corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Joshua 15



Verses 1-63



Joshua 15:1

The lot of the tribe of the children of Judah. The first twelve verses of this chapter define the boundaries of Judah. With it compare Numbers 34:3-5, which gives the southern border of the Israelitish territory, corresponding closely with this account of the southern border of Judah. The word tribe here is, as might be expected from the context מַטֶה and not שֶּׁבֶט. Even to the border of Edom. The literal translation, which makes the passage clearer, is, "the border of Edom, the wilderness of Zin towards the dry region ( נֶגְבָּה ) from the extreme limit of the south תֵימָן. The latter of these words, derived from יָמִין "right hand," being the position of the south when regarded from the point of view of a man looking eastward, denotes the southward direction (see above, Joshua 12:2). The former word has reference to the physical conditions of the country, its heat and dryness. The LXX. does not attempt to translate the former word and has evidently מִקָּדֵשׁ for מִקְצֶה. The wilderness of Zin. Not to be confounded with the wilderness of Sin (Exodus 16:1; cf. Numbers 34:11, 36). This wilderness was on the border of Edom (Numbers 20:1.; Numbers 27:14). Thence the border of Judah (which here includes the small portion afterwards allotted to Simeon) extended to the utmost limits of the south (see Joshua 19:1, Joshua 19:9). A wall of mountains extends southwestward from the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, and formed the natural boundary of Judaea.

Joshua 15:2

The shore of the salt sea. Literally, the extremity, i.e; the south extremity. From the bay. Literally, tongue. The LXX. translates by λοφία, ridge. The whole southern portion of the sea is cut off from the rest by a peninsula near Kerak, the ancient Kit of Moab. It is called the Lisan. Whoever was the writer of the Book of Joshua, these details prove him to have had an accurate acquaintance with the geography of Palestine. He was no priestly inventor of fables attached to the temple at Jerusalem. Canon Tristram gives a vivid description of the neighbourhood in his 'Land of Israel,' Joshua 15:1-63. The ridge of Jebel Usdum—one large mass of rock salt—on the west of this "tongue" of water, the salt marsh of the Sebkha on the southwest, with its treeless waste—"not a plant or a leaf could be seen save just under the hills"—and its mirage like that of Sahara, the barren outline of the Lisan itself, to the eastward rising to an elevation of from five to six hundred feet, and the fertile oasis of the Ghor-es-Safieh at the southern extremity of the Dead Sea, give an unique character to this remarkable region.

Joshua 15:3

And it went out to the south side to Maaleh-acrabbim. Or, perhaps, and it went to the southward of Maaleh-acrabbim, translated in Numbers 34:4, "the ascent of Acrabbim." The literal meaning of Maaleh-acrabbim is Scorpion Rise (see 1:36). Keil thinks that it was a pass in the Mount Halak, or the Smooth Mountain, mentioned in Joshua 11:17, Joshua 12:7. "De Saulcy suggests the Wady Zouara, and testifies to the scorpions found under every pebble". And Ainsworth, 'Travels in Asia Minor,' 2.354, says that some spots are almost uninhabitable in consequence. Knobel supposes it to be the pass es-Sufah on the road between Petra and Hebron. But the border of Judah seems to have gone in a southwesterly direction. To Zin. Rather, in the direction of Zin. On the south side unto Kadesh-barnea. Or, as above, southward of Kadesh-barnea. The exact position of Kadesh-Burnea has not been ascertained. It was between the wilderness of Zin and that of Paran (Numbers 13:26; Numbers 20:1). Dean Stanley identifies it with Petra, which was about 30 miles in a northeasterly direction from the Gulf of Akaba on the Red Sea, and close to Mount Her. A more recent traveller identifies it with Ain Gadis, about 60 miles to the westward of Petra, and he claims Winer, Kurz, Kalisch, and Knobel as supporters of his view. The latter founds his view on the discovery of Ain Gadis by Rowlands, and supports it by the authority of Ritter. Ritter, however, as his translator informs us, embodied the results of the investigations of Mr. Rowlands' while his work was preparing for the press, and did not give the matter that full consideration which he was accustomed to do. The chief objection to it is that (see vex. 1) Ain Gadis can hardly be described as on "the border of Edom." The general view is that it lay somewhat to the northeast of Hezron and to the northwest of Petra, at the foot of the range of mountains which form the southern boundary of Judesa. Here the spies brought their report to Moses (Joshua 14:6, Joshua 14:7; Numbers 13:26). Here Miriam was buried, and where Moses incurred the wrath of God from his mode of working the miracle which supplied the Israelites with water (Num, 20). It was "a city in the uttermost border" of Edom (Numbers 20:16), and it was some distance from Mount Hor, for we find it described as a journey (Numbers 20:22); and by passing from Kadesh to Mount Hor and thence by the way of the Red Sea, the Israelites "compassed the land of Edom" (Numbers 21:4), a fact which seems to prove that Petra and Kadesh-barnea were not the same place. Kadesh is supposed by M. Chabas to be the "Qodesh of the country of the Amaor," or Amorites, in the monuments of Seti I. and Rameses II. It is depicted as "on a hillside with a stream on one side," and is thus distinguished from Qodesh of the Kheta or Hittites, which is in a flat country beside a lake. Fetched a compass to Karkaa. Rather, was deflected in the direction of Karkaa. Nothing is known of the places here mentioned. Cf. Numbers 34:4, where Karkaa is not mentioned, but the deflection in the neighbourhood of Asmon is.

Joshua 15:4

The river of Egypt (see above, Joshua 13:3). "Westward, as far as Egypt, there is a sandy, salt, barren, unfruitful, and uninhabitable waste" (Knobel). The land, he adds, is better near Gaza, but near the sea it is still pure waste. And the goings out of that coast were at the sea. The word coast, derived through the French from the Latin costa, signifies, like it, a side. It is now used only of the border formed by the sea, but at an earlier period it had a wider signification. The Hebrew word is translated "border" in Joshua 15:1. The meaning is that the boundary line of Judah ran as far as the sea. This shall be your south coast. Or, this shall be to you the southern boundary. The historian here quotes the directions given to Moses in Numbers 34:1-29; with the evident intention of pointing out that the south border of the children of Israel coincided with that of the tribe of Judah.

