Joshua 13:3
From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:
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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.Sihor is derived from a root signifying "to be black," and is suitable enough as an appellative of the Nile Isaiah 23:3. Here it most probably stands for "the river of Egypt" (Numbers 34:3 note), the modern "Wady el Arish".

Ekron ("Akir") lay on the northern boundary of Judah Joshua 15:11, and was actually conquered by the men of that tribe Judges 1:18, though assigned in the allotment of the land to Dan Jos 19:43. It seems to have fallen again into the hands of the Philistines in the days of the Judges 1 Samuel Judges 5:10, was reconquered by Samuel (compare 1 Samuel 7:14), but figures in subsequent times as a Philistine city only (compare 1 Samuel 17:52; 2 Kings 1:2, 2 Kings 1:16, etc.).

Lords - The Hebrew word סרן seren means "an axle," and is applied as a title special to the chiefs (compare Judges 3:3 and marginal references) of the Philistines Genesis 10:14.

Gaza was the most southern of the Philistine cities (compare Joshua 10:41; Joshua 11:22). It was allotted to the tribe of Judah Joshua 15:47, and was, with Askalon, taken by the warriors of that tribe Judges 1:18. Both cities were soon re-occupied by the Philistines, and subsequently are always mentioned as Philistine cities. Gaza lay on the direct route of the Egyptian armies in their invasions of Syria, by whom it was captured more than once. Special judgments are denounced against Gaza for the cruelty of its people toward the Jews in the time of their humiliation Amos 1:6-7; Zephaniah 2:4; Zechariah 9:5, and in the time of Jerome the ancient city was a ruin of which the foundations could hardly be traced, and the then existing town was built on another site. Gaza was in later times an episcopal see, and is now a thriving place containing some 15,000 inhabitants, a larger population than that of Jerusalem.

Ashdod ("Esdud;" Azotus, Acts 8:40) was, like Gaza, allotted to Judah (see Joshua 15:46-47), but was soon regained by the Philistines, and became a principal seat of their Dagon worship. Here the ark of God was taken after its capture by the Philistines (1 Samuel 5:1 ff). Its name ( "fortress," "castle"), no less than its history (compare 2 Chronicles 26:6; Isaiah 20:1; Nehemiah 4:7, etc.) indicates its importance as a stronghold; it withstood for twenty-nine years the longest siege on record by the Egyptian king Psammetichus. Like Gaza, it was doomed by the Jewish prophets to desolation, and it was utterly destroyed by the Maccabees (1 Macc. 10:77-84; 11:4). It was, however, rebuilt by the Romans, and figures in Christian times as an episcopal city.

Askelon (see Judges 1:18), the birthplace of Herod the Great, figures as an important town and seaport in the history of the Crusades, and very massive ruins still attest the ancient strength and grandeur of the place. It is situated about midway between Gaza and Ashdod.

Gath seems to have been first taken by David 1 Chronicles 18:1. It is not named again in the book of Joshua. It was the town of Goliath 1 Samuel 17:4, and is mentioned in David's elegy over Saul as a leading Philistine city 2 Samuel 1:20. It was the nearest of the Philistine cities to Jerusalem, but both the name and the city have perished; its site is conjecturally placed (by Condor) at Tell es Safi.

Avites - See Deuteronomy 2:23 note.

3, 4. also the Avites: From [on] the south—The two clauses are thus connected in the Septuagint and many other versions. On being driven out (De 2:23), they established themselves in the south of Philistia. The second division of the unconquered country comprised Sihor; a river, of which see Isaiah 23:3 Jeremiah 2:18.

Which is counted to the Canaanite, i.e. which, though now possessed by the Philistines, who drove out the Canaanites, the old inhabitants of it, Deu 2:23 Amos 9:7; yet is a part of the land of Canaan, and therefore belongs to the Israelites.

The Avites, or the Avims, as they are called, Deu 2:23; who though they were expelled out of their ancient seat, and most of them destroyed by the Caphtorims or Philistines, as is there said, yet many of them probably escaped, and planted themselves in some other place not very far from the former.

From Sihor, which is before Egypt,.... Which Jarchi and Kimchi interpret of the river Nile, and so that river is called, Jeremiah 2:18; it seems to have this name from the waters of it being black and turbid; and hence it was called by the Greeks "Melas"; and by the Latins "Melo"; though it is thought, that not properly the river itself is here meant, which did not reach to the borders of Palestine, but a branch of it, a rivulet from it, for so a traveller (a) writes,"in a journey of about five days from Gaza towards Egypt, the hithermost arm of the Nile is received by the sea, and is commonly called Carabus?"

even unto the borders of Ekron northward: that is, from the southwest of Palestine, near to which was the river Nile, to the northern part of it, where stood the principality of Ekron, one of the five which belonged to the Philistines:

which is counted to the Canaanite; which was reckoned as belonging to the posterity of Canaan, though the Philistines got possession of it, who descended from Mizraim; and indeed it was only accounted as belonging to Canaan and his sons; of right, and according to the grant of God, it belonged to the seed of Abraham:

five lords of the Philistines; who had not kings, as other countries and cities in the land of Canaan had, and their cities were called lordships, principalities, and not kingdoms, and are as follow:

the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites,

and the Ekronites: so called from Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron, the cities they were in possession of:

also the Avites; it is not certain whether these were a distinct principality from the other five, or a people dispersed among them; which seems most likely, since those were the original inhabitants, but were driven out or destroyed by the Philistines, though it seems some remained and dwelt among them; see Deuteronomy 2:23.

(a) Jodocus a Gistella apud Drusium in loc.

From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:
3. from Sihor] = “the Black Stream,” the usual name of the Nile. Here probably it is “the river of Egypt,” the Wady el Arish (1 Chronicles 13:5), the Rhinokolura or Rhinokorura. Wyclif, following the Vulg., “a fluvio turbido qui irrigat Ægyptum,” renders it, “the trubli flood that weetith Egipt.”

which is before Egypt] The “brook of Egypt” flows actually before, i.e. in a N. E. direction from Egypt, while the Nile takes its course through the middle of that country.

unto the borders of Ekron] The most northerly of the five towns belonging to the lords of the Philistines. The city of the fly-god Beelzebub. In the Apocrypha it appears as Accaron (1Ma 10:89).

which is counted to the Canaanite] Or better, shall it be counted to the Canaanites. The western strip of country beginning at Sihor, and extending northward to Ekron, was to be regarded as Canaanitish, and so subject to conquest; although the Philistines were not Canaanites, but were sprung from Mizraim (Genesis 10:13) and had dispossessed the Canaanite Avites or Avim.

five lords] A special word is here used, and the cities over which they held sway are enumerated as (i) Gaza; (ii) Ashdod; (iii) Ashkelon; (iv) Gath; (v) Ekron.

the Gazathites] See above, Joshua 10:41, Joshua 11:22.

the Ashdothites] See above, Joshua 11:22.

the Eshkalonites] Or Ashkalonites of Ashkelon, which is mentioned nowhere else in the book of Joshua. Next to Gaza it was probably the most important city of the Philistines. Hither Samson repaired from Timnath (Jdg 14:19); there David would not have the deaths of Saul and Jonathan proclaimed (2 Samuel 1:20), lest the daughters of the Philistines should rejoice. Like the other Philistine cities, it was threatened by the prophets with the Divine judgment (see Jeremiah 25:20; Jeremiah 47:5; Jeremiah 47:7; Amos 1:8; Zephaniah 2:7; Zechariah 9:5). Near the town afterwards rose the celebrated temple of Derceto, the Syrian Venus. It played a conspicuous part in the struggles of the Crusades, and within the walls and towers now standing Richard I. held his court. See Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, sub voc.

the Gittites] i.e. the people of Gath, the home of Goliath (1 Samuel 17:4); connected with Ashkelon in David’s lamentation (2 Samuel 1:20); conquered by David (1 Chronicles 18:1). See above, Joshua 11:22.

also the Avites] Avim, or Avims. These people, a portion of the early inhabitants of Palestine, are mentioned in Deuteronomy 2:23 as dwelling in the villages in the southern part of the great western lowland as far as Gaza. Here they were attacked by the invading Philistines, who drove them northwards and occupied their rich possessions.

