Author: John Whitmarsh
Chapters 18 and 19 describe the division of the remaining land after the first five tribes (including the two and a half tribes on the eastern side) had been allocated their inheritance. Why there was this separation into five (in effect two and a half on the western side) and seven is not made clear. Chapter 18 describes the process of gathering the information about the land in verses 1-10 and then the first lot, that belonging to Benjamin, was apportioned. This is covered in verses 11 through 28. Not only are the borders of Benjamin's territory given but some of the towns within the boundaries.
18:4 Give out from among you three men for each tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me.
18:7 But the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.
18:8 And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the LORD in Shiloh.
Shiloh is mentioned 32 times in scripture. It means 'place of rest'. Shiloh was situated on a hill in the tribe of Ephraim, though near the borders of Benjamin, about fifteen miles north of Jerusalem, and, according to Eusebius, twelve, or according to Jerome, ten miles (south) from Shechem. When God made His mind known that there was to be one place in one of the tribes where the children of Israel were to offer their burnt offerings (Deuteronomy 12.14), He never specified where that place was to be. There was to be one altar (see chapter 22). He did not say one place at one time. He did not imply that the centre of worship was going to change and so it is assumed that the place where the temple was built, Jerusalem, was the only place. The process by which Jerusalem became the place of the name is not discussed here. What we are told in the beginning of this chapter is that the tabernacle, the centre of worship at the time, was set up at Shiloh. This is only the second reference to the name Shiloh in scripture the first being in the famous verse in Genesis 49, 'The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.' Shiloh is a title of the Lord Jesus for He is the one envisaged in the verse. The place of rest is centred in a person, even the Lord Jesus.
Shiloh became the centre of worship as a result of the incident described in verse 1 of this chapter. The implication is that the people set up the tabernacle there off their own bat. There is no indication that God told them to make Shiloh the spot. It appears to be their own decision. Shiloh remained the place of the tabernacle and in the early part of the book of Samuel the house of the Lord is said to have been there. It is even called the temple in I Samuel 1.9 and 3.3, which, incidentally, are the first two mentions of 'temple' in scripture. What is meant by the house of the Lord/temple is not clear. Sometimes the phrase 'tabernacle of the congregation' is used in connection with Shiloh in the early chapters of I Samuel. There is no evidence of any construction work as there is in the case of the temple built at Jerusalem where much detail is provided.
Tracing the history of Shiloh throughout the scriptures we find that there are a further seven references to Shiloh in the book of Joshua and five references to Shiloh in Judges. Judges 21.19 speaks of a yearly feast of the Lord held in Shiloh. The nine references that are found in the first four chapters of Samuel are well known and are not discussed here other than that already stated. There is one further reference in I Samuel in chapter 14. The priest of the time, whose name was Ahiah, is described there as the 'Lord's priest in Shiloh.' I Kings 2 contains a reference to Eli at Shiloh as a prophecy given about him was fulfilled. Shiloh was the place where the prophet Ahijah lived (not to be confused with Abijah, the king at the time).
Pslam 78.60 is quite informative. 'So that he forsook the tabernacle of Shiloh, the tent which he placed among men.' God is credited with the placing of the tent but this could refer to the tent while it was in the wilderness. On the other hand Shiloh is mentioned in the first part of the verse. The context of the verse is a rehearsal of Israel's history. The period of their history that is described is the time when Eli's sons were slain after the ark of the Lord was taken out from Shiloh to be used as a talisman, as a lucky charm in their battle with the Philistines.
All the other five references are to be found in Jeremiah's prophecy. In chapter 7 Jeremiah was told to stand in the gate of the Lord's house (the temple at Jerusalem) and proclaim the word of the Lord. During his message he said, 'But go ye now unto my place which was in Shiloh, where I set my name at the first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of my people.' Two verses later Jeremiah informed the crowd that God was going to do the same to Jerusalem as He had done at Shiloh. This same truth was repeated in chapter 26.6 and 9. The last reference is to be found in Jeremiah 41.5 but has no bearing on the present discussion. It would appear from Jeremiah 7.12 that God had at least two places where His name was to be placed and that because of the sin of those at Shiloh during Samuel's stay there in his youth that God's glory departed from that place.
This subject is large and we revert back to the text in Joshua 18. The land was subdued before the children of Israel. The process whereby this had come about is the subject of the first twelve chapters of this book. As stated in the introduction, seven tribes were yet to receive their inheritance at this time. Though they had control of the land and had conquered many places, they had not possessed the land. Conquering and possessing are two different things. They were slothful in this respect so that Joshua appoints three men from each tribe (it is not clear whether there were 21 or 36 men sent) to go through the land in order to describe it according to their inheritance. The word 'describe' (verse 4) is fascinating as it occurs 5 or 6 times in as many verses. Verse 9 gives some indication of its meaning in that the phrase 'in a book' is used. They were not only to gain some impression of the land and store the images in their mind and return to report the images that they had seen but they were to carefully record what they had seen in a book. Details were necessary. These men acted as surveyors, a skill that possibly had been acquired in Egypt, so that lots could be cast for the land. There was discussion as to lots being cast. This did not seem to fit in with godly behaviour. How these lots were cast we are not told. There is constant reference to this practice in this chapter. Though apportioning by lot is mentioned elsewhere in the book this appears to be the only chapter where the casting of lots is seen, however, similar language is used in Ezekiel 47 and 48. Urim and Thummim were mentioned but we do not know for sure how these lots were cast. We had to leave the discussion open ended and confess that we would have to wait until we found out the answer!!
18:12 And their border on the north side was from Jordan; and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains westward; and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.
18:13 And the border went over from thence toward Luz, to the side of Luz, which is Bethel, southward; and the border descended to Atarothadar, near the hill that lieth on the south side of the nether Bethhoron.
18:14 And the border was drawn thence, and compassed the corner of the sea southward, from the hill that lieth before Bethhoron southward; and the goings out thereof were at Kirjathbaal, which is Kirjathjearim, a city of the children of Judah: this was the west quarter.
18:16 And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of the son of Hinnom, and which is in the valley of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom, to the side of Jebusi on the south, and descended to Enrogel,
The rest of the chapter, a total of 18 verses, is devoted to the allocation of Benjamin's territory. This is substantially more text than that devoted to the other six tribes in the next chapter. This may be due to Benjamin's importance in the then future of Israel. Benjamin was the tribe that was going to form the southern kingdom alongside Judah. Going back to Genesis we discover that Benjamin was not born in Haran. Jacob was there for a period of twenty years during which time he 'earned' his wives and they and their handmaids gave him twelve children eleven sons and one daughter. It is possible that there were no children during the first fourteen years of his stay in Haran so that, if Jacob's was only twenty years rather than at least twenty years, these children were born over a very short period of time. No doubt pregnancies of different marriages overlapped to allow the twelve births to have occurred within the short period. But Benjamin was born on the way from Bethel to Ephrath (Bethlehem). As she lay dying after the birth of her second son she called him Ben-oni meaning 'the son of my sorrow'. Jacob, however, called him Benjamin meaning 'the son of the right hand'. The story is recorded in Genesis 35. As an aside we know that by the time the events of Genesis chapter 37 took place that Benjamin had been born and that Joseph was 17 years old. His older couldn't have have been that much older than he was. We also know that Joseph was 39 when the brothers stood before him (30 being the age when he appeared before Pharaoh 7 being the years of plenty 2 being the number of years into the famine). This means that Benjamin was at least 22 years of age in Genesis 43 and not, as the children's books portray, a very young (less than five year old) lad!!
Verses 12-20 give the names of border towns with the last verses stating the names of twenty six other towns within the territory. The borders of this tribe on the north were the same as those of Ephraim on the south, and his southern boundaries the same as the northern borders of Judah but drawn from west to east, instead of from east to west (15.1-12 and chapter 16 where many of the towns mentioned in the section from chapter 18 verses 12 to 20 are also found). The border went around the city of Jericho to its north so that Jericho was included in Benjamin's territory (verse 21). As the inheritance of Benjamin did not extend to the Mediterranean Sea, and no other sea or lake is known to have been in those parts, 'compassed the corner of the sea southward' (verse 14) perhaps should be rendered, 'made a circuit on the side next the sea towards the south' for it seems to connect the northern border, in the preceding verses, with the southern which follows. Jebusi in verse 16 is Jerusalem (note also the valley of the son of Hinnom). Geliloth (verse 17) could well be Gilgal (see chapter 22) though the word can be rendered borders or limits. The north bay of the salt sea at the south end of the Jordan refers to the Dead Sea at its northerly point and where the Jordan flows into it.
Many of the towns that are mentioned in either the section on the border towns or the towns within the territory are familiar Bethel, Jericho, Kirjathjearim (though this town belonged to Judah who shared a border with Benjamin), Gibeon, Jerusalem (verse 28 explains that Jebusi and Jerusalem are one and the same place), Ramah and Mizpeh to name some of them.
There was a slackness that did not become them as the children of Israel. There can also be a slothfulness that does not become the child of God. The victory is ours. It is for us to go in for the victory that has been won and live in all the enjoyment of that.