Joshua 15:61
In the wilderness, Betharabah, Middin, and Secacah,
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(61) In the wildernessi.e., in the mountains

near the Dead Sea three places have been identified—viz., Secacah (Sikkkeh), the City of Salt (Tell el-Milh), and En-gedi (Ain Jidy). (See 1Samuel 24:1, &c.)

15:20-63 Here is a list of the cities of Judah. But we do not here find Bethlehem, afterwards the city of David, and ennobled by the birth of our Lord Jesus in it. That city, which, at the best, was but little among the thousands of Judah, Mic 5:2, except that it was thus honoured, was now so little as not to be accounted one of the cities.This district, including the towns in "the wilderness," the scene of David's wanderings (1 Samuel 23:24; Psalm 63:1-11 title), and of the preaching of the Baptist Matthew 3:1, and perhaps of our Lord's temptation Matthew 4, extended from the northern limit of Judah along the Dead Sea to the Negeb; it was bounded on the west by that part of "the mountains" or highlands of Judah, which adjoined Bethlehem and Maon. It abounds in limestone rocks, perforated by numerous caverns, and often of fantastic shapes. It is badly supplied with water, and hence, is for the most part barren, though affording in many parts, now quite desolate, clear tokens of former cultivation. It contained only a thin population in the days of Joshua.Jos 15:21-63. Cities of Judah.

21-63. the uttermost cities of the tribe of the children of Judah—There is given a list of cities within the tribal territory of Judah, arranged in four divisions, corresponding to the districts of which it consisted—the cities in the southern part (Jos 15:21-32), those in the lowlands (Jos 15:33-47), those in the highlands (Jos 15:48-60), and those in the desert (Jos 15:61, 62). One gets the best idea of the relative situation of these cities by looking at the map.

The wilderness; so the Hebrews call places either uninhabited by men, or having but few inhabitants.

In the wilderness,.... The wilderness of Judea, which was not a desert and uninhabited but had many cities and villages in it, those that follow:

Betharabah; the first of these seems to be in the borders of Judah and Benjamin, and so is ascribed to both; see Joshua 15:6,

Middin, and Secacah; of the two last we read nowhere else, only in Judges 5:10; what we translate "ye that sit in judgment", Kimchi interprets, "ye that dwell by Middin", and says it is the name of a place in Joshua, and mentions this passage.

In the wilderness, Betharabah, Middin, and Secacah,
61–63. Cities in the Wilderness

This section relates to the cities in “the Wilderness” between the Mountain and the Dead Sea, and includes one Group of six cities:—

1. Beth-arabah, see above, Joshua 15:6; Joshua 2. Middin; 3. Secacah; 4. Nibshan, sites unknown, places not mentioned elsewhere; 5. The city of Salt, “Civitas Salis,” Vulgate, probably near the Valley of Salt, at the southern end of the Dead Sea, where the Edomites suffered several defeats (2 Samuel 8:13; 2 Kings 14:7; 1 Chronicles 18:12); 6. En-gedi, “the spring of the wild goat” or “gazelle,” from the numerous ibexes or Syrian chamois which inhabit these cliffs, now Ain Jidy. “Here,” remarks Canon Tristram, “a copious warm fresh spring bursts forth amidst an oasis of tropical vegetation. Here that quaint asclepiad the osher, the jujube, the beautiful parasite Lonicera indica, and a host of strange semi-tropical plants send our botanist into an ecstacy of delight.” Land of Moab, p. 27. “Relics of its grove of palms (whence its name Hazazon Tamar = “the felling of palm-trees”) “are still to be seen, in the trunks of palms washed up on the shores of the Dead Sea, preserved by the salt with which a long submersion in those strange waters has impregnated them.” Stanley’s S. and P., p. 144. Here (a) the settlements of the Amorites were attacked by the army of Chedorlaomer (Genesis 14:7), immediately before its descent into the plain, and final victory over the five kings; here (b) the Kenites had their “nest” in the cliff (Numbers 24:21); here (c) David took refuge from the pursuit of Saul (1 Samuel 24:1); here (d) the solitary sect of the Essenes had their chief seat.” See Stanley, S. and P., pp. 295, 296.

In the wilderness] The wilderness of Judæa. “A true wilderness it is, but no desert, with the sides of the limestone ranges clad with no shrubs larger than a sage or a thyme—brown and bare on all the southern and western faces, where the late rains had not yet restored the life burnt out by the summer’s sun, but with a slight carpeting of tender green already springing up on their northern sides. Not a human habitation, not a sign of life, meets the eye for twenty miles; and yet there seems no reason why, for pasturage at least, the country might not be largely available. But there are no traces of the terraces which furrow the hills of the rest of Palestine; and one small herd of long-eared black goats were all we saw till we reached the plains of Jericho.” Tristram’s Land of Israel, p. 197.

Verse 61. - The wilderness. מִדְבַּר; This was the eastern part of the territory of Judah, bordering on the Dead Sea. Here David took refuge from the pursuit of Saul (Psalm 63:1), here St. John the Baptist prepared the way of Christ. It is described by Tristram ('Land of Israel,' p. 197) as "a wilderness, but no desert." Herbage is to be found there, but no trees, no signs of the cultivation formerly bestowed upon the hill country (see above, ver. 48). And the fewness of the cities in early times is a proof that its character has not been altered by time. The hills, says Canon Tristram, are of a "peculiar desolate tameness," and are intersected by the traces of winter watercourses, seaming the sides of the monotonous round-topped hills. Other writers describe this country in less favourable terms, denying it even the scanty herbage found there by Canon Tristram. Joshua 15:61The towns in the desert of Judah, which ran along the Dead Sea from the northern border of Judah (Joshua 15:6, Joshua 15:7) to Wady Fikreh on the south, and reached to the districts of Maon, Ziph, Tekoah, and Bethlehem towards the west. This tract of land is for the most part a terrible desert, with a soil composed of chalk, marl, and limestone, and with bald mountains covered with flint and hornstone, and without the slightest trace of vegetation on the side bordering on the Dead Sea (see v. Schubert, Reise, iii. pp. 94, 96; Rob. ii. pp. 202, 475, 477). Yet wherever there are springs even this desert is covered with a luxuriant vegetation, as far as the influence of the water extends (Seetzen, ii. pp. 249, 258); and even in those parts which are now completely desolate, there are traces of the work of man of a very ancient date in all directions (Rob. ii. p. 187). Six towns are mentioned in the verses before us. Beth-arabah: see at Joshua 15:6. Middin and Secaca are unknown. According to Knobel, Middin is probably the ruins of Mird or Mardeh, to the west of the northern end of the Dead Sea (Rob. ii. p. 270).
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