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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 19




Chapters 13-21 The Division of the Land.

The division of the conquered land, and of some not yet conquered, is now outlined. But we must recognise what we mean by conquered. When ancient relatively minor kings moved into a land and conquered it they did not necessarily remain there or station troops there. They followed it up by demanding tribute. The question then was whether the conquest would hold. Would the people accept the position as subject people? That depended both on the strength of the king’s own forces and on the strength or weakness of the conquered people. It was a position that would have to be continually maintained by force.

That was also true in this case. Joshua had conquered the land. But settlement was a different matter. The conquered people might object, especially as they were to be driven out. In the terms of his times Canaan was conquered, but it was certainly not totally under Joshua’s control. He had not left occupying forces. The vacuum left by his invasion would soon be filled by returning refugees and those who had avoided his forces. Thus the conquest would need to be enforced, or otherwise. That was to be the task of the tribes Israel, partly by conquest and partly by slow infiltration. Canaan was a land of forests so that those who chose to do so could advance into a forested part of the land allocated to them and establish themselves there, cutting back the forest and setting up their settlements. This would cause minimal to the present inhabitants. As they then became more settled they could then expand. Others more belligerent could take over smaller cities and settle in them, taking over the fields round about them. Once they grew stronger they could then expand further. The benefit of what Joshua had done lay in the fact that they were now accepted, even if with hostility, as having a right to be in the land. They were a part of the landscape which it was best not to trifle with, because if they were trifled with they had brother tribes whom they could call on for assistance.

The descriptions of the division of the land partly reflect the efficiency of the different surveyors set to the task. Some gave full details of borders, others far sparser details while others merely named cities in the area.

Chapter 19 The Portions of the Remaining Six Tribes.

In this chapter an account is given of the lots of the six remaining tribes, and the cities in them, of Simeon, whose cities were chiefly within the tribe of Judah (Joshua 19:1); of Zebulun, its border and cities (Joshua 19:10); of Issachar, its border and cities (Joshua 19:17); of Asher, its border and cities (Joshua 19:24); of Naphtali, its border and cities (Joshua 19:32); of Dan, its border and cities (Joshua 19:40); and lastly of a gift of inheritance to Joshua (Joshua 19:49).

Verse 1

Chapter 19 The Portions of the Remaining Six Tribes.

In this chapter an account is given of the lots of the six remaining tribes, and the cities in them, of Simeon, whose cities were chiefly within the tribe of Judah (Joshua 19:1); of Zebulun, its border and cities (Joshua 19:10); of Issachar, its border and cities (Joshua 19:17); of Asher, its border and cities (Joshua 19:24); of Naphtali, its border and cities (Joshua 19:32); of Dan, its border and cities (Joshua 19:40); and lastly of a gift of inheritance to Joshua (Joshua 19:49).

Joshua 19:1

And 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.’

The first lot was of course the children of Benjamin’s (Joshua 18:11). This is the second of the seven. The patriarchal name is given without qualification only for Simeon and Issachar. In the other cases only the tribal name ‘children of --’ is given. There is no obvious reason for this unless it is connected with the fact that neither is mentioned as directly spoken to in the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33 - Issachar is included with Zebulun). This might suggest that Joshua or the writer took full note of the blessing of Moses and wished to include Simeon and Issachar in it by codicil.

Why the blessing of Moses excluded a direct reference to them is debatable. It was very possibly because Moses wished deliberately to name only ten names. Numbers had a great significance in those days and ten would for example, parallel the ten words of the covenant. It would also parallel the ten patriarchs in Genesis 5, 11. Thus he deliberately included Issachar with Zebulun. The total omission of Simeon may have been for some judicial reason (e.g. Numbers 25:14) as an indication of Moses’ displeasure, although he may have seen them as indirectly included with their twin Levi as in Genesis 49:5. But the exclusion was not permanent. They were elsewhere regularly mentioned with the twelve. And it may be that it is here seen as partly remedied by Joshua. (If Moses wished to omit two names, sons of Leah were obvious choices due to their preponderance. But the non-mention at all of Simeon must be seen as having some significance even though we may not know what it was).

After Judah had received their portion, with its cities, further consideration made Joshua recognise that Judah had been allocated too much. This is an indication of the genuineness of the narrative. He had to revise his allocations. Thus Simeon was chosen by lot to receive cities in the midst of Judah. This would later bring about a special relationship between the two tribes (Judges 1:3). But they remained separate tribes although working in close unison and Simeon is regularly mentioned as such in later history (1 Chronicles 4:42-43; 1 Chronicles 12:25; 2 Chronicles 15:9; 2 Chronicles 34:6).

Verses 2-6

And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, that is Sheba, and Moladah, and Hazar-shual, and Balah, and Ezem, and Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah, and Ziklag, and Beth-marcaboth, and Hazar-susah, and Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen. Thirteen cities with their villages.’

