Now after the death of Joshua
With the account of which the preceding book is concluded, and therefore this very properly follows after that; though Epiphanius F2 places the book of Job between them:
it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord;
that is, the heads of them who gathered together at Shiloh, where the tabernacle was; and standing before the high priest, either Eleazar, or rather Phinehas his son, Eleazar being in all probability dead, inquired by Urim and Thummim:
saying, who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight
for they had no commander in chief, Joshua leaving no successor, though the Samaritan Chronicle F3 pretends he did; one Abel, a son of Caleb's brother, of the tribe of Judah, on whom the lot fell, out of twelve of the nine tribes and a half, to whom Joshua delivered the government of the nation, and crowned him: but this inquiry was not for any man to go before them all as their generalissimo, but to know what tribe should first go up, and they were desirous of having the mind of God in it, when they might expect to succeed; which to do, at their first setting out, would not only be a great encouragement to them to go on, but strike dread and terror into their enemies; and this is to be understood of the Canaanites who remained unsubdued, that dwelt among them, and in cities, which though divided to them by lot, they were not in the possession of; and these being troublesome neighbours to them, and besides the Israelites daily increasing, needed more room and more cities to occupy, and more land to cultivate.
F2 De Mensur. & Ponder. c. 13.
F3 Apud Hottinger. Smegma, p. 522.