Joshua 15:5

To the end of Jordan. The spot where it emptied itself into the Dead Sea. The bay of the sea at the uttermost part of Jordan. As in Joshua 15:3, the word here translated bay is tongue in the original. What is meant is that the northern boundary started from the point where the Jordan entered the Dead Sea.

Joshua 15:6

Beth-hogla (see Joshua 18:19). It is still known as Ain Hadjla or Hajla, where, says Keil, a beautiful spring of fresh and clear water is to be found. The place lies about two miles from Jordan. Beth-hogla means "the house of the partridge." "Leaving the probable site of the ancient Gilgal and advancing southward along the pilgrims' route to the Jordan, an hour and a quarter brings us to the spring Kin Hajla, in a small and well-watered grove" (Ritter). He adds, "Robinson and Wilson both recognised in the name Hails the ancient Canaanitish city Beth-hogla." Beth-arabah. Or "the house of the Arabah" or desert. Its site is not known (see Joshua 15:61 and Joshua 18:18, Joshua 18:22). The Beth-arabah in Joshua 15:61, however, must have been another place, since it was in the wilderness of Judaea, not far from the Dead Sea. The stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. All we know of this stone is that it was westward of Beth-arabah. The boundary of Benjamin in Joshua 18:1-28, is mentioned in precisely reverse order, and since here the stone was on the ascent from Beth-araba, and there (Joshua 18:17) it is described as on the descent from Geliloth, it must have been on the side of the declivity. Of Bohan nothing further is known. We must understand here, as in many other places of Scripture, descendant by "son" (cf. Joshua 7:24).

Joshua 15:7

Toward Debir. Not the Debir of Joshua 10:1-43. The valley of Achor (see Joshua 8:26). This is now the Wady Kelt. Gilgal. Keil says that this is not the Gilgal where the Israelites first encamped. It is called Geliloth, or "circles," in Joshua 18:17, where the same place is obviously meant as here. The question is one of some difficulty. If it be not the Gilgal mentioned in Joshua 4:19, which is described as being eastward of Jericho, still less can it be Jiljiliah (see note on Joshua 9:6) which was near Bethel, and therefore on the northern border of Benjamin. In that case the only supposition that will meet the facts in this case is that Gilgal, which signifies a wheel or circle, was the common name given to all the Israelitish encampments. But there seems no reason to doubt that the Gilgal of Joshua 4:19 is meant. This is Ewald's view in his 'History of Israel,' 2:245. Adummim, or "the red (places)," has been identified with Maledomim, i.e. Maaleh Adummim, or Talat el Dumm (Conder), on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. Jerome explains it as "ascensus ruforum sen rubentium propter sanguinem qui iltic erebro a latronibus funditur." Every one will at once call to mind the narrative in St. Luke 10:1-42; which has no doubt suggested this explanation. But at one particular point in the route from Jerusalem to Jericho a "large mass of purplish rock" is found. It was called "terra ruffa," "the red earth," from the colour of the ground, and recent travellers state that it is called the "red field" still, from this cause. Conder tells us the name is derived from "the brick-red marks here found amid a district of red chalk. So Knobel speaks, on the authority of numberless travellers of "der rothen Farbe des dortigen gesteins." And the Quarterly Paper just quoted mentions the "bright limestone and marl." Which is on the south aide of the river. The Nahal, or summer torrent, in the original; "the Wady Kelt, south of Riha" (Knobel). The waters of En-shemesh, or the fountain of the sun, supposed to be Kin Hand, or the "Apostles' well," near Bethany. There is an Arak (cave) esh Shems, about two miles off. All these places have been identified on or near the pilgrims' route to the Jordan. Enrogel (see Luke 18:17). It was close by Jerusalem, and was where Jonathan and Ahimaaz lingered to gain tidings for David, and where Adonijah repaired to hold the great feast when he endeavoured to obtain the kingdom. "Now Kin Um ed Deraj in the Kedron Valley" (Conder). Vandevelde supposes it to be Bir Eyub, Joab's well, at the point where the Kedron Valley meets the Gai Hinnom. This seems most probable. The valley of the son of Hinnom. The word here for valley ( גֵי ) signifies properly a deep cleft in the rock, through which no water flows. The valley of Hinnom has been generally taken to be the deep valley running from west to east, and lying to the west and south of Jerusalem, described by Tobler as forked at its northwestern end, bending to the southward about its middle, and joining the valley of Jehoshaphat at its eastern extremity. In the Quarterly Paper of the Palestine Exploration Fund for October, 1878, however, it is contended that the now partially filled up Tyropceon Valley, running through the city, is the valley or ravine of Hinnom. The manner in which this is demonstrated reminds the reader somewhat of a proposition in Euclid, and the question arises whether Euclid's method be exactly applicable to a point of this kind. The arguments used are not without force, but no notice is taken of the peculiar position of the valley of Rephaim (see next note but one), which, we learn from the sacred historian, was so placed that its extremity coincided with the mountain which closed the ravine of Hinnom at its western side. If the Tyropoeon Valley answers to this description, it may be accepted as the true valley of Hinnom, but not otherwise. Mr. Birch incorrectly cites Gesenius in favour of his theory; and the most recent discoveries appear to have thrown discredit upon it. The most weighty argument in favour of his theory is that a comparison of Joshua 15:63 with 1:3-8, leads to the supposition that Jerusalem was partly in Benjamin and partly in Judah (see, however, Nehemiah 11:30). This valley, called sometimes Tophet, and sometimes, by a corruption of the Hebrew, Gehenna, whatever its situation may have been, is conspicuous in the after history of Israel. This deep and retired spot was the seat of all the worst abominations of the idol worship to which the Jews afterwards became addicted. Here Solomon reared high places for Moloch (1 Kings 11:7). Here children were sacrificed at the hideous rites of that demon god (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chronicles 28:3; Jeremiah 7:31, Jeremiah 7:32; Jeremiah 19:2, Jeremiah 19:4). It was defiled by Josiah (2 Kings 23:10, 2 Kings 23:13, 2 Kings 23:14), and was looked upon in later times as an abomination (see Jeremiah 19:13). There the carcases of animals were east to be burned, and hence it is used by our Lord (Matthew 5:22) as the type of the utmost wrath of God. It is hardly possible to suppose that there is no allusion to Tophet and its fiery sacrifices in Isaiah 30:33, in spite of the different form of the word, to which some scholars, e.g; Gesenius, assign an Aryan rather than a Semitic origin, and in spite of the fact that the LXX. suspects no such allusion there. St. James alone, beside the writers of the Gospels, mentions it (Joshua 3:6), "set on fire of hell," or Gehenna.

