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This chapter details the territories assigned to the remaining six tribes. The first of these remaining six was Simeon.
"And the second lot came out for Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the children of Judah. And they had for their inheritance Beer-sheba, or Sheba, and Moladah, and Hazar-shual, and Balah, and Ezem, and Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah, and Ziklag, and Beth-marcaboth, and Hazar-susah, and Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen; thirteen cities and their villages: Ain, Rimmon, and Ether, and Ashan: and all the villages that were round about these cities to Baalath-beer, Ramah of the South. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families. Out of the part of the inheritance of the children of Judah was this inheritance of Simeon; for the portion of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had inheritance in the midst of their inheritance."
"And the second lot came out for Simeon ..." This was the second lot of this group of the final seven. "Most of these towns are in the Negeb; however, two of them, Ether and Ashan, are in the Shephelah." This was according to the prophecy in Deuteronomy 33:6. Notice that no boundaries at all are listed here, just these seventeen cities. The general area in which this inheritance lay was described by Dummelow: "It was in the Negeb, or south country, that slopes away from the Hebron range toward the desert, bounded on the west by the Mediterranean, and on the east by the Dead Sea and the Valley of Edom. The tribe of Simeon was a diminishing factor in Israel, the same being, of course, a fulfillment of the prophecies concerning Simeon.
"And the third lot came out for the children of Zebulun according to their families. And the border of their inheritance was unto Sarid; and their border went up westward, even to Maralah, and reached to Dabbesheth; and it reached to the brook that is before Jokneam; and it turned from Sarid eastward toward the sunrising unto the border of Chisloth-tabor; and it went out to Daberath, and went up to Japhia; and from thence it passed along eastward to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin; and it went out at Rimmon which stretcheth unto Neah; and the border turned about it on the north to Hanna-thon; and the goings out thereof were at the valley of Iphtahel; and Kattah, and Nahalal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Bethlehem: twelve cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages."
"This inheritance lay west of Nazareth and east of Accho." Unger's more complete description is:
"This was the landlocked district in lower Galilee bordered by Asher on the west, Manasseh on the south, Issachar on the southeast, and Naphtali on the north and northeast. Zebulun was traversed by "the way of the sea" (Isaiah 9:1), a widely traveled road to the Mediterranean Sea."
It is of interest that the birthplace of Jonah, Gath-hepher, lay within this territory. The Bethlehem mentioned here, however, was named by the Zebulunites after the one where Jesus was born. The wisdom of the Lord has been pointed out in this placement of the children of Leah to the north of the Rachel tribes in order to procure a greater unity of the children of Israel. This objective "was accomplished for centuries."
"The fourth lot came out for Issachar, even for the children of Issachar according to their families. And their border was unto Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Shunem, and Hapharaim, and Shion, and Anaharath, and Rabbith, and Kishion, and Ebez, and Remeth, and En-gannim, and En-haddah, and Beth-pazzez, and the border reached to Tabor, and Shahazumah, and Beth-shemesh; and the goings out of their border were at the Jordan: sixteen cities and their villages. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar according to their families, the cities and their villages."
"The lot of Isaachar comprised the plain of Esdraelon", which was part of the richest land in Palestine, and, as Plummer noted, it is surprising that nothing very outstanding is afterward attributed to this tribe, with the one exception of the battle of Tabor. "Possibly the fact that the `lines of this tribe' had fallen in `pleasant places' tended to induce sloth." Plummer also believed that the property of Issachar extended to a portion of the coast of the Sea of Galilee, basing his view upon Isaiah 9:1.
"And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families. And their border was Helkath, and Hali, and Beten, and Achshaph, and Allammelech, and Amad, and Mishal; and it reached to Carmel westward, and to Shihor-libnah; and it turned toward the sunrising to Beth-dagon, and reached to Zebulun, and to the valley of Iphtahel northward to Beth-emek and Neiel; and it went out to Cabul on the left hand, and Ebron, and Rehob, and Hammon, and Kanah, even unto great Sidon; and the border turned to Ramah, and to the fortified city of Tyre; and the border turned to Hosah; and the goings out thereof were at the sea by the region of Achzib; Ummah also, and Aphek, and Rehob: twenty and two cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages."
