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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 13

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes



Chapters 13-24 describe how Joshua divided the land and the results of that division. Many, if not all, of the Israelite tribes did not conquer or control all the land allotted to them (Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10; Joshua 17:12-13). The record of the actual division of the land is in chapters 13-21, and the arrangements for settlement in it follow in chapters 22-24.

At the end of the seven-year period of conquest Israel occupied very little of the Promised Land. "Very much" of it remained for them to possess (Joshua 13:1). [Note: For maps showing the areas as yet unpossessed, see L. Wood, map 8, p. 209; or Yohanan Aharoni and Michael Avi-Yonah, The Macmillan Bible Atlas, maps 68 and 69, pp. 50 and 51.] Consequently dividing all the land among the tribes required faith that God would give His people all of it. Joshua had removed the significant military threats to Israel’s existence. From now on each tribe was responsible to conquer and colonize its designated territory.

"Resisting the temptation to skip over this section of Joshua [chs. 13-21] can result in an appreciation of important features of God’s covenant with Israel. Beyond the obvious detail of the content of these chapters and the means by which God blessed those who remained faithful in the conquest of the land, this passage also addresses the question why the land formed so significant a part of God’s promises to the patriarchs and remained a key feature of the covenant." [Note: Hess, pp. 53-54.]

Verse 1

Joshua was probably in his 80s at this time.

Verses 1-7

A. The land yet to be possessed 13:1-7

Verse 2

The Philistines were not native Canaanite people. They had migrated to Canaan from the northwest. They had by this time displaced the Canaanites in the southwest portion of the Promised Land. Because the land they occupied was part of what God had promised Israel, the Israelites were responsible to drive them out too. The Israelites were not successful in doing this. The Philistines increased in power and influence over the Israelites, eventually becoming the major enemy of Israel during King Saul’s reign more than three centuries later. In Joshua’s time, however, they were a smaller, secondary target of the Israelites.

Verses 3-5

The "Shihor" is probably the brook of Egypt, the modern Wadi el Arish, that marked the southwestern boundary of the Promised Land. "Sidon" may represent the inhabitants of the Phoenician coast and of the Lebanon mountains. [Note: Butler, p. 152.] The land of the Gebalite (Joshua 13:5) refers to the city-state of Byblos. [Note: Hess, p. 231.]

Verse 6

God’s promise to drive out all the remaining Canaanites depended on Israel’s obedience to the Mosaic Covenant (Joshua 1:6-7). [Note: See W. B. Riley, "The Challenge to Carry On," reprinted in Fundamentalist Journal 2:2 (February 1983):39-41.]

Verse 7

The land referred to here included all that God had promised west of the Jordan River.

Verses 8-14

This pericope of verses records the boundaries of Israel’s whole transjordanian territory. The peoples the Israelites did not annihilate, and their land that they did not possess, were in the northern part of this area (cf. Joshua 12:5). Gilead (Joshua 13:11) included land on both sides of the Jabbok River east of the Jordan.

"The Transjordanian tribes receive a disproportionate amount of attention in this book that records the Conquest and division of the land west of the Jordan (cf. Joshua 1:12-15; Joshua 4:12; Joshua 12:1-6; Joshua 13:8-33; Joshua 22:1-34). The author was eager to uphold the unity of the Twelve Tribes in spite of the geographic separation and an undercurrent of feeling that only the land west of the Jordan was truly the Promised Land." [Note: Madvig, p. 318.]

Verses 8-33

B. The land east of the Jordan 13:8-33

This portion of the Promised Land went to the two and one-half tribes that had requested it previously (Numbers 32).

Verses 15-23

Reuben’s portion was the southern part of this area. Balaam (Joshua 13:22) had lost his life during Israel’s battle with the Midianites (Numbers 31:8).

Verses 24-28

The allotment of Gad lay in the middle of Israel’s territory east of the Jordan roughly between the Jabbok River and the northern end of the Dead Sea.

Verses 29-31

Half of the tribe of Manasseh settled in the northern portion of Transjordan.

Verses 32-33

The description of this territory ends with a reminder of the Levites’ inheritance, who received a special relationship to God rather than a tract of land.

"The two and one-half tribes chose, as Lot did, on the basis of appearance (cf. Genesis 13:10-11), and their inheritance was ultimately lost to them [cf. 1 Chronicles 5:26]. On the other hand the Levites, requesting no portion, were given an inheritance of abiding spiritual significance." [Note: Campbell, "Joshua," p. 356.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Joshua 13". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/joshua-13.html. 2012.
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