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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 18

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


The location of the tribes was not yet completed, but it had proceeded so far that it was desirable that the tabernacle should be permanently established in a central place. This could not well be accomplished till Ephraim, in whose borders it was to be located, had received his portion.

1. Shiloh Rest; the first national capital and sanctuary in Palestine. Bethel, “the house of God,” from its sacred name and associations, would probably have been selected if it had not been in the hands of the Canaanites. Shiloh, now Seilun, remarkable for its seclusion, not for its natural strength or beauty, is situated near the central thoroughfare of Palestine, twenty miles north of Jerusalem and ten south of Nablus. [Tristram describes the modern site as “a mass of shapeless ruins, scarcely distinguishable from the rugged rocks around them, with large hewn stones occasionally marking the site of ancient walls. There is one square ruin, probably a mediaeval fortress-church, with a few broken Corinthian columns, the relics of previous grandeur. Straggling valleys, too open to be termed glens, within an amphitheatre of dreary round-topped hills, bare and rocky, without being picturesque, are the only characteristics of this featureless scene.” This same writer thus discusses the question why so unattractive a spot as Shiloh should have been chosen as the religious centre of Israel for so many generations: “One reason may probably be found in this very natural unattractiveness, inasmuch as it was a protest against the idolatry of the people of the land, which selected every high hill and every noble grove as the special home of their gods; here being neither commanding peak nor majestic cedar, neither deep glen nor gushing fountain. Moreover, it was a central point for all Israel, equidistant from north to south, easily accessible to the trans-Jordanic tribes, and in the heart of that hill-country which Joshua first subdued, and which remained to the end of Israel’s history the district least exposed to the attacks of Canaanitish or foreign invaders.”] Here the remaining seven tribes received their allotments, here the yearly feasts were held, and here the ark remained more than three hundred and fifty years, till taken by the Philistines. 1 Samuel 4:1-11. The place was afterwards forsaken and accursed of God. Psalms 78:60; Jeremiah 7:12-14; Jeremiah 26:6.

Tabernacle This was, according to the rabbinical representation, still a tent, or, rather, a low structure of stones with a tent drawn over it. “Although a city grew round it, and a stone gateway rose in front of it, yet it still retained its name ‘ camp of Shiloh’ and the ‘tent that God had pitched among men.’” Stanley. Its structure is described in Exodus 25:26.

Verse 2

2. Seven tribes There seem to have been two causes for this delay in the allotment to these tribes: (1) The fondness for a roving life which these tribes had acquired, and their indisposition to settle down in agricultural pursuits; (2) But chiefly the fact that from the hasty character of the first survey it was found that the lot of Judah, already assigned, was too large, and a new and more accurate survey must be made. With respect to the first cause Bush says: “What a striking picture of the too common apathy and sluggishness of the candidate for the heavenly inheritance! Who does not find that corruptions gather strength by indulgence, and that graces decay for want of exercise? Therefore let us look to ourselves that we lose not the things that we have wrought.”

Verses 2-10


[We are not to understand that this survey consisted of an exact geographical measurement of the land, nor that it was made with a view to define the precise boundaries of the remaining tribes. It was to gain a fuller information on the topography of the country and the qualities of the different sections. See note on Joshua 18:4. Hence the objection of some, that the Canaanites still remaining in the land would not have allowed twenty-one men to pass through and measure their districts, is of no force. These men passed through the land, and took a list of the cities, arranging them into seven groups or parts, (Joshua 18:9,) and thus prepared the way for casting lots for them at Shiloh. Whether they were at all molested in taking this survey is not said.]

Verse 4

4. Give out Hebrews, appoint. The commission of twenty-one was fairly constituted; each tribe was equally represented.

[Describe it Write down in a book (compare Joshua 18:9) a list of the cities, and a description of the different localities, and, as Rosenmuller observes, “what lands were barren, and what were fertile; whether a district were hilly or flat, whether well watered or destitute of springs, and any thing else which served to show the goodness of the soil, and the comparative worth of different localities.”

According to the inheritance of them That is, with reference to its being divided as an inheritance of the remaining seven tribes.] Josephus says, “Joshua thought the land should be divided by estimation of its goodness, rather than the largeness of its measure.” For the adjustment of the lots to the size of the tribes, see on Joshua 13:6.

