caleb’s younger brother. The son and daughter were thus cousins. Othniel was probably Caleb’s hope in the first place. ‘Son of Kenaz’ might simply indicate that he too was a Kenizzite, but it is unlikely that Caleb would give his daughter to his younger brother in this way (Leviticus 18:9), and there is no reason why a Kenizzite should not be called Kenaz.

Verses 18-19

And it happened that when she came to him, she moved him to ask of her father a field, and she lighted from her ass, and Caleb said to her, “What is it you want?” And she said to him, “Give me a blessing, for you have set me in the land of the Negeb. Give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.’

The dowry Othniel requested, at her suggestion, was land, and when his wife discovered where this was, in the Negeb, she lighted from her ass (a gesture of maidenly courtesy and submission - compare Genesis 24:64) and approached her father to ensure good water supplies, which were necessary in that region, by asking for permanent springs, which he gave her as a wedding gift. The word translated alighted may mean ‘clap one’s hands’, a signal to a servant to be helped down.

This account is paralleled in Judges 1:11-15. The latter may have been copied from here, but more probably both were taken from an early record made of the wars in Canaan similar to ‘the book of the wars of YHWH’ (Numbers 21:14). For such were looked on as religious events and as covenant documents confirming the covenant, not just as history.

Verse 20

This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Judah, according to their families.’

For this summary description with respect to the tribes compare Joshua 13:23 (Reuben); Joshua 13:28 (Gad); Joshua 15:20 (Judah); Joshua 16:8 (Ephraim); Joshua 18:28 (Benjamin); Joshua 19:8 (Simeon); Joshua 19:16 (Zebulun); Joshua 19:23 (Issachar); Joshua 19:31 (Asher); Joshua 19:39 (Naphtali); Joshua 19:48 (Dan). By this phrase the inheritance of each tribe was summed up.

It is noticeable that the portion of the half tribe of Manasseh in Transjordan was not described in this way but as ‘even for the half of the children of Machir according to their families’ (Joshua 13:31), nor was the other part of Manasseh specifically so, although both did ‘inherit’ - see Joshua 13:32; Joshua 16:9; Joshua 17:4. As the children of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh shared a joint inheritance (Joshua 16:4; Joshua 16:9; Joshua 17:14; compare Deuteronomy 34:2), even though it was in separate lots because they were so large (compare Joshua 14:4; Joshua 17:17). Ephraim also had possessions in the midst of Manasseh (Joshua 16:9). This in itself points to the early date of these records. In the Psalms (Psalms 60:7; Psalms 80:2; Psalms 108:8) Ephraim and Manasseh were totally separate tribes (but see 1 Chronicles 9:3). At this point Levi is still seen as the twelfth tribe, but with no inheritance apart from YHWH (Joshua 13:14; Joshua 13:33; Joshua 14:4), and gradually being replaced among the twelve by Manasseh (Joshua 14:4), who is not, however, at this stage a separate tribe inheriting.

This detailed description of the inheritance of Judah (and later of the other tribes) was seen as important because it demonstrated the fulfilment of God’s promises to His people. He had promised them much land, they received much land. He had promised them cities to dwell in. They received cities to dwell in. Thus did they gain confidence and faith in the One Who fulfilled His promises. We too gain in confidence when we walk with God and receive His blessings. It gives confidence to go on to greater things.

Verses 21-36

The Listing of Cities and Towns, Villages and Encampments of Judah (Joshua 15:21-63 ). |

The making of lists of places is well testified to in the ancient world, and the cities and towns and encampments of Judah are now listed. We do not know whether these were as first surveyed, or as compiled at the time of the writer himself. They seem to be split into twelve groups, probably representing a theoretical twelve sub-tribes. Twelve seems to have been seen as the number for a confederacy. Thus Judah were setting up an inner confederacy on the pattern of the tribal confederacy, anticipating expanding it into twelve.

