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THE INHERITANCE OF THE REMAINING TRIBES
Joshua 19:1-9. THE INHERITANCE OF SIMEON.—The cities of this tribe have already been noticed under chap. Joshua 15:26-32; Joshua 15:42. With the exception of Ether and Ashan, which were in the Shephelah, they were all situated in the south land of Judah, though it is not certain that even the larger group formed a continuous district. This accords with the prophecy of Jacob (Genesis 49:7). Another list of the cities of Simeon is given in 1 Chronicles 4:28-32. There Sheba seems merged in Beer-sheba, making the number of cities thirteen, as stated in Joshua 19:6. In the days of Hezekiah, Simeon annexed more territory to the south (1 Chronicles 4:39-43).
Joshua 19:1. The second lot] i.e., the second lot taken after the removal to Shiloh.
Joshua 19:4. Bethul] Called “Bethuel” in the list in Chronicles, and probably the same as “Chesil,” in chap. Joshua 15:30.
Joshua 19:5. Bethmarcaboth and Hazar-susah] These are thought to be the same as “Madmannah and Sausannah,” in chap. Joshua 15:31.
Joshua 19:6. Thirteen cities] Fourteen are named here, but only thirteen in the verses in Chronicles. See the remark above.
Joshua 19:8. Ramath of the south] Called “Ramoth” in 1 Samuel 30:27. The pl. form employed in the latter passage seems to indicate at least two or three of these lofty places, thus called “heights of the Negeb,” or “heights of the south,” of which Baalath-beer ( = “having a well”) may have been one. In 1 Chronicles 4:33, Ramath is not named, and from the way in which it is mentioned here, without the conjunction, both names may have belonged to the same place, which was possibly the principal of these Ramoth, or heights, of the Negeb. The “Bealoth,” in chap. Joshua 15:24, suggests that the name Baal was also used sometimes for this small group of two or three cities or villages on these hills of the south land.
Joshua 19:10-16. THE INHERITANCE OF ZEBULUN.—Jacob and Moses had spoken of Zebulun as dwelling “at the haven of the sea,” and as being enriched by “the abundance of the seas, and of treasures hid in the sand.” Josephus (Ant. v. 1-22) says that “Zebulun’s lot included the land which lay as far as the Lake of Genesareth, and that which belonged to Carmel and the sea.” If the territory of the Manassites touched upon that of the tribe of Asher (cf. on chap. Joshua 17:10), unless in some detached way, the land of Zebulun could not have extended continuously to the Mediterranean. It is possible that there may have been a portion of the sea-coast south of Cape Carmel possessed by Zebulun, although slightly disconnected from the main territory of the tribe by some narrow tongue of land near to Jokneam, where the inheritance of Manasseh “met together in Asher on the north.” The prophecies of Jacob and Moses, however, may not have been fulfilled till some later period.
Joshua 19:10. Sarid] “All that can be gathered of its position is that it lay to the west of Chisloth-Tabor (Joshua 19:12).” [Smith’s Bib. Diet.]
Joshua 19:11. Maralah, etc.] “Maralah and Dabhesheth must both have been upon the east or south-east of Jokneam. Dabbesheth signifies a camel’s hump (Isaiah 30:6), and Masius conjectures, with great probability, that the city received its name ipso Carmeli gibbo, like the town of Gamala, which, according to Josephus, was so called from the resemblance borne by the hill, upon which it stood, to a camel.” [Keil.]
Joshua 19:12. Chisloth-tabor] = “The flanks of Tabor.” It is supposed to be now identified in Iksâl, about two and a half miles to the west of Mount Tabor. Daberath] Called Dabareh in chap. Joshua 21:28, and belonging to Issachar, the frontier line leaving it just within the territory of that tribe. It is now Deburich. Japhia] Thought to be the modern Jâfa, about two miles to the south of Nazareth.
Joshua 19:13. Gittah-hepher] Otherwise written Gath-hepher. This was the birthplace of Jonah (2 Kings 14:25), and is supposed to be the present el-Meshad, five miles N.E. of Nazareth. Goeth out to Remmon-methoar to Neah] Heb. = “goeth out to Rimmon which it assigned (lit., marked off) to Neah.” Robinson finds Rimmon in Rummanneh, about seven miles north of Nazareth. Neah has not been identified.
Joshua 19:14. Compassed it on the north side to Hannathon] Meaning that the border thus turned round Neah on the north side, and went thence to Hannathon, now Kana el-Jelil, about nine miles north of Nazareth, and, according to Dr. Robinson, probably the Cana of our Lord’s first miracle. Jiphthah-el]—=“God opens.” Dr. Robinson suggested that Jiphthah-el is identical with Jotapata, now Jefat, a village in the mountains of Galilee, the valley being the Wady Abilîn.
Joshua 19:15. And Kattath, etc.] This verse is evidently incomplete. The fourteenth verse closes the definition of the boundaries; the next proceeds with the names of the cities, and irrelevantly begins with the copulative. The cities are said to be twelve in number, whereas only five are mentioned. Keil’s argument for the omission of seven names of cities between Joshua 19:14-15, seems conclusive. Kattath is not known. Nahallal is differently spelt in chap. Joshua 21:35, and again in Judges 1:30. For Shimron, cf. on chap. Joshua 11:1. Idalah is unknown. Bethlehem has been identified in Beit-lahm, about six miles to the west of Nazareth. Some think that Ibzan was a native of this place, rather than of Bethlehem of Judah (cf. Judges 12:8, marg.).
Joshua 19:17-23. THE INHERITANCE OF ISSACHAR.—“The borders of the tribe of Issachar are not particularly noted by the author, having been given by him in connection with the other tribes, except the eastern part of the north border and the east border (Joshua 19:22).” [Fay.] Several of the cities within the territory of Issachar were given to the half-tribe of Manasseh.
Joshua 19:18. Jezreel] Famous in connection with Ahab and Naboth. Now Zerin. Chesulloth]—“The flanks,” or “loins.” Though this name is almost identical with the “Chisloth” of Joshua 19:12, it seems hasty to conclude with Gesensius and others that they were the same place. The very character of the name suggests the probability of its reduplication, as even the same mountain might have “flanks” on either side, and more than one place on the same side which might appropriately bear the appellation. As Chesulloth is wanted to complete these sixteen cities of Issachar, it must be held, though unknown, to have been distinct from Chisloth-tabor, which was on the border of Zebulun, and probably belonged to that tribe. Chesulloth, on the other hand, is mentioned between Jezreel and Shunem, and should probably be sought six or seven miles south of Mount Tabor. Shunem] Mentioned by Eusebius and Jerome as Sulem, five miles south of Tabor; now Solam, “a village on the S.W. flank of Jebel Duhy, three miles north of Jezreel” [cf. Smith’s Bib. Dict.]
Joshua 19:19. Haphraim] Possibly el-’Afûleh, about two miles west of Solam. Little or nothing is known of the remaining places in this and the two following verses, excepting En-gannim, which is probably the modern Jenîn, and which was given to the Gershonite Levites (chap. Joshua 21:29).
Joshua 19:22. The coast reacheth to Tabor] “The border struck Tabor,” etc. “In this the eastern part of the north border is given. The western point of beginning was Tabor, here probably not the mountain of this name, but a city lying on this mountain (Knobel and Keil), which was given to the Levites (1 Chronicles 6:62).” [Fay.] Of the remaining two of these sixteen cities little is known, but Beth-shemesh is thought to be Bessum.
Joshua 19:24-31. THE INHERITANCE OF ASHER.—It was said of Asher, “His bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties” (Genesis 49:20); and again, “Let him dip his foot in oil” (Deuteronomy 33:24). In fulfilment of these predictions the tribe received its portion in the rich territory bordering on the Mediterranean, in the N.W. of Palestine. Furrer, as quoted by Fay, says, “Even yet there are in that region ancient olive trees, large gardens with all kinds of southern fruit trees, and green corn fields. From the Franciscan cloister at Accho, the eye sweeps eastward over the wide, fertile, grassy plains up to the mountains of Galilee.”
Joshua 19:25. Helkath, etc.] Of the two cities first named nothing is known. Beten is said by Eusebius to have been eight miles east of Ptolemais, and to have been called, in his time, Bebeten.
