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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Joshua 19


The lot of Simeon, of Zebulun, of Issachar, of Asher, of Naphtali, of Dan, whose boundaries are described: the children of Dan take the city Leshem: the Israelites give to Joshua the city of Timnath-serah, which he rebuilds.

Before Christ 1444.

Verse 1

Ver. 1. And the second lot came forth to Simeon Simeon was the eldest son of Jacob, who still remained unportioned. The lot, directed by an especial Providence, gave him a portion, which fully verified the divine promises and threatenings. Animated by the spirit of God, Jacob, when dying, had declared to Simeon and Levi, that they should be dispersed in Israel, for their cruelty against the Shechemites. See Gen 49:6-7 and Genesis 34:0. Levi was scattered through all Palestine, and had no separate province: Simeon is, as it were, shut up in the tribe of Judah: and thus was the prediction of the holy patriarch accomplished.

Verse 16

Ver. 16. This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun It is easy to conceive, that twelve cities would not have been sufficient to lodge and support the inhabitants of a tribe which exceeded sixty thousand; Numbers 26:27. The historian then has named here only the chief cities, those which were upon the borders of the other tribes; or perhaps those which the commissioners, on surveying the country, had set down in the maps and minutes which they presented to Joshua. Two other cities of Zebulun, viz. Kartah and Dimnah, are afterwards spoken of; ch. Joshua 21:34-35. According to Jacob's prophesy, Genesis 49:13, the coasts of Zebulun were havens for ships, lying on the Mediterranean sea west, and the sea of Tiberias east. In this tribe lay Nazareth, where Jesus dwelt; Tabor, where he was transfigured; and the coasts of the sea of Galilee, the chief scene of his ministry and miracles, were all in this tribe: it produced also one judge, Tola, and one king of Israel, Baasha.

Verse 23

Ver. 23. This is the inheritance, &c.— Issachar's lot consisted of sixteen cities with their villages. It was a numerous tribe, bordering on the sea westward, having Jordan on the east, Manasseh on the south, and Zebulun on the north. Jezreel, Ahab's royal city of Shunem, wherein dwelt the kind hostess of Elijah, Kishon famed for Deborah's victory, Gilboa where Saul fell, and the valley of Megiddo where Josiah was slain, lay in this tribe.

Verse 26

Ver. 26. Alammelech,—Amad,—Misheal, &c.— These are cities unknown, but situate near mount Carmel, famous for the miracles of Elijah, and very different from that which went by the same name in the tribe of Judah, 2 Kings 18:0; Joshua 15:55. The Carmel of Asher was near the sea; and, according to Josephus, at one hundred and twenty furlongs from Ptolemais on the south. Hist. Bell. Jud. lib. ii. c. 9. The ancients boasted of it on account of its height, and called it the holy mountain of Jupiter. There was said to be a temple and a god of the same name with the mountain; and Jamblichus mentions, that Pythagoras often went thither to study. Several ages since, Carmel was variously honoured by the Christians, on account of the cave, where, as it is thought, Elijah remained some time before he was carried up to heaven. Hence sprung the order of the Carmelites, founded in the wilderness of Syria, in 1180, by Almerick, Bishop of Antioch. Their old convent is destroyed; that which they now inhabit is lower down, and can scarcely maintain three monks. Efforts have been made to re-establish it on the top of the mountain, but in vain, an Emir of the Arabs having made it his residence.

Verse 27

Ver. 27. And goeth out to Cabul on the left hand That is, to the north of this city, according to the custom of the Hebrews in the designation of the four cardinal points. Some learned men have concluded from this passage, that the Book of Joshua could not have been written before Solomon's time, because, say they, the land of Cabul received its name from Hiram, king of Tyre, who called it so in contempt, 1 Kings 9:11-13.; but this is a manifest mistake: the question here is not about the land of Cabul and its twenty cities, but about the town of Cabul, near Ptolemais. Josephus plainly makes a distinction between them, who, in his life, and Hist. Jud. Bell. lib. 3: cap. 4 speaks of the city of Chabul or Chabolo. See Huet. Demonst. Evang. prop. 4:

Verse 29

Ver. 29. Then the coast turneth to Ramah, &c.— There were several cities of this name in Palestine. Masius supposes the present to be the same as was afterwards called Zarepta. Ramah signifies high, elevated; and such, it seems, was the situation of Zarepta, celebrated for its vineyards, which evidently suppose an elevated situation.

And to the strong city Tyre So the LXX and Vulgate, followed by a variety of interpreters, translate the clause. Sidon is much spoken of in the Books of Moses, and even in Jacob's prophesies: the famous city of Tyre was not in being till the time of David. Homer, who makes frequent mention of Sidon, and the Sidonians, nowhere takes notice of the Tyrians. The sacred writer in this place, therefore, must have intended to point out some other city of the same name; there were four different places in Phoenicia called Tyre. Perhaps the historian here had in view Palaetyrus or Ancient Tyre, which was built on the main land, whereas the other Tyre was erected over against it, in an island. This is the opinion of Perizonius, Grotius, Calmet, Le Clerc, &c. For an ingenious account of the origin of Tyre, &c. we refer the reader to the learned chronology of M. Vignoles, lib. 4: cap. 1, &c.

And the coast turneth to Hosah—and—to Achzib From the neighbourhood of Tyre, the western border of Asher came round towards Hosah, (a place now unknown,) and abutted on the territory or neighbouring quarter of the sea, in the next adjacent district of Achzib, which, according to St. Jerome, is the same city as Pliny calls Ecdippa. Maundrell, in his voyage to Aleppo, p. 53 gives the following account of it; "Having travelled about an hour in the plain of Acra, we passed by an old town called Zib, situate on an ascent, close by the sea side. This may probably be the old Achzib, mentioned, Jos 19:29 and Jdg 1:31 called afterwards Ecdippa; for St. Jerome places Achzib nine miles distant from Ptolemais, towards Tyre, to which account we found the situation of Zib exactly agreeing."

Verse 30

Ver. 30. Twenty and two cities, with their villages If we take away Carmel, a mountain, and Jiphthah-el, a valley, there still remain more than twenty-two cities mentioned in the foregoing verses.

Verse 34

Ver. 34. And—the coast—reacheth to Zebulun on the south side, and—to Asher on the west side, and to Judah upon Jordan toward the sun-rising Here it may be asked, how could the tribe of Naphtali border on that of Judah on the east, when there were several tribes between them? In answer, we may observe, that Naphtali adjoined to Judah by the Jordan, which united the two tribes, by supplying each with a free passage to the other. And thus, as some interpreters think, the prophesy of Moses, Deuteronomy 33:23 possess thou the west and the south, was fulfilled; not that this tribe had any lands in the south of Canaan; but because, through its situation, it could easily carry on a trade thither by means of the Jordan. This reply, however, may not be thought sufficiently full; and it may possibly be urged, why should the tribe of Naphtali meet the tribe of Judah at the Jordan, any more than the tribes of Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, who could much more easily trade with Judah by means of that river? and besides, it is well known, that the eastern limits of the tribe of Judah began rather at the point of the Dead Sea, than at the Jordan. To this, some return for answer, that the sacred writer thus expresses himself, to signify that the tribe of Naphtali, though the most northerly of all those which lay toward the river, yet communicated itself with the most southern tribes, even that of Judah. Others are of opinion, that at that time there was a city upon the Jordan, to the east of Naphtali, which went by the name of Judah. For another solution see the Miscellan. Duisburg de M. Gerdes, tom. 1: p. 683.

Verse 35

Ver. 35. And the fenced cities are Ziddim, &c.— The two first of these cities are unknown. Respecting Hammath, see on Numbers 13:21; Numbers 34:8. It was the most northern of all the cities assigned to the Israelites. Probably, it was built by the youngest son of Canaan, as the eldest had built Sidon; Genesis 10:18. It continued famous till the time of David, when its king made peace with that monarch. Rakkath, by some rabbis, is thought to be the same as Tiberias; and they say, that it was at first named Zipporia; afterwards Rakkath, from its situation on the bank of the river; next Moesia, and lastly Tiberias. Cinnereth was on the lake of Tiberias; in which there were fine gardens, and a kind of paradise or park: hence its name Geneser, signifying the gardens of princes. Its name Cinnereth, say the Jews, was taken from its fruits, which are as sweet to the taste, as the sound of the cinnor, or harp, to the ear. See Hottingeri Not. Cip. Judai. p. 36.

Verse 43

Ver. 43. Elon,—Thimnathah,—Ekron Elon is thought to be the same with Holon, mentioned ch. Joshua 15:51. Thimnathah, seems to be a different place from Timnath, spoken of in the same chap. ver. 10 and 57. For, as we read in Jdg 14:5 that Samson went down to this city, which shews it to have been in a valley; so in Gen 11:13 we read that Judah went up to Timnath to shear his sheep, which shews that city to have been upon a hill. Ekron, the capital of the Philistines, was at first given to the tribe of Judah. See ch. Joshua 15:45.

Verse 46

Ver. 46. Me-jarkon,—Rakkon,—Japho Me-jarkon, and Rakkon, that is Jarkon-Japho. Hiller. Onomast. 915. The two first are unknown; but were probably situated near Japho. This city, known afterwards by the name of Joppa, was the principal sea-port town in all Judaea, and mentioned as such by Pomponius Mela, Strabo, and Pliny; indeed, it continues to be so to this day, being now called Jaffa, a name which in the Hebrew signifies fair or beautiful. The author does not (as Eusebius seems to have understood him) say positively, that Japho was given to the Danites; he only says, that their portion extended to the lands which lay opposite those which belonged to this city.

Verse 47

Ver. 47. And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore, &c.— The words too little, are neither in the Hebrew, the LXX, nor the Vulgate. The text literally is, And the country of the children of Dan went cut from them. Now the phrase, went out from them, is naturally explained here by the manner in which it is used, Leviticus 25:28-33.; where, speaking of the year of jubilee, Moses says, that the estates went out from those who had acquired them, because they then passed into other hands; namely, of the proprietors who had alienated them to that period. In this place, therefore, in like manner, to say that the coast of the Danites went out from them, is saying that it passed partly into other hands than their own, or, in a word, was taken from them. In fact, their formidable neighbours, the Amorites, forced the Danites into the mountains, and would not suffer them to come down to the valley. See Judges 1:34. The city of Leshem (called in Judges 18:29. Laish,) was not far from Jordan. The Danites gave it their name after they had conquered it. In after-times, when it fell into the hands of the Romans, they called it Paneas, and made it the metropolis of Iturea and Trachonitis. Philip, the son of Herod the Great, afterwards repaired it, and, in compliment to Tiberius Caesar, gave it the name of Cesarea Philippi. This expedition against Leshem was made after the death of Joshua. For more respecting it, see on Judges 18:0.; where there is an account of the whole expedition. From this, as some insist, it appears, that this book was not written by Joshua; whereas no more can be inferred from it, than that in after-times this passage might be here inserted by Samuel or Ezra, or some other inspired writer, in order to complete the account of the Danites' possessions. It is very evident, that the present verse is not by the same pen with the rest of the book. But as the learned Bishop Huet observes, were the whole verse taken away, all that is said of this tribe would be perfectly coherent, and leave no breach at all in the context.

Verse 48

Ver. 48. This is the inheritance of—Dan, &c.— The Danites mustered 64,400 men of war in the numbering which was made of the tribes in the plains of Moab; Numbers 26:43. The tribe of Judah only exceeded them. They found themselves, however, placed in a country which seemed very narrow, in comparison of that which was occupied by less numerous tribes; but, not to mention that the Danites could not take the whole territory which had been given them, Jdg 18:1 and that the Philistines on the one hand, and the Amorites on the other, stood their ground, we are to consider that their country was very fruitful, and so conveniently situated within reach of the sea, as to afford them the advantages of commerce; of which we learn from Jdg 5:7 they failed not to make a proper use. Samson, the scourge of the Philistines, was of this tribe.

Verse 49

Ver. 49. The children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua How admirable is Joshua's moderation! every tribe had shared in the division; each had, as it were, its reward; and he alone seemed to be overlooked in the distribution of the conquered country: last of all, he receives a private settlement; not by lot, but from the tribes, as the gift of the people. Many things might be said upon this head, and many lessons of disinterestedness given to persons, who, elevated to the highest offices, are thereby become depositaries of the public good.

Verse 50

Ver. 50. According to the word of the Lord, they gave him the city which he asked The commands of God, upon this occasion, which probably were signified by the mouth of Eleazar, the high-priest, or at the time when provision was made for Caleb, ch. Jos 14:6 had authorised Joshua to choose whatever district should please him in the land of Canaan, to be possessed by him as his own property: this great general, however, postponed his claim till every one was settled; and then what is his choice? Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim: too modest to think of appropriating to himself the best part of the country, he not only shuts himself up in his own tribe, but chooses precisely the roughest, most uncultivated, and, at first, most difficult spot thereabout. See ch. Joshua 17:18. Timnath-serah seems to have been an old cattle or village, standing north of the mountain called Gaash, chap. Joshua 24:30.

He built the city, and dwelt therein He fitted up the ruins, built a new city, and, as we may suppose, by cutting down the forests which covered the mountain every where about, made the place both strong, and respectable for its height; and by that means, in other respects, a very agreeable station, according to the taste of the ancients, who were fond of building upon high places. See Dionys. Halicarn. lib. i. c. 12. Here it was that Joshua settled with his family, concerning which we have no further information from the history: so true it is, that this great man neither thought of taking upon him the dignity of a sovereign, nor of aggrandizing his own house! The Scripture, as Pelican observes, says nothing of Joshua's sons or daughters, because he considered all the Israelites as his children.

Note; Joshua's dwelling-place was near the tabernacle: and in the choice of our dwelling, to be near a gospel-ministry should be the first recommendation.

Verse 51

Ver. 51. So they made an end of dividing the country Notwithstanding all the particulars of this division recorded in the present and foregoing chapters, it is impossible at this time to draw out a perfectly exact map of the land of Canaan, and the limits of each tribe. The country has undergone too many revolutions, and passed through too many hands, to allow us the gratification of describing the position of most of the places of which Joshua chiefly has preserved any account. The territories of the ten tribes, especially, cannot but be unknown in many respects; for, on the return of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin from Babylon, they who came back found themselves hardly sufficient for re-peopling the single country of Judea; and it even required consideration how to afford Jerusalem a sufficient number of inhabitants: Nehemiah 11:0. Thus it was the furthest from their thoughts to take any account of the provinces which the other ten tribes had been obliged to quit; and, the country being seized on by foreign nations, it became every day more difficult to mark out the precise limits of the land which had been possessed by each tribe. See Walton's Prolegom. and Shuckford's Connection, vol. 3: p. 417.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 19". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.