First come twenty nine ‘cities’ in the Negeb, the grazing lands to the south (Joshua 15:21-32) (thirty six names are mentioned thus the names include ‘villages’); then fourteen in the north of the Shephelah (the lowlands) followed by sixteen in the north west, then another nine in the south (Joshua 15:33-44), followed by three in the Coastal Plain (Joshua 15:45-47) to the west, possibly representing two ‘districts’ (but see later on Joshua 15:59); and then in the eastern hill country, first eleven in the south west, then nine to the north of these, then ten towards the east, then six to the north of Hebron, then two on Judah’s northern border (Joshua 15:48-60); and finally six in ‘the wilderness’ (the extreme eastern slopes of the hill country which were desert country looking over the steaming Jordan rift valley by the Dead Sea)

Joshua 15:21-32

And the uttermost cities of the tribe of the children of Judah toward the border of Edom in the Negeb were Kabzeel, and Eder, and Jagur, and Kinah, and Dimonah, and Adadah, and Kedesh, and Hazor, and Ithnan. Ziph, and Telem, and Bealoth, and Hazor-hadattah, and Kerioth-hezron (the same is Hazor). Amam, and Shema, and Moladah, and Hazar-gaddah, and Heshmon, and Beth-pelet, and Hazar-shual, and Beersheba, and Biziothiah. Baalah, and Iim, and Ezem, and Eltolad, and Chesil, and Hormah, and Ziklag, and Madmannah, and Sansannah, and Lebaoth, and Shilhim, and Ain, and Rimmon. All the cities are twenty nine with their villages.’

The list of towns and encampments in the Negeb includes a number also found in Joshua 19:1-9, e.g. Beersheba (or Sheba), Moladah, Hazar-shual, Balah (Baalah), Ezem, Eltolad, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth-lebaoth (Lebaoth), Ain, and Rimmon. Not similar are Bethul (although possibly the same as Chesil), Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah, Sharuhen, Ether and Ashan. This was because those who surveyed on behalf of Judah included within their count many of the encampments of Simeon which were within their borders, and over which they shared control. ‘Hazor’ (hazar) specifically indicates an enclosure or camp of wandering shepherds and was therefore a common name/name attachment in the area. As camps tended to move on in the Negeb the marking of their movements was far from easy. They were a moving city.

Kabzeel, called Jekabzeel in Nehemiah 11:25, was the native place of Benaiah, one of David's mighty men (2 Samuel 23:20). Eder and Jagur are unknown. Kinah may be connected with a Kenite encampment. Dimonah may be the Dibon of Nehemiah 11:25 (compare Isaiah 15:2 with Isaiah 15:9). Adadah has been posited as ‘Arara, a ruined site twenty five kilometres (fifteen miles) south east of Beersheba, Kedesh as possibly Kadesh-barnea, Hazor as another encampment, and Ithnan is unknown. Ziph is unknown. Telem may be Telaim in the east of the Negeb (1 Samuel 15:4), Bealoth the same as Baalath-beer (Joshua 19:8), Hazor-hadattah means ‘new Hazor’, another encampment, and Kerioth-hezron (the same is Hazor) a further encampment.

Amam, Shema, Moladah (the Malatha mentioned by Josephus?), Hazar-gaddah, Heshmon, and Beth-pelet have no details known. Hazar-shual means ‘foxes den’, which may signify human foxes, and Beersheba is ‘the well of the seven’ (or ‘the oath’), abundantly supplied with water and often cited as the furthest extent of the land (‘from Dan to Beersheba’ - Judges 20:1; 1Sa 3:20 ; 2 Samuel 3:10; 2 Samuel 17:11; 2Sa 24:2 ; 2 Samuel 24:15; 1 Kings 4:25; 1Ch 21:2 ; 2 Chronicles 30:5; Amos 8:14).

Biziothiah, Baalah, Iim, Ezem, Eltolad and Chesil are not known. Hormah means ‘devoted’ and could be any devoted site, but possibly that mentioned in Numbers 20:3. Ziklag is probably that mentioned in 1 Samuel 27:6; 1Sa 30:1 ; 1 Samuel 30:14; 1 Samuel 30:26 where David was a Philistine mercenary leader. Madmannah, and Sansannah, and Lebaoth, and Shilhim, are all unknown. Rimmon may be Khirbet Umm er-Rumamin, fifteen kilometres (nine miles) north east of Beersheba on the border of the Negeb and the Shephelah, in which case Ain may be the nearby spring of Khuweilfeh.

As will be noted the Negeb was in no way an empty place, although its occupation depended very much on where water could be found.

Joshua 15:33-36

In the Shephelah, Eshtaol, and Zorah, and Ashnah, and Zanoah, and En-gannim, Tappuah and Enam, Jarmuth, and Adullam, and Socoh and Azekah, and Shaaraim, and Adithaim, and Gederah, and Gederothaim. Fourteen cities and their villages.’

