Joshua 21:3
And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua 21:3. The children of Israel gave — Probably they gave the Levites promiscuously such cities as God commanded, and the lot appropriated them to their several houses or families. Out of their inheritance — That is, out of their several possessions, that the burden might be equally divided; and that the Levites, being dispersed among the several tribes, according to Jacob’s prediction, (Genesis 49:7,) might more easily and effectually teach the Israelites God’s law and judgments, which they were engaged to do, Deuteronomy 33:10; and that the people might upon all occasions resort to them, and inquire the meaning of the law at their mouths. And suburbs — Not only the use, but the absolute dominion of them, as is manifest both from Joshua 21:11-12, where a distinction is made between the city and suburbs of Hebron, and the fields and villages thereof; (the former being given to the Levites, the latter to Caleb;) and from the return of these cities in the jubilee unto the Levites as to their proper owners, Leviticus 25:33-34.

21:1-8 The Levites waited till the other tribes were provided for, before they preferred their claim to Joshua. They build their claim upon a very good foundation; not their own merits or services, but the Divine precept. The maintenance of ministers is not a thing left merely to the will of the people, that they may let them starve if they please; they which preach the gospel should live by the gospel, and should live comfortably.A list of the Levitical cities, varying in some particulars from that given in this chapter, is also, given in 1 Chronicles 6:54-81. CHAPTER 21

Jos 21:1-8. Eight and Forty Cities Given by Lot Out of the Other Tribes unto the Levites.

1-3. Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites—The most venerable and distinguished members of the three Levitical families, on behalf of their tribe, applied for the special provision that had been promised them to be now awarded (see on [203]Nu 35:2). Their inheritance lay within the territory of every tribe. It was assigned in the same place and manner, and by the same commissioners as the other allotments. While the people, knowing the important duties they were to perform, are described (Jos 21:3) as readily conceding this "peculiar" to them, it had most probably been specified and reserved for their use while the distribution of the land was in progress.

It seems most probable that they gave to the Levites promiscuously such cities as God commanded, and that the lot appropriated them to their several houses or families.

Out of their inheritance, i.e. out of their several possessions; partly that the burden and loss might be equally divided and principally, that the Levites being dispersed among the several tribes, according to Jacob’s prediction, Genesis 49:7, might more easily, and frequently, and effectually teach the Israelites God’s law and judgments, which they were engaged to do, Deu 33:10; and that the people might upon all occasions resort to them, and require the meaning of the law at their mouths, Malachi 2:7.

These cities and their suburbs; not only the use, but the absolute dominion of them, as is manifest both from Joshua 21:11,12, where a distinction is made between

the city and suburbs of Hebron, and the fields and villages thereof, and the former are given to the Levites, the latter to Caleb; and from the return of these cities in the jubilee unto the Levites, as to their proper owners, Leviticus 25:33,34.

And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance,.... Knowing full well there was such a command, made no objection to their motion, but freely gave them cities out of the portion of inheritance allotted to them; this they did

at the commandment of the Lord, and in obedience to it, even gave these cities and suburbs; after mentioned: this was done by the tribes themselves; as there were a certain number fixed by the commandment of God, they agreed among themselves how many and what cities should be given out of each tribe; and then lots were cast for them by Joshua, what and which cities should be appropriated to their several divisions, as the Kohathites that sprang from Aaron, and the rest of them that did not, and the Gershonites and Merarites, as follows.

And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
3. And the children of Israel gave] The successor of Moses did not fail to carry out faithfully the Divine Command, and preparations were made for assigning to them certain cities for their possession.

out of their inheritance] “Distinctness and diffusion” were the great points to be attained in their case, and therefore out of the inheritance of their brethren provision was made for them in such a way that, as during the wanderings they had guarded the Tabernacle of Jehovah, so now they should be “scattered” as widely as possible in Israel, to bear witness that the people still owed allegiance to Him.

Verse 3. - Out of their inheritance. Out of that of Israel (see note on ver. 1). These cities. The number was forty-eight, i.e., four times twelve. Bahr ('Symbolik des Alten Testaments,' 1:221) remarks on the symbolical meaning of this number. He compares it, first, to the twelve tribes marching in four detachments, the ark of God and its guard in the centre (see Numbers 2.). Four, he says, is the number of the world, and three the sign of God, and twelve of the combination of the two. Thus we are reminded of the heavenly city which "lieth four-square," which has "twelve foundations of precious stones," "twelve gates of pearls, and at the gates twelve angels," and the names of "the twelve tribes of Israel" written thereupon, and wherein was "the tree of life," with its "twelve manner of fruits," which were "yielded every month" (Revelation 21:12, 14, 16, 19, 21; Revelation 22:2). Joshua 21:3After the cities of refuge had been set apart, the towns were also selected, which the different tribes were to give up for the priest and Levites to dwell in according to the Mosaic instructions in Numbers 35:1-8, together with the necessary fields as pasturage for their cattle. The setting apart of the cities of refuge took place before the appointment of the Levitical towns, because the Lord had given commandment through Moses in Numbers 35:6, that they were to give to the Levites the six cities of refuge, and forty-two cities besides, i.e., forty-eight cities in all. From the introductory statement in Joshua 21:1, Joshua 21:2, that the heads of the fathers (see Exodus 6:14, Exodus 6:25) of the Levitical families reminded the distribution committee at Shiloh of the command of God that had been issued through Moses, that towns were to be given them to dwell in, we cannot infer, as Calvin has done, that the Levites had been forgotten, till they came and asserted their claims. All that is stated in these words is, "that when the business had reached that point, they approached the dividers of the land in the common name of the members of their tribe, to receive by lot the cities appointed for them. They simply expressed the commands of God, and said in so many words, that they had been deputed by the Levites generally to draw lots for those forty-eight cities with their suburbs, which had been appointed for that tribe" (Masius). The clause appended to Shiloh, "in the land of Canaan," points to the instructions in Numbers 34:29 and Numbers 35:10, to give the children of Israel their inheritance in the land of Canaan.
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