Author: John Whitmarsh
1-12 Boundary of Judah's territory
13-20 Othniel and Achsah
21-63 Judah's cities
15.1-4 the southern border
15.5-9 the eastern border
15.10-11 the northern border
15.12 the western border.
This chapter deals with the territory that was allotted to Judah and its boundaries. It is important to say that we later read that Simeon's territory was within the inheritance of Judah. Joshua 19.1, 'And the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah.' Verse 9 of the same chapter explains that the area that Judah was allotted at the first was too big for them, 'Out of the portion of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon: for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them.' This may be the explanation for the apparent discrepancy in the number of cities listed in verses 21-32 (36 or 38 depending on whether Hazor is counted as different cities) with verse 32 stating that there were 29 cities. Beersheba, Hazar-shual, Balah (same as Baalah?), Azem. Eltolad, Hormah, Ziklag, Sharuhem and Ain (nine cities in all) became Simeon's possession according to 19.1-7.
It is also true to say that Caleb's inheritance was within Judah's inheritance (verse 13).
It should be pointed out that two versions of some place names are given. These refer to the same town. These will be pointed out in the main body of notes. Also there are certain place names that are the same for two different places (Betharabah, for instance, in verses 7 and 61).
It is difficult to draw out spiritual lessons from a list of names but it is hoped that these notes will serve as a reference to such times when the cities are encountered in other parts of scripture.
Chapter fifteen concentrates on the inheritance that went to one tribe Judah. Numbers 34.1-5 lets us know of Canaan's boundaries before the children of Israel ever entered the land. 'And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land of Canaan; (this is the land that shall fall unto you for an inheritance, even the land of Canaan with the coasts thereof:) Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along the coast of Edom. And your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea eastward: and your border shall turn from the south to the ascent of Akrabbim, and pass onto Zin: and the going thereof shall be from the south to Kadesh-barnea, and shall go on to Hazaradar, and pass on to Azmon: And the border shall fetch a compass from Azmon unto the river Egypt, and the goings out of it shall be at the sea.' The territory that they were to be given as an inheritance is the subject of yet more verses in Numbers 34.
Judah shared a border with Edom who was to the east of the Arabah.
The southern border of their territory started at the bottom of the salt sea (the Dead Sea). By now the salt sea was a bigger expanse of water than it was in Abraham's day. The vale of Siddim was no more. Sodom and Gomorrah and the other cities of the plain were buried beneath the water.
15:3 And it went out to the south side to Maalehacrabbim, and passed along to Zin, and ascended up on the south side unto Kadeshbarnea, and passed along to Hezron, and went up to Adar, and fetched a compass to Karkaa:
Maalehacrabbim means 'ascent of scorpions' or the scorpion pass. It is sometimes translated Akrabbim (see Numbers 34.4 and above in notes on verse 1). It is between the Arabah and the hill country of Judah.
Zin is the name given to a portion of the desert tract between the Dead Sea and Arabah on the east in which Kadeshbarnea was located. It means 'flat'.
Kadeshbarnea appears ten times in the scriptures and means 'holy'. Some have 'desert of a fugitive'. It is located in the north-east of the Sinai Peninsula. It is 66 miles south-west of the south end of the Dead Sea and 49 miles south-west of Beersheba. It may well be that Kedesh (see verse 23) is the same place.
Hezron means 'enclosed'. Even without knowing any specific connection to modern sites, the location of Hezron is readily apparent by looking at the map. It is a location on the south border of The Promised Land, between Kadeshbarnea and Adar/Hazaradar.
Adar is also called Hazaradar. The name Adar means 'ample, splendid'. Some have 'exceeding glorious'. Adar was on the southern border of The Promised Land, in the desert west of Kadeshbarnea.
Karkaa means 'pavement, ground, floor'. It is located on the south border of The Promised Land. The exact location is unknown, but is described in the Bible as being between (Hazar) Adar and Azmon.
The river of Egypt usually refers to the Nile (Genesis 15.18). The word for river is often translated 'brook' and this reference implies some valley or wadi that went from Azmon to the great sea (what we know today as the Mediterranean Sea). It separated the land of Egypt from the land of Canaan. Today the Brook of Egypt is called the Wadi el-Arish. A wadi is a stream bed that is sometimes dry and sometimes has water flowing through it, depending on the amount of rain in the area at any given time. The Wadi el-Arish is southwest of Gaza. The modern Egyptian city Al Arish sits just west of where the wadi empties into the Mediterranean Sea.
