Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, July 21st, 2024
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16
Partner with StudyLight.org as God uses us to make a difference for those displaced by Russia's war on Ukraine.
Click to donate today!

Bible Commentaries
Joshua 19

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-51



Joshua 19:1

And their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah. Literally, in the midst of. ἀνὰ μέσον, LXX.; in medio, Vulgate (cf. Joshua 19:9). Simeon, at the last census (Numbers 26:14), was the smallest of the tribes of Israel, a fulfilment of the prophecy of Jacob, and possibly the result of the command given in Numbers 25:5, since the Simeonites were the chief offenders on that occasion (Numbers 25:14; see also 1 Chronicles 4:27). The distribution of territory was in accordance with this, and it is possible that the lot only determined the priority of choice among the tribes. The territory of Judah seems to have been recognised as too large, in spite of the importance of the tribe. They therefore willingly gave up a portion of their territory to the Simeonites.

Joshua 19:2

Beersheba. A locality well known in Scripture, from Genesis 21:31 onwards. And Sheba. Some would translate here, or Sheba (see below). No doubt the city, of which nothing further is known, derived its name from Beer-sheba, "the well of the oath," close by. It is true that some little difficulty is caused by the omission of this city in Chronicles 4:28, by the identification of Shehah with Beer-sheba in Genesis 26:33, and by the fact that in Genesis 26:6 we are told that there were thirteen cities in this catalogue, whereas there are fourteen. On the other hand, Keil has remarked that in Joshua 15:32 the number of names does not correspond to the whole number of cities given; and we have a Shema, probably a mistake for Sheba, in Joshua 15:26, mentioned before Moladah among the cities of Judah. And, lastly, we have very few instances in Scripture of the disjunctive use of ,ו though it seems impossible to deny that it is used in this sense in 1 Kings 18:27.

Joshua 19:3

Hazar-shual. The "hamlet of jackals." The word Hazar is translated "village" in our version (see note on Joshua 15:32). So also with Hazar-susah or Hazar-susim, "the hamlet of horses" (1 Chronicles 4:31) below.

Joshua 19:9

Therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance. Of the later history of the children of Simeon we find a little recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:39-42, and some suppose that the event recorded there is a fulfilment of the prophecy in Obadiah 1:19. Dr. Pusey mentions a tribe still existing in the south, professing to be of the sons of Israel, and holding no connection with the Arabs of the neighbourhood, and supposes them to be the descendants of the five hundred Simeonites who took possession of Mount Seir in the days of Hezekiah. No border seems to have been given of Simeon.

Joshua 19:10

Sarid. This seems to have been a middle point, from which the border is traced eastward and westward, as in Joshua 16:6, and perhaps in verse 32. But the LXX. and other versions have a variety of readings here.

Joshua 19:11

Toward the sea. Rather, westward. The original is touched or skirted (פגע). River that is before Jokneam. This, with the assistance of Joshua 12:22, which mentions Jokneam as near to Mount Carmel, enables us to identify this river (or rather, winter torrent), as "that ancient river, the river Kishon." Knobel, however, says that if the Kishon had been meant it would have been called by its name, and that we must therefore understand the Wady-el-Mil'h. But this is by no means a safe conclusion.

Joshua 19:12

Chisloth-Tabor. The loins or flanks of Tabor. Tabor (the name signifies either quarry—see note on Shebarim, probably a kindred word, Joshua 7:5—or navel), is one of the most conspicuous mountains of Palestine. Like Soracte, above the Campagna of Rome, "the cone-shaped figure of Tabor can be seen on all sides," though it rises only 1,750 feet (French) above the level of the sea, 800 above the plain at its northeastern base, and 600 above Nazareth on the north-west (Ritter, 2:311). Chisloth-Tabor was on the northwest side of the base of Tabor. Tabor has been supposed to have been the scene of the Transfiguration. But Ritter points out that from the time of Antiochus the Great, 200 years before Christ, to the destruction of Jerusalem, the summit of Tabor was a fortress. And he notices that while Jerome and Cyril mention this tradition, Eusebius, who lived 100 years earlier, knows nothing of it.

Joshua 19:13

Gittah-hepher. Or, Gathhepher (1 Kings 14:25) was the birth place of the prophet Jonah. Now el-Mesh-hed, where the tomb of Jonah is still shown. The Rabbinical writers and the Onomasticon mention this tradition.

Joshua 19:14

Compasseth it. The verb נסב is here used transitively. The meaning is that the border makes a curve round the city of Neah. Neah seems to have been the extreme eastern border. Methoar is supposed to be the Pual participle, and has been freely translated, "which is marked out," or, "which belongs to," Neah. But the passage is obscure. Knobel could alter the reading, in view of the grammatical difficulty. Yet this, perhaps, is not insuperable in view of Joshua 3:14. Valley. גֵי. (see note on Joshua 8:13; Joshua 15:8). So in verse 27.

Joshua 19:15

Beth-lehem. This name, signifying the "house of bread," would naturally enough be given to a place in a fertile situation. We are not to suppose that it was "Bethlehem-Ephratah, among the thousands of Jadah" (Micah 5:2). It is now Beit-lahm, about eight miles in a westerly direction from Nazareth.

Joshua 19:16

The inheritance of the children of Zebulun. It is strange that the beautiful and fertile land occupied by the tribe of Zebulun does not appear to have brought prosperity with it. Possibly the fact that the "lines" of this tribe had "fallen in pleasant places," had tended to induce sloth. Certain it is that we hear but little of this tribe in the after history of Israel. They were not, like Reuben, absent from the great battle of Tabor, for there we read that, like Issachar, they "jeoparded their lives unto the death" for their homes and liberties. Yet though they seem thenceforth to have slackened in their zeal, theirs was a fair portion. It bordered on the slopes of Tabor, and seems (though the fact is not mentioned here) to have extended to the Sea of Galilee, as we may gather from Isaiah 9:1.

