Joshua 18 commentary

Joshua 18 commentary DEFAULT

Old Testament Studies



Lesson 21 - Chapters 18, 19, and 20


We’re going to move rather rapidly for a couple of chapters in Joshua, as what we get is another long list of towns, cities, and boundaries that describe the territories of each of the tribes of Israel. This must be done in words because map making was only in its most primitive stages in this era, and by all accounts the Hebrews did not yet engage in drawing maps on papyrus or animal hides.

However for us it is easier to see their tribal boundaries on a modern map than to try and visually put together this puzzle of a word picture of Joshua 18 and 19. Even so, a map can give us a very wrong impression of reality of those times if we don’t grasp that while OVERALL boundaries were given to each territory, in fact only certain cities and villages within each territory actually came under the control or use of the particular tribe to which the lot assigned it. A more accurate map would look something like the measles or chicken pox; clusters of “spots” with vacant areas in between. The spots would represent the actual areas under Israeli control, and the vacant areas either under enemy control or simply a kind of no-man’s land.

Another problem for us (and for the best Biblical scholars) is that many (if not most) of the places used to describe each territory are presently not identifiable with any certainty. As in the US where no city or town has a patent on it’s own name and thus anywhere from several to scores of other cities and towns bear exactly the same name, so it was in Canaan. We’ll find several Bethels, at least 3 known Gilgals, many Kadeshes, and so on. Some of these places are fairly easy to discern, others we have good hints as later names in different languages are obvious attempts to vocalize the Hebrew town name into another language (usually an Aramaic or Arabic dialect), and still others are completely lost to history. Therefore even our maps are but the best possible educated guesses and estimations from whatever the highest current level of scholarship might be.

We ended last week by finding out that the seat of government for Israel was moved from Gilgal (which was in an as yet unassigned territory) to Shiloh in the newly assigned territory of Ephraim. There the Wilderness Tabernacle (or what remained of it) was erected and the priesthood officiated over the sacrificial rituals; there Joshua ruled and was headquartered. Shiloh would remain the capital of the 12 tribes until the time of Eli (in the book of Samuel), a period of at least 3 centuries (probably).

Rashi says that the sacred tent took a whole other form at Shiloh; that it had no roof and it had a stone floor. Further that it doubled as both a sanctuary and housing for Joshua and his predecessors; thus it was called by a number of names including “the tent”, “the house of the Lord”, and “the tent of Joseph” during this era. I cannot say if he is necessarily correct but with the tribes dispersed all over the Promised Land, each mostly concerned with day-to-day life and its own tribal affairs and well-being, its not hard to imagine that the magnificent tent structure that took so much effort and many people to construct it in the first place would now be somewhat neglected.

By all accounts when David got his hands on the Ark of Covenant around 1000 B.C., he put it in a very common tent. Why didn’t he simply order the Wilderness Tabernacle to be moved to his headquarters? Why don’t we hear of great protests by the Priests and Levites about the greatest sacred object in Israel’s possession being moved around by common Israelites and put into the possession of a Judean king instead of the Levite High Priest? Almost certainly because the Wilderness Tabernacle was a ramshackle by now; the magnificent curtains and coverings would long ago have worn out and apparently were replaced by quick and easy coverings or not replaced at all. The Priesthood was not functioning as it should and with the advent of the office of king (beginning first with Saul and then David) priestly influence and authority was greatly weakened.

In fact it should not take much imagination to see that with the establishment of a king over Israel, it would take some time of wrestling for position between the priesthood and the royal office of king to figure out some kind of acceptable government structure that divided up duties and authority between them in a whole new way. Not that this is what God had intended or ordained for Israel, but it is simply what happens when mankind starts tinkering with God’s plans to make them better fit OUR plans; and it’s what happens when we beseech the Lord to allow us to have our way (which He will do at times, and which He did do in Israel’s want of a king).

Let’s begin today by reading Joshua 18 starting at verse11.

The verses just preceding these told us that Joshua got fed up with waiting for the remaining 7 tribes who had yet to inherit their land portion to get on the stick, accept it, and finish conquering it. So he ordered that each tribe put forth 3 men to represent it (a total of 21 men) who would each go to the general area that had been determined by the lots that Moses drew for them some years earlier and then “describe” that area. Basically that means they were to reconnoiter it, record the existing cities and villages and major landmarks and geographical features in detail, and then bring it back so that the leadership could make some decisions about fitting each of the 7 tribes into a more precise amount of space according to its current population. This was aided by Joshua and the High Priest Eleazar going before the Lord using lots. Going before the Lord means that something took place at the Tabernacle (and we’ll see that phrase used in both the Old and New Testaments).

Notice how many times lots were drawn by now, and how much elasticity there was to territorial assignments depending on the most current conditions. As we move along to the end of Joshua and then immediately into Judges we’ll see that the territories of each tribe expanded, contracted, moved, or even disappeared. So all we can ever do to understand where a given territory for a given tribe lay is to take a snapshot in time, because this was not a static thing; it changed.

After the foray of the 21 men, the lots were drawn and the first lot that came out was for Benjamin. Note the phrase in verse 11 that it was divided up “according to their families”. In other words, while we tend to think of the territory of Benjamin as just one monolithic hunk, that’s NOT how it was thought of then. Rather families (clans) were given cities and associated villages, and they existed in a generally recognized area that (when added together) could roughly be called the territory of Benjamin.

The area set aside for the clans of Benjamin lay between the area of Ephraim and the area of Judah, like a buffer zone. Although it is not a large area it is prestigious as it contained Jericho and Jebus. Jebus, of course, would eventually be captured by David and be called the City of David and then later Jerusalem. By all rights Benjamin was the last born son of Jacob and should have traditionally received the least status; but being the first drawn of the lots (for the final 7 tribes), and then given the position of having borders contiguous with BOTH the Joseph and Judah tribes indicated a much higher than expected status in the Israel hierarchy. This elevated status was thoroughly understood by all the tribes of Israel and it would play a significant role in Israel’s future.

The next tribal allotment went to Simeon, and we find this in the opening verses of Joshua chapter 19.

Simeon is a very interesting case, I think. They were given territory WITHIN the territory of Judah. Now, while Judah would certainly have been unhappy with the giving up of some of its territory to Simeon, in reality this was more of a slap in the face to Simeon. Surrounded completely by Judah put Simeon in a very dependent situation. Essentially this was the fulfillment of a curse pronounced on Simeon by his own father, Jacob.

Turn your Bibles to Genesis 49.

Here we see that Levi and Simeon were lumped together and given essentially the same cursed future: they would be divided and scattered in the Promised Land. Yet the way this came about for those two tribes was very different.

Levi went on to be come a VERY prestigious tribe, the priestly tribe. In fact they were elevated in such a way that they were not to even be considered a tribe of Israel any more; rather they would be set apart for full-time service to Yehoveh on Israel’s behalf. Interestingly the “scattering” prophesy for Levi was fulfilled in that they received 48 cities with a meager amount of pastureland immediately outside of each city. These 48 cities were not close together or connected in such a way as to form a “territory of Levi”. Rather they were dispersed all over Israel in all the tribal territories and while the cities were technically owned by the Levites in another sense they were only permitted to live there and control the city at the consent of the local tribe.