The cities in which Simeon would have a part are now listed. It would seem that Beersheba, or a part of it, was regularly called Sheba (Genesis 26:33) and therefore both names were given. Possibly one name was used by Judah and the other by Simeon (in virtually the same listing in 1 Chronicles 4:28 Sheba is omitted, presumably for this reason). Beersheba was the place where Abraham made a covenant with the Philistine trading settlement and which he established as a sacred place. It means ‘well of the seven’ referring to the seven ewes which sealed the covenant (Genesis 21:32-33). It was later a favourite place of pilgrimage and thus continued in Israelite eyes as a sacred place (Amos 5:5; Amos 8:14), and Sheba (see Genesis 26:33) may have been a section of it populated by Simeon so that ‘Beersheba and Sheba’ are one ‘city’.

Note in respect of these cities named here the similar list in Joshua 15:26-32 in the portion of Judah, where most are duplicated. They had been allocated to Judah but were now reallocated to Simeon. There was possibly joint oversight. Judah and Simeon were both sons of Leah, (as indeed were Issachar and Zebulun who also developed closely together). City names not similar are Bethul (although possibly the same as Chesil), Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah and Sharuhen (compare 1 Chronicles 4:30-31).

Beth-marcaboth (‘house of chariots’) is uncertain but its connection with Hormah and Ziklag suggests it was probably a strong-point on the Judaean-Philistine border. The name suggests that it might have been a Canaanite arsenal at this time. Hazar-susah (‘horse encampment’) was probably nearby. Sharuhen is possibly Tell el-Far‘a, twenty four kilometres (fifteen miles) south of Gaza or Tell el-Huweilfeh, half a kilometre (less than half a mile) north of Khirbet Rammamein. A ‘Srhn’ is referred to in Egyptian sources as a Hyksos fortress which resisted Ahmose for three years around 1550 BC. Some of these may be alternative names to those mentioned in Joshua 15:31-32.

Verse 7

Ain, Rimmon and Ether and Ashan. Four cities with their villages.’

For the first two see Joshua 15:32 and 1 Chronicles 4:32. Ether and Ashan were in the Shephelah (Joshua 15:42).

LXX here combines Ain and Rimmon as one city and includes a further city Tochen (1 Chronicles 4:32), but in 1 Chronicles 4:32 LXX keeps Ain and Rimmon as separate ‘cities’. This suggests that the Hebrew text is correct.

Verse 8

And all the villages which were round about these cities to Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negeb. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families.’

An all inclusive statement taking in any villages not seen as already included as far as Baalath-Beer, Ramah of the Negeb. For the latter see 1 Samuel 30:27. The sites have not been identified to date.

“This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families.” This is the official statement that followed each allocation. The fact that it is not applied to Manasseh demonstrates that it was applied at that time. Later writers would also have applied it to Manasseh.

Verse 9

Out of the part of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon, for the portion of the children of Judah was too much for them. Therefore the children of Simeon had inheritance in the midst of their inheritance.’

Coming after verse 8 this is probably the writer’s explanation added to the official record. It confirms that because too much had been allocated to Judah, Simeon were allotted part of their portion. In view of the fact that all was given by lot under YHWH’s direction no one would later have dared suggest such an idea unless it had been so.

Verse 10-11

And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families, and the border of their inheritance was to Sarid. And their border went up westward, even to Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and it reached to the river that is before Jokneam.’

The third lot fell for Zebulun. Their territory lay north of the Great Plain (Esdraelon). It included the hills around Nazareth and the fertile, marshy plain further north. The site of Sarid is unknown, although it has been postulated that it is Sadud and thus Tell Shadud. but the southern border went from there east and west. Westward it went to Maralah, Dabbasheth and the torrent-wadi ‘before (east of?) Jokneam’. For Maralah and Dabbesheth Tell Thorah and Tell esh-Shammam have been suggested. As Jokneam was in Zebulun (Joshua 21:34) this may have been a wadi east of Jokneam which then ran round Jokneam. Jokneam was a Canaanite city mentioned in the list of Tuthmosis III of Egypt, and is possibly Tel Yoqneam, and the wadi possibly a tributary of the Kishon.

Verses 12-14

And turned from Sarid eastward, toward the east to the border of Chisloth-tabor, and it went out to Daberath, and went up to Japhia. And from there it passed along eastward to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and it went out at Rimmon which stretches to (or ‘as it bends towards’) Neah. And the border turned about it on the north to Hannathon, and its goings out were at the valley of Iphtah-el.’

Chisloth-tabor (‘the flanks of Tabor’) is probably related to Chesulloth, an Issachar border town in the plain west of Tabor (Joshua 19:18) and to modern Iksal. Daberath, another Issachar border town (Joshua 21:8; 1 Chronicles 6:72), is usually identified with the ruins near the modern village of Deburiyeh at the foot of Mount Tabor. Japhia must lie in a northerly direction from Daberath and cannot therefore be Yafa as suggested by some.

From Japhia the border went eastward to Gath-hepher (‘winepress of digging’) on the border of Naphtali, the birthplace of the prophet Jonah (2 Kings 14:25). It can be identified with Khirbet ez-Zurra‘ and nearby el-Meshhed, five kilometres (three miles) north east of Nazareth. Then it went on to Eth-kazin which is unknown. Rimmon is possibly modern Rummaneh, ten kilometres (six miles) north north east of Nazareth. Neah is unknown.

