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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 14:1

Now these are the territories which the sons of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel apportioned to them for an inheritance,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Torrey's Topical Textbook - Holy Land;   Jews, the;   Tribes of Israel, the;  
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Caleb;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Joshua the son of nun;   Priest;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Eleazar;   Patriarch;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Eleazar;   Joshua;   Pentateuch;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Allotment;   Caleb;   Eleazar;   High Priest;   Joshua, the Book of;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Eleazar;   Joshua;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Lots;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Eleazar ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Caleb;   Eleazar;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Elea'zar;  
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Canaan;   Eleazar;   Joshua (2);   Joshua, Book of;   Priest, High;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Eleazar;  

Adam Clarke Commentary


Eleazar, Joshua, and the heads of the fathers, distribute the

land by lot to the people, 1-3.

The Levites receive no land, but cities to dwell in, and suburbs

for their cattle, 4, 5.

Caleb requests to have Mount Hebron for an inheritance, because

of his former services, 6-12.

Joshua grants his request, 13-15.


Verse Joshua 14:1. Eleazar the priest, c. — ELEAZAR, as being the minister of GOD in sacred things is mentioned first. JOSHUA, as having the supreme command in all things civil, is mentioned next. And the HEADS or PRINCES of the twelve tribes, who in all things acted under Joshua, are mentioned last. These heads or princes were twelve, Joshua and Eleazar included and the reader may find their names in Numbers 34:19-28. It is worthy of remark that no prince was taken from the tribes of Reuben and Gad, because these had already received their inheritance on the other side of Jordan, and therefore could not be interested in this division.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


All the land that Israel had conquered was now divided among the twelve tribes. The list of tribal boundaries may not make very interesting reading today, but it was necessary for Israel as a permanent and lawful record to which people could refer if any disagreement arose. It also told the tribes of the enemies that had yet to be destroyed, both within their own tribal areas and in lands round about.

Overall plan for the division (13:1-14:5)

The area west of Jordan, which still contained many areas occupied by Canaanites, was to be divided between nine and a half tribes (13:1-7; for details of the separate tribal areas see 14:6-19:51). The area east of Jordan was to be occupied by two and a half tribes, in accordance with the arrangements that Moses made earlier (8-13; for details see 13:15-33). Cities for the Levites were to be allotted in all the tribes, since Levi had no tribal area of its own (14; Numbers 18:24; for details see 21:1-42).

Reuben was the most southern of the three eastern tribes, and occupied territory that Israel took from the Amorite king Sihon (15-23). Gad settled in the central section east of Jordan, and occupied much of the region commonly known as Gilead (24-28). The half tribe of Manasseh occupied the northern section east of Jordan, which included part of Gilead along with part of the rich pasture land of Bashan (29-31). The settlement of two and a half tribes east of Jordan instead of in Canaan itself had been approved by Moses (32-33).

Localities for the nine and a half western tribes were decided by drawing lots, but the area of land that each tribe received was in proportion to the population of the tribe (14:1-2; cf. Numbers 26:54-56; Numbers 33:54). In spite of the omission of Levi, the number of tribes among whom Israel’s territory was divided (i.e. land on both sides of Jordan) was still twelve. This was because the son who received the birthright received twice the inheritance of the other sons, which in this case meant he received an additional tribe. As a consequence Joseph, who received the firstborn’s inheritance instead of Reuben, received two tribes in Israel. The tribes were descended from his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim (3-5; cf. Genesis 48:5-6; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2; 1 Chronicles 5:1-2).

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "Brideway Bible Commentary". 2005.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

This short chapter is actually an introduction to the next five chapters (Joshua 14:15-19), where is recorded the apportionment of the Land of Canaan among the Twelve Tribes of Israel. It is an introduction: (1) because it gives the names of the principal persons who conducted the casting of lots; and (2) because it deals with a matter that was required to be taken care of before the casting of lots take place, the granting of Caleb's claim to Hebron, based upon a prior promise given by Moses. Woudstra also pointed out a third function of this introductory chapter; (3) "The introduction of this pericope was an example of what could have been done and should have been done with the whole land allotted to the tribes."[1] There can be no doubt that JOSHUA himself was responsible for this account being in the holy record at exactly the place where it appears. It does not appear here through the choice of some "Deuteronomic editor,"[2] as frequently alleged. Furthermore, as Plummer noted, "The author of Joshua had access to sources of information besides the Pentateuch,"[3] and the nature of that information is such that Joshua is most likely the author. Who but Joshua (besides Caleb) would have known of the oath that Moses swore? Plummer cited this as being not alone conclusive, but as being "inconsistent with the `Elhoist' and `Jehovist' theory."[4]

"And these are the inheritances which the children of Israel took in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed unto them."

