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THE ENCAMPMENT AT SHILOH, AND A FURTHER DIVISION OF THE LAND
Joshua 18:1. Shiloh]=“Place of rest,” or of “tranquillity;” the word apparently pointing to the fulfilment of the promise in Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 12:9-11. Shiloh is now called Seilûn. In Judges 21:19, it is placed on the north side of Bethel, east of the road from Bethel to Shechem, and south of Lebonah. The tabernacle of the congregation] Luther = “tent of the covenant;” Calvin = “tabernacle of convention.” Prof. Plumtre, remarking that the primary force of yä ‘ad is “to meet by appointment,” says that óhel mó’êd means “a place of or for a fixed meeting.” He would therefore translate, “tent of meeting;” to which Crosby adds the idea, “where the meeting is that of God and men, rather than of men together,” as in the word for congregation used in the beginning of this verse. With the view of expressing somewhat more fully the idea of meeting to commune with men, made emphatic in such passages as Exodus 25:22, Ewald suggested the phrase, “tent of revelation.” And the land was subdued before them] That is, there was nothing to hinder the setting up of the tabernacle, the surrounding district being entirely subjugated. Crosby strangely imagines, from this remark, “that there had been some formidable insurrection of the Canaanites that broke off the division at Gilgal.” Possibly there may have been, but it is not mentioned.
Joshua 18:4. Three men for each tribe] Probably meaning three men for each of the seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned, but possibly including, also, representatives from Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh. According to the inheritance of them] “The phrase, l’pht nach’ãläthäm is thus explained by Clericus and Rosenmüller, ‘according to the size of the tribes, each family of which was to receive an inheritance.’ To this Masius has properly objected, ‘How could the surveyors make such and such a province great or small in proportion to the size of such and such a tribe, when it had still to be decided by the lot, where each tribe was to be located?’ L’pht nach’ãlähäm can only mean having regard to the fact that they were to receive it as an inheritance, or. as it is explained in Joshua 18:5-6, with reference to its being divided into seven parts, which could be allotted as an inheritance to the seven tribes.” [Keil.]
Joshua 18:5. Judah shall abide, etc.] The three tribes here named were to remain in the positions already chosen for them by the lot. But this did not prevent the subsequent revision of the extent of the lots, which, after the survey, was found to be necessary, when Judah had to make room for both Dan and Simeon.
Joshua 18:6. Before the Lord our God] Before the door of the tabernacle, as explained in chap. Joshua 19:51.
Joshua 18:9. Described it by cities into seven parts in a book] There is no evidence here, as many have supposed, for a careful survey of the country by actual measurement. Seeing that the Canaanites still held a considerable portion of the land (cf. chap. Joshua 13:1-6, etc.), such a survey seems highly improbable, if not impossible. Most likely the surveyors merely made catalogues of the cities, arranging them into seven groups, and making such notes of their size, and of the characteristic features and extent of the surrounding country as they were able. In any case, there is nothing in these verses to warrant elaborate speculations about maps, mensuration, and the ancient art of land-surveying. Looking at the usual method of describing the territory of the tribes; first by boundaries or borders, and then by an enumeration of the cities contained within such border-lines, we have in this alone some indication of the character of the work done by these surveyors. On the other hand, there is absolutely no trace of mensuration—no allusion whatever to quantities or size.
Joshua 18:10. There Joshua divided the land, etc.] This was in addition to the casting of the lots, mentioned in the first part of this verse. That is to say, Joshua first cast lots to determine which of the seven groups of cities, with their surrounding territory, should go to each of the seven tribes; he then “divided the land” by readjusting the groups of cities themselves, according to the size of the tribe to which any particular group had fallen. A small tribe would have its lot made smaller, while a numerous tribe would have its lot increased by the cities and lands thus taken from the tribe of fewer people. This would be according to the law of division which God gave through Moses (Numbers 33:54).
Joshua 18:11-20. The lot of the tribe of Benjamin] This, it is said, “came up” and “came forth;” both expressions allude to the drawing up or forth from the urn. The borders of Benjamin, described in these verses, have already been partly given in defining the southern border of Ephraim, on the north, and the northern border of Judah, on the south of this tribe.
Joshua 18:12-13. Their border on the north side] Cf. on chap. Joshua 16:1-3, as far as to the lower Beth-horon.