Joshua 19:18

Jezreel. The valley (עֵמֶק) of Jezreel, known in later Greek as the plain of Esdrsela or Esdraclon (Judith 1:8; 7:2; 2Mal 12:49) was "the perennial battlefield of Palestine from that time to the present". Lieut. Conder, however, takes exception to this statement. "The great battles of Joshua," he says, "were fought far to the south." We presume he would make an exception on behalf of the action by the waters of Merom, and that he does not wish us to forget that the majority of Joshua's other "battles" were sieges. "David's wars were fought with the Philistines,'' he continues, "while the invasions of the Syrians were directed to the neighbourhood of Samaria." But here, again, he would seem to have forgotten 1 Samuel 29:1, 1 Kings 20:26, 2Ki 13:17, 2 Kings 13:25, while he expressly admits that the great battles of Gilboa and Megiddo, in which Saul and Josiah were defeated and met their deaths, were fought here. And we have already seen that twice did the Egyptians invade Syria by this plain. One of these invasions took place while Moses was in Egypt, under Thothmes III. The other was the famous expedition of Rameses II. against Syria, about the time of Deborah and Barak. If we add to these the victory of Gideon over the Midianites and the overthrow of Sisera, we shall have reason to think that the epithet "the battlefield of Palestine" applied to this plain is not altogether misplaced, especially if, with a large number of critics, we regard the Book of Judith as founded on fact, but relating to events of some other time than that of Nebuchadnezzar. "Well may it be fertile," exclaims Mr. Bartlett, "for it has drunk the blood of the Midianite, the Philistine, the Jew, the Roman, the Babylonian, the Egyptian, the Frenchman, the Englishman, the Saracen, and the Turk. It is a singular group to summon up to the imagination, Gideon, Saul, and Jonathan, Deborah, Barak, and Sisera, Ahab, Jezebel, Jehu, Josiah, Omri, and Azariah, Holofernes and Judith, Vespasian and Josephus, Saladin and the Knights Templar, Bonaparte and Kleber." The list is a striking one. But certain it is that the plains of Jezreel have been noted as the highway of every conqueror who wished to make the fertile fields of Palestine his own. The Israelitish invasion alone seems to have been decided elsewhere than on that plain, stretching as it does from the foot of Carmel in a southeasterly direction, and divided in the direction of Jordan by Mount Gilboa and Little Hermon into three distinct branches, in the midst of the southernmost and most extensive of which stands the famous city of Jezreel—God's acre, or sowing ground, as the name indicates. Here Barak and Deborah fell upon the hosts of Jabin (Judges 4:14), descending suddenly from the heights of Tabor with 10,000 men upon the vast and evidently undisciplined host that lay in the plain. Here Gideon encountered the vast host of the Midianites (Judges 7:12), who, after laying waste the south country, finally encamped in this fertile plain (accurately called עֵמֶק in Judges 6:38), and with their leaders Oreb and Zeeb, and their princes Zebah and Zalmunna, were swept away in one of those sudden and irrational panics so often fatal to Eastern armies. Here Saul, hard by Jezreel, dispirited by his visit to the witch of Endor, on the north of Gilboa, gathered his men together as a forlorn hope, to await the attack of the Philistines, their numbers at first swelled by a number of Israelites whom Saul's tyranny and oppression had driven into exile (1 Samuel 29:1-11). Advancing to Jezreel, the Philistine host carried all before them, and drove the Israelites in headlong flight up the steeps of Gilboa, where Saul and his sons fell fighting bravely to the last (1 Samuel 30:1-31). In the later and sadder days of the Israelitish monarchy, when the ten tribes had been carried into captivity by the Assyrian conqueror, Josiah courted disaster by a rash onslaught upon the Egyptian troops as they marched against Assyria. No details of this fight at Megiddo are preserved, save the fatal fire of the Egyptian archers, who marked Josiah as their victim, and drove, no doubt, his leaderless troops from the field (2 Kings 23:29; 2 Kings 2:1-25. Chronicles 35:22). At Jezreel, too, Ahab made his capital. Hither Elijah, when "the hand of the Lord was upon him" (1 Kings 18:46), ran after the wondrous scene on Mount Carmel, when he alone, in a strength not his own, withstood the "prophets of Baal, even four hundred and fifty men." Here Jehoram stood on the hill, with its commanding view, watching with an uneasy distrust the furious rush of Jehu with his troop from the other side Jordan, and here, in the plat of Naboth the Jezreelite, so fatal to Ahab and his house, did the vengeance decreed overtake the unhappy monarch (2 Kings 9:25), The spot may be still identified. It is the modern Zerin. Ritter describes it (and so does Robinson) as standing on the edge of a precipice 100 feet high, and commanding a fine view of the plain of Beth-shean on the east, and of Esdraelon on the west. There is a tower here which commands the same view as the watchmen of Jehoram commanded, bearing witness to the accuracy of the historian. So in 1 Kings 4:12, the mention of Taanach, Megiddo, and the region of Beth-shean, as beneath (מִחַּחַתלְ). Jezreel is another instance of topographical detail which marks the correctness of the record. Another point is that we read in the narrative above mentioned of "chariots." Wilson ('Lands of the Bible,' 2:303) was surprised, on leaving the rugged heights of the hill country, to find how easily, if the civilisation of Palestine permitted, excellent roads might be made throughout this region; and Canon Tristram has remarked on the desolate appearance now presented by that fertile region, the result of the insecurity for life and property which is so commonly remarked by all who have travelled in the East. Here, where under a better rule would be the abode of peace and plenty, no cultivator of the land dare venture to pass the night, exposed to the depredations of the wild tribes that infest the country. Only a mountain fastness, hard to climb and comparatively easy to defend, affords a secure retreat for those who would live peaceably in that once favoured land. Shunem. Now Sulem: the place of the encampment of the Philistines before they "pitched in Aphek" (1 Samuel 28:4; 1 Samuel 29:1). It was "five Roman miles south of Mount Tabor" (Vandevelde) and an hour and a half (i.e. about six miles) north of Jezreel (Keil and Delitzsch). Here Abishag the Shunammite lived (1 Kings 1:3; 1 Kings 2:17, 1 Kings 2:21), and here Elisha lodged, and afterwards restored the son of his entertainers to life (2 Kings 4:1-44; 2 Kings 8:1-29).