The border now turned westward to Hannathon, which is possibly to be identified with ‘Hinaton in the land of Canaan’ in the Amarna letters. Some identify it with Tell el-Bedeiwiyeh. It finishes at the valley of Iphtah-el, possibly the Wadi el-Malik. The westward border is not given although Zebulun was bordered by Asher. We do not know whether it had access to the sea.

Verse 15

And Kattath, and Nahalal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Bethlehem. Twelve cities with their villages.’

These five cities are in addition to those previously mentioned. The twelve presumably included those of the latter which were seen as in Zebulun’s borders. Kattath is unidentified. Nahalal (Joshua 21:35; Judges 1:30) was probably not far from modern Nahalal, nine kilometres (six miles) west of Nazareth. Some identify it with Tell el-Beida. Shimron was allied with Hazor (see Joshua 11:1) and defeated by Joshua. Some have suggested Tell es-Semuniyeh about five kilometres south south east of the Bethlehem mentioned here. Idalah has been connected with Tell Hawwareth through its being identified in the Talmud as Hiriyeh, two kilometres (one mile) south of Bethlehem. Bethlehem ( a different one from Bethlehem-judah) is now Bet-lahm, eleven kilometres (seven miles) north west of Nazareth.

Verse 16

This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun, according to their families, these cities with their villages.’

Again we have the final seal on the allotment to a tribe in due form. Each received according to their size, ‘according to their families’. No mention has been made of Kartah and Dimnah (Joshua 21:34). Thus there may have been a special reason in the minds of the particular surveyors for numbering up to twelve.

Verse 17

‘For Issachar came out the fourth lot, for the children of Issachar according to their families.’

See note on Simeon (Joshua 19:1) with respect to the direct mention of the patriarchal name. Issachar is regularly tied in with Zebulun, and in the Blessing of Moses is mentioned co-jointly with them as a junior partner (Deuteronomy 33:18). This co-unity no doubt increased with having their inheritances next to each other and as a result of the circumstances in which they found themselves, surviving in the countryside and forests among strong Canaanite cities. They are probably to be seen as included in Zebulun in Judges 1:30; Judges 4:6; Judges 5:18, although mentioned separately in Judges 5:15 as performing valiantly, which demonstrates that they played a full part in the battle. Like their patriarchal ancestor they probably enjoyed their pleasures and lacked initiative (Genesis 49:14-15). But there is no evidence that suggests that they ever became a slave nation, although no doubt harassed by the Canaanites in their area until they became strong enough with others to drive them out.

Verses 18-21

And their border was to Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Shunem, and Hapharaim, and Shion, and Anaharath, and Rabbith, and Kishion, and Ebez, and Remeth, and En-gannim, and En-haddah and Beth-pazzez.’

Issachar’s borders appear to have been fluid and its area mainly delineated by cities. This ties in with their close relationship with Zebulun and the fact that some of their area was allocated to Manasseh (Joshua 17:11). Their area was to the south east of Zebulun and the south of Naphtali, in the south east of the Great Plain of Jezreel/Esdraelon. Esdraelon is the Greek for Jezreel and the latter name is often applied to the whole of the Great Plain, but they are also often seen as two sections of the Plain. Manasseh were to the south. Possibly the writer saw Issachar’s borders as sufficiently delineated elsewhere. Settling in the plains was made difficult by the prevalence of Canaanite cities and Issachar would therefore first settle in cleared forest land and the mountains. Whether some gave themselves up to forced labour in return for the comforts of Canaanite civilisation, like their ancestor (see Genesis 49:14-15), we do not know.

Jezreel (Hebrew Yizra’el - ‘God sows’) was at the east end of the Jezreel Plain ninety kilometres north of Jerusalem, and is identified with Zer’in. It was not a fortified site until the time of Ahab, when it was his chariot centre. Parts of Israelite buildings have been found. It was by its spring that Israel gathered before engaging the Philistines at Gilboa where Saul and Jonathan died (1 Samuel 29:1; 1 Samuel 31:1). Chesulloth was in the Plain, west of Tabor. Whether it was different from Chisloth-tabor (Joshua 19:12) is open to question. If the same it was clearly a joint city on the border. Shunem is possibly modern Solem, five to six kilometres (three and a half miles) north of Jezreel. It was where the Philistines camped before they moved on to Aphek prior to the battle of Gilboa (1 Samuel 28:4), and where Elisha often found shelter (2 Kings 4:8) and raised a dead child (2 Kings 4:34-35). It was possibly the place named in the Egyptian lists of Thothmes III (about 1550 BC) and of Shishak (about 950 BC) as Shanema.

“And Hapharaim, and Shion, and Anaharath, and Rabbith, and Kishion, and Ebez.” Hapharaim is also found in Shishak’s list as Hapurama. Khirbet Farriyeh, nine kilometres (five to six miles) north west of el-Lejjun has been suggested. Shion is perhaps ‘Ayun esh-Sha‘in, five kilometres (three miles) north west of Tabor. Anaharith is possibly the ’Anuhertu of Thothmes list. ‘Arraneh, four kilometres (two and a half miles) north east of modern Jenin has been suggested as a possible site. Rabbith could be Raba, eleven kilometres (seven miles) south east of Janin (En-gannim? - Joshua 19:21). Kishion (see Joshua 21:28) and Ebez are unknown.