Joshua 19:26. Alammelech, etc.] “The name is preserved in the Wady el-Malek, which empties itself into the Kishon from the north-east.” [Fay.] Shihor-libnath] “According to the opinion of J. D. Michaelis, ‘the river of glass.’ i.e., Belus, from the sand of which glass was first made by the Phoenicians.” [Gcsenius.]
Joshua 19:27. Beth-dagon, etc.] Little or nothing is known of the places named in this verse, excepting Cabul, which is still called Kabûl, and, according to Robinson, lies eight or nine miles east of Akka. If the twenty cities which Solomon gave to Hiram (1 Kings 9:11-13) lay in this neighbourhood, and included this city, Hiram would have found his contemptuous name ready-made, and likewise an apparent reason for applying it to the district, other than one of manifest and direct offence. The contempt would be half-concealed and half-exposed, as he probably wished it to be. This seems borne out by 1 Kings 9:14, and by Hiram’s continued transactions with Solomon.
Joshua 19:28. Hebron, etc.] Hebron is otherwise spelt than the Hebron given to Caleb, and is thought to be the same as “Abdon” in chap. Joshua 21:30 and 1 Chronicles 6:74. Its site has not been found. Another Rehob is named in Joshua 19:30, but both are unknown, though they must be distinguished from the Rehob to which the spies came, which was “as men come to Hamath” (Numbers 13:21), near Laish, and “far from Zidon” (Judges 18:27-28). Kanah] This seems by the text to have been next to Zidon, and, if so, must be Ain Kana, about eight miles to the S.E. of Zidon, rather than the modern Kâna, about the same distance S.E. of Tyre. Unto great Zidon] This, though allotted to Asher, was not taken (Judges 1:31).
Joshua 19:29. Ramah] “Two places of this name have been discovered in the district allotted to Asher; the one about three miles to the east, and the other about ten miles south-east of Tyre.” [Smith’s Bib. Dict.] Tyre has been briefly noticed under chap. Joshua 11:8. Hosah and Ummah, in the next verse, are not known. Achzib] This is now es-Zib; it is about nine miles to the north of Ptolemais. Aphek] Formerly supposed to be Afka, but since disputed by Reland, Keil, and others, as too far to the north.
Joshua 19:32-39. THE INHERITANCE OF NAPHTALI.—This tribe had its portion almost side by side with Asher in the northern part of the land. The river Jordan formed its boundary on the west.
Joshua 19:33. Heleph, etc.] All the places in this verse are unknown, saving that Zaanannim was near to Kedesh (cf. Judges 4:11). Allon to Zaanannim] Heb. = “the oak by Zaanannim.” Adami, Nekeb] This should be read, Adami-nekeb = “Adami of the hollow,” or “of the pass.”
Joshua 19:34. Aznoth-tabor] This city and Hukkok are also unknown. Judah upon Jordan] As there was a town of Asher in Manasseh (cf. on chap. Joshua 17:7), and possibly, some have thought, (?) a town of Zebulon in the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:27), so there seems to have been a town of Judah in the territory of Naphtali. It is possible that this name may have originated from Jair’s connection with the tribe of Judah (cf. 1 Chronicles 2:5; 1 Chronicles 2:21-23), as supposed by von Raumer and others; but this can be regarded as little more than a guess. The name may have equally well arisen from any other similar or different association.
Joshua 19:35. Ziddim, Zer] Neither place is known. Hammath] = “Warm baths.” The Talmud places it one mile from Tiberias. Josephus (Wars of the Jews, Joshua 4:1-3) calls it Emmaus, which he interprets as meaning “a warm bath.” Probably Hammoth-dor (chap. Joshua 21:32), and Hammon (1 Chronicles 6:76), are the same place; but Hammath mnst not be confounded with Hamath in the Orontes valley. Rakkath] = “A shore.” According to the Rabbins, the site on which Herod built Tiberias, on the coast of the sea of that name. Chinnereth] This place, also, gave its name, in earlier times, to the Lake of Gennesareth (cf. on chap. Joshua 11:2), but the site of it is not known. It was doubtless situated on the shore of the inland sea named after it. Adamah, etc.] Adamah is not known. Ramah was thought by Dr. Robinson to be Rameh, between Akka and the northern extremity of the lake. Hazor has been noticed under chap. Joshua 11:1. It was, most likely, situated on “the high rocky slopes” near Lake Merom. “Hard by this height of Hazar, but commanding a nearer view of the plain, is the castle of Shubeibeh, the largest of its kind in the East, and equal in extent even to the pride of European castles at Heidelberg; built, as it would appear, in part by the Herodian princes, in part by Saracenic chiefs.” [Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine.]
