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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 19

Verse 1

SIMEON’S LOT, Joshua 19:1-9.

1. Simeon… within the inheritance of Judah As Judah’s lot was assigned first, when the Hebrews had larger expectations than they ever realized, it was very natural that they should assign too large a portion to Judah. This error is now discovered and rectified by carving Simeon’s lot out of Judah’s. Simeon’s inheritance, except the first thirteen cities, was not a compact territory, but it consisted chiefly of cities scattered about in Judah. Thus was fulfilled the prophetic declaration of Jacob respecting Simeon and Levi, that they should be “divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel.” Genesis 49:5-7. “Simeon is the exact counterpart of Reuben. With Reuben he marched through the desert. As Reuben in the east, so Simeon in the west, blends his fortunes with those of the Arab hordes on the frontier, and dwindles away accordingly, and only reappears in the dubious but characteristic exploits of his descendant Judith.” Stanley.

Verse 2

2. Beer-sheba See on Joshua 15:28. Sheba is probably a repetition of the copyist, otherwise there would be fourteen cities instead of thirteen, as stated in Joshua 19:6.

As the cities of Simeon were taken out of the portion originally assigned to Judah, all whose sites are now known are described in the notes on chap. 15 . Some of the names here given do not appear there, some may be different names of the same place, but in the absence of any certain knowledge of them we do best to abstain from mere conjectural comments.

Verse 8

8. All the villages All the surrounding villages and country that were subject to the cities named.

Verse 9

9. Too much for them This may mean that it was more than Judah could subdue and retain, or that it exceeded their necessities, or that it was too large relatively. It reflects great honour upon Judah that they should, without selfish remonstrances and murmurings, submit to this diminution of their lot. The national feeling must have been yet strong in this patriotic tribe, for States are always tenacious of their boundaries.

Verse 10

10. The border… unto Sarid This southern border of Zebulun, like the north border of Ephraim, (Joshua 16:6,) seems to start from a central point in the line, and go first westward and then eastward. Joshua 19:12. The position of Sarid was probably not far from Mount Tabor, but its site is unknown, and therefore the exact line of this border cannot now be traced.

Verse 11

11. Toward the sea The Mediterranean. But apparently not to the sea, for Asher reached to Carmel, (Joshua 19:26,) and, according to Joshua 17:10, touched Manasseh on the south. Maralah may, perhaps, be found in the little village Mahil, which occupies the top of a hill four miles southwest of Nazareth, and contains the ruins of a temple and other vestiges of antiquity. But this is not certain.

Jokneam The modern Tell Kaimon, close to the base of Carmel and on the south bank of the Kishon. See on Joshua 12:22. So the river here mentioned must be the ancient Kishon. See on Judges 5:21.]

Verse 12

12. Chisloth-tabor, Robinson is inclined to identify with the village of Iksal, near the base of Mount Tabor, on a low, rocky ridge, and containing many excavated sepulchres. On Mount Tabor see note at Judges 4:6. Daberath has been identified with the modern Deburieh, a small village just at the northwestern base of Tabor. Japhia, now called Yafa, is a half hour’s ride southwest of Nazareth, and contains about thirty houses. It is the traditional birthplace of St. James.

Verse 13

13. Gittah-hepher was the birthplace of the prophet Jonah. 2 Kings 14:25. Modern monastic tradition identifies it with el-Meshad, one of the many Moslem tombs of Jonah, about five miles northeast of Nazareth. Remmon, Robinson conjectures, is Rummanneh, seven miles north of Nazareth. Methoar is not a proper name, but a participle, which may be rendered as in the margin, which is drawn, or, with Gesenius, which stretches or extends, to Neah. The site of Neah is unknown.

[ 14. The border… on the north side The northern border cannot be accurately traced, for Hannathon, the only city named, is unknown, and the identification of the valley of Jiphthah-el with the great Wady Abilin, as Robinson proposes, is hardly a settled thing. But regarding the identity as established, all we know of the northern border of Zebulun is, that it terminated on the west in the Wady Abilin. The western border is not given here at all, but is vaguely intimated in Joshua 19:27, where a boundary of Asher is described.

Verse 15

15. Beth - lehem is the only one of the five cities named in this verse which has been with any certainty identified. Dr. Robinson found it about six miles west of Nazareth, still bearing the name Beit-lahm, but only a miserable village, with no traces of antiquity except the name. This verse seems to be only a fragment of the list of cities belonging to Zebulun; a supposition confirmed by the mention of twelve cities when only five are named. Even if we suppose that all the border cities named are counted, we meet with as great a difficulty, for then we have at least sixteen cities named. We may appropriately say with Keil: “From all that has been hitherto ascertained, we can merely decide respecting the inheritance of Zebulun that it comprised the western half of the plain of Esdraelon, between Jokneam and Tabor, and extended to the mountains of Galilee.”]

