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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 13

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-33



Joshua 13:1

Now Joshua was old. This is usually regarded as the second part of the Book of Joshua; the first being devoted to the history of the conquest of Palestine, while the second is engaged with the history of its division among the conquerors. Dean Stanley, in his 'Sinai and Palestine,' as well as in his 'Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church,' describes this portion of the Book of Judges as the 'Domes. day Book' of the land of Canaan, and the remark has been constantly repeated. There is, however, a considerable difference between the great survey of the Conqueror and this one. The former was an accurate account, for purposes of taxation, national detente, and public order, of the exact extent of soil owned by each landowner, and it went so far as to enumerate the cattle on his estate, to the great disgust of the Saxon chronicler, who had an Englishman's dislike of inquisitorial proceedings. There is no trace either of such completeness, or of such an inquisitorial character in this survey, neither has it quite the same object. It assigns to each tribe the limits of its future possessions, and enumerates the cities contained in each portion of territory. Bat it makes scarcely any effort to describe the possessions of particular families, still less of individual landowners. Joshua and Caleb are the only exceptions. Knobel observes that the most powerful tribes were first settled in their territory—those, namely, of Judah and Joseph. He remarks that the author must have had written sources for his information, for no single Israelite could have been personally acquainted with all the details here given. And stricken in years. Rather, advanced in age. There is no foundation for the idea of some commentators that the Jews, at the time this book was written, made any formal distinction in these words between different stages of old age. The Hebrew language rejoiced in repetition, and this common phrase is only a means of adding emphasis to the statement already made. And there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. The Hebrew מְאֹד is stronger than our version. Perhaps the best equivalent in modern English is, "And the amount of land that remaineth for us to occupy is very great indeed." We may observe here that, as with the literal so with the spiritual Israel, whether the antitype be the Christian Church or the human heart, the work of subduing God's enemies is gradual. One successful engagement does not conclude the war. The enemy renews his assaults, and when force fails he tries fraud; when direct temptations are of no avail he resorts to enticements. The only safeguard in the war is strength, alertness, courage, patience. The faint hearted and unwatchful alike fail in the contest, which can be carried on successfully only by him who has learned to keep guard over himself, and to direct his ways by the counsels of God.

Joshua 13:2

This is the land which yet remaineth. The powerful league of the Philistines, as well as the tribes near them, remained unsubdued. In the north, likewise, the neighbourhood of Sidon, and the territory of Coele, Syria, which lay between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, was as yet in the hands of the enemy. Rabbis Kimchi and Solomon Jarchi translate by "borders." Masius suggests the French marque, and the modern German grenze. All the borders of the Philistines. Literally, all the circles (Geliloth) of the Philistines. The expression is found in several places in this book (see Joshua 18:17; Joshua 22:10, Joshua 22:11). We may compare the expression the circles of Swabia, Franconia, etc; in the history of Germany. The expression here may have more affinity with what is known as the "mark system" in the history of ancient Germany, and refer to the patch of cultivated ground which extended for some distance round each city. But this is rendered improbable by the fact that one circle only retained its name (Joshua 20:7; Joshua 21:32), and is still known as Galilee (see notes on these passages). Galilee was too large a district to have been originally a clearing round a town. Geshur (see note on Joshua 12:5). Ewald conjectures that these Geshurites were the aboriginal inhabitants of the country (see 1 Samuel 27:8), and were the same as the Avites or Avvites. See next verse, where the Avvites are distinguished from the five lords of the Philistines. It is worthy of remark that the name Talmai, the name of one of the "sons of Anak" (Joshua 15:14), comes in again as the name of a king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3 2 Samuel 13:37). It occurs, however, as a Hebrew name in Bartholomew, or Bar-Tolmai, i.e; the son of Talmai, or Tolmai, one of the twelve apostles. Ewald supposes that these aborigines were dispossessed by the Canaanitish tribes, and that the old name of Geshur was still applied to those regions on which this primitive race had retained its hold.

Joshua 13:3

From Sihor. This word, which has the article in Hebrew, is literally the black river. This has been thought to be the Nile, known to both Greeks and Latins by that title. The Greeks called it μέλας. So Virgil says of it, "AEgyptum nigra foecundat arena." The Vulgate has "a fluvio turbido qui irrigat AEgyptum." The LXX. translates by ἀοίκητος. The phrase which is "before" (עַל־פְנֵי) Egypt seems to exclude the idea of the Nile, since the Nile flowed through the centre of Egypt, and it is impossible to make עַל־פְןֵ equivalent to בְּקֶרֶב. As Drusins remarks, moreover, the Nile is always called either יְאֹר or "the river of Egypt." The interpreation which has found most favour of late, therefore, refers this expression to a small river that flows into the sea at the extreme southern border of Palestine. This river was known as the "river of Egypt" (Genesis 15:18), and is now called the Wady-el-Arisch (cf. also Joshua 15:4, Joshua 15:47, as well as Numbers 34:5; 1 Kings 8:65; Isaiah 27:12, where the word is nahal, or winter torrent, a word inapplicable to the Nile). For Sihor, or Shichor, see Isaiah 23:3; Jeremiah 2:18, and especially 1 Chronicles 13:5, which seems decisive against the Nile. Which is counted to the Canaanite. These words are connected by the Masorites with what follows: The five lords of the Philistines are reckoned to the Canaanite. The five lords of the Philistines. The Philistines (Deuteronomy 2:23. Cf. Genesis 10:14, and 1 Chronicles 1:12) are supposed to be of Egyptian origin. Ewald believes Caphtor to be Crete, and supposes the Cherethites and Pelethites who formed David's body-guard (2 Samuel 15:18) to be Cretans and Philistines (see Ezekiel 25:16). But this opinion is disputed by many commentators of note, and is far from probable in itself. They were David's most trusted and faithful troops, and it seems hardly probable that so truly national a monarch would have assigned the post of honour around his person to the hereditary enemies of his race. Ritter, however, believes the Cherethites and Pelethites to be Philistines, and appeals to 1 Samuel 30:14, and still more forcibly to Zephaniah 2:4, Zephaniah 2:5. It should be remembered, too, that Ittai was a Gittite, or native of Gath (see 2 Samuel 15:21). The term here used, translated lords (satraps, LXX), is peculiar to the Philistines. It is to be found also in Judges 3:3; 1 Samuel 5:8, etc. In 1 Kings 7:30 the word means an axle, or perhaps the outside plating of the wheel, and in the kindred languages it signifies a wheel. The expression is remarkable in connection with the phrase "circles of the Philistines." The Eshkalalonites. The inhabitants of Ashkelon, as the Gittites are of Gath. Also the Avites. Literally, "and the Avites." There is no "also" in the original, though the Avites or Avim are supposed (see Deuteronomy 2:23, and note on Geshuri in the last verse)to have been aborigines preceding the Canaanites, and dispossessed by the Philistines. Keil, however, disputes this view, and holds that we have no evidence that any but a Canaanitish people dwelt in southwestern Palestine. This Canaanitish tribe, he thinks, was driven out by the Philistines. Some few of the Avites, or rather Avvites, continued to dwell among their conquerors. But the coincidence between Deuteronomy 2:22, Deuteronomy 2:23, and 1 Samuel 27:8, makes strongly for Ewald's view above. And Keil and Delitzsch, in their later joint work, incline to it. See Introduction III. The word Avvim, like Havoth, or Havvoth (see verse 30), is supposed to mean villages, or inhabited enclosures.