Joshua 19:37. Kedesh, etc.] Kedesh has been identified by Dr. Robinson with Kades, ten miles north of safed. Barak’s residence was in this place (Judges 4:6). Little or nothing is known of the remaining places in this verse, or of those in the verse following.
Joshua 19:40-48. THE INHERITANCE OF DAN.—The boundaries of this tribe, having already been defined in those of the neighbouring tribes of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah, are not again particularly stated.
Joshua 19:41. Zorah, Eshtaol, and Ir-shemesh] The first two of these cities are named in chap. Joshua 15:33, as having been originally allotted to Judah, as was also the case with Ir-shemesh, otherwise called Beth-shemesh (cf. chap. Joshua 15:10, Joshua 21:16), according to Keil.
Joshua 19:42. Shaalabbin] Called Shaalbim in Judges 1:35. It is now Selbit. Ajalon] Spelt sometimes, in A.V., Aijalon (chap. Joshua 21:24), and sometimes as here, but without any corresponding variation in the Heb. text. Now Yâlo. Jethlah] “According to Knobel, contained in the Wady Atallah west of Yâlo.” [Fay.] It is not mentioned elsewhere.
Joshua 19:43. Elon] Unknown. Thimnathah] = Timnah, for which, with Ekron, see on chap. Joshua 15:10.
Joshua 19:44. Eltekeh and Gibbe-thon] These cities were subsequently given to the Levites (chap. Joshua 21:23). The sites have not been identified. Baalath] This “is to be distinguished from Baala or Kirjath-jearim (chap. Joshua 15:9). It was built by Solomon (1 Kings 9:18), and, according to Josephus (Ant. viii. 6. 1), who writes it Βαλέθ, stood near to Gezer.” [Keil.]
Joshua 19:45. Jehud, etc.] Jehud is thought to be the present el-Yehudiyeh, seven miles east of Jaffa; while Bene-berak is said to be lbn Abrak, about half-way between Jaffa and the village first named. The site of Gathrimmon is unknown, as is also the case with Me-jarkon and Rakkon, in the verse following.
Joshua 19:46. The border before Japho] Meaning the sea coast over against Japho, or Joppa, the modern name of which is still Yâfa. The name is conspicuous in the books of Maccabees and in the Acts.
Joshua 19:47. And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them] “And the border of the children of Dan ment out from them, i.e., beyond them, or beyond the inheritance allotted to them. Masius has correctly explained this somewhat unusual expression as follows: ‘The Danites emigrated beyond themselves, i.e., beyond the inheritance in which they were first placed by the Divine lot, and set out in search of other possessions.’ ” [Keil.] Leshem] Otherwise Laish, and subsequently the Dan forming the proverbial northern extremity of the kingdom. It is named again as Laish in Isaiah 10:30. This verse gives another indication that the book of Joshua was not written till some years after Joshua’s death.
Joshua 19:50. Timnath-serah in Mount Ephraim] Called in Judges 2:9, “Timnath-heres,” and said to be “on the north side of Mount Gaash.” Dr. Eli Smith has proposed to identify Timnath with Tibneh, the ruins, of which he has placed about six miles from Jifna on the way to Mejdel-Yaba. Joshua’s inheritance must of coarse be distinguished from the Timnath (of Thimnatha, Joshua 19:43) of Samson.
Joshua 19:51. These are the inheritances, etc.] This concludes the account of the division of the land. As in chap. Joshua 14:1, at the beginning, so here, at the close of this work, the name of Eleazar takes precedence of that of Joshua.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE PARAGRAPHS
50.—THE PERSONAL INHERITANCE OF JOSHUA.
