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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Joshua 15

Verses 1-12

Joshua 15:1-12

This then was the lot of . . . Judah.

The inheritance of Judah

Judah was the imperial tribe, and it was fitting that he should be planted in a conspicuous territory. Judah and the sons of Joseph seem to have obtained their settlements not only before the other tribes, but in a different manner.. They did not obtain them by lot, but apparently by their own choice and by early possession. Judah was not planted in the heart of the country. That position was gained by Ephraim and Manasseh, the children of Joseph, while Judah obtained the southern section. The territory of Judah was not pre-eminently fruitful; it was not equal in this respect to that of Ephraim and Manasseh. It had some fertile tracts, but a considerable part of it was mountainous and barren. It was of four descriptions--the hill country, the valley or low country, the south, and the wilderness. “The hill country,” says Dean Stanley, “is the part of Palestine which best exemplifies its characteristic scenery; the rounded hills, the broad valleys, the scanty vegetation, the villages and fortresses, sometimes standing, more frequently in ruins, on the hill tops; the wells in every valley, the vestiges of terraces whether for corn or wine.” (W. G. Blaikie.)

Verses 13-19

Joshua 15:13-19

To him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

Othniel’s conquest of Debir


I.
The spirit which influenced caleb in the disposal of achsah. He sought to unite her to a man--

(1) Honourable for his zeal and energy;

(2) conspicuous for his bravery;

(3) and willing to use his strength in the way of the Lord’s commandments.

(4) It seems likely also that Caleb sought to unite his daughter to one who was in a social station akin to her own.

The promise was not to the man who should first enter Kirjath-sepher. This may have been the nature of the similar promise at the siege of Jerusalem, under David, although it seems by no means certain that, even in this instance, David did not refer to the captain who should first bring his company into Jebus and smite the garrison. He should be chief captain (2 Samuel 5:8; 1 Chronicles 11:6). However this may have been, Caleb’s promise ran, “He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him,” &c. No man single-handed could “smite and take” a fortified city; and thus the promise probably refers to the leaders of the army who were under Caleb. This view has also the advantage that it does not exhibit to us an honourable man like Caleb putting up his daughter as the object of a wretched scramble, where a mere accident of a stumble or a wound might decide whose she should be. Possibly there were but few of the commanders under Caleb officially qualified to lead one or more divisions of the army against Debit; and of these Othniel might first have volunteered, or he only might have volunteered to lead the attack. Any way, out of regard for Achsah, Othniel was one who offered to conduct the assault, and he succeeded.


II.
The harmony between the father and the daughter.

1. Achsah accorded with her father’s will and with the custom of the age. There can be no doubt but that, at this period, a father was held to have an absolute right to the disposal of his daughter’s hand (Genesis 29:18-28; Exodus 21:7-11; 1 Samuel 17:25, &c.). It does not follow, however, that a father would not consult his daughter’s wishes.

2. She had confidence in her father’s love, notwithstanding her recognition of his authority. She asked for a larger dowry (Joshua 15:19). On leaving her father, to cleave to her husband, we thus find her seeking her husband’s interest.

3. Her father cheerfully responded to her request. The confidence which was bold to ask was met by an affection which was pleased to bestow.


III.
The honourable character in which this brief history introduces Othniel. He comes before us as a man of courage, willing to risk his life for the woman he loved. He is seen to perhaps even more advantage in not preferring the request which Achsah prompted him to make. He may have refused to comply with his wife’s wishes. The history does not actually say this; it merely shows that Achsah made her request herself. Othniel was bold enough to fight; he seems to have been too manly to have allowed himself to ask for this addition to what was probably already a just and good inheritance. He was brave enough to do battle against Debir; he was not mean enough to beg. If Achsah needed a larger dowry, such a request would come better from herself. (F. G. Marchant.)

A chance for ability

There begins the test of talent and force and quality in men. The speech is, Come, now I the palm be to the brave, the crown to him who wins it. Up to a certain point all things seem to be appointed, settled, almost arbitrarily distributed; but then there are chances in life that seem to come afterwards, as it were, amongst ourselves, competitions of a personal and social kind. How early this competitive spirit was developed, and how wonderfully it has been preserved through all history! The spirit of Providence seems to say, in homeliest language, now and again, Here is a chance for you; you had something to begin with, to that you can add more, by pluck, bravery, force--to the war! We need such voices; otherwise we would soon slumber off, and doze away our handful of years, and awake to find that the day had gone. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water.

