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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 13

Layman's Bible CommentaryLayman's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-7


The material in chapters 13-21 is very complicated, from the standpoint both of its literary history and of the complexity of its data. The Deuteronomic writer obviously has used old city and boundary lists in compiling his account of the allotment of lands to the tribes of Israel. It is now believed by many that the lists were of diverse origin and were drawn up at various times and revised between about the eleventh and the seventh centuries B.C. For a variety of reasons it seems possible, for example, to date the list of cities (grouped probably according to administrative districts of Judah) contained in Joshua 15:21-62 in the time of Jehoshaphat (about 873-849 B.C.). The Deuteronomic writer has woven several lists into an account of the territorial allotments made to the tribes by Joshua.

God’s Command to Joshua (13:1-7)

Joshua, now an old man, is commanded by God to divide the land west of the Jordan among the nine and one-half tribes. Following this, we are told how Moses had apportioned the territory east of the Jordan among the two and one-half tribes.

The reference to Joshua’s age (the Hebrew says that he was "advanced in days") and the reminder that there is much land yet to be taken are not meant as a prod to Joshua to undertake the remaining military tasks before his end comes. They rather suggest that before his death he must bequeath the unconquered portions to their future owners. One is reminded here of the blessing of the tribes by Jacob (Genesis 49) and by Moses (Deuteronomy 33). The allotment is thus represented here as a kind of last will and testament, whose terms, according to oriental conceptions, were perpetually binding. (For two other views of the method and significance of the allotment see the comment on 14:1-5.)

The lands yet unconquered are enumerated roughly from south to north. They lay chiefly on the coastal plain between the "Shihor" (probably "the Brook of Egypt" of 15:4, 47—a gorge on the Egyptian frontier) and upper Phoenicia. Claim is even laid to the whole Lebanon region, including the great valley between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges. Israel never occupied all this north country, although, as we see here and elsewhere, the nation had designs on it. The northernmost point of Israel’s expansion in the time of David and Solomon did reach to "the entrance of Hamath" (vs. 5; 1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25), that is, to the southern border of the kingdom of Hamath at some point in the valley between the two Lebanon ranges; but the Phoenician coastal cities maintained their independence of Israel.

Verses 8-33

Tribal Allotments East of the Jordan (13:8-33)

For the allotment of territory east of the Jordan to the two and one-half tribes, the student should see Joshua 12:1-6 and Deuteronomy 2:1 to Deuteronomy 3:29 (see also comment). It must suffice here to say that these territories run from the Arnon River (about midway on the east shore of the Dead Sea) to a line running roughly east to northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The eastern borders of these tribal territories are not defined.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Joshua 13". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/joshua-13.html.
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