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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 15

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-12

Joshua - Chapter 15

Judah’s Lot, vs. 1-12

Chapter 15 is the record of the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah. It was by far the largest allotment on the west side of Jordan It was, in fact, much more than half of all the territory conquered in the southern campaign of Joshua and the children of Israel (Joshua 10:15-43). In later division of the land it would be found that it was too much and part would be reapportioned to the tribe of Simeon (Joshua 19:1 ff).

The south border of the land now assigned to Judah is described in verses 2 through 4.

The bay of the salt sea (Dead Sea) is its southwest corner, which extends farther south than the rest of the sea. From here the border turned southwest to Maaleh-acrabbim, a pass through the heights here. Then it skirted the wilderness of Zin, where the Israelites had spent some time while wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 13:21).

It passed on to Kadesh-barnea, where the spies had been sent into Canaan (Numbers 13:26), then turning slightly northwest to Adar, passing Hezron, or Hazor, on the way. Next it circled round to Karkaa, a place not now known, then to Azmon and the "river of Egypt" and so to the Mediterranean Sea.

This stream called "the river of Egypt" was a large wadi, or desert stream, wide and turbulent in the time of rain, but dry at other times. It was on the overland route to Egypt.

The east border of Judah was the salt sea in its entire length to the mouth of the Jordan, where it empties into the Dead Sea (verse 5).

The north border is described in verses 6 through 11, and is more minutely detailed. Westward to Jerusalem it passed by Beth-hogla, about four miles southeast of Jericho in the Jordan valley; Beth-arabah, on the north coast of the Dead Sea; the stone of Bohan, the son of Reuben, a presently unknown memorial to some Reubenite soldier, likely; the valley of Achor, where Achan was stoned (Joshua 7:24-26); then northward to Debir, which is thought to have been a Canaanite fortress; near to Gilgal, site of Israel’s first camp after crossing Jordan; by Adummim, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho; by the springs of En-shemesh and En-rogel approaching Jerusalem; finally passing along the valley of the son of Hinnom (or Ben-hinnom; Gehenna in the New Testament), thus leaving Jerusalem outside Judah’s border.

The north border of Judah continued past Jerusalem across the mountain on its west, noting that the valley of the giants fell to Caleb which was left in Judah.

The fountain of Nephtoah shows the boundary turning north­westward, and so to mount Ephron, a steep ridge in the mountainous area.

The border passed by Baalah, also called Kirjath-jearim, where there had been a pagan temple of the Gibeonites. From here it proceeded along mounts Seir and Jearim, rocky ridges leading to Chesalon, about ten miles west of Jerusalem, and Beth-shemesh, a notable town of Israel, just outside the area of Judah in the tribe of Dan.

From here it went through the towns occupied by the infiltrating Philistines, Timnah, Ekron, just missing Shicron, which was probably in Dan. The border then passed to mount Baalah, Jabneel, and to the Mediterranean Sea.

The west border (verse 12) was the great sea (Mediterranean).

Verses 13-20

Caleb’s Campaign, vs. 13-20

Included with the account of Judah’s possession is a brief record of Caleb’s defeat of the giants. Again it is noted that this came to Caleb as a result of the Lord’s promise to him for his faithfulness.

The chief city of the giants was Hebron, which was later the leading city of the tribe of Judah. The giants called it the city of Arba, after their forefather. Of the giant chieftains, the three sons of Anak, it is said that Caleb drove all of them out.

Next to Hebron, and farther south, was Debir, which the giants called Kirjath-sepher, meaning the "city of books." In return for the successful assault on this city of any of his clansmen Caleb offered the hand of his daughter Achsah in marriage.

The city was captured by Othniel, who claimed the young lady’s hand. Othniel was the descendant of Kenaz, as was Caleb, the son of Jephunneh, the Kennizite. Thus, the implication is that he was the younger brother of Caleb.

Achsah was a shrewd young lady. Her father had given her lands in the and south where water was extremely rare and necessary. Therefore she insisted that Othniel ask her father for springs.

When they came to Caleb it was Achsah who took the initiative, and she received a favorable response. Caleb gave her and her new husband two springs, the upper and the nether (or lower). This account is repeated in Judges 1:10-15.

Othniel became very prominent in the tribe of Judah, and was the first judge of Israel, following the death of Joshua (Judges 3:8-11).

Verses 21-63

Cities of Judah, vs. 21-63

The cities of the tribe of Judah named here are in eleven groups, and are the larger places. The smaller towns and villages were adjacent to the cities named and are unnamed. Most of these cities are not otherwise known in the Bible record. ’

The first twenty-nine (vs. 21-32) are in the southern area, and were later assigned to Simeon. Several were on the southern border. Perhaps the most notable are Beer-sheba, prominent from the time of the patriarchs (Genesis 21:31; Genesis 26:33), and Ziklag, which was possessed later by the Philistines, then given by them to David, when he fled from Saul (1 Samuel 27:6).

The second group of fourteen (vs. 33-36) were in the valley southwest of Jerusalem. Sixteen cities are in the group from verses 37­-41. They were in the west next to the Philistines. Chief among them are Lachish and Eglon, which were fortified cities. Group four (vs. 42-44) numbered nine, including places prominently mentioned in the southern campaign of Joshua, such as Libnah They were in the western foothills. Verses 45-47 name the cities and areas taken over by the Philistines and largely inhabited by them throughout Israel’s history. The group in verses 48-51 numbered eleven and included Debir, in the mountain area south of Hebron. The next group numbered nine (vs. 51-54) and were also in the mountains around the chief of them, Hebron, south of Jerusalem. The ten cities, vs. 55-57, were later the haunt of David in his flight from Saul, in the far south beyond Beer-sheba (1Samuel chapters 25-26). The next six cities (vs. 58-59) are in the highlands just north of Hebron. Verse 60 refers to two cities west of Jerusalem next to the tribal border. Six cities named in verses 61-62 lay in the wilderness area next to the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea.

The statement of verse 63, that the children of Judah could not drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem, shows their decreasing faith after the initial conquest of the land. If they had trusted the Lord He had assured them their enemies could not stand before them. While people of Judah lived in the environs of Jerusalem, it was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin, and continued for the most part to be inhabited and ruled by the Jebusites. (1 Samuel 5:6).

From chapter 15 may be seen that 1) God blesses those who go out with courage like Caleb, and their blessings may be shared by their family; 2) it is possible to relax and lose what one had once, or to falter in one’s battles and never acquire it.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 15". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/joshua-15.html. 1985.
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