Verses 17-23

ISSACHAR’S LOT, Joshua 19:17-23.

The territory of this tribe was bounded on the north by Zebulun, on the east by the Jordan, and on the south and west by Manasseh. It took in a large portion of the most beautiful and desirable parts of the great plain of Esdraelon. For the sake of securing themselves in so desirable a portion as the fertile plain of Esdraelon the children of Issachar became humbly subservient to the Canaanites of the adjacent fortified towns, and to the proud country of Phenicia on the near seacoast. They assumed a position of almost slavish servitude to them, becoming their common carriers, mule-drivers, and servants of all work, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of the dying Jacob: “Issachar is a strong ass couching down between two burdens: and he saw that rest was good, and the land that it was pleasant, and bowed his shoulder to bear, and became a servant to tribute.” Genesis 49:14-15.

Verse 18

18. Their border was toward Jezreel Or, rather, it encompassed this city. The writer begins to trace the border, but really enumerates the cities included within it. These were all in the eastern part of the plain of Esdraelon. Jezreel, a name often applied to the plain of Esdraelon, is here limited to a city standing on a gentle swell which rises out of it. It was the chief residence of King Ahab, and seat of the worship of Baal and Astarte, the cult of the Phenician Jezebel. It was remarkable for its central location, and the great beauty and commanding character of its site. Its modern name is Zerin, containing only a few wretched hovels clustering around an old, ruined tower.

Chesulloth Probably the same as Chisloth-tabor in Joshua 19:12. [ Shunem was at the modern village of Solam, which lies at the western base of the Little Hermon, and about three miles north of Jezreel. Here the Philistines encamped before Saul’s last battle, (1 Samuel 28:4,) and here was the home of the Shunammite woman whose son Elisha raised to life. 2 Kings 4:8.

Verse 21

21. En-gannim is still found in Jenin, six or seven miles south of Jezreel.

“It is now the chief town between Nazareth and Nablus, and contains about two thousand inhabitants, nearly all Moslems. It deals largely in all the products of the country, and with the Bedouins on the east of the Jordan.” Thomson. “The most remarkable thing here is the fine flowing public fountain, rising in the hills back of the town, and brought down so as to issue in a noble stream in the midst of the place.” Robinson. ]

Verse 22

22. Coast reacheth This probably means the northern coast or border, where it joined on Zebulun. Tabor is here generally supposed to mean not the mountain, but a town on it afterwards given to the Levites. 1 Chronicles 6:77.

Sixteen cities This is exactly the number given above, if Tabor be taken as a city.

Verses 24-31

LOT OF ASHER, Joshua 19:24-31.

[The position of Asher may be generally described as extending along the shore of the Mediterranean from Tantura, on the south of Mount Carmel, to Zidon on the north, and bounded on the east by Zebulun and Naphtali. His territory included the rich plain of Phenicia, and some of the most celebrated cities of antiquity. Truly did Jacob prophesy: “His bread shall be fat, and he shall yield royal dainties,” (Genesis 49:20;) and Moses: “He shall dip his foot in oil; his shoes shall be iron and brass.” Deuteronomy 33:24-25. The great Phenician plain near Acre was rich in corn and wine and oil, and in the Zidonian metallic manufactories probably many Asherites learned to be skilful workmen in iron and brass. Compare 1 Kings 7:14. When other tribes were at war with Jabin’s hosts, Asher dwelt quietly by his harbours. Judges 5:17. Asher never conquered the Phenician territory, but was content to dwell among the Canaanites and learn their ways. See Judges 1:31-32. Stanley remarks; “One name only of the tribe of Asher shines out of the general obscurity the aged widow who, in the very close of the Jewish history, departed not from the Temple at Jerusalem, but served God with prayers and fastings night and day. (Luke 2:36, where see notes.) So insignificant was the tribe to which was assigned the fortress which Napoleon called the key of Palestine.”]

Verse 25

25. Achshaph See on Joshua 11:1. In this list, as in other extended lists of cities, no note is usually taken of those whose sites are now unknown.