Simeon, on the other hand, was not scattered in the same way. At first glance there appears to be no scattering at all. But notice something about the description of the area they were given: there were NO described borders. Rather there is only a list of cities and villages given to them. Though they were all located in a rather concentrated area within Judah’s territory, nonetheless it was to be a weak confederation of cities that caused Simeon to decrease in power and population, and so the tribe went into a steady decline over the centuries. Eventually there was no territory of Simeon.

In fact we know that some of the clans of Simeon moved north and were absorbed into the various tribes of what would in time be known as the Northern Kingdom. Other clans and individual families threw their allegiance to Judah, and others yet to Benjamin. So indeed Jacob’s curse on Simeon played out by them ultimately being divided up among all the other tribes of Israel (for the most part).

We’ll move a little quicker, now. The 3rd lot fell out for Zebulun, and its territory was up north, at the northern end of the Jezreel Valley. So Zebulun had some good fertile territory at its disposal. Notice how the description of Zebulun again involves boundary lines and not just a city or village list (as it was for Simeon).

The fourth lot was for Issachar; Issachar is described by both cities and boundary lines and it, too, is in the north of Canaan.

The fifth lot described the territory of Asher. Notice verse 31 that is common to each of the pronouncements of each of the tribal territories that the territory was given “according to families” as opposed to just given over to the tribal prince to own and then allow the families to use at his pleasure. The clans and families all belong to a tribe, but the tribal leader is NOT a king who by definition owns everything in the land over which he reigns. Therefore the city or village given to a clan is OWNED by that clan (so to speak) and is not but a temporary assignment that their tribal chief can invalidate at his will (at least that’s how it was SUPPOSED to work!).

Asher received some very important and valuable territory as it included the Mediterranean Sea coast and so afforded an opportunity for ports and the accompanying trade business. Of course there was one little problem: Joshua had conquered NONE of the seacoast. So it was up to Asher to figure out how to take it.

Naftali received the 6th lot and this territory was located between Asher and the upper Jordan River region. It went well north to the northernmost boundary of what would have at that time been thought of as Canaan, and on its southern border laid Zebulun and Issachar. Later this region would be called the Galil, and still later the Galilee.

The tribe of Dan received the 7th and last lot, a sure sign of its status in the eyes of Yehoveh. As quickly as the territory is described, we are told in verse 47 that the territory was not large enough for them; and this fits well with the earlier census’ that showed that Dan was among the largest tribes of Israel. Therefore they looked for more territory and thus went far to the north of Canaan and conquered a place called Leshem, changing its name to Dan.

Dan was in tough right away and they must have known it. Judah was forced to give up some it’s western most towns, and Ephraim some its southern most towns in order to form the territory of Dan. Neither of the two most prestigious tribes of Israel would have liked that very much. Worse, the major unspoken-for area Dan was given was the central and southern Mediterranean Sea coast, which was currently occupied by the fierce, formidable, and technically advanced Sea Peoples (later called the Philistines). Much of the tribe of Dan elected to switch rather than fight and thus the interest of many of their clans in moving well north.

The capturing of Leshem probably seemed like a great thing for Dan, but it turned out to be a slippery slope. Pagans surrounded them and Dan quickly adopted their ways. The northern city/territory of Dan became a center of Israelite idolatry and Calf Worship was mixed in with worship of the God of Israel. You can visit the area to this day (a beautiful spot by the way), and see the capital city of Dan; but you can also see the paganism and that is truly a sad thing. Thus we’ll see mention of Dan in the Bible reduced to near nothing over time (except when it was invoked as a curse), and he won’t really re-enter Israel’s wonderful prophetic future until late in the prophetic process.

In verse 49 Joshua finally receives his reward of an inheritance of land within the tribal boundaries of Ephraim. Why Ephraim when he has been the head of all Israel for many years? Because he is from the tribe of Ephraim and represents a powerful Ephraimite clan; and these tribal and clan links are deeply ingrained in Hebrew society.  It is noteworthy that the section of Joshua concerning the dividing up of the Promised Land begins with one of the two scouts (Kalev, Caleb) that came back with a good report about the Land of Canaan (while Israel was still out in the Wilderness) getting the 1st inheritance of land given within the formal Promised Land; and the section ends with the other scout (Joshua) getting his inheritance after all the other tribes have received theirs’.

There are a couple of important principles being demonstrated in this arrangement: 1st and most important is that God completed what He said He’d do. And what He’d do is give Israel a land of it’s own. 2nd is that Joshua did all that the Lord commanded. Joshua was obedient; he was a model leader for Israel to follow in the future. The verses on this subject were written in such a way to neither glorify the land given to Joshua as special or the best of all the Promised Land, nor to glorify the leader of Israel, Joshua. Rather it was to draw attention to the holy God of Israel who keeps His word always. Even though centuries may pass when it seems like God MUST have changed His mind; when earthly circumstances appear to have passed by any hope that what God said He’d do even makes any sense in the present reality; although men have given up and fallen away from God, what He said would happen WILL happen. A big “amen” is called for here!

But what else is called for is a repentance and renewal within both the Jewish and Christian communities to abandon doctrines that were long ago established under the premise that God HAS forgotten His promises; or perhaps HAS changed His mind. Put plainly, men have decided that God is either not faithful or not able to do what He has said He will do. How much we read particularly the older testament of the Bible and shake our heads in disgust at those faithless Israelites who committed idolatry, who joined themselves with the world, who mixed a little of this and a whole lot of that to form a religion that is not very recognizable from a Scriptural viewpoint, and who abandoned the principles of God in favor of new and more comfortable humanistic philosophies. Yet in most respects has the Church done much better? I’ve often said that the Judaism of Christ’s era and the Christianity of our current era look like the two rails of a train track. They’re separated but they follow exactly the same path, starting and ending at the same places. Where they began was purity, where they ended up was polluted.

Here’s the thing: a large segment of our Jewish and gentile brothers and sisters in the faith believe its time to solve the Middle East and Israel problem by doing the one thing that God says must NOT be done: give up that land that He set apart for His people (land that we are watching Joshua’s people fight for) to people who have no spiritual right to it. Many Jews and Christians see things as so radically changed from the time when the Scriptures were written that certainly we would be ignorant bumpkins to still believe that its instructions and prophecies remain valid. 

And one of the reasons they believe this is because with all their hearts they are certain that with the birth of Christ the Lord threw the Bible away and wrote a new one that we call the New Testament. I am encouraged that you who are listening to this either already understand that no such thing took place, or are at least reconsidering this long-held Christian belief. Let us determine together to do what we can to return to our faith roots as best we can, with the direction and power of our Lord as our compass and sail, even if it means that our friends and families pull away from us for not following the crowd. As I have said to many folks, if the Lord can throw His promises away in the past, what’s to say He won’t do it again in the future? But I’m not concerned about it because He didn’t, and He won’t.