The word for coast is the border and so we have been given the description of the southern boundary of Judah's territory.
The eastern boundary (the word for border is exactly the same word used twice in the previous verse and translated there as 'coast'). The eastern border went from the southern tip of the Dead Sea (salt sea) to its northern tip (the end of the Jordan)
Bethhogla is a place in Benjamin on the border with Judah so this town was on the northern boundary of Judah's territory. It means the 'house of the partridge'. Could Betharabah be the same place as Bethabara of the NT? Betharabah means 'house of the desert valley' or house of the depression' whilst Bethabara means 'house of the ford'. Bethabara is in the Jericho area. Perhaps this other place was in a similar location. 18.21-22 say, 'Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Kezir, and Betharabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel.' The boundary with Judah must have been lower than Jericho as Jericho was in Benjamin territory.
It appears that there are two places called Betharabah. The Arabah is the valley that runs directly south of the Dead Sea. Verse 61 of this chapter suggests that the Betharabah there could be a city in the Arabah (house of Arabah) as there is a mention of the city of the salt in the next verse.
The next landmark was the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. The tribe of Reuben had its territory on the other side of the Jordan. Judah's eastern boundary was the western edge of the Dead sea. And yet there was this son of Reuben who took a stone and set it as a boundary stone between the tribe of Judah and Benjamin. Joshua 19.12 is helpful on the subject of the border and Jericho.
15:7 And the border went up toward Debir from the valley of Achor, and so northward, looking toward Gilgal, that is before the going up to Adummim, which is on the south side of the river: and the border passed toward the waters of Enshemesh, and the goings out thereof were at Enrogel:
We know from chapter 7 that the valley of Achor is near to Jericho so that it appears that this confirms that the towns of verse 6 are in the Jericho region as well.
There must be a good number of Debirs in the land. This one was near to Jericho but the Debir in verse 15 is a city that is close to Hebron. We have already encountered another Debir in 13.26 but this was on the border of Gad and near Mahanaim.
We have already seen the importance of Gilgal in the book of Joshua and understood something of its meaning especially when we considered chapters 4 and 5. We know that its location is near to the Jordan and to Jericho.
The Adummin were a set of hills, a ridge, which was to the west of Gilgal. Gilgal was to the west of the river Jordan. The verse speaks of south of the river and does not specify the river.
The waters at Enshemesh was another boundary marker. The word for 'waters' is different from that for 'springs' in verse 19. Enshemesh means 'fountain of the sun'.
In Enrogel we have a place that we can identify. It means 'well of the fuller'. This water source was some 200 yards south of the confluence of the valley Hinnom and the valley of Kidron just outside Jerusalem (these are NT names as Jerusalem was known as Jebus at this time; to include another NT name this is the permanent source of the Pool of Siloam and is known today as Job's well).
15:8 And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward:
This area is Jerusalem. Hinnom was probably a Jebusite. Jebusites were descendants of the third son of Canaan who lived in or around the site of Jebus, the early name for Jerusalem.
15:9 And the border was drawn from the top of the hill unto the fountain of the water of Nephtoah, and went out to the cities of mount Ephron; and the border was drawn to Baalah, which is Kirjathjearim:
There are a lot of names in this verse of which we do not know much but Kirjathjearim is one that we know. We have encountered this place already in Joshua 9 (see notes on 9.17)
15:10 And the border compassed from Baalah westward unto mount Seir, and passed along unto the side of mount Jearim, which is Chesalon, on the north side, and went down to Bethshemesh, and passed on to Timnah:
Baalah here is another name for Kirjathjearim. This mount Seir is not the mountain/mountain range in Edomite territory. This was one somewhere near to Kirjathjearim in the Judean hills. Again there are many towns in this list that are not known but Bethshemesh is known for the incident in I Samuel 6. It means 'house of the sun' and this Bethshemesh was on the northern boundary of Judah that it shared with Dan and about 15 miles west of Jerusalem. It should not be confused with the Bethshemesh of Joshua 19.22 which was on Issachar's border. There is another city by this name in Joshua (19.38) that was allotted to Naphthali. Ir-shemesh (of Joshua 19.41) may also be the same city as the Bethshemesh of chapter 15.
