Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Here commences the second portion of the book, the statements of which were drawn from pre-existing documentary records (compare Jos 18:9); the whole of the history being introduced by a command of God to Joshua to proceed to allot the land among the tribes.
Joshua is bidden to allot the whole of the promised land among the twelve tribes in faith that God would perfect in due time that expulsion of the Canaanites which Joshua himself could not carry further (see Jos 11:23).
This and Jos 13:3 name the still unconquered districts in the southern half of the land, Jos 13:4-6 those in the north.
Geshuri - A district on the south of Philistia, the inhabitants of which are again named in Sa1 27:8; but are not to be confounded with the land of the Geshurites mentioned in Jos 13:13; Jos 12:5.
Sihor is derived from a root signifying "to be black," and is suitable enough as an appellative of the Nile Isa 23:3. Here it most probably stands for "the river of Egypt" (Num 34:3 note), the modern "Wady el Arish".
Ekron ("Akir") lay on the northern boundary of Judah Jos 15:11, and was actually conquered by the men of that tribe Jdg 1:18, though assigned in the allotment of the land to Dan Jos 19:43. It seems to have fallen again into the hands of the Philistines in the days of the Judges Sa1 5:10, was reconquered by Samuel (compare Sa1 7:14), but figures in subsequent times as a Philistine city only (compare Sa1 17:52; Kg2 1:2, Kg2 1:16, etc.).
Lords - The Hebrew word סרן seren means "an axle," and is applied as a title special to the chiefs (compare Jdg 3:3 and marginal references) of the Philistines Gen 10:14.
Gaza was the most southern of the Philistine cities (compare Jos 10:41; Jos 11:22). It was allotted to the tribe of Judah Jos 15:47, and was, with Askalon, taken by the warriors of that tribe Jdg 1:18. Both cities were soon re-occupied by the Philistines, and subsequently are always mentioned as Philistine cities. Gaza lay on the direct route of the Egyptian armies in their invasions of Syria, by whom it was captured more than once. Special judgments are denounced against Gaza for the cruelty of its people toward the Jews in the time of their humiliation Amo 1:6-7; Zep 2:4; Zac 9:5, and in the time of Jerome the ancient city was a ruin of which the foundations could hardly be traced, and the then existing town was built on another site. Gaza was in later times an episcopal see, and is now a thriving place containing some 15,000 inhabitants, a larger population than that of Jerusalem.
Ashdod ("Esdud;" Azotus, Act 8:40) was, like Gaza, allotted to Judah (see Jos 15:46-47), but was soon regained by the Philistines, and became a principal seat of their Dagon worship. Here the ark of God was taken after its capture by the Philistines (Sa1 5:1 ff). Its name ( "fortress," "castle"), no less than its history (compare Ch2 26:6; Isa 20:1; Neh 4:7, etc.) indicates its importance as a stronghold; it withstood for twenty-nine years the longest siege on record by the Egyptian king Psammetichus. Like Gaza, it was doomed by the Jewish prophets to desolation, and it was utterly destroyed by the Maccabees (1 Macc. 10:77-84; 11:4). It was, however, rebuilt by the Romans, and figures in Christian times as an episcopal city.
Askelon (see Jdg 1:18), the birthplace of Herod the Great, figures as an important town and seaport in the history of the Crusades, and very massive ruins still attest the ancient strength and grandeur of the place. It is situated about midway between Gaza and Ashdod.
Gath seems to have been first taken by David Ch1 18:1. It is not named again in the book of Joshua. It was the town of Goliath Sa1 17:4, and is mentioned in David's elegy over Saul as a leading Philistine city Sa2 1:20. It was the nearest of the Philistine cities to Jerusalem, but both the name and the city have perished; its site is conjecturally placed (by Condor) at Tell es Safi.
Avites - See Deu 2:23 note.
Read "on the south," and connect the words with the verse preceding. They indicate the southern limit of the still unconquered territory in this neighborhood, as Jos 13:3 gives the northern one.
Mearah - The "cave" (see the margin) has been referred to "Mugar Jczzin" ("cave of Jezzin"), between Tyre and Sidon, or to a district characterized by deep cave-like ravines near Sidon and Dan-Laish.
Giblites - The people of Gebal ("Jebail", 22 miles north of Beyronut). They were "stone-squarers" Kg1 5:18 and (ship) "caulkers" Eze 27:9.
The King James Version would exhibit the sense more clearly if the words from the beginning of Jos 13:2 to the words "the Sidonians" in this verse were placed in a parenthesis, and the order of the words before us changed thus: "I will drive them out." The "them" meaning the inhabitants of the "very much land to be possessed," spoken of in Jos 13:1.
The writer appends to the command of God Jos 13:1-7 a statement that the other two tribes and a half had already had their inheritance marked out for them by Moses in the land east of Jordan. The boundaries of this territory as a whole are first set forth Jos 13:8-14, and afterward the portions assigned within it to the two tribes and a half are severally described Josh. 13:15-33.
See Deu 18:1-5 and notes.
Inheritance of the tribe of Reuben. This territory was the most southerly of the trans-Jordanic possessions of Israel, and adjoined Moab, which lay only on the other side of the Arnon. Hence, the Reubenites became in after times much intermixed with the Moabites, who in fact eventually acquired much of the land, and several, if not all, of the cities here named as belonging to Reuben. This acquisition was probably assisted by the fact that the territory north of Arnon had formerly belonged to the Moabites, from whom it was wrested by the Amorites (see Num 21:27, etc. notes). It is not likely that the Amorite conquerors had completely extirpated the Moabite inhabitants. Hence, in the days when the Reubenites became engrossed in their pastoral pursuits, and probably not very long after the days of Joshua, the Moabites easily encroached on their inheritance, and in the end probably reoccupied nearly the whole of the ancient kingdom of Sihon (Compare Deu 33:6 note).
See the marginal references for some of these names. Heshbon, Kedemoth, and Mephaath became eventually Levitical cities.
Dukes of Sihon - Rather "vassals of Sihon," probably those "dedicated" or "appointed" with a libation.
Jordan ... - i. e. the Jordan and its territory (compare similar expressions in Num 34:6; Deu 3:16). The portion of the tribe of Reuben at its northern extremity touched the Jordan; the main part of his inheritance lay on the east of the Dead Sea.
All the cities of Gilead - i. e. of Gilead in the narrower sense, included in the territory of Sihon, and distinct from Bashan Deu 3:10.
Half the land of the children of Ammon - i. e. that half of the Ammonite territory which had been conquered by the Amorites. This, after the overthrow of Sihon, the Israelites took for their own. The land which the Ammonites still held in the days of Moses, the Israelites were not permitted to attack.
Rabbah was a border fortress, the principal stronghold of the Ammonites Num 21:24, and the residence of their king. It was attacked and taken by Joab 2 Sam. 11; 12; Ch1 20:1, but appears in later times again as an Ammonitish city Jer 49:3; Eze 25:5; Amo 1:13-15. In the third century B.C. it received from Ptolemy Philadelplus the name of Philadelphia, and was in later times the seat of a Christian bishop; but has now for many centuries been in ruins, remarkable for their grandeur and extent.
The border of Debir - Rather perhaps "the border of Lidbir," which is regarded as identical with the Lo-debar of Sa2 9:4; Sa2 17:27, one of the towns from which provisions were brought to David at Mahanaim Gen 32:2.
On the conquest of Bashan, see especially Num 32:33, etc. and notes.