Joshua 13:4

From the south. The LXX. and the best modern commentators connect these words with what precedes. This gives a better sense than joining it to what follows. For the south was not "all the land of the Canaanites," but a large part of it belonged, as we have just seen, to a tribe not of Canaanitish origin, while the land of the Canaanites (see note on Joshua 3:10) extended far to the northward. Therefore we must understand the words "all the land of the Canaanites" to begin a fresh section, and to be descriptive of the territory extending from Philistia northward towards Sidon. So the Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic. Mearah. The margin has "the cave." But there is no article in the original The LXX. reads ἀπὸ Γάζης for Mearah, having clearly, as Masius observes, substituted Zain for Resh. But this mistaken reading compels a mistranslation of the passage. Vandevelde supposes it to be a remarkable cave still existing near Sidon, which is mentioned by William of Tyre as having been fortified by the Crusaders. He speaks of it as municipium quoddam, and states that it was commonly known as the "cave of Tyre." "spelunca inexpugnabilis." It was afterwards "the last retreat of the Emir Fakkr-ed-Din" (Vandevelde, s.v. Mearah). There is a village now, north of Sidon, called Mog-heiriyeh, or the village of the cave. So also Kuobel. Beside the Sidonians. Rather, near, or in the direction of, or which belong to the Sidonians. Aphek. Or Aphekah. This (Knobel) was the northern Aphek (Joshua 19:30; Judges 1:31), in the tribe of Asher, known later as Aphaca, and now as Afka. Not the Aphekah of Joshua 15:53, probably the Aphek of 1 Samuel 4:1. It is the same Aphek which in later times was captured by the Syrians, and was the scene of several decisive victories of Israel (1 Kings 20:26, 1 Kings 20:30; 2 Kings 13:17). It is doubtful which Aphek is meant in Joshua 12:18, though it is probably the southern Aphek. The situation is described as one of "rare beauty" (Delitzsch), "on the north.west slopes of Lebanon," amid exquisite groves (Conder). Here the Syrian Astarte was worshipped, and the ruins of her temple, dedicated to her as mourning for Tammuz, or Adonis, may still be seen. See Kenrick, 'Phoenicia,' 310, 311, and Mover's 'Die Phonizier,' 1.192. Perhaps it was never actually occupied by the Asherites, but remained in the hands of Syria, and as a place of great resort was the natural point to which the attacks of Israel would be directed. Vandevelde, however, believes in four and Conder in seven cities of this name, and they suppose the Aphek which was the scene of the battle with the Syrians to have been on the east of Jordan, from the occurrence of the word "Mishor" in the narrative in 1 Kings 20:1-43. The term "Mishor" is, however, applied to other places beside the territory east of Jordan (see Gesenius, s.v. Mishor). The Aphek in 1 Samuel 29:1 cannot be identified with any that have been named. To the borders of the Amorites. This can hardly be anything but the northern border of the kingdom of Bashan, in the neighbourhood of Mount Hermon.

Joshua 13:5

The Giblites. The inhabitants of Gebal, called Jebail (i.e; hill city, from Jebel) by the Arabs, and Byblus by the Greeks. This is Masius's idea, and other commentators have accepted it (see 1 Kings 5:1-32; Psalms 83:7; and Ezekiel 27:9, where the LXX. translates by Byblus). In the first named passage the word is translated "stone squarers," in our version (where it is the 18th and not the 32nd verse). All the other versions render "Giblites" as here, and no doubt the inhabitants of the Phoenician city of Jebail are meant, since in the ruins of Jebail the same kind of masonry is found as is seen in Solomon's temple. Byblus was the great seat of the worship of Tammuz, or Adonis. Here his father Cinyras was supposed to have been king, and the licentious worship, with its corrupting influences, was spread over the whole region of Lebanon and even Damascus. This territory was never actually occupied by the Israelites (see for this passage also Joshua 11:8, Joshua 11:17; and Joshua 12:7). Hamath. The spies penetrated nearly as far as this (Numbers 42:21), and David reduced the land into subjection as far as the borders of this territory. But the Israelites never subdued it. Toi, king of Hamath, was an ally, not a tributary of David (2 Samuel 8:9). The border of Israel is always described as extending "to the entering in of Hamath" (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Kings 14:25), though Jeroboam II. is said to have "recovered" (Joshua 13:28) Hamath itself. This "entering in of Hamath" commences at the end of the region called Coele Syria, according to Robinson, 'Later Biblical Researches,' sec. 12, at the northeast end of the Lebanon range. So Vandevelde and Porter. Vandevelde remarks that the expression refers to an "entrance formed by Nature herself," namely, the termination of the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges. The city of Hamath, which gave its name to the territory, is situated on the Orontes, and was known later as Epiphaneia, no doubt after Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria.

Joshua 13:6

All the Sidonians. The word כֹל here, as elsewhere, must be taken in a restricted sense. A large portion of the Sidonian territory was taken, but Sidon retained its independence (see Judges 1:31, Judges 1:32). It is clear, too, that the promise was conditional. Had not the Asherites been willing to tolerate the existence of the Canaanites in their midst, they need not have done so (see Judges 1:28).

Joshua 13:8

With whom. Literally, with him. The construction is defective, but the meaning is clear enough. To avoid the repetition of the words "the half tribe of Manasseh," the historian writes עִמּוֹ meaning thereby the other half of the tribe.

Joshua 13:9

Aroer. Three, or even four, cities of this name were known, and have been identified by modern travellers under names somewhat similar.

1. Aroer upon Aruon, on the north bank of that river, at the extreme south of the territory of Reuben (see Deuteronomy 2:36; Deuteronomy 3:12; Deuteronomy 4:48; Joshua 12:2; Joshua 13:9, Joshua 13:16; and probably Jeremiah 48:19).

2. Aroer in Gad (Joshua 13:25), described there as "before," i.e; on the way to "Rabbah." It was no doubt some short distance to the westward of this chief city of the Ammonites (see also Numbers 32:34, where the Gadites are said to have built it). These two are probably the "cities of Aroer" referred to in Isaiah 17:2 (but see next note but one, where also 2 Samuel 24:5 will be discussed).

3. A city in Judah (1 Samuel 30:28).

To one of these cities probably belonged Shammah or Shammoth, the Hararite or Harorite (2 Samuel 23:11; he is called Harodite in 2 Samuel 23:25, and 1 Chronicles 11:27). The river Arnon (see note on Joshua 12:2). The city that is in the midst of the river. This city (or perhaps cities) has received but little attention from commentators, probably by reason of its bearing no name. Those who have tried to identify it have failed In Deuteronomy 2:36, in this passage, and in 2 Samuel 24:5, it is mentioned in connection with Aroer. In Joshua 7:2, instead of "the city that is in the midst of the river," we find simply "the middle (תוֹךְ) of the river." But as 2 Samuel 24:5 stands in our version, the city referred to stood in the middle of the river of Gad. This would suggest the idea that the old derivation of Aroer by Wells and others from the word עִיר (city) doubled, with the signification of the double city, is nearer the mark than that of wasteness, or desolateness, or nakedness, as of a region bare of trees, which has found favour of late, and it is not without support in Hebrew forms. A city, moreover, in the midst of or "on the brink of" a winter torrent would be less likely to be waste or desolate than in other situations. But we are not yet at the end of our difficulties. The word Nahal, which comes before Gad in the passage of which we are now speaking, has the article. Thus the translation, "river of Gad" cannot be maintained. And besides, the enumeration of the people must have begun at the Arnon, or southern border of Israel beyond Jordan. It is possible that the text may be corrupt here, as it is in other parts of 2 Samuel, and possibly the meaning may be that the officers pitched in Aroer, passed through Reuben, and having come within the confines of Gad arrived at Jazer. This again is rendered doubtful by the close connection of Aroer and Jazer in Joshua 13:25. It is of course, therefore, possible that the reference in 2 Samuel 24:1-25. is to the Jabbok, not the Arnon ravine. A question, of such intricacy can only be Settled, if settled at all, by an investigation on. the spot. The plain. The word here is מִישׁוֹר. This derived from the root יָשָׁר signifies level ground, and is applied to the region north of Moab, especially that part of it which belonged to Reuben. Flat, and almost unbroken, even by trees, it was particularly adapted for grazing land (see also note above, and on 2 Samuel 24:4). Medeba. This is mentioned in Scripture, together with Dibon, as here in Numbers 21:30; Isaiah 15:2. It was on the level ground before mentioned (see Gesenius, s.v. מִישׁוֹר). Dibon (see Jeremiah 48:18, Jeremiah 48:22, called Dimon in Isaiah 15:9; but Dibon in Isaiah 15:2; see also Numbers 33:45, Numbers 33:46). It was one of the cities built by the children of Gad (Numbers 32:34). It is now called Dhiban, and is a short distance north of the Arnon. The Moabite stone, found at Dibon in 1868, mentions the occupation of Medeba by Omri, and implies that Dibon, the principal city in those parts, was also subject to him, but recovered finally by Mesha.

Joshua 13:11

Geshurltes and Maachathites. See note on Joshua 12:5, of which this passage is little else but a repetition.

Joshua 13:12

Giants. See note on Joshua 12:4.

