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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 12

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. The river Arnon This stream is now called Wady el-Mojeb. It runs circuitously for some eighty miles through a romantic rocky valley, and empties into the Dead Sea near the center of its eastern shore. It became the southern boundary of Reuben, but was originally the border between Moab and the Amorites. See on Numbers 21:13.

Mount Hermon See on Joshua 11:3.

The plain on the east The Jordan valley east of the river.

Verses 1-6


This chapter concludes the general history of the conquests, and is a resume of the triumphs under Moses and Joshua. For the historical facts referred to in the first six verses see Numbers 21:21-35, and Deuteronomy 2:26-37; Deuteronomy 3:1-17.

Verse 2

2. Aroer See on Joshua 13:16.

The middle of the river The midst of the valley of the Arnon. This is “a more exact definition of the previous clause, since the Arnon, which flowed through the middle of the valley, formed the actual boundary; whereas Aroer stood not upon the river itself, but on the northern slope of the valley.” Keil. Compare chap. Joshua 13:16, note.

And from half Gilead The word from should be omitted both here and in the next verse. Sihon ruled over the southern half of Gilead, Og over the northern half. Joshua 12:5. Gilead is the name of the great mountain region of limestone on the east of the Jordan, stretching from Mount Lebanon nearly to the territory of Moab. Jabbok is now the Wady Zurka, which intersects the mountain range of Gilead, and falls into the Jordan about half way between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. See on Numbers 21:24. Ammon was a son of Lot, born of incestuous intercourse. Genesis 19:30-38. The Ammonites at one time possessed the whole country between the rivers Arnon and Jabbok, from the Jordan on the west to the wilderness on the east. They were driven out of it by Sihon, king of the Amorites, and he was in turn expelled by the Israelites. Yet long subsequent to these events the country was popularly called the land of the Ammonites, and was even claimed by them. Judges 11:12-22. For this reason the Jabbok is still called the border of the children of Ammon.

Verse 3

3. [ From the plain The from here as in the previous verse, is confusing. The sense and connexion will be better seen in the following literal rendering of the Hebrew: And ( Sihon ruled) the plain, as far as the sea of Chinneroth, eastward, and as far as the sea of the plain, the Salt Sea, eastward, on the way toward Beth-jeshimoth, and from the south under the ravines of Pisgah. The plain is the Jordan valley on the east side from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee.] The Salt Sea is so called because of the exceeding saltness of its waters twenty-six pounds of salt to one hundred of water; and a whole mountain ridge on its southwest shore is composed of rock salt. It is commonly called the Dead Sea because no living thing abides in its waters. It is thirteen hundred feet below the Mediterranean, and has no outlet. The Sea of Chinneroth was afterwards called the Sea of Galilee, Sea of Tiberias, and Lake of Gennesaret. See notes and cut at Matthew 4:13. Beth-jeshimoth means house of desolations. It was a Moabite city in the desert at the northeastern extremity of the Dead Sea. Schwarz mentions a Beth-jisimuth as still existing in that locality, but the spot needs further examination.

Ashdoth-pisgah The ravines of Pisgah; the gorges at the foot or on the sides of the mountain through which the torrents flow. Comp. chap. Joshua 10:40, note, and Deuteronomy 3:17. The hill Pisgah was opposite Jericho, on the mountains of Abarim, but no traces of the name have been met with in modern times in that locality. See on Deuteronomy 34:1.

Verse 4

4. The coast of Og The territory of this king, with its boundaries.

Remnant of the giants Or, of the Rephaim. A race of giants who once peopled Eastern Palestine. Genesis 14:5. On Og’s gigantic stature see at Deuteronomy 3:11. On Ashtaroth and Edrei see note at Joshua 13:31.

[ 5. Salcah A city in the eastern border of Bashan, now called Sulkhad. It stands on a conical hill at the southern extremity of Jebel Hauran. J.L. Porter, writing in 1868, says: “It has long been deserted, and yet, as nearly as I could estimate, five hundred of its houses are still standing, and from three to four hundred families might settle in it at any moment without laying a stone, or spending an hour’s labour on repairs. The circumference of the town and castle together is about three miles.” The Geshurites were the inhabitants of Geshur, a district on the borders of Bashan and Syria, probably embracing, as Porter concludes, the northern section of the wild and rocky region now known as el-Lejah. The Maachathites occupied a region on the north of Palestine, and apparently extending from near the fountains of the Jordan under Hermon eastward to the plain of Damascus and the defiles of the Argob. Both the Geshurites and the Maachathites were warlike peoples, and were not expelled from their coasts by the warriors of Israel. Joshua 13:13. On the tribal divisions of this trans-Jordanic territory see notes on Joshua 13:15-33.]

Verses 7-13

7-13. For Baal-gad and Halak see Joshua 11:17. For the Canaanitish tribes see Joshua 3:10.

Jericho See Joshua 2:1.

Ai and Bethel See Joshua 7:2.

Jerusalem See Joshua 10:1.

Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon See Joshua 10:3.

Gezer See Joshua 10:33.

Debir See Joshua 10:38. Geder is now unknown.

