Joshua 18
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.
Ch. Joshua 18:1-10. Erection of the Tabernacle at Shiloh

1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel] The descendants of Judah and of Joseph had now taken up their respective inheritances, the one in the south, the other in the north of the country. But “the murmuring,” it has been remarked, “of the children of Joseph, and the spirit from which it proceeded, gave sad indications of danger in the near future. National disintegration, tribal jealousies, coupled with boastfulness and unwillingness to execute the work given them of God, were only too surely foreboded in the conduct of the children of Joseph. If such troubles were to be averted, it was high time to seek a revival of religion.” Dr Edersheim’s Israel in Canaan under Joshua and the Judges, p. 94. The camp at Gilgal, therefore, was broken up, and the people removed to Shiloh, which was situated within the territory of Ephraim, Joshua’s own tribe.

The whole congregation of the children of Israel. This formula often recurs. Thus in Exodus 16:1 we read, “And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin;” and again, Exodus 16:9, “And Moses spake unto Aaron, Say unto all the congregation of the children of Israel.” Sometimes it is more brief, “the congregation of Israel,” as in Exodus 12:3, “Speak ye unto all the congregation of Israel.” Sometimes more briefly still, “the congregation,” as in Leviticus 4:15, “And the elders of the congregation shall lay their hands upon the head of the bullock before the Lord.” The Greek word here used is the same as that used by our Lord, Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build My Church.” Originally it denoted an assembly of persons called out from among others by the voice of a herald, as, at Athens, for the purpose of legislation. It is applied to the Israelites, as being a nation called out by God from the rest of the world, to bear witness to His unity, to preserve His laws, to keep alive the hope of Redemption, and to exhibit the pattern of a people living in righteousness and true godliness. Hence, St Stephen says of Moses, that he was “in the Church (or congregation) in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina” (Acts 7:38); again, David says in Psalm 22:22, quoted in Hebrews 2:12, “I will declare Thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church (or congregation) will I sing praise unto Thee;” and again he says in Psalm 26:12, “My foot standeth in an even place: in the congregations will I bless the Lord.”

assembled together at Shiloh] Few places in respect to situation are described so accurately as Shiloh. In Jdg 21:19 it is said to have been situated “on the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.” “In agreement with this, the traveller at the present day, going north from Jerusalem, lodges the first night at Beitîn, the ancient Bethel; the next day, at the distance of a few hours, turns aside to the right, in order to visit Seilûn, the Arabic for Shiloh; and then passing through the narrow Wady, which brings him to the main road, leaves el-Lebbân, the Lebonah of Scripture, on the left, as he pursues the ‘highway’ to Nâblus, the ancient Shechem.” Smith’s Bibl. Dict. It was one of the earliest and most sacred of the Hebrew sanctuaries. “Its selection,” observes Dean Stanley, “may partly have arisen from its comparative seclusion, still more from its central situation. The most hallowed spot of that vicinity, Bethel, which might else have been more naturally chosen, was at this time still in the hands of the Canaanites (Jdg 1:23-27); and thus, left to choose the encampment of the Sacred Tent, not by old associations, but according to the dictates of convenience, the conquerors fixed on this retired spot in the heart of the country, where the allotment of the territory could be most conveniently made, north, south, east, and west, to the different tribes; and there the Ark remained down to the fatal day when its home was uprooted by the Philistines.” S. and P. p. 232. “It was a central point for all Israel, equidistant from north and south, easily accessible to the trans-Jordanic tribes, and in the heart of that hill-country which Joshua first subdued, and which remained, to the end of Israel’s history, the district least exposed to the attacks of Canaanitish or foreign invaders.” Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 162. Here (a) “the daughters of Shiloh” were seized by the Benjamites (Jdg 21:19-23); here (b) Samuel spent his boyhood in the service of the Lord, and as an attendant upon the aged Eli (1 Samuel 3:19-21); here (c) the wicked conduct of the sons of that pontiff occasioned the loss of the Ark of the Covenant, and Shiloh from that day forward sank into insignificance (1 Samuel 2:17; 1 Samuel 4:12), for the Lord “forsook the tabernacle” there, “the tent that He had pitched among men; He refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim” (Psalm 78:60; Psalm 78:67). “Shiloh is a mass of shapeless ruins, scarcely distinguishable from the rugged rocks around them.… No one relic could we trace which in any way pointed to earlier times among all the wasted stone-heaps which crowded the broken terraces. So utterly destroyed is the house of the ark of God, the home of Eli and of Samuel. ‘Go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh, where I set My Name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel’ (Jeremiah 7:12).” Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 161.