Joshua 19:21

En-gannim. Supposed to be the same as the "garden house" (the Bethgan of the LXX) mentioned in 2 Kings 9:27) where Ahaziah, king of Judah, met with the wound of which he afterwards died at Megiddo. It was one of the Levitical cities of Issachar (Joshua 21:29). Robinson, Vandevelde, and others identify it with the modern Jenin, the Ginaea of Josephus. The meaning of the name is "fountain of the gardens" and the present Jenin is situated, so Robinson tells us, in the midst of gardens.

Joshua 19:22

The coast reacheth. Literally, the border skirteth, as in Joshua 19:11. Tabor. Perhaps the same as Chisloth-Tabor in Joshua 19:12 (cf. 1 Chronicles 6:77). It would therefore be, as Mount Tabor certainly was, on the boundary between the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun. Beth-shemesh. Not the well known town in the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:10). The repetition of this name is a proof of the extent to which sun worship prevailed in Palestine before the Israelite invasion.

Joshua 19:23

This is the inheritance of the tribe of Issachar. Jacob, whose dying eye pierced far into the future, discerned beforehand the situation of the tribe of Issachar, and its results upon its conduct. Situated in the midst of this fertile plain, accessible alike to Egypt by the way of the Shephelah, and to the east by way of the fords of the Jordan, the tribe of Issachar became in the end the prey of the various nationalities, who made the plain of Esdraelon their battlefield, and it was the first to "bow his shoulder to bear" and to "become a servant unto tribute" (Genesis 49:15). It seems to have been to the east of Manasseh (see Joshua 17:10), and may have extended much further south than is usually supposed. Since but small mention of the Jordan is made in the boundary of Joseph, it may have extended as far or farther south than the Jabbok (see also note, Joshua 17:10). The general belief of explorers at present is that the inheritance of Issachar extended from Jezreel to the Jordan, and from the Sea of Tiberias southward as far as the border of Manasseh, above mentioned.

Joshua 19:25

Helkath. A Levitical city (Joshua 21:31; 1 Chronicles 6:75, where it is called Hukok).

Joshua 19:26

Reacheth. Literally, toucheth, i.e. skirteth, as in Joshua 19:11 and Joshua 19:22. So in the next verse, with regard to Zebulun. The term appears to be the invariable one when a district, not a particular place, is spoken of. To Carmel westward. The Carmel range appears to have been included in the tribe of Asher. For we read (Joshua 17:10, Joshua 17:11) that Asher met Manasseh on the north, whence we conclude that it must have cut off Issachar from the sea, and that as Dor was among the towns which Manasseh held within the territory of Issachar and Asher, it must therefore have been within the boundaries of the latter. Shihor-libnath. For Shihor see Joshua 13:3. Libnath, which signifies white or shining, has been supposed by some to mean the glassy river, from its calm, unbroken flow, though this appears improbable, since Shihor means turbid. It is far more probable that the current was rendered turbid by a quantity of chalk or limestone which it carried along in its course, and hence the name "muddy white." Keil thinks it to be the Nahr-el-Zerka, or crocodile river, of Pliny, in which Beland, Von Raumer, Knobel, and Rosenmuller agree with him. But when he proceeds to argue that this river, being blue, "might answer both to shihor, black, and libnath, white," he takes a flight in which it is impossible to follow him. Gesenius, from the glazed appearance of burnt brick or tiles (l'banah), conjectures,that it may be the Belus, or "glass river," so called, however, in ancient times because the fine sand on its banks enabled the manufacture of glass to be carried on here. But this, emptying itself into the sea near Acre, has been thought to be too far north. Vandevelde, however, one of the latest authorities, as well as Mr. Conder, is inclined to agree with Gesenius. The difficulty of this identification consists in the fact that Carmel and Dor (Joshua 17:11) are said to have been in Asher (see note on Joshua 17:10). The Nahr-el-Zerka has not been found by recent explorers to contain crocodiles, but it has been thought possible that they have hitherto eluded observation. Kenrick, however, thinks that as crocodilus originally meant a lizard, the lacertus Niloticus is meant, the river being, in his opinion, too shallow in summa to be the haunt of the crocodile proper. The Zerkais described in Palestine Exploration Fund Quarterly Paper, January, 1874, as "a torpid stream flowing through fetid marshes, in which reeds, canes, and the stunted papyrus grow." When it is added, "and where alone in Palestine the crocodile is found," no evidence is given in favour of the statement. It empties itself into the sea between Dor and Caesarea, a few miles north of the latter.

Joshua 19:27

Beth-dagon. We learn that Dagon, the fish-god, was worshipped here as well as in the south of Palestine (see Joshua 15:41). The Valley of Jiphthah-el. This valley, or gai, is mentioned above, Joshua 19:14, as the extreme northern border of Zebulun. Cabul. We read of a Cabul in 1 Kings 9:11-13, but it can hardly be this place, though clearly not far off. For we read that the name given to that territory was given then by Hiram. There is a κωμὴ Χαβωλώ Πτολεμαίδος μεθόριον οὗσα mentioned by Josephus. There is a village four hours northeast of Acre, which still bears this name.

Joshua 19:28

Hebron. Rather, Ebron. It is not the same word as the Hebron in Judah, but is spelt with Ain instead of Hheth. In Joshua 21:30, 1 Chronicles 6:59, Abdon is the name of the city assigned to the Levites in Asher. Twenty MSS; says Keil, have the same reading here. But the LXX. has Ἐβρων here and Αβδων in Joshua 21:30. The Hebrew דand רare so much alike that there is no doubt that the mistake has arisen earlier than the time when that translation was made. It is true that the lists of Levitical cities in Joshua 21:1-45. and 1 Chronicles 6:1-81. do not entirely correspond. But the resemblance here between the names is too striking to allow of the supposition that two different cities are meant. Great Zidon. This city, as well as Tyre, remained unsubdued, although assigned by Joshua to Asher. The boundary of Asher appears to have been traced first towards the west, then eastward, from a middle point on the southern border (see note on verse 11), then to have been carried northward from the same point (the left hand usually means the north; see note on Teman, Joshua 15:1), on the east side till it reached Cabul. Then the northern border is traced westward to Sidon. Then the border turned southward along the sea, which is not mentioned, because it would seem to be sufficiently defined by the mention of Ramah and Tyre. Between Hosah and Achzib there would seem to have been a greater paucity of cities, and therefore the sea is mentioned.