“And Remeth, and En-gannim, and En-haddah and Beth-pazzez.” Remeth (rmth) is possibly the Jarmuth (yrmth) of Joshua 21:29 and the Ramoth (rmth) of 1 Chronicles 6:73. The Egyptians called the area ‘the hills of Yarmuta’, the elevated region north west of Beth-shean. A stele of Seti I (about 1300 BC) stated that various ‘Apiru tribes were settled there and had been subjected to Egypt. But these were not necessarily Israel (compare the ‘Apiru at Shechem - Joshua 8:30). En-gannim (‘spring of gardens’) is possibly modern Jenin where there is still a plentiful spring. See for it Joshua 21:29 and 1 Chronicles 6:73 where it is abbreviated as Anem. (Other possible identifications are Olam or Khirbet Beit Jann). En-haddah and Beth-pazzez are unidentified but probably close by. The whole area was very fruitful.

Verse 22

And the border reached to Tabor, and Shahazumah, and Bethshemesh, and the goings out of their border were at Jordan. Sixteen cities with their villages.’

Tabor is clearly a town connected with Mount Tabor on the Zebulun border and shared with Zebulun (see Judges 4:6; Judges 4:14; Judges 8:18; 1 Chronicles 6:77). Shahazumah is unknown. Beth-shemesh (‘house of the sun (or of Shemesh)’) was a popular name for towns related to sun worship. This one may have been shared with Naphtali being on the Issachar-Naphtali border (Joshua 19:38). These sixteen cities with their villages delineate the inheritance of Issachar.

Verse 23

This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar, according to their families the cities with their villages.’

This is the usual formula for sealing the inheritance of a tribe, a sign that this is included in an official record.

Verse 24

And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher, according to their families.’

Once again we are reminded that the portions were given by lot in the presence of YHWH. This was not just a method of selection, it was a solemn seeking of God for His will at the Tabernacle by The Priest using God provided methods.

Egyptian inscriptions of 14th and 13th century BC mention a state called isr occupying Western Galilee but not too much must be made of this for it is philologically difficult to relate it to Asher and Asher is itself attested under another form as the name of a female servant in an Egyptian papyrus list. Thus the two are distinct.

Verse 25-26

And their border was Helkath, and Hali, and Beten, and Achshaph, and Allammelech, and Amad, and Mishal, and it reached to Carmel westward, and to Shihor-libnath.’

These surveyors mainly depicted the border in terms of cities contained within the border. It is interesting to note the different approaches taken by the different surveyors. But all used the same technical terms.

Helkath (see also Joshua 21:31) was probably located in the Kishon valley. It was also known as Hukok (1 Chronicles 6:75). One possibility is Tell el-Harbaj ten kilometres (six miles) south east of Haifa, another is Tell el-Qasis, eight kilometres (five miles) south south east of Tell el-Harbaj. It is probably the hrkt in the lists of Tuthmosis III. Hali is unknown. Beten may be modern Abtun, east of Mount Carmel.

Achshaph was an important Canaanite city near Acco (Joshua 11:1; Joshua 12:20) mentioned in Egyptian lists and in Papyrus Anastasi I. Possibly Tell Keisan or Tell Regev (Khirbet Harbaj). Allamelech may be the rtmrk of the Tuthmosis list. It may connect with the Wadi el-Melek, a tributary of the Kishon, which it joins six kilometres (four miles) from the coast. Amad is unknown. Mishal is possibly the msir of the Tuthmosis list and Tell Kisan has been suggested as a possible site. It is also mentioned in the execration texts (inscriptions on small figurines in the form of prisoners - 19th century BC) and an Egyptian grain and beer ration list (along with Achshaph).

“And it reached to (or touched) Carmel westward, and to Shihor-libnath.” Carmel was clearly the border at this point. Shihor-libnath may be at the mouth of the Kishon and the harbour town Tell Abu Huwam has been suggested as the site. This was also the northern border of Manasseh (Joshua 17:11).

Verse 27-28

And it turned towards the sunrising (the east) to Beth-dagon, and reached to Zebulun and to the valley of Iphtah-el northward, to Bethemek and Neiel, and it went out to Cabul on the left hand, and Ebron and Rehob, and Hammon, and Kanah, even to Great Zidon.’

The eastern boundary is now given. Beth-dagon was a name given to a number of cities, signifying ‘house of Dagon’. They were probably sanctuaries of the god Dagon. ‘Reached to Zebulun’ suggests that the boundary was not clearly identified in view of the relationship between the two tribes (although Zebulun may have been the name of a city, but see Joshua 19:34). Then follows the northern boundary. The valley of Iphtah-el is possibly the Wadi el-Malik (see Joshua 19:14). Bethemek and Neiel would be near or in the valley.

“It went out to Cabul on the left hand.” The left hand may signify north (compare its use in Genesis 14:15, and Joshua 17:7 where ‘the right hand’ probably means south). Cabul is probably Horvat Rosh Zayit, one to two kilometres (one mile) from modern Kabul which is today the name of a village north west of the Sahl el-Battof, and thirteen kilometres (eight miles) south east of Acco. Excavations have discovered Iron Age II buildings and a later fortress marking the border between Phoenicia and Israel. It was a frontier village between the two exchanged by Solomon’s treaty with Hiram of Tyre (1 Kings 9:13) to rectify the border.

