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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 12

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-24



Joshua 12:1

Now these are the kings. The historian now enters upon a complete description of the whole territory which had, up to this date, fallen into the hands of the Israelites. First he traces out the border of the trans-Jordanic possessions of Israel, which he describes as bounded on the south by the river Arnon, on the west of course by the Jordan, and as extending from Hermon, past the Sea of Chinneroth, to the borders of the Dead Sea. The eastern border is not clearly defined, but the boundary extended far further eastward in the north than in the south, since the territory of Og was much more extensive than that of Sihon. On the west of Jordan the territory is described as extending "from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon (i.e; Baalbec or Caesarea Philippi; see note on Joshua 11:17) unto the Mount Halak which goeth up to Seir, which we have seen to be a range of mountains extending southward from near the south point of the Dead Sea. The border of the Israelitish possessions is more accurately defined in the succeeding chapters, but it was, after all, a slip of territory not more than 180 miles in length by about 100 in breadth. Its influence upon the history of the world, like that of Athens and Sparta, must not be measured by its size, but by its moral energy. As the former city has attained undying fame by its intellectual power, the second by its mihtary capacity, so Palestine has derived her title to fame from her indestructible national life—indestructible because built alone, of all the religious systems of the ancient world, upon the foundations of the unity and Fatherhood of God; indestructible, moreover, because it came by revelation from God. There is no greater argument for the Divine origin of the Mosaic law than the unique spectacle of a national life like that of the Jews, subsisting for nearly two thousand years after their expulsion from their land. From the river Arnon (see Numbers 21:24). The word Arnon Signifies the swift stream (see Gesenius,'Thesaur.' s.v). It is now called by the Arabs, El-Mujeb. Seetzen represents the region round its mouth to be naturally most fertile, but as abandoned now to a few wild plants. Unto Mount Hermon. Now Jebel-es-Sheikh. We have a vivid description of the scenery of Hermon in Psalms 42:1-11; with the noise of its foaming torrents, the "deep calling unto deep" from the recesses of its dark ravines, where the infant Jordan rushed along its rocky bed. The Psalmist pictures to himself his troubles as overwhelming him like the billows of the numerous streams that streaked the mountain sides. And yet again Hermon is introduced as the image of peace and plenty and brotherly love. The refreshing dews which distilled from the side of the giant mountain were the source of blessing to those who dwelt afar off, and even the dry and parched sides of Mount Zion were cooled by their delicious influence. In Psalms 42:6 the Psalmist speaks of Hermon in the plural. Some have regarded this (e.g; Ritter) as referring to the double peak of the mountain. The phrase most probably refers to the region, though Hermon has really three peaks (see note on Joshua 11:3). And all the plain on the east. The Arabah (see Joshua 3:16). The depression of the Jordan, which lay eastward, of course, of Palestine. This is much insisted on in the following verses.

Joshua 12:2

The river Jabbok. Literally, the pouring or emptying stream. It is remarkable that, while the LXX. renders here by χείμαρρος, a winter torrent, it steadily renders the same Hebrew word, when referring to Aruon, by φάραγξ. This latter word indicates the rocky cleft through which the water flows; the former, the fact that, though rapid and impetuous in winter, it was usually dried up in summer. Cf. the term χείμαρρος, applied to the Kedron by St. John (Joshua 18:1); a remarkable instance of accuracy, by the way, if, as we are confidently told, the author of that Gospel was an Ephesine Gentile who had never seen Jerusalem and was imperfectly acquainted with Jewish localities and customs. The Jabbok has been identified with the Wady Zerka, or blue stream.