The inheritance of Joshua may be regarded as—
I. The reward of the leader of the people, and yet the reward which was last given. Not till the inheritance of each tribe was apportioned, did Joshua receive his. It should be ever thus. The tribe must take precedence of the man. The nation is to be considered before its rulers. The family is of more consequence than any one of its members. A man who is really a leader does not need to be told this. He who is foremost, indeed, knows how to be last of all. Ahab, who brings his people to ruin, turns his face to the wall, like a sulky child, and will eat no bread, because he cannot get Naboth’s vineyard; Joshua, who brings the whole nation to rich possessions, waits, in the spirit of a true man, till others are satisfied, ere he thinks to ask even a home for himself.
II. The reward of the greatest of the Israelites, and yet a small reward. Timnath seems to have been an obscure place. It was not a famous city like Hebron, which fell to Caleb. When Joshua took it, Timnath even needed building; and, after Joshua’s death, the city was famous only in its connection with him. He had founded it, and in its outskirts was his grave (chap. Joshua 24:30): this alone gave the city its prominence in the history of the nation. The principal reward of true greatness is within, not without. Bricks and acres and wealth would be poor pay to a noble nature. Joshua’s great reward was in the consciousness that he had spent his life in helping his fellow-men, that he had striven to glorify God, and that God had graciously accepted his work. Timnath was a necessity, and Joshua asked for it; his brethren gave it, and he gladly took it as an expression of their gratitude; but his real reward lay in the smile of God, in the approval of his own conscience, and in the visible joy which his labours had brought to others. Surely it will be thus even in heaven. The highest angel is not some winged creature with a taller crown, a bigger harp, and a few more outward decorations than his fellows; he is highest, who has best learned to serve others in self-denying lowliness. The LORD of heaven is He who is still like unto “a lamb as it had been slain.” The acreage of Joshua’s estate was far from being contained in Timnath. Much of his inheritance was in the approval of his own heart; still more in the approval of God. It is the man who thus lays up treasure in his heart towards God, who has learned to hide his riches “where thieves break not through nor steal.” If heaven’s wealth were like earth’s, peradventure there would be thieves there also. Where the spoil is only a carcase, there will always be eagles.
III. The reward asked by a good man, and thus a reward according to the word of the Lord. “According to the word of the Lord, they gave him the city which he asked.” Keil says: “We do not find any Divine injunction in the Pentateuch, to the effect that Joshua was to receive a particular share in the land of Canaan, as his own inheritance. Therefore many expositors suppose that the words, ‘at the command of the Lord,’ refer to an oracle of God, delivered through the high priest. But as Caleb had received a definite promise of this kind, which is not to be met with in a literal form in the Pentateuch (cf. chap. Joshua 14:9), we may properly assume that Joshua received a similar promise.” Whether Joshua asked for Timnath, knowing God’s mind before he asked, or whether God approved of Joshua’s request after it was made, Joshua’s heart was well in accord with the Divine will. He had not served for himself, but because he loved to serve. Such a spirit ever makes beautiful the life which it animates. Thus when Bossuet quarrelled with Fenelon because the latter had advocated in his writings the doctrine of disinterested love to God; and when, through his great influence at the court of France and at Rome, Bossuet succeeded in getting his opponent’s book condemned by the pope, the beautiful spirit shewn by Fenelon made it clear, to friends and foes alike, that he was a servant of God for something higher than the rewards of men. Declaring his submission to the papal decree, he at once wrote: “We shall find consolation, my dearest brethren, in what humbles us, provided that the ministry of the word, which we have received for your sanctification, be not enfeebled, and that, notwithstanding the humiliation of the pastor, the flock shall increase in grace before God.” Perhaps it is hardly to be wondered at, that, impressed by the loftiness of the man whom influential persons induced him to condemn, the pope should have remarked to some immediately about him: “Fenelon is in fault for too great love of God; and his enemies are in fault for too little love of their neighbour.” He who serves for the love of God, and in the joy of holy labour for men, has still a large estate left, even when his fellows are ungrateful.
IV. The reward given to an aged and failing man, and yet a reward provoking new industry. “And he built the city, and dwelt therein.” Joshua was “old and stricken in years” (chap. Joshua 13:1) before the work of distribution began, yet this gift of his brethren did but serve to stimulate him to fresh zeal in this new direction. The man who had spent his life in building a nation, appropriately sets himself to terminate it in the work of building a city. The real worker must work till the end. The body may decay, but the spirit seems to tell of its own immortal youth to the very last. The great German dramatist said:
“The world’s unwithered countenance
Is bright as on creation’s day.”