Joshua 19:29

The strong city Tyre. Rather, the fortified city. The general impression among commentators appears to be that the island city of Tyre, afterwards so famous, had not as yet come into existence. And the word here used, מִבְצַר seems to be more in accordance with the idea of a land fortress than of one so exceptionally protected.as an island fortress would be. This expression, like "great Zidon" above, implies the comparative antiquity of the Book of Joshua. The island city of Tyre, so famous in later history, was not yet founded. The city on the mainland (called Ancient Tyre by the historians) was "the chief seat of the population till the wars of the Assyrian monarchs against Phoenicia". He adds, "The situation of Palae-Tyrus was one of the most fertile spots on the coast of Phoenicia. The plain, is here about five miles wide; the soft is dark, and the variety of its productions excited the wonder of the Crusaders." William of Tyre, the historian of the Crusades, tells us that, although the territory was scanty in extent, "exiguitatem suam multa redimit ubertate." The position of Tyre, as a city of vast commercial importance and artistic skill in the time of David and Solomon, is clear enough from the sacred records. It appears still (2 Samuel 24:6, 2 Samuel 24:7) to have been on the mainland, for the successors of Rameses II; up to the time of Sheshonk, or Shishak, were unwarlike monarchs, and the Assyrian power had not yet attained its subsequent formidable dimensions. We meet with Eth-baal, or Itho-baal, in later Scripture history, remarkable as the murderer of the last of Hiram's descendants, and the father of the infamous Jezebel, from which we may conclude that a great moral and therefore political declension had taken place since the days of Hiram. The later history of Tyre may be inferred from the prophetic denunciations, intermingled with descriptive passages, found in Isaiah 23:1-18, and Ezekiel 26:1-21; Ezekiel 27:1-36.; Joel (Joel 3:3-8) and Amos (Amos 1:9) had previously complained of the way in which the children of Israel had become the merchandise of Tyre, and had threatened the vengeance of God. But the minute and powerful description in Ezekiel 27:1-36, shows that Tyre was still great and prosperous. She was strong enough to resist the attacks of successive Assyrian monarchs. Shalmaneser's victorious expedition (so Alexander tells us) was driven back from the island fortress of Tyre. Sennacherib, in his vainglorious boast of the cities he has conquered (Isaiah 36:1-22; Isaiah 37:1-38), makes no mention of Tyre. Even Nebuchadnezzar, though he took and destroyed Palae-Tyrus, appears to have been baffled in his attempt to reduce the island city. Shorn of much of its ancient glory, Tyre still remained powerful, and only succumbed, after a resistance of seven months, to the splendid military genius of Alexander the Great. But Alexander refounded Tyre, and its position and its commercial reputation secured for it a large part of its former importance. The city continued to flourish, even though Phoenicia was for a long period the battleground between the Syrian and the Egyptian monarchies. To Christian readers, the description by Eusebius of the splendid church erected at Tyre by its Bishop Paulinus will have an interest. He describes it as by far the finest in all Phoenicia, and appends the sermon he preached on the occasion. Even in the fourth century after Christ, St. Jerome ('Comm. ad Ezekiel,' Ezekiel 26:7) wonders why the prophecy concerning Tyre has never been fulfilled. "Quod sequitur, 'nee aedificaberis ultra,' videtur facere quaestionem quomodo non sit aedificata, quam hodie cernimus nobilissimam et pulcherrimam civitatem." But the present state of Tyre warns us not to be too hasty in pronouncing any Scripture prophecy to have failed. Even Sidon is not the wretched collection of huts and ruined columns which is all that remains of the once proud city Tyre. And the outgoings thereof are at the sea from the coast to Achzib. Rather, and the western extremity is from Hebel to Achzib. Hebel signifies a region or possession, as in Ezekiel 27:9. Here, however, it seems to be a proper name. Achzib. "A city of Asher, not conquered by that tribe (Judges 1:31), now the village of Zib, two-and-a-half hours north of Akka," or Acre (Vandevelde). Keil and Delitzsch make the journey a three hours' one. But Manndrell, who also corroborates St. Jerome in the distance (nine Roman miles), states that he performed the journey hence to Acre in two hours.

Joshua 19:30

Aphek (see Joshua 13:4). Twenty and two cities with their villages. The difficulty of tracing the boundary of Asher seems to be that it was traced, not by a line plainly marking out the territory, but less accurately, by a reference to the relative position of its principal cities.

Joshua 19:31

This is the inheritance of the tribe of Asher. Asher appears to have been allotted a long but narrow strip of territory between Naphtali and the sea. The natural advantages of the territory must have been great. Not only was it described prophetically by Jacob (Genesis 49:20) and by Moses (Deuteronomy 33:24, Deuteronomy 33:25), but the prosperity of the two great maritime cities of Tyro and Sidon was due to the immense commercial advantages the neighbourhood afforded. St. Jean d'Acre, within the territory once assigned to Asher, has inherited the prosperity, so far as anything under the Turkish rule can be prosperous, once enjoyed by her two predecessors. Maundrell, the acute English chaplain at Aleppo, who visited Palestine in 1696, describes the plain of Acre in his day as about six hours' journey from north to south, and two from west to east; as being well watered, and possessing "everything else that might render it both pleasant and fruitful. But," he adds, "this delicious plain is now almost desolate, being suffered, for want of culture, to run up to rank weeds, as high as our horses' backs." Asher, however, never employed the advantages its situation offered. They never subdued the Canaanites around them, but, unquestionably at a very early date (see Judges 5:17) preferred a life of compromise and ignoble ease to the national welfare. But it would be incorrect to suppose that because the tribe is omitted in the list of rulers given in 1 Chronicles 27:1-34; it had ceased to be a power in Israel. For Gad is also omitted in that list, while among the warriors who came to greet David when he became undisputed king of Israel, Asher sent 40,000 trained warriors, a number exceeding the men of Ephraim, and those of Simeon, of Dan, and of the half tribe of Manasseh (see 1 Chronicles 12:1-40), and far exceeding the numbers of Benjamin, which had never recovered the war of almost extermination waged against it, in consequence of the atrocity at Gibeah (Judges 20:1-48). Possibly the reason why so few are mentioned of the tribe of Judah on that occasion is because so many were already with David. There seems no ground for the idea of Dean Stanley, that the allusion to Asher in Judges 5:17 is any more contemptuous than the allusion to any other tribe.