Joshua 12:3

And from the plain. There is no "from" in the original, which here ceases to describe the territories of Sihon, but continues the account of the Israelite dominions, which included the Arabah (not the plain as in our version) up to the sea of Chinneroth. On the east; i.e; the east of Jordan. So also below. The way to Beth-jeshimoth (see Numbers 33:48, Numbers 33:49). There was a desert tract near the Dead Sea called Jeshimon, or the waste district. It is described by travellers as the most arid portion of the whole land. In this, Beth-jeshimoth (the house of desolations) was situated. It was south of the acacia meadows (see note on Joshua 2:1), and it formed part of the territory of Reuben (Joshua 13:20). As it lay upon Jordan, it must have been near the extreme northernmost point of the Dead Sea. We are to understand, not that Sihon's territory extended to Beth-jeshimoth, but in that direction. Possibly some of the western Cauaanitish tribes here extended their territories across the Jordan. And from the south. The word here is not Negeb, but Teman, i.e; the literal south, which lay on the right (יָמִין) to one looking eastward. Ashdoth-pisgah. For Ashdoth see Joshua 10:40. Pisgah was the northernmost point of the Abarim range, of which the well.known Nebo was the chief peak. Thither Moses went up to view the land which he was not permitted to enter. There Balaam built his seven altars and essayed in vain to curse the children of Israel. There were the watchmen (Zophim) stationed to protect the land, in the days before the Israelitish invasion, from the incursions of the tribes on the other side of Jordan (Numbers 23:14). The position of Pisgah has not been precisely identified, but the range extended on the eastern side of Jordan to a point nearly opposite Jericho. See Deuteronomy 34:1.

Joshua 12:4

The giants. Hebrew, Rephaim cf. Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20; also Joshua 17:15). The word, according to Ewald, is equivalent to "stretched out." It was also applied to the dead. The Rephaim were one of the various tribes of giants, like the Anakims, Zuzims, and Emims, of whom we read in the land of Canaan. They occupied the land of Bashan and "half Gilead"—that is, its northern portion (see Deuteronomy 3:13). The term "remnant" would imply that they had suffered some reverses at the hands of the other tribes, though they still remained in possession of their populous territory in the north. This view is confirmed by Genesis 14:5. Ashtaroth (see note on Joshua 9:10). Edrei. Or "the strong city," "the city of the arm," according to Gesen; 'Thes.,' s.v. This name, together with the immense number of ruined cities which have been found of late years in a marvellous state of preservation in this region, shows that Og was a powerful monarch. The ease with which he was overcome bears witness to the enervating effects of luxury and licentiousness upon a people of strong physique, vast numbers, and high civilisation.

Joshua 12:5

The Geshurites. See Joshua 13:2, Joshua 13:11, Joshua 13:13; and Deuteronomy 3:14; also 2 Samuel 13:37, where we find the principality of Geshur still in possession of its independence. It was in the northeast corner of Bashan, abutting upon Syria, and is called "Geshur in Syria" (2 Samuel 15:8). It is perhaps an instance of undesigned coincidence that Maachah, the mother of Absalom and the daughter of the king of Geshur, was so named, since she probably derived her name from the adjoining territory of Maachah (see note on Joshua 13:2).

Joshua 12:6

Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave. Theodoret makes the tribes which received their inheritance through Moses the types of the believing Jews, and those who received it through Jesus (Joshua) the types of the believing Gentiles. Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were the first born of their respective mothers, and were thus types of the Jews, who were God's firstborn. As they passed over armed before their brethren, so we received the good tidings of salvation from the lips of Jews. This is a characteristic specimen of the allegorical interpretation of the early fathers. But it will be observed that the children of Bilhah, who might have been selected more naturally than those of Zilpah, are entirely omitted.