The mention here of the dignitaries who presided at the allotment has been alleged by Morton and others to be an indication of three "different traditions" from as many "sources" brought together here by "a Priestly editor."[5] In our own view, we consider this to be among the MOST RIDICULOUS and unsupportable allegations to be encountered anywhere. There is only one basis for finding a "Priestly editor" here, and that is the mention of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, and the High Priest of Israel. Since, without any doubt, Eleazar was indeed present at this allocation of the land, that alone is sufficient reason for his being mentioned, and, as John Lilley put it, "If it is admitted that the tribes had a central shrine, and few would deny this, it would have been inconceivable for Joshua to have acted without the priest, or for any Israelite historian to represent him as having done so."[6] This truth eliminates all grounds for dragging some so-called "editor" into this passage.

Even J. R. Dummelow thought he saw the hand of "P" here, writing: "The mention of the priest here in association with the leader, to whom he is here given precedence, is one of the characteristics of the Priestly narrative."[7] The "precedence" which Dummelow mentioned, however, could have been due to one thing alone: Israel was at this point in the process of calling upon the God of heaven and earth to divide the land to the tribes by casting lots, and it is inconceivable that Israel would have done a thing like that without calling upon God for his blessing and guidance. That would have required both the presence and the "precedence" of Eleazar. We have repeatedly emphasized that there is actually no such thing as "a Priestly narrative (P)," except in the IMAGINATION of Bible critics. There has never been published a copy of that alleged narrative, for the simple reason that there has never been any agreement in what is in it! Until it is produced and made available for close study, our allegation that there is no such thing stands!

The dignitaries who conducted the casting of lots were Eleazar, Joshua, and the twelve princes. "These heads or princes were twelve in number, Joshua and Eleazar included (Numbers 34:19-29)."[8] We should also note that Caleb himself was also in this list of princes (Numbers 34:19). Plummer stated that:

"It is a strong evidence for the truth of this narrative that we read of no conflicts between the various tribes respecting the division of territory. In no one case was there any complaint of unfairness, or any attempt to disturb the territorial arrangement made at the time of the original settlement in Palestine."[9]

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

1. And these are the countries, etc He now proceeds to the land of Canaan, from which nine tribes and a half were to obtain their lots. And he will immediately break off the thread of the narrative, as we shall see. Yet the transition is seasonably made from that region whose situation was different, to let the reader know that the discourse was to be concerning the land of Canaan, which was to be divided by lot. We have said that Joshua and Eleazar not only divided what the Israelites had already acquired, but trusting in the promise of God, confidently included whatever he had promised to his people, just as if they had been in actual possession of it. We shall see, indeed, that the division was not all at once made complete, but when the first lot turned up in favor of Judah, the turns of the others were left in hope.

Here a difficult question arises. How can it be said that the distribution of the land was made by Joshua, Eleazar, and the princes, if lots were cast? For the lot is not regulated by the opinion or the will or the authority of man. Should any one answer, that they took charge and prevented any fraud from being committed, the difficulty is not removed, nay, this evasion will be refuted from the context. It is to be known, therefore, that they were not selected simply to divide the land by lot, but also afterwards to enlarge or restrict the boundaries of the tribes by giving to each its due proportion. That this business could not be accomplished by a naked lot is very apparent. For while, according to human ideas, nothing is more fortuitous than the result of a lot, it was not known whether God might choose to place the half tribe of Manasseh where the tribe of Judah obtained its settlement, or whether Zebulun might not occupy the place of Ephraim. Therefore they were not at liberty at the outset to proceed farther than to divide the land into ten districts or provinces. In this way, however, the space belonging to each would remain indefinite. For had an option been given to each, some would have chosen to fix themselves in the center, others would have preferred a quiet locality, while others would have been guided in their choice by the fertility of the soil, or the climate and beauty of the scenery. But the lot placed the tribe of Judah, as it were, at the head, while it sent that of Zebulun away to the seashore, placed the tribe of Benjamin adjacent to that of Judah, and removed that of Ephraim to a greater distance. In short, the effect of the lot was that ten divisions fell out from Egypt towards Syria, and from the north quarter to the Mediterranean Sea, making some neighbors to the Egyptians, and giving to others maritime positions, to others hilly districts, to others intervening valleys.