Joshua 19:33

From Allon to Zaanannim. Or, the oak which is at Zaanannim (cf. Allon-bachuth, the oak of weeping, Genesis 35:8). Zaanannim is the same as the Zaanaim mentioned in Judges 4:11. For (1) the Keri is Zaanannim there, and the word here rightly translated "oak" is rendered there "plain," as in Genesis 12:6 and elsewhere. It has been supposed to lie northwest of Lake Huleh, the ancient Merom, whence we find that the scene of that famous battle was assigned to the tribe of Naphtali. The border of Naphtali is more lightly traced than any previous one, and is regarded as being sufficiently defined, save toward the north, by the boundaries of the other tribes.

Joshua 19:34

And then the coast turneth westward. Here the words are literally translated without any confusion between the west and the sea, nor any misapprehension of the meaning of the word נסב. Reacheth. This is the same word translated skirteth above, Joshua 19:11, note. We have it here clearly stated that Naphtali was bordered on the south by Zebulun, on the west by Asher, and on the east by "Judah upon Jordan." To Judah. These words have caused great trouble to translators and expositors for 2,000 years. The LXX. omits them altogether, rendering, "and the Jordan to the eastward." The Masorites, by inserting a disjunctive accent between them and the words that follow, would have us render, "and to Judah: Jordan towards the sun rising," or, "is towards the sunrising," a rendering which gives no reasonable sense. They unquestionably form part of the text, since no version but the LXX. omits them. A suggestion of Von Raumer's has found favour that the cities called Havoth Jair, which were on the eastern side of Jordan, opposite the inheritance of Naphtali, are meant. Jair was a descendant of Judah by the father's side, through Hezron. So Ritter, 4:338 (see 1 Chronicles 2:21-23). It would seem that the principle of female inheritance, having once been admitted in the tribe of Manasseh, was found capable of further extension. But to the majority of the Israelites this settlement would no doubt be regarded as an offshoot of the tribe of Judah.

Joshua 19:35

And the fenced cities. The remark is made in the 'Speaker's Commentary' that the number of fenced cities in the north were no doubt owing to a determination to protect the northern boundary of Israel by a chain of fortresses. The word fenced is the same that is rendered strong in Joshua 19:29, "the strong city Tyre." Chinnereth (see Joshua 11:2).

Joshua 19:36

Hazor (see above, Joshua 11:1-10).

Joshua 19:37

Kedesh (see Joshua 12:22). It was the residence of Barak (Judges 4:6). Known to Josephus (Bell. Jud; 4. 2 3) as Cydoessa, to Eusebius and Jerome as Cydissus; it is now Kedes (see Robinson, 'Later Biblical Researches'). Edrei. Not the Edrei of Og, which was beyond Jordan.

Joshua 19:38

Migdal-el. The Magdala of the New Testament. It lay on the lake of Gennesareth. Beth-shemesh. A common name, derived from the worship of the sun. This is neither Beth-shemesh of Judah nor of Issachar (see Joshua 19:22).

Joshua 19:39

The inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali. Of Naphtali, Beyond the not too heroic leader Barak, we hear nothing in the after history of Israel, until the fulfilment of the prophecy in Isaiah 9:1, Isaiah 9:2. Galilee, the scene of the greater part of our Lord's teaching and miracles, was divided between Issachar, Asher, Zebulon, and Naphtali. The majority of the places mentioned in the Gospels were Within the borders of Zebulon. But as we learn that our Lord penetrated as far as "the coasts of Caesarea Philippi," in the extreme north of Palestine, He must have preached also in the cities of Naphtali. Naphtali sent a goodly number of warriors to welcome David as "king over all Israel" (1 Chronicles 12:34). The inheritance of Naphtali was in the main fertile, but there was a large mountain district, known as the mountain region of Naphtali (Joshua 20:7). Some of the mountains rose to the height of more than 3,000 feet.

Joshua 19:41

Zorah and Eshtaol. On the border between Judah and Dan, but abandoned by the tribe of Judah to the Danites (see Judges 13:2, Judges 13:25). "The wild and impassable wadies, the steep, hard, rocky hills, their wildernesses of mastic, clear springs, and frequent caves and precipices, are the fastnesses in which Samson was born, and from which he descended into the plain to harry the Philistines. Robinson identifies Zorah with Surat. Ir-shemesh. Another sign of sun-worship. Ir-shemaesh is "the city of the sun."

Joshua 19:42

Aijalon, or Ajalon (see Joshua 10:12). One of the Levitical cities.

Joshua 19:43

Ekron (see Joshua 13:3).

Joshua 19:44

Gibbethon. A Levitical city, as was also Eltekeh (see Joshua 21:23). It was the same city as that mentioned as "belonging to the Philistines" in 1 Kings 15:27; 1 Kings 16:15, 1 Kings 16:17.

Joshua 19:45

Gathrimmon. Also a Levitical city (see Joshua 21:24; 1 Chronicles 6:69). Mejarkon. The waters of the Jarkon.