Joshua 15:8

The south side of the Jebusite. Literally, the shoulder of the Jebusite from (or on) the south. Thus Jerusalem lay to the north of the border, in the tribe of Benjamin. The same is Jerusalem. Formerly called Jebus, from the Jebusites who dwelt there ( 19:11; 1 Chronicles 11:4). The city lay on the borders of Judah and Benjamin (see note on Joshua 10:1). The valley of the giants. Hebrew, Rephaim (see Joshua 12:4). The word here translated valley is עֵמֶק . In the former part it is גֵי (see note on last verse). The word here used signifies originally depth, and is applied to wide valleys embosomed among lofty hills. Such were the valley of Elah (1 Samuel 17:2, 1 Samuel 17:19); the King's Dale (Genesis 14:17; 2 Samuel 18:18); the valley of Siddim (Genesis 14:3), of Jezreel ( 6:33). "The word Emek shows that this was neither a winter torrent nor a narrow, dry ravine, and it is best identified with its traditional site, the shallow basin west of the watershed south of Jerusalem, now called el Bukei'a" (Conder). We read of this valley in 2 Samuel 5:18, 2 Samuel 5:22. From these passages we may gather a confirmation of the view above expressed, that the valley here meant is an open valley, since only in such a valley could the Philistine army take up a position. It gradually narrows towards the southwest. On the south it extends as far as Bethlehem. The range of mountains which lie to the west of the valley of Hinnom from the northern boundary of the plain or valley of Rephaim.

Joshua 15:9

Was drawn. Or, extended. The fountain of the waters of Nephtoah. If these be identified with En Etam, as is done by the Rabbis (whom Conder follows), and if we suppose it to have supplied Jerusalem with water by the aqueduct which ran from a point southwest of Betlehem to Jerusalem, we must place it south of Bethlehem, and imagine that the border ran directly south here. Far more probable is the notion of Vandevelde, which places it northwest of Jerusalem, at Ain Lifta. Conder's view is dominated by the situation he has assigned to Kirjath-jearim (see note on Joshua 9:17). If the view there given in these notes is sound, the border now ran in a northwesterly direction from Jerusalem to within five miles of Gibeon (see also note on Joshua 18:14). Kirjath-jearim. See Joshua 9:17. To the authorities mentioned there in favour of Kuriet el Enab we may add Knobel, Ritter, and Tristram, in his last book, 'Bible Lands.' The view taken above corresponds to the minuteness of detail with which the boundary is given. To place Nephtoah south of Bethlehem and Kirjath-jearim at 'Arma would make the boundary far less distinct.

Joshua 15:10

Compassed. Or, deflected (see Joshua 15:4). This is in accordance with the view taken above. The border line which had run northwest from Jerusalem now bent backwards in a southwesterly direction, and followed the ridge towards Chesalon (see note on Chesalon). Mount Seir. Not the dwelling place of Esau, afterwards the country of the Edomites (Genesis 32:3; Genesis 36:8), but a range running southwestward from Kirjath-jearim, part of which is still known as Sairah, or Saris, "auf welchem Saris und Mihsir liegen" (Kuobel). Since Kirjath-jearim means the "city of the forests," and Seir means "hairy," we may conjecture that the name was given to the ridge on account of its wooded character. This also is implied by "Mount Jearim." The side of Mount Jearim. Literally, the shoulder (see above, Joshua 15:8). Which is Chesalon. This is identified with Kesia, a point on the summit of the ridge stretching southwest from Kirjath-jearim. The fact that the border passed northward of Chesalon is a confirmation of the view taken above. We learn from Joshua 19:41 (cf. Joshua 19:33 of this chapter), that the border passed by Zorah and Eshtaol in the Shephelah, through a neighbourhood described in Conder's Handbook as "an open corn country." Beth-shemesh. The "house of the sun," identified with the modern Ain (or fountain of) Shems. It is called Irshemesh in Joshua 19:41. It was close to the border of the Philistines, and was the scene of the transactions recorded in 1 Samuel 6:1-21. The propinquity to the Philistines appears to have affected the principles of its inhabitants, and their conduct contrasts most unfavourably with that of the inhabitants of Kirjath-jearim. This was the more disgraceful, in that Beth-shemesh (Joshua 21:16) was a priestly city, and being inhabited by those whose "lips should keep knowledge," might have been expected to set a better example. It was required to furnish Solomon's household with provisions (1 Kings 4:9), it witnessed the defeat and capture of Amaziah (2 Kings 14:11-13; 2 Chronicles 25:21) by Joash, king of Israel. It fell into the hands of the Philistines at the time of the decay of the Jewish power under Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28:18). The name, like Baal-Gad and Ashtaroth-Karnaim, is worthy of remark, as pointing to the character of the early Phoenician worship. Timnah. Sometimes called Timnath in Scripture (see 14:1-6), and Timnatha in Joshua 19:43.