26. [ Carmel A range of connected hills, whose average height is fifteen hundred feet, running from the northern hills of Samaria northwesterly, and terminating in a lofty promontory which projects boldly into the Mediterranean just south of the bay of Acre. All travellers agree in giving glowing descriptions of the grandeur, beauty, and excellency of Carmel. “There is not a flower,” says Van de Velde, “that I have seen in Galilee, or on the plains along the coast, that I did not find on Carmel.” Mr. Carne says: “No mountain in or around Palestine retains its ancient beauty so much as Carmel. its groves are few but luxuriant. It is no place for crags and precipices, or rocks of the wild goats; but its surface is covered with a rich and constant verdure.”] Shihor-libnath, river of whiteness, is a matter of great dispute. Every stream, from the Belus southward to the Crocodile River inclusive, has been selected as the river here mentioned. It must have been south of Dor, (Tantura,) which belonged to Asher. Joshua 17:11.

Verse 27

27. Beth-dagon, house of Dagon, must be distinguished from that in Joshua 15:41. It was probably a Philistine colony, and situated somewhere east or northeast of Tantura. Zebulun is not a city, but the tribe. On Jiphthah-el, see at Joshua 19:14. Cabul is probably the modern village Kabul, which stands on the top of a rocky ridge eight miles east of Acre.

Verse 28

28. Kanah Not Cana of Galilee, but probably the large village Kanah, five miles southeast of Tyre.

Zidon See Joshua 11:8, note. It was never conquered by Asher.

Verse 29

29. Ramah Robinson confidently identifies this place with the modern village Rameh, which stands on an isolated hill about ten miles southeast of Tyre. It has no traces of antiquity except some very ancient sarcophagi. Tyre, a rock, is a colony of Zidon, and is a few miles south on the seacoast. The old city stood on the main land and was strongly fortified.

New Tyre, which was taken by Alexander the Great, was built on a rock in the sea. It is probably Old Tyre that is named in the text, but Keil endeavours to prove that New Tyre was in existence in the days of Joshua, discrediting Josephus, who says that it was built two hundred and forty years before the Temple of Solomon. It was a great commercial emporium, and became the burden of prophecies (see Isaiah 23:0; Ezekiel 26:0) which have been remarkably fulfilled. Achzib, now called Zib, is on the coast nine miles north of Acre.

Verse 30

30. Ummah Dr. Thomson endeavours to identify it with Alma, in the highlands on the coast.

Aphek See on Joshua 13:4. But that Aphek could hardly have been assigned to Asher, being too far beyond his border.

Twenty and two cities It frequently happens that the cities named do not agree with the number given. To adjust this difficulty various assumptions have been made, as noted in Joshua 15:32.

Verses 32-39

NAPHTALI’S LOT, Joshua 19:32-39.

[The territory of Naphtali was bounded on the east by the Jordan and sea of Galilee, on the south by Zebulun, on the west and north by Asher. The northern limit probably ran into the splendid valley of the Litany, which separates the two great ranges of Lebanon. The excellence of Naphtali’s portion is indicated in Moses’ song, where he speaks of him as “satisfied with favour, and full with the blessing of the Lord, possessing the west and the south.” Deuteronomy 33:23. The latter part should be rendered, “Possess thou the sea and the sunny clime.” “Naphtali possessed,” says J.L. Porter, “a greater variety of soil, scenery, and climate than any of the other tribes. Its northern portions are the highlands of Palestine. The sublime ravine of the Leontes separates its mountains from the chain of Lebanon, of which, however, they may be regarded as a prolongation. The scenery is here rich and beautiful. In the centre of this park-like region lie the ruins of the sanctuary of the tribe, the northern city of refuge, Kadesh-Naphtali.

The ridge rises gradually towards the south, and culminates at Safed, which has an elevation of nearly three thousand feet.

“The southern section of Naphtali was the garden of Palestine. The little plains along the shore of the Sea of Galilee and the vales that run up into the mountains are of unrivalled fertility. Josephus describes the plain on the shore of the lake as an earthly paradise, where the choicest fruits grew luxuriantly, and where eternal spring reigned. His words were not much exaggerated, for now, though more a wilderness than a paradise, its surpassing richness is apparent.”

Jacob spoke of Naphtali as “a hind let loose.” Genesis 49:21. The tribe had many a noble and fleet warrior. but, like the timid hind, they shrunk from aggressive war, and left several of their cities in the hands of the Canaanites. Judges 1:33. The valiant Barak lacked confidence to venture alone against the hosts of Sisera, (Joshua 4:8,) but when fully roused, like a hind brought to bay, he scorned his soul to death on the high places of the battlefield. Judges 5:18, note.] From his exposed position on the northern frontier Naphtali was the first to fall into the hands of the Assyrian invaders, (2 Kings 15:29,) but after the captivity the Israelites largely settled again in thin territory. His lot included the scene of the great victory of Joshua over the northern confederacy, and also many places where the Greater Joshua, by his mighty miracles and wondrous teachings, confounded his foes and laid the foundation of his everlasting kingdom. This region is Galilee of the Gentiles, whose “people, which sat in darkness, saw great light.” Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:16.