Joshua 13:14

Only unto the tribe of Levi. See Numbers 18:20-24, where the original command is recorded. Like the clergy under the Christian dispensation, it was seen that they could not at once perform the duties of the priesthood, and act as instructors of the people, if they were burdened, like the rest, with the duty of carrying on war. Their place was supplied by the division of the tribe of Joseph into two, so that the inheritance of Israel was still divided among twelve tribes. Bahr, in his 'Symbolik des Alten Testaments,' 2:48, 49, gives other reasons for the dispersion of the Levites throughout the land. If the Levites were to keep the Law and Word of God, to take measures for its being properly kept by the nation in general, to spread abroad a knowledge of the precepts of the religion of Israel, to stir up the tribes to a devout and religious life, it was not merely desirable, but absolutely necessary, that they should be scattered among the tribes. On the other hand, to secure a proper esprit de corps, a mutual sustaining influence, and a common action, too complete a dispersion would have been a mistake. Hence their collection into the Levitical cities, which, however (see note on Joshua 21:11), were not given up wholly to them. The Divine wisdom which dictated the provisions of the Mosaic law is clearly visible here. The instinct of the Christian Church in early times devised a similar provision for the evangelisation of the people in the organisation of the ancient and mediaeval cathedrals. As he said unto them. This quotation of Numbers 18:20, Numbers 18:24 by a later writer would, under all ordinary circumstances, be regarded as a proof that the Book of Joshua was quoting one of the books of Moses. But the "Elohistic" and "Jehovistic" theory escapes this conclusion in the cumbrous fashion to which reference has been already made. Origen regards this passage as symbolical of the more spiritually earnest among the laity, who" so excel others invirtue of mind and grace of merits, as that the Lord should be called their inheritance." "How very rare," he says, "are those who devote themselves to wisdom and knowledge and preserve their mind clear and pure, and exercise their minds in all excellent virtues, who illuminate the way wherein they walk for simpler souls by the grace of learning, and thus attain to salvation. They are the true priests and Levites, whose inheritance is the Lord, who is wisdom". The Sacrifices. The word is derived from אֵשׁ fire. It does not itself, as Keil asserts, signify fire in any place in Holy Writ, but it is used of the shewbread in Le Joshua 24:7, Joshua 24:9. It thus came to mean any sacrifice, whether offered by fire or not. And thus the tenth which (Numbers 18:21, Numbers 18:23, Numbers 18:24) was given to the Levites, as being offered for God's service, might be reckoned as in some sense a sacrifice. With this passage we may compare various passages in the New Testament, where, in this respect at least, the Christian ministry stands on the same footing (1 Corinthians 9:11, 1 Corinthians 9:13; Galatians 6:6, Galatians 6:7). Thus the maintenance of the Christian ministry is a kind of sacrifice—as we find such deeds called, in fact, in Hebrews 13:16. And an order of men who are set apart to the ministry of souls has a right to claim a sufficient maintenance at the hands of those to whom they minister—a point which in these days of affluence and clerical destitution combined ought to be more largely recognised than it is (see Numbers 18:20-24). "For the law is entrusted to the priests and Levites, and they devote their energies to this alone, and without any anxiety are able to give their time to the Word of God. But that they may be able to do this, they ought to depend upon the support of the laity. For if the laity do not allow the priests and Levites all the necessaries of life, they would be obliged, to engage themselves in temporal occupations, and would thus have less time for the law of God. And when they had no time to spare for the study of God's law, it is thou who wouldst be in danger. For the light of knowledge that is in them would grow dim, because thou hast given no oil for the lamp, and through thy fault it would come to pass, what the Lord said, 'If the blind lead the blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch?'". These words are well worthy of attention now, when a multiplicity of worldly business and a weight of worldly cares are devolved upon God's ministers by a laity which has to too great an extent washed its hands of all cooperation in the work of God's Church.

Joshua 13:15

Reuben. This passage is an expansion of Numbers 32:33-42. We learn from it that the Israelites actually took possession of this land. But in the reigns of the wicked kings Omri and Ahab the power of Israel declined, and after the battle of Ramoth-Gilead, and the defeat and death of Ahab, the Moabites succeeded in shaking off the Israelitish yoke, and in wresting from Israel moreover a considerable portion of the territory of Sihon. In the next reign an attempt was made to regain possession of the lost territory. We learn from the Moabite stone that the important towns here mentioned, Medeba, Dibon, Baalmeon, Kiriathaim (or Kirjathalm, as it is here called), Ataroth, Nebo, Aroer, had fallen into the hands of Mesha at the rebellion, and that he had erected a citadel at Dibon, which had become his capital. Hence the endeavour to invade Moab from the south, recorded in 1 Kings 3:1-28; which, however, though successful as a military promenade, was attended with no permanent results. For Isaiah (Isaiah 15:1-9)and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:1-47) mention most of these places, as well as Elealeh and Heshbon, the former capital of Sihon, as being strongholds of the Moabite power. Jahaz, too, the place where Sihon gave battle of the Israelites, is numbered by Mesha, as well as at a later date by Isaiah and Jeremiah, among the possessions of Moab; while Horonaim, mentioned among the Moabite cities by the two prophets, is incidentally noticed by Mesha as having been captured from the Edomites. In this early extinction of the tribe of Reuben we may see the fulfilment of Jacob's prophecy (Genesis 49:1-33). The plain by Medeba. See verse 10; so again in the next verse.

Joshua 13:17

Bamoth Baal. The high places or altars of Baal. The frequent mention of Baal in this passage shows how common the worship of Baal was in Palestine. The Moabites worshipped him under the name of Chemosh, to whom Mesha, on the Moabite stone, attributes all his victories (cf. Numbers 21:29; Jdg 11:24; 1 Kings 11:7, 1 Kings 11:33. So Beth-Peor below (cf. Numbers 25:3).

Joshua 13:19

Sibmah (see Numbers 32:38). The vine of Sibmah forms a feature in the lament of Isaiah (Isaiah 16:8) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 48:32) over Moab. It was close by Heshbon, on the borders of Reuben and Gad. Zareth-shahar, or the splendour of the dawn, now garar, was on the borders of the Dead Sea. Canon Tristram, in his 'Land of Moab,' mentions the gorgeous colouring of the landscape here, more beautiful and varied, no doubt, at dawn than at any other time of the day.

Joshua 13:21

Cities of the plain. "Mishor" once more. See above, Joshua 13:9, not as in Genesis 19:1-38; where the word is Ciccar. These, therefore, were not Sodom and its neighbours, but cities of the Amorites. Such touches as this, which display the minute acquaintance of our author with his subject, are almost of a necessity lost in a translation. But where our version has "plain," the original has Mishor when the uplands of Gilead and Bashan are meant, Arabah when the writer is speaking of the Wadys in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea, Shephelah when he refers to the lowlands of Western palestine, bordering on the Mediterranean, Bik'ah when he speaks of the great valley of Coele Syria, Ciccar when he speaks of the territory due north of Jordan. With the princes of Midian. The word here used, נְשִׂיא signifies exalted persons, persons of rank, as we should say. It would seem to imply rather civil functions than the more absolute authority which the word שַׂר also rendered "prince" in Hebrew, carries with it. With this passage compare Numbers 31:8. The Hebrew has no "with," so that the difficulty some have found in the passage need not have arisen. It is nowhere said that Moses smote the "princes of Midian" together with Sihon. All that is stated is that they, as well as Sihon, were smitten, as the history in Numbers tells us they were. Dukes of Sihon. According to Gesenius, Rosenmiiller, and others, the word here translated "dukes" is derived from נָסַךְ to pour out, means "anointed." See Psalm if. 6, where it is translated "set." But Keil rejects this interpretation, and says that the word never signifies to anoint. It is always used, he says, of foreign princes. But he has overlooked Micah 5:4 (Hebrews). See Knobel, who explains it of drink offerings, and regards these "dukes" as men pledged by a solemn treaty to be Sihon's allies, though not vassals. Kimchi thinks that Sihon, before his reverses at the hand of Israel, had held some authority in Midian, and these were his prefects, or under-kings. The term is applied to Zebah and Zalmunna in Psalms 83:12 (in the Hebrew).