Joshua 15:11

Ekron. This important Philistine city (see Joshua 13:3) lay close to the northern border of Judah. As a matter of fact, however, the tribe of Judah never succeeded in permanently occupying this territory, which only fell under their yoke during the reigns of David and Solomon. The cities of the Philistines were, it is true, most of them captured ( 1:18), but we soon find the Philistines once more in possession of them (see 1 Samuel 5:8-10). Northward. The border turned sharply northward until past Ekron, when it once more turned westward until it reached the sea.

Joshua 15:12

And the coast thereof See Joshua 13:23.

Joshua 15:13

And unto Caleb. This passage, at least from Joshua 15:15, is found with the slightest possible variation in 1:1-36. It has been argued from the variations that the one passage was not copied from the other, but that both were derived from a common document. No such conclusion, however, can be safely drawn from the text. For first, the present narrative deals exclusively with this portion of the history of Caleb. That in Judges, down to verse 12, deals more generally with the subject, including the exploits of Caleb, under the general history of the progress of Judah. But from the time that the history becomes that of Caleb in particular, the agreement between the two narratives is verbal, including the very unusual word צנח, with one or two most insignificant exceptions. Thus we have הָבָהִ לִּי for תְנָה לִּי, we have גלית for גליות, and we have מִמֶּנּוּ interpolated in 1:13, and Othniel (or Kenez) is spoken of as the younger brother of Caleb. But unless we hold that it was a sacred duty of the writer in Judges to reproduce every single word of the narrative in Joshua, there is nothing whatever that can support the conclusion that the writer in Judges was not copying the earlier narrative. The variations are such as would naturally happen where a writer was transferring, a narrative to his pages with a desire to give the exact sense of the original without tying himself to every particular word. Since the use of inverted commas has been introduced we can find multitudes of instances where a writer, when professing to quote another accurately, has introduced far more variations into his quotation than are to be found here, where the writer, though quoting the Book of Joshua, and quoting it correctly, does not say that he is doing so. No one doubts that Jeremiah in Jeremiah 48:1-47. is quoting Isaiah 15:1-9; although the passages are not verbally coincident. We may safely regard this quotation of the Book of Joshua in that of Judges, as under all ordinary laws of criticism an evidence that the former book was in existence when the latter was written, just as the quotations of Deuteronomy in Joshua may naturally be taken as evidence that the Book of Deuteronomy was in existence when that of Joshua was composed. The son of Jephunneh. (see Joshua 14:6). A part. Literally, a lot. Among. Rather, in the midst of. Our version is obscure here. Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron. (see Joshua 14:6-15). Keil thinks that he was the tribe father, or chief (sheikh, as the Arabs would call him), of the children of Anak.

Joshua 15:14

The three sons of Anak. This also must not he pressed literally. Possibly these men were three chiefs of the Anakim. The children of Anak. יְלִידֵי descendants, thus supporting the view taken in the last note (see for the word Genesis 14:14; Genesis 17:12, where it is used of a slave born in the house).

Joshua 15:15

Kirjath-sepher (see note on Joshua 10:38).

Joshua 15:16

And Caleb said (cf. 1 Samuel 17:25; 1 Chronicles 11:6).

Joshua 15:17

The brother of Caleb. The Hebrew does not inform us whether Othniel or Kenaz were Caleb's brother. But the fact (see note on Joshua 14:6) that Caleb was the son of Jephunneh leads to the idea that the latter is meant. Othniel was a valiant and capable commander, as we learn from 3:9.

Joshua 15:18

As she came to him. Whether the bridal procession of the later Jews were already in existence or not, we have no evidence to show. A field. The narrative in Judges has "the field," meaning the particular field mentioned in the passage. Lighted off. Or, sank down; spoken of gradual motion, as of the nail which, when smitten by Jael into Sisera's temples, went down into the ground. So Knobel. Our translation renders it "fastened" there, which is hardly the meaning. This word has been a difficulty to translators. The LXX. renders ἰβόησεν ἐκ τοῦ ὄνου, and the Vulgate still more strangely, "Suspiravit, ut sedebat in asino." The LXX. seems to have read צעק for צנח. The Chaldee, Syriac, and Arabic render as our version. What wouldest thou? Or, what is the matter? Literally, What to thee? Achsah's conduct surprised Caleb. It was probably accompanied by an imploring gesture, and occurred before she had reached the house of Othniel, who no doubt had come to meet her; or possibly, according to the later Oriental custom, had escorted her the whole way. A blessing (see 2 Kings 5:15; also Genesis 33:11; 1 Samuel 25:27). The use of the word in the sense of "gift" comes from the fact that to bless is to bestow benefits upon the person blessed (see Deuteronomy 28:1-6, Deuteronomy 28:11, Deuteronomy 28:12).

Joshua 15:19

A southland. Hebrew, the southland. The word Negeb signifies dry (see note on Negeb, Joshua 10:40). It must be remembered that it became the word for south, because the south of Palestine was an arid tract. Therefore Achsah must be understood as saying, "Thou hast given me a dry country, give me also a reservoir of water." The Vulgate translates Negeb twice over, "australem et arentem" (arentem only 1:15). The LXX. translates both Negeb and Gulloth as proper names. But in the parallel passage in Judges Negeb is translated "south," and Gulloth appears as λύτρωσιν, as if from גלה to remove. Nothing can more clearly show that the LXX. translation is the work of Springs of water. גֻּלּת different hands. akin to our well and the German quelle, and derived from גלל to roll, from the circular motion observable in springs, as also from the rolling of waves. The Chaldee renders the house of irrigation ( בֵיתּ שַׁקְיָא). Knobel translates reservoirs. The upper springs and the lower springs (see note on Debir, Joshua 10:38).

