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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 18

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Joshua 18:0


The Rest of the Land DividedThe Remainder of the Land DividedThe Territory of Other TribesThe Division of the Rest of the LandThe Land Survey for These Seven Tribes
Joshua 18:1-7Joshua 18:1-7Joshua 18:1Joshua 18:1-7Joshua 18:1-7
Joshua 18:2-7
Joshua 18:8-10Joshua 18:8-10Joshua 18:8-10Joshua 18:8-10Joshua 18:8-9
Joshua 18:10
The Land of BenjaminThe Territory Assigned to BenjaminThe Tribe of Benjamin
Joshua 18:11-20Joshua 18:11-20Joshua 18:11-20Joshua 18:11-20Joshua 18:11-14
Joshua 18:15-20a
Joshua 18:20b
Their CitiesThe Towns of Benjamin
Joshua 18:21-28Joshua 18:21-28Joshua 18:21-28Joshua 18:21-28Joshua 18:21
Joshua 18:22-24
Joshua 18:25-28a
Joshua 18:28b

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-7

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 18:1-7 1Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel assembled themselves at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; and the land was subdued before them. 2There remained among the sons of Israel seven tribes who had not divided their inheritance. 3So Joshua said to the sons of Israel, “How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you? 4Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me. 5They shall divide it into seven portions; Judah shall stay in its territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall stay in their territory on the north. 6You shall describe the land in seven divisions, and bring the description here to me. I will cast lots for you here before the LORD our God. 7For the Levites have no portion among you, because the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance. Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh also have received their inheritance eastward beyond the Jordan, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.”

Joshua 18:1 “Shiloh” This city is in the tribal allocation of Ephraim, north of Bethel. The tabernacle resided here from Joshua's time to Samuel's time (cf. Judges 18:31) because this city was centrally located.

“the tent of meeting” This is the first time this tent is mentioned specifically in Joshua, although its presence is assumed in Joshua 18:3 and 8:33. This refers to the special sacrificial place set up by YHWH (cf. Exodus 25-40), where He and His covenant people could ritually meet. In design it was not radically different from other portable Near Eastern worship centers (which is also true of Solomon's temple, which is similar to Phoenician temples).

This was the home for the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy of Holies, where YHWH symbolically dwelt between the wings of the cherubim (the place where heaven and earth met).

“the land was subdued before them” The VERB (BDB 461, KB 460, Niphal PERFECT) does not seem to truly describe the situation. See note at Joshua 16:10.

Joshua 18:2-3 Apparently several tribes were not willing to take on the responsibility of capturing their own tribal allocations. The PARTICIPLE “put off” (BDB 951, KB 1276, Hithpael PARTICIPLE) means “to show oneself lazy” (lit. to relax or loosen, which means metaphorically to be slack, idle, or disheartened, cf. Proverbs 18:9; Proverbs 24:10.

Joshua 18:3 “which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you” For the Hebrew significance of “LORD” (YHWH) and “God” (Elohim) see Special Topic: NAMES FOR DEITY.

YHWH had clearly stated His intentions to Abraham (cf. Genesis 15:7, Genesis 15:16; Genesis 13:15, Genesis 13:17; Genesis 17:8) and reaffirmed them to Isaac (cf. Genesis 26:4) and Jacob (cf. Genesis 28:13-14). Moses had clearly stated YHWH's intentions toward Israel (cf. Exodus 13:5, Exodus 13:11; Exodus 32:13; Exodus 33:1; Deuteronomy 1:7-8; Deuteronomy 4:38, Deuteronomy 4:40; Deuteronomy 5:31; Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 8:1; Deuteronomy 9:6; Deuteronomy 11:9, Deuteronomy 11:17; Deuteronomy 26:1, Deuteronomy 26:9; Deuteronomy 32:52; Deuteronomy 34:4; Joshua 1:2, Joshua 1:3, Joshua 1:6, Joshua 1:11, Joshua 1:13, Joshua 1:15; Joshua 2:9, Joshua 2:24; Joshua 18:3; Joshua 21:43; Joshua 23:13; Joshua 24:13). Many of these promises are linked to covenant obedience.

Joshua 18:4 This verse has several commands from Joshua to the seven tribes who had not yet been allotted land.

1. “provide for yourselves three men from each tribe,” BDB 396, KB 393, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “that I may send,” BDB 1018, KB 1511, Qal IMPERFECT, but in a COHORTATIVE sense (OTPG, p. 181)

3. “that they may arise,” BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal IMPERFECT, but in a JUSSIVE sense (OTPG, p. 181)

4. “walk through the land,” BDB 229, KB 246, Hithpael IMPERFECT, but in a JUSSIVE sense (OTPG, p. 181)

5. “write a description of it,” BDB 507, KB 503, Qal IMPERFECT, but in a JUSSIVE sense (OTPG, p. 181)

6. “then they shall return to me,” BDB 97, KB 112, Qal IMPERFECT, but in a JUSSIVE sense (OTPG, p. 181)

The command sense of these VERBS is confirmed by the series of IMPERATIVES, which reflect this verse in Joshua 18:8.

Joshua 18:6 “I will cast lots for you before the LORD our God” The VERB (BDB 434, KB 436, Qal PERFECT) is related to “teach” (Hiphil). These lots were cast by Joshua, not the High Priest, so perhaps they were not the Urim and Thummim. Whatever they were and however they worked, they represented the expressed will of Israel's God. This was a covenant act, both in method (lots) and result (land inheritance).