The Shephelah were the lowlands, the lower, shallower slopes of the hill country. Apart from the Coastal Plain it was the land that offered most, but was vulnerable to attack. As it stands there are in fact in this list fifteen names, but Gederothaim (plural ending) probably represents ‘the villages of Gederah’ thus making one with Gedarah. These fourteen cities were clustered to the north of the area.

Zorah and Eshtaol were on the Danite border (Joshua 19:41; see also Judges 13:25; Judges 18:2; Judges 18:8; Judges 18:11). Judah and Dan may have shared them and their related lands, Dan the land to the north, Judah the land to the south, or it may be that after receiving their lot Judah passed the cities on to Dan. But the probability is that they were settled by both, some looking to Dan and some to Judah. Zorah was mentioned in the Amarna letters as Zarkha and is probably Sar‘a, a Canaanite city twenty five kilometres (fifteen miles) west of Jerusalem, on the north side of the Wadi al-Sarar (the valley of Sorek), with Eshtaol close by. Both places overlook the broad basin of the Wadi, near its entrance into the Judaean highlands.

Ashnah in the north east must be distinguished from Ashnah in the south in Joshua 15:43. Zanoah is Khirbet Zanu‘ (Nehemiah 3:13; Nehemiah 11:30), three kilometres south of Bethshemesh, west of modern Zanoah. This is to be distinguished from Zanoah in the hill country (Joshua 15:56). En-gannim means ‘spring of gardens’ and was near Zanoah. Tappuah meaning ‘quince’ was east of Azekah, possibly Beit Netif. The place name may derive from a Calebite of Hebron (1 Chronicles 2:43). It was not the Tappuah of Joshua 12:17; Joshua 16:8. The name was a popular one.

“And Enam, Jarmuth, and Adullam, and Socoh and Azekah, and Shaaraim, and Adithaim, and Gederah, and Gederothaim.” For Enam compare Enaim (Genesis 38:14; Genesis 38:21). It means ‘two springs’. It stood on the way from Adullam to Timnah and was where Tamar seduced Judah. Jarmuth was a member of the first confederacy that attacked Gibeon (see on Joshua 10:3). Adullam is identified as Tell esh-Sheikh Madhkur midway between Jerusalem and Lachish. Its king was slain by Joshua (Joshua 12:15). David later hid in a nearby cave when running from Saul (1 Samuel 22:1-2; 2 Samuel 23:13). It was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:7).

Socoh was south-east of Azekah and was where the Philistines were defeated when Goliath was killed (1 Samuel 17:1). It was later an important administrative centre in the days of Hezekiah, mentioned on inscriptions found in Lachish. There was another Socoh in the highlands (Joshua 15:48). The site of Azekah is unknown but its signal lights could be seen from Lachish in the days of Sennacherib of Assyria as described in inscribed potsherds discovered in the remains of the gatehouse in Lachish, written in Hebrew. For Shaaraim compare 1 Samuel 17:52. It was on the way from Azekah towards the parting of the ways to Ekron and Gath. On the basis of the LXX rendering Sakareim it has been identified with Tell Zakariyeh, north west of Socoh at the entrance of the Wadi es-Sunt. Adithaim is not identified (LXX omits). Gederah is different from Gederoth (Joshua 15:41). It may be the same as Geder (Joshua 12:13). It means a wall or fence. It may be identified with Khirbet Judraya on the north side of the Vale of Elah opposite Socoh. Gederothaim, rendered in LXX ‘and its villages’ was probably a technical name for villages connected to Gederah. These fourteen cities with their villages were in the north eastern part of the Judaean Shephelah.

Verses 37-41

Zenan, and Hadashah, and Migdal-gad, and Dilan, and Mizpeh, and Joktheel. Lachish, and Bozkath, and Eglon, and Cabbon, and Lahmam, and Chithlish, and Gederoth, Beth-dagon, and Naamah, and Makkedah; sixteen cities with their villages.’

These were situated in the north western part of the Judaean Shephelah (lowlands). Zenan was possibly the Zaanan of Micah 1:11. Its site and that of Hadashah are unknown. Migdal-gad, ‘the fortress of Gad’, is possibly Khirbet Mejadil (twenty kilometres) thirteen miles south of Beit Jibrin. Gad was a pagan deity worshipped by the Canaanites as the god of fortune (Isaiah 65:11). Dilan and Jokteel are unknown. Mizpeh means ‘watchtower’ and a number of Mizpehs are known. Possible identifications for this Mizpeh are Khirbet Safiyeh, four kilometres (three miles) north east of Beit Jibrin, or Sufiyeh, ten kilometres (seven miles) north of Beit Jibrin.

