Chapter 18

1 The tabernacle is set up at Shiloh. 2 The remainder of the land is described, and divided into seven parts. 10 Joshua divideth it by lot. 11 The lot and border of Benjamin. 21 Their cities.

1. Shiloh. Meaning “place of rest.” This name was probably given to the site because the tabernacle of the Lord was now, at last, at rest after wandering for more than 40 years. It would seem that Shechem might have been chosen, a place in the neighborhood of Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim, which had already, in a sense, been consecrated to God. But evidently Shiloh was the place chosen by God, at least temporarily, to place His dwelling (Deut. 12:5, 11, 14). Three reasons have been given for the suitability of this site: (1) it was central, (2) it was protected and isolated, (3) it was in the tribe of Ephraim, of which Joshua was a member. Thus, he as the leader of the nation would have ready access to the sanctuary whenever he would need to consult the God of Israel. Excavations have verified the statement found in Judges 21:19 giving its location as “on the north side of Beth-el, on the east side of the highway that goeth up from Beth-el to Schechem.” It is known as SeiluЖn today, and is situated on a saddle between two low hills east of the main road running from Jerusalem to Shechem at a place 9 1/2 mi. (15 km.) north of Bethel and 3 mi. (5 km.) southeast of Lebonah. It was the most central location to all the tribes, and here the ark remained for about 300 years until it was taken by the Philistines in the time of Eli (1 Sam. 4:1–11; PP 514).

Land was subdued. The surrounding area being subdued and the three tribes, Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh (chs. 15 to 17) having taken possession, there was nothing to hinder the tabernacle from being moved from its protected place at Gilgal to this central location. This was done, even before the division of the remainder of the land between the remaining tribes.

3. Are ye slack? Because the Israelites had long followed a nomadic life they were reluctant to make a change. They had been enriched with the plunder of the Canaanites and were living in plenty. They seemed to be more intent on present ease and indulgence than upon obtaining their inheritance. Like the Babel builders of old, they were pleased with their present condition of living in a body together. They apparently had no mind to be scattered abroad and break good company. From the very beginning it had been God’s plan for man to scatter upon the face of the earth rather than to colonize together in one place. As soon as men lost their spiritual vision they showed a tendency to congregate together, and to seek the protection of man rather than to trust in the protection of God.

There is a lesson in this for us. After we have been truly converted to God and have received our title to eternal life, our great concern should be to labor to enter into possession of that eternal inheritance. But too often, like the seven tribes, we become content with the spoils of this life and feel no urge to pursue our possessions. To us comes the apostle’s admonition, “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim. 6:12).

4. Three men. It is uncertain whether this meant 3 men from each of the 12 tribes or 3 men from the remaining 7 tribes; probably the latter, since these 7 tribes were the ones concerned. The others had already received their inheritances. This would make 21 in all.

Describe it. Literally, “shall write it.” The men apparently were to describe it, naming the cities, size of the cities, value of various districts for farming, stock raising, etc., so that the value of these properties might properly be assessed. Having this knowledge the delegation was afterward to divide the whole territory into seven portions. These ideas are in harmony with Josephus’ account of the incident (Antiquities v. 1. 21). Regarding Joshua’s charge, he says, “He also gave them a charge to estimate the measure of that part of the land that was most fruitful, and what was not so good.” Also further, “Joshua thought the land for the tribes should be divided by estimation of its goodness, rather than the largeness of its measure, it often happening that one acre of some sorts of land was equivalent to a thousand other acres.”

6. Seven parts. A written report of the land divided into seven equal parts according to its fairly estimated value was to be brought to Joshua so that he might cast lots for the tribes before the Lord.

Cast lots. See on chs. 7:14; 14:2. The several tribes were not permitted to choose their own portions. The land was to be fairly divided. The directions were, “To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance. … Notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot” (Num. 26:54, 55). These words imply that there must have been unequal portions of territory for larger and smaller tribes, but that the particular position of each tribe must be settled by the lot, so that “the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov. 16:33). We are not told how this rule was carried out in the case of Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh, who received their inheritance first. Possibly a sufficient extent of territory was surveyed at first to provide three large allotments. The three tribes might then have cast lots, first between Judah and Joseph for the northern or southern portions, and then between Ephraim and Manasseh for the two sections of the northern territory. Such a method would carry out the instructions of Num. 26.

9. In a book. Besides the written description of the leading features of the country, the men probably drew sketches of the territory on maps. The statement implies that a geographical survey according to the cities was made and recorded. This is perhaps the earliest instance of land surveying on record. The art may have been learned from the Egyptians, who are known to have been good surveyors.

10. Divided the land. According to v. 9, the land was marked off by cities into seven parts. Then Joshua cast lots for these seven parts to decide which part should go to each tribe. After this he divided the land according to the size of the tribe to which any particular group of cities had fallen by lot. A small tribe would have its lot made smaller, and a more numerous tribe would have its lot increased by lands taken from the tribe of fewer people. This would be according to the law of division that God gave through Moses (Num. 33:54).

11. Benjamin came up. Evidently the providence of God so ordered it that the children of Benjamin should have the first lot of these seven, next to the tribe of Joseph. Joseph and Benjamin were brothers, the only sons of Rachel, Jacob’s beloved wife. Benjamin later furnished the first king of Israel, Saul. The important city of Jerusalem fell in her territory. The city seems for a time to have been the joint possession of Judah and Benjamin, according to Judges 1:8, 21, and 1 Chron. 8:28, 32. Later Jerusalem became the royal city of the kings of the house of Judah.

Their border. Inasmuch as Benjamin’s inheritance lay between the north border of Judah and the south border of Ephraim, the places mentioned on these borders have already been commented on in chs. 15 and 16.

14. Corner of the sea. Literally, “side of the sea,” that is, the border continued on the western side. In Hebrew the word for “sea” is often used for “west” from the point of view of the Mediterranean lying to the west (see Ex. 27:12; 38:12). With this literal interpretation the LXX and Syriac both agree.

Kirjath-baal. The Israelites changed the name to Kirjath-jearim, “city of forests,” to blot out the remembrance of Baal (see Joshua 15:9; Num. 32:38). The west boundary of Benjamin extended to this city on the border of Judah. From there it turned eastward and touched the northern boundary of Judah, as described in ch. 15:5–9. Somewhere along the borders of Benjamin lay the hallowed spot where Rachel was buried (Gen. 35:16, 19), but the exact site of her tomb is unknown (see Additional Note to 1 Sam. 1).

17. Geliloth. Meaning “circles.” Evidently the same place as Gilgal in ch. 15:7.

21. Cities of the tribe. These were divided into 2 groups, the first containing 12 cities in the eastern section, and the second 14 in the western section. Some of them have already been noticed in the description of their borders.

Jericho. That is, the site of Jericho. Under the curse of ch. 6:26 the city was not to be rebuilt (see on ch. 6:26).

Valley of Keziz. Since the writer is giving a list of cities, it seems more probable that this phrase should be given as a proper name, “Emek-keziz.” There is a Wadi elРKeziz east of Jerusalem, but the site of the town is unknown.

22. Beth-arabah. See on ch. 15:6.

Zemaraim. This place has been identified with the ruins called RasezРZeimara, northeast of the Wadi elРKeziz, near the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Zemarites are mentioned in Gen. 10:18 as a Canaanite tribe.

Beth-el. See on Gen. 28:19. This city passed into the hands of Ephraim when the tribe of Benjamin was all but exterminated (Judges 20). In the division of the kingdom, under Rehoboam, though the tribe of Benjamin joined with Judah, Bethel was regarded as part of the northern kingdom of Israel in Jeroboam’s southern boundary. It was here that Jeroboam set up one of the golden calves (1 Kings 12:19–33).

23. Avim. Since, in the enumeration, Avim follows directly after Bethel, and Ai, which stood near Bethel, is not mentioned, it has been assumed by some commentators that Avim is identical with Ai (see on ch. 7:2). However, the site remains unidentified.

