Bounds of the land not yet conquered. (1-6) Inheritance of Reuben. (7-33)
Verses 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, ( Ecclesiastes 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.
Verses 7-33 The land must be divided among the tribes. It is the will of God that every man should know his own, and not take that which is another's. The world must be governed, not by force, but right. Wherever our habitation is placed, and in whatever honest way our portion is assigned, we should consider them as allotted of God; we should be thankful for, and use them as such, while every prudent method should be used to prevent disputes about property, both at present and in future. Joshua must be herein a type of Christ, who has not only conquered the gates of hell for us, but has opened to us the gates of heaven, and having purchased the eternal inheritance for all believers, will put them in possession of it. Here is a general description of the country given to the two tribes and a half, by Moses. Israel must know their own, and keep to it; and may not, under pretence of their being God's peculiar people, encroach on their neighbours. Twice in this chapter it is noticed, that to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance: see ( Numbers 18:20 ) . Their maintenance must be brought out of all the tribes. The ministers of the Lord should show themselves indifferent about worldly interests, and the people should take care they want nothing suitable. And happy are those who have the Lord God of Israel for their inheritance, though little of this world falls to their lot. His providences will supply their wants, his consolations will support their souls, till they gain heavenly joy and everlasting pleasures.
Joshua 13:1-33 . BOUNDS OF THE LAND NOT YET CONQUERED.
1. Now Joshua was old and stricken in years--He was probably above a hundred years old; for the conquest and survey of the land occupied about seven years, the partition one; and he died at the age of one hundred ten years ( Joshua 24:29 ). The distribution, as well as the conquest of the land, was included in the mission of Joshua; and his advanced age supplied a special reason for entering on the immediate discharge of that duty; namely, of allocating Canaan among the tribes of Israel--not only the parts already won, but those also which were still to be conquered.
2-6. This is the land that yet remaineth--that is, to be acquired. This section forms a parenthesis, in which the historian briefly notices the districts yet unsubdued; namely, first, the whole country of the Philistines--a narrow tract stretching about sixty miles along the Mediterranean coast, and that of the Geshurites to the south of it ( 1 Samuel 27:8 ). Both included that portion of the country "from Sihor, which is before Egypt," a small brook near El-Arish, which on the east was the southern boundary of Canaan, to Ekron, the most northerly of the five chief lordships or principalities of the Philistines.
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 ( Deuteronomy 2:23 ), they established themselves in the south of Philistia. The second division of the unconquered country comprised
4. all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah--("the cave")
that is beside the Sidonians--a mountainous region of Upper Galilee, remarkable for its caves and fastnesses.
unto Aphek--now Afka; eastward, in Lebanon.
to the borders of the Amorites--a portion of the northeastern territory that had belonged to Og.The third district that remained unsubdued:
5. all the land of the Giblites--Their capital was Gebal or Bylbos (Greek), on the Mediterranean, forty miles north of Sidon.
all Lebanon, toward the sunrising--that is, Anti-libanus; the eastern ridge, which has its proper termination in Hermon.
entering into Hamath--the valley of Baalbec.
6, 7. All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto is, "all the Sidonians and Phoenicians."
them will I drive out--The fulfilment of this promise was conditional. In the event of the Israelites proving unfaithful or disobedient, they would not subdue the districts now specified; and, in point of fact, the Israelites never possessed them though the inhabitants were subjected to the power of David and Solomon.
only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance--The parenthetic section being closed, the historian here resumes the main subject of this chapter--the order of God to Joshua to make an immediate allotment of the land. The method of distribution by lot was, in all respects, the best that could have been adopted, as it prevented all ground of discontent, as well as charges of arbitrary or partial conduct on the part of the leaders; and its announcement in the life of Moses ( Numbers 33:54 ), as the system according to which the allocations to each tribe should be made, was intended to lead the people to the acknowledgment of God as the proprietor of the land and as having the entire right to its disposal. Moreover, a solemn appeal to the lot showed it to be the dictate not of human, but divine, wisdom. It was used, however, only in determining the part of the country where a tribe was to be settled--the extent of the settlement was to be decided on a different principle ( Numbers 26:54 ). The overruling control of God is conclusively proved because each tribe received the possession predicted by Jacob ( Genesis 49:3-28 ) and by Moses ( Deuteronomy 33:6-25 ).
8. With whom--Hebrew, "him." The antecedent is evidently to Manasseh, not, however, the half-tribe just mentioned, but the other half; for the historian, led, as it were, by the sound of the word, breaks off to describe the possessions beyond Jordan already assigned to Reuben, Gad, and the half of Manasseh also see Deuteronomy 3:8-17 ). It may be proper to remark that it was wise to put these boundaries on record. In case of any misunderstanding or dispute arising about the exact limits of each district or property, an appeal could always be made to this authoritative document, and a full knowledge as well as grateful sense obtained of what they had received from God ( Psalms 16:5 Psalms 16:6 ).