Lachish was a major city but was not at this time walled, although its outer houses may have formed a defensive ring. It was surrounded on three sides by the River (Nahal - wadi torrent) Lachish. It was one of the cities earlier taken by Joshua (Joshua 10:32) whose king was slain, but there is no suggestion that he burned it. It was mentioned in the Amarna letters earlier, and we know that it was sacked about 1200 BC, after which there were strong Egyptian connections. It was sacked again about 1130 BC. There is no direct evidence of actual occupation by the Israelites, and it is nowhere claimed in Scripture that it was again captured and occupied by them until the time of the Monarchy. However we must beware of drawing too many conclusions from this kind of evidence. Such identifications are always tentative. Its guilt before God was later seen as responsible for His judgments (Micah 1:13).

For Bozkath compare 2 Kings 22:1. For Eglon compare Joshua 10:34. Cabbon and Chithlish are unknown. Lahmam (or Lahmas) is possibly el-Lahm, four kilometres (three miles) south of Beit Jibrin. For Gederoth compare 2 Chronicles 28:18. Beth-dagon was clearly a shrine to the god Dagon, of which there were a number by this name (e.g. Joshua 19:27). Naamah is possibly identical to modern Na‘neh, and means ‘pleasant’, ten kilometres (seven miles) south of Lydda. For Makkedah see Joshua 10:28.

Verses 42-44

Libnah, and Ether, and Ashan. And Iphtah, and Ashnah, and Nezib, and Keilah, and Achzib, and Mareshah. Nine cities with their villages.’

These are not all specifically identifiable to a particular area but are related to the Shephelah. The site of Libnah, a royal city, has not been satisfactorily identified. Its position is generally indicated by the order of events in Joshua 10:28-37. Ether and Ashan also appear in Joshua 19:7 as Simeonite cities ‘with their villages’, shared with Judah, which demonstrates that they are more to the south. See also 1 Chronicles 4:32; 1 Chronicles 6:59. Iphtah, Ashnah, and Nezib are unidentifiable at present.

Keilah is mentioned in Nehemiah 3:17-18, and in 1 Samuel 23:1-5 as subject to Philistine invasion resulting in a great victory for David. It is probably the Kelti of the Amarna letters, and may be Khirbet Qila on a hill ten kilometres east of Beit Guvrin which commands the ascent to Hebron south from Socoh, in the valley between the Shephelah and the hills. Achzib is possibly the Chezib of Genesis 38:5 and later conquered by Sennacherib (see also Micah 1:14). Mareshah is a town in the Shephelah covering the road up the Wadi Zeita to Hebron. It is now Tell Sandahanna. The inhabitants claimed descent from Shelah (1 Chronicles 4:21). See also Micah 1:15.

Verses 45-47

Ekron, with her towns (daughters) and her villages, from Ekron even to the sea, all that were by the side of Ashdod, with their villages. Ashdod, her towns and her villages, Gaza, her towns and her villages, to the Brook of Egypt and the Great Sea and its border.’

We must remember that all these cities, both those mentioned before and those described here, were allotted to Judah for her to possess. (These Philistine cities were specifically stated as not being possessed during Joshua’s lifetime - Joshua 13:3). As with the other tribes mentioned later it was their responsibility under God to go forward and possess them. That they failed in God’s purpose history has revealed, and the Book of Judges makes clear the reason for the failure, loss of impetus, failure to fully observe the covenant and sin, even though in the time of Samuel some of them appear to have been in Israel’s hands (1 Samuel 7:14).

“Ekron, with her towns (daughters) and her villages, from Ekron even to the sea, all that were by the side of Ashdod, with their villages.” The sea is of course the Mediterranean, ‘the great Sea’. Ekron, along with Ashdod and Gaza, was one of the five major Philistine cities. This use of ‘daughters’ is reminiscent of Numbers 21:25; Numbers 32:42. For ‘and her villages’ compare Genesis 25:16; 1 Chronicles 6:56. The description indicates Ekron’s sphere of influence. It should be noted that it is elsewhere described as one of the cities that had been ‘taken from Israel’ by the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:14). That may be referring to Judges 1:18. It was on the border with Dan (Joshua 19:43).