Ebron (Abdon in some Hebrew MSS) is probably Abdon (Joshua 21:30), probably Khirbet ‘Abdeh six kilometres (nearly four miles) in from Achzib (Joshua 19:29), ten miles north north east of Acco, and commanding a way into the hills (In Hebrew writing d and r are almost indistinguishable except in the most careful writing). Rehob - ‘broad place’ - (Joshua 21:31; 1 Chronicles 6:75) is possibly Tell Bir el-Gharbi, south east of Acco. It was one of the cities from which the Canaanites were not driven out (Judges 1:31), although there may have been two Rehob’s (Joshua 19:30). A Rehob (rhb) is mentioned in the Thutmose III lists. Hammon (‘glowing’) has been suggested as Umm el-‘Awamid where ruins still exist. A Phoenician inscription from nearby Ma‘sub refers to ‘the citizens of Hammon’ and ‘the deity of Hammon’. Kanah is probably Qana in the Lebanon foothills, ten kilometres (six miles) south east of Tyre.

“Even to Great Zidon.” That is, to the borders of the territory belonging to Zidon. The use of Great Zidon rather than Tyre indicates the age of the narrative. Later Tyre became more prominent.

Verse 29

And the border turned to Ramah, and to the city of Mibzar Zor (or ‘the fortress of Tyre’), and the border turned to Hosah, and its goings out were at the sea by the region of Achzib.’

Ramah is unidentified, although Ramiyeh, twenty one kilometres (thirteen miles) south east of Tyre, has been suggested. (But the name is too common for certainty). For Mibzar Zor see 2 Samuel 24:7. This may be Tyre itself (Zor) or a strong fortress connected with Tyre, possibly the island city. Tyre consisted of an island and a mainland port, the latter probably called Ussu in Assyrian inscriptions and Usu in Egyptian. Hosah may be a reflex of this. Tyre would later supersede Zidon. The site is Tell Rashidiyeh. These cities were boundary indicators only and would include their surrounding territory. The description could be seen as excluding them from the territory of Asher for the boundary reached the sea at Achzib.

“Its goings out were at the sea by the region of Achzib.” Achzib was a Canaanite harbour town, probably to be identified with modern ez-Zib fourteen kilometres north of Acco (Acre) The Canaanites were never driven out from it (Judges 1:31). An alternative translation is ‘from Hebel to Achzib’.

Verse 30-31

Ummah also, and Aphek, and Rehob. Twenty two cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.’

Having completed the border description the writer now included these three cities, making twenty two in all. The count does not include those which were only border indicators. Ummah is unknown. Aphek (‘fortress’) is a common name but here may be modern Tell Kurdaneh at the source of the River Na’amein which flows into the Bay of Haifa. For Rehob see on Joshua 19:28.

Again the allotment is concluded with the familiar formula, ‘this is the inheritance of --’.

Verse 32

For the children of Naphtali came out the sixth lot, for the children of Naphtali, according to their families.’

Note the slight differences in the opening formulae - Joshua 18:11; Joshua 19:1; Joshua 19:10; Joshua 19:17; Joshua 19:24; Joshua 19:32; Joshua 19:40. These are clearly deliberate variations to prevent exact repetition and monotony. Benjamin, Simeon, Asher, and Dan (as was Judah (Joshua 15:1) and Reuben (Joshua 13:15)) are called ‘the tribe (matteh) of the children of --’. Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali only ‘the children of --’ (as was Joseph (Joshua 16:1) and Gad (Joshua 13:24), although the latter was first called in context ‘the tribe (matteh) of Gad’). Levi was called ‘the tribe (shebet) of Levi’ (Joshua 13:14; Joshua 13:33) and ‘the Levites’ (Joshua 14:3-4). But as Benjamin is also called ‘the children of --’ (Joshua 18:28) and Issachar and Naphtali ‘the tribe of the children of --’ (Joshua 19:23; Joshua 19:39) and there are changes in the order of words it seems simply to be a matter of scribal variation.

Simeon and Issachar also have the patriarch’s name by itself. Naphtali alone has ‘the children of --’ repeated, but there is no obvious reason for it. Note also that the lot ‘came up’ for Benjamin and Zebulun, and ‘came out’ for the remainder. This would suggest that they were drawn from a container.

Verse 33

And their border was from Heleph, from the oak in Zaanannim, and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel to Lakkum, and its goings out were at Jordan.’

In view of the fact that ‘the oak in Zaanannim (or ‘of Bezaanannim’)’ is in each case identified by a place name (Heleph here, compare Judges 4:11 where it is Kedesh(-naphtali?)), this may be a description of a certain type of sacred oak rather than the same tree. Thus the border begins from the sacred tree at Heleph (possibly Khirbet ‘Irbadeh at the foot of Mount Tabor). However some have placed Zaanannim at Khan et-Tuggar four kilometres north east of Tabor.