Let’s move on to Joshua chapter 20. We’ll read it next week; but before we do here is the gist of this chapter: now that the Land has been subdued (note that I did NOT say conquered) and the tribes have been allotted their territories, Yehoveh instructs Joshua that it is now time for the tribes to set aside the network of cities that will become known as the Levitical cities and some that will become the cities of refuge. There were to be 48 cities set aside for the Levities to live in. This was not to be a mixed population; it was to be for the Levites only, however no doubt some foreigners and some of the other Israelites lived there if there was a specific purpose or reason.

Out of these 48 cities 6 were to be designated as Sanctuary Cities, or cities of refuge: 3 on the west side of the Jordan, and 3 on the east side. There was also a provision for 3 more cities of refuge to be established if Israel spread out and conquered more territory and thus needed the extra sites of refuge.

Now these cities were to be strategically spread out in the Promised Land (and in the Trans-Jordan) so that a person who needed it could get there rapidly.

The instructions for cities of refuge were laid out while Moses was still in charge, when the Israelites were still in the Wilderness. So the first few verse of Joshua 20 are essentially a repeat of Numbers 35:9-29.

We are too short on time to read these verses this week, but we will next time.

I am fascinated with this concept of the cities of refuge. Most scholars see this simply as an ancient way of handling a situation of accidental or unintentional manslaying before there was strong central government and police forces to deal with it. So, the Hebrews merely adopted it. While there is an element of truth to that, I see something considerably deeper; I see a parallel with an obscure and mysterious place that the Bible calls Abraham’s Bosom.

An often-asked question in the church is, “what happened to the righteous who died BEFORE the advent of Yeshua?” While I readily admit that I cannot be 100% certain of the answer, I believe the God-patterns are our best guide; it was much the same then as happens today, but with a notable difference: the advent of Yeshua. When a person dies today their spirit/soul is released from its corpse and it immediately goes to one of two places: Heaven or Hell. So there is a kind of judgment (or perhaps, better, determination) by the Lord that happens immediately upon our death now, as then.

Before Christ died for our sins the names for these two places in Hebrew literature translate to Abraham’s Bosom and the Place of Torments. Abraham’s Bosom was for the righteous dead; the Place of Torments for those who died in their sins, without righteousness. Those who followed Torah, who sought proper atonement by means of the sacrificial system when they sinned, and who trusted the God of Israel went to Abraham’s Bosom, a kind of holding place of the righteous dead UNTIL something else occurred that would release them to go and be free in a permanent state of freedom and safety. But it seems that the only safety their souls had in Abraham’s Bosom came at the price of being as captives there, even if it was a pleasant place.

There were a couple of caveats though (and in the name of time I’ll not go back to everywhere in the Bible this is quoted, but I’ve covered this before so you can review it on your own). There were two main categories of sins defined in the Torah: unintentional (sometimes called inadvertent), and intentional sins. Now that does NOT necessarily mean accidental sins and on-purpose sins like it sounds. It more means lesser sins and greater sins; and more to the point forgivable sins and unforgivable sins. The unforgivable sins were few, and yet another idiom used for this category was high-handed sins. The New Testament labels the unforgivable sin as, “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit”, a subject we won’t debate today.

Here’s the thing to understand: the sacrificial system ONLY had the ability to atone for the unintentional, or lesser, or forgivable sins (whichever of these terms you prefer). Therefore certain sins HAD no atonement available. One of these unforgivable (no sacrifice available) sins was murder; unjustifiable killing of a human being.

If a person committed an unintentional and therefore forgivable sin, they could repent in their hearts and follow the Levitical procedures of the proper sacrifice and be forgiven. If they died thereafter, they were righteous in God’s eyes. But if they committed an intentional and therefore unforgivable sin then NO procedure could atone for them and they died in an unrighteous state.  The spirit/soul of the former went to Abraham’s Bosom, the latter to the Place of Torments.

When Jesus died we’re told in Ephesians 4 that he went “up”; but before he went “up, he went down. In the Gospel of Luke we get the story of Abraham’s Bosom and the Place of Torments that centers on Lazarus. And we’re told that when Jesus went down he presented the Good News and let the captives there free.

Because of His death as the Son of God, as our Messiah, His blood atoned for the sin natures of the captives of Abraham’s Bosom, and His Living Water attribute cleansed them so thoroughly that they were now able to go and be in the presence of God.

Look at the parallels with laws concerning the city of refuge. A person who commits a forgivable, unintentional sin (manslaughter) races to a place where he is held safe from being destroyed. However there is judge that determines if the killing that this person is responsible for is murder or not. If it is murder (an unforgivable sin), he’s turned away. If it’s not (a forgivable sin), he is let in. Atonement is made for him, and he is forgiven BUT he must remain captive there indefinitely if he wants to be safe. He raced to the city of refuge in the first place because the Kinsman Redeemer (or Blood Avenger) of the person who died had the legal right to take the life of the perpetrator in retribution even if the killing was accidental. But……the Levitical city of refuge provided the ONLY place that was off limits to that Blood Avenger. If the perpetrator ever ventured out of the city of refuge, he became fair game.

Yet there is a strange unexplained provision in all this: once the High Priest of Israel dies THEN the perpetrator can leave the city of refuge and the Blood Avenger may no longer legally kill him. In fact if the Blood Avenger DID take revenge under those circumstances it would be murder on his part, an unforgivable sin. What has the High Priest dying have to do with anything? Why is the perpetrator of manslaughter let off the hook because the High Priest passed away? Well there’s been lots of commentary among the Hebrew Sages and Rabbis about this subject and while there is no universal agreement (there rarely is on much of anything) the majority would agree that there is some mysterious unspoken kind of atonement that happens as a result of the High Priest’s death, as illogical as it may seem.

Compare this to Abraham’s Bosom and Yeshua. A man sins (a forgivable sin) and at death his soul races to the safety of Abraham’s Bosom. He is more or less a prisoner there until something or someone releases him to complete safety and full forgiveness where the legal Blood Avenger can’t destroy him. It was later in the Biblical times that the concept of Abraham’s Bosom was developed. In those days they really didn’t know what that release mechanism of the captives was from Abraham’s Bosom; but we do now. Jesus is called our High Priest. When our High Priest died on the Cross one of the first things He did was to go to Abraham’s Bosom and tell the captives there that they were no longer prisoners. They were no longer captives in an intermediate place; they could go home (to Heaven as it turns out) without fear of retribution.

The cities of refuge were a picture and physical demonstration of the spiritual principle of Abraham’s Bosom and Messiah and Heaven. It shows that if we die in our unrighteousness, we are already judged. If we die in righteousness we can go to a safe place (Heaven) without fear of retribution. The Evil One has been given permission to possess those who sin…….except for those who sin AND seek atonement in the Lord. But it took the death of our High Priest to make the ultimate safe destination open to mankind.