Joshua 13:22

The soothsayer. Or diviner, one who pretended to foretell future events. Balaam, it would seem, instead of returning to his own land, went to visit the Midianites, whose elders had joined in the invitation given by Moab (Numbers 22:7), and persuaded them to entice the Israelites into idolatry and licentiousness (see Numbers 25:1-18) For this crime he met with the punishment he had deserved, and was involved in the destruction which fell on the Midianites by God's express command, in consequence of their treachery (Numbers 25:16-18. See Blunt, 'Undesigned Coincidences,' Part I. 24)

Joshua 13:23

And the border thereof. These words have been omitted in the Vulgate, which does not understand them. The LXX. translates, "And the borders of Reuben were the Jordan-border." This seems to be the meaning of the original. The phrase often occurs, as in Joshua 15:12 and Numbers 34:6. Knobel's explanation is probably the correct one, that the phrase means to refer to the natural boundary marked out by the river or sea and its banks. "The boundary of the children of Reuben was Jordan and the natural boundary thus formed." As Dean Stanley reminds us in his 'Lectures on the Jewish Church,' Reuben, as predicted by Jacob (Genesis 49:4), sank at once into insignificance. No ruler, no judge arose from this tribe and its territory. Villages. Hebrew חַצְרֵי, LXX. ἐπαύλεις, Vulgate viculi. The original meaning is a piece of ground enclosed by a hedge or wall. Here it would mean,either with Gesenins and Keil, farm hamlets, or perhaps clearings of cultivated ground, which in Palestine would naturally be enclosed in some way, to prevent the ravages of wild beasts. In the primitive villages of Servia, where wild beasts are not entirely extirpated, not only are all the homesteads enclosed, but a fence is placed across the road, and removed when a vehicle has to pass through. Or perhaps the primitive Jewish community was similar to the primitive Teutonic community as described by Marshall in his 'Elementary and Practical Treatise on Landed Property,' published in 1804, who described the early distribution of land in this country as follows: "Round the village lay a few small enclosures for rearing young stock. Further a field the best land for arable purposes was chosen, and divided into three parts, for the necessary, rotation of fallow, wheat or rye, and spring crops. The meadows near the water courses were set aside for the growth of fodder for the cattle or for pasturage for milch cows, etc. The irreclaimable lands were left for what we now call 'common' uses for fuel, and the inferior pasturage." These arrangements are found to exist in India (see Sir H. Maine, 'Village Communities,' sec. 4). But there, as in Palestine, the necessity for water was the cause of important modifications. Since the word is used to denote the court

(1) of a prison, Jeremiah 32:2;

(2) of a palace, 1 Kings 7:8;

(3) of a private house, 2 Samuel 17:18;

(4) of the temple in numberless places,

and as it is used of the enclosure of a nomadic camp (Genesis 25:16, where our version has towns; perhaps Deuteronomy 2:23, where our version has Hazerim, following the LXX.—which, however, alters the word to the more usual Hazeroth—and the Vulgate; Isaiah 42:11, with which compare the expression tents of Kedar, Psalms 120:5), the translation villages can hardly be the correct one here or elsewhere (see also 2 Samuel 17:28).

Joshua 13:24

Unto the tribe of Gad. The border of Gad extended further eastward than that of Reuben. Westward, of course, its border was the Jordan. Its northern border was nearly coincident with that of the land of Gilead, and passed by Maha-naim and Jabesh Gilead, unto the extreme southernmost point of the sea of Galilee. Many of these places also are mentioned in Isaiah 15:1-9 and Jeremiah 48:1-47. (see note above, Jeremiah 48:16).

Joshua 13:25

Aroer that is before Rabbah. A different Aroer to that mentioned in Joshua 13:9. This was near (Hebrew, opposite to, the expression being equivalent to the French en face) Rabbah, or the great city of the children of Ammon. Keil supposes that this territory had been taken from the Ammonites by Sihon, since the Israelites were not permitted to possess themselves of the land of the Ammonites (Deuteronomy 2:19). For Rabbah, see 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26. It is called Rabbath in Deuteronomy 3:11.

Joshua 13:26

Ramath-Mizpeh. This is idenitified with Ramoth-Gilead by Vandevelde, and must have been the Mizpeh of Gilead mentioned in Judges 11:29. It is supposed to be identical with the place called Mizpah, Galeed, and Jegar-sahadutha by Jacob and Laban respectively (Genesis 31:47-49). If it be the same as Ramoth-Gilead, it is the scene of the celebrated battle against the Syrians, in which Ahab lost his life (1 Kings 22:1-53), and where the fall of the dynasty of Omri was brought about by the revolt of Jehu (2 Kings 9:1-37). Conder, however, thinks the two are distinct places, and fixes Ramoth-Mizpeh on the north border of Gad, about 25 reties west of Bozrah.

Mahanaim The dual of מַהֲנהֶ two hosts or camps. It received its name from Jacob, who with his own company met the angels of God, and who commemorated the meeting by this name (see Genesis 32:2). Here Ishbesheth was crowned (2 Samuel 2:8). Here David took refuge when he crossed the Jordan, to avoid falling into the hands of Absalom (2 Samuel 17:24). Debir. Not the Debir mentioned in Judges 10:1-18; but another Debir in the land of Gilead, whose site is unknown.

Joshua 13:27

The valley. The Emek (see Joshua 8:13). Beth-Nimrah (see Numbers 32:36). Afterwards Nimrim (Isaiah 15:6; Jeremiah 48:34). Now Nimrin. Succoth. i.e; booths. Here Jacob rested after his meeting with Esau (Genesis 33:17). Here Gideon "taught the men of Succoth," who had declined to provide food for his army (Judges 8:5, Judges 8:7, Judges 8:16). It is mentioned in connection with Zarthan, or Zaretan (cf. Joshua 3:16) as being in the tract or כִכַּר of the Jordan, where the metal work of the temple was cast (1 Kings 7:46; 2 Chronicles 4:17). Zaphon. Perhaps, and the North; what remained of the kingdom of Sihon, i.e; as is implied above, the part which was not assigned to Reuben. Jordan and his border. Literally, Jordan and a border (see note on Joshua 13:23). The edge. Rather, the end (see note on Joshua 13:24).

Joshua 13:28

This is the inheritance of the children of Gad. The cause of the difference between the Reubenites and the Gadites may perhaps be thus explained. While both inhabited a similar tract of country, a country from its open and pastoral character likely to develop a hardy and healthy race of men, the Reubenites were exposed to the seductions of the Moabitish worship of Chemosh, which, when combined with an ancestral temperament by no means prone to resist such influences (see Genesis 49:4), soon proved fatal to a tribe, itself not numerous (Deuteronomy 33:6), and hemmed in on every side but the north by the unbelievers. The temperament inherited by the Gadites added to their more favourable situation and the nature of their pursuits, developed a hardy and warlike race ready to do battle, and fearless of their foes (1 Chronicles 5:18). Of this tribe came the valiant Jephthah, and of it also came the brave soldiers of David, whose qualifications stir to poetry the sober chronicler of Judah (1 Chronicles 12:8). We may see here the influence of circumstances on the character of a people. Originally (1 Chronicles 5:18) the Reubenites and the Gadites were alike. But the Reubenites, as we have seen, from unfavourable surroundings, lost the character which the Gadites, more favourably situated, were enabled to preserve. And the distinctions of tribes, producing as they did a separate esprit de corps in each tribe, will serve to explain why one tribe did not immediately succumb to influences which proved fatal to another. In the end, as we know, all the people of Gad fell victims to the temptations which surrounded them, and, save in the case of Levi, Judah, and Benjamin, and the few faithful Israelites who went over to them, irrevocably. The same phenomenon may be observed in the history of nations generally. As long as their manners were simple and their morals pure, they have preserved their liberty, and in many cases have acquired empire. As soon as their bodies were enervated by luxury, and their minds corrupted by vice, they fell a prey to foes whom formerly they would have despised. Thus fell the Greek and Boman republics, thus the Britons became an easy prey to the Saxons, and the Saxons to the Danes. In every instance the history of a tribe and of a nation serves to illustrate the maxim that "righteousness exalteth a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people."