Joshua 15:20

This is the inheritance. The territory of Judah is divided into four parts, in the summary which follows: the "south," the "valley," the "mountains," and the "wilderness." Tribe. Here מַטֶּה (see note Joshua 13:29).

Joshua 15:21

Coast. Rather, border (see note Joshua 15:4). Southward. The term here used (see above, Joshua 15:19) for "south" is the one which has the signification of dryness. It is, however, occasionally used in a less strict sense, as in Joshua 19:24. Though the south country was in the main an arid region, yet its intersection by numerous wadys, with their attendant streams, provided fertile spots at intervals, where the traveller might rest, cattle might be watered, and corn and other produce raised. The only places of any importance in Scripture history mentioned here are Beersheba (see Genesis 21:31), and Hormah (see Numbers 14:45; Numbers 21:3; and cf. Joshua 12:14; Joshua 19:4; and 1:17). This last passage explains why the city is mentioned among the cities of Simeon as well as Judah, and is another instance of the remarkable accuracy of our author. Ziklag is famous as the residence of David (1 Samuel 27:6). It is noteworthy that t was given to him by Achish, king of Gath, in whose possession it therefore was at that time. It was burnt by the roving hands of Amalekites (1 Samuel 30:1).

Joshua 15:22

Their villages (see note Joshua 13:28).

Joshua 15:22

Kinah. Knobel suggests that this was the city of the Kenites, a supposition which derives some support from 1:16 and 1 Samuel 15:6.

Joshua 15:24

Telem. This is identified by Knobel with the Telaim mentioned in 1 Samuel 15:4. Conder, in his 'Handbook,' supports this view, but nothing more is known of the place.

Joshua 15:29

Iim. The Alexandrian version of LXX. has ἀυείμ here. If this be correct, the city was named after the Avim (see note on Joshua 13:4). If we take the reading in the text we must interpret by ruins (see note on Ai, Joshua 7:2).

Joshua 15:32

Ain, Rimmon (see Joshua 19:7; 1 Chronicles 4:1-43 :82; Nehemiah 11:29). More likely the name of one place Ain-Rimmon, the fountain of the god Rimmon. For Rimmon see 2 Kings 5:18. The word signifying eye, or fountain, is written indifferently Ain or En in our version (see En-shemesh and En-rogel in this chapter). Bitumen is mentioned in Zechariah 14:10 as "south of Jerusalem." Now Umm er-Rumamin (Conder).

Joshua 15:32

Twenty-nine. There is another of the very common errors of numbers here. The actual number is thirty-six. The error is as old as the LXX. version.

Joshua 15:33

The valley. בַּשְפֵלָה (see note on Joshua 9:1; Joshua 10:40). This was the fertile part of Judah, and formed a part of the rich plain which has been described as extending northward as far as Carmel. It was "renowned for the beauty of its flowers" (Delitzsch). With the exception of Zorah and Eshtaol, border towns to the tribe of Dan (Joshua 19:41; 13:25), famous in the history of Samson (see Judges 13-16), and mentioned in 2 Chronicles 11:10; Nehemiah 11:29, the cities remarkable in history have been noticed already. It is worthy of remark that the cities of the Philistines were included in this list. But the Philistines, save during the reigns of David and Solomon, retained their independence, and in earlier and later times alike even encroached upon the Jewish territory (see 1 Samuel 13:5; 2 Chronicles 28:18; and note on 2 Chronicles 28:11).

Joshua 15:44

Mareshah. One of Rehoboam's fortified cities (2 Chronicles 11:8). Here Asa met Zerah the Ethiopian, or Cushite, and overthrew him (2 Chronicles 14:9). Here lived the prophet who foretold the destruction of Jehoshaphat's navy (2 Chronicles 20:37. See also Micah 1:15). How Marash, close to Beit-Jibrin or Eleutheropolis (Tristram, Conder). If it be the same as Moresheth-Gath in Micah 1:14, this adds additional probability to the identification of Gath with Beit-Jibrin (see note on Joshua 13:3).

Joshua 15:45

Ekron, with her towns and her villages. Literally, her daughters and her farm hamlets (see note on Joshua 13:28). These cities of the Philistines had, like Gibeon, daughter cities dependent on them, and must therefore have been, like Gibeon, "great cities as the royal cities" (Joshua 10:2). They do not appear to have come under regal government till later times (cf. 1 Samuel 5:8, 1 Samuel 5:11, with 1 Samuel 27:2). "Around it (Gezer) and along the sides were distributed a series of small isolated centres of agglomeration … This disposition to scatter itself, of which Gezer surely does not offer us the only specimen, explains in a striking manner the Biblical phrase, 'the city and her daughters'". This explanation, however, is doubtful (see Joshua 9:17). According to Knobel, this passage cannot have been written by the Elohist, because he confines himself to the description of the cities the Israelites actually possessed. Why a lair writer, writing presumably when Israel's fortunes were at a lower ebb, should have added a description of the territory Israel did not possess, he does not explain.

Joshua 15:48

The mountains. Compare the expression, "the hill country of Judaea" ( τῇ ὀρεινῇ, the same as here in the LXX), Luke 1:65. It extends northwards from near Debir to Jerusalem, attaining at Hebron a height of about 2,700 feet. The physical characteristics of the country are vividly described in Deuteronomy 8:7, Deuteronomy 8:8. Dean Stanley descants on the home-like character of the scenery and vegetation to an Englishman, and remarks on the contrast between the life, activity, and industry displayed there, as contrasted with the desolation of the greater part of Palestine. A later traveller, who would not, of course, be so struck with the resemblance to English scenery, speaks of the fertility of the ground as a matter of possibility, rather than of fact. The rocky soil, when broken up by the combined influences of heat, rain, and frost, is, like the soil of other rocky districts, extremely susceptible of cultivation when laid out in terraces. He remarks how the signs of ancient cultivation in this manner are to be seen on all sides, and laments the misrule which has converted the "land flowing with milk and honey" into a wilderness (see Bartlett, 'Egypt and Palestine,' Deuteronomy 19:1-21; and note on Joshua 10:40). The time has not yet come for the Jews, now asserting their ancient greatness in statesmanship, literature, and art in every country in the civilised world, to return to their own land. Not till then, it is to be feared, will the prophecy in Isaiah 35:1-10. be fulfilled, and "the desert rejoice, and the wilderness blossom as the rose, while waters break out in the wilderness and streams in the desert, the parched ground becoming a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water."