Joshua 19:46

Before. Or opposite. Japho. The Joppa of the New Testament, and the modern Jaffa. It is called Joppa in 2 Chronicles 2:16, in Ezra 3:7, and in the book of Jonah (Jonah 1:3), in an which places it is mentioned as a famous seaport, a position it still maintains, being still, as it was of old, the port of Jerusalem. The LXX. and Vulgate have Joppa here, and it is unfortunate that our translators, in this instance only, should have adhered to the Hebrew form. Joppa appears to have been an important city in the time of the Maccabees (see 1 Macc 10:75, 76; and 2 Macc 4:21). Its mention in the New Testament as the place where St. Peter's vision occurred will be known to all. The name signifies "beauty," though Joppa does not seem to be distinguished above all other places in Palestine by the beauty of its situation. But according to Hovers, Japho signifies in Phoenician, "high place." It is certainly built on a range of terraces above the sea, but the term "high place" would seem unsuitable. The soil is very productive, and it is "the only harbour in Central Palestine" (Ritter).

Joshua 19:47

Went out too little for them. The Hebrew is, went out from them; i.e; either went out beyond their own borders, or went out too small a distance to be sufficient for them. The first is the explanation of Masius ("extra se migrasse"), the second of Jarchi. Houbigant suggests for וַיֵּצֵא "and it went out" וַיָּאָץ "and it was narrow." But the LXX, has the same reading as ourselves, and the explanation given above is quite consistent with the fact. The border of Dan did "go out" far beyond the borders originally assigned to the tribe, in fact to the extreme northern limit of Palestine. The account of the taking of Laish, or Leshem, is given more fully in Judges 18:1-31. The inheritance assigned to Dan was extremely small, but it was also extremely fertile.

Joshua 19:48

This is the inheritance of the children of Dan. We read little of Dan in the after history of Israel. Samson is the only hero this tribe produced, and his exploits were limited to a very narrow area, and his influence apparently to his own tribe.

Joshua 19:49

When they had made an end. The LXX; both here and in Joshua 19:51, reads יֵלְכוּ they went. The last thing Joshua thought of was himself. It was only when his work was done, and Israel had received her allotted territory, that Joshua thought it right to take his own inheritance. Calvin remarks that it was "a striking proof of the moderation of this servant of God" that he "thought not of his own interest until that of the community was secured."

Joshua 19:50

The city which he asked. He asked for a city, certainly. But the law of the inheritance was not to be set aside for him any more than for the meanest in Israel. Timnath-serah was in his own tribe. Timnath-serah. Called Thamna by Josephus and the LXX; and Timnath-heres, or Tinmath of the sun by a transposition of the letters, in Judges 2:9. Rabbi Solomon Jarchi gives a singular reason for the latter name. It came to be so called because there was a representation of the sun upon the tomb of him who caused the sun to stand still. Timnath-serah must not be confounded with Timnah, or Timnathah, in the tribe of Dan (verse 48). For a long time its site was unknown, but within the last 40 years it has been identified with Tibneh, seven hours north of Jerusalem, among the mountains of Ephraim. Dr. Eli Smith was the first to suggest this, and though it was doubted by Robinson, it has since been accepted by Vandevelde and other high authorities. Tibneh seems to have anciently been a considerable town. It is described in Ritter's 'Geography of Palestine' as a gentle hill, crowned with extensive ruins. Opposite these, on the slope of a much higher eminence, are excavations like what are called the Tombs of the Kings at Jerusalem. Jewish tradition, however, points to Kefr Haris, some distance south of Shechem, as the site of Joshua's tomb, and several able writers have advocated its claims in the papers of the Palestine Exploration Fund, on the ground that on such a point Jewish tradition was not likely to be mistaken.

Joshua 19:51

At the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. The lots were drawn under Divine sanction. The ruler of the State and the ruler of the Church combined in this sacred act, hallowed by all the rites of religion, and confirmed by the presence and approbation of the heads or representatives of all the tribes. Accordingly, as has been said above, we hear of no murmurings or disputings afterwards. However much the Israelites may have quarrelled among themselves, there is not a hint of dissatisfaction with the final distribution of territory. Three points may be noticed here—

1. The authenticity of the narrative is confirmed by these evidences of the internal agreement of its parts.

2. We learn the value of mutual consultation, of open and fair dealing, from this narrative. The parcelling out of the inheritance of Israel under God's command was carried out in such a manner as to preclude the slightest suspicion of partiality.

3. The duty of hallowing all important actions with the sanctions of religion, of uniting prayer and a public recognition of God's authority with every event of moment, whether in the life of the individual or of the body politic, finds an illustration here. An age which, like the present, is disposed to relegate to the closet all recognition of God's authority, which rushes into wars without God's blessing, celebrates national or local ceremonials without acknowledging Him, contracts matrimony without publicly seeking His blessing, receives children from Him without caring to dedicate them formally to His service, can hardly plead that it is acting in the spirit of the Divine Scriptures. A well known writer in our age declares that we have "forgotten God." Though the external and formal recognition of Him may be consistent with much forgetfulness in the heart, yet the absence of such recognition is not likely to make us remember Him, nor can it be pleaded as proof that we do so.


Joshua 19:1-51

The completion of the work.

The reflections suggested by this chapter are identical with those which have already occurred to us. They are, perhaps, emphasised by Joshua 19:51, in which the solemn public division of the land is once more, and yet more plainly, declared to have taken place with the assent of the heads of Church and State, and to have been attended with a religious ceremony. Without pretending to say whose fault it is, or how such a desirable state of things may be once more attained, we may be allowed to lament that what was the rule with our forefathers before the Norman conquest is impossible now. No doubt the separation of ecclesiastical from civil jurisdiction which the Conqueror effected has been to a great extent the cause of this, as that measure was also the cause of an assumption of authority by ecclesiastics which was afterwards found to be intolerable. There should be no separation between the religious and civil interests of the community. Every man in the kingdom is, or ought to be, interested in its ecclesiastical arrangements. No single act of the State ought to be considered as outside the sphere of religious influence. At the same time we must remember that the present state of things is the natural result of religious freedom, a freedom which Christ Himself proclaimed (John 18:36), but which was unknown to His Church for many centuries, as also to the Jews before He came (Genesis 17:14; Exodus 12:15; Exo 30:1-38 :83, Exodus 30:38; Exodus 31:14; Le Exodus 7:20, 27, etc). As has been already intimated, an example which cannot be fulfilled in the letter may be fulfilled in the spirit. We may strive to hallow great national events with one heart and soul, though with different forms, waiting for the day when "our unhappy divisions" have ceased. We may, however, add one consideration derived from this chapter alone.


(1) by the conduct of Judah,

(2) by the conduct of Joshua.

The rule of the world is

(1) to covet power and possessions, and

(2) that the successful conqueror has a right to be first considered in the division of the spoil.

Observe how completely the narrative of this chapter implicitly rebukes a view of things which is assumed as a matter of course in the ordinary concerns of the world. In past history we read of the greed of individuals and nations for the annexation of territory, and of the wars and bloodshed thus caused. It has been a maxim that any ruler or any nation may, and ought to, add to its territories if it can, without much regard to the principles of justice or the general good. A man, it is still believed, may heap to himself possessions in land or money as much as he chooses, and would be a fool if he did not. The first of these doctrines has only lately begun to be questioned among us. The second is still an established principle of action. Yet Judah voluntarily surrendered its territory to Simeon for the national welfare. And Joshua takes care that every one is served before himself. It is this marvellous self abnegation on the part of the leader of a military expedition, unparalleled until Christianity came into the world, that is the best proof of the claim of the Mosaic dispensation to have been Divine. Cases like those of Cincinnatus cannot be adduced in refutation of this argument. His position is in no way parallel to that of the leader of an expedition like Joshua's. Such utter self abandonment as was displayed by Moses and Joshua marks them out as men fifteen or twenty—we might perhaps say thirty—centuries before their age. The invasion of Canaan has been declaimed against as cruel; but its cruelty was at least the fruit of a moral idea, a righteous indignation against an obscene and ferocious religion, which was itself the cause of infinite misery to mankind; while Joshua's cruelty was kindness itself compared to the revolting atrocities recorded at their own instance by the Eastern conquerors of old, Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Moabite. We hear ad nauseam of the impossibility of God's ordering the slaughter of the unoffending Canaanites (see this subject further discussed in the Introduction). We hear nothing of the high morality, the sublime disinterestedness, the devotion to a grand and sublime ideal which characterised the giver of the Law and the conqueror of Canaan. Such characters have been rare since Christ came into the world. Save the two great men whom we have just known, they were unknown before it.


Joshua 19:9


I. THE IDEA OF BROTHERHOOD MUST BE RECOGNISED IN ORDER THAT TRUE PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE MAY BE ESTABLISHED. Justice does not imply equality. To deal equally with all is often unjust, since different men have different needs. It would have been unjust to have given equal portions to Judah and Simeon. In the family, justice does not require the treatment of all the children alike, but the treatment of each according to his disposition and requirements. But in order to do this there must be mutual understanding and sympathy Therefore these are necessary for the administration of justice. Rude social equality will not regenerate society. The idea of brotherhood must come first and bring with it the thoughtfulness and sympathy, without which we cannot be just to one another. Note: Providence is often more just than it appears, because it does not aim at establishing a mechanical equality, but studies the individual condition of each man, and acts according to special requirements of special cases which may be entirely unknown to us.

II. THE IDEA OF BROTHERHOOD MUST BE REALISED IF MEN WOULD SEE THE PRACTICAL APPLICATION OF PRINCIPLES OF JUSTICE. Judah had too much. Few men are willing to admit that they have too much, and hence they often wrong others and greedily hold what they do not need. Until men feel their brotherhood with others they will not see the measure by which to judge whether or no they have more than their due share of the advantages of life. Selfishness magnifies a man's needs and deserts, and minimises the requirements and merits of others. To be just we must conquer selfishness with brotherliness.

III. THE IDEA OF BROTHERHOOD MUST TAKE POSSESSION OF MEN BEFORE THEY CAN PRACTISE THAT MUTUAL ACCOMMODATION WHICH IS REQUIRED BY JUSTICE. The children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of the children of Judah. This could only be enjoyed peaceably so long as the two tribes lived on terms of brotherly kindness. Justice will not be obtained under a system of jealous competition in a selfish race for wealth. This leads to the weak and unfortunate losing, and the strong and fortunate gaining, more than is fair. The idea of brotherhood will prevent men from taking unfair advantage of one another, will establish the principle of cooperation in place of that of competition, and will substitute the mutual benefits of the family for the selfish profits of a state of internecine warfare.

IV. THE IDEA OF BROTHERHOOD CAN ONLY BE FULLY REALISED UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF CHRISTIANITY. Revolutions which have dispensed with Christianity have boasted of their power to realise this idea, but the attempt to do so has too often led through bloodshed to despotism. Christianity realises it

(1) by pointing to a common fatherhood,

(2) by joining to one brother, Christ,

(3) by exalting brotherly charity to the first rank among the Christian graces (1 Corinthians 13:13).—W.F.A.


Joshua 19:49

Joshua's portion.

"When they had made an end of dividing the land," Joshua gets his share. Not first, as kings usually do, but last. When all are helped, then comes his turn. Though he waits longest, yet it does come to him. And when it does come it is all the more welcome from being well earned. Observe two or three things that are thus brought before us.

I. A TRAIT OF HONOUR. Honour is the bloom of uprightness; the finer instinctive working of it in matters too delicate to be touched by law. It is not so common as it ought to be; for our natures are often coarse, and honour is always costly. We prefer going in for cheaper virtues, especially for such of them as are loud and obvious, as well as cheap. Even those who attend to the "honest and just and true" of Paul's precept, sometimes overlook "the pure and the lovely and that which is of good report." Here Joshua comes out, as we would expect him, as a man of honour. Such faith as he had never existed in a selfish heart; such courage as marked him, naturally had emotions of similar nobility to keep it company. Doubtless, some foolish and flattering friends urged him to accept his lot first; and pleaded, perhaps, his first right to it, both as faithful spy and successful leader. Something before Shakespeare had whispered—

"Love thyself last: let all the ends thou aim'st at
Be thy country's, God's, and Truth's."

