Author: John Whitmarsh
Yet another chapter with a long list of names! The announcement for the reading on the Sunday prior to the Tuesday included a reference to the many names and it was suggested that we would move into chapter 20 as well in that particular week's study. It is interesting that very few ministry meetings are held where the subject matter raised is that found in chapters 15-19.
That said there is a lot of information included in the text. One of the reasons for Simeon's inheritance being within the territory of the children of Judah is given (verse 9). Consultation of the table given at the beginning of chapter 13 shows that there was an incredible reduction in the numbers in the tribe of Simeon from the initial census of Numbers 1 to that contained in Numbers 26. The table is reproduced here with the explanation found in chapter 13's notes. This massive reduction in personnel may be a further reason for their inheritance being within the territory that was given to Judah. The census of Numbers 26 is prefaced with the words, 'And it came to pass after the plague' which accounted for the loss of 24,000 lives and which took place in Numbers 25. Perhaps many of those who lost their lives on that occasion were from the tribe of Simeon for Numbers 25.14 says, 'Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.' This, however, would not account for all the difference in the figures from the two censuses as this difference amounts to 37,100 even if all that died came from the tribe of Simeon.
|Tribe Genesis 49 Order||Numbers 1 Census||Tribe Order in Numbers 1||Numbers 26 Census||Tribe Order in Numbers 26||Change %|
If Judah's territory was too big for them then Dan's was too small for them (verse 47). This necessitated a further battle at Leshem, which later became Dan.
The last important piece of information is that found in verse 48. When all the land was divided then the children of Israel gave Joshua his inheritance. It is remarkable that the leader was allocated his land last of all. Even Caleb received his inheritance before Joshua. It is a measure of the greatness of the man that he did not insist on receiving his inheritance first of all and, further to that, he did not demand anything but politely asked for the city he later received.
There are six tribes involved in the chapter. The text is divided into eight portions (six of them dealing with the six tribes and two verses dealing Joshua's inheritance and a concluding verse).
19:9 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.
The telling statement is the last clause of verse 1. The first lot refers to the first allocation of the inheritance to the remaining seven tribes. This belonged to Benjamin in chapter 18. Apart from the special case of Levi there was no other tribe other than Simeon that was subjected to this treatment. Each was given its own share of the land. But Simeon had its inheritance within the inheritance of the children of Judah. Had not God promised that via Jacob in Genesis 49? 'Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. O my soul, come not now into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united: for in their anger they slew a man, and in their selfwill they digged down a wall. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.' 17 cities throughout Judah's territory were their portion. They were divided into two with thirteen in the one group and four in the other. As well as these cities there were other villages towards the south. The notable cities were Beersheba (also called Sheba here see notes on 15.28) and Ziklag (of fame as it was the place where David lived for a while when on the run from Saul). Their inheritance was out of the portion (different word from inheritance and meaning territory) of the children of Judah for their part (different word from portion) was too much for them (verse 9).
The third lot of the remaining seven tribes was for Zebulun. Zebulun was Leah's sixth and final son. Leah was responsible for his name which some have as 'exalted' and others as 'dwelling'. Truly she was happy to have borne Jacob six sons as she declared in Genesis 30.20 and hoped that now Jacob would dwell with her. Their territory was to the east of what we know as the Sea of Galilee. Many of the towns that are mentioned in this section are only ever mentioned here. Chisloth tabor means 'flanks of Tabor' and this town was located on the slopes of Mount Tabor. This helps to identify the area. Tabor is associated with Deborah and Barak in Judges 4-5. The towns that are recorded here are border towns of the territory that belonged to Zebulun. Jokneam is included on Bible maps and is in the Mount Carmel region. Daberath is west of Tabor. Gittahhepher was the home town of Jonah. Assuming that Jonah was at home when God told him to go Nineveh he would have had to travel south many miles to get to Joppa (Jonah 1.3 says that he went down to Joppa). Remmonmethoar is probably Rimmon, a town that was 6 miles north of Nazareth. Nahallal was one of the cities given to the Merarite Levites. Shimron was formerly a Canaanite royal city. The Bethlehem in verse 15 is not the same town as Bethlehem Judah. This was Bethlehem Zebulun if we like. As an aside it is interesting to note that, although we consider the Bethlehem in Judah as a famous place, there are only 31 mentions of the name in the whole of scripture and this includes this town in Zebulun. Which of the cities make up the twelve is unclear to the compiler of these notes.
Issachar was the fourth of the seven to be allocated with its lot. Going back to Genesis 30 we find that Issachar was the fifth son born to Jacob and Leah and the one before Zebulun. His name means 'an hire'. Leah said as he was born, 'God hath given me my hire, because I have given my maiden to my husband.' Genesis 30.18 The maiden in question was Zilpah.
A Bible map will show that Issachar was next door to Zebulun and associated with Mount Gilboa rather than Mount Tabor which was a border town between the two tribes. It is easier to identify the sixteen cities mentioned in verse 22 than it was the twelve cities of verse 15. Many of the towns are only mentioned here. Chesulloth is the same as Chislothtabor (strange that two similar names should be given to the same place within a few verses of each other). It was a border town between Issachar and Zebulun. Remeth may be the same as Ramoth but certainly not Ramoth-Gilead which was on the other side of the river Jordan.
Jezreel is the famous valley with Megiddo being a tourist place within it to this day. It stretches from the Carmel area down to Mount Gilboa with the town of the same name being at the foot of Mount Gilboa. Shunem is famous for being the location of the house where the woman helped Elisha (II Kings 4). Kishion was allocated to the Gershonite Levites as was Engannim. Bethshemesh was mentioned in 15.10. Irshemesh (19.41) may be the same city. All the other places are only ever mentioned in this list of places.
Then it was Asher's turn. Asher was Zilpah's second son that she bore to Jacob. His name means 'happy' and when he was born, Leah said, 'Happy am I, for the daughters will call me blessed.' Genesis 30.13. Asher was located near to the border with Phoenicia right up in the north. It is easy to identify the twenty two cities of verse 30. It is clear that there were a number of towns in as small a land as Canaan that had the same name as another town in a different area (Hebron is the classic example in the tribe of Asher its famous counterpart was down in Judah and south of Jerusalem). The two cities that are of most interest and that identify the area of Asher's territory are Tyre and Sidon in what we know as Lebanon.
19:34 And then the coast turneth westward to Aznothtabor, and goeth out from thence to Hukkok, and reacheth to Zebulun on the south side, and reacheth to Asher on the west side, and to Judah upon Jordan toward the sunrising *.
Naphtali came next. His history starts in Genesis 30.7-8 where we are told that he was the second son by Rachel's handmaid called Bilhah (his sixth overall). His name means 'my wrestling' and Rachel said at his birth, 'With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister and have prevailed.' We are told who Napthali's neighbours were in verse 34. Asher was to the west and Zebulun to the south and the river Jordan was the eastern boundary (the Judah here is evidently not the tribe by that name which was in the south). There appears to be more than nineteen cities here so it needs work to find out which ones are intended to be included in the nineteen. Bethshemesh has already been mentioned in this chapter as a border town of Issachar so, presumably, this is another town of the same name. Kedesh is identified as the Kedesh in Naphtali on one occasion in scripture when it is called Kedeshnaphtali. Chinnereth (Chinneroth) is the area around what we know as Galilee. Ramah is the not the same town as the dwelling place of Samuel.
19:47 And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father.
The final lot of the seven lots belonged to Dan's children. Dan was Bilhah's first son. Rachel said these words as he was born, 'God hath judged me, and hath also heard my voice, and hath given me a son: therefore called she his name Dan.' There is no figure given for the number of cities. Dan's territory is split on the Bible maps that we have seen. Ekron (verse 43) links Dan with the Philistine territory. But Leshem was away up to the north and, after it was renamed Dan on its capture, became known as the most northerly recognised town in the kingdom immortalised in the phrase 'from Dan to Beersheba'.
Joshua had overseen the allocation of all the lots of land. He had even seen Caleb receive his inheritance in Hebron (the Judah one!!). The scriptures present him as the last to receive his inheritance. He asked for the place called Timnathserah which means 'portion of the sun' or 'abundant portion'. It was located on the hill called Gash in the mount Ephraim area. It was hardly an auspicious spot. It was hardly a well known place. Its only claim to fame is that Joshua lived there and eventually died and was buried there (24.30). Many would say, 'Well Joshua retired to the countryside after all his exploits.' That maybe the case but, surely, these verses show the character of the man. He did not want to live where there was hustle and bustle, where he would be the centre of attention. Leader he may have been but that did not mean that he craved the limelight. He did not have to be first in everything. Indeed he was the last to receive his inheritance. He did not ask for some palatial place as though this was reward. His reward was from on high and not measured by earthly standards.
19:51 These are the inheritances, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, divided for an inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the LORD, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. So they made an end of dividing the country.
The final verse is by way of summary for it brings to an end a section that is little discussed by reason of the multitude of town names that exist in chapters 13-19. An end has been made of dividing the country. The next chapters deal with the allocation of cities to the Levites. This whole section has dealt with the division and allocation of the land.
This chapter is more informative than instructive. There are, however, little nuggets to be found. The verses relating to Joshua and his inheritance are instructive and give insight into the man's character. What a wonderful thing it would be if all God's leaders had this kind of character.