Joshua 15:51

Giloh. Perhaps the city of Ahithophel.

Joshua 15:55

Maon, Carmel, and Ziph. These, as Dean Stanley reminds us, still retain unaltered their old names. "That long line of hills was the beginning of the 'hill country of Judaea,' and when we began to ascend it the first answer to our inquiries after the route told us that it was 'Carmel,' on which Nabal fed his flocks, and close below its long ranges was the hill and ruins of Ziph," close above the hill of Maon, Wilson also ('Lands of the Bible,' 1.380) makes the same remark. Maon is to be remembered as David's hiding place from the enmity of Saul (1 Samuel 23:24-26), and as the home of Nabal (1 Samuel 25:2). Carmel (not the famous mountain of that name) meets us again in the history of Saul and of David (1 Samuel 15:12; 1 Samuel 25:2, 1 Samuel 25:5, 1 Samuel 25:7, 1 Samuel 25:40). The neighbourhood of Ziph was also one of David's hiding places, and is described as a "wilderness" in which there was a "wood" in 1 Samuel 23:15, 1 Samuel 23:19; 1 Samuel 26:1, 1 Samuel 26:2. See also the prologue to Psalms 54:1-7. Another Ziph is mentioned in Joshua 15:24.

Joshua 15:60

Kirjath Baal. Before these words the LXX. insert the names of eleven more cities, among which Tekoah and Bethlehem are included. For the former see 2 Samuel 14:2; 2 Chronicles 11:6; 2 Chronicles 20:20. The prophet Amos was one of its herdsmen (Amos 1:1). We learn from 1 Macc 9:33, etc; that it was near Jordan, and had a waste district in its vicinity. It has been identified with Teku'a, two hours south of Bethlehem. Of Bethlehem itself, the home of Ruth and David, the birthplace of Jesus Christ, it is unnecessary to speak. But the incidents related concerning Bethlehem in 17:1-13; 19:1-30. (which seem to indicate that the author of the book had special information about Bethlehem), as well as the narrative of the Book of Ruth, lead us to suppose that the verse inserted here by the LXX. is genuine, since Bethlehem was, in early times, a town of sufficient importance to be noticed in a list like this, and that its omission in the Hebrew text is due to the mistake of some transcriber.

Joshua 15:61

The wilderness. מִדְבַּר ; This was the eastern part of the territory of Judah, bordering on the Dead Sea. Here David took refuge from the pursuit of Saul (Psalms 63:1), here St. John the Baptist prepared the way of Christ. It is described by Tristram as "a wilderness, but no desert." Herbage is to be found there, but no trees, no signs of the cultivation formerly bestowed upon the hill country (see above, Joshua 15:48). And the fewness of the cities in early times is a proof that its character has not been altered by time. The hills, says Canon Tristram, are of a "peculiar desolate tameness," and are intersected by the traces of winter watercourses, seaming the sides of the monotonous round-topped hills. Other writers describe this country in less favourable terms, denying it even the scanty herbage found there by Canon Tristram.

Joshua 15:62

The city of Salt. Probably near the valley of Salt (2 Samuel 8:13; 2 Kings 14:7; 1 Chronicles 18:12), which must have been near the border of Edom, and in close proximity to the Dead Sea (see note on Joshua 3:16). En-gedi. The "fountain of the kid." Here David took refuge from Saul (1 Samuel 24:1). This place, now Ain Jidy, is situated in "a plain or slope about a mile and a half in extent from north to south". Here the ruins of the ancient city of Hazezon Tamar, or "the felling of the palm trees" (Genesis 14:7), are to be found, a city perhaps "the oldest in the world," may still be seen. "The cluster of camphire" (or rather of henna, the plant with which Oriental women stained their nails—So Joshua 1:14) may still be found there, and its perennial torrent dashes still into the Dead Sea. In later times than those of the Old Testament the Essenes planted their headquarters here.

Joshua 15:63

As for the Jebusites. This passage, compared with 1:8, 1:21, and 2 Samuel 5:6, implies that the people of Judah took and set on fire the lower city, but were compelled to leave the stronghold of Zion in the hands of the Jebusites (see note on Joshua 10:1). Origen and Theodoret see in the Jebusites the type of the nominal members of Christ's Church, who are not His disciples indeed. The former refers to Matthew 13:25. Unto this day. A clear proof that this book was written before David became king.


Joshua 15:1-63

The inheritance of Judah.

This chapter does not suggest much matter for homiletic treatment. The chief points to be noticed are


Joshua 15:16-19

Fulness of blessing.

Achsah had something of her father's spirit in her—ambitious, vigorous, resolute, quick to seize the present opportunity. Having so lately won his own suit Caleb could scarcely deny her her's. Through the simple, Oriental form of this narrative we see the working of deep and universal principles of human life. Let us regard it as suggestive of that restless craving of our nature which can find satisfaction only in the realisation of the higher good.

I. NATURE'S CRAVING. Achsah covets a prize that is as yet beyond her reach. "Give me a blessing. Thou hast given me a south (dry, barren) land; give me also springs of water." How expressive is this of that yearning of the heart by virtue of which it cannot rest content with present possessions, but is ever reaching forth towards something more, a richer inheritance, a completer blessing, the perfect filling up of its capacity, the sense of absolute blessedness.