There was a kind of righteousness that these saints of old, pre-Yeshua, held that came from their trusting and their obedience to God’s laws. But of itself it was insufficient to allow them to stand before God in His heavenly realm. It took another kind of righteousness, a higher and humanly unachievable kind of righteousness, Yeshua’s righteousness, for that to occur.  The saints of old had to go through a sort of two-step process, if you would; they had to trust God and obey Torah, and upon their death they were quickly ushered to a safe place away from Satan’s clutches; but this place was NOT Heaven because something else had to happen for that to eventually become possible: the death of their (and our) spiritual High Priest, the Messiah Yeshua.

Today it’s a one-step process that has only been possible for about 2000 years, since the Crucifixion of Christ. Absent from the body, present with the Lord. Abraham’s Bosom is empty, never again to be occupied, because it’s no longer needed. But that Place of Torments is another matter; from there, there is no escape and no hope. Die in your unrighteousness and there is no middle ground, no second chance. No one can go to the Place of Torments and be redeemed from there, as the story of Lazarus demonstrates. Since the coming of Christ the only acceptable righteousness is the righteousness that He provides. It’s His righteousness that we do NOT attain; we simply wear it like a garment. It is a garment, given as a gift, from the merciful hand of the king.

I think that’s enough to chew on today. We’ll continue next week.


Joshua 18, 19 – Inheritance of the Remaining Tribes

A. The survey of the land for the seven remaining tribes.

1. (18:1-3) At Shiloh, Joshua exhorts the remaining tribes to possess their land.

Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them. But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance. Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers has given you?”

a. But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance: Why would they not want to possess their land? Why would Joshua need to prod them? Probably because these are people who had not lived in permanent dwellings for more than a generation, and they were afraid of something new, even if it was good.

b. How long will you neglect to go and possess the land: Whatever the exact reason, the bottom line was neglect. They did not fulfill what God had called them to do.

2. (4-8) Joshua instructs a survey party to go out and assess the land that it may be divided among the seven remaining tribes.

“Pick out from among you three men for each tribe, and I will send them; they shall rise and go through the land, survey it according to their inheritance, and come back to me. And they shall divide it into seven parts. Judah shall remain in their territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall remain in their territory on the north. You shall therefore survey the land in seven parts and bring the survey here to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God. But the Levites have no part among you, for the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.” Then the men arose to go away; and Joshua charged those who went to survey the land, saying, “Go, walk through the land, survey it, and come back to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD in Shiloh.”

3. (9-10) The successful survey party returns and Joshua casts lots to determine which tribes will receive which land.

So the men went, passed through the land, and wrote the survey in a book in seven parts by cities; and they came to Joshua at the camp in Shiloh. Then Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions.

B. The final division of the land.

1. (11-28) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Benjamin.

Now the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families, and the territory of their lot came out between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph. Their border on the north side began at the Jordan, and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north, and went up through the mountains westward; it ended at the Wilderness of Beth Aven. The border went over from there toward Luz, to the side of Luz (which is Bethel) southward; and the border descended to Ataroth Addar, near the hill that lies on the south side of Lower Beth Horon. Then the border extended around the west side to the south, from the hill that lies before Beth Horon southward; and it ended at Kirjath Baal (which is Kirjath Jearim), a city of the children of Judah. This was the west side. The south side began at the end of Kirjath Jearim, and the border extended on the west and went out to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. Then the border came down to the end of the mountain that lies before the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is in the Valley of the Rephaim on the north, descended to the Valley of Hinnom, to the side of the Jebusite city on the south, and descended to En Rogel. And it went around from the north, went out to En Shemesh, and extended toward Geliloth, which is before the Ascent of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. Then it passed along toward the north side of Arabah, and went down to Arabah. And the border passed along to the north side of Beth Hoglah; then the border ended at the north bay at the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan. This was the southern boundary. The Jordan was its border on the east side. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, according to its boundaries all around, according to their families. Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin, according to their families, were Jericho, Beth Hoglah, Emek Keziz, Beth Arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, Avim, Parah, Ophrah, Chephar Haammoni, Ophni, and Gaba: twelve cities with their villages; Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, Mizpah, Chephirah, Mozah, Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, Zelah, Eleph, Jebus (which is Jerusalem), Gibeath, and Kirjath: fourteen cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.

2. (19:1-9) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Simeon.

The second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families. And their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah. They had in their inheritance Beersheba (Sheba), Moladah, Hazar Shual, Balah, Ezem, Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth Marcaboth, Hazar Susah, Beth Lebaoth, and Sharuhen: thirteen cities and their villages; Ain, Rimmon, Ether, and Ashan: four cities and their villages; and all the villages that were all around these cities as far as Baalath Beer, Ramah of the South. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families. The inheritance of the children of Simeon was included in the share of the children of Judah, for the share of the children of Judah was too much for them. Therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of that people.

3. (10-16) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Zebulun.

The third lot came out for the children of Zebulun according to their families, and the border of their inheritance was as far as Sarid. Their border went toward the west and to Maralah, went to Dabbasheth, and extended along the brook that is east of Jokneam. Then from Sarid it went eastward toward the sunrise along the border of Chisloth Tabor, and went out toward Daberath, bypassing Japhia. And from there it passed along on the east of Gath Hepher, toward Eth Kazin, and extended to Rimmon, which borders on Neah. Then the border went around it on the north side of Hannathon, and it ended in the Valley of Jiphthah El. Included were Kattath, Nahallal, Shimron, Idalah, and Bethlehem: twelve cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.

4. (17-23) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Issachar.

The fourth lot came out to Issachar, for the children of Issachar according to their families. And their territory went to Jezreel, and included Chesulloth, Shunem, Haphraim, Shion, Anaharath, Rabbith, Kishion, Abez, Remeth, En Gannim, En Haddah, and Beth Pazzez. And the border reached to Tabor, Shahazimah, and Beth Shemesh; their border ended at the Jordan: sixteen cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar according to their families, the cities and their villages.

5. (24-31) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Asher.

The fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families. And their territory included Helkath, Hali, Beten, Achshaph, Alammelech, Amad, and Mishal; it reached to Mount Carmel westward, along the Brook Shihor Libnath. It turned toward the sunrise to Beth Dagon; and it reached to Zebulun and to the Valley of Jiphthah El, then northward beyond Beth Emek and Neiel, bypassing Cabul which was on the left, including Ebron, Rehob, Hammon, and Kanah, as far as Greater Sidon. And the border turned to Ramah and to the fortified city of Tyre; then the border turned to Hosah, and ended at the sea by the region of Achzib. Also Ummah, Aphek, and Rehob were included: twenty-two cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.

6. (32-39) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Naphtali.

The sixth lot came out to the children of Naphtali, for the children of Naphtali according to their families. And their border began at Heleph, enclosing the territory from the terebinth tree in Zaanannim, Adami Nekeb, and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum; it ended at the Jordan. From Heleph the border extended westward to Aznoth Tabor, and went out from there toward Hukkok; it adjoined Zebulun on the south side and Asher on the west side, and ended at Judah by the Jordan toward the sunrise. And the fortified cities are Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth, Adamah, Ramah, Hazor, Kedesh, Edrei, En Hazor, Iron, Migdal El, Horem, Beth Anath, and Beth Shemesh: nineteen cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali according to their families, the cities and their villages.