the tabernacle of the congregation] i.e. the tabernacle, or, tent of meeting. The phrase has the meaning of a place of or for a fixed meeting. This thought comes out in Exodus 25:22, “there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat;” in Exodus 30:6, “before the mercy seat that is over the testimony, where I will meet with thee;” and especially in Exodus 29:42-43, “This shall be a continual burnt offering throughout your generations at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord; where I will meet you, to speak there unto thee: and there I will meet with the children of Israel, and the tabernacle shall be sanctified by My glory.” “Not the gathering of the worshippers only, but the meeting of God with His people, to commune with them, to make Himself known to them, was what the name embodied.” See Smith’s Bibl. Dict. After the catastrophe when the Ark fell into the hands of the Philistines, the Tabernacle was removed (i) to Nob (1 Samuel 21:1), and (ii) when that place was destroyed by Saul (1 Samuel 22:19), to Gibeon (1 Kings 3:4).

was subdued before them] The word rendered “subdued” denotes to “tread under the feet.” Comp. Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it;” and Jeremiah 34:16, “But ye turned and polluted My name, and caused every man his servant … to return, and brought them into subjection, to be unto you for servants and for handmaids.” The verse seems to imply that immediately after the conquest of the land, it was the intention of the Israelites to set up the sacred Tent, but that this purpose could not be carried into effect until the tribe, in the midst of which the Lord had intended it to stand, had received its inheritance. See Keil’s Commentary.

And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.
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?
3. And Joshua said] No particulars are given of the solemn and impressive ceremonies which doubtless marked the setting up of the time-honoured monument of the wanderings, and the resumption of the regular sacrifices and other ceremonies, which must have been imperfectly observed during the years of warfare now ended. The history passes on to the distribution of the yet unoccupied territory.

How long are you slack] These seven tribes appear to have been backward and indolent not only in conquering the land still unsubdued, but even in sharing it out amongst them.

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.
4. Give out from among you] If the territory was to be distributed, it was necessary that the more distant portions of the country should be surveyed. Joshua therefore directs the tribes to appoint a commission of twenty-one members, three from each tribe, who should undertake the duty and report to him at Shiloh. Their duty apparently was not so much to carry out an actual measurement of the country, as the preparation of a list of the cities (see Joshua 18:9), and the procuring information respecting the peculiar characteristics of different districts, such as, “what lands were barren and what fertile, whether a district was hilly or flat, whether well-watered or destitute of springs, and anything else which served to shew the goodness of the soil, and the comparative worth of different localities.” Rosenmüller.

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.
5. Judah shall abide] The division, which had secured by lot their territory to the tribes of Judah and Joseph, was still to be respected.

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.
6. before the Lord our God] i.e. before the “Tabernacle of Meeting,” where Jehovah manifested His presence to the people, enthroned above the Cherubim of the Ark of the Covenant.

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.
7. But the Levites] See above, ch. Joshua 13:33; Numbers 18:20.

the priesthood of the Lord] Notice the change here as compared with ch. Joshua 13:14. There “the sacrifices of Jehovah” are said to be the portion of Levi, and in Joshua 13:33, “Jehovah, God of Israel” is said to be their portion. Here we have “the priesthood of Jehovah,” as in Numbers 3:10; Numbers 16:10; Numbers 18:1-7.

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.
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.
9. and passed through the land] How long they were absent we are not told. Josephus tells us it was seven months, Ant. v. i. 21. The Rabbis tell us it was seven years. Both suppositions are equally devoid of foundation.

and described it] Although the survey was connected chiefly with a general estimate of the resources and characteristics of the several districts, yet it is to be remembered that the Israelites had acquired a knowledge of the art of mensuration in Egypt, where, on account of the annual overflowing of the Nile, it had been practised from the earliest times.

by cities into seven parts] i.e. they surveyed it so as to divide the cities and then the land itself into seven parts.