Adami-nekeb (‘the pass Adami’) has been identified with modern Khirbet ed-Damiyeh eight kilometres (five miles) south west of Hammath on the sea of Galilee (near the later Tiberias). For Jabneel modern Khirbet Yamma (or Tell en-Na’am), eleven kilometres (seven miles) south west of Hammath has been suggested. For Lakkum Khirbet el-Mansurah has been posited. The border then finished at the Jordan. This seems to be describing the south east border of Naphtali.

Verse 34

And the border turned westward to Aznoth-tabor, and went out from there to Hukkok, and it reached to Zebulun on the south, and reached to Asher on the west, and to Judah at Jordan towards the sunrising (eastwards).’

Aznoth-tabor is probably Khirbet el-Jabeil at the foot of Mount Tabor. Hukkok is generally identified with Yakuk, eight kilometres (five miles) west of where Capernaum is thought to have been. Another suggestion is Khirbet el-Jemeijmeh. Zebulun may here be a city (compare Joshua 19:27) or may refer to the Zebulun border. Similar applies to Asher. Yehutha-hayarden (Judah at Jordan) must refer to some recognised place on the Jordan, site unknown. Thus Asher were to the west, Zebulun (and Issachar) to the south, Jordan to the east and the northern border was indeterminate.

Verses 35-38

And the fenced cities were Ziddim, Zer and Hammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth, and Adamah, and Ramah, and Hazor, and Kedesh, and Edrei, and En-hazor, and Iron, and Migdal-el, Horem and Ben-anath, and Beth-shemesh. Nineteen cities with their villages.’

These cities number sixteen, thus we must also probably include Aznoth-tabor, Hukkok and Yehutha-hayarden which would leave Zebulun and Asher as tribal borders. (Alternately they could be cities not counted to Naphtali).

Ziddim is unknown. A Zer in Bashan is mentioned in the Egyptian execration texts which was a town of a similar name. Hammath (‘hot springs’) was just on the lower part of the western shore of the Sea of Galilee (Chinnereth) as it begins to narrow, possibly the Hammoth-dor of Joshua 21:32. They were probably the hot springs to the south of the later city of Tiberias.

The western shore of the Sea was pitted with small fertile valleys. Rakkath was nearby to the north leading up to the town of Chinnereth, the latter probably being Khirbet el-Oreimah, which was in the plain on the north west side of the lake.

Adamah has been posited as Qarn Hattin, possibly the smsitm (shemesh-adam) of the Thutmose III list, built on top of the extinct volcano ‘the horns of Hattin’ at the eastern end of the valley of Tur’an, apart from Mount Tabor the most distinct landmark in Lower Galilee. Ramah was in the valley of es-Shaghur, the northernmost of the four major valleys that cross Lower Galilee from east to west.

“Hazor, and Kedesh, and Edrei.” Hazor was one of the most important cities in Canaan. See Joshua 11:1-13. Sacked by Joshua it was slowly re-established and was head of a confederacy of cities, later extending its control more heavily over the area (Judges 5:6-7) until again defeated by Barak and Deborah (Judges 4-5). Kedesh is the modern Tell Kudeish, north west of Lake Huleh, which was occupied during the early and late bronze ages. It was on the route south from Hamath and the north and thus a target for any invaders from the north. Edrei is probably the itr in the list of Thutmose III, near the town of Abel-beth-Maacah (2 Kings 15:29; 2 Samuel 20:14-15 - modern Abil el-Qamh), even further north than Kedesh and almost directly east of Tyre.

“And En-hazor, and Iron, and Migdal-el, Horem and Ben-anath, and Beth-shemesh.” En-hazor, ‘the spring of Hazor’, was not directly connected with Hazor above. The name Hazor was common in Galilee. It was possibly the ‘ny of Thutmose III’s list. Its identification is uncertain. It has been linked with Khirbet Hasireh, ten miles west of Kedesh, or with ‘Ain-itha nine kilometres (five to six miles) west north west of Kedesh. Iron is probably Yarun, eleven kilometres (seven miles) south west of Kedesh, mentioned in the inscriptions of Tiglath Pileser III as Irruna(?). Migdal-el means ‘the tower of El’ and is possibly Mejdel Islim, thirteen kilometres (eight miles) north west of Kedesh. Horem is unknown. Beth-anath means ‘the house of Anath’, possibly a sanctuary for the goddess Anath. It is perhaps Safed el-Battikh and probably the bt‘nt listed by Seti I and Raamses II. Beth-shemesh, another ‘house of the sun’ (compare Joshua 19:22 and Joshua 15:10 (in Judah) of which there were a number. Its site is unknown.

“Nineteen cities with their villages.” See above.

Verse 39

This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali, according to their families, the cities and their villages.’

Again we have the official seal on the boundaries and cities of a tribe.

Verse 40

The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan, according to their families.’

The other six lots having been taken, the seventh remained. This was the allotment to the children of Dan. No strict borders are given but a list of towns. This may be because Dan’s borders were not closely defined, or simply because of the surveyor’s methods. Or the writer may have been satisfied that the borders were made clear by the borders of Benjamin on the east, Ephraim on the north and Judah on the south. They were the only ones whose towns were not numbered, possibly because of disapproval over the removal of a large part of the tribe to Laish.