7. (40-48) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Dan.

The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. And the territory of their inheritance was Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir Shemesh, Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Jethlah, Elon, Timnah, Ekron, Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, Jehud, Bene Berak, Gath Rimmon, Me Jarkon, and Rakkon, with the region near Joppa. And the border of the children of Dan went beyond these, because the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem and took it; and they struck it with the edge of the sword, took possession of it, and dwelt in it. They called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.

8. (49-51) Joshua’s inheritance.

When they had made an end of dividing the land as an inheritance according to their borders, the children of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. According to the word of the LORD they gave him the city which he asked for, Timnath Serah in the mountains of Ephraim; and he built the city and dwelt in it. These were the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel divided as an inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the LORD, at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So they made an end of dividing the country.

a. When they had made an end of dividing the land: Joshua received what was promised to him by God, but in remarkable humility, he receives his portion last. This is the kind of humble service and concern for others that makes Joshua such a wonderful picture of Jesus Christ.

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Matthew Henry :: Commentary on Joshua 18

Chapter 18

In this chapter we have,

  • I. The setting up of the tabernacle at Shiloh (v. 1).
  • II. The stirring up of the seven tribes that were yet unsettled to look after their lot, and the putting of them in a method for it, by Joshua (v. 2-7).
  • III. The distributing of the land into seven lots, by certain men employed for that purpose (v. 8, 9).
  • IV. The determining of these seven portions to the seven tribes yet unprovided for by lot (v. 10).
  • V. The particular lot of the tribe of Benjamin, the borders of it (v. 11-20). And the cities contained in it (v. 21-28). The other six tribes we shall find well provided for in the next chapter.

Jos 18:1

In the midst of the story of the dividing of the land comes in this account of the setting up of the tabernacle, which had hitherto continued in its old place in the centre of their camp; but now that three of the four squadrons that used to surround it in the wilderness were broken and diminished, those of Judah, Ephraim, and Reuben, by the removal of those tribes to their respective possessions, and that of Dan only remained entire, it was time to think of removing the tabernacle itself into a city. Many a time the priests and Levites had taken it down, carried it, and set it up again in the wilderness, according to the directions given them (Num. 4:5, etc.); but now they must do it for good and all, not one of the stakes thereof must any more be removed, nor any of the cords thereof broken, Isa. 33:20. Observe,

  • I. The place to which the tabernacle was removed, and in which it was set up. It was Shiloh, a city in the lot of Ephraim, but lying close upon the lot of Benjamin. Doubtless God himself did some way or other direct them to this place, for he had promised to choose theplace where he would make his name to dwell,Deu. 12:11. It is most probable God made known his mind in this matter by the judgment of Urim. This place was pitched upon,
    • 1. Because it was in the heart of the country, nearer the centre than Jerusalem was, and therefore the more convenient for the meeting of all Israel there from the several parts of the country; it had been in the midst of their camp in the wilderness, and therefore must now be in the midst of their nation, as that which sanctified the whole, and was the glory in the midst of them. See Ps. 46:5.
    • 2. Because it was in the lot of that tribe of which Joshua was, who was now their chief magistrate, and it would be both for his honour and convenience and for the advantage of the country to have it near him. The testimony of Israel and the thrones of judgment do well together, Ps. 122:4, 5.
    • 3. Some think there was an eye to the name of the place, Shiloh being the name by which the Messiah was known in dying Jacob's prophecy (Gen. 49:10), which prophecy, no doubt, was well known among the Jews; the setting up of the tabernacle in Shiloh gave them a hint that in that Shiloh whom Jacob spoke of all the ordinances of this worldly sanctuary should have their accomplishment in a greater and more perfect tabernacle, Heb. 9:1, 11. And Dr. Lightfoot thinks that the place where the tabernacle was set up was therefore called Shiloh, because of the peaceableness of the land at this time; as afterwards in Salem was his temple, which also signifies peaceable.
  • II. The solemn manner of doing it: The whole congregation assembled together to attend the solemnity, to do honour to the ark of God, as the token of his presence, and to bid it welcome to its settlement. Every Israelite was interested in it, and therefore all testified their joy and satisfaction upon this occasion. See 2 Sa. 6:15. It is probable those tribes that were yet encamped when the tabernacle was removed to Shiloh decamped from Gilgal and pitched about Shiloh, for every true Israelite will desire to fix where God's tabernacle fixed. Mention is made, on this occasion, of the land being subdued before them, to intimate that the country, hereabouts at least, being thoroughly reduced, they met with no opposition, nor were they apprehensive of any danger, but thought it time to make this grateful acknowledgment of God's goodness to them in the constant series of successes with which he had blessed them. It was a good presage of a comfortable settlement to themselves in Canaan, when their first care was to see the ark well settled as soon as they had a safe place ready to settle it in. Here the ark continued about 300 years, till the sins of Eli's house forfeited the ark, lost it and ruined Shiloh, and its ruins were long after made use of as warnings to Jerusalem. Go, see what I did toShiloh,Jer. 7:12; Ps. 78:60.