So the soul of a true man proclaims, as audibly as possible, its own immortal energy. He to whom a life of work has been a joy, has joy in work down to life’s very close. The sight of the aged gets feeble, but not his faith; the hands and feet fail, but not the will; the power to help others decays, but love has no grey hairs, and knows no infirmity.
Joshua 19:51, last clause.—THE INHERITANCE OF GOD’S PEOPLE SURE, THOUGH DELAYED.
Very much later, doubtless, than some of the people had expected, but at last, nevertheless, it could be written: “So they made an end of dividing the country.” These words form an appropriate standpoint for wise and thoughtful retrospect. An immense interval of time, and a long succession of exciting and apparently conflicting events, lie stretched out between the time of God’s covenant to give this land to the seed of Abraham (Genesis 15:0), and its actual inheritance, the accomplishment of which is here for the first time proclaimed. This period of human sin and Divine mercy and patience is made the theme of song in Psalms 105-107. Through what process, between the time of promise and the time of possession, was the inheritance brought about? The history shews us the following leading features:—
I. Inheritance is not through human merit, but through God’s grace and covenant.
1. The covenant did not originate in Abraham’s personal worthiness. God called him out of Haran (Genesis 12:1-4), where he was probably an idolater (Joshua 24:14). After Abraham had obeyed God’s call, he was guilty of distrust of God, and of untruthfulness to men (Genesis 12:10-20). It was “after these things the word of the Lord came unto Abram” (Genesis 15:1). Moreover, we are distinctly told, even at this early stage, that God had respect, not to Abraham’s personal holiness, but to his faith: “He believed in the Lord, and He counted it to him for righteousness.” Our worthiness is not the ground on which God’s promises originate. It is only through our faith in Christ that we are qualified to receive either the new covenant or the possessions which it guarantees.
2. God’s reason for making His covenant of inheritance is in no way founded on any appearances which might seem to indicate its fulfilment. God said to the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: “Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance, when they were but a few men in number, yea, very few, and strangers in it; when they went from one nation to another, and from one kingdom to another people” (Psalms 105:8-13).
3. God’s reason for causing His people to inherit can be discovered only in His own love and grace and truth. Throughout these intervening centuries the Israelites are continually seen sinning, and God forgiving. They forget the promise, He remembers it; they transgress, He pardons; they hanker after “the flesh-pots of Egypt,” He entices them with words about the land overflowing with milk and honey; they often murmur, He is ever patient. The whole of the way, from Abraham to the completed division of the land, is a way of great grace. Such are the reasons for the inheritance of all whom God causes to possess. The old covenant or the new covenant, Canaan or heaven, it matters not which; the reasons of possession are in Him, not in us.
II. The way to possession is through loss.
1. The Israelites came into their inheritance through losing it. After receiving the promise that his seed should inherit Canaan, Abraham was driven down into Egypt by famine. The necessity thus laid upon the father proved to be a foreshadowing of God’s way with the children, Joseph was sold into Egypt, and later on, compelled still by famine, Jacob and his remaining sons were driven thither also. The sojourn there presently became a bondage, lasting upwards of two hundred years. Thus, God’s way of leading His people to inherit the land was by leading them out of the land altogether. Possession was to be through utter loss. Nor is this seemingly strange method to be looked upon as an accident. God purposed it, from the first (Genesis 15:18). This method is full of deep design. God’s way was a necessity. The only possible way for the Israelites to inherit the land was, apparently, by their being driven out of the land. Had they remained in Canaan, they would in all probability have intermarried with the Canaanites. It is no less likely that they would have been seduced to the then fast spreading idolatry, which ere they came back from Egypt, had so firmly established itself in the land. Had they remained in Palestine, and fallen into either of these snares, their subsequent inheritance of the territory, as a nation, would have been impossible. It may be said, There was idolatry in Egypt: would not that tempt them there as much as idolatry in Canaan? From this God graciously guarded them by their very condition in Egypt. They were made slaves. They were bitterly oppressed. The common affliction would bind them in a common sympathy. In their keen suffering, through hard service and the slaying of their male children, they would learn to hate the Egyptians and their gods together. Antipathies would be raised in them against idolatry generally. A common patriotism, in these children of the Promised Land, would be provoked by a common suffering. This, doubtless, was exactly what Divine wisdom intended. One of the strongest possible forces was at work, tending, in many ways, to bind them to each other and into the great clan of God, presently to be compassed on every hand by the surrounding nations of the heathen. The common deliverance at the Red Sea would only serve to deepen this carefully formed feeling, bursting out as it does in a common joy in the wonderful song of Moses. The mighty outpouring of passion there, with each other, for God, and against the heathen, is the vehement and first real expression of that Hebrew nationalism which God had been so carefully and surely creating, and which to this day still throbs so strongly in the Hebrew heart. The forty years’ discipline in the wilderness would serve to bind the Israelites still closer, uniting them in a common fear of God, and in a general assurance that He could be trusted in all kinds of want and extremity. Thus they crossed the Jordan, bound together in spirit as one man, and strong in that union both to conquer an idolatrous nation and abhor its idolatry. Humanly speaking no such feelings as these could have animated the young nation, had they remained in Canaan. God led them into their inheritance by causing them to for sake it utterly. The way into the promised possession was through the bitter bondage of Egypt and many years of sorrow in the wilderness.