If Ekron is to be identified with Khirbet al-Muqanna‘ it was occupied in the early bronze age and then not in any density until the early iron age. It was at one stage a walled city of some forty acres.

“Ashdod, her towns and her villages, Gaza, her towns and her villages, to the River (Nahal) of Egypt and the Great Sea and its border.” This boldly makes clear that all Philistine territory was Judah’s by divine right. The River of Egypt was the torrent-wadi of el-‘Arish. The description covers the whole coastal plain within Judah’s boundaries. Ashdod is Tel Ashdod, six kilometres south east of the modern village. It had a principal port (Asudimmu in Akkadian sources) and a temple of Dagon (1 Samuel 5:1). Gaza was the southernmost of the Philistine cities, and it occupied an important position on the trade routes. It would appear that Joshua possibly captured it (Joshua 10:41 - although the reference may only mean that he reached that landmark). The site of the ancient city lies within the modern city. Limited excavation has revealed evidence of both late bronze age and iron age occupation and the presence of Philistine pottery.

Verses 48-51

And in the hill country Shamir, and Jattir, and Socoh, and Dannah, and Kiriath-sannah, the same is Debir, and Anab, and Eshtemoh, and Anim, and Goshen, and Holon, and Giloh. Eleven cities with their villages.’

The hill country (literally ‘the mountain’) signifies the central mountain range west of Jordan. It was divided up on the basis of the tribes occupying it (Joshua 20:7) into the hill country of Judah (Joshua 21:11), the hill country of Ephraim (Joshua 17:15-18) and the hill country of Naphtali (Joshua 20:7). But they recognised that it composed a single mountain range, even though interrupted by ravines and the Plain of Esdraelon. Thus they called it ‘the mountain’ (Joshua 9:1; Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:16). This was where Judah initially settled and carved out its territory, establishing itself securely in the hill country before expanding.

The hill country of Judah is broken up into grey limestone hills, generally bare of vegetation, but not altogether unfruitful, for olives and terraced vineyards are found on their slopes, and in the valleys small patches of cultivable soil. There are no perennial streams and few springs, the water supply depending chiefly on the winter rains stored in pools and cisterns.

Shamir is perhaps Khirbet Somerah, twenty kilometres (thirteen miles) south west of Hebron and 650 metres (2,100 feet) up. Jattir is Khirbet Attir on the south west escarpment of the hill country of Judah, twenty one kilometres (fourteen miles) from Hebron. It was offered as residence to the priests (Joshua 21:14). David shared the spoils of the Amalekites with its inhabitants (1 Samuel 30:27). Socoh is probably Khirbet Suweike, three kilometres (two miles) east of Dhahriya, not the same as Socoh in verse 35. Danna is not known.

Kiriath-sanna (‘city of palm leaf’ - palm leaves were writing materials) is the ancient name of Debir. Compare verse 15 and Judges 1:11 where it is Kiriath-sepher (‘city of writing’). It would thus appear to have been a scribal city. The use of the names demonstrates the age of the sources. Debir was probably Khirbet Rabbud, thirteen kilometres (eight miles) south west of Hebron, a strong position overlooking the River Hevron. Anab (Joshua 11:22) was a small city which is now a ruin but still called ‘Anab, and was eight kilometres (five miles) south of Debir. It is mentioned as Kart-‘anabu in Papyrus Anastasi I and in the Amarna letters. For Eshtemoh compare Eshtemoa, one of the priests’ towns (Joshua 21:14; 1 Chronicles 6:57). It is now es-Semu‘a and still inhabited, fourteen kilometres (eight miles) south south west of Hebron at a height of 680 metres (2200 feet).

Anim may be el-Ghuwein, four kilometres (three miles) south of es-Semu‘a. Goshen is not specifically identified, but is probably connected with the Judaean ‘country of Goshen’ (Joshua 10:41; Joshua 11:16), the area of which is not yet known. Holon was a priestly town (Joshua 21:15 - compare Hilen (1 Chronicles 6:58)). Giloh was the home of Ahithophel, David’s adviser (2 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 23:34), possibly grandfather of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3 with 2 Samuel 23:34). ‘Eleven cities with their villages,’ possibly looking to Debir as their centre.

Verses 52-54

Arab, and Dumah, and Eshan, and Janim, and Beth-tappuah, and Aphekah, and Humtah, and Kiriath-arba, the same is Hebron, and Zior. Nine cities with their villages.’