Jos 18:2-10


  • I. Joshua reproves those tribes which were yet unsettled that they did not bestir themselves to gain a settlement in the land which God had given them. Seven tribes were yet unprovided for, though sure of an inheritance, yet uncertain where it should be, and it seems in no great care about it, v. 2. And with them Joshua reasons (v. 3): How long are you slack?
    • 1. They were too well pleased with their present condition, liked well enough to live in a body together, the more the merrier, and, like the Babel-builders, had no mind to be scattered abroad and break good company. The spoil of the cities they had taken served them to live plentifully upon for the present, and they banished the thoughts of time to come. Perhaps the tribes of Judah and Joseph, who had already received their inheritance in the countries next adjoining, were generous in entertaining their brethren who were yet unprovided for, so that they went from one good house to another among their friends, with which, instead of grudging that they were postponed, they were so well pleased that they cared not for going to houses of their own.
    • 2. They were slothful and dilatory. It may be they wished the thing done, but had not spirit to stir in it, or move towards the doing of it, though it was so much for their own advantage; like the sluggard, that hides his hand in his bosom, and it grieves him to bring it to his mouth again. The countries that remained to be divided lay at a distance, and some parts of them in the hands of the Canaanites. If they go to take possession of them, the cities must be rebuilt or repaired, they must drive their flocks and herds a great way, and carry their wives and children to strange places, and this will not be done without care and pains, and breaking through some hardships; thus he that observes the wind shall not sow, and he that regards the clouds shall not reap,Eccl. 11:4. Note, Many are diverted from real duties, and debarred from real comforts, by seeming difficulties. God by his grace has given us a title to a good land, the heavenly Canaan, but we are slack to take possession; we enter not into that rest, as we might by faith, and hope, and holy joy; we live not in heaven, as we might by setting our affections on things above and having our conversation there. How long shall it be thus with us? How long shall we thus stand in our own light, and forsake our own mercies for lying vanities? Joshua was sensible of the inconveniences of this delay, that, while they neglected to take possession of the land that was conquered, the Canaanites were recovering strength and spirit, and fortifying themselves in the places that were yet in their hands, which would make the total expulsion of them the more difficult. They would lose their advantages by not following their blow; and therefore, as aneagle stirreth up her nest, so Joshua stirs them up to take possession of their lot. He is ready to do his part, if they will but do theirs.
  • II. He puts them in a way to settle themselves.
    • 1. The land that remained must be surveyed, an account taken of the cities, and the territories belonging to them, v. 4. These must be divided into seven equal parts, as near as they could guess at their true value, which they must have an eye to, and not merely to the number of the cities and extent of the country. Judah is fixed on the south and Joseph on the north of Shiloh, to protect the tabernacle (v. 5), and therefore they need not describe their country, but those countries only that were yet undisposed of. He gives a reason (v. 7) why they must divide it into seven parts only, because the Levites were to have no temporal estate (as we say), but their benefices only, which were entailed upon their families: The priesthood of theLord is their inheritance, and a very honourable, comfortable, plentiful inheritance it was. Gad and Reuben, with half of the tribe of Manasseh, were already fixed, and needed not to have any further care taken of them. Now,
      • (1.) The surveyors were three men out of each of the seven tribes that were to be provided for (v. 4), one-and-twenty in all, who perhaps for greater expedition, because they had already lost time, divided themselves into three companies, one of each tribe in each company, and took each their district to survey. The matter was thus referred equally, that there might be neither any partiality used in making up the seven lots, nor any shadow of suspicion given, but all might be satisfied that they had right done them.
      • (2.) The survey was accordingly made, and brought in to Joshua, v. 8, 9. Josephus says it was seven months in the doing. And we must in it observe,
        • [1.] The faith and courage of the persons employed: abundance of Canaanites remained in the land, and all raging against Israel, as a bearrobbed of her whelps; the business of these surveyors would soon be known, and what could they expect but to be way-laid, and have their brains knocked out by the fierce observers? But in obedience to Joshua's command, and in dependence upon God's power, they thus put their lives in their hands to serve their country.
        • [2.] The good providence of God in protecting them from the many deaths they were exposed to, and bringing them all safely again to the host at Shiloh. When we are in the way of our duty we are under the special protection of the Almighty.
    • 2. When it was surveyed, and reduced to seven lots, then Joshua would, by appeal to God, and direction from him, determine which of these lots should belong to each tribe (v. 6): That I maycast lots for you here at the tabernacle (because it was a sacred transaction) before the Lordour God, to whom each tribe must have an eye, with thankfulness for the conveniences and submission to the inconveniences of their allotment. What we have in the world we must acknowledge God's property in, and dispose of it as before him, with justice, and charity, and dependence upon Providence. The heavenly Canaan is described to us in a book, the book of the scriptures, and there are in it mansions and portions sufficient for all God's spiritual Israel. Christ is our Joshua that divides it to us. On him we must attend, and to him we must apply for an inheritance with the saints in light. See Jn. 17:2, 3.

Jos 18:11-28

We have here the lot of the tribe of Benjamin, which Providence cast next to Joseph on the one hand, because Benjamin was own and only brother to Joseph, and was little Benjamin (Ps. 68:27), that needed the protection of great Joseph, and yet had a better protector, for the Lordshall cover him all the day long,Deu. 33:12. And it was next to Judah on the other hand, that this tribe might hereafter unite with Judah in an adherence to the throne of David and the temple at Jerusalem. Here we have,

  • 1. The exact borders and limits of this tribe, which we need not be exact in the explication of. As it had Judah on the south and Joseph on the north, so it had Jordan on the east and Dan on the west. The western border is said to compass the cornerof the sea southward (v. 14), whereas no part of the lot of this tribe came near to the great sea. Bishop Patrick thinks the meaning is that it ran along in a parallel line to the great sea, though at a distance. Dr. Fuller suggests that since it is not called the great sea, but only the sea, which often signifies any lake or mere, it may be meant of the pool of Gibeon, which may be called acorner or canton of the sea; it is called the great waters of Gibeon (Jer. 41:12), and it is compassed by the western border of this tribe.
  • 2. The particular cities in this tribe, not all, but the most considerable. Twenty-six are here named. Jericho is put first, though dismantled, and forbidden to be rebuilt as a city with gates and walls, because it might be built and inhabited as a country village, and so was not useless to this tribe. Gilgal, where Israel first encamped when Saul was made king (1 Sa. 11:15), was in this tribe. It was afterwards a very profane place. Hos. 9:15, All their wickedness is in Gilgal. Beth-el was in this tribe, a famous place. Though Benjamin adhered to the house of David, yet Beth-el, it seems, was in the possession of the house of Joseph (Jdg. 1:23-25), and there Jeroboam set up one of his calves. In this tribe was Gibeon, where the altar was in the beginning of Solomon's time, 2 Chr. 1:3. Gibeah likewise, that infamous place where the Levite's concubine was abused. Mizpeh, and near it Samuel's Ebenezer, and also Anathoth, Jeremiah's city, were in this tribe, as was the northern part of Jerusalem. Paul was the honour of this tribe (Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5); but where his land lay we know not: he sought the better country.

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Joshua 18:3: Neglect-to-Possess

Delayed Obedience is Disobedience

Joshua 18:1–28
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A farm boy accidentally overturned his wagon load of corn in the road. The farmer who lived nearby came to investigate. “Hey, Willis,” he called out, “forget your troubles for a spell and come on in and have dinner with us. Then I’ll help you get the wagon up.” … More

The tabernacle was moved from Gilgal to Shiloh in this chapter (vv. 1-2). Some commentators say this move was probably a mistake as Gilgal was the original place of God’s choosing and there is nothing in Scripture to indicate that the move was pleasing to Him. However, humanly speaking, there were some benefits. Shiloh was a more central location among the twelve tribes and it was closer to where Joshua lived. The tabernacle remained in Shiloh through the period of the judges which was about 300 years. This city never really lived up to the reputation of Israel’s religious center, for later references in the Bible point to its wickedness and idolatry (Psa. 78:56-60).

Seven of the tribes had not yet been assigned their land (v. 2). Joshua asks them how long they are going to procrastinate in taking the land (v. 3) What should our first focus in warfare be? ( It is not to hold the fort until Jesus comes and then be carried home). It is to possess that which has been promised to us, to take possession of our inheritance. They gathered at Shiloh where Joshua cast lots to determine which area would be given to each tribe (v. 6). Little is known about the method used of casting lots, but it was a common practice among the Hebrews in making important decisions. Dice may have been used or it may have consisted of drawing names from the Urim and Thurmen (Lev. 8:8). No matter how it was done, the process removed human choice from the decision-making process and allowed God to match tribes and lands as He saw fit (v. 10). Moses or Joshua didn’t give the children of Israel their inheritance, God did. Moses and Joshua were only instruments God used.