Verse 3. - From Sihor. This word, which has the article in Hebrew, is literally the black river. This has been thought to be the Nile, known to both Greeks and Latins by that title. The Greeks called it μέλας. So Virgil says of it, "AEgyptum nigra foecundat arena." The Vulgate has "a fluvio turbido qui irrigat AEgyptum." The LXX. translates by ἀοίκητος. The phrase which is "before" (עַל־פְנֵי) Egypt seems to exclude the idea of the Nile, since the Nile flowed through the centre of Egypt, and it is impossible to make עַל־פְנֵ equivalent to בְּקֶרֶב. As Drusins remarks, moreover, the Nile is always called either יְאֹר or "the river of Egypt." The interpreation which has found most favour of late, therefore, refers this expression to a small river that flows into the sea at the extreme southern border of Palestine. This river was known as the "river of Egypt" (Genesis 15:18), and is now called the Wady-el-Arisch (cf. also Joshua 15:4, 47, as well as Numbers 34:5; 1 Kings 8:65; Isaiah 27:12, where the word is nahal, or winter torrent, a word inapplicable to the Nile). For Sihor, or Shichor, see Isaiah 23:3; Jeremiah 2:18, and especially 1 Chronicles 13:5, which seems decisive against the Nile. Which is counted to the Canaanite. These words are connected by the Masorites with what follows: The five lords of the Philistines are reckoned to the Canaanite. The five lords of the Philistines. The Philistines (Deuteronomy 2:23. Cf. Genesis 10:14, and 1 Chronicles 1:12) are supposed to be of Egyptian origin. Ewald (also Hitzig, 'Geschichte des Volkes Israel,' p. 20) believes Caphtor to be Crete, and supposes the Cherethites and Pelethites who formed David's body-guard (2 Samuel 15:18) to be Cretans and Philistines (see Ezekiel 25:16). But this opinion is disputed by many commentators of note, and is far from probable in itself. They were David's most trusted and faithful troops, and it seems hardly probable that so truly national a monarch would have assigned the post of honour around his person to the hereditary enemies of his race. Ritter, however, believes the Cherethites and Pelethites to be Philistines, and appeals to 1 Samuel 30:14, and still more forcibly to Zephaniah 2:4, 5. It should be remembered, too, that Ittai was a Gittite, or native of Gath (see 2 Samuel 15:21). The term here used, translated lords (satraps, LXX.), is peculiar to the Philistines. It is to be found also in Judges 3:3; 1 Samuel 5:8, etc. In 1 Kings 7:30 the word means an axle, or perhaps the outside plating of the wheel, and in the kindred languages it signifies a wheel. The expression is remarkable in connection with the phrase "circles of the Philistines." The Eshkalalonites. The inhabitants of Ashkelon, as the Gittites are of Gath. Also the Avites. Literally, "and the Avites." There is no "also" in the original, though the Avites or Avim are supposed (see Deuteronomy 2:23, and note on Geshuri in the last verse)to have been aborigines preceding the Canaanites, and dispossessed by the Philistines. Keil, however, disputes this view, and holds that we have no evidence that any but a Canaanitish people dwelt in southwestern Palestine. This Canaanitish tribe, he thinks, was driven out by the Philistines. Some few of the Avites, or rather Avvites, continued to dwell among their conquerors. But the coincidence between Deuteronomy 2:22, 23, and 1 Samuel 27:8, makes strongly for Ewald's view above. And Keil and Delitzsch, in their later joint work, incline to it. See Introduction III. The word Avvim, like Havoth, or Havvoth (see ver. 30), is supposed to mean villages, or inhabited enclosures. Joshua 13:3All the circles of the Philistines (geliloth, circles of well-defined districts lying round the chief city). The reference is to the five towns of the Philistines, whose princes are mentioned in Joshua 13:3. "And all Geshuri:" not the district of Geshur in Peraea (Joshua 13:11, Joshua 13:13, Joshua 12:5; Deuteronomy 3:14), but the territory of the Geshurites, a small tribe in the south of Philistia, on the edge of the north-western portion of the Arabian desert which borders on Egypt; it is only mentioned again in 1 Samuel 27:8. The land of the Philistines and Geshurites extended from the Sichor of Egypt (on the south) to the territory of Ekron (on the north). Sichor (Sihor), lit. the black river, is not the Nile, because this is always called היאר (the river) in simple prose (Genesis 41:1, Genesis 41:3; Exodus 1:22), and was not "before Egypt," i.e., to the east of it, but flowed through the middle of the land. The "Sichor before Egypt" was the brook (Nachal) of Egypt, the Ῥινοκοροῦρα, the modern Wady el Arish, which is mentioned in Joshua 15:4, Joshua 15:47, etc., as the southern border of Canaan towards Egypt (see at Numbers 34:5). Ekron (Ἀρρακών, lxx), the most northerly of the five chief cities of the Philistines, was first of all allotted to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:11, Joshua 15:45), then on the further distribution it was given to Dan (Joshua 19:43); after Joshua's death it was conquered by Judah (Judges 1:18), though it was not permanently occupied. It is the present Akr, a considerable village in the plain, two hours to the south-west of Ramlah, and on the east of Jamnia, without ruins of any antiquity, with the exception of two old wells walled round, which probably belong to the times of the Crusaders (see Rob. Pal. iii. p. 23). "To the Canaanites is reckoned (the territory of the) five lords of the Philistines," i.e., it was reckoned as belonging to the land of Canaan, and allotted to the Israelites like all the rest. This remark was necessary because the Philistines were not descendants of Canaan (see at Genesis 10:14), but yet were to be driven out like the Canaanites themselves as being invaders of Canaanitish territory (cf. Deuteronomy 2:23). סרני, from סרן, the standing title of the princes of the Philistines (vid., Judges 3:3; Judges 16:5.; 1 Samuel 5:8), does not mean kings, but princes, and is interchangeable with שׂרים (cf. 1 Samuel 29:6 with 1 Samuel 29:4, 1 Samuel 29:9). At any rate, it was the native or Philistian title of the Philistine princes, though it is not derived from the same root as Sar, but is connected with seren, axis rotae, in the tropical sense of princeps, for which the Arabic furnishes several analogies (see Ges. Thes. p. 972).