Joshua 12:7

And these are the kings of the country. We now proceed to the enumeration of the kings whom Joshua had overcome on the western side of Jordan. And the first thing that strikes us is their immense number, as compared to the two potentates who alone occupied the large tract of country subdued on the other side of Jordan. Such a divided territory could hardly have maintained itself in the face of the powerful monarchs Sihon and Og to the eastward of Jordan. We are thus led to the conclusion that the smaller kings must have been tributary to some more powerful monarch who was the head of the confederacy. Such Bretwaldas, to borrow a term from our own history, the kings of Jerusalem and Hazor appear to have been, the one the head of the northern, the other of the southern tribes of Palestine, while possibly the five Philistine cities may have constituted another league, as they appear to have successfully defied the power of the Israelites from the first. That such confederacies existed at a much earlier time, we find from Genesis 14:1-5, where the king of Elam, or Persia, appears as the head of such an one, though of a more extensive character. The resistance to his power organised by the kings in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea is another case in point. Possibly in later times Persia and Babylon found their hands full in their conflict with one another, and with Egypt under Thothmes III; as afterwards under the all-conquering Rameses II; better known as Sesostris, and they had to leave the tribes of Palestine awhile to themselves. Or the rulers of the central power at Carchemish (see Introduction) may have exercised a kind of suzerainty over all. The next point to be observed is that, in the list of kings that follows, a good many are mentioned beside those enumerated in Genesis 10:1-32. No doubt, as in the earlier history of this island, there were not only heads of leagues, and their tributary monarchs, but under kings also, who were actually subject to the reigning monarchs, and involved in their fall. Compare the other cities mentioned in connection with Gibeon, Joshua 9:17. Baal-Gad, in the valley of Lebanon. See for this whole passage note on Joshua 11:16, Joshua 11:17.

Joshua 12:8

The mountains. "Which, as the mountains of Judah (Joshua 15:48), Ephraim (Joshua 16:1), and Naphtali (Joshua 19:32), ran through the midst of the land" (Knobel). See Joshua 11:16, Joshua 11:21, and note.

Joshua 12:9

The list of the cities subdued. The king of Jericho, one. Here follows a list of the royal cities of the Canaanites, the remainder being daughter, or dependent cities, or else, perhaps, like Gibeon, cities whose government was not regal. See Joshua 9:3, and Introduction.

Joshua 12:13

The king of Geder. Perhaps the same as Gederah in Joshua 15:36. If so, it is the Gedor of the Onomasticon, ten miles from Beit-Jibrin, or Eleutheropolis, now Jedireh. Conder, however, with whom Vandevelde seems to agree, places Geder in the mountain region, and identifies it with Gedor (Joshua 15:58) and the modern Jedur, in the Hebron mountain. So Keil and Delitzsch, Robinson, and others. The Gedor in 1 Chronicles 4:39 may be the same place. It is described as on the east side of the "gai," or ravine, but no clearer indication of the place is given. It is, however, unlikely that the Simeonites would have found the children of tiara undisturbed in the mountains of Hebron in the reign of Hezekiah (see 1 Chronicles 4:40, 1 Chronicles 4:41). The LXX. reads Gerar, and this is very probably the true reading. There was a "Nahal," or winter torrent, there (Genesis 26:17, Genesis 26:19), and therefore possibly a "gal." The whole passage in 1 Chronicles should be consulted.

Joshua 12:14

Hormah, Arad. Cities in the Negeb, near the border of Edom (see Numbers 14:45; Numbers 21:1, Numbers 21:3; Numbers 33:40). Hor-mah was originally known as Zephath (see Judges 1:16, Judges 1:17, where the fullest description of the locality is given). It was in the wilderness of Judaea, in the arid country (Negeb) of Arad. Mr. Palmer identifies it with Sebaita, in the centre of the Negeb, in the Magrah-el-Esbaita, a mountain valley sloping down into the Wady-el-Abyadh. Other explorers prefer Sulifat, and Rowlands and G. Williams, Sepata.