The land allotted to them was good and fertile land, but it was hotly contested. Thus the Danites found the opposition of the Amorites severe and were driven back into the hills (Judges 1:34). We must not therefore think of all these places as having been actually occupied by Dan. They revealed the area in which Dan was to operate. Some they took. Others they infiltrated. Even others they could do nothing about. Once the Philistines arrived their position became even more precarious, as is depicted in the days of Samson. Thus a large part of the tribe decided to leave the place allotted to them by God and find the cosier and easier spot at Laish. But it led to gross sin and the setting up of a rival sanctuary (Judges 17-18).

Verses 41-46

And the border of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Ir-shemesh, and Shaalabbin, and Aijalon, and Ithlah, and Elon, and Thimnathah, and Ekron, and Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath, and Jehud, and Bene-berak, and Gath-rimmon, and Me-jarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Japho.’

Zorah and Eshtaol were on the Danite border (compare Joshua 15:33; see also Judges 13:25; Judges 18:2; Judges 18:8; Judges 18:11). Judah and Dan shared them and their related lands, Dan the land to the north, Judah the land to the south, or it may be that after receiving their lot Judah passed the cities on to Dan as having too much. But the probability is that they were settled by both, some looking to Dan and some to Judah. Zorah was mentioned in the Amarna letters as Zarkha and is probably Sar‘a, a Canaanite city twenty five kilometres (fifteen miles) west of Jerusalem, on the north side of the Wadi al-Sarar (the valley of Sorek), with Eshtaol close by. Both places overlook the broad basin of the Wadi, near its entrance into the Judaean highlands.

“Ir-shemesh, and Shaalabbin, and Aijalon.” Ir-shemesh means ‘city of Shemesh (of the sun)’. Some Hebrew MSS have En-shemesh (‘spring of Shemesh’). Names compounded with the god Shemesh were common so its direct connection with Beth-shemesh (on the Danite/Judah border, see Joshua 15:10) is uncertain, but they were certainly near neighbours. Shaalabbin, a non-Semitic name, probably the Shaalbim (which may mean ‘haunt of foxes’) in Judges 1:35; 1 Kings 4:9 compare 2 Samuel 23:32 near Mount Heres, (an ancient word for sun). It has been connected with Salbit, five kilometres (three miles) north west of Yalo, although the names do not agree phonetically. Inhabited by the Amorites in the valley of Aijalon it withstood Danite pressure but eventually became tributary to Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh). The same was true of Aijalon. Aijalon (modern Yalo) was on a hill and commanded from the south the entrance to the valley of Aijalon about eleven kilometres (six or seven miles) from Gezer. It later guarded the north west approach to Jerusalem.

“And Ithlah, and Elon, and Thimnathah, and Ekron.” Ithlah is unknown.Elon is possibly Khirbet Wadi ‘Alin, two kilometres east of Bethshemesh. Compare 1 Kings 4:9. The name means ‘terebinth’ or ‘oak’. Thimnathah is probably Timnah (Timnath, Thimnathah) which was where Samson sought a Philistine wife. This may be the Tamna later mentioned in the annals of Sennacherib (c. 701 BC). It is probably Tell Batashi, nine kilometres (six miles) south of Gezer, although its name is preserved by Khirbet Tibneh. It was a border town of Judah (Joshua 15:10). Whether shared or merely a border marker we do not know. Ekron (see on Joshua 15:45) was one of the five major Philistine cities on the border of both Judah and Dan. It may have been occupied by Judah as a small village on a mound before the Philistines arrived, but from then on it was built up by the Philistines as a Philistine enclave.

“And Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath, and Jehud, and Bene-berak.” Eltekeh (see Joshua 21:23) is named by Sennacherib (Altaku) together with Timna among his conquests in his annals for 701/700BC. It may be Tell-esh-Shalaf, sixteen kilometres (ten miles) north east of Ashdod (Khirbet el-Muqanna‘ is now thought to be Ekron). Gibbethon (see Joshua 21:23) is probably Tell el-Mellat, west of Gezer. It was in Philistine hands for some time and was the scene of battles between them and Israel (1 Kings 15:27). Baalath is possibly el-Mughar. It was fortified by Solomon (1 Kings 9:18). Jehud has been thought to be el-Yehudiyeh on the plain between Joppa and the hills. Bene-berak is identified with modern el-Kheiriyeh (Ibn Ibraq), six kilometres (four miles) east of Joppa. According to Sennacherib it was one of the cities belonging to Ashkelon besieged and taken by him (Benebarka). Thus it was then in Philistine hands.

“And Gath-rimmon, and Me-jarkon, and Rakkon, with the border over against Japho (Joppa).” Gath-rimmon (‘winepress of Rimmon’) is possibly Tell Jarisheh on the River Yarkon. Me-yarkon and Rakkon are unknown, but the former also connected with the Yarkon. The final city on the border is Joppa. Joppa was the only major harbour between Acco and the Egyptian border, and controlled by the Philistines. Excavation shows occupation from 17th century BC, and a pre-Philistine temple of the 13th Century BC witnesses to the existence of a lion cult. The temple has wooden columns on stone bases to support the ceiling (compare Judges 16:25-27). ‘Over against’ may indicate that Joppa was a border marker and not actually part of their territory.

Verse 47

And the border of the children of Dan went out from them. And the children of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and took it and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt in it. And they called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father.’

