Joshua 13:1
Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said to him, You are old and stricken in years, and there remains yet very much land to be possessed.
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(Joshua 13:1-14).

(b) According to its boundaries.

(1) Joshua was old and stricken in years.—Rather, he had aged, and was advanced in days. Old is too absolute a word. He did not live beyond a hundred and ten years (Joshua 24:29), and this was not a great age for the time. But in several instances the Hebrew word here employed is used not so much in respect of the number of years men lived, but rather in regard to the weakening of the vital powers. So it is said in Genesis 27, “Isaac was old,” i.e., he had aged, for he lived forty-three years after that. So in regard to David, “the king was very old,” i.e., much aged, in 1Kings 1:15, for he could not have been more than seventy when he died. The hardships and anxieties of his life had aged him. So it was perhaps with Joshua. Moses was a signal exception; he had not aged at one hundred and twenty. But Jehovah constantly talked with Moses, and knew him face to face; and may we not say that that heavenly intercourse even sustained the vital powers? The work of the Lord, though it be successfully carried on, as it was by Joshua, may wear men out by its very excitement. But personal intercourse with Him is like eating of the tree of life, and “in His presence is the fulness of joy.” In this personal intercourse Moses was more highly favoured than his successor, Joshua.

(1, 7) There remaineth yet very much land to be possessed . . . Now therefore divide this land.—The land had still to be inheritedi.e., not overrun, or conquered, as far as it could be said to be conquered by defeating the armies that took the field; all this was done already, but the land had not passed out of the hands of its actual possessors into the hands of Israel. It is remarkable that we have here a distinct order given to Joshua to divide to Israel land which was not yet conquered. In these verses several nations are named—viz., the Philistines, the Geshurites, the Avites, the Giblites, the Sidonians, besides anything more which may be included in the sometimes generic, and sometimes more specific, name of the Canaanites. Of these tribes, the Philistines and “all the Sidonians” (or Phœnicians) were certainly not yet conquered. Can we say that they were ever conquered at any period in the history of the kingdom of all Israel, except in so far as they were reduced to the condition of tributaries?

We may say, then, that while the list of kings in Joshua 12 represents the territory in that aspect in which it was conquered, by the reduction of a number of fortified posts and strongholds, and the subjugation of all the principal rulers of the country, the description of its boundaries in Joshua 13 represents it as not yet conquered—viz., as still containing several nations whom the Israelites must dispossess when God gave them the opportunity and ordered them to drive them out.

It is important to mark clearly the distinction between the work done by Joshua and the work left for Israel. Joshua overthrew the ruling powers of Palestine, destroyed the kingdoms, defeated the armies, and captured the fortresses to such an extent as to give Israel a firm foothold in the country. But he did not exterminate the population from every portion even of that territory which he distributed to the several tribes. And there were several nations—of whom the Philistines and Phœnicians were the chief—whom he left entirely intact. The purpose of this is explained in Judges 2:20-23; Judges 3:1-4. The work done by Joshua was thus distinctly limited.

The work left for Israel was partly similar to that which Joshua had done, and partly different. It was the same when any great war broke out between Israel and the unconquered nations: for example, in the time of Deborah and Barak, or in the wars with the Philistines. But for the most part it was entirely different, and was the completion of the conquest of the land in detail throughout the several towns and villages. But how was this to be effected? Certainly not after the manner of the capture of Laish by the Danites, described in Judges (Joshua 18:27), when they came “unto a people that were at quiet and secure; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire.” The rules laid down in the law of Moses were to be the guiding principle for Israel, as also for Joshua. The seventh and twelfth chapters of Deuteronomy give them clearly, and they are these.

(1) Utter extermination of the nations when Jehovah should deliver them upi.e., not at the pleasure of Israel, but at the Divine decree. The signal for this extermination was generally a determined and obstinate attack on Israel. “It was of the Lord to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might destroy them utterly” (Joshua 11:20). But while they “stood still in their strength” (Joshua 11:13) they were usually unmolested.

(2) The destruction of all traces of idolatry in the conquered territory (Deuteronomy 12:1-2 : “In the land which the Lord God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it . . . ye shall utterly destroy all the places wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods . . . overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and . . . hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.” So also Deuteronomy 7:5; Deuteronomy 7:25). All investigation of idolatrous practices and usages was forbidden (Deuteronomy 12:30).