Joshua 12:15

Adullam. In the Shephelah (valley in our version. See Joshua 15:33-35). Canon Tristram in his 'Bible Lands,' as well as Conder in his 'Handbook,' identify this with Aid-el-Me, or Mich. In the Quarterly Paper of the Palestine Exploration Fund for July, 1875, Lieut. Conder details a visit to this place, previously identified by M. Clermont-Ganneau. These explorers reject the idea approved by Vandevelde and others, that this Deir Dabban is the ancient Adullam. The place he prefers fulfils all requirements. It is in the Shephelah. It is near Jarmuth and Socoh. It is an ancient site with "rock cut tombs, good water supply, and main road, and communications from different sides, and it is moreover a strong military position. It contains no remarkable cave, but a number of small ones, now used as habitations by the peasantry." Keilah, which David saved from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1-5), was within a reasonable distance. The present name, Aid-el-Me or Mieh, the feast of the hundred, may be a misapprehension of the word Adullam similar to that which converts the Welsh "yr eifel," in Carnarvonshire, into the English "the rivals," or which identifies in many English names the English burn (brook) with the French borne (boundary). One of the greatest objections to the theory is that the Hebrew so frequently speaks of the place as Cave-Adullam (Ma'arah-Adullam), as though some special cave existed there. Adullam plays a somewhat important part in Scripture history. We hear of it as early as Genesis 38:1-30; where Hirah the Adullamite is spoken of as a friend of the patriarch Judah. It is well known as the refuge of David and his mighty men (1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 23:13-17). It was the place where David composed two of his psalms, the 57th and the 142nd. Rehoboam fortified it (2 Chronicles 11:7). It seems to be regarded as a refuge in Micah 1:15. And it is mentioned among the cities re-occupied after the return from the captivity in Nehemiah 11:30.

Joshua 12:16

Bethel. This city is here mentioned as smitten by Joshua. See notes on the capture of Ai, and Judges 1:22-25.

Joshua 12:17

Tappuah. Literally "apple city." It is difficult say whether this was Tappuah in Judah (Joshua 15:34; cf. Joshua 15:53), or in Manasseh (Joshua 16:8; Joshua 17:7, Joshua 17:8). The mention of Aphekah in Joshua 15:53, and of Aphek here, would suggest the former, or the mention of Socoh in Joshua 15:34 (see below on Hepher). But the mention of Lasharon, the fact that there is more than one other Aphek, that Tappuah on the borders of Ephraim and Manasseh seems to have been an important city, and that the cities of the south are mentioned first, those of the north afterwards, and that Tappuah seems to lie about midway, suggest the more northern city. This is Knobel's opinion. Gesenius inclines to the southern Tappuah. Conder identifies it with Yassfif, at the head of the Wady Kanah, southeast of Shechem. Vandevelde with Atuf, four hours northeast by east from Shechem. Keil prefers the former site. Hepher. This appears, from 1 Kings 4:10, to have been near to Socoh, but nothing more is known of it. Aphek. Literally, fortress, though some think it comes from a Syriac root kindred to the Hebrew, signifying to hold fast, to embrace, and that it has reference to the sensual worship of Ashtaroth and Thammuz. There were several towns of this name (see notes on Joshua 13:4; Joshua 15:53; Joshua 19:30). Lasharon is probably the same as Sharon, or Hasharon (Isaiah 33:9). This is the plain between Joppa and Carmel (Vandevelde). Conder and Kuobel identify with Sarona, or Saroneh, a place near the sea of Tiberias. See, however, Acts 8:32-38. Madon is mentioned in Joshua 11:1, and has been conjecturally identified with Madin, near the sea of Galilee. Shimron-meron is also mentioned in Joshua 11:1. It appears among the cities assigned to Zebulun in Joshua 19:15. Ewald ('Hist. Israel,' Joshua 2:2 c) remarks on 'the antiquity of this list, referring as it does to cities which are never heard of again. Achshaph lay within the borders of Asher (Joshua 19:25). It has been supposed to be the modern Yasif, near the shores of the Mediterranean (see note on Joshua 11:1). Taanach and Megiddo are frequently mentioned together (see Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27; Judges 5:19). The former became a Levitical city. The latter, being in the great plain of Jezreel, or Esdraelon, lay in the way of most Eastern conquerors. Hence we find it mentioned in the Karnak inscription by the name of Magedi in the victorious expedition of Thothmes III; in which "the whole of the Syrian, Palestinian, and Arabian nations were overcome and forced to pay tribute.". The great battle on the slopes of Mount Tabor was carried on as far as Megiddo (Judges 5:19). Not far from this were the Midianites pitched, who fell victims to the valour of Gideon (Judges 7:1-25). Another and a disastrous battle of Megiddo, against the king of Egypt, weakened Judaea, and caused it to fall an easy victory to the power of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 23:29, 2 Kings 23:30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24. The valley of Megiddo, or Megiddon, is mentioned in Zechariah 12:11. Solomon fortified Megiddo (1 Kings 9:15), assigned it to Baana, the son of Ahilud, with Taanach, as one of the cities required to provide food for the royal household (1 Kings 4:12) And the Jewish writer of the Apocalypse makes this great battlefield of his race the scene of the battle of the great day of the Almighty (Revelation 16:14, Revelation 16:16). For Armageddon is Har Mageddon, the mountain of Mageddon, or Megiddo. Megiddo and Taanach are also found in later periods of Egyptian history. The Mohar mentioned above (Joshua 1:4) notices the former among the places he visited ('Records of the Past,' vol. 2), while the latter is among the places captured by Shishak, as an inscription testifies. The latest explorers reject the identification with Lcgio, or Lejjun, and suggest Mejedda, at the foot of Gilboa, near Beth-shean. See Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Paper, January, 1877.