Joshua 13:29

The halftribe of Manasseh. The word used for "tribe" in the first and second half of this verse is not the same. Some German critics have derived an argument for the hypothesis that the historical and geographical portions of the book are not by the same hand, from the supposed fact that the former of these words is used almost exclusively in the first, or historical portion, and the latter in the second, or geographical portion, of the book. The word "almost" would be almost sufficient to overthrow the theory, but this verse is an insuperable objection to it. Is it seriously contended that one half of this verse is taken from one author, and the other from another? Or is it possible that the writer of the book may actually have understood the language he was using, and meant to use the two words in somewhat different senses? Gesenius, it is true, would explain the words as being precisely synonymous. But his own etymological remarks are fatal to his theory. מטה the latter of the two words, is a bough, or shoot (derived from a word signifying to grow), capable of throwing out blossoms (Ezekiel 7:10). It refers, therefore, to the natural descent of the tribe from Manasseh their father. But שבט is allied to שׁפט; to judge, and the Greek σκήπτρον, and perhaps the English shaft, and signifies a rod as the emblem of authority. Thus it is used in Genesis 49:10, of a royal sceptre. So Psalms 2:9, an iron sceptre, Psalms 45:6. Thus the latter word has reference to the tribe as an organised community, the former to it in reference to its ancestral derivation. This view would seem to be supported by verse 24, where the מטה of Gad is further explained to mean his sons and their families, as well as by this verse, where the שׁבט is used absolutely, the מטה in connection with the family

Joshua 13:30

The towns of Jair. Literally, Havoth-Jair, as in Numbers 32:41; Deuteronomy 3:14. The word חַיִּת is derived from חוה to live, and the word is compared by Gesenius to the names Eisleben and the like in Germany. So we use the phrase "five," as synonymous with "dwell." Why the term is confined to these particular cities is not known. Gesenius regards it as equivalent to "nomadic encampment." But the ruins of the giant cities of Bashan, recently rediscovered in our own time, and displaying all the signs of high civilisation, dispose of this idea. These cities are mentioned in Deuteronomy 3:4 as "threescore cities, all the region of Argob," and again in Deuteronomy 3:13, "all the region of Argob with all Bashan, which is called the land of giants." "To the east he (Abraham) would leave the barren and craggy fatnesses of the formidable Argob, still (i.e; in Abraham's time, not Joshua's) the asylum of the fiercest outlaws; and would jealously avoid the heathen haunts in groves and on high places where smoke arose to the foul image, and the frantic dance swept round.". Threescore cities (cf. Joshua 17:1). It was the martial character, as well as the half tribe of Manasseh, that qualified him to receive and subdue this important territory with its wide extent and teeming population. In the article on Manasseh in Smith's 'Dictionary of the Bible,' reference is made to the fact that, while Ephraim only sent 20,800, and Western Manasseh 18,000, Reuben, Gad, and Eastern Manasseh sent the immense number of 120,000, and this while Abner, the supporter of Ishbosheth, had his headquarters at Mahanaim. But the numbers are suspicious, especially when Judah, always a powerful tribe, comes below the insignificant tribe of Simeon in number. And a comparison of 2 Samuel 5:1 with 1 Chronicles 12:22, 1 Chronicles 12:23, would lead to the idea that the coronation of David after the death of Ishbosheth is the event referred to (see also 1 Chronicles 12:38-40).

Joshua 13:31

The one half of the children of Machir. See this question fully discussed in note on Joshua 17:5, Joshua 17:6.

Joshua 13:32

Moses (see Numbers 22:1; Numbers 34:15). Plains. Hebrew, Araboth (see Joshua 3:16)


Chap 13-14:5

The allotment of the inheritance.

I. THERE COMES A TIME WHEN WE MUST GIVE PLACE TO OTHERS. Joshua felt that his end was drawing nigh, and most likely, since we are not told otherwise, as in the ease of Moses, his natural force was abated. So with ourselves. We cannot expect to see the end of our work. We must do what God has set before us, and leave results to Him. Yet we, unlike Joshua, need not fear the failure of our efforts. The law could not make its votaries perfect; but the bringing in of a better hope did. In this later dispensation no work shall altogether fail of its effect if done to God.

II. WE MUST "SET OUR HOUSE IN ORDER" BEFORE WE GO HENCE. Though Joshua had to leave the completion of the task to others, he did not fall to put it in train. So we, when we have begun a good work, are bound to make proper and reasonable provision for its being carried on when God warns us that our time draws nigh. We are not to expect God to work miracles where our own reason would suffice. We must leave the result to God, but not until we have done all in our power to procure the fulfilment of His will. We must leave proper directions behind us to indicate what our wishes are, and a proper organisation, so far as possible, to carry out our purposes. We find nothing left to God in the Bible but what is plainly beyond the reach of man.

III. GOD ASSIGNS TO EACH MAN HIS PORTION. In parcelling out the land of Israel, Joshua is a type of Christ, "dividing to each man severally as He will." The various powers and faculties we have, bodily, mental, spiritual, are given us by God. Each one has his own proper share, according to the work God requires of him. There must be no murmuring or disputing. The foot must not ask why he is not the hand, nor the hand why he is not the head. Each has his own proper portion of the good gifts of God, and according as he has so will it be required of them. All murmurings were hushed in Israel because Joshua committed the disposal of the inheritance to the Lord. We are equally bound to refrain from discontent because it is clear that God has portioned out the gifts of the spiritual Israel One man has wealth, another strength, another intellect, another imagination, another wisdom, another energy, another power over others, or these various gifts are apportioned in various degrees for God's own purposes. Let none think of questioning the wisdom of the award.

IV. GOD'S MINISTERS ARE TO BE DEPENDENT UPON THEIR FLOCKS FOR SUPPORT. Such is the meaning of St. Paul when he speaks of the double honour (no doubt in a pecuniary sense, as we use the word "honorarium") to be given to the elders who rule well. In consequence of their special aptitude for the work, they were to be relieved from the burden of their own maintenance, that they might be able to devote more time to the supervision of the flock. Not necessarily that each minister should be maintained by his own flock, for he might be thereby deterred from speaking faithfully to them in the name of Christ. We do not find that each individual priest and Levite was maintained by some special synagogue of the Jews. But they who ministered in holy things lived of the sacrifice nevertheless. The offerings made at the temple at Jerusalem formed a general fund out of which the tribe of Levi was maintained, as its members went up by rotation to perform the duties of their office. And beside this, a proper number of cities was provided them, with a share, most probably (see note on Joshua 21:12), in the privileges of their fellow citizens, of the tribe to which the land belonged. This ample provision for the ministers under the old law is in striking contrast, save in some special instances, to the provision made by Christians for their ministers now. A due maintenance for their clergy was one of the special characteristics of the Jewish religious system.. According to the principles laid down by the apostles of Christ, and always acted upon, save in some special instances, it was an equally marked characteristic of the Christian Church.

V. GOD IS THE PORTION OF HIS MINISTERS. A great comfort for those who are in straitened circumstances, as many are. They may remember the words, "I have been young and now am old, yet saw I never the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging their bread." If they abstain from murmuring, rigidly adapt their expenditure to their means, careless of appearances, careful only to do right, they wilt find their reward in God's love and favour. He will be in truth their portion. Having food and raiment, they will be therewith content, for they will have abundance of spiritual blessings, the reward of an approving conscience, and the respect of all right thinking men. Nor is the promise confined only to those who lack the good things of this life, but it is given to those who, by God's disposition possessing them, know how to use them. All God's ministers who love and serve Him shall have Him as their portion, and they will treasure this above all earthly goods. "They that fear Him lack nothing." The Lord is the strength of their life, and their portion forever.


Joshua 13:1

Life ending and the work not done.

The rest of the land from war, then (Joshua 12:23), was not that of final and completed victory. It was only a temporary truce. The whole land was not yet in the possession of Israel, but enough of it was subdued to prove God's absolute sovereignty over it. And now rest is needful to review the field and secure the ends that have been so far gained. Joshua is too old any longer to carry on the strife, but there is a work that he can do, and which must be done, before he is gathered to his fathers—the division of the land which in the Divine purpose, if not as an accomplished fact, is already Israel's inheritance. Note here—

I. THE HONOURED ENDING OF A LIFE OF NOBLE DEVOTION TO THE SERVICE OF GOD. There is no Divine approval of Joshua's fidelity actually expressed here, but the spirit of it seems plainly to breathe through these words. It is as if God said to him, "Thou art old; thy work of life is done—done faithfully and well—now rest; review thy path of service; gather up the fruits of it; set thy last seal to the truth of My word of promise, and enter into thy reward." Old age has great dignity and beauty in it when it crowns a life of earnest practical godliness. "The hoary head is a crown of glory, etc." (Proverbs 16:31). Like the rich glow of autumn when the fields have yielded their precious store to the hand of the reaper, and the song of harvest home is sung; like the golden sunset closing a day of mingled brightness and gloom, giving assurance of a glorious rising in the world beyond; such is the halo that surrounds the head of one of God's veterans. Think of the moral grandeur of the Apostle Paul's position when, in view of his past life work, and in prospect of its eternal issues, he could say, "I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight," etc. (2 Timothy 4:6-8). Such honour, in their measure, have all those who consecrate their days with whole-hearted devotion to the service of the Lord.