2. God’s way to possession is still through loss. (a) The way to peace with God is through fleeing from the contentment of carelessness. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Men start for heaven by going into the sharp conviction that it may never be theirs. We journey towards the full assurance of God’s forgiveness by giving up, in alarm, those easy assumptions of it, in which we once found rest through general and vague thoughts of Divine mercy. (b) The way to righteousness is through a rejection of our righteousness. To be holy indeed, we must enter into the awful knowledge of our own sinfulness. He who thought that he was, “touching the law, blameless,” could hold the clothes of Stephen while others murdered him; the same man, counting all his good doings as dung, pressed indeed towards the mark of the heavenly calling. When Paul counted his gain loss, then, and not till then, he won the righteousness of his Saviour. (c) The way to life in Christ is by dying with Christ. It is he who cries, “I am crucified with Christ,” who immediately adds, “Nevertheless I live.” To be “born again” is to die. The way to our inheritance is by a cross, which seems to stand at the very beginning of our pilgrimage as the significant symbol of a journey of contradictions. The very Saviour of our life stands and cries to us, “He that findeth his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.”
III. The way from loss to secure inheritance is by the power and patience and love of God.
1. The way from the bondage of Egypt to this division of the land affords one long view of Jehovah’s mighty works. The miracles which made Pharaoh let the people go never ceased till the people were ready to enter into the rest of possession.
2. This way to inheritance was no less marked by Divine patience. While God wrought mightily, the people murmured continually. On their part, the one thing which rose prominent above every other was sin; on His part was mercy which ever covered their transgressions.
3. The wonders of Divine power, and the beauty of Divine patience, are alike seen as the outcome of Divine love. God’s love to the men—those men, and the men who should follow them, was the motive which underlay all. The miracles were not merely for a new nation to be called Israelites. The patience was not so much care over a pet scheme of Deity. God was loving men—loving all men, and seeking to save the world that was, and the world that would be, from the sin and ruin of idolatry.
IV. Alternations from seeming possession to loss, and from loss to permanent inheritance, are God’s way of leading men into habitual obedience and perpetual praise. It was out of the magnitude of the Israelites’ difficulties that they came to their wonderful deliverances, and it was in their great deliverances that they found the glowing fervour of those choice songs which they have left as such a noble legacy to the world. Their deferred hopes, their long-tried patience, their adverse journeyings, their mighty battles: all these led to ardent praise, and praise, in its turn, gave new strength. Battles are not pleasant, but we can have no victories without them. The smooth straight path may be trodden more easily and more quickly than the way which is rough, and steep, and winding; yet, after all, it is where the tourist is turned from a direct line of travel by high mountains, and wearied in his way by steep hills, that the landscape most delights him. The plain is easier for travelling, but it provokes little ardour. Otherwise than through the sense of their strength, “the mountains shall bring peace.” The Christian pilgrim who travels rough places and rugged steeps may have more weariness than he who walks in “plain paths;” generally he also knows more of joy, and feels more of thankfulness and praise.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joshua 19". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany