Notes on Joshua chapter 15
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Jos 15:1, KJV 1 (This) then was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah by their families; (even) to the border of Edom the wilderness of Zin southward (was) the uttermost part of the south coast.
Judah was designated as the ruling tribe even as far back as Jacob’s blessing for each of his sons in Genesis 49, specifically Gen. 49:9-12.
2 And their south border was from the shore of the salt sea, from the bay that looketh southward:
The “salt sea” here means the Dead Sea.
3 And it went out to the south side to Maalehacrabbim, and passed along to Zin, and ascended up on the south side unto Kadeshbarnea, and passed along to Hezron, and went up to Adar, and fetched a compass to Karkaa:
Why Kadesh-barnea was given to Israel at all is unspecified. That was where the great rebellion took place, resulting in a 40-year series of wandering in the wilderness. Numbers 13 and 14 give the story, and Numbers 33 gives the list of places where Israel wandered until the forty years were completed.
“Fetched a compass” probably means the land was walked around, maybe measured, not that a true compass or surveying instrument was used in establishing the borders. The phrase itself is obsolete now.
4 (From thence) it passed toward Azmon, and went out unto the river of Egypt; and the goings out of that coast were at the sea: this shall be your south coast.
The “river of Egypt” probably was not the Nile but a stream or stream-bed (“wadi”) south of Gaza. Raphia was basically a border town between Canaan and Egypt; various maps show dry river beds in the area. Another thought is that God was going to give Israel the land of Canaan, not Egypt, as their inheritance.
5 And the east border (was) the salt sea, (even) unto the end of Jordan. And (their) border in the north quarter (was) from the bay of the sea at the uttermost part of Jordan: 6 And the border went up to Bethhogla, and passed along by the north of Betharabah; and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben:
Nothing is mentioned about Bohan, son of Reuben, except here and Josh. 18:17. Even though he is only mentioned twice in Scripture, Bohan and men like him all had a part in making the Promised Land Israel’s own.
7 And the border went up toward Debir from the valley of Achor, and so northward, looking toward Gilgal, that (is) before the going up to Adummim, which (is) on the south side of the river: and the border passed toward the waters of Enshemesh, and the goings out thereof were at Enrogel:
The "valley of Achor” was the place where Achan and, perhaps, his family, were put to death because of Achan’s sin at Jericho. This was another memorial or reminder that the wages of sin is death. Achan’s story is found in Joshua 7.
8 And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same (is) Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that (lieth) before the valley of Hinnom westward, which (is) at the end of the valley of the giants northward: 9 And the border was drawn from the top of the hill unto the fountain of the water of Nephtoah, and went out to the cities of mount Ephron; and the border was drawn to Baalah, which (is) Kirjathjearim:
Kirjathjearim was one of the Gibeonite cities which surrendered to Israel (see Joshua 9). The locations of many of these places are uncertain.
10 And the border compassed from Baalah westward unto mount Seir, and passed along unto the side of mount Jearim, which (is) Chesalon, on the north side, and went down to Bethshemesh, and passed on to Timnah:
Judah was given Timnah but the Philistines later conquered and occupied that city. Samson married a Philistine woman who lived in Timnah (called Timnath in Judges 14). Later Judah reconquered the city in the time of Ahaz (2 Chron 28:18).
11 And the border went out unto the side of Ekron northward: and the border was drawn to Shicron, and passed along to mount Baalah, and went out unto Jabneel; and the goings out of the border were at the sea.
Ekron was another city that changed hands several times. Judah conquered the city (Judges 1:18) but some years later, Ekron was a Philistine city (1 Samuel 5:10). They had an encounter with the Ark of the Covenant—which is an interesting short story.
12 And the west border (was) to the great sea, and the coast (thereof). This (is) the coast of the children of Judah round about according to their families.
The “great sea” is the Mediterranean Sea.
13 And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a part among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the LORD to Joshua, (even) the city of Arba the father of Anak, which (city is) Hebron. 14 And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak.
Kiriath-Arba was another name for “the city of Arba”, or Hebron. Joshua 14 contains Caleb’s request for his inheritance, along with his confidence that he could drive out the Anakims. Here in chapter 15, we have a brief summary of that campaign.
15 And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before (was) Kirjathsepher. 16 And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife. 17 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife.
Debir was probably located a little south of Hebron itself.
18 And it came to pass, as she came (unto him), that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted off (her) ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou? 19 Who answered, Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs.
Water was and is important in the southern part of Canaan. Examples: Abraham’s wells, Isaac’s wells, and the well God provided Hagar as she and Ishmael departed from Abraham (Gen 21:14-21).
20 This (is) the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families. 21 And the uttermost cities of the tribe of the children of Judah toward the coast of Edom southward were Kabzeel, and Eder, and Jagur, 22 And Kinah, and Dimonah, and Adadah, 23 And Kedesh, and Hazor, and Ithnan, 24 Ziph, and Telem, and Bealoth, 25 And Hazor, Hadattah, and Kerioth, (and) Hezron, which (is) Hazor, 26 Amam, and Shema, and Moladah, 27 And Hazargaddah, and Heshmon, and Bethpalet, 28 And Hazarshual, and Beersheba, and Bizjothjah, 29 Baalah, and Iim, and Azem, 30 And Eltolad, and Chesil, and Hormah, 31 And Ziklag, and Madmannah, and Sansannah, 32 And Lebaoth, and Shilhim, and Ain, and Rimmon: all the cities (are) twenty and nine, with their villages:
These cities were more than likely in the southern part of Judah’s territory. Some of these cities are mentioned more than once. Beersheba is one such example.
33 (And) in the valley, Eshtaol, and Zoreah, and Ashnah, 34 And Zanoah, and Engannim, Tappuah, and Enam, 35 Jarmuth, and Adullam, Socoh, and Azekah, 36 And Sharaim, and Adithaim, and Gederah, and Gederothaim; fourteen cities with their villages:
37 Zenan, and Hadashah, and Migdalgad, 38 And Dilean, and Mizpeh, and Joktheel, 39 Lachish, and Bozkath, and Eglon, 40 And Cabbon, and Lahmam, and Kithlish, 41 And Gederoth, Bethdagon, and Naamah, and Makkedah; sixteen cities with their villages:
42 Libnah, and Ether, and Ashan, 43 And Jiphtah, and Ashnah, and Nezib, 44 And Keilah, and Achzib, and Mareshah; nine cities with their villages:
These cities were located “in the valley” but we are not told which one. Socoh and Azekah lay in the pathway where the Philistines invaded Israel in the days of Saul and David (1 Sam 17).
45 Ekron, with her towns and her villages: 46 From Ekron even unto the sea, all that (lay) near Ashdod, with their villages: 47 Ashdod with her towns and her villages, Gaza with her towns and her villages, unto the river of Egypt, and the great sea, and the border (thereof:)
Ekron, Ashdod, and Gaza may have been under Judah’s control for a time but they were later firmly in Philistine hands by the time of the Judges (1 Sam 6:16-17).
48 And in the mountains, Shamir, and Jattir, and Socoh, 49 And Dannah, and Kirjathsannah, which (is) Debir, 50 And Anab, and Eshtemoh, and Anim, 51 And Goshen, and Holon, and Giloh; eleven cities with their villages:
52 Arab, and Dumah, and Eshean, 53 And Janum, and Bethtappuah, and Aphekah, 54 And Humtah, and Kirjatharba, which (is) Hebron, and Zior; nine cities with their villages:
55 Maon, Carmel, and Ziph, and Juttah, 56 And Jezreel, and Jokdeam, and Zanoah, 57 Cain, Gibeah, and Timnah; ten cities with their villages:
58 Halhul, Bethzur, and Gedor, 59 And Maarath, and Bethanoth, and Eltekon; six cities with their villages:
60 Kirjathbaal, which (is) Kirjathjearim, and Rabbah; two cities with their villages:
61 In the wilderness, Betharabah, Middin, and Secacah, 62 And Nibshan, and the city of Salt, and Engedi; six cities with their villages.
This list of cities is important because first, it specifies which cities belonged to Judah, and only Judah, at this time. Second, under the law of jubilee (see Leviticus 25), every 50 years all property was supposed to be returned to its original owners. Third, it shows how God was blessing Judah, giving them a goodly number of cities to occupy. Some other tribes received much less, as detailed in later chapters.
63 As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.
One of the first indications that Judah—here, particularly—was beginning to forsake, if not ignore, the plain commands of God.
The phrase “unto this day” meant the time when Joshua wrote this book.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)