Joshua 12:22

Kedesh, i.e; Kedesh-Napbtali (see Joshua 19:7). Jokneam of Carmel. This city is mentioned as one of the cities of purveyance to Solomon's court (1 Kings 4:12), with Beth-shean, Taanach, and Megiddo. It has been identified by explorers, from Robinson downwards, with Tell-el-Kaimun, on the southern slopes of Mount Carmel. It is the Cammona, or Cimana, of the Onomasticon, the "Cyamon over against Esdraelon" of Judith 7:3. It was a Levitical city (Joshua 21:34), but in the list in Chronicles 6. we miss it in its proper place, and find it taking the place of Kibzaim in Ephraim. But, as the margin of our version remarks in the latter chapter (verse 68), the names of the cities in the two lists very frequently do not correspond.

Joshua 12:23

The nations of Gilgal. Or the nations that belong to Gilgal. This is identified by Yandevelde and Conder with Jiljulieh in the plain of Jordan, north of Antipatris, and is therefore, if this identification be correct, a third Gilgal. The word "nations" most probably signifies a diversity of tribes of various races gathered together under the headship of the king of Gilgal, much in the same way that the kingdom of Mercia arose in England from a confused mass of various tribes, gathered together on the marches, or military frontiers, between Britons, Saxons and English, or in the same way that the Austrian and Turkish empires have been formed out of a congeries of various nationalities. So we read of "Tidal king of nations" in Genesis 14:1. But others regard the "nations" (Goim) mentioned there as equivalent to the Gutinm of the Babylonian tablets—i.e; Semitic tribes imperfectly organised, then dwelling in Babylonia, and prefer the LXX. reading, Θαργάλ, in Genesis 14:1, which Sir Henry Rawlinson considers equivalent to the Accadian Tur Gal, or "great chief." So Sayce, 'Babl. Lit.,' p. 23; Tomkins, 'Studies on the Time of Abraham.' See Introduction III.

Joshua 12:24

Tirzah meets us as the residence of the kings of Israel for a time in the narrative in 1 Kings. Jeroboam's wife went thither after her interview with Ahijah (Joshua 14:1-17). Baasha dwelt there (Joshua 15:21, Joshua 15:33; Joshua 16:6), Elah was slain there by Zimri (Joshua 16:9, Joshua 16:10), and it. remained the capital until Omri built Samaria (Jos 16:1-10 :23, 24). Thenceforward we hear no more of it till the time of Menahem (2 Kings 15:14, 2 Kings 15:16), when it disappears from history. It has been variously identified—by Robinson and Yandevelde (whom Knobel follows) with Talluza, two hours journey north of Shechem; by Conder with Teiasu, where there are numerous rock sepulchres. It was a place of great beauty, if we may judge from So 1 Kings 6:4, "Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem."