Joshua asked why some of the tribes were putting off the job of possessing the land. Often I tend to  procrastinate doing jobs that seem large and difficult, boring or disagreeable. Lord, help me to not be slow in possessing the land of opportunities you have given to me.

Joshua 18:1-28 (English Standard Version)

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Commentary joshua 18

But we move on to chapter 18. Verses 1 through 10 find all Israel in Shiloh. They set up the tabernacle. And then Joshua has something to say to the last seven tribes who haven’t received their land yet. I’ll warn you. It doesn’t relieve the concern we’ve had. It actually continues it. Let’s read verses 2 through 6.

Joshua 18:2-6

[Joshua 18:2 ¶ And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance. 3 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you? 4 Give out from among you three men for each tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me. 5 And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north. 6 Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.]

Do you see what’s happening here? There are 7 tribes that are quite content to just roam around with the rest of the congregation of Israel. Joshua accuses them of slackness. It seems these folks have lost interest in possessing the land. So Joshua orders them to send out men to divide the land. And then since they don’t really care which portion they get, Joshua’s just going to give them whatever falls to them. And so that’s just what we see in 18:1 through to 19:48. The first tribe chosen by lot was Benjamin in verses 11-28 of chapter 18.

Joshua 18


Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

Ch. Joshua 18:1-10. Erection of the Tabernacle at Shiloh

1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel] The descendants of Judah and of Joseph had now taken up their respective inheritances, the one in the south, the other in the north of the country. But “the murmuring,” it has been remarked, “of the children of Joseph, and the spirit from which it proceeded, gave sad indications of danger in the near future. National disintegration, tribal jealousies, coupled with boastfulness and unwillingness to execute the work given them of God, were only too surely foreboded in the conduct of the children of Joseph. If such troubles were to be averted, it was high time to seek a revival of religion.” Dr Edersheim’s Israel in Canaan under Joshua and the Judges, p. 94. The camp at Gilgal, therefore, was broken up, and the people removed to Shiloh, which was situated within the territory of Ephraim, Joshua’s own tribe.

The whole congregation of the children of Israel. This formula often recurs. Thus in Exodus 16:1we read, “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israelcame unto the wilderness of Sin;” and again, Exodus 16:9, “And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel.” Sometimes it is more brief, “the congregation of Israel,” as in Exodus 12:3, “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel.” Sometimes more briefly still, “the congregation,” as in Leviticus 4:15, “And the elders of the congregationshall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord.” The Greek word here used is the same as that used by our Lord, Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build My Church.” Originally it denoted an assembly of persons called outfrom among others by the voice of a herald, as, at Athens, for the purpose of legislation. It is applied to the Israelites, as being a nation called outby God from the rest of the world, to bear witness to His unity, to preserve His laws, to keep alive the hope of Redemption, and to exhibit the pattern of a people living in righteousness and true godliness. Hence, St Stephen says of Moses, that he was “in the Church(or congregation) in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina” (Acts 7:38); again, David says in Psalm 22:22, quoted in Hebrews 2:12, “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church(or congregation) will I sing praise unto Thee;” and again he says in Psalm 26:12, “My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregationswill I bless the Lord.”

assembled together at Shiloh] Few places in respect to situation are described so accurately as Shiloh. In Jdg 21:19it is said to have been situated “on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.” “In agreement with this, the traveller at the present day, going north from Jerusalem, lodges the first night at Beitîn, the ancient Bethel; the next day, at the distance of a few hours, turns aside to the right, in order to visit Seilûn, the Arabic for Shiloh; and then passing through the narrow Wady, which brings him to the main road, leaves el-Lebbân, the Lebonah of Scripture, on the left, as he pursues the ‘highway’ to Nâblus, the ancient Shechem.” Smith’s Bibl. Dict. It was one of the earliest and most sacred of the Hebrew sanctuaries. “Its selection,” observes Dean Stanley, “may partly have arisen from its comparative seclusion, still more from its central situation. The most hallowed spot of that vicinity, Bethel, which might else have been more naturally chosen, was at this time still in the hands of the Canaanites (Jdg 1:23-27); and thus, left to choose the encampment of the Sacred Tent, not by old associations, but according to the dictates of convenience, the conquerors fixed on this retired spot in the heart of the country, where the allotment of the territory could be most conveniently made, north, south, east, and west, to the different tribes; and there the Ark remained down to the fatal day when its home was uprooted by the Philistines.” S. and P. p. 232. “It was a central point for all Israel, equidistant from north and south, easily accessible to the trans-Jordanic tribes, and in the heart of that hill-country which Joshua first subdued, and which remained, to the end of Israel’s history, the district least exposed to the attacks of Canaanitish or foreign invaders.” Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 162. Here (a) “the daughters of Shiloh” were seized by the Benjamites (Jdg 21:19-23); here (b) Samuel spent his boyhood in the service of the Lord, and as an attendant upon the aged Eli (1 Samuel 3:19-21); here (c) the wicked conduct of the sons of that pontiff occasioned the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, and Shiloh from that day forward sank into insignificance (1 Samuel 2:17; 1 Samuel 4:12), for the Lord “forsook the tabernacle” there, “the tent that He had pitched among men; He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim” (Psalm 78:60; Psalm 78:67). “Shiloh is a mass of shapeless ruins, scarcely distinguishable from the rugged rocks around them.… No one relic could we trace which in any way pointed to earlier times among all the wasted stone-heaps which crowded the broken terraces. So utterly destroyed is the house of the ark of God, the home of Eli and of Samuel. ‘Go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My Name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel’ (Jeremiah 7:12).” Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 161.

the tabernacle of the congregation] i.e. the tabernacle,or, tent of meeting.The phrase has the meaning of a place of or for a fixed meeting. This thought comes out in Exodus 25:22, “there Iwill meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat;” in Exodus 30:6, “before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee;” and especially in Exodus 29:42-43, “This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord; where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee: and there I will meetwith the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.” “Not the gathering of the worshippers only, but the meeting of God with His people, to commune with them, to make Himself known to them, was what the name embodied.” See Smith’s Bibl. Dict. After the catastrophe when the Ark fell into the hands of the Philistines, the Tabernacle was removed (i) to Nob (1 Samuel 21:1), and (ii) when that place was destroyed by Saul (1 Samuel 22:19), to Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4).

was subdued before them] The word rendered “subdued” denotes to “treadunder the feet.” Comp. Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it;” and Jeremiah 34:16, “But ye turned and polluted My name, and caused every man his servant … to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.” The verse seems to imply that immediately after the conquest of the land, it was the intention of the Israelites to set up the sacred Tent, but that this purpose could not be carried into effect until the tribe, in the midst of which the Lord had intended it to stand, had received its inheritance. See Keil’s Commentary.