Noble discontent

1. Such noble discontent, such aspiration for higher and better things, should urge us on in the realm of the daily duty. Simply the south land of a measurable and merely respectable discharge of the daily duty should never satisfy us. We should be stirred with a noble discontent far the water springs of the best possible doing it. Thus we transform ourselves from drudges into artists. Thus, too, we compact ourselves in noble character.

2. In the realm of intellectual advance we should be stirred with this noble discontent; we should turn from a merely general and surface and newspaper information toward the springs of water of a thorough and accurate knowledge.

3. In the realm of the best good of the community in which we dwell we should be stirred with a noble discontent. The south land of a merely usual municipal security and order ought not to satisfy us; we should be restless with discontent until the springs of water of a high moral atmosphere and action are predominant.

4. In the realm of Christian experience we ought to be stirred with such noble discontent; we ought to leave behind us the south land of a merely usual and routine experience, and seek the springs of water of the peace and joy and strength of a transfiguring likeness to our Lord (1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16). (W. Hoyt, D. D.)

The upper springs, and the nether springs.--

The upper and nether springs


I.
The upper springs, as they picture forth the joy-sources of the higher nature. “My soul thirsteth for God--the living God!” Nor need we be disappointed. It is pensive to think that some thirsts, and honest thirsts too, must be disappointed, Not to all are given possibilities equal to their desires. Their ideals are above their realisation! But none need be disappointed in God! Christ has opened up a free and full channel of communication. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” We have read of waters in the East which, copious at some times, are scarce at others. To-day the waters pour forth their freshening streams, irrigate the land, and satisfy the thirst of man and beast; to-morrow the faithless well is dry. Not so with Christ. In Him the waters dwell. But more than this, Christ is not only the fulness of God, He is the available fulness for us.

1. Take fellowship with God. Inspired words used about this are not the language of poetic fiction or overwrought religious feeling. They are the actual experiences of meditative, devout, earnest, inspired men. “God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”

2. Take likeness to God. Who can conceive of a more magnificent ideal than God-life in the soul? Be ye holy as your leather, &c. Be ye followers of God, &c. Herein consists our true life. Not in the mere culture of art-faculty, but in the growth of the moral likeness to God! We become happier as we become more like Him. Less vexed with trifles, less anxious about losses provided they bring gains to the soul, less conformed to the world, more restful in the love of God!

3. Take the service of God. Christ does not call us to His work merely that we may work, that our moral nature may have something to do; the Lord hath need of us. I say this not only dignifies life, it makes it delightful (John 4:34). These are upper springs! Co-workers together with God!

4. Take the friends of God. These are yours! We are made for each other! Church life is designed to draw forth common sympathies and common purposes. We are pilgrims to the same shrine; soldiers in the same battlefield; fruit-gatherers in the same vineyard; children of the same Father. Thoughtful Christian friendship is one of the choicest blessings we can enjoy.

5. Take the future of God’s children. I love to think of them at home there. Upper springs coming from the throne of God and the Lamb: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.” Shall we drink of those upper springs? I hope so! Do we love Christ now? Do we enjoy His service now? If so, when the morning of eternity comes to us, we shall know in a higher sense than we have ever known on earth the meaning of “the upper springs.”


II.
The nether springs, as they illustrate the mere satisfactions of the lower nature. Take care lest all life plays upon the surface! Take care lest all life’s drinking be at the nether springs. I am not now speaking of the grossness of sensualism, but of mere sensationalism. It is possible to live a merely surface life. Let us remember that there are eyes and ears within us, that the invisible world, the world which embraces God and judgment and eternity, is always speaking through many voices to our conscience and heart. Mere earthly aims are nether springs. Some people are always drinking at the springs of position and success. They attempt to please men.



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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Joshua 15". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/joshua-15.html. 1905-1909. New York.