This note was not a part of the original surveyor’s report, being added as a comment by the writer. ‘Went out from them’ may signify that they were unable to expand to their borders, and were prevented from doing so. That is how LXX sees it (see below). The great constraint they were under comes out in their subsequent action. Many of them forsook the land God had given them and sought a better land, although some remained. This invasion of Laish (Leshem) is described more fully in Judges 17-18, and resulted in the setting up of the sanctuary of Dan. The whole disreputable story is recounted with obvious disapproval by the writer of Judges.

Laish was at the foot of Mount Hermon by the source of the Jordan to the north of the promised land, probably modern Tell el-Qadi (‘the judges’ mound’). It had been settled since about 5000 BC and had been a wealthy city covering thirty acres, named in the Egyptian execration texts as rws, and in the Mari texts as Lasi. It was captured by Thutmose III. But it had allowed itself to become isolated and although it was reasonably strongly fortified with an earthen rampart, Dan ‘took it and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt in it’, renaming it Dan.

LXX places Joshua 19:48 immediately after verse 46 and then incorporates here material from Judges 1:34-35. It says ‘and the children of Dan did not drive out the Amorite who afflicted them in the mountain, and the Amorite would not allow them to come down into the valley, but they forcibly took from them the border of their portion. And the sons of Dan went and fought against Lachis, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword; and they dwelt in it, and called the name of it Lasendan. and the Amorite continued to dwell in Edom and in Salamin: and the hand of Ephraim prevailed against them, and they became tributaries to them.’

This whole incident brings home how difficult the Israelites were finding it when they sought to settle the valleys and plains where the Canaanites dwelt in comparatively large numbers. Joshua’s victories had weakened Canaanite resistance but it had not destroyed it, and the delay in taking advantage of them had enabled Canaanite resistance to harden.

Verse 48

This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan, according to their families, these cities with their villages.’

Here we have the official seal on the allotment to Dan, as found after the inheritance of each tribe has been delineated. This was their inheritance, and it was a prosperous one, but they failed through weakness and lack of faith to take possession of it.

Verse 49-50

So they made an end of distributing the land for inheritance by their borders, and the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua the son of Nun among them. According to the commandment of YHWH they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim, and he built the city and dwelt in it.’

The land having been distributed by lot for the Israelite tribes to proceed with settling it, Joshua then received his own portion in Ephraim. ‘The commandment of YHWH’ may suggest that this too was by lot or by Urim and Thummim (but see Joshua 14:6; Joshua 14:9).

For Timnath-serah see also Joshua 24:30, but Judges 2:9 has Timnath-heres. It may be that the consonants were switched around in Joshua to avoid the reference to Heres (sun) because the writer did not want Joshua’s name connected with sun worship. It is possibly Khirbet Tibneh, twenty seven kilometres (seventeen miles) south west of Shechem, which lies on the south side of a deep ravine (see Joshua 24:30). ‘Built the city’ probably means that he fortified it. No one was more aware than he of the difficulties that lay ahead.

The painstaking work of dividing up the land had now been accomplished, with the different tribes each allotted the portion which it was their responsibility to conquer, and settle, and from which they were to drive out the inhabitants. It was not a task that would be accomplished easily. The hill country had been made safe but the valleys and plains would take longer. They were infested with Canaanite cities, and the arrival of the Philistines in force would make it even more difficult. It would slowly proceed by taking and settling in weaker cities, settling in cleared forest land, and gradually expanding and taking advantage of every opportunity as it arose. But they were intended to ever keep before their eyes their responsibility to drive out the Canaanites, although it would not be accomplished all at once (Exodus 23:28-30. See also Exodus 33:2; Exodus 33:5; Exodus 34:11-13; Numbers 33:52-56). Joshua had done the work of ‘softening up’ but possession would take longer. They were no longer one great, victorious army, but a people seeking to permanently establish themselves in the land in smaller groups. Without that they could not possess the whole land. But what they had not to do was fraternise with the people of the land, for Canaanite society and religion was debased.

To begin with they went about the task faithfully (Judges 2:6-7), but it would not be long before they began to compromise, neglect their unity in the covenant with YHWH, settle among the Canaanites, fraternise with them, and forget their main responsibility, the clearing from the land of those very Canaanites.

Verse 51

These are the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance by lot in Shiloh before YHWH, at the door of the Tent of Meeting. So they made an end of dividing the land.’

This summarises Joshua 18:1 to Joshua 19:51 (see Joshua 14:1; Joshua 18:1). Eleazar was ‘the Priest’ at the central sanctuary, here called the Tent of Meeting, who was responsible for the use of Urim and Thummim and for casting lots before YHWH. Joshua was the Servant of Yahweh, successor to the great Moses. The heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel were princes from each tribe appointed for this service, whose names are given in Numbers 34:18-29. It was their responsibility to arrange the distribution of the inheritances of the tribes.

This distribution took place before YHWH by lot at the door of the Tent of Meeting (the Tabernacle), beyond which the princes could not go, and which was now sited at Shiloh, see Joshua 18:1. Previously it had been at Gilgal (Joshua 14:2 with Joshua 14:6).


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 19:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.

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