Verse 5

5. Judah shall abide That is, shall maintain the same relative position, but not necessarily the same amount. See Joshua 19:9, where Simeon’s portion is taken out of Judah’s, to produce equality.

Verse 6

6. Before the Lord Before the tabernacle at Shiloh, (Joshua 18:10,) in which dwelt the Shekinah, the Divine Presence.

Verse 7

7. Levites have no part See on Joshua 13:33.

Verse 9

9. [ Seven parts in a book The cities and districts were divided into seven parts or groups, and described in a written document. Herodotus (II, 18: 109) thought that land-surveying had its origin in Egypt, and thence passed over into Greece, and in Egypt the Hebrews may have acquired some knowledge of this art; but, as shown above, we need not understand this description of the Israelitish territory as a scientific survey.]

Came again to Joshua We have no note of the time occupied by the survey. Josephus says seven months, while the Rabbins say seven years.

To the host The Israelitish camp, which assembled at Shiloh to witness this allotment of the rest of the land.

Verse 11

BENJAMIN’S LOT, Joshua 18:11-28.

Benjamin’s lot lay on the south of the sons of Joseph, so that the descendants of Rachel were all adjoining, and in the very heart of the land. As Benjamin’s lot included Mount Moriah, the site of the sacred edifice, we find here a remarkable fulfilment of the prophecy in Deuteronomy 33:12. “Hemmed in as it was between the two powerful neighbours of Ephraim and Judah, the tribe of Benjamin, nevertheless, retained a character of its own, eminently indomitable and insubordinate. The wolf which nursed the founders of Rome was not more evidently repeated in the martial qualities of the people of Romulus, than the wolf to which Benjamin is compared in his father’s blessing, (Genesis 49:27,) appears in the eager, restless character of his descendants.” Stanley.

11. Lot… of Benjamin came up “The lot comes up when it is drawn out of the urn.” Masius.

Verse 12

12. Their border on the north side was identical with the south border of Ephraim, (Joshua 16:1-10,) as far as Lower Beth-boron.

Verse 13

13. [ Went over from thence According to our note on Joshua 16:1, this border turned off north of Jericho, and ran up so as to take in Zemaraim, (Joshua 18:22;) thence it passed westward to Ophni, (Joshua 18:24,) where it curved to the south so as to run down near Beth-el.

To the side of Luz… southward Literally, to the shoulder of Luz, that is, some eminence in the vicinity. Southward here does not mean that the border ran on the south side of Beth-el, but it designates the general course of the border as it passed near Beth-el.

Descended to Ataroth-addar That is, the border ran southward by the side of Luz as far as Ataroth.] See notes on Joshua 16:5-6. The nether Beth-horon still exists in the modern Beit-Ur-el-Tahta, situated on the top of a low ridge, which is separated by a narrow valley from the mountain on which the Upper Beth-horon stands.

See note on Joshua 10:10. South of this rises an eminence which is doubtless the hill here referred to.

[ 14. Compassed the corner of the sea southward Rather, turned toward the side of the sea southward. The meaning is simply that from the Lower Beth-horon Benjamin’s western border turned southward towards the sea. It did not run unto the sea, as some have thought, nor is the reference here to Ephraim’s border, which ran off from this point unto the Mediterranean. Dr. Thomson needlessly supposes that the pool of Gibeon is the sea here intended. But in giving these boundaries the word sea is so constantly used of the Mediterranean that it is very arbitrary to take it in this single instance in so limited a sense. The goings out of Benjamin’s western border were not at the sea, but at Kirjath-baal which is Kirjath-jearim. On this city see note at Joshua 9:17. It lay almost directly south of Beth-horon, so that we must understand Benjamin’s western border to have formed a curve turning from Beth-horon first seaward and then winding gradually round to Kirjath-jearim on the southern border.

This was the west quarter Literally, the side of the sea; that is, towards the sea.

