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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Joshua 15

Introduction

CHAP. XV.

The borders of the tribe of Judah are described: Caleb promises that he will give his daughter to wife to the man who shall take Kirjath-sepher: Othniel succeeds: the cities of the tribe of Judah are enumerated.

Before Christ 1445.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. This then was the lot of the tribe of—Judah In one of the following chapters we see, that the first care of Joshua, Eleazar, and the princes appointed to divide the conquered country, was, to have a plan of the whole drawn out, and to divide it into nine parts and a half, as equally as possible, calculating the extent and goodness of the district. This done, they cast lots in the manner before described, Numbers 26:53-4.26.56.; and the lot first assigned a portion to the tribe of Judah; as it were, to confirm the pre-eminence which Jacob's famous prediction had promised to him before all the rest.

By their families It should constantly be remembered, that the lot determined nothing more than the right of each tribe to such or such a portion of the general division into nine provinces and a half. It then remained with Joshua and the other commissioners, to give each family lands proportioned to its situation, without partiality or respect of persons. Thus the district in which each tribe was to be settled was marked out, as it were, by the hand of God; but the bounds of it were fixed by the general and the heads of the people, who, on an estimation of the value of the lands, and the necessity of the families, contracted or extended those bounds according to their discretion. See chap. Joshua 19:9.

To the border of Edom; the wilderness of Zin southward The tribe of Judah was the most southwardly of all. Its limits took up the south side, from the arm or point of the Salt or Dead sea on the south, along Edom, or Idumea, passing by the mountains of Acrabbim, the desart of Zin, Kadesh-barnea, Hezron, Adar,—Karkaa, Azmon, and the river of Egypt, and so on to the Mediterranean. See the three following verses, Num 1:5 and Wells's Geogr. vol. 2: chap. 5.

Verses 6-7

Ver. 6, 7. And the border went up to Beth-hoglah This border, issuing from the north point of the Dead sea, towards the west, was formed by a line which passed by Beth-hoglah, a city in the tribe of Benjamin, above Beth-Arabah, whether we understand by it another city of this name in the same tribe, ch. Jos 18:21 or that mentioned ver. 61 or, with some geographers, make of these two places only one and the same city, placed on the border of the two tribes. This line went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben, a place famous, no doubt, for some monument which had been erected in memory of a great exploit performed there by Bohan, or because he was there buried. It then went on toward Debir, (ver. 7.) a city unknown, but evidently different from that which stood in the neighbourhood of Hebron, ver. 15.—From the valley of Achor, mentioned before in ch. Joshua 7:24; Joshua 7:26 and so northward, looking toward Gilgal; that is, by the valley of Achor, which had on the north Gilgal, or rather Geliloth, in the tribe of Benjamin, according to Masius, Le Clerc, &c. Calmet is of opinion, that both here and in ch. 18: Gilgal and Geliloth signify, in general, limits. Gilgal is said to be before the going up to Adummim, in the same tribe of Judah, or perhaps of Benjamin, on the south side of the river, i.e. probably, Kedron. After this it passed on towards the north, constantly inclining from east to west, by the waters of En-shemesh, whence it proceeded to the spring or fountain of En-rogel, near Jerusalem.

Verse 8

Ver. 8. And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom This valley, which lay to the east of Jerusalem, was so pleasant, and covered with so many groves, that the cruel worshippers of Moloch thought proper to place there the idol of their god, to whom they sacrificed their children. 2 Kings 23:10. Jeremiah 7:32. & al. It is thought to have belonged formerly to the family of some great personage, named Hinnom, and that from the compound word Gehinnom, the valley of Hinnom, is derived the word Gehenne, which is taken in Scripture for hell. Matthew 18:9; Matthew 23:33. When the pious Josiah had taken away the idol of Moloch, this valley continued as a place of execration, into which they threw all the filth of Jerusalem, dung, excrements, carcases, and whatever else is cast off to the lay-stalls; and where, according to the Jewish doctors, they kept continual fires, whether to consume the bones and other combustibles thrown there, or to prevent infection. After this, it is not surprising to find this abominable valley considered as a kind of picture of the place of punishments prepared by divine justice for the wicked in the life to come. The Jebusite, so called from one of the sons of Canaan, Gen 10:16 became the capital of his descendants, who possessed the fortress called Sion, till the time of David. Jebus, properly speaking, was in the territory of Benjamin, and Sion, its citadel, in that of Judah. It was afterwards called Jerusalem. See on chap. Joshua 10:13.

And the border went up to the top of the mountain That is, of Moriah, that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward; so that this mountain had on the east the valley of Hinnom, and on the south that of the Rephaim, or giants, which extended as far as Bethlehem, according to Josephus, Antiq. lib. 7: cap. 4. Thus the line, which separated the two tribes, left to that of Benjamin the greatest part of Jerusalem, on which the temple was afterwards built; and the smallest part to the tribe of Judah.

Verse 12

Ver. 12. And the west border was to the great sea, &c.— On this side the tribe of Judah had no other limits than from the Mediterranean to the river of Egypt. Such was the portion which fell by lot to the tribe of Judah. But this portion having been found more extensive than was necessary, several pieces from thence were cut off, in order to give to the tribes of Simeon, Dan, and Benjamin.

Note; (1.) It is good to have certain limits fixed to prevent disputes. (2.) They, who have the largest portion to possess, have the largest frontiers to defend: when our advantages and disadvantages are balanced, God's distributions will not be found so unequal as at first sight they may appear.