This being understood, the office remaining for the rulers of the people was to trace out the boundaries on all sides in accordance with the rules of equity. It remained, therefore, for them to calculate how many thousand souls there were in every tribe, and to assign more or less space to each, according to the greatness or the smallness of their numbers. For in conformity to the divine command, a due proportion was to be observed, and a larger or narrower district was to be assigned, according as the census which was taken had ascertained the numbers to be. (Numbers 26:0) To the judgment of the princes was it in like manner left to shape the territories, regulating the length and breadth as circumstances might require. It is necessary also to bear in mind what is said in Numbers 26:0, that the ten who are here called heads of families were appointed to execute this office, not by the suffrages of men, but by the voice of God. Thus each tribe had its own overseers to prevent either fraud or violence from being committed. Then it would have been impious to have any suspicion of those who had been nominated by God. Such is the manner in which Joshua may be said to have distributed the land, though it was portioned out by lot.

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

Chuck Smith Bible Commentary

Chapter 14

Now in chapter fourteen we have the interesting account of this fellow Caleb. When Moses had sent out the twelve spies to go into the land, Caleb was a companion to Joshua. They spied out the south country of Israel. From near Jerusalem to the Dead Sea, the valley of Eshcol, on over to the valley of Elah, and southwards towards Hebron, and Beersheba on down to the southern border of Kadesh-Barnea.

Now when they came back and gave the good report, said, "Hey that land is great." They had a big bunch of grapes that they carried on a stake between them. They got this pole and they tied this huge bunch of grapes. I'll tell you there in the Valley of Eshcol they have some beautiful, beautiful grapes. Some of the most, ah-can't talk about it. They are good, they are eating grapes. The Jews only really grow table grapes, and they are, they're just delicious. That the Moslems only grow the table grapes; the Jews grow the wine grapes. But the Moslems grow the eating grapes, because the Moslems don't believe in drinking wine. So they only grow table grapes. The area, of course, there in the valley of Eshcol, Hebron and so forth, is Moslem territory, the Arabs. But they have some of the most delicious grapes. Even to the present day, and huge bunches.

So these guys picked one of these great bunches of grapes. They were some of the first tourists to go into the land of Israel. The word "spies" actually is the word for "tourist" in Hebrew. They brought back souvenirs, this big bunch of grapes. They said, "Wow that land is all right. You know; it's flowing with milk and honey. Look at this bunch of grapes that we've picked. Oh, it's a good land."

But the ten other spies said, "Oh man, it's a land that eats up its inhabitants. They have huge cities, big walls, and there are giants there. We were like grasshoppers." And these ten spies put fear in the heart of Israel and they turned away.

Now Moses when God said, "All right you know you're gonna have to wander". Moses promised Caleb, he said, "Look Caleb, when we take the land, you can have that territory that you spied out. That's yours." So they had covered, they had conquered pretty much the northern part, the upper Galilee region, the area of Samaria.

Now Caleb came to Joshua, and he said, "Joshua, when you and I spied out the land, when we came back and gave our report to Moses, you'll remember that Moses promised me that I could have for my family, the territory that we spied out." He said, "Now look I'm eighty-five years old, but I'm just as strong as the day that we spied out the land." He said, "I want your permission now to go down and take that land that was promised to me."

I love the grit of this old fellow. Eighty-five years old, he says, "Man, I'm ready to go to battle. I'm ready to take that land that God had promised to me, that Moses promised that I could have. I want your permission now to go down and take it." So Joshua gave unto Caleb the permission to go down the area of Hebron, and those areas around Hebron, the areas that were promised to Caleb. So Caleb went down and conquered that area around Hebron. He was from the tribe of Judah, and Judah actually had that entire area south from Jerusalem, east to the Dead Sea, Jordan River, Dead Sea, and west all the way on over towards the Elah Valley where from there to the coast was the tribe of Dan.

So Joshua blessed him, [verse thirteen of chapter fourteen] and he gave him Hebron, [and the environs about it] for his inheritance. [The reason given the end of verse fourteen] because he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel ( Joshua 14:13-14 ). "

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Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". 2014.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

1. The rationale for the allotments 14:1-5

Eleazar the high priest, Joshua, and the heads of the tribes took the leadership in dividing this portion of the land (Joshua 14:1). These men determined the division of the land by casting lots (Joshua 14:2; Joshua 18:6). Apparently the casting of lots established the general location of each tribe within Canaan, but the population of that tribe affected the size of each tribe’s inheritance (cf. Numbers 26:52-56). [Note: See L. Wood, map 6, p. 186.]

"The people of God are not called to act on their own initiative and desire, nor to set their own goals. God has set the goals and issues the commands which lead to their achievement." [Note: Butler, p. 172.]

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

C. The land west of the Jordan chs. 14-19

The account of the Israelites’ settlement west of the Jordan received more attention by the writer since it was the primary area where Israel settled.

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Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And these [are the countries] which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan,.... Of which an exact account is given in the following chapters, particularly in the Joshua 15:1;

which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for an inheritance unto them; namely, ten princes, one of each tribe, who, with Eleazar and Joshua, were appointed of the Lord by name to do this business, even seven years ago, before their entrance into the land of Canaan, Numbers 34:17.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

The Distribution of Canaan. B. C. 1444.

      1 And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them.   2 By lot was their inheritance, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe.   3 For Moses had given the inheritance of two tribes and a half tribe on the other side Jordan: but unto the Levites he gave none inheritance among them.   4 For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.   5 As the LORD commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did, and they divided the land.

      The historian, having in the foregoing chapter given an account of the disposal of the countries on the other side Jordan, now comes to tell us what they did with the countries in the land of Canaan. They were not conquered to be left desert, a habitation for dragons, and a court for owls,Isaiah 34:13. No, the Israelites that had hitherto been closely encamped in a body, and the greatest part of them such as never knew any other way of living, must now disperse themselves to replenish these new conquests. It is said of the earth, God created it not in vain; he formed it to be inhabited,Isaiah 45:18. Canaan would have been subdued in vain if it had not been inhabited. Yet every man might not go and settle where he pleased, but as there seems to have been in the days of Peleg an orderly and regular division of the habitable earth among the sons of Noah (Genesis 10:25; Genesis 10:32), so there was now such a division of the land of Canaan among the sons of Jacob. God had given Moses directions how this distribution should be made, and those directions are here punctually observed. See Numbers 26:53-56, c.

      I. The managers of this great affair were Joshua the chief magistrate, Eleazar the chief priest, and ten princes, one of each of the tribes that were now to have their inheritance, whom God himself had nominated (Numbers 34:17-29, &c.) some years before and, it should seem, they were all now in being, and attended this service, that every tribe, having a representative of its own, might be satisfied that there was fair dealing, and might the more contentedly sit down by its lot.

      II. The tribes among whom this dividend was to be made were nine and a half. 1. Not the two and a half that were already seated (Joshua 13:3; Joshua 13:3), though perhaps now that they saw what a good land Canaan was, and how effectually it was subdued, they might some of them repent their choice, and wish they had now been to have their lot with their brethren, upon which condition they would gladly have given up what they had on the other side Jordan; but it could not be admitted: they had made their election without power of revocation, and so must their doom be; they themselves have decided it, and they must adhere to their choice. 2. Not the tribe of Levi; this was to be otherwise provided for. God had distinguished them from, and dignified them above, the other tribes, and they must not now mingle themselves with them, nor cast in their lot among them, for this would entangle them in the affairs of this life, which would not consist with a due attendance on their sacred function. But, 3. Joseph made two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, pursuant to Jacob's adoption of Joseph's two sons, and so the number of the tribes was kept up to twelve, though Levi was taken out, which is intimated here (Joshua 13:4; Joshua 13:4): The children of Joseph were two tribes, therefore they gave no part to Levi, they being twelve without them.

      III. The rule by which they went was the lot, Joshua 13:2; Joshua 13:2. The disposal of that is of the Lord,Proverbs 16:33. It was here used in an affair of weight, and which could not otherwise be accommodated to universal satisfaction, and it was used in a solemn religious manner as an appeal to God, by consent of parties. In dividing by lot, 1. They referred themselves to God, and to his wisdom and sovereignty, believing him fitter to determine for them than they for themselves. Psalms 47:4, He shall choose our inheritance for us. 2. They professed a willingness to abide by the determination of it; for every man must take what is his lot, and make the best of it. In allusion to this we are said to obtain an inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:11), eklerothemen--we have obtained it by lot, so the word signified; for it is obtained by a divine designation. Christ, our Joshua, gives eternal life to as many as were given him,John 17:2.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Joshua 14:1". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". 1706.