For Arab compare 2 Samuel 23:35. Perhaps er-Rabiyeh, eleven kilometres (seven miles) south west of Hebron. Dumah is probably ed-Domeh, five kilometres (three miles) west of Arab, a site of considerable ruins. Eshan and Janim are unknown. Beth-tappuah (‘house of apples’) is probably Teffuh, five kilometres (three and a half miles) north west of Hebron in a district which abounds in fruit trees. Apheka is south west of Hebron and possibly Khirbet ed-darrame or Khirbet Kana‘an. Humtah is unknown. For Kiriath-arba/Hebron see Joshua 14:15. Zior is perhaps Sa‘ir, seven kilometres (four and a half miles) north of Hebron. ‘Nine cities with their villages’. This was the second group of towns in the hill country, possibly looking to Hebron as their centre.

Verses 55-57

Maon, Carmel, and Ziph, and Jutah, and Jezreel, and Jokdeam, and Zanoah. Kain, Gibeah and Timnah. Ten cities with their villages.’

The towns of this group were situated south of Hebron. Maon lay on the edge of the wilderness of Judah, known in this neighbourhood as the wilderness of Maon, signifying rough pasture land. It was here that David took refuge from Saul (1 Samuel 23:24-25) and where the churlish Nabal lived (1 Samuel 25:2). It is probably Khirbet el-Ma‘in, fourteen kilometres (nine miles) south of Hebron. Carmel is sited at present day Khirbet el-Karmil, twelve kilometres (eight miles) south south east of Hebron in a rolling pastoral region ideal for flocks. Nabal’s wife was a Carmelitess.

Verse 58

Halhul, Beth-zur and Gedor, and Maarath, and Beth-anoth, and Eltekon. Six cities with their villages.’

This is the fourth section of cities and townships in the hill country, lying to the north of Hebron. Halhul survives as the name of a village seven kilometres (four miles) north of Hebron. Two kilometres (a mile or so) further on are the ruins of Beth-zur, ‘house of rock’. This once strong fortress with its massive defence walls on the slope of the mound was destroyed by the Egyptians when the Hyksos were driven from Egypt (early sixteenth century BC) and remained largely abandoned until the arrival of the Israelites. In the twelfth and eleventh centuries BC it became a flourishing city once again, but declined somewhat in the tenth century, although ‘fortified’ by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:7). Its site is Khirbet et-Tubeiqah.

Gedor is Khirbet Jedur, two kilometres west of Beit Ummar and five kilometres (three miles) north of Beth-zur, just off the central ridge. It is possibly the Beth-gader of 1 Chronicles 2:51. Maarath and Eltekon are unknown. Beth-anoth means ‘house of Anath’, probably having a shrine to the goddess Anath. A number of places would be so named (see Joshua 19:38; Judges 1:33). It is modern Beit ‘Anun, six kilometres (three miles or so) north north east of Hebron. ‘Six cities with their villages’.

Note Re a Possible Twelfth Group.

Up to this point we have had eight specific groups or districts mentioned, together with Ekron and her towns and villages, specifically distinguished from Ashdod, and Ashdod/Gaza with their towns and villages, both larger conurbations than elsewhere described. It may well be that these were intended to represent two districts. Note that there is no final statement conjoining them as with the other districts. With the two groups yet to come that would make up twelve groups or districts. As twelve appears to have been an important number in tribal confederacy this would appear a reasonable supposition. It was an act of faith, for not all the territory was even partially possessed. But such large views are held by men at times when faith is strong.

However at this point in the text LXX has a further group included in the text which reads generally as follows. ‘Tekoa, and Ephrath, the same is Beth-lehem, and Peor, and Etam, and Kolon, and Tatam, and Sores, and Kerem, and Gallim, and Bether, and Manahath. Eleven cities and their villages.’ This may have been a later addition in order to introduce Bethlehem-judah which was of later significance (Judges 17:7; Judges 19:1). Otherwise the non-mention of the Bethlehem district is strange, although it may be that the mentioning of Jerusalem was originally seen as covering this section (Joshua 15:63). It may thus be that it was in the original text and dropped out accidentally in copying. The reference to Bethlehem as Ephrath (compare Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7) would support the age of the addition.