Verse 33

33. The cities here mentioned are so far unknown that there is great difficulty in attempting an accurate description of the boundaries of this tribe. The northern and a part of the western boundary seem to have been identical, running mainly in a northeasterly direction, and Heleph, the starting point, seems to have been some central place on this line, from which the border ran first eastward, but somewhat towards the north, and then seaward. Joshua 19:34. [Van de Velde proposes to identify Heleph with Beitlif, an ancient site about twelve miles southeast of Tyre and about the same distance west of Kades. It stands on the edge of a very marked ravine, which may very possibly have formed a part of the border of Naphtali and Asher.

Allon As the Hebrew word means an oak, some critics very plausibly understand it of some remarkable tree near Zaanannim, and render, From the oak at Zaanannim. This was probably the same tree by which Heber the Kenite pitched his tent. See Judges 4:11, note.

Out-goings… at Jordan That is, this northwestern boundary terminated at the upper sources of the Jordan.]

Verse 34

34. Turneth westward Probably in a southwesterly direction. [ Hukkok is recognised by Robinson and others in the modern Yakuk, a village six or seven miles northwest from the Sea of Galilee.

Zebulun on the south… Asher on the west This is merely giving the boundaries in general terms.

And to Judah upon the Jordan This is a faulty translation. And to Judah belongs to the previous sentence, which describes the western border. Literally, It touched Asher on the west and at Judah. Judah was evidently a city on the western border, perhaps at Jehudiyah, marked on Van de Velde’s map east of Tyre and a few miles north of Tibnin. The rest of the verse forms a distinct sentence:

Jordan toward the sunrising That is, the Jordan formed the eastern boundary.

Verse 35

35. Hammath Not the Hamath of the north, (Joshua 13:5.) but doubtless the modern Hammam, or warm springs, which send up their hot and sulphurous waters on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee just south of the ruins of the ancient Tiberias.]

Chinnereth See Joshua 11:2, note.

Verse 36

36. Ramah must be kept distinct from Ramah in Asher. It is identified by Robinson with a large village still called Rameh, which is situated about six miles southwest of Safed on the declivity of a mountain, surrounded by olive groves and overlooking a fertile plain.

Hazor See Joshua 11:1, note.

Verse 37

37. Kedesh See on Joshua 12:22. Edrei, not the city in Bashan of the same name, (Joshua 13:31, note,) but another near Kadesh, whose name still lingers, perhaps, in Khureibeh, a few miles west of Lake Merom. En-hazor seems to be the modern Ain-Hazur, between Ramah and Hukkok, some ten miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee. One reason why so many places have the same name among the Hebrews is, that the name is descriptive of some characteristic, as high, low, abounding in fountains, etc. Where two places had the same natural features they were apt to receive the same name.

Verse 38

38. Iron is probably the modern Yaron, ten miles west of Lake Merom.

Migdal-el The modern name Mejdel is the same as the Hebrew Migdal, and the Greek Magdala of the New Testament, chiefly known as the native town of Mary Magdalene. Magdala is a miserable little Moslem village on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. [But Migdal-el seems from the grouping of these cities to have been, not near the Sea of Galilee, but in the north or northwest part of the tribe. Its location cannot at present be decided. Beth-shemesh cannot be the same as that in Joshua 19:41 and Joshua 15:10. Some have thought it might be Medjel-esh-shems, a few miles northeast of Cesarea Philippi, and a little north of Lake Phiala.]

Nineteen Three names are wanting. See on Joshua 15:32.

Verses 40-48

DAN’S LOT, Joshua 19:40-48.

[The territory assigned to Dan was the smallest of all the tribe divisions. But it was not without advantages. Its border on the northeast and south joined respectively on Ephraim, Benjamin, and Judah, the three most powerful tribes of Israel. Its western border was the Mediterranean. The territory thus enclosed embraced the beautiful plain south of Joppa, the cornfield and garden of Southern Palestine. Dr. Robinson thus describes this district, as seen from the tower of Ramleh: “Towards the north and south, as far as the eye could reach, the beautiful plain was spread out like a carpet at our feet, variegated with tracts of brown, from which the crops had just been taken, and with fields still rich with the yellow of ripe corn, or green with the springing millet. Immediately below us the eye rested on the immense olive groves of Ramleh and Lydda, and the picturesque towers, and minarets, and domes, of these large villages. In the plain itself there were not many villages; but the tract of hills, and the mountain side beyond, especially in the northeast, appeared as if studded with them, and, as now seen in the setting sun, they seemed like white villas and hamlets among the dark hills, presenting an appearance of thriftiness and beauty which certainly would not stand a closer examination.”