15:11 And the border went out unto the side of Ekron northward: and the border was drawn to Shicron, and passed along to mount Baalah, and went out unto Jabneel; and the goings out of the border were at the sea.
The name that is recognizable here is Ekron. It is the most northerly of the 5 principal cities of the Philistines and located in the lowlands of Judah. It must have been sizeable city as there were villages that were dependent on it (see verses 45-46). It was on the border with Dan (see Joshua 19.43). The sea is what we know as the Mediterranean Sea also called the great sea in the next verse.
There are many places mentioned in this list of border towns and land marks of which little is known but we can form an idea of the huge territory that Judah was given by drawing a line slightly south west from the bottom of the Dead Sea out to the Mediterranean Sea as the southern boundary and a line from just above the top of the Dead Sea out eastwards to the great sea (Mediterranean Sea).
15:13 And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a part among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the LORD to Joshua, even the city of Arba * the father of Anak, which city is Hebron.
This information has already been given in 14.13 (see notes there). Arba means 'fourth' and he was the greatest of the giants ('a great man among the Anakim' 14.15).
The Anakim were the giants in the land. Anak means 'neck'. Sheshai means 'noble'. Ahiman means 'my brother is a gift'. Talmai means 'furrowed'. He is not to be confused with the Talmai that was the father of Maacah who became David's wife and mother of Absalom.
It is interesting to note that we are told twice within the verse that the three sons belonged to Anak. Presumably Anak made the fourth (see note on verse 13)!! On the first occasion they are referred to as sons and on the second as children.
We encountered the name Debir in 10.3 it being the name of one the Canaanite kings. It also was the name of a town in the Judean hills. Kirjathsepher means 'city of the book'. This city is also called Kirjathsannah in verse 49.
Achsah means 'anklet'. The promise was made that the one who went out and defeated the enemy present in Kirjathsepher was to be rewarded with a wife. She was Caleb's daughter.
Othniel means 'lion of God'. He is to be found in Judges 1. In fact this whole incident is repeated in Judges 1 and we do well to consider those verses alongside these. In the book of Judges Othniel is presented as a deliverer, a saviour (Judges 3.9). Surely he is a picture of the Saviour even our Lord Jesus? He went out to Kirjathsepher and smote it as the strong one (verse 16) and took (captured) it (verse 17). The Lord Jesus went out to Calvary as the Strong One to defeat the archenemy of our souls even the devil himself. He did so alone. There is no mention of anyone accompanying Othniel (that is not to say that there were none to help him but to say that this is the way the scriptures record the incident He that smiteth; Othniel took it). As His reward God has given a bride to Him. We are His reward.
On a practical note - are we permitted to marry first cousins in our day? There are some parts of the world where this is permitted. Some states in the United States for instance allow it and others do not. Does the Bible preclude such relationships and marriages? Not specifically. Leviticus 18:6 states, "None of you shall approach to any that is near of kin to him, to uncover their nakedness: I am the LORD." The similar wording in Leviticus 20:17 and 20:21 show this to at least include marriage. The following verses in Leviticus 18 give a list of those who are too close of kin to marry. They include father, mother, step-mother, sister, step-sister, grandchildren, aunt, uncle, daughter in law, and sister in law.
We feel sure that the picture of verse 17 breaks down as we come into this verse. If Achsah represents the bride of Christ then it is inconceivable to think of the church moving the Lord Jesus to ask of His Father anything at all. Taking the text as it reads it would seem that Achsah directed her husband (or husband to be) to ask a field of Caleb. Whether the town that he had conquered was to become his possession we do not read here. All we read is that he was to receive a wife. She, realizing the need for some land encouraged, persuaded (the word is also translated 'enticed') her husband to ask for a field, presumably in which to grow crops. We do not read of the husband asking for the field but we do read that she lighted off her ass (showing her respect for her father) and her father (no doubt seeing that was in a position of humility) asking her what it was that she wanted.