II. THE FAILURE OF THE LONGEST AND THE NOBLEST LIFE COMPLETELY TO FULFIL ITS OWN HIGH AIMS. "There yet remaineth very much land to be possessed." This is not said in reproach of Joshua. He had accomplished the work to which God had called him. But it reminds us that; however rich a human life may be in the fruits of practical devotion, it is after all but a contribution towards the full working out of the Divine purpose—small, feeble, fragmentary indeed in comparison with the grandeur of God's providential plan. Great as may be the victories it has achieved, it leaves "much land yet to be possessed." More. over, the noblest spirit fails to reach its own ideal, the most fruitful life falls to realise its own aspirations. Human life at the best is but a tale half told, a song that dies away into silence when only a few timid notes have sounded. It is but a beginning, in which the foundation is laid of works that it is left to other hands to furnish, and purposes are born that find elsewhere their actual unfolding. How many a man in dying has had a painful sense of having fallen far short, not only of the diviner possibilities of his life, but even of the realisation of the hopes that inspired him in his earlier years. There is always a touch of sadness in the autumn gleam.

"The clouds that gather round the setting sun
Do take a sober colouring from an eye
That hath kept watch o'er man's mortality;"

because they remind us of the brevity of our life day, and reflect the vanishing glory of so many of its fairest dreams. Full as it may have been of high endeavour and grand achievement, how much remains undone! "There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed." This is capable of many applications.

(1) As regards science. Marvellous as its progress has been, how many undiscovered secrets has Nature still locked up in her bosom!

(2) As regards the practical uses of life. God has made man "to have dominion over the works of His hands;" but what vast resources of the material world still remain unutilised in His service!

(3) As regards personal spiritual development. The best of us fall sadly short of the Scripture standard of character. When good men die, how far off still appears to them the goal of Divine perfection—like the horizon that seems to recede and widen and become more unapproachably glorious as we reach forth towards it.

(4) As regards the progress and consummation of the kingdom of God among men. Its triumphs thus far have been very wonderful, but how much remains yet to be done! How far as yet are the kingdoms of this world from having become "the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ"! How small the circle of light as compared with the vast outlying realms of darkness comparatively few of those who profess the faith of Christ, knowing anything of the living power of it, two-thirds of the human race being still heathen.

III.THE STEADFASTNESS OF THE DIVINE PURPOSE, in spite of the decay, one after another, of the instruments by which it is accomplished. Much land remains to be possessed, and it shall be possessed though Joshua pass away from the scene of conflict. "Them will I drive out from before the children of Israel (verse 6). God raises up men to take their particular part in His great work, some more prominent, some less, but He is independent alike of all The fall of His heroes on the field of battle in no way checks the onward march of the great unseen Captain of the host to final victory. All true leaders in the holy war point us, alike in their life and in their death, to Him whose presence is never withdrawn, whose years fail not, whose eye never becomes dim, whose force is never abated. In following their faith, and considering how their "conversation" ended, let us not forget that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, and today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:7, Hebrews 13:8).—W.


Joshua 13:1

Old age.

The most active servant of God may be overtaken by old ago before he has completed what he believes to be the task of his life. This fact suggests various reflections.


(1) We must not postpone the commencement of work. Joshua began to serve God in his youth; yet Iris work was not finished in his old age.

(2) We must not be satisfied with any amount of work done. Joshua had accomplished great things, but much remained undone.

(3) We must not be willing to work at intervals or with wastefulness of time. The work of life is too great for the longest, most earnest life. Time is short; the day of work will soon pass. "Work while it is day" (John 9:4).

II. IN GOD'S SIGHT THAT LIVE IS FINISHED WHICH HAS ACCOMPLISHED ALL WITHIN ITS POWER. Life is long enough for all that God requires of us. We may not be able to do all we wish, all we set before ourselves, all that appears to be needed, all that we think it our duty to do. But God apportions our duty according to our opportunities. Therefore in His eyes the broken, unfinished life is really finished if all is done for which opportunities have been given.

III. GOD JUDGES US BY FAITHFULNESS, NOT BY SUCCESS. It is not they who effect much, but they who serve truly, whom God accepts. We cannot command success. The finishing of our work is not in our hands. We can be faithful (Luke 16:10).

IV. THE UNFINISHED EARTHLY LIFE IS A PROPHECY OF A FUTURE LIFE. Our aspirations exceed our capacities. It is not simply that we desire the unattainable; but we are conscious of duties which reach beyond present opportunities, and of possibilities within us which the limits of life prevent us from developing. If God is too wise to waste His gifts and too good to deceive His children, we may take the broken life, and still more the incomplete life even of old age, as mute prophecies of a larger life beyond.

V. IN THE FUTURE LIFE THERE WILL BE NO OLD AGE. The pain of declining powers, of insufficient time, and of all other limits of earthly life will be gone. Eternity will give leisure for all service. The eternal life will not grow old, but flourish in perpetual youth.

VI. IT IS A PROVIDENTIAL BLESSING THAT GREAT MEN SHOULD NOT BE ABLE TO FINISH THE WORK THEY SET BEFORE THEMSELVES. It is well that they should leave work for smaller men. The necessity thus created becomes a stimulus to others. When one falls, another is raised to continue his work (John 4:37, John 4:38).

VII. NO MAN FULFILS EVEN SO MUCH OF LIFE'S WORE AS COMES WITHIN HIS POWERS. At best we are unprofitable servants; but we are all also negligent and slothful. We have left undone many things which we ought to have done. None of us can say with Christ, "It is finished." Therefore we should review our lives with humility, contrition, and repentance, seeking forgiveness for the failings of the past and more grace for the duties of the future.

VIII. CHRIST'S WORK ALONE IS THE GROUND OF ACCEPTANCE BY GOD. Our work is unfinished. It is faulty for the negligence it proves. It can earn us nothing on its own merits. Christ's work is finished. On this our faith can rest. Then we may offer our own imperfect work to God through Christ, and He will transform it for us by lifting it into the light of His merits, till it will be worthy as dust shines like gold when the sunbeam passes through it.—W.F.A.


Joshua 13:2, Joshua 13:7

The land allotted, though not yet secured.

"There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed." "Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance"—form a somewhat strange pair of precepts. It seems as if Joshua was dividing what he had not got; and as if Israel were casting lots rather for perils than property. It is not quite so extreme as this. The point in the conquest was reached when nowhere was there a resistance needing a nation in arms to quell it. The several tribes were each strong enough to make good the conquest of their several heritages. The work of the nation as a nation was over. The work of each tribe had now to begin. Still there is some of the grandeur of a Divine method in giving us something that still needs conquering; enriching us with something for which some fighting still requires to be done. Look at it.

I. GOD'S GIFTS ARE GENERALLY HALF HOLDING AND HALF HOPE, All He imparts has this double character—it is always at once a possession and a responsibility His gifts resemble, say, a colonial estate needing to be cleared; a good house half built—requiring to be finished before it can be used; a mine requiring to be wrought. They are always of vast value to those who will develop their value; but of little to the indolent or timorous. For the same gift, accordingly, some will be devoutly thankful, some thankless. Hebron, given to Caleb on condition of clearing out the Anakim, seems a fee simple, unencumbered, and he rejoices at his fortune. "The wood" still harbouring the enemy seems to Ephraim for a while at least a doubtful possession. Some—the heroic—rejoiced with abounding gratitude over God's gifts; some—the indolent—deemed them so hopelessly encumbered as to be valueless. So that His gifts were great to the great-hearted, and little to the mean-spirited. God's gifts are ever of this kind. He gives daily bread, but only through the toil that wins it; saving grace, but only on condition of repentance and obedience which will use it. He gives not bags of either earthly or heavenly gold, but chances, opportunities, potentialities. "A little strength and an open door" gives the power of making our own blessed destinies, is God's usual gift to all as well as the Church at Philadelphia. His grace is power to win character; not a certain pulp which, without effect, shapes itself into goodness; nay, it is something which we cannot keep except on the condition of getting more of it. The land divided is, in great part a land yet to be possessed. Observe secondly—