But the children of Dan were unable to hold this beautiful plain, for “the Amorites forced them into the mountain, for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley,” (Judges 1:34,) and they were obliged to receive help from “the hand of the house of Joseph.” Joshua 19:35.

Some time after the allotment this tribe enlarged its possessions by the conquest of Laish in the north. Judges 18:0. In this covert but daring movement Dan fulfilled the prophecies of Jacob and of Moses. Genesis 49:17; Deuteronomy 13:32. Of this tribe was the famous hero Samson, who judged Israel twenty years. By taking Micah’s images, and with them establishing a tribe sanctuary at Dan, (Judges 18:20; Judges 18:30,) they seem to have been the first to adopt and establish an illegal worship in Israel, and as the tribe of Dan is not mentioned in Revelation 7:5-7, among those that were sealed, some of the fathers inclined to believe that from this tribe Antichrist should spring.]

Verse 41

41. Zorah, and Eshtaol These cities were originally allotted to Judah, (see Joshua 15:33,) and so also were other cities of this list. But the original allotment being found too large for Judah, the southwestern portion was given to Simeon, (Joshua 19:1-9,) and a part of the northwestern to Dan. Ir-shemesh is supposed to be the same as Beth-shemesh in Joshua 15:10.

Verses 42-45

42-45. Aijalon See Joshua 10:12.

Thimnathah Perhaps the same as Timnah, Joshua 15:10.

Ekron See Joshua 13:3. The rest of these cities are now unknown.

Verse 46

[ 46. Japho The ancient Joppa, modern Jaffa, the famous seaport town of Palestine, distinguishable alike in sacred and common history. Hither the Lebanon timber was brought in floats for building Solomon’s temple, (2 Chronicles 2:16,) and also for the second temple under Zerubbabel. Ezra 3:7. Here Jonah embarked when he sought to flee from the presence of Jehovah. Here Peter raised Tabitha, and here was the house of Simon the tanner, where Peter had his vision. See cut of modern town at Acts 9:42.]

Verse 47

47. The coast… went out too little Here the English version is at fault by inserting too little. Masius has given the sense correctly thus: “The Danites emigrated beyond themselves, that is, beyond the inheritance in which they were first placed by the divine lot, and set out in search of other possessions.” This occurred after the death of Joshua, and is here narrated out of its chronological order, so as to complete the description of Dan’s lot.

Therefore… went up to fight Rather, and the children of Dan went up and fought. Leshem, or Laish, is at the extreme north, near the foot of Mount Hermon. A minute account of this expedition and its results is found in Judges 18:0, where see notes.

Verses 49-50

JOSHUA’S INHERITANCE, Joshua 19:49-50.

An honourable distinction of Joshua from the whole people and from his tribe is made by conferring on him a separate portion, not by lot, but in accordance with his own choice. It was situated in the territory of Ephraim, the tribe to which he belonged.

50. The word of the Lord, as uttered perhaps through the High Priest, or probably to Moses, but which was not recorded in the Mosaic books. The unrecorded promise to Caleb was a similar instance.

Timnath-serah That is, the portion that was over and above. [It is called Timnath-heres ( portion of the sun) in Judges 2:9, because, as the Jews explain, he made the sun stand still. It was in Mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash. See Joshua 24:30. This spot is without much doubt at the modern Tibneh, some twelve miles northwest of Beth-el. Here Dr. Eli Smith discovered the ruins of a considerable town. On the south of the town is a hill (probably Gaash) in which are a number of sepulchers which in size and richness will bear comparison with the tombs of the kings at Jerusalem. Here, doubtless, the aged commander passed his last days, and here he died and was buried. Joshua 24:29-30. “Jerome relates that Paula, when travelling in these parts, marvelled that the distributer of the possessions of the children of Israel should have chosen for himself a situation so rough and mountainous.” Kitto.

Verse 51

51. They made an end of dividing the country But after the division and allotment it remained to designate the cities of refuge and the Levitical cities. An account of this is given in the next two chapters.]

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 19". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.