Parah. Perhaps Khirbet tРFaЖrah on the Wadi FaЖrah to the west of Jericho, about halfway to Jerusalem.

Ophrah. Perhaps the same as the Ophrah in 1 Sam. 13:17, and the Ephrain in 1 Chron. 13:19 (Ephraim, John 11:54), and now identified with etРTaiyibeh. It must not bee confused with the Ophrah of Judges 6:11, which was probably in Manasseh.

24. Chephar-haammonai, and Ophni. Both towns mentioned only here, and both unknown.

Gaba. Signifying “hill.” Not the same as Gibeah of Saul. Gaba and Gibeah were no doubt not far apart, since both are near to Ramah (see Ezra 2:26; Neh. 7:30; Isa. 10:29).

25. Gibeon. Signifying “a hill,” it lay nearly 6 mi. (9 km.) northwest of Jerusalem on the road to Joppa. It was the chief city of the Hivites, whose inhabitants deceitfully made a league with Joshua and Israel as recorded in ch. 9. It is the modern elРJйЖb.

Ramah. Meaning “height.” Ramah was on what later became the border between Judah and Israel according to 1 Kings 15:17, 21, 22, a short distance from Bethel. Whether it is to be identified with the Ramah of Samuel is not certain (see Additional Note to 1 Sam. 1).

Beeroth. A plural form meaning “wells.” It was situated about 10 mi. (16 km.) north of Jerusalem. The modern town of elРBйЖreh is believed to be near its site.

26. Mizpeh. Meaning “watchtower.” Modern archeologists are divided as to the location of Mizpeh (Mizpah) of Benjamin. Robinson (1856) supported the location of Mizpeh at NebйµРSamwйЖl, an elevation of 2,904 ft. (885 m.) overlooking Jerusalem, and 4 3/8 mi. (7 km.) southwest of Tell enРNasbeh. On the other hand, William F. Badй and his associates hold Tell enРNasbeh, which they excavated, to be Mizpeh. Tell enРNasbeh is 7 1/2 mi. (12 km.) north of Jerusalem on the main highway to Samaria and Galilee. It is north of Ramah and Gibeah and south of Beeroth.

Chephirah. Like Beeroth, one of the four cities depending upon Gibeon (ch. 9:17), situated in the neighborhood of Gibeon, northwest of Jerusalem.

27. Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah. The location of none of these, including Mozah (v. 26), is known unless Rekem is elРBurg.

28. Zelah. Mentioned in 2 Sam. 21:14 as containing the sepulcher of Kish, where the remains of Saul and Jonathan were ultimately buried (see Additional Note to 1 Sam. 1).

Eleph. Location unknown.

Jebusi. Jerusalem. See on v. 11.

Gibeath. This is probably the Gibeah of Saul (1 Sam. 10:26; 2 Sam. 21:6), the first political center of the kingdom of Israel. It has been identified as the site known today as Tell elРFuЖl, “hill of beans,” about 3 1/2 mi. (5.6 km.) north of Jerusalem on the main road leading to Samaria. In Saul’s day the Jebusites still held Jerusalem. Gibeah, being Saul’s headquarters, served as a military watchpost over Jerusalem. It was near Gibeah that Jonathan made his attack upon the Philistines (1 Sam. 14). Two excavation campaigns carried on at this site have thrown an abundance of light on the Biblical history of Saul’s ancient capital.

Kirjath. Identified by some with Kirjath-jearim of v. 14 and ch. 15:60, which belonged to Judah. Otherwise the location of Kirjath is uncertain, unless it may be Kerteh, west of Jerusalem.

Thee inheritance. When compared with the inheritance of the other tribes that of Benjamin was one of the smallest with respect to area. However, according to Josephus, its soil was the richest. The territory occupied a highly strategic position, and the names of many of its towns indicate by their meaning that they were situated on heights, and hence were easily defended. It was doubtless because of this defensive strength that the tribe of Benjamin at one time was able to resist successfully the combined arms of Israel until Israel resorted to strategy (Judges 20).

Ellen G. White comments

1–10PP 514

7     PP 517