Joshua 8:7 The Levites as a tribe took the place of the firstborn (cf. Exodus 13:0) in serving YHWH (cf. Joshua 13:14; Numbers 18:1-32 and note at Joshua 13:33).

Verses 8-10

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 18:8-10 8 Then the men arose and went, and Joshua commanded those who went to describe the land, saying, “Go and walk through the land and describe it, and return to me; then I will cast lots for you here before the LORD in Shiloh.” 9So the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities in seven divisions in a book; and they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh. 10And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD, and there Joshua divided the land to the sons of Israel according to their divisions.

Joshua 18:8 These four IMPERATIVES relate to Joshua 18:4.

1. “go,” BDB 229, KB 246, Qal IMPERATIVE

2. “walk,” BDB 229, KB 246, Hithpael IMPERATIVE

3. “describe it,” BDB 507, KB 503, Qal IMPERATIVE

4. “return to me,” BDB 996, KB 1427, Qal IMPERATIVE

Joshua wants these remaining tribes to act on YHWH's promises and possess their inheritance! The very act of these tribal representatives walking on the land was a symbol of possession (cf. Genesis 13:17; Numbers 13:17-24).

Joshua 18:9 It is obvious that the Israelites were literate. They must have had some schooling in Egypt or at least by their parents during the wilderness wandering period.

Joshua 18:10 “Joshua cast lots for them” See Numbers 34:16-29. For “lots” see note at Joshua 14:2.

Verses 11-20

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 18:11-20 11Now the lot of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin came up according to their families, and the territory of their lot lay between the sons of Judah and the sons of Joseph. 12Their border on the north side was from the Jordan, then the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north, and went up through the hill country westward, and it ended at the wilderness of Beth-aven. 13From there the border continued to Luz, to the side of Luz (that is, Bethel) southward; and the border went down to Ataroth-addar, near the hill which lies on the south of lower Beth-horon. 14The border extended from there and turned round on the west side southward, from the hill which lies before Beth-horon southward; and it ended at Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), a city of the sons of Judah. This was the west side. 15Then the south side was from the edge of Kiriath-jearim, and the border went westward and went to the fountain of the waters of Nephtoah. 16The border went down to the edge of the hill which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, which is in the valley of Rephaim northward; and it went down to the valley of Hinnom, to the slope of the Jebusite southward, and went down to En-rogel. 17It extended northward and went to En-shemesh and went to Geliloth, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim, and it went down to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. 18It continued to the side in front of the Arabah northward and went down to the Arabah. 19The border continued to the side of Beth-hoglah northward; and the border ended at the north bay of the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan. This was the south border. 20Moreover, the Jordan was its border on the east side. This was the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin, according to their families and according to its borders all around.

Joshua 18:11 “Benjamin” This means “son of the right hand” (BDB 122). This is the tribe (the smallest tribe) of the first king, Saul, and the Apostle Paul (cf. Romans 11:1; Philippians 3:5). Its land was between the powerful tribes of Judah to the south and Ephraim to the north.

Joshua 18:12 “Beth-aven” This is a wordplay on a place name (“house of wealth,” BDB 20; “house of sorrow,” BDB 19; or “house of iniquity,” BDB 110), which came to be used of Bethel by Hosea (cf. Joshua 4:15; Joshua 5:8; Joshua 10:5).

The place name occurs seven times in Joshua and refers to a place near the city of Bethel.

Joshua 18:15

NASB“the border went westward and went to the fountain of” NKJV“the border extended on the west and went out to the spring” NRSV“the boundary goes from there to Ephron, to the springs of” TEV“and went to the Springs of” NJB“the boundaries went to Gasin and came out near the spring of”

This same boundary is described in Joshua 15:9. The Hebrew text has “and went westward” (cf. JPSOA).

Joshua 18:17 “Geliloth” The Semitic root gl (i.e., Gilgal or Galilee) seems to refer to a cultic or sacred site formed by a circle of stones or a circular pile of stones (cf. Genesis 31:46; Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:29; Joshua 18:17; 2 Samuel 18:17). The VERB gll (BDB 165,166) means “to roll” (Joshua 10:18).

This specific term (BDB 165), found only here in the OT, can mean

1. a region - Joshua 13:2; Ezekiel 47:8; Joel 3:4

2. a city - Joshua 18:17; Joshua 22:10-11

“the stone of Bohan” See note at Joshua 15:6.

Joshua 18:19 “Beth-hoglah” This city is first mentioned in Joshua 15:6. The name means “place of the partridge” (BDB 111).

Verses 21-28

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 18:21-28 21Now the cities of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho and Beth-hoglah and Emek-keziz, 22and Beth-arabah and Zemaraim and Bethel, 23and Avvim and Parah and Ophrah, 24and Chephar-ammoni and Ophni and Geba; twelve cities with their villages. 25Gibeon and Ramah and Beeroth, 26and Mizpeh and Chephirah and Mozah, 27and Rekem and Irpeel and Taralah, 28and Zelah, Haeleph and the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah, Kiriath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin according to their families.

Joshua 18:23 “Avvim” This plural term (BDB 732) may refer to the people of the southwestern coastal region (cf. Joshua 13:3; Deuteronomy 2:23).

Joshua 18:24 “Chephar-ammoni” This place name means “village of the Ammonites” (BDB 499 and 770).

Joshua 18:27 “Irpeel” This place name means “God heals” (BDB 951), but its location is unknown. It is in the tribal allocation of Benjamin.

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Joshua 18". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/joshua-18.html. 2021.
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