II. GOD'S METHOD IS THAT OF WISDOM AND OF MERCY. His gifts would not be blessings if action were needless for their improvement and enjoyment. That would then be stagnation of our powers with consequent enfeeblement. But the gift of that which requires enterprise and action, developes all qualities of strength, vigour, courage, self denial, self respect. Those who have no part in winning what they get generally lack power to keep it. Each tribe held with a stronger hand what it conquered for itself. The sense of possession was more secure, the enjoyment of it more perfect, If God were to give dignities instead of duties, enjoyments without responsibilities attached to them, how dull and earthly would His very gifts make us, In His mercy He gives us "high callings," "new commandments," "fights of faith to fight," and so developes all manliness and godliness. Do not murmur that your bit of the land of promise can only be got, secured, and enjoyed by fighting; it is the mercy of God that so orders it,

III. IN COUNTING OUR WEALTH WE SHOULD ALWAYS INCLUDE THE LAND NOT YET POSSESSED. God's Israel are always in this position. They have a little secure and grip of a great deal that needs still to be secured, but easily may be. "The good I have not tasted yet" was rightly included in her list of mercies by one of the sweet singers of our own day. With others "a bird in the hand may be worth "two in the bush;" with us, the "two in the bush"—being attainable—are to be discounted as of far greater worth. Caleb was thankful for the hill of Hebron, while yet the Anakim disputed its possession with him. Your land to be possessed is yours by title, by promise, by the power given you to win it. Be thankful for it and take it. In your gratitude remember the victories you have still to win; attainments which you yet will make; all the answers to your prayers that are on their way to you; the heavenly Canaan you yet will gain. For, though not yet "possessed," these are all yours by God's deed of gift, and we act wisely and devoutly only when we discount God's promises as being absolutely true and certain to be redeemed.—G.


Joshua 13:14, Joshua 13:33

The inheritance of Levi.


(1) They who devote themselves to the service of God must be prepared to make earthly sacrifices. We cannot serve God and mammon. If our service of God costs nothing it is worth nothing (Luke 14:33). Therefore count the cost (Luke 14:28).

(2) Earthly possessions distract our attention from heavenly service. Therefore it is hard for the rich to enter into the kingdom of heaven (Luke 18:24).

(3) It is right that they who have the care of souls should be freed from the care of earthly business.


(1) They who serve at the altar have a right to live by the altar (1 Corinthians 9:7). This is

(a) just (1 Corinthians 9:11),

(b) necessary for unhindered service, and

(c) not injurious to true devotion so long as the servant of God does not degrade his vocation into a trade by working for money instead of receiving money that he may have means for work.

(2) In contributing to the support of God's servants we are offering sacrifices to God. The sacrifices were the priests' and Levites' portion (Deuteronomy 18:1). We cannot benefit God by our gifts, but we can give to God through His servants (Matthew 25:40). It is our duty to provide in temporal things for those who minister to us in spiritual things. He who starves the ministers of Christ is as guilty as if he starved their Master (Matthew 25:45).

III. THE TRIBE OF LEVI FOUND ITS TRUE INHERITANCE IN GOD. The sacrificial gifts of the people were not its chief inheritance, but only the small necessary earthly portion of what it was to receive. Its true heritage was spiritual.

(1) The Christian minister should not regard the earthly returns which he receives for his service as his main reward. To do so is to commit the sin of simony. His real reward is spiritual.

(2) He who makes any sacrifice for God will be amply compensated in Divine riches.

(3) It is better to have God for our portion than any earthly inheritance (Psalms 73:26). To have God for an inheritance is

(a) to enjoy communion with Him;

(b) to be protected by Him;

(c) to live for His service.

This is the best inheritance, because

(a) it is satisfying to the soul, while the earthly inheritance is full of dissatisfaction, and can never supply our greatest wants;

(b) it is eternal; and

(c) it is pure and lofty.

Note: In the Christian Church, though there is diversity of orders (Romans 12:6-8) there is no distinction of caste. All Christians are called to the altar of sacrifice (Hebrews 13:10), all are to serve as priests of the temple (1 Peter 2:9), and all should find their true inheritance in God (1 Peter 1:4).—W.F.A.

Joshua 13:22

The fate of Balaam.

I. WHEN SPIRITUAL GIFTS ARE USED FOR UNSPIRITUAL PURPOSES THEY LOSE THEIR SPIRITUAL VALUE. In the Book of Numbers Balaam appears as a prophet inspired by God. In the Book of Joshua he is only named as a common soothsayer. All spiritual gifts, of insight, of power, of sympathy, are worthy only so long as they are well used. As they become degraded by evil uses they lose their Divine character and become mere talents of cleverness and ability.

II. THE ABUSE OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS FOR PERSONAL GAIN IS A SIN WHICH CANNOT GO UNPUNISHED. Balaam had sold his prophetic powers for money, consenting to use them on the side of evil and falsehood. Now his sin has found him out. He who receives great gifts incurs great responsibility. No spiritual power is bestowed for merely selfish uses. The greater the talents we abuse, the greater will be the judgment we shall invoke.

III. THE POSSESSION OF SPIRITUAL GIFTS IS NO GROUND FOR THE ASSURANCE OF PERSONAL SALVATION. Balaam had great gifts, yet he suffered the fate of the heathen. Our privileges are no proof of a Divine favour which will overlook our sins. Salvation comes not from the gifts of the Spirit, but from the grace of God in Christ. The least gifted has as good ground for salvation as the most highly endowed. Pulpit power, the "gift of prayer," theological insight, and religious susceptibilities may all be found in a Christless life, and if so they will be of no avail as grounds of merit in the day of judgment.

IV. THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE TRUTH ONLY INCREASES THE GUILT OF THOSE WHO WILL NOT FOLLOW IT. Balaam knew the true God and the way of right. But not living according to his knowledge, his guilt was aggravated, and his doom certain. It is worse than useless to know Christian truth unless we obey it (James 1:22-24). The faith in Christ which secures to us salvation is net the bare intellectual belief in the doctrines of redemption (James 2:19), but submissive trust and loyal obedience to Christ as both Lord and Saviour (Mark 2:14).—W.F.A.


Joshua 13:22

God is patient in the exercise of His justice as well as in His compassions, for He is the Lord, with whom "a thousand years are as one day." He knows that His threatenings, like His promises, cannot fail. Of this we have a striking proof, both in the punishment which came upon Balsam, during the war for the conquest of Canaan, and in the blessing of Caleb.

I. For many years Balsam had been untrue to his own conscience, in going back to the idolatries of Canaan, after having been made for one day the organ of the most glorious oracles of the true God. He is thus an illustration of the truth that the baser passions of the heart, if not subdued, will always quench the clearest light of the intellect. Balsam chose wittingly the evil part. He plunged again into the corrupt practices of the heathen. For a long time it seemed to the eyes of men, who judge only by the appearance, that he had made the right choice. Was it not better to sit under his own vine and fig tree, and enjoy the riches heaped upon him by Balak, than to join the Israelites in their dreary desert pilgrimage, beneath a blazing sky, and over the burning sand? Had not Balsam acted wisely? Unquestionably he had if the rule of true philosophy be, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die;" that is to say, if God does not reign in righteousness forever and ever. But when the old soothsayer fell beneath the sword of those Israelites whose warfare he had not been willing to share, he understood too late that it was these despised people who had alone been wise, and that, in spite of all the light he had received, he had lived and acted like a fool. How many are there now living who recognise with their minds the truth of the gospel, but who are unwilling to give up their sinful indulgences, until there rises upon them the terrible day of the Lord. Happy those for whom this day of awakening comes before death, so that they do not go down to the grave with their hearts made gross by merely material prosperity, only to be aroused by the stroke of Divine retribution. Let us remember the punishment of Balaam, which came surely, though it seemed to tarry, when the prosperity of the wicked seems to us a stumbling block.

II. The promises of God's love are not less faithful and sure than His threatenings, though they also may seem slow of fulfilment. This is illustrated in the history of Caleb, who courageously served his people through a long lifetime, bringing back a good report of the land garrisoned by the enemy, which Moses sent him to explore. "Therefore Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance and thy children's forever, because thou hast wholly followed the Lord thy God," (Joshua 13:9). This promise was not forgotten. Caleb received, as an inheritance, that hill of Hebron which was assured to him in the name of the God whom he served. Thus the promises of God are yea and amen.—E. DE P.