Joshua 18:14. Compassed the corner of the sea southward] Heb.=“turned round on the west side toward the south,” or “on the sea side,” i.e., on that side of the tribe which lay seaward. In the close of this verse, the word yâm is rendered “west;” and as the territory of Benjamin did not go near the sea, the word should obviously have the same meaning here. In Exodus 27:12; Exodus 38:12, where p’ath-yäm is used in relation to the court of the tabernacle, it is necessarily translated “on the west side.” The sea being on the west of Palestine, yâm (=“the sea”) seems frequently to have been used much in the same way that the phrase, “toward the sun-rising,” was employed to denote the east. Kirjath-jearim] One of the four cities of the Gibeonites (chap. Joshua 19:17), situated on the northern boundary of Judah (chap. Joshua 15:9), and belonging to that tribe (chap. Joshua 15:60), as stated also in this verse. It afterwards became notable in connection with the Danite encampment, and as the residence for twenty years of the ark of the Lord.
Joshua 18:15-19. The south quarter] This corresponds with the north border of Judah, as given in chap. Joshua 15:5-9, excepting that it is here taken from west to east.
Joshua 18:21. The cities of the tribe] These are divided into two groups, the first containing twelve cities, and the second fourteen. Some of them have already been noticed. The valley of Keziz] This is said to have been “a city,” and should therefore be read Emek Keziz. The LXX.=ʼΑμεκασὶς Fay notices that Van de Velde and Knobel refer to “a Wady el-Kaziz, east of Jerusalem.”
Joshua 18:22. Zemaraim] “Earlier witers suppose that it stood upon Mount Zemaraim, one of the mountains of Ephraim, where Abijah besieged Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 13:4). In that case it must be looked for in the mountains to the south of Bethel.” [Keil.] “The Zemarites, once mentioned as a Canaanite tribe (Genesis 10:18), reappear in the local name of Mount Zemaraim in Benjamin, 2 Chronicles 13:4, and Joshua 18:22.” [Dean Stanley.]
Joshua 18:23. Avim] “Since Avim here follows directly after Bethel, while Ai, which stood near Bethel, is not mentioned, it is natural with Knobel to regard Avim as identical with Ai, which is also called Aiah (Nehemiah 13:11), and Aiath (Isaiah 10:23). The signification of all these names is essentially the same; ruins, heaps, stone-heaps (Micah 1:6; see Gesen.)” [Fay.] Parah] Thought to be Fârah, on the Wady Fârah, to the west of Jericho. Ophrah] Perhaps the same as Ophrah in 1 Samuel 13:17, Ephraim in 2 Chronicles 13:19, John 11:54, and now known as Taiyibeh. It must not be confused with Ophrah of the Abi-ezrites, which was probably in Manasseh.
Joshua 18:24. Chephar-haammonai and Ophni] Both unknown, and not mentioned elsewhere. Gaba] Elsewhere, Geba, “which,” says Keil, “we must distinguish from Gibeah, or the Gibeah of Saul, which is also sometimes called Geba.” (Compare Isaiah 10:29, 1 Kings 15:22, Joshua 21:17.) In Ezra 2:26, Nehemiah 7:30, it is again called Gaba.
Joshua 18:25. Ramah]=“a lofty place.” Now er-Ram. It is frequently mentioned, and its position is clearly indicated by Judges 4:5; Judges 19:13, 1 Kings 15:22. It should be carefully distinguished from Ramah, the birthplace of Samuel, in “Mount Ephraim.” Mizpeh] Not the same with the Mizpeh of chap. Joshua 15:38, which stood in the Shephelah. There was also a Mizpeh in Moab (1 Samuel 22:8), one in Gad (Judges 11:29), and a valley of the same name in the mountains of Lebanon (cf. Gesen., Mizpeh and Mizpah). Mizpeh of Benjamin is where Samuel judged the people (1 Samuel 7:5-6; 1 Samuel 7:16), and where Saul was chosen king (1 Samuel 10:17). It is almost certainly the present Neby Samwil. Chephirah] Cf. chap. Joshua 9:3. The four cities which follow are unknown, and are only named in this place.
Joshua 18:28. Zelah] Mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:14 as containing the sepulchre of Kish, where the remains of Saul and Jonathan were ultimately buried. Gibeath] “The Gibea of Benjamin or Saul, so frequently referred to, which is still to be seen in the village of Jeba, between the Wady es-Suweinit and the Wady Fârah” [Keil.] Kirjath] Rosenmüller and Maurer, according to Keil, identified this place with Kirjath-jearim. Smith’s Dictionary also adopts this view to the extent of saying that “there seems a strong probability that the latter part of the name has been omitted by copyists at some very early period.” Keil’s remark, however, seems decisive: “Von Raumer has properly opposed this conclusion, since Kirjath-jearim is not merely reckoned as one of the cities of Judah in chap. Joshua 15:60, but in chap. Joshua 18:14 is expressly called the city of the children of Judah.” Knobel supposes that Kirjath may be Kerteh, west of Jerusalem, while Crosby mentions Khirbet el-Kuta, near Gibeah.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE PARAGRAPHS
Joshua 18:1.—THE ARK FINDING A RESTING-PLACE IN “THE PLACE OF REST.”
There can be little doubt but that the instruction to set up the tabernacle at Shiloh came from Jehovah Himself. This might be sufficiently clear from Deuteronomy 12:5; Deuteronomy 26:2, but it is made still more plain by the same words in Joshua 9:27. Not only Moses, but Joshua also, recognised it as the Divine will that the Lord Himself should choose the place in which He would put His name. God would have the tabernacle more permanently erected before the division of the land was completed; He would also have it set up at Shiloh, and thus make His resting-place, and the place where Israel should find rest spiritually, in a city whose very name was “rest” or “tranquillity.”
I. The time of setting up the ark.
1. It was after a long period of wandering. The stay in Egypt had been only “a sojourn.” To that long sojourn had succeeded the forty years’ wandering in the wilderness. Finally, to the wanderings in the wilderness there had been added seven years of marching and counter-marching over the land of Canaan itself. How grateful to many must have been this act of setting up the tabernacle at Shiloh! It was the initial step towards having a fixed home for themselves.
2. It was after severe and prolonged conflict. The strife which began at the overthrow of Sihon and Og, which took on new features at the fall of Jericho, and which, for the time being, was consummated in the destruction of the hosts of Jabin and the cities of northern Canaan, had been an arduous and bitter work. Many of the Israelites themselves may have fallen, although the history is singularly silent on this point, excepting that we are told, in connection with the defeat before Ai, that “the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men.” Any way, the setting up of the tabernacle must have been looked upon as indicating a blessed rest from the terrible conflicts of the past. The rest was not final and permanent, for there remained yet very much land to be possessed; yet, in the main, Canaan was won when the ark was thus set up at Shiloh. Such is the sense of rest when Christ is enthroned in the hearts of men individually. The peace which He gives stands in sweet contrast to the strife of the conscience with sin and unbelief. To believe in Him is not utter cessation from conflict, but it is the beginning of such a cessation to every man who is found faithful.
3. It was as the Israelites were about to enter upon their own personal inheritance. Ere most of them found a home, they set up together the tabernacle of the Lord. The way with many is to arrange business and domestic matters first, and to take afterwards, as they may find it, the religious provision of the neighbourhood in which they may have determined to settle. When starting, or starting afresh in life, they give no place whatever to religious considerations. Many ignore their spiritual wants altogether, even when they find nigh at hand facilities for the worship and service of God. There are not a few who might learn much from this ancient example.
II. The place of setting up the ark.
1. It was nearly in the centre of the land. It was as though Divine forethought would place the means of worship within reach of all the people, and render the service of the Lord as little burdensome as possible. Of Israel it should be said, “God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.”
2. It was in one of the safest parts of the land. “And,” or “For the land was subdued before them.” Calvin remarks that the ark was stationed at Shiloh “because it was a completely subjugated place, and safe from all external violence and injury. For it behoved to be the special care of the Israelites to prevent its exposure to sudden assault. No doubt the hand of God would have been stretched out to ward off attacks of the enemy from any quarter; still, however, though God dwelt among them, they were to be regarded as its guardians and attendants.” As God kept the ark, so does He keep His truth and the honour of His name among men now. He means us to feel them to be our trust. As with the ark, God keeps the truth, but He keeps it by men. We are to feel responsible for making it as secure as possible. We are “put in trust with the gospel.”
3. It was in what also became the place of judgment. Here the claims of the wronged were heard. They can be heard nowhere so well as in the presence of the God of compassion and truth. Of the place where the Lord dwells, it should ever be said, “There are set thrones of judgment.” (Cf. also Deuteronomy 17:9; 2 Chronicles 19:8.)
III. The time and place of setting up the ark, in their joint significance. After a long period of wandering and warfare, the ark was set up in a place, the very name of which pointed to tranquillity and rest. As this is the first time that Shiloh is mentioned in the Scriptures as the name of a city, it is possible that the name may have been given to the place on this occasion. This makes no difference to the significance of erecting the ark of rest in the city of rest. If the place was selected because it had previously borne this name, the circumstance is full of meaning; if, on the other hand, when it was determined to set up the tabernacle in this place, some old name was exchanged for the word “Shiloh,” the significance of such a conjunction is, perhaps, still more emphatic.
1. God dwells only where men rest. He makes His abode where men are at peace with Himself and at peace with each other. Where men rest in Him, there He tabernacles.
2. Men rest only where God dwells. There was only one Shiloh in Israel, and that was found in the place where Jehovah sat between the cherubim. With us, the accidents of description are changed, but the facts remain. Peace is only found through Him who said, “My peace I leave with you;” and where Christ dwells, surrounding enemies are not able to break the peace of His people. It is said that in the catacombs of Rome, one of the epitaphs very frequently met with is this, “In Christo, in pace.” Notwithstanding all the horrors of the Roman persecution, it remained true—“in Christ, in peace.” It has always been thus: God dwells where men rest, and men rest where God dwells. “In Salem” (= “peace”) “is His tabernacle;” and it is there that His people learn to sing, “Oh, rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him.”
IV. The period of the ark’s continuance at Shiloh, and the cause of its removal. The ark probably remained at Shiloh for rather more than three hundred years. At the end of this period the place was so polluted by the sins of Eli’s sons, that the Lord forsook it for ever. Though not in name, yet no less actually, Shiloh passed into Ichabod. Dean Stanley remarks: “Shiloh is so utterly featureless, that, had it not been for the preservation of its name (Seitûn), and for the extreme precision with which its situation is described in the book of Judges (chap. Joshua 21:19), the spot could never have been identified; and, indeed, from the time of Jerome till the year 1838, its real site was completely forgotten, and its name was transferred to that commanding height of Gibeoh, which a later age naturally conceived to be a more congenial spot for the sacred place, where for so many centuries was ‘the tent which He had pitched among men,’—
‘Our living Dread, who dwells
In Silo, His bright sanctuary.’ ”
So complete was the desolation which God wrought, when Israel abandoned those essential conditions of piety which were necessary for His dwelling-place. Only they who walk with God in spirit, find God abiding with them. Sin, of any kind, is the sign for His departure. It may be sin of irreverence, impurity, and covetous injustice, as at Shiloh; or, as at Jerusalem in after generations, men may stand in haughty ecclesiastical pride, and cry, “The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord are these;” finding presently that they have only the temple, and no Lord at all, excepting one who jealously responds, “Go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people Israel.… Therefore will I do to this house as I have done to Shiloh” (cf. Jeremiah 7:0). Only they who keep the words of the Father, know the abiding presence of the Father (John 14:23). All others He forsakes. Even many years of past mercy and manifested glory fail to secure His continued stay. When His people ignore His commandments, where He once wrote “Shiloh,” He henceforth writes “Ichabod.”
Joshua 18:1, with Numbers 10:33, and Joshua 6:6-7.—“THE ARK: GOD OUR GUIDE, DEFENCE, AND REST.”
I. “Is human life a journey? Place it under the guidance of God. Let ‘the Lord God go before you to search you out a place to pitch your tents in.’ That is the significance of the scene at Sinai.
II. “Is human life a conflict? Let the Lord God be your sword and shield. He hath provided an armour all complete, from head to foot, and offers Himself to you as the ‘Captain of your salvation.’ That is the significance of the scene at Jericho.
III. “Is human life a sojourn? Let the Lord God prescribe where it shall be spent, and let His rest give the appointed home all purity and peace. That is the significance of the scene at Shiloh.
“How holy must that house be which the Lord hath chosen for me! As I cross its threshold, nothing unclean is to enter; as I depart from it for duty, nothing sinful is to fill my spirit. That house that is purchased by the price of iniquity is not allotted by the Lord. That house that is the scene of lust, of selfishness, of unkindness, is held by a man who has clean forgotten whose tenant he is. That house that is the abode of disorder and strife violates all the covenants on which it is held. But that house that has its altar and its Bible, by which each inmate is ever reminded of the Lord before whom its lot of assignment was taken, is a house that will ever derive peace, rest, and strength from the tabernacle of the Lord at Shiloh. These houses are hard by each other; their inmates are no strangers to each other. Man goes to the Lord’s house, and the Lord goes to man’s house: man with his homage, and penitence, and trust, and prayer, the Lord with His benediction in all manifold grace.” [G. B. Johnson, Edgbaston.]
3.—MAN’S SLOWNESS IN POSSESSING GOD’S GIFTS.
I. God’s commandments as a rich inheritance. The Israelites had been solemnly charged to go up and possess the land, and to drive out the Canaanites utterly. Both Moses and Joshua had repeatedly urged this as the commandment of the Lord. Thus, in this case, to obey the Divine precepts was also to enter upon a rich inheritance. It is ever the same with all who are faithful to the words of God. To obey is to inherit. To obey continually is to inherit largely. Some of the commandments of God are of a negative character, while others are positive; some tell us of things which we must not do, and others of things which we are to do. Look at the effect of obedience in each case.
1. Such commandments as forbid sins tend to preserve us from moral and spiritual destitution. He who does the things which he ought not to do hastens to spiritual bankruptcy at a pace proportionate to the rapidity of his transgressions. Take, for instance, the ten commandments of the moral law, which are mostly negative. To have many gods is to be without God altogether. To worship graven images is to find them only graven, and only images, in the hour of real necessity. To take the name of the Lord thoughtlessly upon our lips, is to find that its sacred and mysterious power has fled from our hearts. To violate the day of rest is to need rest all the week. To dishonour parents is to become insolvent in manhood and womanhood. To kill is to die, and that before we so much as lift a hand to slay; for he that hateth is a murderer, and no murderer hath life. To commit adultery is to wrong ourselves even more than others. To steal is to lose more within than we can get without. To slander others is to lose self-respect even more than we shew disrespect. Finally, to covet what is another’s is to forfeit the generosity and kindness and peace which might still have remained our own. The man who does that which God forbids is continually forfeiting the very capital which God would have him use so as to gain a larger inheritance. He is living on his principal. He is spending himself.
2. Such commandments as enjoin duties always tend to an increase of possessions. The inheritance which comes from obeying (a) God’s commandments to believe; (b) His commandments to be holy; (c) His commandments to worship; (d) His commandments to work (cf. remarks on page 254).
II. Man’s slowness in possessing this inheritance. “How long are ye slack?” etc. We see here:—
1. Men on whose behalf God had long wrought by wonderful miracles, slothfully waiting when the miracles ceased. For forty-seven or eight years God had been working miraculously for the Israelites. From the time of the ten plagues in Egypt to the battle in which the day had been so wonderfully prolonged, God had wrought great wonders for His people. He had brought them into the land with “a high hand and an outstretched arm.” It is not a little significant, when we see this indolence and inactivity following such marvellous interposition. There is a place in the minds of men where miracles exhaust themselves. They no longer work faith, but inaction. Those who are continually seeking for the manifest interposition of God should remember that nothing which men have ever witnessed seems so conspicuously to have failed as the evidently supernatural. It was the men for whom the waters of the earth had parted, for whom the skies for many years had rained daily bread, before whom solid walls had fallen down, and on whose behalf the sun had stayed his setting, who were so slack to go up and possess the land to which these and many other wonders had led them. It was after witnessing for three years and a half the gracious miracles of Christ, that the multitudes at Jerusalem were turned by their exasperated leaders into a raging mob, hoarsely shouting to the Roman Governor concerning that same Jesus, “Crucify Him; Crucify Him.”
2. Men indolently and sinfully failing to use God’s great mercies, through treating them as tiresome duties to be done. They thought of the work which yet remained as a task, and regarding it in that light, found little heart to undertake it. They needed love, and thus wanted also the alacrity of love. Christ says to us each, Occupy till I come.” He who does not think highly of Christ’s gift, and who does not love to occupy for Christ’s sake, will weary himself with his Lord’s commandment, instead of finding it a joyful possession. He who thought his Lord an austere man, and hid his talent in the earth, was afraid notwithstanding that it was hidden, and presently passed from fear to judgment.
III. Man’s inheritance curtailed through his inactivity. The slothfulness of the Israelites was ultimately the cause of many sorrows.
1. Much of the land was never possessed at all. When we miss the opportunities which God makes for us, it is not an easy work to make fresh opportunities ourselves.