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.
10. And Joshua cast lots] After their return the Hebrew leader proceeded to a formal apportionment of the land by the sacred lot. This mode of assignment, it has been remarked, “places the conquest of Palestine, even in that remote and barbarous age, in a favourable contrast with the arbitrary caprice, by which the lands of England were granted away to the Norman chiefs.” Stanley’s Lectures, i. p. 265.

in Shiloh] Shiloh was appropriate, we have already seen, from its central situation, for the site of the Tabernacle and this apportionment of the tribes. But it has been noticed that it was appropriate also from its name, “which recalled rest (Shiloh = rest), and the promised Rest-giver” (Genesis 49:10).

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.
11–20. Boundaries of the Tribe of Benjamin

11. between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph] When the lots were now cast “before the Lord,” the lot of Benjamin came forth first, and we have an account of (a) the boundaries, and then (b) of the cities of this tribe, which, we are here told, lay between the sons of Judah on the south and the sons of Joseph on the north.

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.
12. And their border on the north side] The northern boundary of Benjamin mainly coincided with the southern boundary of Ephraim.

from Jordan] Commencing from the Jordan on the east, their boundary ascended to the mountains west and north-west of Jericho as far as “the wilderness of Beth-aven,” i.e. the bare and rocky heights to the east and north of Michmash. The situation of Beth-aven has been already described, above, ch. Joshua 7:2.

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.
13. toward Luz] See above, ch. Joshua 16:2. The border next went to the south of the ridge of Bethel, and thence descended, in a northwesterly direction, toward Ataroth-adar.

descended] We understand the appropriateness of this word when we remember that Bethel lay 3000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean Sea.

Ataroth-adar] See above, ch. Joshua 16:5.

near the hill] Or, over the mountain that lieth on the south side of the nether Beth-horon. Thus the north border of Benjamin, as far as lower Beth-horon, coincides with the southern border of Ephraim.

Beth-horon] See above (a) Joshua 10:11; (b) Joshua 16:3-5. An upper and a lower Beth-horon are still recognised. The upper is now called Beit-’ûr El-Fôka, the lower Beit-’ûr El-Tahta. The pass between the two places was called the ascent and the descent of Beth-horon. Comp. 1Ma 3:15-24. “The ascent,” remarks Robinson, “is very rocky and rough; but the rock has been cut away in many places and the path formed into steps, shewing that this is an ancient road.” Bibl. Res. iii:58.

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.
14. And the border was drawn thence] From the mountain south of Beth-horon the boundary line of Benjamin trended in a southerly direction towards “Kirjath-baal, which is Kirjath-jearim, a city of the children of Judah.”

compassed] On “compass,” see above, note on ch. Joshua 15:3.

Kirjath-jearim] See above, note on Joshua 9:17.

this was the west quarter] The word here rendered quarter, = (i) a mouth, then (ii) a side, which is turned to any quarter of the heavens. The Eastern boundary was formed by the Jordan, see Joshua 18:20.

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:
15. And the south quarter] This coincides exactly with the northern border of Judah, for which see above, Joshua 15:5-9.

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,
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,
And passed along toward the side over against Arabah northward, and went down unto Arabah:
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.
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.
Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz,
21–28. The Cities of Benjamin

21. Now the cities] The cities here enumerated fall into two groups, (a) the first of twelve lying on the east, (b) the second of fourteen lying on the west.

1. Jericho] see note above, Joshua 2:1.

2. Beth-hoglah, see note above, Joshua 15:6.

3. The valley of Keziz, this is not exactly known.

And Betharabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel,
22. 4. Beth-arabah] See note above, Joshua 15:6.

5. Zemaraim is unknown. 6. Bethel, see Joshua 18:13.

And Avim, and Parah, and Ophrah,
23. 7. Avim] Some have regarded this as identical with Ai, which is also called Aija (Nehemiah 11:31) and Aiath (Isaiah 10:28). 8. Parah is unknown. 9. Ophrah appears to be mentioned again in 1 Samuel 13:17 in describing the spoilers who issued from the Philistine camp at Michmash. Robinson would identify it with El-Taiyibeh, a small village 4 miles E.N.E. of Beitin (Bethel). This was not the Ophrah of Gideon (Jdg 6:11; Jdg 6:15).

And Chepharhaammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba; twelve cities with their villages:
24. 10. Chephar-haammonai] is quite unknown, so also is ii. Ophni; 12. Gaba, or Geba = “height,” “hill,” not the Geba or Gibeah of Saul, is mentioned in 2 Kings 23:8; Zechariah 14:10.

Gibeon, and Ramah, and Beeroth,
25. Gibeon] We have now enumerated the second group of fourteen cities lying on the west of Benjamin. 1. Gibeon, see note above, ch. Joshua 9:3; Joshua 2. Ramah, not the Ramah of Samuel or Ramathaim. In Isaiah 10:28-32, the king of Assyria is described as crossing the ravine at Michmash, and successively dislodging or alarming Geba, Ramah, and Gibeah of Saul. This Ramah is the modern er-Râm, a wretched village on an elevation. It was the place where Jeremiah was set free (Jeremiah 31:15; Jeremiah 40:1). It was inhabited again after the exile (Ez. 2:26; Nehemiah 7:30). 3. Beeroth, el-Bireh, mentioned above, Joshua 9:17, where see note. It belonged to or was in alliance with Gibeon. It was the home of (a) the murderers of Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:2), and (b) of Joab’s armour-bearer (2 Samuel 23:37).

And Mizpeh, and Chephirah, and Mozah,
26. 4. Mizpeh] Not the same as the Mizpeh of ch. Joshua 15:38, but either (a) the modern Neby Samwîl, or (b) the tower of Scopus. Here (a) the war against Benjamin was resolved on (Judges 20.); here (b) Samuel judged the people (1 Samuel 7:5-15), and (c) chose Saul as king (1 Samuel 10:17). 5. Chephirah, see note above, Joshua 9:17; Joshua 6. Mozah and

And Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah,
27. 7. Rekem unknown. 8. Irpeel, Lieut. Conder thinks that this may be recognised in the modern Râfât, N. of El Jib, being the same from which the name Rephaim is derived. 9. Taralah is unrecognised.

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.
28. 10. Zelah] = Beit Jala, S. of the plain of Rephaim, is afterwards mentioned as the burial-place of Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 21:14). 11. Eleph is unknown; 12. Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, see note above, Joshua 15:8. 13. Gibeath is the Gibeah of Saul, now Tuleil-el-Fûl, about one hour and 25 minutes north of Jerusalem. Here (a) occurred the outrage recorded in Judges 19; here (b) was Jonathan with a thousand chosen warriors when he made his victorious onslaught on the garrison of the Philistines (1 Samuel 13:2-3). 14. Kirjath is at present unrecognised.

This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin] The situation of the territory of this tribe was highly favourable, forming almost a parallelogram, of about 26 miles in length by 12 in breadth. The smallness of the district, hardly larger than the county of Middlesex, was compensated for by the excellence of the land.

(a) The general level of this part of Palestine is very high, being 2000 feet above the level of the Mediterranean on the western side, and 3000 feet above the deep valley of the Jordan on the eastern side. This plateau is surmounted by a large number of eminences (Gibeon, Gibeah, Geba, all = “hill;” Ramah = “eminence;” Mizpeh = “a watch-tower”), which presented favourable sites for strong fortresses.

(b) No less important than these eminences are the torrent-beds and ravines by which the upper country looks down into the deep tracts on each side of it, forming then, as they do now, the only mode of access from either the plains of Philistia and of Sharon on the west, or the Ghôr of the Jordan on the east.

(c) In the broken and hilly country, “little Benjamin” (Psalm 68:27), famous above the rest for skill in archery (2 Samuel 1:22), for its slingers (Jdg 20:16) and left-handed warriors (Jdg 3:15), became warlike and indomitable. “In his mountain passes—the ancient haunt of beasts of prey, he ‘ravined as a wolf in the morning,’ descended into the rich plains of Philistia on the one side, and of the Jordan on the other, and ‘returned in the evening to divide the spoil’ (Genesis 49:27). In the troubled period of the Judges, the tribe of Benjamin maintained a struggle, unaided and for some time with success, against the whole of the rest of the nation (Judges 20, 21.). And to the latest times they never could forget that they had given birth to the first king.” Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, pp. 200, 201.

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