Notes on Joshua Chapter 13 verses 01-14
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Jos 13:1, KJV 1 Now Joshua was old (and) stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old (and) stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.
Joshua lived to the age of 110. His life could be divided into three sections: the years in Egypt, when he and just about all of Israel were slaves to the Egyptians; the years of wandering, after Israel refused to enter the Promised Land and was sentenced to 38 years of going here and there in the wilderness; and the years in Canaan, from crossing the Jordan to the end of his earthly journey, the various military campaigns included. He lived as long as Joseph, the father of Ephraim (Joshua’s tribe! See Gen.50:26), and 10 years less than Moses himself (see Deut. 34:7).
It is not known when God spoke this message to Joshua. God may have spoken to him relatively soon after the campaigns in the north (see chapter 12), when “ . . the land rested from war (Josh 11:23). Some have stated that an incomplete victory is no victory at all.
Something to remember is that there is a difference between conquering the land and possessing the land. Canaan was surrounded by any number of enemies (Syrians/Arameans, Moabites, Ammonites, Egypt, Philistines, Edomites, Arabians, and by regions farther away) who may not have gone to war with the Canaanites but would no doubt be happy to occupy the empty cities. God wanted Israel to settle in the land He had promised, not to remain in one location, whether Gilgal or anywhere else.
Besides, unless Israel acted relatively quickly to occupy or possess the land, they might have had to fight against those who had moved in to the cities they had conquered!
2 This (is) the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri,
The Philistines lived in the southwestern part of Canaan, with the Great (Mediterranean) Sea as their western border, Israel or Canaan to their north and east, and Egypt to the south. They had lived in the land of Canaan since Abraham’s time, hundreds of years before. Genesis 20-21 relate the story of Abraham and Abimelech, the king of Gerar, which apparently was under Philistine control at the time.
The location of Geshur is not specified but it appears to be close to then-Philistine territory.
3 From Sihor, which (is) before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, (which) is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:
The Sihor was near the border of Egypt. Ekron was a Philistine city (later, if not at the time) and years later was host to the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam 5:10). The wording indicates that Ekron was near the border of the Philistines and Canaanites.
During Abraham’s time, the only ruler of the Philistines mentioned was Abimelech, king of Gerar, but the extent of his dominion is not stated. During Joshua’s time, 400-plus years after Abraham, the Philistines had five “lords”, one lord over each of the five major cities, as stated in this verse. During David’s time, however, Gath at least was ruled by a king (Achish, at the time, see 1 Sam 21:10).
The Aviites/Avim are only mentioned three times in Scripture (Deut. 2:23, Josh 13:3 and Josh 18:23). They, too, apparently lived near the Philistines.
4 From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that (is) beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:
Mearah is only mentioned here and its location is uncertain. The Sidonians lived in the extreme north of Canaan, close to Tyre. Aphek was in northern Canaan and taken by Israel (Josh 12:18).
The Amorites may have lived in various places but Sihon, king of the Amorites, lived on the eastern side of Jordan. Israel conquered that territory before they crossed the Jordan and entered Canaan (see Deut 4:46, Deut. 31:4, and Josh 2:10).
5 And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath.
The reference to the “Giblites “ may refer to the land of Gebal, not specified here. Mount Hermon was located in northern Canaan.
Hamath was also located in the north and was mentioned several times in the Old Testament: Toi, king of Hamath, gave King David gifts of gold, silver, and brass (bronze, 2 Sam 89-10); later, Hamath itself seemed to be a northeastern border of the kingdom of Israel (2 Kings 14:25). Years after that, people from Hamath were part of the various peoples brought into the former northern kingdom to form the Samaritans (2 Kings 17:24). Hamath was also the area where the king of Babylon passed sentence on Zedekiah, Judah’s last king, blinding him and executing his sons and other officials (see 2 Kings 25:18-21, Jeremiah 39:4-7)
6 All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, (and) all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee.
“Misrephothmaim” is only mentioned here and in Josh 11:8.Its exact location is uncertain. God again promised to drive out these and other nations or people-groups, then commanded Joshua to divide the land by lot for their inheritance.
7 Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh,
These are the tribes on the west side of Jordan.
8 With whom the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, (even) as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them;
These tribes requested their inheritance on the east side of Jordan (Numbers 32) before Moses died and the nation crossed over into Canaan itself.
9 From Aroer, that (is) upon the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that (is) in the midst of the river, and all the plain of Medeba unto Dibon;
The Arnon was the border between the Moabites and Ammonites and the other peoples who lived north of that river before the two and a half tribes of Israel conquered that territory. Medeba and Dibon were both located, apparently, in the same region.
10 And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, unto the border of the children of Ammon;
God had already told Israel to basically leave Ammon’s territory alone (Deut. 2:19, 37) as He had reserved it for them. Israel’s conquest of Sihon’s land is documented in several places: Num. 21:34, 32:33, Deut, 2; and Rahab of Jericho’s testimony in Josh. 2:10).
11 And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah; 12 All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out.
Gilead was north of Bashan. Mt. Hermon is in northern Canaan then, part of Israel now and for many years before.
13 Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.
This is the beginning of Israel’s failures to completely follow God’s commands.
14 Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire (are) their inheritance, as he said unto them.
The tribe of Levi would later receive cities and pasturelands (see Joshua 21) but they were never given actual land or real estate (Num 18:21, Deut 10:9, 18:1).