Notes on Joshua, Chapter 18
by Jonathan Spurlock
(Holts Summit, MO)
Jos 18:1, KJV 1 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.
Israel had been assembled at Gilgal before this (Josh 4:19-20, 10:15,.14:5, e.g.). Now they moved farther away from Gilgal, closer to the approximate center of Canaan.
2 And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.
Just why these seven tribes of Israel had not received their inheritance is not stated.
3 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long (are) ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?
God had promised to give the land to Israel but they had to follow and claim their territory (see Josh 1:3). Yet it was up to Israel to actually put their feet to the ground and take what was theirs by promise!
4 Give out from among you three men for (each) tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come (again) to me. 5 And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north. 6 Ye shall therefore describe the land (into) seven parts, and bring (the description) hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.
Three men from each of the seven remaining tribes equaled 21 sent out on this journey. Note that Joshua didn’t tell them to actually spy out the land and he didn’t tell them to report any conditions of any particular city. They—Israel—had probably seen most of the land in the various military campaigns. Joshua also made sure to guarantee the borders of Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh. The final distribution was to be by casting lots, a method used in various means during those days (Achan’s identity, Saul and Jonathan, even the selection of Matthias as the replacement apostle for Judas Iscariot, to name three).
7 But the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the LORD (is) their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.
A reminder that the Levites were never given any land or real estate for themselves, except for cities among the various tribes.
8 And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the LORD in Shiloh. 9 And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book, and came (again) to Joshua to the host at Shiloh.
Interesting that the men described the land by “cities”. We are not told how long the men were gone.
10 And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.
This was exactly as he had promised to do in verse 6.
11 And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families: and the coast of their lot came forth between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph.
Why Benjamin was chosen first is not specified. It is interesting that Benjamin’s territory was close to that of his nephews, Manasseh and Ephraim.
12 And their border on the north side was from Jordan; and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains westward; and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.
Quite a variety of terrain: the Jordan valley, mountains, and wilderness.
13 And the border went over from thence toward Luz, to the side of Luz, which (is) Bethel, southward; and the border descended to Atarothadar, near the hill that (lieth) on the south side of the nether Bethhoron. 14 And the border was drawn (thence), and compassed the corner of the sea southward, from the hill that (lieth) before Bethhoron southward; and the goings out thereof were at Kirjathbaal, which (is) Kirjathjearim, a city of the children of Judah: this (was) the west quarter.
Kirjathjearim was one of the Gibeonite cities which surrendered to Israel. Joshua 9 has the story.
15 And the south quarter (was) from the end of Kirjathjearim, and the border went out on the west, and went out to the well of waters of Nephtoah: 16 And the border came down to the end of the mountain that (lieth) before the valley of the son of Hinnom, (and) which (is) in the valley of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom, to the side of Jebusi on the south, and descended to Enrogel, 17 And was drawn from the north, and went forth to Enshemesh, and went forth toward Geliloth, which (is) over against the going up of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben, 18 And passed along toward the side over against Arabah northward, and went down unto Arabah: 19 And the border passed along to the side of Bethhoglah northward: and the outgoings of the border were at the north bay of the salt sea at the south end of Jordan: this (was) the south coast. 20 And Jordan was the border of it on the east side. This (was) the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, by the coasts thereof round about, according to their families.
This was a description of the land given to Benjamin.
21 Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz,
Some might find it interesting that the first city captured by Israel was given to the last tribe to be established in Israel—Benjamin was Jacob’s youngest son.
22 And Betharabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel,
Bethel had a varied history. Abraham built an altar there and Jacob first met the Lord Himself at Bethel. It was here that Jacob’s extended family committed themselves to God once and for all (Genesis 35). Sadly, even though Bethel was in Benjamin’s territory, it didn’t stop Jeroboam I from establishing the golden calf worship in the northern kingdom, many years later. Sites are relatively unimportant but what happens at any given site can bring either blessings or curses, depending on what goes on there.
23 And Avim, and Parah, and Ophrah, 24 And Chepharhaammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba; twelve cities with their villages: 25 Gibeon, and Ramah, and Beeroth,
Gibeon,and Beeroth were two more of the former Gibeonite cities which surrendered to Israel.
26 And Mizpeh, and Chephirah, and Mozah,
Chephirah was the last of the former Gibeonite cities which surrendered to Israel.
27 And Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah, 28 And Zelah, Eleph, and Jebusi, which (is) Jerusalem, Gibeath, (and) Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages. This (is) the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.
Scripture quotations taken from the King James Version of the Bible (KJV)