And the still small voice of sacred honour within him did not speak in vain. Like as in a sinking ship, a brave captain is the last to leave her and seek for safety, so Joshua elects to be the last served. All the best bits of the country others eagerly go in for. Joshua sees it disposed of by lot, but is not moved by the sight of its going to envy others, nor does he catch any greed from the contagion of their example. Quite calm, feeling rich in enriching others, at rest in giving others rest, he has rewards above any freehold, and joys above any wealth. There is here an example all ought to follow. The insistance on our rights is sometimes a duty. In the interest of others we may be obliged to resist and dispute injustice. But such insistance ought always to be practised with regret, and avoided wherever possible. The precept requiring us to give the cloak to him who covets the coat certainly inculcates the surrender of rights wherever any moral advantage can accrue from it. For our own sake, to keep the soul in proper and worthy mood, we ought to cultivate this honourableness that thinks of something sublimer than its private rights. And for the sake of others also, for honour is one of the subtlest, but the strongest, forces of good anywhere existent. It allures men to a better way, charms them to integrity, is a root of brotherliness and peace. Especially should all leaders of their fellows cultivate this honour. It is not too common amongst either sovereigns or statesmen. Men are apt to forget that selfishness is vulgar, whether it seeks to get a throne, in ambition, or to keep its halfpence in sordid avarice. All selfishness is mean; and in the great it is greatly mischievous. It breeds civil wars; it corrupts the patriotism of a people; it prevents the rise of that confidence in the justice and the patriotism and the wisdom of the rulers which gives the nations rest. In leaders in smaller circles—boroughs, churches—there is the same scope for this high principle. Israel was blessed in this, that its most unselfish man was its leader. And he who was highest in place was highest in honour. Secondly observe—

II. HONOUR HAS ITS REWARD AT LAST. He had had abundant reward all through. Rivalries and competitions which, under a selfish ruler, would have broken out, and perhaps flamed up into strife and tumult, are repressed by the silent, dignified example of one whose thoughts were above the vulgar delights of wealth. And this reward of being able to compose the conflicting claims of a great multitude was the grandest reward he could have. To win victory over his nation's foes, and keep contentment and peace in her own borders, was reward indeed. But he does not go without even the material reward. All Israel come and give him Timnath-serah. We cannot identify it now with any definiteness. But it was doubtless worthy of the nation that gave it—of the man that received it. Honour often seems, to the coarse hearted, to go without reward. But that is only because the reward is of a sort too subtle for coarse vision to detect. It has always a grand reward in the influence with which it crowns the head of him who practises it. It has, besides, even common outward rewards. The race is not always to the swift, nor the gold to the greedy. We make our own world, and teach men how to deal with us. The world is froward to the froward; it is honourable to the honourable. The fairest treatment men ever give is given to those who treat them fairly. The best masters get the best service. The truest friends form richest friendships. Honourable men rarely meet with dishonourable treatment. And without any clamour or fighting they get a better Timnath-serah than in any other way they could have gained. "Trust in the Lord and do good: so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed." Lastly observe—

III. THE INHERITANCE GOT BY DESERT, AND HELD WITHOUT BEING ENVIED, IS THE PERFECTION OF A LOT. Not all riches comfort us. Ill-gotten riches curse us. Riches gotten by others and passed on to us are insipid. Wealth gathered by penury is a burden. But the lot that comes as the reward of diligence, consecration, honour, has a special sweetness, and the man who gets it has a special power of enjoying it. Especially when it is ungrudged; no neighbour coveting it; no peasant thinking that by right it should be his; all men glad to see it in such worthy hands. We shall do well to resolve that we will have no fortune and no inheritance which ages not in its way resemble TIMNATH-SERAH.—G.


Joshua 19:49, Joshua 19:50

Joshua's inheritance.

I. JOSHUA RECEIVED AN INHERITANCE AMONG HIS BRETHREN. After labour and battle come rest and recompense. Though Joshua was a man of war he was not to spend all his days in fighting. It is sometimes well that the active should have a quiet time of retirement in old age. For all God's servants there is an inheritance of rest when this world's work is done (Hebrews 4:9).

II. JOSHUA'S INHERITANCE WAS GIVEN ACCORDING TO A DIVINE PROMISE. True devotion is founded on unselfish motives. Yet the prospect of reward is added by God's grace as an encouragement. Christ looked forward to His reward (Hebrews 12:2). We are only guilty of acting from low motives when the idea of personal profit is allowed to conflict with duty, or when it is the chief motive leading us to perform any duty.

III. JOSHUA'S INHERITANCE WAS SIMILAR TO THAT OF HIS BRETHREN. He was the ruler of the people, yet he took no regal honours. He had led them to victory, yet he received no exceptional reward. Like Cincinnatus, he quietly retired to private life when he had completed his great task. This is a grand example of unselfishness, simplicity, and humility. It is noble to covet high service rather than rich rewards. Ambition is a sin of low selfishness cloaked with a false semblance of magnificence. The Christian is called to fulfil the highest service with the lowliest humility (Luke 22:26). Christians are all brethren under one Master (Matthew 23:8). Joshua is a type of Christ in his great work and unselfish humility (John 13:15-16).

IV. JOSHUA RECEIVED HIS INHERITANCE FROM THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE. He was not forward to take it for himself. He submitted to the choice and will of the people. It is a mark of true magnanimity to refuse to use influence and power to gain personal advantages. Joshua is a noble example of a man who exercised authority over others without developing a spirit of despotism which would fetter the popular choice. It is a great thing to have a strong, united government ruling over a free people.

V. JOSHUA DID NOT RECEIVE HIS INHERITANCE TILL AFTER ALL THE OTHER PEOPLE HAD RECEIVED THEIR POSSESSIONS. He was first in service, last in reward. The true Christian spirit will put self last. He who is rightly devoted to duty will not seek for his reward before his task is completed. The world is too often tardy in recognising these who have rendered it most valuable service.—W.F.A.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/joshua-19.html. 1897.
Ads FreeProfile