Joshua 12:1-24

The extent of the conquest.

A few detached considerations occur to us here.

I. GOD WELL NOT BE WORSE THAN HIS WORD. The reduction of the whole land had not yet been effected, but it had been rendered possible if Israel were disposed to follow up his advantage. The list of cities captured covers nearly the whole extent of Palestine, and Canaan had been deprived of all capacity of resistance. So it is with the Christian who has entered into covenant with God. The mastery over sin has been placed in his power. "Sin shall have no more dominion over him," unless he pleases. Every part of his nature is under the dominion of Jesus. Satan and his angels can but cower and submit, unless the Christian prefer accommodation to warfare, and allow himself to be led into alliance or fellowship with evil. It is the making marriages with Canaan, entering into amicable relations with the enemies he has subdued, that betrays Israel to his ruin. God has placed everything in his power. If he will not destroy his enemies when he can, he has but himself to blame.

II. ISRAEL'S POSSESSION IS A VARIOUS ONE. The land of Israel had various characteristics. Mountains and fertile plains, strange deep depressions, declivities, desert, dry arid ground, all formed part of the land flowing with milk and honey. So in the Christian life there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. The heights of rank and intellect, the fertile soil of usefulness and energy, the depths of poverty, ignorance, and absence of mental power, the various inequalities of fortune, the trials of sorrow and adversity, the dryness of soul in prayer, the privation of sympathy and consolation—all these are various elements of the spiritual life, regions on the map of the spiritual Canaan; but all are subject to the power of Jesus, and may, if we will, be made useful in His cause. As the most arid or the most rocky soft in Palestine became, by man's industry, highly productive, so the oil, olive, and honey, the figs, and pomegranates, and vines of our spiritual Israel, may be raised, if we will but be fellow-workers with God, out of the most unpromising natural disposition.

III. JOSHUA'S VICTORIES WERE CAREFULLY KEPT IN REMEMBRANCE. So may the Christian, at the end of a long career under the guidance of God's Spirit, look back to the former triumphs he has achieved by His aid, provided he does so in no spirit of Pharisaical boasting, but in gratitude to Him who "has done so great things for him." Many a victory over enemies without and within, many a recollection of a hard fought field, will occur to the veteran in Christ's army when, in the evening of life, he turns his thoughts backward to review the past. And so will the student of history as he reflects on the manifold difficulties encountered by God's Church, and the number and power of the confederacies arrayed against her, enumerate with loving pride the cities she has destroyed, and look forward with confidence to her final triumph.


Joshua 12:7-24

The catalogue of the vanquished.

A melancholy document, meaning little more to us than a column in a directory, but meaning much to multitudes. Many of these kings would be lamented in elegies as sweet as David's song over Saul and Jonathan. Some, doubtless, were noble, perhaps some devout, but implicated in a national fate to the deserving of which they had not contributed. Linger over these a little and observe—

I. ALL ARMIES WILL FIND THEIR PLACE IN ONE OF TWO CATALOGUESTHAT OF VICTORS, OR THAT OF VANQUISHED. We lament that to place Israel God must displace others. That heroism conquering a home assumes also heroism fighting in vain to keep one. Life in its deepest action must always be a struggle, ending in victory or defeat. Every foolish life ends in failure, and in a consciousness like that of a beaten general, of plans unwisely formed and forces unhappily employed. Those who follow God's guidance in all the affairs of life are fighters in a combat in which their success confers blessings on themselves and on society at large. All who refuse God's guidance in their general affairs are fighters in a combat in which their success, if achieved, would damage others still more than their failure would hurt themselves. Those who choose wrongly thus find life a losing game, a disastrous battle. It would be well if all realised that not to win a victory with life is to suffer a terrible defeat, is to be left with loss of power, and with infinite damage. In one or other list we all shall be. Crowned as victors, humiliated and discredited as failures.

II. MOST OF THOSE IN THAT LIST NEVER EXPECTED TO BE IN IT. Why should they? They had theories like ours today of the superiority of training in arms, of fortifications, of what they called their civilisation, to any rude force which nomadic hordes could bring. But they are beaten. Pride goeth before destruction. Many reliant in their strength of purpose are destroyed by temptations they despised. Youth dreams of only bright and golden issues to its life. Too often the only issues are deplorable. Do not assume your life is going to be a grand success. Victory is desert—not drift, achievement—not accident. Even to retain requires energy. These men could not transmit to others what had been transmitted to them.

III. THEY WERE NOT SAVED BY PROFESSION OF SANCTITY. Some of the cities here had already had a long reputation for sanctity. "Jerusalem" had been Melchizedek's seat; "Bethel," the old name of the locality (though the city was Luz), means "the house of God." "Kedesh" means "a holy place." These all seem to have been spots consecrated to the service of the true God. Consecrated peoples have God's protection; consecrated places go without. "Judgment" does not spare, it "begins with the house of God." Later inhabitants of Jerusalem may say, "The temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord axe these." But the sanctity of the site increases, it does not avert the punishment of those profaning it. There is something very solemn in this removal of the candlesticks which had served the Pre-Abrahamic Church. England is today a great Bethel, a sublime Kedesh. May we have grace to act worthily of, and so retain, our eminence.

IV. THE INDIVIDUAL SHARES THE FATE OF THE COMMUNITY. Some of these kings and their people, doubtless, were worthy of a better fate. But implicated in the fortunes of the general community, leaguing with it for its defence, they come in for its fate. It is strange how the individual has to share the lot of the community. The accident of our birth may determine our calling, our fortune, even our creed, and our character. Advantages for which others have wrought, disabilities which others have transmitted, are inherited by us. "Other men have laboured, and we have entered into their labours." Sometimes other men have sinned, and we have entered into their penalty. There is, indeed, an inner realm whose fortunes depend only on ourselves. But we are members one of another, and must participate the general fortune. We should therefore cherish more patriotism, more religious interest in our country's politics and action. The welfare of those yet unborn depends on the wisdom of the generation today existent. Let us not leave to our successors a "heritage of woe," such as was left to these kings of Canaan. Look on them with pity, with modest humility, asking of your soul, "Who maketh thee to differ?" It may be some Canaanitish bard lamented the dead at the waters of Merom, as the Scottish bard did those who fell at Flodden, and sang tenderly of" the flowers of the forest being a' wede away." Let us be thankful that in the past we have been spared such a doom, and careful in the future to avoid it.—G


Joshua 12:7, Joshua 12:8

Diversity of lots.

The diversity of situation and character in the several lots of the tribes of Israel is illustrative of the similar diversity which is seen in all human experience.

I. DIVERSITY OF LOTS IS A NECESSITY. If we could attain uniformity we could not retain it.

(1) Diversity necessarily results from the inevitable differences in the arrangement of the physical world and the course of external events. The world is not large enough for all men to live on the most fertile soil and in the most genial climate.

(2) Diversity is also necessitated by the difference in human capacities. Since these sources of diversity are found in nature, they must be sanctioned by God. Therefore to complain of them is (a) futile, (b) distrustful.


(1) There is much compensation for inequality. We are inclined to notice only the hardships of our own lot and the favourable circumstances of our neighbour's. There are cares peculiar to riches and blessings peculiar to poverty.

(2) Custom accommodates us to our lot. It softens the hardest lot and robs the pleasantest of its interest. The back becomes fitted to the daffy burden. The daffy luxury becomes insipid.

(3) Happiness depends more on the character of the inner life than on the circumstances of the external lot. A peaceful mind is better than all riches. The cheerful poor man is more favoured by Providence than the melancholy rich man (Proverbs 15:17).

III. DIVERSITY OF LOTS IS BENEFICIAL TO US INDIVIDUALLY, Justice is not equality, but fitness. It is not fit that we should all receive equal lots. For some the highlands are most fit, forsome the plains, for some the valleys.

(1) Fitness depends on our capacity. One can serve best in one lot, and another with different faculties in a totally different lot. The talents are given "to every man according to his several ability" (Matthew 25:15).

(2) It depends on our disposition. We are not all capable of appreciating the blessings which are given to others. If we chose for ourselves we could not tell what would be most agreeable to us until we had experienced all kinds of lots. We often think we should enjoy things for which we have no capacity, as weak and timid people, delighting in stories of adventure, imagine they should like to be the heroes of them.

(3) It depends on our need. Our lots are apportioned to us for probation, discipline, and education. The lot which is most attractive may not be most beneficial. Various methods of training are needed according to our various characters. Some plants flourish best in the sunshine, others in the shade. Some souls are healthiest in prosperity, others in adversity.

IV. DIVERSITY OF LOTS IS USEFUL FOR THE GENERAL WELFARE OF MANKIND. Dull uniformity would leave human life at a low level. Civilisation must become complex as it advances. Diversity of lots is necessary for division of labour. "The whole family" is most prosperous when the several members quietly accept their various lots. The mountain lot serves for the shepherd and his flock, the valley for the filler of the soil. Thus the common life of the whole nation is advanced. They who suffer most often have a special part to serve in the ministry of life for the good of their brethren.—W.F.A.


Joshua 12:12, Joshua 12:13

The partition of the land of Canaan.

"Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes" (Joshua 12:7). In the partition of the land of Canaan there was nothing arbitrary. God Himself directed it, and assigned to each tribe its lot, save only to the tribe of Levi, which was to occupy an exceptional position. There was a very special reason why the inheritance of the various tribes should be marked out by God Himself, since Israel was His chosen people, destined to give to the world its Messiah and Saviour, so that nothing could be indifferent in its history. Every tribe was to feel that in tilling the soft allotted to it, it was accomplishing the task which God had given. Every tribe knew that it held its possessions directly from God, and that it was in His name its appointed work was to be done. Thus everything even in the outward life of Israel was elevated, ennobled, and consecrated. Let us apply these same principles, first to God's greater people—mankind—and then to the Church and to the family.

(1) St. Paul in his sermon at Athens said that "God had made of one blood all nations to dwell on all the face of the earth, and had determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; that they might seek the Lord" (Acts 17:26). Thus the natural fatherland has been determined for every nation by God Himself. This is the heritage He has assigned to each, to be received in humble recognition of His fatherly will, and with the grateful acknowledgment of all the capacities for its development. But if God has thus given man an inheritance in this great world, He has done so not only in order that man may supply himself with food and with all that is essential to his bodily well being; it is not even that he may avail himself of all the appliances of a brilliant civilisation. It is that he may fulfil here upon earth his higher destiny; that He may seek God and serve Him. Every nationality has its mission in this great work; it has its special gifts to employ for the common cause. Each one is to rehearse in its own tongue the wonderful works of God, and to glorify Him as it has opportunity.

(2) Every family is in like manner bound to recognise the hand of Providence in its earthly lot. Whether it be straitened by poverty, or abounding in wealth, it is equally bound to serve God in the station wherein He has placed it. All outward prosperity is to be received and held as a trust from Him. It is no more ours of right than the land of Canaan belonged to the Israelites. "The earth is the Lord's and the fulness thereof," and we are His stewards. It is for Him we are bound to use it; and to use it for Him is to use it for the good of our fellows, since He reckons any love and service done to them as to Himself. Nor is it only for our material possessions, but for our whole position and attitude among our fellow men, that we are responsible to God. Whether masters or servants, princes or peasants, our lot has been assigned us by God for one sole end, namely His service. Thus before Him, and in view of this Divine purpose, there is no distinction of rank. All that is done for Him acquires dignity from that fact. The one essential is that in our earthly life, whether high or low, we do His work. The poor are often richest towards God, like that tribe of Levi, which, though it possessed not a foot of land, was, as we shall see, the great spiritual aristocracy of Israel.—E. DE P.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 12". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/joshua-12.html. 1897.
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