14. Hormah The name of this city was originally Zephath, (Judges 1:17,) and a trace of this latter name Dr. Robinson found in the rocky pass es-Sufah in the mountain barrier which completes the plateau of Southern Palestine; but the true identification is with Sebaita, some twenty-five miles south-west of Beer-sheba. See note on Judges 1:17. The name Hormah commemorates the execution of the ban or curse of utter destruction which Moses pronounced on all the dependencies of Arad, (Numbers 21:2,) and which Judah and Simeon fulfilled. Judges 1:17. Arad still exists in Tell Arad, twenty miles south of Hebron. Dr. Robinson describes it as “a barren-looking eminence rising above the country around.” Its king troubled Israel in their desert journey, Numbers 21:1.

Verses 7-24


[This list is acknowledged by the most rationalistic critics to be a very ancient document. Ewald speaks of it as “a record of remarkable interest in many ways. Its distinctive antiquity would be sufficiently evident from its enumeration of cities which in those early days were great and powerful, but which afterwards sank into absolute insignificance, or were never heard of again.” It was not improbably composed by Joshua himself. A number of the kings here mentioned are not otherwise known, but so far as the previous history throws light on it this list follows mainly the order of the conquest. On the apparent exceptions see note on Joshua 12:16.

From the fulness of this list as compared with the previous history we at once see that it was no object of the compiler of the Book of Joshua to record a complete history of all the wars and conquests of Joshua. He has given a detailed account of only the most important, but enough to show, together with this list, that under the administration of the great captain the whole land was subdued.]

Verse 15

15. Libnah See Joshua 10:29. Adullam is placed, in Joshua 15:35, among the cities of the valley between Jarmuth and Socho. Eusebius and Jerome place it ten miles east of Eleutheropolis, but its site has not been ascertained.

Verse 16

16. Makkedah See Joshua 10:10.

Beth-el See Joshua 7:2. [Whether the kings of Beth-el and Makkedah here mentioned were slain at the taking of Ai (compare Joshua 8:17, note) and the battle of Beth-horon (Joshua 10:28) is somewhat doubtful. It is expressly said that Joshua took Makkedah and destroyed its king in connexion with the great battle of Beth-horon, and it is also said that the men of Beth-el fought against Israel with the men of Ai. But the order of this list would seem to indicate that these kings fell after Joshua had conquered Southern Palestine and was returning northward. It is possible, however, that Beth-el and Makkedah may have recovered somewhat from their fall while Joshua was in the far south, and when he returned northward gave him battle again.

The same may be said of Libnah in the preceding verse compared with Joshua 10:30. But on the whole it seems more probable that this list does not mean to chronicle the names of the cities in the exact order of their conquest.]

Verse 17

17. Tappuah and Hepher are unknown. The former is enumerated, in Joshua 15:34, among the cities of the valley of Judah, and is distinguished from Beth-Tappuah (Joshua 15:53) in the mountains.

Verse 18

18. Aphek This can hardly be the Aphek of the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:30) which is mentioned in Joshua 13:4, but it was probably identical with the Aphek not far from Jezreel, where the Philistines gathered their forces before the fearful battle of Gilboa. 1 Samuel 29:1. Its site has not been certainly identified. Lasharon is mentioned here only and is now unknown. Some think the first syllable is not an integral part of the name, but would read king of Sharon. But this is unlikely.

Verses 19-20

19, 20. On the cities mentioned in these verses see Joshua 11:1.

[ 21. Taanach In the Scripture Taanach and Megiddo are generally mentioned together. They were the two most distinguished cities in that rich tract of land which forms the western portion of the great Plain of Esdraelon. Taanach is still found in the ruins of Taanuk, which are on an elevated mound near the base of the hills of Manasseh, the southeastern part of the Carmel range, and about six miles southwest of the city of Jezreel. Megiddo also is identified with the modern el-Lejjum, four or five miles northwest of Taanach. Both these places were chiefly famous for their association with the wars of Israel. Taanach was assigned to the Levites. Joshua 21:25.

Verse 22

22. Kedesh This city is commonly called Kedesh-Naphtali, because it was in the territory of that tribe. It was both a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7) and a Levitical city. Joshua 21:32. Hence, as the name indicates, it was the holy place of Naphtali, a sanctuary and asylum for all Northern Palestine. Here the tribes assembled, at the call of Barak, to war with Jabin’s hosts. Judges 4:10. From its exposed position on the northern frontier it was among the first to fall into the hands of the Assyrian invaders. 2 Kings 15:29. Its ruins, still bearing the name Kedes, lie on the top and slopes of a round hill in a little plain among the mountains a few miles northwest of Lake Merom.] Jokneam was also a Levitical city in the tribe of Zebulun, (Joshua 19:11; Joshua 21:34,) and was identified by Robinson with Tell Kaimon, an eminence close to the northern base of Mount Carmel, and on the south bank of the Kishon, a mile from the river. On Carmel, see note on Joshua 19:26.

Verse 23

23. Dor See Joshua 11:2.

[ King of the nations of Gilgal This intimates that Gilgal was a capital whose sovereign ruled several surrounding tribes. This Gilgal must be distinguished both from that in the Jordan valley and that in the hills of Ephraim. It was probably the Galgulis of Eusebius and Jerome, on the Mediterranean plain, about eighteen miles northeast of Joppa, and near to Antipatris. It is supposed by Robinson and others to be the same as the modern village of Jiljulieh, two miles southeast of the site of Antipatris.]

Verse 24

24. Tirzah is chiefly famous for having become at a later period the royal residence of the first kings of Israel. See 1 Kings 14:17, note. Robinson identifies it with the modern Telluzah, a large village a few miles north of Shechem, in a sightly and commanding position, and surrounded by immense groves of olive trees.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/joshua-12.html. 1874-1909.
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