Verse 15

15. End of Kirjath-jearim The extreme western suburbs of the town. The suburbs of the Levitical cities were a thousand cubits from the outer wall, or nearly half a mile, and the suburbs of Kirjath-jearim may have extended much further. This will explain the obscure statement that follows: the border went out on the west, or seaward. That is, the southern border of Benjamin, starting from Kirjath, ran first westward to the extreme suburbs of the city, perhaps a mile or two: then, starting again from the city, it ran eastward, and was identical with the northern border of Judah. See notes on Joshua 15:5-9.

Verse 20

20. Jordan was the border… on the east But only from the Dead Sea to the mouth of the Wady Kelt, or the Wady Nuwaimeh, opposite Jericho, (Joshua 16:1, note,) a distance of seven or eight miles. The Benjamites cared little for the plain. They preferred rocky heights and deep ravines, where they naturally became skilled in the use of the sling. See note on Judges 20:16.]

Verse 21

21. Cities of… Benjamin In this list, as in that of the cities of Judah, no note is made on those cities that are now unknown.

Jericho Joshua 2:1.

Beth-hoglah Joshua 15:6.

Verse 22

22. Beth-arabah Joshua 15:6. [

Zemaraim This place is without much doubt identical with the ruins five miles north of Jericho, called es-Sumrah. The name is radically the same, and the site is where we should naturally expect to find the ruins of this ancient town of Benjamin.

Beth-el Joshua 7:2.

Verse 23

23. Avim This is supposed by Knobel and others to stand for Ai, the city near Beth-el which was among the first destroyed by Joshua. See Joshua 7:2, note.

Parah “Jerome states that this village still existed in his time, and was situated five miles east of Beth-el. It seems highly probable that we have this old name retained in the wild glen called Wady Farah, which runs down the eastern declivities of Benjamin. It falls into the Wady Suweinit, and in the fork there are the ruins of an ancient village called Farah.” Porter. Ophrah is identified by Robinson with Taiyi-beh, a village five miles northeast of Beth-el, occupying a commanding site, and containing ancient ruins.]

Verse 24

24. Ophni is doubtless the Gophna of Josephus, (Wars, Joshua 3:3; Joshua 3:5,) and is represented in the modern Jifna, three miles northwest of Beth-el. [ Gaba, better spelled Geba, is not to be confounded with Gibeah of Joshua 18:28, (as the English version and some interpreters do at 1 Samuel 13:16, where see note.) It still exists under the scarcely altered name Jeba, on the top of a steep hill between the Wadies Suweinit and Farah, about six miles southeast by south from Beth-el. This height was held by a Philistine garrison in the time of Saul, (1 Samuel 13:3,) but was taken from them by the daring feat of Jonathan. At a later period it was fortified by Asa, (1 Kings 15:22,) and was inhabited again after the captivity. Ezra 2:26.

Verse 25

25. Gibeon See Joshua 9:3. Ramah is associated with many interesting incidents in the subsequent history of Israel. It is to be found in the modern er-Ram, six miles north of Jerusalem. It stands on the top of a conical hill, half a mile east of the great northern road from Jerusalem. Broken columns are found in the vicinity, and many large hewn stones, remains of the ancient city, are still to be seen in the walls and foundations of the modern houses.

Beeroth See Joshua 9:17.]

Verse 26

26. Mizpeh Probably the modern Neby Samwil. See note on 1 Samuel 7:5.

Chephirah See Joshua 9:17.

Verse 28

28. Jebusi, or, the Jebusite. See Joshua 10:1. Gibeath, commonly called Gibeah, famous as the birthplace and residence of Saul, the first king of Israel. It was the scene of that atrocious crime which led almost to the annihilation of the tribe of Benjamin. Judges 19:15, ff. Robinson identifies it with the lofty and commanding hill el-Fal, three or four miles north of Jerusalem.

Kirjath See Joshua 9:17. “For a short time Benjamin rose to the highest rank in the commonwealth, when this tribe gave birth to the first king. Its ultimate position in the nation was altered by the one great change which affected the polarity of the whole political and geographical organization of the country, but of none more than that of Benjamin, when the fortress of Jebus, hitherto within its territory, was annexed by Judah, and became the capital of the monarchy.” Stanley.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 18". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/joshua-18.html. 1874-1909.
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