1. There is an appetite in the soul of man which is not only insatiable but often becomes more intense the more it is fed with finite gratifications. What is the meaning of life's restless toil and endeavour, and the perpetual craving for some new form of excitement in the giddy round and dance of pleasure? It simply shows what power there is in earthly good to awaken hopes and longings that it cannot gratify, to quicken an appetite that it cannot appease. It is not enlargement of possession, the conquering of fair kingdoms either of knowledge, or wealth, or social distinction, or means of enjoyment, that can bring contentment to the soul. This will only feed its discontent unless other conditions are supplied. Man has that within him which spurns all his attempts to satisfy it thus. It is the mark of his essential greatness that he is conscious of a hunger which no earth-grown food can satisfy, a thirst which earthly streams cannot slake, "an aching void the world can never fill." Study the facts of your own consciousness. The day dreams of your imagination and your heart have never been realised. Many a pleasant prospect has proved like the mirage of the desert. Many a fondly cherished purpose has been like a river that loses itself in the sand. Many a stay in which you trusted has been but as a reed that breaks and wounds the hand that leans upon it. The world has not satisfied you. Your fellow creatures have not satisfied you. You have least of all been satisfied from yourself. Amid the happiest arrangement of circumstances you dream of one that is better. Rich as your earthly inheritance may be, there are times when it seems dry and barren to you, and, like Achsah, you crave for something more,

2. When this appetite lifts itself up consciously to the higher level, fixes itself upon the spiritual good, it ,is the evidence of a new Divine life in the soul. We come here to an altogether peculiar and distinctive element of feeling. The mere experience of the unsatisfactoriness of all other kinds of good does not of itself prepare men to seek after the joys of faith. God said to His sense bound people in the prophetic age, "Thou art wearied in the greatness of thy way, yet saidst thou not. There is no hope" (Isaiah 57:10). Their vain carnal life disappointed them, but they did not repent of it. They were wearied in it, disgusted with it, and still they clung to it. They hoped on notwithstanding the blighting and withering of all their hopes. How true to human nature and human experience in every age! The carnal appetite will never resolve itself into the spiritual. They are essentially different things, and point to essentially different causes. The long series of life's disappointments may be gathered up at last into one sad, deep sigh of conscious emptiness and weariness—"All is vanity," etc. But does it necessarily assume the form and tone of an upward yearning for "the things that are above"? Nay, there is no saving virtue in the mere groans of a discontented heart. One dare not place much confidence even in deathbed confessions of the vanity of the world. The attraction earthwards may have ceased, but perhaps there is no attraction heavenwards to take its place. The lights of earth may be growing dim, but there is no soul-captivating view of brightening lights that shine along the eternal shore; natural desire fails, but there is no longing for the pure satisfactions of a higher and a better sphere. So that it is a momentous revolution in the spiritual history of a man, happen when it will, when he first begins distinctly to reach forth towards the heavenly and Divine. He becomes a "new creature" when there is thus awakened within him the aspiration of a pure and holy life that he has never known before. The appetite of his being has taken a new direction, assumed an altogether new character. He hungers for the "bread of life," and thirsts for the "river of the water of life"—"hungers after righteousness," and "thirsts for the living God."

II. ITS TRUE SATISFACTION. Achsah's request is immediately granted. She receives from her father a completed "blessing"—the richer land added to the poorer to supplement its deficiency.

1. God is ever ready to respond to every pure aspiration of our nature. He who "opens His hand and satisfies the wants of every living thing" will never disregard the cry of His suppliant children. Every true spiritual desire of which we are conscious contains in itself the pledge of its own fulfilment.

2. Christ is God's answer to the soul's deepest craving. In Him is the fulness of all satisfying good. "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). In Him we find the rest of absolute contentment.

3. The joy of the higher, life that Christ gives deepens and purifies every natural joy. As the "upper springs" feed the "nether," so when He has conferred on us the Diviner good we discern a richer meaning and worth in the inferior good.

"Our heart is at the secret source

Of every precious thing."

All that is naturally fair and pleasant upon earth becomes invested with a new charm, and in that which before seemed barren and profitless there are opened to us unexpected fountains of delight.

"We thirst for springs of heavenly life,

And here all day they rise."



Joshua 15:16-19

The story of Achsah.

I. LOVE IS THE STRONGEST MOTIVE OF CONDUCT. AS Othniel was nephew to Caleb, and therefore must have known Achsah, it is probable that he accepted the challenge to seize Kirjath-sepher from motives of real affection for the daughter of Caleb. God has providentially arranged that human love should serve as a help for the performance of difficult tasks. Christianity appropriates and consecrates the emotion of love by directing it to Christ. Love is worthless when it will not encounter danger and attempt hard tasks. The highest human affection is shown not in mere pleasing emotions, but in sacrifice and toil

II. HUSBANDS AND WIVES SHOULD EXERCISE MUTUAL CONFIDENCE. Achsah first consults her husband and then proffers her request to her father. Though husbands and wives have separate spheres of duty, each should be interested in that of the other. There should be no secrets between them. They should learn to act as one in important questions. True sympathy will be shown in questions of conduct and choice, not merely in circumstances of trouble.

III. THE DESIRE OF EARTHLY CONVENIENCES IS NOT IN ITSELF WRONG. Achsah cannot be accused of covetousness. Her request was reasonable. If we do not put earth in the place of heaven, nor grasp for ourselves what is due to others, nor forget duty and generosity in greed and self seeking, the attempt to improve our condition in the world is natural and right.

IV. CHILDREN SHOULD COMBINE CONFIDENCE WITH SUBMISSION IN THEIR CONDUCT TO THEIR PARENTS. Achsah is an example of this combination. She shows confidence in making her request. She shows submission in alighting off her ass and asking the favour from her father as a "blessing." Reverence and humility are always becoming, but slavish fear is a proof either of the tyrannous character of the parent, or of the mean nature of the child. Confidence joined to submission constitutes the right attitude of Christians in approaching their heavenly Father (Romans 8:15).