The capitals of these five princes were the following. Azzah (Gaza, i.e., the strong): this was allotted to the tribe of Judah and taken by the Judaeans (Joshua 15:47; Judges 1:18), but was not held long. It is at the present time a considerable town of about 15,000 inhabitants, with the old name of Ghazzeh, about an hour from the sea, and with a seaport called Majuma; it is the farthest town of Palestine towards the south-west (see Rob. Pal. ii. pp. 374ff.; Ritter, Erdk. xvi. pp. 35ff.; Stark, Gaza, etc., pp. 45ff.). Ashdod (Ἄζωτος, Azotus): this was also allotted to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:46-47), the seat of Dagon-worship, to which the Philistines carried the ark (1 Samuel 5:1.). It was conquered by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6), was afterwards taken by Tartan, the general of Sargon (Isaiah 20:1), and was besieged by Psammetichus for twenty-nine years (Herod. ii. 157). It is the present Esdud, a Mahometan village with about a hundred or a hundred and fifty miserable huts, upon a low, round, wooded height on the road from Jamnia to Gaza, two miles to the south of Jamnia, about half an hour from the sea (vid., Rob. i. p. 368). Ashkalon: this was conquered by the Judaeans after the death of Joshua (Judges 1:8-9); but shortly afterwards recovered its independence (vid., Judges 14:19; 1 Samuel 6:17). It is the present Askuln on the sea-shore between Gaza and Ashdod, five hours to the north of Gaza, with considerable and widespread ruins (see v. Raum. pp. 173-4; Ritter, xvi. pp. 69ff.). Gath (Γέθ): this was for a long time the seat of the Rephaites, and was the home of Goliath (Joshua 11:22; 1 Samuel 17:4, 1 Samuel 17:23; 2 Samuel 21:19.; 1 Chronicles 20:5.); it was thither that the Philistines of Ashdod removed the ark, which was taken thence to Ekron (1 Samuel 5:7-10). David was the first to wrest it from the Philistines (1 Chronicles 18:1). In the time of Solomon it was a royal city of the Philistines, though no doubt under Israelitish supremacy (1 Kings 2:39; 1 Kings 5:1). It was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:8), was taken by the Syrians in the time of Joash (2 Kings 12:18), and was conquered again by Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:6; Amos 6:2); but no further mention is made of it, and no traces have yet been discovered

(Note: According to the Onom. (s. v. Geth), it was a place five Roman miles from Eleutheropolis towards Diospolis, whereas Jerome (on Micah 1) says: "Gath was near the border of Judaea, and on the road from Eleutheropolis to Gaza; it is still a very large village;" whilst in the commentary on Jeremiah 25 he says: "Gath was near to and conterminous with Azotus," from which it is obvious enough that the situation of the Philistine city of Gath was altogether unknown to the Fathers. Hitzig and Knobel suppose the Βαιτογάβρα of Ptolemy (5:16, 6), Betogabri in Tab. Peuting. ix. e. (the Eleutheropolis of the Fathers, and the present Beit Jibrin, a very considerable ruin), to be the ancient Gath, but this opinion is only founded upon very questionable etymological combinations; whereas Thenius looks for it on the site of the present Deir Dubban, though without any tenable ground.)

(see Rob. ii. p. 420, and v. Raumer, Pal. pp. 191-2). "And the Avvites (Avvaeans) towards the south." Judging from Deuteronomy 2:23, the Avvim appear to have belonged to those tribes of the land who were already found there by the Canaanites, and whom the Philistines subdued and destroyed when they entered the country. They are not mentioned in Genesis 10:15-19 among the Canaanitish tribes. At the same time, there is not sufficient ground for identifying them with the Geshurites as Ewald does, or with the Anakites, as Bertheau has done. Moreover, it cannot be decided whether they were descendants of Ham or Shem (see Stark. Gaza, pp. 32ff.). מתּימן (from, or on, the south) at the commencement of Joshua 13:4 should be attached to Joshua 13:3, as it is in the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, and joined to העוּים (the Avvites). The Avvaeans dwelt to the south of the Philistines, on the south-west of Gaza. It gives no sense to connect with the what follows, so as to read "towards the south all the land of the Canaanites;" for whatever land to the south of Gaza, or of the territory of the Philistines, was still inhabited by Canaanites, could not possibly be called "all the land of the Canaanites." If, however, we were disposed to adopt the opinion held by Masius and Rosenmller, and understand these words as relating to the southern boundaries of Canaan, "the possessions of the king of Arad and the neighbouring petty kings who ruled in the southern extremity of Judaea down to the desert of Paran, Zin, Kadesh," etc., the fact that Arad and the adjoining districts are always reckoned as belonging to the Negeb would at once be decisive against it (compare Joshua 15:21. with Joshua 10:40; Joshua 11:16, also Numbers 21:1). Moreover, according to Joshua 10:40, Joshua 10:21, and Joshua 11:16-17, Joshua had smitten the whole of the south of Canaan from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza and taken it; so that nothing remained unconquered there, which could possibly have been mentioned in this passage as not yet taken by the Israelites. For the fact that the districts, which Joshua traversed so victoriously and took possession of, were not all permanently held by the Israelites, does not come into consideration here at all. If the author had thought of enumerating all these places, he would have had to include many other districts as well.

Beside the territory of the Philistines on the south-west, there still remained to be taken (Joshua 13:4, Joshua 13:5) in the north, "all the land of the Canaanites," i.e., of the Phoenicians dwelling on the coast, and "the caves which belonged to the Sidonians unto Aphek." Mearah (the cave) is the present Mugr Jezzin, i.e., cave of Jezzin, on the east of Sidon, in a steep rocky wall of Lebanon, a hiding-place of the Druses at the present time (see at Numbers 34:8; also F. v. Richter, Wallfahrten in Morgenland, p. 133). Aphek, or Aphik, was allotted to the tribe of Asher (Joshua 19:30; Judges 1:31); it was called Ἄφακα by the Greeks; there was a temple of Venus there, which Constantine ordered to be destroyed, on account of the licentious nature of the worship (Euseb. Vita Const. iii. 55). It is the present Afka, a small village, but a place of rare beauty, upon a terrace of Lebanon, near the chief source of the river Adonis (Nahr Ibrahim), with ruins of an ancient temple in the neighbourhood, surrounded by groves of the most splendid walnut trees on the north-east of Beirut (see O. F. v. Richter, pp. 106-7; Rob. Bibl. Res. p. 663; and V. de Velde, Reise. ii. p. 398). "To the territory of the Amorites:" this is obscure. We cannot imagine the reference to be to the territory of Og of Bashan, which was formerly inhabited by Amorites, as that did not extend so far north; and the explanation given by Knobel, that farther north there were not Canaanites, but Amorites, who were of Semitic origin, rests upon hypotheses which cannot be historically sustained.

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