2. The land which was inherited was made insecure by that which was left in the possession of enemies. The Philistines, especially, became grievous oppressors of the Israelites for many years. As God had forewarned His people, the enemies whom they spared became as “thorns in their sides” (Numbers 33:55). The soldier who leaves unreduced a strong fortress in his rear, exposes himself to danger. The Christian who deliberately passes by an imperative commandment of God is still more unwise. A large inheritance and great safety go only with full and loving obedience.
Joshua 18:1-3.—ISRAEL AT SHILOH.
1. God brings men to Shiloh that He may set them to work. When the sinner comes to Christ, he enters into ‘peace’ and ‘rest,’ and yet he is not suffered to remain idle. We are saved by grace, without works; but we are also saved by grace to work, and the great work set before us is the sanctification of our souls and the service of our generation. Only through the doing of this work shall we enter upon our inheritance.
2. Nothing is so displeasing to God as slackness on our part to go up and possess His gifts.” [Dr. Wm. Taylor.]
Joshua 18:5-7.—THE LOT OF GOD, AND THE SURVEY OF MEN.
I. The choice of God cannot be corrected by the survey of men. Judah, Manasseh, and Ephraim were still to abide in the position already indicated by the lots previously drawn. It is true that great alterations were to be made in the extent of some of these lots, but no alteration was to be made in the general situation. The work of men in respect to these three tribes had to be corrected by the survey; the arrangement, so far as it was God’s, was to remain untouched (cf. remarks on chap. Joshua 14:2, pp. 250, 252). God makes no mistakes. He had surveyed the land long before these representatives of the tribes undertook the work. Our most minute investigations can correct no determination which is of the Lord.
II. The choice of God cannot be omitted because of the survey of men. After the work of the surveyors was completed, they were to bring the description to Joshua, that he might “cast lots for them before the Lord” (Joshua 18:6). Josephus (Ant. v. 1. 21) speaks of the men sent out as “geometricians who could not easily fail of knowing the truth, on account of their skill,” and further says, they returned to Joshua “in the seventh month.” Even if they were as skilled as some think, and if they took upwards of six months for their task, the appeal to the Lord for His guidance was as necessary as ever. Our utmost care can never render us independent of prayer.
III. The choice of God and the survey of men work together.
1. Divine guidance is independent of the investigation of men. God did not need the survey to help Him in determining on His selection. We cannot do without His work, but He does not rest on ours.
2. Divine guidance does not clash with the investigation of men. God ever leaves something for us to do. A loving father does the difficult part of a work for his child. It would be less trouble to the father to complete it entirely. The easy parts left to the child would take the father but a few moments to do, whereas the child requires watching and helping for hours, and even then goes far to spoil what has been done for him. For all that, a wise and patient father says, Though this detains me, it is good for my child. God leaves us something to do, much in this spirit. It is not that we can improve or even supplement His work; it is through the kindness that would not have us children always that we are found “labourers together with God.” Our investigation does not suppose so much to be subtracted from omniscience; our labour is never a fraction which is necessary to make omnipotence perfect.
3. Divine guidance is made known through the investigation of men. It is as we inspect, and measure, and plan, that the Lord’s selection for us becomes comprehensible and plain. Before the survey, the lot notwithstanding, Judah had regarded as its own the whole inheritance of Simeon. It is just where our most careful labours end that we best begin to understand what is the meaning of God.
IV. The choice of God is never needed to correct or to supplement His own previous arrangements. Joshua 18:7. The Levites were still to find their inheritance in the Lord God of Israel. The two and a half tribes east of Jordan were to continue in their lots, according to God’s former arrangement through Moses. Judah and the children of Joseph were also in their right place. The casting of lots at Shiloh was no amended edition of God’s previous selection. “God is not a man, that He should repent.” Few things are more imposing than this unbending and unhesitating purpose of God. Creation is one, and has no contradictions. Nature lies in a straight line, broken nowhere by halting purposes, and free everywhere from disfiguring patches. In the kingdom of grace it is emphatically the same. From the offerings of Abel and the altars of Abraham to the cross of Calvary, there is but one voice from heaven crying out to the sons of men, and that is ever saying, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins.” God’s walk through the universe, during all the ages, is a straight path. The only lane in this world which “has no turning” is the way trodden by the feet of the God of infinite wisdom and justice and love.
Joshua 18:8-10.—DANGEROUS WORK AND DIVINE PROTECTION.