Tekoah was the home of the prophet Amos (Amos 1:1) and is now Tekua, ten kilometres (six miles) south of Bethlehem. It was from there that Joab later sought a wise woman to seek to reconcile David and Absalom (2 Samuel 14:0). The neighbouring land to the east was called ‘the wilderness of Tekoa’ (2 Chronicles 20:20). Ephrath was the ancient name of Bethlehem (Genesis 35:19; Genesis 48:7; 1 Chronicles 4:4) and often added (Micah 5:2) to distinguish it from Bethlehem in Zebulun (Joshua 19:15). It was at one stage garrisoned by the Philistines (2 Samuel 23:14). Bethlehem was the birthplace of Boaz, David, and supremely Jesus. Some of the other cities have tentative identifications.

(End of note.)

Verse 60

Kiriath-baal, the same is Kiriath-jearim, and Rabbah, two cities with their villages.’

Kiriath-baal (city of Baal) or Kiriath-jearim (city of the forests) was on the Judah-Benjamite border. It is first shown as belonging to Judah (Joshua 15:60) and then to Benjamin (Joshua 18:28). This is not unlikely. Many border cities would be jointly possessed because of the land on each side of the border. Its alternative name Kiriath-baal suggests that it was an old Canaanite high place. It is possibly to be identified with modern Kuriet el-‘Enab (Abu Ghosh). Beeroth means ‘wells’. This may be el-Bireh where there are several wells and ruins. It is eight kilometres (five miles) north east of Gibeon. Rabbah is possibly the Rubute of the Amarna letters, also mentioned in the inscriptions of Tuthmosis III. It lay in the region of Gezer. ‘Two cities with their villages.’ This district was on the Benjamite border.

Verses 61-62

In the Wilderness, Betharabah, Middin, and Secacah, and Nibshan, and the City of Salt, and En-gedi. Six cities with their villages.’

The Wilderness of Judah was the barren rocky country, also called Jeshimon (‘devastation’ - 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 23:24). It lay between the Central Range and the western side of the Dead Sea. It was a violent and devastated area, barren and waterless, and exceedingly hot, not enjoying the more abundant rains of the western side of the Central Range. Existence in it was hard, only made possible by a few springs, the careful preservation of water in cisterns and a hardy nature. Yet in this area such hardy people eked out an existence.

Beth-arabah, (house of the Arabah), as its name suggests was connected with the Arabah (the Jordan Rift Valley) near the Dead Sea and was on the border of Judah and Benjamin. They appear to have shared a number of cities on their borders. Middin is possibly Khirbet Abu Tabaq, Secacah, possibly Khirbet es-Samrah, and Nibshan is possibly Khirbet el-Maqari. They would later become fortified sites in 9th century BC controlling irrigation work. But at this stage they were small and insignificant, with their villages. The City of Salt was south of them and a frontier post near the Dead Sea, probably to be identified with Khirbet Qumran. An iron age fortress would later be built there. En-gedi, (‘spring of the kid’), was an important oasis and fresh water spring west of the Dead Sea. David hid there at one stage (1 Samuel 23:29; 1 Samuel 24:1 on), its rugged terrain and provision of necessities making it an ideal hiding place. It was famous for aromatic plants and perfumes (Song of Solomon 1:14). Later it was another fortress city. ‘Six cities with their villages.’ But a tough and hard existence.

Verse 63

As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.’

The Jebusites were safe in their mountain fortress and Judah could not displace them. Yet we note that Judah at one stage did capture Jerusalem (Judges 1:8). This was probably because, with Benjamin, they captured one of its hills and its lower city but could not capture the hill of the citadel. Alternately it may be that they did at an early stage capture the citadel but had to move on, leaving it to be re-established by the Jebusites who had escaped (or been away on an expedition - compare David at Ziklag in 1 Samuel 30:1) and then returned. Later when Benjamin could have captured the citadel (note ‘did not’ not ‘could not’ - Judges 1:21) they allowed the Jebusites to remain rather than driving them out. Jerusalem was a mirror of Canaan, -- ‘could not’, then ‘partly did’, then ‘could have’, then ‘failed to fully obey God’ and finally ‘allowed the inhabitants to remain’.

Thus the triumphant passage ends with a note of caution. Not all was success, for Israel were not fully obedient to YHWH. As they settled down and relaxed so did their obedience. The maintaining of a high level of trust and obedience requires great vigilance and much prayer.

It is important to note that there is no suggestion that Joshua himself captured Jerusalem. He defeated her confederacy and slew her king (Joshua 10:1-27), but he did not take the city. That he left for others who finally failed in obedience.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 15". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/pet/joshua-15.html. 2013.