There are those who use this verse to show that we should be on bended knee when it is that we ask anything of the Father. No doubt this is the true position that we should take but whether this is illustrated here is debatable. The father does the asking in this verse.
There is no request from Achsah for the field. Presumably the field was given by Caleb ('thou hast given me a south land'). Presumably the husband, Othniel, asked the question that he was encouraged to ask. But we cannot say categorically that this was the case and the land is described as being given to Achsah. Achsah answered her father's question by requesting a blessing. The land had been given but now she needed springs of water for the land. Planting vegetables into a piece of land that was arid and not irrigated would have been to no avail. Water was needed for the crops to grow and yield fruit. 'Give me also springs of water.' Caleb did so and she had both upper and lower springs. This was a wise woman. This was a woman who knew her own mind. This is not the only time that we encounter this behaviour in a woman as we will see in chapter 17 where more women are involved.
And yet there are, surely, lessons to be learnt of a spiritual nature though the practical details may not fully illustrate the spiritual principle. There is no use possessing land if the land will not yield fruit. It has to be land plus water for life to be sustained and maintained. The Psalmist said this, 'All my springs are in thee'. In order for us to enjoy the possession we have to know something of the water that He is prepared to give. 'But whosoever shall drink of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into eternal life' John 4.14.
Not only are we given a detailed description of the boundary of the tribe of Judah but there is a list of a lot of towns (cities) within their territory.
Kabzeel means 'gathering of God'. May also be the Jekabzeel of Nehemiah 11.25. The most remote city of Judah located in southern Judah on the border of Edom.
Eder means 'flock'. This Eder is located 5 miles south of Gaza on the border with Edom. There is another between Bethlehem and Hebron.
Jagur means 'he sojourns' and is a town of Judah. It is one of those farthest to the south and on the frontier of Edom.
Kinah means 'lamentation' and is in the extreme south of Judah's territory.
Dimonah means 'river bed' or 'silence'. Again in the south of Judah.
Adadah means 'festival' or 'boundary'. Again in the extreme south of Judah.
Kedesh means 'holy place'. It is believed that this is another name for Kadesh-Barnea.
Hazor means 'castle'. Hazor is mentioned again in verse 25 and is also the alternative name to Hezron (see verse 25 again). We recall that the city by this name in the northern part of the land was destroyed and burnt (11.1-13 and 12.19; see also Joshua 19.36). As to the 3 towns called Hazor in southern Judah in verses 23 and 25 they may be 3 different places or even two different places with the same name.
Ithnan means 'hire'. Located in southern Judah.
Ziph means 'battlement'. It is located between Ithnan and Telem but the site is unknown. There is another Ziph in the northern part of Judah southeast of Hebron, between Carmel and Juttah in the highland district.
Bealoth means 'mistresses' and is in southern Judah.
Hadattah means 'new' and should be linked with Hazor to become new Hazor. This means that it is hard to say that there are 38 named cities in this section.
Kerioth means 'cities'. There is another Kerioth in Moab. This one is in the south of Judah.
Hezron means 'surrounded by a wall'.
Amam means 'their mother'
Shema means 'hear'.
Moladah means 'birth' or 'race'.
Hazargaddah means 'village of good fortune'
Heshmon means 'rich soil'.
Bethpalet means 'house of escape'.
Hazarshual means 'jackal village'.
This is the first mention of Beersheba in the book of Joshua though it appears a lot in the book of Genesis. There are no mentions between the 11 references to the place in Genesis and the first mention in Joshua. It is often taken to mean 'the well of the oath' but there is a misunderstanding here. Genesis 21.30-31 gives the meaning, 'And he (Abraham to Abimelech) said, For these seven ewe lambs shalt thou take of my hand, that they may be a witness unto me, that I have digged this well. Wherefore he called that place Beersheba; because they sware both of them.' The meaning, strictly speaking, is the well of the seven (lambs). Some go as far as to say the well of the seven fold oath!! All the patriarchs lived there at some stage during their lives. We know the location of this place as there is a town by this name to this day. It is 48 miles south west of Jerusalem and approximately midway between the southern point of the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean Sea. The original site may have been some 2 miles further east. There are several wells in the area the largest of which is over 12 feet in diameter.
Bizjothjah means 'contempt of Jehovah'. What a strange name to give a town.
Baalah means 'mistress' (see Bealoth). It is a town in the south of Judah, also called Balah and Bilhah.
Iim means 'ruins'.
Azem means 'bone' and was one of the cities that was allotted to Simeon afterwards.
Eltolad means 'God's generations'.
Chesil means 'foolish' and is a town in the extreme south of Judah and 15 miles southwest of Beersheba
Hormah means 'devotion'.
Ziklag is known to us from its association with David. A town in the south of Judah, later allotted to Simeon; noted for its having been the city of David given to him by king Achish of Gath and his residence when he was joined by many of his mighty warriors and when he received word of the death of Saul. It means 'winding'.
Madmannah means 'dunghill', another strange name for a town.
Sansannah means 'palm branch'.
Lebaoth means 'witness'.
Shilhim means 'fountains'.
Ain means 'spring'.
Rimmon means 'pomegranate'. Not to be confused with the Syrian deity of that name (see II Kings 5). There are also other towns with this name
It was hoped that by searching the meaning of these names that some spiritual truth could be gained. It is interesting to note those that have connections with fountains, springs and wells. Some of the place names are quite strange. There may well be some truth contained in these names but it has not been found.
All these cities are in the southern part of Judah's territory.
Verse 32 states that there were twenty nine cities in this part of the territory. The question was asked as to why there were 36 cities mentioned here (presumably Hazor/Hezron was only counted once). No suitable answer was found.
Place names from here on to the end of the chapter have not been researched. Verse 36 states that there were fourteen cities and their villages in the valley, which is not specified. Surely there are fifteen recorded here? There is no comma in the text between Adullam (known to us again from David and I Samuel 22) and Socoh. Though these are two distinct places that are close to each other this verse, perhaps, counts the two as one. Eshtaol is associated with Samson.
Verse 41 states that there were sixteen cities with their villages in this section. We can count sixteen. Mizpeh is the name given to a number of towns. This one is in the lowlands (the shephelah) of Judah. Eglon was a royal city in Canaan and not to be confused with the king of Moab.
There are nine cities in this section as stated in verse 44. Libnah and Keilah are known from other parts of scripture
This section would appear to be the area that we know as Philistine territory. For 'river of Egypt' see notes on verse 4.
Verse 51 states that there are eleven cities and their villages in this mountain section. Twelve names are mentioned but Kirjathsannah (Kirjathsepher elsewhere) is Debir.
Verse 54 states that there are nine cities with their villages in this section (ten names but Hebron is Kirjatharba)
There are ten cities here as stated in verse 57. The Carmel here is not the famous one next to the Mediterranean Sea in the north of the country but another nearer to Jerusalem. For Ziph see extensive notes after verse 32.
These add up to six.
There are only two here (though three names) as stated.
There are six cities of the wilderness as stated in verse 62. One of these is not named but is given the title of the city of Salt. Engedi is another place that is known from David's time.
Here the scripture says that the children of Judah could not drive the Jebusites out of the city of Jerusalem. Time and time again in Judges 1 we read that the various tribes of the Israel did not drive the inhabitants of the land. Of Judah it says, 'And the Lord was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.' Judges 1.19. There is a wealth of difference between could not and did not. 'Did not' implies a lack of willingness. 'Could not' implies a lack of ability. No reason is given for the inability of the children of Judah to remove the Jebusites from their city. Jerusalem was hardly a city in the valley. God had promised total victory. The fault did not lay with Him. It may have been a lack of strength but why? God was on their side. It could well have been a lack of faith. The Jebusites remained there until David's time.
Maybe this is mixing the pictures that God has given but we will never fully enjoy the inheritance that God has for us as long as there are areas in our lives in which the enemy has control. We belong to God and the Spirit of God dwells within but all the time that there are areas of life in which He does not have control the flesh will rear its ugly head and we will have trouble.
The inheritance is ours to possess and enjoy. Achsah proved that, by asking, she was able to receive the springs that were needed for her enjoyment of the land. If there are areas of my life that deter me from the enjoyment of all that God has for me in Christ, then deal with them before they spoil the enjoyment of the possession. The possession itself cannot be spoilt but the appreciation and pleasure of it can. We need great care.