Pulpit Commentary

Verse 1.- Congregation. The word signifies a body of persons gathered together at a spot before indicated. The LXX. renders by συναγωγή. The idea is evidently that of an assembly gathered together for some specific acts of worship. This passage teaches the duty of a national recognition of religion. Whatever evils there might be in Israel at that time, the absence of a general and formal acknowledgment of God was not one of them. When that public acknowledgment of Him ceased, the downfall of the nation was at hand. It was the absence of such acknowledgment that was the ruin of Israel, while the hypocritical and purely external recognition of God by Judah was equally offensive in God's sight. Assembled. Literally, was summoned; by whom, we are not told. But this general gathering to set up the tabernacle was at once an act of due homage to Him by whose power they had done so many great deeds, and also the establishment of a centre of national life. As long as the worship of God was maintained in its purity, the unity of Israel would be preserved, in spite of the twelve-fold division into tribes, and without the need to introduce the monarchical power. When fidelity to the outward symbol of Israelitish unity, the tabernacle at Shiloh, relaxed, then dissension and weakness crept in, and Israel became a prey to her enemies. A remarkable instance of an opposite character meets us in the history of our own country. The prey of various unconnected Teutonic tribes, the island was one vast scene of anarchy and confusion, until the great Archbishop Theodore came over and founded a National Church. It was this religious unity and cooperation which tended to harmonise the conflicting forces in the land and steadily pioneered the way to an union of the rival tribes under one head. Without attempting to say whose fault it is that this religious unity is lost, or how it may best be reestablished, it surely is the duty of every patriot and every Christian to cooperate to the best of his ability and knowledge, with all the forces that he sees tending towards unity, and both pray and labour for the coming of the day when men may once more "with one mind and with one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," and be willing to meet together "with one accord in one place." Shiloh. In Deuteronomy 12:5, 11, 14, we find God prescribing that only in a place chosen by Himself shall the public worship of the congregation be paid to Him. Thither were all the males to resort three times a year. It is obvious how such a regulation tended to keep alive national feeling among the Israelites. The reason for the choice of Shiloh (which was probably made by Urim and Thummim, the case being important enough for such a decision) is to be found in its central position, five hours south of Shechem, and eight hours north of Jerusalem. Its situation is minutely described in Judges 21:19. It is difficult to understand why; since Shiloh must have been well known to all the dwellers in Israel at that time, unless it was to explain to those who were not acquainted with the localities in the tribe of Benjamin the reason for the selection of Shiloh, namely, that it lay close by the road between Bethel and Shechem (see, however, note on Joshua 24:1). The place has been identified. It is the modern Seilun, but only a few ruins remain to mark the place once so famous in the history of Israel, where Eli abode, where Samuel spent his early years. Rejected by God Himself, as the Jewish Psalmist relates with patriotic pride (Psalm 78:60, 67-69), it fell into utter neglect, and even in the days of Jeremiah it seems to have become a by word (see Jeremiah 7:12, 14; Jeremiah 26:6, 9. Also Pal. Expl. Fund, Quart. Paper, Jan., 1873, where an account, with a plan, is given of the place in its present condition. There are a few rock-hewn tombs there). Whether it was named Shiloh on account of the word used in Genesis 49:10, it is impossible to say. The name appears to signify rest, and was an appropriate name to be given to the visible symbol of rest from warfare which Joshua had obtained for Israel (see Joshua 11:23; Joshua 14:15; Joshua 21:44; Joshua 22:4). The difficult passage in Genesis 49:10is not of course included in this interpretation of the meaning of the word Shiloh. CongregationThe word here differs slightly from the word translated "congregation" in the first part of the verse, but it comes from the same root. And the land was subdued before them.That is, the land in which the tabernacle was set up. We know from the next verse that the land as a whole was not subdued. Joshua 18:1

Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament

The Tabernacle Set Up at Shiloh. - As soon as the tribe of Ephraim had received its inheritance, Joshua commanded the whole congregation to assemble in Shiloh, and there set up the tabernacle, in order that, as the land was conquered, the worship of Jehovah might henceforth be regularly observed in accordance with the law. The selection of Shiloh as the site for the sanctuary was hardly occasioned by the fitness of the place for this purpose, on account of its being situated upon a mountain in the centre of the land, for there were many other places that would have been quite as suitable in this respect; the reason is rather to be found in the name of the place, viz., Shiloh, i.e., rest, which called to mind the promised Shiloh (Genesis 49:10), and therefore appeared to be pre-eminently suitable to be the resting-place of the sanctuary of the Lord, where His name was to dwell in Israel, until He should come who was to give true rest to His people as the Prince of Peace. In any case, however, Joshua did not follow his own judgment in selecting Shiloh for this purpose, but acted in simple accordance with the instructions of God, as the Lord had expressly reserved to himself the choice of the place where His name should dwell (Deuteronomy 12:11). Shiloh, according to the Onom., was twelve Roman miles or five hours to the south of Neapolis (Nablus), and about eight hours to the north of Jerusalem; at present it is a heap of ruins, bearing the name of Seilun (see Rob. iii. p. 85). The tabernacle continued standing at Shiloh during the time of the judges, until the ark of the covenant fell into the hands of the Philistines, in the lifetime of Eli, when the holy tent was robbed of its soul, and reduced to the mere shadow of a sanctuary. After this it was removed to Nob (1 Samuel 21:2); but in consequence of the massacre inflicted by Saul upon the inhabitants of this place (1 Samuel 22:19), it was taken to Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4: see Keil, Bibl. Arch. i. 22). From this time forward Shilloh continued to decline, because the Lord had rejected it (Psalm 78:60; Jeremiah 7:12; Jeremiah 26:6). That it was destroyed by the Assyrians, as Knobel affirms, is not stated in the history.


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Joshua 18 Bible Commentary

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The tabernacle set up at Shiloh. (1) The remainder of the land described and divided. (2-10) The boundaries of Benjamin. (11-28)

Commentary on Joshua 18:1

(Read Joshua 18:1)

Shiloh was in the lot of Ephraim, the tribe to which Joshua belonged, and it was proper that the tabernacle should be near the residence of the chief governor. The name of this city is the same as that by which Jacob prophesied of the Messiah, Genesis 49:10. It is supposed by some that the city was thus called, when it was chosen for the resting-place of the ark, which typified our great Peace-maker, and the way by him to a reconciled God.

Commentary on Joshua 18:2-10

(Read Joshua 18:2-10)

After a year or more, Joshua blamed their slackness, and told them how to proceed. God, by his grace, has given us a title to a good land, the heavenly Canaan, but we are slack to take possession of it; we enter not into that rest, as we might by faith, and hope, and holy joy. How long shall it be thus with us? How long shall we thus stand in our own light, and forsake our own mercies for lying vanities? Joshua stirs the Israelites up to take possession of their lots. He is ready to do his part, if they will do theirs.

Commentary on Joshua 18:11-28

(Read Joshua 18:11-28)

The boundaries of each portion were distinctly drawn, and the inheritance of each tribe settled. All contests and selfish claims were prevented by the wise appointment of God, who allotted the hill and the valley, the corn and pasture, the brooks and rivers, the towns and cities. Is the lot of any servant of Christ cast in affliction and sorrow? It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good. Are we in prosperity and peace? It is from above. Be humbled when you compare the gift with your own unworthiness. Forget not Him that gave the good, and always be ready to resign it at his command.

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