I. Men sent on a dangerous service for the people of God, and protected by God.
II. Men prospered by God, and successfully accomplishing their work.
III. Men doing their utmost to shed light on a difficult task, and needing the guidance of God notwithstanding.
THE DANGER TO WHICH THE SURVEYORS WERE EXPOSED.—“Nothing seems more incongruous than to send twenty-one men, who were not only to pass directly through a hostile country, but to trace it through all its various windings and turnings, so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, to calculate its length and breadth, and even make due allowance for its inequalities. Every person whom they happened to meet must readily have suspected who they were, and for what reason they had been employed on this expedition. In short, no return lay open for them except through a thousand deaths. Assuredly they would not have encountered so much danger from blind and irrational impulse, nor would Joshua have exposed them to such manifest danger had they not been aware that all those nations, struck with terror from heaven, desired nothing so much as peace. For although they hated the children of Israel, still, having been subdued by so many overthrows, they did not dare to move a finger against them, and thus the surveyors proceeded in safety as through a peaceful territory, either under the pretext of trading, or as harmless strangers passing on their way. It is also possible that they arranged themselves in different parties, and thus made the journey more secretly. It is certain, indeed, that there was only one source from which they could have derived all this courage and confidence, from trusting under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty, and thus having no fear of blind and stupid men. Hence the praise here bestowed on their ready will.” [Calvin.]
Joshua 18:9-10.—THE DESCRIPTION OF OUR HEAVENLY INHERITANCE.—“The heavenly Canaan is described to us in a book, the book of the Scriptures, and there is in it a record of mansions and portions sufficient for all God’s spiritual Israel. Christ is our Joshua that divides it to us; on Him we must attend, and “to Him we must apply ourselves for an inheritance with the saints in light (cf. John 14:2-6).” [Matt. Henry.]
Joshua 18:11-28.—THE SITUATION OF THE TRIBE OF BENJAMIN.
In the matter of numbers, the tribe of Benjamin was amongst the smallest in Israel. As concerning the order of birth, Benjamin was the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob. These two things, the latter of them especially, may go far to account for the considerate sympathy which was repeatedly shewn towards “little Benjamin,” who, after the slaughter recorded in Judges 21:0, became known as the “smallest of the tribes of Israel” (1 Samuel 9:21; Psalms 68:27). Whether the name Benjamin be taken into account, or the gentle sympathy with which the tribe was often regarded be thought of, the Scripture history repeatedly leaves the impression that they were a favoured people in Israel. Even in the dark page of sin and slaughter already referred to there are traces of the same feeling: it is shewn, on the one hand, in the haughty demeanour of the “spoiled children” who alone recklessly set themselves in array against the overwhelming thousands of the kingdom; and, on the other hand, in the tearful inquiry of the other tribes before the Lord, in the half-hearted character of the earlier attacks, as though the avengers were at first too pitiful to smite firmly, and in the way in which the people after the victory “repented them for Benjamin their brother, and said, There is one tribe cut off from Israel this day.” This feeling of affectionate interest in the children of Jacob’s youngest son is not only shewn towards them by their brethren, but is conspicuously marked in the inspired blessing of Moses the man of God, “Of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between His shoulders.”
The following interesting features, according so well with the spirit and language of this blessing, may be noticed in regard to the situation of the territory of the tribe:—
1. The people had their inheritance near to the place where Benjamin, their father, was born, and where his mother Rachel died and was buried. The southern boundary of the tribe could not, at most, have been more than five or six miles from the spot (Genesis 35:16; Genesis 35:19), and probably included the actual site of Rachel’s tomb (cf. Joshua 18:25; 1 Samuel 10:2).
2. The inheritance of the tribe was next to that of the house of Joseph, Benjamin’s “own and only brother.”
3. From the powerful and dreaded Philistines, and other enemies, it had the strong tribe of Judah to defend it on the south, and the warlike Danites to shield it on the west.
4. It was situated in a district having very great advantages for the purposes of defensive warfare (cf. Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, on “The Heights and the Passes of Benjamin,” pp. 199–214).
5. It was immediately south of Shiloh, where, during those earlier centuries of the national history, God tabernacled with His people, and immediately north of Jerusalem, which was given to the Benjamites as a part of their possession. Thus this highly favoured tribe “dwelt safely by Jehovah,” and the Lord “covered him all the day long,” and he “dwelt between the shoulders” of Deity.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joshua 18". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
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