Verses 16-17

Ver. 16, 17. And Caleb said, &c.— To encourage his troops to take Debir, Caleb, at the head of the army, declared publicly, that he would give his daughter in marriage to whoever undertook and succeeded in storming that city. Among the Hebrews, fathers had an absolute power over the marriage of their children. Saul exercised this right, as well as Caleb, 1 Samuel 17:25.; and prophane history supplies us with many similar instances. Othniel, Caleb's nephew, the son of his brother Kenaz, offered himself. The Spirit of God, without doubt, incited him, as it afterwards did to deliver his fellow-citizens, Judges 3:9-7.3.10. Thus Providence every way rewarded Caleb's virtue, by giving him the country which God had promised him, and by procuring to him the possession of it, by means of the valour of one of the greatest men of the tribe of Judah, who became his son-in-law.

Verse 18

Ver. 18. And—as she came unto him—she moved him to ask of her father a field, &c.— As she was conducted from the house of her father to that of her husband, according to the custom of that time, persuaded that Caleb could refuse nothing to the generous warrior who had subdued for him Kirjath-sepher, she begged of Othniel to ask boldly of him a field which lay conveniently for them; and the latter seeming fearful to do so, she hardly alighted, and placed herself in a suppliant posture, to open her mind to her father herself. Caleb perceiving her uneasiness, prevented it, by asking her what she required; and on Achsah's answering, that she begged him to consider, that, having given to her husband and herself only dry grounds, from which they could raise nothing, it would be proper to add thereto a spot which she pointed out, and which was rendered fertile by the waters of an adjacent spring. Caleb granted her beyond her wishes, and gave her one territory in the mountains, and another in the plain, both of them well watered. Such, according to our version, is the sense of these two verses; which interpreters have explained differently, as to particulars, but have all understood nearly in the same manner. See Poole's Synopsis. We should add, however, that it is uncertain whether this happened before or after the death of Joshua.

REFLECTIONS.—Caleb's portion, though allowed him according to his claim, falls providentially in the midst of the lot of his brethren of the tribe of Judah. And as he must possess it by the sword, we have it for his honour reported, that he conquered it from the sons of Anak. They seem to have fled at his approach, because they felt that resistance was vain: the inhabitants of Debir only stood on the defensive. Though this city had been taken, chap. Jos 10:39 yet being deserted, the Canaanites, it seems, returned and repaired the fortifications. To animate his troops, therefore, for the attack, he promises his daughter Achsah in marriage to the person who should take the city. Othniel, his brother's son, seizes the glad occasion; to gain the object of his love, he flies to the attack, and signalizes his valour in the capture of the city: an early presage of his future advancement as judge in Israel. Note; They, who in age would be respected, must spend their youth in deeds of virtue. Caleb immediately fulfils his promise, and Othniel is made happy in his beloved Achsah. Note; Among the first of human blessings is the union of their hands in marriage, whose hearts were before united in faithful love. With his wife, Othniel received an inheritance in land: Achsah observing the situation, as a south land, which being exposed to the sun would be parched, moved her husband to ask for another field, in which were springs of water; but Othniel suggesting, probably, that she was more likely to obtain it, in token of respect to her father, she alighted, and asked the blessing or favour of him, to bestow upon her the springs of water in the upper field: but in this he exceeded her expectations, for he gave her both the upper and nether springs. Note; (1.) When parents marry their children, they are in duty bound liberally to supply them with what they need, and themselves can well spare. (2.)

Husband and wife have but one interest, and should have one purse as well as one heart. (3.) We may, without danger of sin, desire the comforts and conveniencies of life, and use lawful means to procure them. (4.) If an earthly father is so kind, shall we not experience greater favours from our Father in heaven when we pray unto him? (5.) They who have nether springs of earthly blessings, and the upper springs of Divine grace, bestowed upon them, have, indeed, abundant reason to be satisfied with, and thankful for their lot.

Verse 32

Ver. 32. All the cities are twenty and nine, with their villages We reckon up in the text thirty-eight; but it may be said, that of this number there were but twenty-nine cities, and that the rest were villages. Of which opinion are many able commentators; or else, with most of the rabbis, it may be urged, that of those thirty-eight cities nine are to be excepted, which were afterwards given to the tribe of Simeon: viz. Beersheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, Baalah, Azem, Hormah, Ziklag, Ain, and Rimmon. This latter opinion, which yet is not without its difficulties, seems the most probable, because in all the remainder of this enumeration, the villages are no where mentioned. Grotius, Vatablus, &c. subscribe to the same opinion.

Verse 63

Ver. 63. As for the Jebusites—the children of Judah could not drive them out The children of Judah remained in the city, and the Jebusites in the citadel, on mount Sion, till David forced the latter to quit the place, 2 Samuel 5:6-10.5.7.

REFLECTIONS.—In Judah's lot alone lay a hundred and fourteen cities. No mention is made of Bethlehem, though so distinguished in after-times; it seems not to have been yet built, or to have been among the villages. Some also of these cities they never possessed; and Jerusalem itself was yet in the hands of the Jebusites: through sloth, or weariness of the war, or unbelief, they suffered them to remain among them till the reign of David. Note; Sloth and unbelief are dangerous enemies in our Christian warfare: how much more could we have done for God and our souls, had we a heart to trust him, and zeal to serve him.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 15". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/joshua-15.html. 1801-1803.