V. NO EARTHLY BLESSING IS PERFECT IN ITSELF. The southland is of little use without the springs of water. In every condition of life we feel the need of something more to give us satisfaction. Wealth generates the hunger for greater wealth. As the field is barren without the Waters of heaven, so any earthly inheritance is profitless to us unless there are added the showers of spiritual blessings (1 Timothy 4:8).—W.F.A.

Joshua 15:63

Invisible Jebusites.

The failure of the men of Judah to conquer the Jebusites is illustrative of the failures men too commonly encounter in the attempt to accomplish the aims of life.

I. NO MAN PERFECTLY SUCCEEDS IN THE TASK OF HIS LIFE. If a man is satisfied that he has accomplished all his aims, this is a proof that those aims were low. We are bound to aim at the highest though we never reach it. The most successful life is still a broken life. Like the rainbow with half the arch melted away, like the waterfall blown into mist before it reaches the ground, like the bird's song cut short by the storm, life's work ends ragged and unfinished. When failure arises from the magnitude of the task, we are free from blame if we have laboured our best at it. But it is usually aggravated by our indolence, cowardice, and culpable weakness. Only Christ has perfectly succeeded (John 17:4). We need a higher view of the requirements of duty, a deeper conviction of our own past failure, more trust in God's power to help us, more consecration of soul and earnest, self-sacrificing effort.

II. NO CHRISTIAN WHILE IN THIS WORLD PERFECTLY SUCCEEDS IN EXPELLING HIS SINS. The Christian life is a warfare with sin. Though God pardons sin immediately on our repentance and faith in Christ, and gives us grace with which to conquer it, He requires us to fight against it. The war is not decided by one battle. It is a life-long conflict. He who claims to have completely conquered is deceiving himself (1 John 1:8). This is a fact, but one to cause shame, for it is not a physical necessity. We ought to conquer all sin, and in Christ we have the means for this perfect victory.

III. THE CONQUEST OF THE WORLD FOR CHRIST IS SLOW. The Jebusites were not completely subdued till the days of David (2 Samuel 5:6, 2 Samuel 5:7). Christian mission work proceeds slowly. Strongholds of sin, of heathenism, of unbelief, of worldliness still seem invincible.

IV, NO EARTHLY INHERITANCE IS WITHOUT ITS DISADVANTAGES. Canaan was not paradise. The land flowing with milk and honey also brought forth thorns and briars. Jerusalem, the future capital of the land, was the last place to be subdued. So we find something amiss in the very core of life. This is owing


Joshua 15:63


We have here the first hint of the incompleteness of Israel's conquest of the land. The effects of this failure fully to carry out the Divine command in the extermination of the heathen were very manifest afterwards in the moral and social life of the people. "Their whole subsequent history, down to the captivity, was coloured by the wars, by the customs, by the contagion of Phoenician and Canaanite rites, to which, for good or evil, they were henceforth exposed" (Stanley). "They could not take Jerusalem." The reason lay in themselves. The fault was their own They had not enough faith, and of the courage that springs from faith. If they had had more of the spirit of their great leader in them they would not thus have quailed before their foes, or left the work half finished. The historic fact finds its analogue in the moral and spiritual life of men.

It suggests—

I. THE FEEBLENESS THAT IS THE RESULT OF FAITHLESSNESS. Want of power is in various ways coupled in Scripture with want of faith. There were times when Christ could not do mighty works among the people "because of their unbelief". The disciples could not cure the lunatic child "because of their unbelief" (Matthew 17:20). Peter could no longer walk on the water when he began to doubt (Matthew 14:31). As the Jews "could not enter in" to the land of promise "because of their unbelief," so may we fail to secure our inheritance in God's everlasting rest (Hebrews 3:19; Hebrews 4:1-14). These examples suggest that faithlessness is weakness, inasmuch as

II. THE ILL EFFECTS OF SUCH MORAL FEEBLENESS. The results of Israel's failure to exterminate the Canaanites are typical of conditions only too common in the moral life of men. The delay it involved in the settlement of the State—politically, ecclesiastically; the perpetual unrest; the national disgrace; the corruption of the national life by the contagion of idolatry; the reproach cast on the name of Jehovah among the nations—all these have their resemblance in the penalties of moral failure.

1. Personal dishonour. When a man has not the courage to face and combat the evils of his own heart and life, or that confront him in the world without, he generally falls into the shame of some kind of base compromise. He deals sophistically with his own conscience, suppresses the nobler impulses of his nature, belies the essential principles of his religious faith, disowns the bond of his allegiance to Christ. No greater dishonour possible to a man than this.

2. Spiritual degeneracy. As an enfeebled body is liable to the infection of disease, so moral laxity leaves men a prey to the destroyer. Corrupting influences readily take effect upon them. The gates are open, the sentinel is asleep, no wonder the foe enters and takes possession of the citadel. "From him that hath not shall be taken away," etc. (Matthew 13:12).

3. Exaggeration of opposing difficulties. The sense of moral weakness and falseness conjures up obstacles in the path of duty or endeavour that do not really exist. High moral excellence seems impossible to him who is content to grovel. The faithless heart always "sees a lion in the way."

"The wise and active conquer difficulties

By daring to attempt them. Sloth and folly

Shiver and shrink at sight of toil and danger,

And make the impossibilities they fear."

4. Defective witness for God. Every such case of spiritual failure is a hindrance to the progress of the kingdom of heaven among men, thwarts so far the Divine purpose m the triumph of truth and righteousness. The hostile forces of the world laugh at a half-hearted service of Christ. The strongholds of iniquity can never fall before a church enfeebled by the spirit of unbelief.—W.


Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 15:4". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology