Joshua 12
Pulpit Commentary
Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east:
Verse 1. - Now these are the kings. The historian now enters upon a complete description of the whole territory which had, up to this date, fallen into the hands of the Israelites. First he traces out the border of the trans-Jordanic possessions of Israel, which he describes as bounded on the south by the river Arnon, on the west of course by the Jordan, and as extending from Hermon, past the Sea of Chinneroth, to the borders of the Dead Sea. The eastern border is not clearly defined, but the boundary extended far further eastward in the north than in the south, since the territory of Og was much more extensive than that of Sihon. On the west of Jordan the territory is described as extending "from Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon (i.e., Baalbec or Caesarea Philippi; see note on ch. 11:17) unto the Mount Halak which goeth up to Seir, which we have seen to be a range of mountains extending southward from near the south point of the Dead Sea. The border of the Israelitish possessions is more accurately defined in the succeeding chapters, but it was, after all, a slip of territory not more than 180 miles in length by about 100 in breadth. Its influence upon the history of the world, like that of Athens and Sparta, must not be measured by its size, but by its moral energy. As the former city has attained undying fame by its intellectual power, the second by its mihtary capacity, so Palestine has derived her title to fame from her indestructible national life - indestructible because built alone, of all the religious systems of the ancient world, upon the foundations of the unity and Fatherhood of God; indestructible, moreover, because it came by revelation from God. There is no greater argument for the Divine origin of the Mosaic law than the unique spectacle of a national life like that of the Jews, subsisting for nearly two thousand years after their expulsion from their land. From the river Arnon (see Numbers 21:24). The word Arnon Signifies the swift stream (see Gesenius,'Thesaur.' s.v.). It is now called by the Arabs, El-Mujeb. Seetzen represents the region round its mouth to be naturally most fertile, but as abandoned now to a few wild plants. Unto Mount Hermon. Now Jebel-es-Sheikh. We have a vivid description of the scenery of Hermon in Psalm 42, with the noise of its foaming torrents, the "deep calling unto deep" from the recesses of its dark ravines, where the infant Jordan rushed along its rocky bed. The Psalmist pictures to himself his troubles as overwhelming him like the billows of the numerous streams that streaked the mountain sides. And yet again Hermon is introduced as the image of peace and plenty and brotherly love. The refreshing dews which distilled from the side of the giant mountain were the source of blessing to those who dwelt afar off, and even the dry and parched sides of Mount Zion were cooled by their delicious influence. In Psalm 42:6 the Psalmist speaks of Hermon in the plural. Some have regarded this (e.g., Ritter) as referring to the double peak of the mountain. The phrase most probably refers to the region, though Hermon has really three peaks (see note on Joshua 11:3). And all the plain on the east. The Arabah (see Joshua 3:16). The depression of the Jordan, which lay eastward, of course, of Palestine. This is much insisted on in the following verses.
Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and from the middle of the river, and from half Gilead, even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon;
Verse 2. - The river Jabbok. Literally, the pouring or emptying stream. It is remarkable that, while the LXX. renders here by χείμαρρος, a winter torrent, it steadily renders the same Hebrew word, when referring to Aruon, by φάραγξ. This latter word indicates the rocky cleft through which the water flows; the former, the fact that, though rapid and impetuous in winter, it was usually dried up in summer. Cf. the term χείμαρρος, applied to the Kedron by St. John (Joshua 18:1); a remarkable instance of accuracy, by the way, if, as we are confidently told, the author of that Gospel was an Ephesine Gentile who had never seen Jerusalem and was imperfectly acquainted with Jewish localities and customs. The Jabbok has been identified with the Wady Zerka, or blue stream.
And from the plain to the sea of Chinneroth on the east, and unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea on the east, the way to Bethjeshimoth; and from the south, under Ashdothpisgah:
Verse 3. - And from the plain. There is no "from" in the original, which here ceases to describe the territories of Sihon, but continues the account of the Israelite dominions, which included the Arabah (not the plain as in our version) up to the sea of Chinneroth. On the east; i.e., the east of Jordan. So also below. The way to Beth-jeshimoth (see Numbers 33:48, 49). There was a desert tract near the Dead Sea called Jeshimon, or the waste district. It is described by travellers as the most arid portion of the whole land. In this, Beth-jeshimoth (the house of desolations) was situated. It was south of the acacia meadows (see note on Joshua 2:1), and it formed part of the territory of Reuben (Joshua 13:20). As it lay upon Jordan, it must have been near the extreme northernmost point of the Dead Sea. We are to understand, not that Sihon's territory extended to Beth-jeshimoth, but in that direction. Possibly some of the western Cauaanitish tribes here extended their territories across the Jordan. And from the south. The word here is not Negeb, but Teman, i.e., the literal south, which lay on the right (יָמִין) to one looking eastward. Ashdoth-pisgah. For Ashdoth see Joshua 10:40. Pisgah was the northernmost point of the Abarim range, of which the well known Nebo was the chief peak. Thither Moses went up to view the land which he was not permitted to enter. There Balaam built his seven altars and essayed in vain to curse the children of Israel. There were the watchmen (Zophim) stationed to protect the land, in the days before the Israelitish invasion, from the incursions of the tribes on the other side of Jordan (Numbers 23:14). The position of Pisgah has not been precisely identified, but the range extended on the eastern side of Jordan to a point nearly opposite Jericho. See Deuteronomy 34:1.
And the coast of Og king of Bashan, which was of the remnant of the giants, that dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei,
Verse 4. - The giants. Hebrew, Rephaim cf. Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20; also Joshua 17:15). The word, according to Ewald, is equivalent to "stretched out." It was also applied to the dead. The Rephaim were one of the various tribes of giants, like the Anakims, Zuzims, and Emims, of whom we read in the land of Canaan. They occupied the land of Bashan and "half Gilead" - that is, its northern portion (see Deuteronomy 3:13). The term "remnant" would imply that they had suffered some reverses at the hands of the other tribes, though they still remained in possession of their populous territory in the north. This view is confirmed by Genesis 14:5. Ashtaroth (see note on Joshua 9:10). Edrei. Or "the strong city," "the city of the arm," according to Gesen., 'Thes.,' s.v. This name, together with the immense number of ruined cities which have been found of late years in a marvellous state of preservation in this region, shows that Og was a powerful monarch. The ease with which he was overcome bears witness to the enervating effects of luxury and licentiousness upon a people of strong physique, vast numbers, and high civilisation.
And reigned in mount Hermon, and in Salcah, and in all Bashan, unto the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and half Gilead, the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.
Verse 5. - The Geshurites. See Joshua 13:2, 11, 13; and Deuteronomy 3:14; also 2 Samuel 13:37, where we find the principality of Geshur still in possession of its independence. It was in the northeast corner of Bashan, abutting upon Syria, and is called "Geshur in Syria" (2 Samuel 15:8). It is perhaps an instance of undesigned coincidence that Maachah, the mother of Absalom and the daughter of the king of Geshur, was so named, since she probably derived her name from the adjoining territory of Maachah (see note on Joshua 13:2).
Them did Moses the servant of the LORD and the children of Israel smite: and Moses the servant of the LORD gave it for a possession unto the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh.
Verse 6. - Moses, the servant of the Lord, gave. Theodoret makes the tribes which received their inheritance through Moses the types of the believing Jews, and those who received it through Jesus (Joshua) the types of the believing Gentiles. Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh were the first born of their respective mothers, and were thus types of the Jews, who were God's firstborn. As they passed over armed before their brethren, so we received the good tidings of salvation from the lips of Jews. This is a characteristic specimen of the allegorical interpretation of the early fathers. But it will be observed that the children of Bilhah, who might have been selected more naturally than those of Zilpah, are entirely omitted.
And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon even unto the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir; which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions;
Verse 7. - And these are the kings of the country. We now proceed to the enumeration of the kings whom Joshua had overcome on the western side of Jordan. And the first thing that strikes us is their immense number, as compared to the two potentates who alone occupied the large tract of country subdued on the other side of Jordan. Such a divided territory could hardly have maintained itself in the face of the powerful monarchs Sihon and Og to the eastward of Jordan. We are thus led to the conclusion that the smaller kings must have been tributary to some more powerful monarch who was the head of the confederacy. Such Bretwaldas, to borrow a term from our own history, the kings of Jerusalem and Hazor appear to have been, the one the head of the northern, the other of the southern tribes of Palestine, while possibly the five Philistine cities may have constituted another league, as they appear to have successfully defied the power of the Israelites from the first. That such confederacies existed at a much earlier time, we find from Genesis 14:1-5, where the king of Elam, or Persia, appears as the head of such an one, though of a more extensive character. The resistance to his power organised by the kings in the neighbourhood of the Dead Sea is another case in point. Possibly in later times Persia and Babylon found their hands full in their conflict with one another, and with Egypt under Thothmes III., as afterwards under the all-conquering Rameses II., better known as Sesostris, and they had to leave the tribes of Palestine awhile to themselves. Or the rulers of the central power at Carchemish (see Introduction) may have exercised a kind of suzerainty over all. The next point to be observed is that, in the list of kings that follows, a good many are mentioned beside those enumerated in ch. 10. No doubt, as in the earlier history of this island, there were not only heads of leagues, and their tributary monarchs, but under kings also, who were actually subject to the reigning monarchs, and involved in their fall. Compare the other cities mentioned in connection with Gibeon, Joshua 9:17. Baal-Gad, in the valley of Lebanon. See for this whole passage note on Joshua 11:16, 17.
In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites:
Verse 8. - The mountains. "Which, as the mountains of Judah (Joshua 15:48), Ephraim (Joshua 16:1), and Naphtali (Joshua 19:32), ran through the midst of the land" (Knobel). See Joshua 11:16, 21, and note.
The king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one;
Verse 9. - The list of the cities subdued. The king of Jericho, one. Here follows a list of the royal cities of the Canaanites, the remainder being daughter, or dependent cities, or else, perhaps, like Gibeon, cities whose government was not regal. See Joshua 9:3, and Introduction.
The king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one;
The king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one;
The king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one;
The king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one;
Verse 13. - The king of Geder. Perhaps the same as Gederah in Joshua 15:36. If so, it is the Gedor of the Onomasticon, ten miles from Beit-Jibrin, or Eleutheropolis, now Jedireh. Conder, however, with whom Vandevelde seems to agree, places Geder in the mountain region, and identifies it with Gedor (Joshua 15:58) and the modern Jedur, in the Hebron mountain. So Keil and Delitzsch, Robinson, and others. The Gedor in 1 Chronicles 4:39 may be the same place. It is described as on the east side of the "gai," or ravine, but no clearer indication of the place is given. It is, however, unlikely that the Simeonites would have found the children of tiara undisturbed in the mountains of Hebron in the reign of Hezekiah (see vers. 40, 41). The LXX. reads Gerar, and this is very probably the true reading. There was a "Nahal," or winter torrent, there (Genesis 26:17, 19), and therefore possibly a "gal." The whole passage in 1 Chronicles should be consulted.
The king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one;
Verse 14. - Hormah, Arad. Cities in the Negeb, near the border of Edom (see Numbers 14:45; Numbers 21:1, 3; Numbers 33:40). Hor-mah was originally known as Zephath (see Judges 1:16, 17, where the fullest description of the locality is given). It was in the wilderness of Judaea, in the arid country (Negeb) of Arad. Mr. Palmer identifies it with Sebaita, in the centre of the Negeb, in the Magrah-el-Esbaita, a mountain valley sloping down into the Wady-el-Abyadh. Other explorers prefer Sulifat, and Rowlands and G. Williams, Sepata.
The king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one;
Verse 15. - Adullam. In the Shephelah (valley in our version. See ch. 15:33-35). Canon Tristram in his 'Bible Lands,' as well as Conder in his 'Handbook,' identify this with Aid-el-Me, or Mich. In the Quarterly Paper of the Palestine Exploration Fund for July, 1875 (see also Jan., 1874), Lieut. Conder details a visit to this place, previously identified by M. Clermont-Ganneau. These explorers reject the idea approved by Vandevelde and others, that this Deir Dabban is the ancient Adullam. The place he prefers fulfils all requirements. It is in the Shephelah. It is near Jarmuth and Socoh. It is an ancient site with "rock cut tombs, good water supply, and main road, and communications from different sides, and it is moreover a strong military position. It contains no remarkable cave, but a number of small ones, now used as habitations by the peasantry." Keilah, which David saved from the Philistines (1 Samuel 23:1-5), was within a reasonable distance. The present name, Aid-el-Me or Mieh, the feast of the hundred, may be a misapprehension of the word Adullam similar to that which converts the Welsh "yr eifel," in Carnarvonshire, into the English "the rivals," or which identifies in many English names the English burn (brook) with the French borne (boundary). One of the greatest objections to the theory is that the Hebrew so frequently speaks of the place as Cave-Adullam (Ma'arah-Adullam), as though some special cave existed there. Adullam plays a somewhat important part in Scripture history. We hear of it as early as Genesis 38, where Hirah the Adullamite is spoken of as a friend of the patriarch Judah.. It is well known as the refuge of David and his mighty men (1 Samuel 22:1; 2 Samuel 23:13-17). It was the place where David composed two of his psalms, the 57th and the 142nd. Rehoboam fortified it (2 Chronicles 11:7). It seems to be regarded as a refuge in Micah 1:15. And it is mentioned among the cities re-occupied after the return from the captivity in Nehemiah 11:30.
The king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one;
Verse 16. - Bethel. This city is here mentioned as smitten by Joshua. See notes on the capture of Ai, and Judges 1:22-25.
The king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one;
Verse 17. - Tappuah. Literally "apple city." It is difficult say whether this was Tappuah in Judah (Joshua 15:34; cf. ver. 53), or in Manasseh (Joshua 16:8; Joshua 17:7, 8). The mention of Aphekah in Joshua 15:53, and of Aphek here, would suggest the former, or the mention of Socoh in Joshua 15:34 (see below on Hepher). But the mention of Lasharon, the fact that there is more than one other Aphek, that Tappuah on the borders of Ephraim and Manasseh seems to have been an important city, and that the cities of the south are mentioned first, those of the north afterwards, and that Tappuah seems to lie about midway, suggest the more northern city. This is Knobel's opinion. Gesenius inclines to the southern Tappuah. Conder identifies it with Yassfif, at the head of the Wady Kanah, southeast of Shechem. Vandevelde with Atuf, four hours northeast by east from Shechem. Keil prefers the former site. Hepher. This appears, from 1 Kings 4:10, to have been near to Socoh, but nothing more is known of it. Aphek. Literally, fortress, though some think it comes from a Syriac root kindred to the Hebrew, signifying to hold fast, to embrace, and that it has reference to the sensual worship of Ashtaroth and Thammuz. There were several towns of this name (see notes on Joshua 13:4; 15:53; 19:30). Lasharon is probably the same as Sharon, or Hasharon (Isaiah 33:9). This is the plain between Joppa and Carmel (Vandevelde). Conder and Kuobel identify with Sarona, or Saroneh, a place near the sea of Tiberias. See, however, Acts 8:32-38. Madon is mentioned in Joshua 11:1, and has been conjecturally identified with Madin, near the sea of Galilee. Shimron-meron is also mentioned in Joshua 11:1. It appears among the cities assigned to Zebulun in Joshua 19:15. Ewald ('Hist. Israel,' 2:2 c.) remarks on 'the antiquity of this list, referring as it does to cities which are never heard of again. Achshaph lay within the borders of Asher (Joshua 19:25). It has been supposed to be the modern Yasif, near the shores of the Mediterranean (see note on Joshua 11:1). Taanach and Megiddo are frequently mentioned together (see Joshua 17:11; Judges 1:27; Judges 5:19). The former became a Levitical city. The latter, being in the great plain of Jezreel, or Esdraelon, lay in the way of most Eastern conquerors. Hence we find it mentioned in the Karnak inscription by the name of Magedi in the victorious expedition of Thothmes III., in which "the whole of the Syrian, Palestinian, and Arabian nations were overcome and forced to pay tribute." (Cooper, 'Egyptian Obelisks,' p. 33; see also 'Records of the Past,' 1:30). The great battle on the slopes of Mount Tabor was carried on as far as Megiddo (Judges 5:19). Not far from this were the Midianites pitched, who fell victims to the valour of Gideon (Judges 7). Another and a disastrous battle of Megiddo, against the king of Egypt, weakened Judaea, and caused it to fall an easy victory to the power of Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 23:29, 30; 2 Chronicles 35:20-24. The valley of Megiddo, or Megiddon, is mentioned in Zechariah 12:11. Solomon fortified Megiddo (1 Kings 9:15), assigned it to Baana, the son of Ahilud, with Taanach, as one of the cities required to provide food for the royal household (1 Kings 4:12.) And the Jewish writer of the Apocalypse makes this great battlefield of his race the scene of the battle of the great day of the Almighty (Revelation 16:14, 16). For Armageddon is Har Mageddon, the mountain of Mageddon, or Megiddo. Megiddo and Taanach are also found in later periods of Egyptian history. The Mohar mentioned above (Joshua 1:4) notices the former among the places he visited ('Records of the Past,' vol. 2), while the latter is among the places captured by Shishak, as an inscription testifies. The latest explorers reject the identification with Lcgio, or Lejjun, and suggest Mejedda, at the foot of Gilboa, near Beth-shean. See Palestine Exploration Fund, Quarterly Paper, January, 1877.
The king of Aphek, one; the king of Lasharon, one;
The king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one;
The king of Shimronmeron, one; the king of Achshaph, one;
The king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one;
The king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam of Carmel, one;
Verse 22. - Kedesh, i.e., Kedesh-Napbtali (see Joshua 19:7). Jokneam of Carmel. This city is mentioned as one of the cities of purveyance to Solomon's court (1 Kings 4:12), with Beth-shean, Taanach, and Megiddo. It has been identified by explorers, from Robinson downwards, with Tell-el-Kaimun, on the southern slopes of Mount Carmel. It is the Cammona, or Cimana, of the Onomasticon, the "Cyamon over against Esdraelon" of Judith 7:3. It was a Levitical city (Joshua 21:34), but in the list in 1 Chronicles 6. we miss it in its proper place, and find it taking the place of Kibzaim in Ephraim. But, as the margin of our version remarks in the latter chapter (ver. 68), the names of the cities in the two lists very frequently do not correspond.
The king of Dor in the coast of Dor, one; the king of the nations of Gilgal, one;
Verse 23. - The nations of Gilgal. Or the nations that belong to Gilgal. This is identified by Yandevelde and Conder with Jiljulieh in the plain of Jordan, north of Antipatris, and is therefore, if this identification be correct, a third Gilgal. The word "nations" most probably signifies a diversity of tribes of various races gathered together under the headship of the king of Gilgal, much in the same way that the kingdom of Mercia arose in England from a confused mass of various tribes, gathered together on the marches, or military frontiers, between Britons, Saxons and English, or in the same way that the Austrian and Turkish empires have been formed out of a congeries of various nationalities. So we read of "Tidal king of nations" in Genesis 14:1. But others regard the "nations" (Goim) mentioned there as equivalent to the Gutinm of the Babylonian tablets - i.e., Semitic tribes imperfectly organised, then dwelling in Babylonia, and prefer the LXX. reading, Θαργάλ, in Genesis 14:1, which Sir Henry Rawlinson considers equivalent to the Accadian Tur Gal, or "great chief." So Sayce, 'Babl. Lit.,' p. 23; Tomkins, 'Studies on the Time of Abraham.' See Introduction III.
The king of Tirzah, one: all the kings thirty and one.
Verse 24. - Tirzah meets us as the residence of the kings of Israel for a time in the narrative in 1 Kings. Jeroboam's wife went thither after her interview with Ahijah (Joshua 14:17). Baasha dwelt there (Joshua 15:21, 33; Joshua 16:6), Elah was slain there by Zimri (Joshua 16:9, 10), and it. remained the capital until Omri built Samaria (Joshua 16:23, 24). Thenceforward we hear no more of it till the time of Menahem (2 Kings 15:14, 16), when it disappears from history. It has been variously identified - by Robinson and Yandevelde (whom Knobel follows) with Talluza, two hours journey north of Shechem; by Conder with Teiasu, where there are numerous rock sepulchres. It was a place of great beauty, if we may judge from Song of Solomon 6:4, "Thou art beautiful, O my love, as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem."

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