Joshua 13:22


A study of pathetic interest; one of the great "might-have-beens" of the world. One capable of winning an immortal fame, but actually finding only an immortal infamy. The Judas of the Old Testament: one travelling on the right road till within sight of heaven, and then turning aside to perdition. Consider—

I. THE GREATNESS OF THE MAN. Evidently his position is one of great dignity and influence. He has raised himself to priest-kingship among the Midianitish tribes. He is considered to have such power in divination and forecast that he is brought all the way from a city in Mesopotamia to the borders of Canaan to "curse Israel." This reputation would lead you to expect to find him at least a man possessed of great spiritual insight; able at least to guess well concerning all moral probabilities, He has, moreover, reached a clear knowledge of God; has not become entangled by any service of the lower deities whose degrading worship was so prevalent; showing that he was a spiritually minded man, who had gone on and on following the light which reached him, until that light exceeded that of any one else among his people. His divination is no black art—carried on by appeals to demons—but by pure sacrifices offered to the supreme God. He had evidently been accustomed to utter exactly what God imparted. Pleasant or painful, what God sent him he said. And his honesty and courage are conspicuous in his actual declarations concerning Israel. When we have put together these qualities: spirituality sufficient to discover and serve the true God; great strength of integrity; the keen perception which can discern the essential differences and destinies of things; the fear of God to which "the secret of the Lord is always revealed"—you get a character of the first quality, one that has in it the making of a Moses or an Abraham, one who could and should have been one of the grandest of the prophets of the Lord. If only he had reached the full development of his spiritual powers, Midian might have been another Israel, for generations a source of highest good. Doubtless till middle life this course of high righteousness, consecration to and communion with God had gone on. But beginning well and running well, he falls at last into ignominy and shame. Mark—

II. THE PROCESS OF HIS FALL. It must not be dated strictly from the temptation before which he fell. There is always, or almost always, some declension before a fall. No one falls into crime by one stumble. Can we trace the process? The writer of the Apocalypse, with his power of going straight to the mark, sums up in one word: He loved the wages of iniquity; not iniquity, but what iniquity could give him. First the selling of his spiritual power was a declension. To seek God's light in order to get man's money was an activity damaging to his conscience. Whether it be the sale of masses, absolutions, indulgences, or oracles, the vitiation is in each case the same. A seemingly slender line divides Samuel's acceptance of an honorarium from Balaam's eager desire for it. But seeming alike, they essentially differ. In Balaam's case the greed got headway, and instead of the prophet's simple acceptance of gifts as a means of living, there was a valuing of all his spiritual powers and privileges only for their market value. [It is an awful thing when a Christian minister values his creed and his experience only as a means of making money.] Then hankering after money, he soon loses the fine edge of honour. When once God refused to give him leave to go with the messengers of Balak, there should have been no reopening of the question. But so anxious is he for the "rewards of divination," that on their second embassy he goes to God for a second time, for the chance of finding Him permit what He had already refused. Declining to accept a reluctant service, God at once permits and punishes a less honourable course. Again and again he tries to get permission to curse Israel, just in order to get gold. That desire to get a different light from what God has given him is degrading and demoralising. Each dishonourable and dishonouring attempt to get God's anathemas to hurl against a righteous nation fails to hurt Israel, but terribly damages himself; until, hunting after some means of possessing himself of Balak's gold, in the pursuit he falls down, and down in degradation until, God refusing to inspire him with evil, his heart is ready to welcome and utter an inspiration from below. And his character is so disintegrated in this hankering after money, that at last he gives the most diabolical advice that man could give; viz; that instead of fighting Israel, they should endeavour to corrupt them (Numbers 31:16). The licentious feasts, the heathen orgies are of his counselling, and but for Phinehas might have been as disastrous to Israel as their intent was diabolical. What a fall, from the level of highest character, influence, and opportunity, down to the level of a Satanic crime. The love of money is daily making wrecks equally disastrous and irreparable. Beware of it.

III. Lastly observe THE RETRIBUTION. Likely enough he got his reward, and was for a moment as pleased as Achan. But had he satisfaction in it?

(1) Israel, in whose future well being he recognised the source of the world's best help, is crippled, degraded, weakened through his advice, and that would pain him.

(2) Midian is all but completely annihilated. All the males and most of the women are slain (Numbers 31:1-54).

(3) Balaam himself has but a short lived enjoyment of his wealth, for he also is slain (Numbers 31:8).

(4) The loss of life probably pained less than the everlasting infamy that made what hitherto had been an honoured name a proverb for the vilest form of treacherous wickedness. These penalties are obvious. In the world of spirits there must have been others more serious still. May we fear dishonourable gold, as that which makes the heaviest of all millstones to drown men in perdition!—G.

Joshua 13:31

The border keep.

"Machir was a 'man of war,' therefore he had Gilead and Bashan." These cities include the group which form such a striking stronghold in the northern part of the land beyond Jordan. Mr. Porter, in his 'Giant Cities of Bashan,' has described the surprising strength of the architecture of these cities—the failure of even three thousand years of change and wear to render the houses unfit for habitation; and has also described the strange formation of the district of Argob, rendering it a natural fortress of the most formidable kind. Here, by special adaptation of place with people, this district is assigned to the family of Machir. It was wisely so assigned, for through all the succeeding generations the keeping of the frontier in this direction was well done. We may gather one or two hints not altogether valueless from this assignment. Observe—

I. MACHIR HAS FOR HIS LOT THAT WHICH BY HIS COURAGE HE HAD CONQUERED. From Num 32:1-42 :89 we learn that, gigantic as were the inhabitants of Gilead, strong as was its cities, impregnable as its natural fortress seemed, the children of Machir "took it," and dispossessed the Amorite that was in it. Now they enjoy that which their unusual valour won. Like Caleb, whose daring made him ask Hebron, even when it was in the hands of the enemy, they chose a difficult spot, and conquering, inherited it. More than any other they had a right to this, for their courage had conquered it. Your best inheritance will always be some Gilead that you conquer for yourself. The truth you discover for yourself will do you most good. The experience you develop for yourself will be your best guide. Even the money you make for yourself will be that which you at once employ and enjoy the best. Conquer what you want to have. By courage, diligence, enduring hardness, achieve what you would like to keep.

II. "A MAN OF WAR" IS THE RIGHT MAN FOR FRONTIER DUTY. The Jacobs in the middle; the Esaus are better on the borders of the land. The bravest should be those nearest the foe. They who keep the gates of a kingdom should be those to whom conflict has no terrors. Theologians that keep the frontiers of truth should be brave. Timid Christians that think all the world is going to turn catholic or infidel are not men for warfare on the border. Against assaults there should be placed those who have been through all the fights of faith and unbelief in their own hearts, and who can bring a strenuous, cheerful energy to the task of fighting for the truth. Those strong enough to expect a perpetual victory of truth are those alone fit to deal with the assaults of error. Ministers of religion, keeping the frontier between the Church and the world, should be in a good sense men of war; on their guard against encroachment of worldliness; strong enough to brave opposition and to be above the seductions of the flattery which a compromising spirit may win from the world; strong enough to keep out the intrusions of the secular spirit in all its forms of caste feeling, of cold heartedness, of indifference to the perishing; strong enough to carry the war into the enemy's country, and secure by extending the kingdom of Christ. On all frontiers there is need of vigour. Wherever the enemy is near, set what is bravest and stoutest in you to watch. The pugnacious element in our nature is very valuable—if it operates in Gilead. There is deficiency of it too often; and too often where it is, it is just in some position where it quarrels with its friends instead of with the temptations and the wrongs and the difficulties which are its proper foes. For frontier work of all kinds, courage is the prime qualification. Lastly—

III. THERE IS NO CITADEL LIKE A FORTRESS WON FROM THE ENEMY. What he won was his reward, but it was something more. It was the best stronghold he could have against the enemy. The conquered fortress makes the best defence. The vigour enough to win it grows stronger and becomes the power to keep it. A victory is always a point of strength and a stronghold conquered, a vantage ground against the foe. The Church differs from all other communities in this, that she is never weaker by extension; each new conquest gives her a better frontier; every Gilead subdued becomes a new line of defence, making her more impregnable against attack. By God's blessing, conquer a rebellious heart and subdue it to Him, and it becomes a fortified post from which you can assail or defend more powerfully than before. Graces that are easily Gained are easily lost. But those that are won with arduous difficulty are invariably much more securely held. None keep truth like those who have fought hard to get it. None are more generous than those who have fought hard with selfish tendencies within them. None keep elevation of thought and feeling more persistently than those who have reached it by crucifying the flesh. A conquered temptation is a grand fortress in which you are stronger to resist seduction than ever before. A grief conquered by faith becomes a quiet resting place, and one secure against all assaults of despair. Keep making daily some conquest, and so you will perfectly secure all that you have won.—G.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/joshua-13.html. 1897.
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