(3) No covenant or treaty was to be made between Israel and the nations of Canaan, and all intermarriage was prohibited. (Deuteronomy 7:2-3; comp. Joshua 23:12-13.)

Of these rules, the first entails responsibility, chiefly upon the leaders—as Joshua and his successors; the second and third, upon all the people. And on the observance or non-observance of the two latter rules the completion of the conquest in detail very much depended. It is obvious that the persistent and general destruction of objects of Canaanitish worship, with the refusal to make treaties or intermarry, would tend to perpetuate a state of irritation in the minds of the Canaanites. Had these rules been faithfully observed, there would have been constant outbreaks of hostility, terminating in the further and more rapid extermination of the enemies of Israel, or else in their absolute submission to Israelitish law; and thus the entire conquest would have been completed in a comparatively short time. But, in fact, the second and third rules were constantly broken. Mixed marriages were common, and idolatry was maintained instead of being destroyed. Hence Israelites and Canaanites were mingled together, and it became impossible to carry out Rule 1; for one set of inhabitants could not be exterminated without inflicting serious injury upon the other.

When we consider the above rules, it is impossible not to be struck with the wisdom of them when regarded as a means to the proposed end. We are also able to understand more clearly why so much stress was laid upon the necessity of adherence to the Book of the Law in Joshua’s commission (Joshua 1:6-8). The fact that these rules are not what human nature would be at all disposed to obey continuously and as a matter of set practice (have they ever been observed yet in any conquest recorded in history?) is worth noting, as a proof of the undesigned veracity of the story. It is a mark of thorough consistency between the law and the history of Israel. And if the authorship of Deuteronomy belonged to the late date which some claim for it, how could we account for the insertion of a law which was never kept, and could not be kept at the time when some suppose it was written? From the days of Solomon and thenceforward, the relation of the remnant of the conquered Canaanites to Israel was fixed. The Phœnicians and Philistines maintained a separate national existence to the last.



Joshua 13:1 - Joshua 13:8

Joshua was now a very old man and had occupied seven years in the conquest. His work was over, and now he had only to take steps to secure the completion by others of the triumph which he would never see. This incident has many applications to the work of the Church in the world, but not less important ones to individual progress, and we consider these mainly now.

I. The clear recognition of present imperfection.

That is essential in all regions, ‘Not as though’; the higher up, the more clearly we see the summit. The ideal grows loftier, as partially realised. The mountain seems comparatively low and easy till we begin to climb. We should be continually driven by a sense of our incompleteness, and drawn by the fair vision of unattained possibilities. In all regions, to be satisfied with the attained is to cease to grow.

This is eminently so in the Christian life, with its goal of absolute completeness.

How blessed this dissatisfaction is! It keeps life fresh: it is the secret of perpetual youth.

Joshua’s work was incomplete, as every man’s must be. We each have our limitations, the defects of our qualities, the barriers of our environment, the brevity of our day of toil, and we have to be content to carry the fiery cross a little way and then to give it up to other hands. There is only One who could say,’ It is done.’ Let us see that we do our own fragment.

II. The confident reckoning on complete possession.

Joshua’s conquest was very partial. He subdued part of the central mountain nucleus, but the low-lying stretch of country on the coast, Philistia and the maritime plain up to Tyre and Sidon and other outlying districts, remained unsubdued. Yet the whole land was now to be allotted out to the tribes. That allotment must have strengthened faith in their ultimate possession, and encouraged effort to make the ideal a reality, and to appropriate as their own in fact what was already theirs in God’s purpose. So a great part of Christian duty, and a great secret of Christian progress, is to familiarise ourselves with the hope of complete victory. We should acquire the habit of contemplating as certainly meant by God to be ours, complete conformity to Christ’s character, complete appropriation of Christ’s gifts. God bade Jeremiah buy a ‘field that was in Anathoth’ at the time an invading army held the land. A Roman paid down money for the ground on which the besiegers of Rome were encamped. It does not become Christians to be less confident of victory. But we have to take heed that our confidence is grounded on the right foundation. God’s commandment to Joshua to allot the land, even while the formidable foes enumerated in the context held it firmly, was based on the assurance {Joshua 13:6}: ‘Them will I drive out before the children of Israel.’ Confidence based on self is presumption, and will end in defeat; confidence based on God will brace to noble effort, which is all the more vigorous and will surely lead to victory, because it distrusts self.

III. The vigorous effort animated by both the preceding.

How the habit of thinking the unconquered land theirs would encourage Israel. Efforts without hope are feeble; hope without effort is fallacious.

Israel’s history is significant. The land was never actually all conquered. God’s promises are all conditional, and if we do not work, or if we work in any other spirit than in faith, we shall not win our allotted part in the ‘inheritance of the saints in light.’ It is possible to lose ‘thy crow.’ ‘Work out your own salvation.’ ‘Trust in the Lord and do good, so shalt thou dwell in the land.’Joshua 13:1. Now Joshua was old — To what age Joshua was advanced we cannot determine, because we do not know how old he was when the Israelites came out of Egypt. Some think he was three and forty at that time, and then he was fourscore and three when they came into Canaan. And now, it may be gathered from probable conjectures, that he wanted not much of a hundred. And, in this declining age, he could not hope to live to conquer what remained of the land unsubdued, and therefore he was to go about another business, namely, the dividing of it. The Lord said unto him, Thou art old — Therefore delay not to do the work which I have commanded thee to do. It is good for those that are stricken in years to be reminded that they are so; that they may be quickened to do the work of life, and prepare for death, which is coming on apace.13:1-6 At this chapter begins the account of the dividing of the land of Canaan among the tribes of Israel by lot; a narrative showing the performance of the promise made to the fathers, that this land should be given to the seed of Jacob. We are not to pass over these chapters of hard names as useless. Where God has a mouth to speak, and a hand to write, we should find an ear to hear, and an eye to read; and may God give us a heart to profit! Joshua is supposed to have been about one hundred years old at this time. It is good for those who are old and stricken in years to be put in remembrance of their being so. God considers the frame of his people, and would not have them burdened with work above their strength. And all people, especially old people, should set to do that quickly which must be done before they die, lest death prevent them, Ec 9:10. God promise that he would make the Israelites masters of all the countries yet unsubdued, through Joshua was old, and not able to do it; old, and not likely to live to see it done. Whatever becomes of us, and however we may be laid aside as despised, broken vessels, God will do his own work in his own time. We must work out our salvation, then God will work in us, and work with us; we must resist our spiritual enemies, then God will tread them under our feet; we must go forth to our Christian work and warfare, then God will go forth before us.Joshua is bidden to allot the whole of the promised land among the twelve tribes in faith that God would perfect in due time that expulsion of the Canaanites which Joshua himself could not carry further (see Joshua 11:23). CHAPTER 13

Jos 13:1-33. Bounds of the Land Not Yet Conquered.

1. Now Joshua was old and stricken in years—He was probably above a hundred years old; for the conquest and survey of the land occupied about seven years, the partition one; and he died at the age of one hundred ten years (Jos 24:29). The distribution, as well as the conquest of the land, was included in the mission of Joshua; and his advanced age supplied a special reason for entering on the immediate discharge of that duty; namely, of allocating Canaan among the tribes of Israel—not only the parts already won, but those also which were still to be conquered.God makes known to Joshua the bounds of the land not yet conquered, Joshua 13:1-6; commands it to be divided among the nine tribes and a half, Joshua 13:7. The inheritance of the two tribes and a half on the other side Jordan, Joshua 13:8-13. The Lord and his sacrifices the inheritance of Levi, Joshua 13:14. The portion of the Reubenites, Joshua 13:15-23; of the Gadites, Joshua 13:24-28; of the half tribe of Manasseh, Joshua 13:29-32.

Thou art old, therefore delay not to do the work which I have appointed and commanded thee to do.

To be possessed; to be conquered, and so possessed by the people.

Now Joshua was old, and stricken in years,.... How old he was cannot be said precisely, but it is very probable he was now about an hundred years of age, for he lived to be an hundred ten; and the land of Canaan was seven years in dividing, as the Jews generally say, and it seems as if he did not live long after that:

and the Lord said unto him: either spoke to him out of the tabernacle, or appeared to him in a dream or vision:

thou art old, and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed: that is, very much of the land of Canaan, which God had promised to Abraham, yet remained unconquered by Joshua, and unpossessed by the children of Israel; and the old age of Joshua is observed, to intimate to him that through it, and the infirmities of it, he was unable to go out to war, and to finish this work, which must be left to be done by others hereafter; and that he should with all expedition set about another work he was capable of doing, before he died, which was the division of the land among the tribes of Israel.

Now Joshua was old and {a} 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 {b} possessed.

(a) Being almost a hundred and ten years old.

(b) After the enemies are overcome.

Ch. Joshua 13:1-7. The Divine Command to Joshua to distribute the Land

1. Now Joshua] With the thirteenth chapter begins the Second Part of the Book of Joshua. It describes the division of the Land, and rests no doubt on definite records which lay before the writer. “There is one document in the Hebrew Scriptures to which probably no parallel exists in the topographical records of any other ancient nation. In the Book of Joshua we have what may without offence be termed the Domesday Book of the conquest of Canaan. Ten chapters of that Book are devoted to a description of the country, in which not only are its general features and boundaries carefully laid down, but the names and situations of its towns and villages enumerated with a precision of geographical terms which encourages and almost compels a minute investigation.” Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, p. xiii.

Now Joshua was old] The Hebrew leader was now about ninety years of age. Much land still remained to be occupied. Strong fortresses—like Jerusalem, Gezer, and Bethshean—still remained in the hands of the defeated Canaanites. Their reduction by ordinary means would require time and entail difficulty. The command, therefore, is now given to wait no longer, but proceed to the division of the Land.

and stricken in years] “Thou hast woxe eld, and art of loong age,” Wyclif. Comp. Genesis 18:11; Genesis 24:1; Joshua 23:1-2.Verse 1. - NOW Joshua was old. This is usually regarded as the second part of the Book of Joshua; the first being devoted to the history of the conquest of Palestine, while the second is engaged with the history of its division among the conquerors. Dean Stanley, in his 'Sinai and Palestine,' as well as in his 'Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church,' describes this portion of the Book of Judges as the 'Domes. day Book' of the land of Canaan, and the remark has been constantly repeated. There is, however, a considerable difference between the great survey of the Conqueror and this one. The former was an accurate account, for purposes of taxation, national detente, and public order, of the exact extent of soil owned by each landowner, and it went so far as to enumerate the cattle on his estate, to the great disgust of the Saxon chronicler, who had an Englishman's dislike of inquisitorial proceedings. There is no trace either of such completeness, or of such an inquisitorial character in this survey, neither has it quite the same object. It assigns to each tribe the limits of its future possessions, and enumerates the cities contained in each portion of territory. Bat it makes scarcely any effort to describe the possessions of particular families, still less of individual landowners. Joshua and Caleb are the only exceptions. Knobel observes that the most powerful tribes were first settled in their territory - those, namely, of Judah and Joseph. He remarks that the author must have had written sources for his information, for no single Israelite could have been personally acquainted with all the details here given. And stricken in years. Rather, advanced in age. There is no foundation for the idea of some commentators that the Jews, at the time this book was written, made any formal distinction in these words between different stages of old age. The Hebrew language rejoiced in repetition, and this common phrase is only a means of adding emphasis to the statement already made. And there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed. The Hebrew מְאֹד is stronger than our version. Perhaps the best equivalent in modern English is, "And the amount of land that remaineth for us to occupy is very great indeed." We may observe here that, as with the literal so with the spiritual Israel, whether the antitype be the Christian Church or the human heart, the work of subduing God's enemies is gradual. One successful engagement does not conclude the war. The enemy renews his assaults, and when force fails he tries fraud; when direct temptations are of no avail he resorts to enticements. The only safeguard in the war is strength, alertness, courage, patience. The faint hearted and unwatchful alike fail in the contest, which can be carried on successfully only by him who has learned to keep guard over himself, and to direct his ways by the counsels of God. Madon, Hezor, Shimron-meron, and Achshaph (see at Joshua 11:1).
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