As noted repeatedly in Judah's inheritance, we have two cities with the same name, Rehob (Joshua 19:28,30). As Philbeck said, "The tribes of Asher, Zebulun, and Issachar all joined Manasseh on the south. Asher was the westernmost of these and claimed the seacoast from Mount Carmel to Tyre; but the tribe's control of all that area was always tenuous at best." Woudstra pointed out that the summary here mentions 22 cities, but that if Tyre and Sidon are counted, there are actually 24.
"The sixth lot came out for the children of Naphtali according to their families. And their border was from Heleph, from the oak in Zaannim, and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel, unto Lakkum; and the goings out thereof were at the Jordan; and the border thereof turned westward to Aznoth-tabor, and went out from thence to Hukkok; and it reached to Zebulun on the south, and reached to Asher on the west, and to Judah at the Jordan toward the sunrising. And the fortified cities were Ziddim, Zer, and Hammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth, and Adamah, and Ramah, and Hazor, and Kedesh, and Edrei, and En-hazor, and Iron, and Migdael, Horem, and Beth-anath, and Beth-shemesh; nineteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali according to their families, the cities with their villages."
"Naphtali's border joined that of of Isaachar from Mount Tabor to the Jordan. The eastern border ran along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and north again with the eastern border of Asher, Naphtali held most of the northern and eastern half of the southern Galilean highlands." Rea described this same area as "Eastern Upper and Lower Galilee."
"The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. And the border of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Irshemesh, and Shaalabbin, and Aijalon, and Ithlah, and Elon, and Timneh, and Ekron, and Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath, and Jehud, and Bene-berak, and Gath-rimmon, and Mejarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Joppa. And the border of the children of Dan went out beyond them; for the children of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after their name of Dan their father. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities and their villages."
The mention here of Dan's fighting against Leshem is a reference to a later apostasy of that tribe (Judges 17-18). Dan proved to be unable to wrest the coastal cities away from the Philistines. "This inheritance assigned to Dan was extremely small, but it was also extremely fertile." This area was described as "too small for Dan," but, in reality, Dan simply preferred to live somewhere else. A full description of Dan's northward migration is found in Judges 18. This tribe did not figure significantly in the subsequent history of Israel. They had only one hero, Samson; and his exploits seem to have been limited to a small area and to his own tribe alone.
"So they made an end for inheritance by the borders thereof, and the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua the son of Nun in the midst of them according to the commandment of Jehovah they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in the hill-country of Ephraim; and he built the city, and dwelt therein."
How noble it was on Joshua's part to wait until all the tribes had received their inheritances before he came forward to ask for his own. The exact location of this estate of Joshua is not known.
"These are the inheritances, 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 for inheritance by lot in Shiloh before Jehovah, at the door of the tent of meeting. So they made an end of dividing the land."
The division of Canaan among the tribes was conducted in all fairness and in such a manner as absolutely to preclude any charges of partiality or deceit.
The High Priest who presided over the religion of Israel, the military leader of the nation, and the heads of the fathers' houses (the princes of Israel) were all present to oversee and conduct the casting of lots, which in all probability was done by Joshua. Many wonderful lessons should be drawn from this.
The very details and the perfect agreement of all these assignments with each other and with the larger record of the total boundaries assures the authenticity of the narrative. The forging of such a record as this would be an absolute impossibility. That the offices of holy religion were honored and respected in this important task is most evident in the presence of Eleazar. Today, it may be feared that our nation has forgotten God. His name is not even invoked in the public schools of the people, and even wars are declared and conducted apart from any consultation regarding "What is the will of God?" We wish to close this chapter by citing a quotation from Plummer:
"However much the Israelites may have quarreled among themselves, there is not a hint of dissatisfaction with the final distribution."
From this it is most evident that all Israel accepted the distribution as the gift of God and consented to receive their various portions as having been received from God Himself. This is the most powerful evidence of the truth and integrity of the entire Biblical narrative.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Joshua 19". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany