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The Territories of the Remaining Tribes


Then the whole congregation of the Israelites assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.

2 There remained among the Israelites seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. 3So Joshua said to the Israelites, “How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you? 4Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may begin to go throughout the land, writing a description of it with a view to their inheritances. Then come back to me. 5They shall divide it into seven portions, Judah continuing in its territory on the south, and the house of Joseph in their territory on the north. 6You shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me; and I will cast lots for you here before the Lord our God. 7The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the Lord is their heritage; and Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them.”

8 So the men started on their way; and Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land, saying, “Go throughout the land and write a description of it, and come back to me; and I will cast lots for you here before the Lord in Shiloh.” 9So the men went and traversed the land and set down in a book a description of it by towns in seven divisions; then they came back to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh, 10and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord; and there Joshua apportioned the land to the Israelites, to each a portion.

The Territory of Benjamin

11 The lot of the tribe of Benjamin according to its families came up, and the territory allotted to it fell between the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Joseph. 12On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan; then the boundary goes up to the slope of Jericho on the north, then up through the hill country westward; and it ends at the wilderness of Beth-aven. 13From there the boundary passes along southward in the direction of Luz, to the slope of Luz (that is, Bethel), then the boundary goes down to Ataroth-addar, on the mountain that lies south of Lower Beth-horon. 14Then the boundary goes in another direction, turning on the western side southward from the mountain that lies to the south, opposite Beth-horon, and it ends at Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), a town belonging to the tribe of Judah. This forms the western side. 15The southern side begins at the outskirts of Kiriath-jearim; and the boundary goes from there to Ephron, to the spring of the Waters of Nephtoah; 16then the boundary goes down to the border of the mountain that overlooks the valley of the son of Hinnom, which is at the north end of the valley of Rephaim; and it then goes down the valley of Hinnom, south of the slope of the Jebusites, and downward to En-rogel; 17then it bends in a northerly direction going on to En-shemesh, and from there goes to Geliloth, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim; then it goes down to the Stone of Bohan, Reuben’s son; 18and passing on to the north of the slope of Beth-arabah it goes down to the Arabah; 19then the boundary passes on to the north of the slope of Beth-hoglah; and the boundary ends at the northern bay of the Dead Sea, at the south end of the Jordan: this is the southern border. 20The Jordan forms its boundary on the eastern side. This is the inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin, according to its families, boundary by boundary all around.

21 Now the towns of the tribe of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, Beth-hoglah, Emek-keziz, 22Beth-arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, 23Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, 24Chephar-ammoni, Ophni, and Geba—twelve towns with their villages: 25Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26Mizpeh, Chephirah, Mozah, 27Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28Zela, Haeleph, Jebus (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah and Kiriath-jearim—fourteen towns with their villages. This is the inheritance of the tribe of Benjamin according to its families.

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1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel, etc Here we have a narrative of the celebrated convention held in Shiloh, where it was deliberated, as to the casting of the remaining lots. For although with pious zeal they had attempted the casting of lots, yet the proceeding had been interrupted, as if victory behooved to precede the distribution which depended solely on the mouth of God. They assemble, therefore, in Shiloh to determine what was necessary to be done in future. And there is no doubt that Joshua summoned this meeting in order to raise them from their lethargy. For they do not come forward spontaneously with any proposal, but he begins with upbraiding them with having been sluggish and remiss in entering on the inheritance which God had bestowed upon them. It is easy to infer from his speech that they had shown great alacrity at the outset, but that there had been no perseverance.

And yet that obedience, which shortly after grew languid, was honored with the approbation of the Holy Spirit. It is to be observed that the people are blamed, not for neglecting to proceed to the lot, but for not occupying the inheritance divinely offered to them. And, certainly, as the distribution by lot was a sign of confidence, so each district which fell out to each was a sure and faithful pledge of future possession; for the Lord was by no means deluding them in assigning to each his portion.

The word דפה, which I have translated “to cease,” signifies also to be remiss or feeble. He charges them, therefore, with base heartlessness, in that while the full time for routing the enemy had arrived, they by their delays retard and suspend the effect of the divine goodness. For had they been contented with the bare lot, and faithfully embraced the results which it gave, they would doubtless have been prompt and expeditious in carrying on the war, nay, would have hastened like conquerors to a triumph.

The ark is said to have been stationed at Shiloh, 161161     This place, which afterwards became so celebrated as the fixed station of the ark and tabernacle during the remainder of Joshua’s life and the rule of the Judges, down to the tragical death of Eli, is described in Judges 21:19, as “On the north side of Bethel, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Bethel to Shechem, and on the south of Lebonah.” This minute description corresponds with a place now called Seilun, which is situated about twenty miles N.N.E. from Jerusalem, and has several ruins indicative of an ancient site. If this was the place, it stood nearly in the center of the country, and was thus the most convenient which could have been selected. While its locality made it easily accessible from all quarters, its site, in the heart of a basin completely enclosed by hills except on the south, where a narrow valley opens into a plain, admirably adapted it for the still and solemn performance of religious services. — Ed. not only that the consultation might be graver and more sacred, as held in the presence of God, but because it was a completely subjugated place, and safe from all external violence and injury. For it behooved to be their special care to prevent its exposure to sudden assault. No doubt the hand of God would have been stretched to ward off attacks of the enemy from any quarter; still, however, though God dwelt among them, they were to be regarded as its guardians and attendants.

But although a station for the ark was then chosen, it was not a perpetual abode, but only a temporary lodging. For it was not left to the will or suffrages of the people to fix the seat where God should dwell, but they behooved to wait for the period so often referred to in the Law, when he was to establish the memorial of his name elsewhere. This was at length accomplished when Mount Zion was set apart for the Temple. For this reason it is said in the Psalm,

“Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.”
(Psalm 122:2)

These words intimate that up to that time the ark was pilgrimating. At last the ruin and devastation of Shiloh showed that no rank or dignity can screen those who corrupt the blessings of God from his vengeance. Up to the death of Eli, God allowed his sacred name to be worshipped there; but when all religion was polluted by the impiety of the priests, and almost abolished by the ingratitude of the people, that spot became to posterity a signal monument of punishment. Accordingly, Jeremiah tells the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who were proudly boasting of their Temple, to turn their eyes to that example. Speaking in the name of the Lord, he says,

“Go you 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 Israel.” (Jeremiah 7:12)

4. Give out from among you three men, etc Caleb and Joshua had already surveyed those regions, and the people had learned much by inquiry: Joshua, however, wishes the land to be divided as if according to actual survey 162162     Latin, “Quasi ex praesenti aspectu.” French, “Comme s’ils eussent este presens sur le lieu;” “As if they had been present on the spot.” — Ed. and orders three surveyors to be appointed for each of the seven tribes, in order that by the mouth of two or three persons every dispute may be settled. But nothing seems more incongruous than to send twenty-one men, who were not only to pass directly through a hostile country, but to trace it through all its various windings and turnings, so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, to calculate, its length and breadth, and even make due allowance for its inequalities. Every person whom they happened to meet must readily have suspected who they were, and for what reason they had been employed on this expedition. In short, no free return lay open for them except through a thousand deaths. Assuredly they would not have encountered so much danger from blind and irrational impulse, nor would Joshua have exposed them to such manifest danger had they not been aware that all those nations, struck with terror from heaven, desired nothing so much as peace. For although they hated the children of Israel, still, having been subdued by so many overthrows, they did not dare to move a finger against them, and thus the surveyors proceeded in safety as through a peaceful territory, under the pretext either of trading, or at least of making a harmless visit. 163163     Latin, “Innoxii hospites.” French, “Estrangers innocens qui passent leur chemin;” “Innocent strangers passing on their way.” — Ed. It is also possible that they arranged themselves in different parties, and thus made the journey more secretly. It is certain, indeed, that there was only one source from which they could have derived all this courage and confidence, from trusting under the shadow of the wings of the Almighty, and thus having no fear of blind and stupid men. Hence the praise here bestowed on their ready will. For had they not been persuaded that the hands of those nations were tied up by supernal power, they would have had a just and honest cause for refusing. 164164     These observations are made on the understanding that the survey made on this occasion was very minute, embracing, as Calvin here expresses it, all the “various windings and turnings,” so as not to leave a single corner unexamined, and extending with the same minuteness, not only to the lands actually conquered, but to those still in the undisputed possession of the original inhabitants. Assuming this to be the fact, the dangers to be encountered by the surveyors are certainly not exaggerated in the very graphical description of them here given, and nothing but a series of miraculous interposition’s could have saved them. It may be suggested, however, that the object of the surveyors was only to obtain such a general measurement as might suffice, in the manner already explained, for the taking of the lot, and that such a measurement might possibly have been made without much danger of awakening the suspicion, or rousing the hostility of the actual inhabitants. That the survey was more cursory than minute seems to be indicated by the description given of it in Joshua 18:9, “And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities.” — Ed.

9. And the men went and passed, etc Here not only is praise bestowed on the ready obedience by which their virtue shone forth conspicuous, but the Lord gives a signal manifestation of his favor by deigning to bestow remarkable success on pious Joshua and the zeal of the people. Had they crept along by subterranean burrows, they could scarcely have escaped innumerable dangers, but now, when they are taking notes of the cities and their sites, of the fields, the varying features of the districts, and all the coasts, and without meeting with any adverse occurrence, return in safety to their countrymen, who can doubt that their life had been kept safe among a thousand deaths by a wonderful exertion of divine power? It is accordingly said emphatically, that they returned to celebrate the grace of God, which is just equivalent to saying that they were brought back by the hand of God. This made the people proceed more willingly to the casting of lots. For their minds would not yet have been well purged of fastidiousness had they not perceived in that journey a signal display of divine favor, promising them that the final issue would be according to their wish. Joshua is hence said to have divided according to the inheritance of each, as if he were sending them to enter on a quiet possession, though the effect depended on the divine presence, because it ought to have been enough for them that the whole business was carried on by the authority of God, who never deceives his people, even when he seems to sport with them. In what sense the ark of the covenant is called God, or the face of God, I have already explained in many passages.

In the lot of Benjamin nothing occurs particularly deserving of notice, unless that a small tribe takes precedence of the others. I admit, indeed, that its limits were narrowed in proportion to the fewness of its numbers, because it obtained only twenty-six cities; but still an honor was bestowed upon it in the mere circumstance of its receiving its inheritance before more distinguished tribes. We may add, that in this way they were conjoined and made neighbors to the other 165165     Latin, “Reliquis filiis.” French, “Des autres enfans;” “The other children,” — an apparent oversight, as if Benjamin had been a son and not a brother of Joseph. — Ed. children of Joseph, with whom their relationship was more immediate. For they were placed in the middle between the children of Ephraim and Manasseh on the one side, and those of Judah on the other. They had also the distinguished honor of including Jerusalem in their inheritance, though they afterwards granted it by a kind of precarious tenure to the children of Judah for a royal residence. 166166     Latin, “Postea filiis Juda quasi precario sedem regiam concederent.” French, “Depuis ils la baillerent aux enfans de Juda comme par emprunt, pour en faire le siege royal;” “Afterwards they let it to the children of Judah as by loan, to make it the royal residence.” These words seem to imply that at some time or other a regular agreement to this effect had been made, but we nowhere find any mention of such an agreement. It would rather seem from Joshua 15:63, and Judges 1:8, 21, that the inhabitants of Judah possessed Jerusalem in consequence of their having wrested it from the Jebusites. — Ed.

It is strange, however, that having obtained such a quiet locality, they did not live on peaceful and friendly terms with their neighbors. But we possess the prophecy of Jacob,

“Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” (Genesis 49:27)

They must, therefore, have been by nature of a covetous and turbulent disposition, or from some necessity not now known to us, they must have been impelled to live upon plunder. In regard to the city of Luz, the other name is added, (“the same is Bethel,”) because then only did the name given by Jacob come into common use. (Genesis 28:19) It was at no great distance from Beth-Aven, whose name, as it was opprobrious and infamous, was transferred to Bethel itself, after it was corrupted and polluted by impious superstitions. 167167     This refers to the setting up of the golden calves by Jeroboam, and the idolatrous worship which thus impiously originated by him was long practiced by his successors. See 1 Kings 12:28-33; 1 Kings 13; 2 Kings 10:29-31; 2 Kings 23:15; Amos 4:4; Amos 5:4-6; Hosea 4:15; Hosea 10:5,8. Bethel or “the house of God,” so called by Jacob the morning after he had risen from his wonderful vision, having forfeited its name in consequence of the abominations practiced at it, became afterwards known by that of Bethaven, “the house of idols,” or of vanity and iniquity. — Ed. It is probable that Ciriath-Baal was called Ciriath-Jeharim, to take away the name of the idol, which would have been a stain on its true piety. For it certainly would have been base and shameful that the lips of the people should have been polluted by the name of a protector who was an enemy to the true God.