Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Tabernacle Set Up at Shiloh. - As soon as the tribe of Ephraim had received its inheritance, Joshua commanded the whole congregation to assemble in Shiloh, and there set up the tabernacle, in order that, as the land was conquered, the worship of Jehovah might henceforth be regularly observed in accordance with the law. The selection of Shiloh as the site for the sanctuary was hardly occasioned by the fitness of the place for this purpose, on account of its being situated upon a mountain in the centre of the land, for there were many other places that would have been quite as suitable in this respect; the reason is rather to be found in the name of the place, viz., Shiloh, i.e., rest, which called to mind the promised Shiloh (Gen 49:10), and therefore appeared to be pre-eminently suitable to be the resting-place of the sanctuary of the Lord, where His name was to dwell in Israel, until He should come who was to give true rest to His people as the Prince of Peace. In any case, however, Joshua did not follow his own judgment in selecting Shiloh for this purpose, but acted in simple accordance with the instructions of God, as the Lord had expressly reserved to himself the choice of the place where His name should dwell (Deu 12:11). Shiloh, according to the Onom., was twelve Roman miles or five hours to the south of Neapolis (Nablus), and about eight hours to the north of Jerusalem; at present it is a heap of ruins, bearing the name of Seilun (see Rob. iii. p. 85). The tabernacle continued standing at Shiloh during the time of the judges, until the ark of the covenant fell into the hands of the Philistines, in the lifetime of Eli, when the holy tent was robbed of its soul, and reduced to the mere shadow of a sanctuary. After this it was removed to Nob (Sa1 21:2); but in consequence of the massacre inflicted by Saul upon the inhabitants of this place (Sa1 22:19), it was taken to Gibeon (Kg1 3:4 : see Keil, Bibl. Arch. i. 22). From this time forward Shilloh continued to decline, because the Lord had rejected it (Psa 78:60; Jer 7:12; Jer 26:6). That it was destroyed by the Assyrians, as Knobel affirms, is not stated in the history.
Survey of the Land that had yet to be Divided. - Jos 18:2. After the tabernacle had been set up, the casting of the lots and division of the land among the other seven tribes were to be continued; namely at Shiloh, to which the congregation had removed with the sanctuary.
But, for the reasons explained in Jos 14:1, these tribes showed themselves "slack to go to possess the land which the Lord had given them," i.e., not merely to conquer it, but to have it divided by lot, and to enter in and take possession. Joshua charged them with this, and directed them to appoint three men for each of the seven tribes, that they might be sent out to go through the land, and describe it according to the measure of their inheritance. "According to their inheritance," i.e., with special reference to the fact that seven tribes were to receive it for their inheritance. The description was not a formal measurement, although the art of surveying was well known in Egypt in ancient times, and was regularly carried out after the annual inundations of the Nile (Herod. ii. 109; Strabo, xvii. 787; Diod. Sic. i. 69); so that the Israelites might have learned it there. But כּתב does not mean to measure; and it was not a formal measurement that was required, for the purpose of dividing the land that yet remained into seven districts, since the tribes differed in numerical strength, and therefore the boundaries of the territory assigned them could not be settled till after the lots had been cast. The meaning of the word is to describe; and according to Jos 18:9, it was chiefly to the towns that reference was made: so that the description required by Joshua in all probability consisted simply in the preparation of lists of the towns in the different parts of the land, with an account of their size and character; also with "notices of the quality and condition of the soil; what lands were fertile, and what they produced; where the country was mountainous, and where it was level; which lands were well watered, and which were dry; and any other things that would indicate the character of the soil, and facilitate a comparison between the different parts of the land" (Rosenmller). The reasons which induced Joshua to take steps for the first time now for securing a survey of the land, are given in Jos 14:1. The men chosen for the purpose were able to carry out their task without receiving any hindrance from the Canaanites. For whilst the latter were crushed, if not exterminated, by the victories which the Israelites had gained, it was not necessary for the twenty-one Israelitish men to penetrate into every corner of the land, and every town that was still inhabited by the Canaanites, in order to accomplish their end.
"And divide it into seven parts," viz., for the purpose of casting lots. Judah, however, was still to remain in its land to the south, and Ephraim in its territory to the north. The seven portions thus obtained they were to bring to Joshua, that he might then cast the lot for the seven tribes "before the Lord," i.e., before the tabernacle (Jos 19:51).
There were only seven tribes that had still to receive their portions; for the tribe of Levi was to receive no portion in the land (vid., Josh 13-14), and Gad, Reuben, and half Manasseh had received their inheritance already on the other side of the Jordan.
Execution of this command.
Joshua finishes the casting of the lots at Shiloh.
Inheritance of the Tribe of Benjamin. - Jos 18:11-20. Boundaries of the inheritance. - Jos 18:11. The territory of their lot (i.e., the territory assigned to the Benjaminites by lot) came out (through the falling out of the lot) between the sons of Judah and the sons of Joseph.
The northern boundary ("the boundary towards the north side") therefore coincided with the southern boundary of Ephraim as far as Lower Beth-horon, and has already been commented upon in the exposition of Jos 16:1-3. The western boundary follows in Jos 18:14. At Beth-horon the boundary curved round and turned southwards on the western side, namely from the mountain before (in front of) Beth-horon southwards; and "the going out thereof were at Kirjath-baal, which is Kirjath-jearim," the town of the Judaeans mentioned in Jos 15:60, the present Kureyet el Enab (see at Jos 9:17).
"As for the southern boundary from the end of Kirjath-jearim onwards, the (southern) boundary went out on the west (i.e., it started from the west), and went out (terminated) at the fountain of the water of Nephtoah." Consequently it coincided with the northern boundary of Judah, as described in Jos 15:5-9, except that it is given there from east to west, and here from west to east (see at Jos 15:5-9). In the construction haגּבוּל תּוצאותיו, the noun הגּבוּל is in apposition to the suffix: the outgoings of it, namely of the border (see Ewald, 291, b.).
The eastern boundary was the Jordan.
The towns of Benjamin are divided into two groups. The first group (Jos 18:21-24) contains twelve towns in the eastern portion of the territory. Jericho: the present Riha (see at Jos 2:1). Beth-hoglah, now Ain Hajla (see Jos 15:6). Emek-keziz: the name has been preserved in the Wady el Kaziz, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, on the south-east of the Apostle's Well (see Van de Velde, Mem. p. 328).
Beth-arabah: see at Jos 15:6. Zemaraim, probably the ruins of es Sumrah, on the road from Jerusalem to Jericho, to the east of Khan Hadhur, on Van de Velde's map. Bethel: now Beitin (see Jos 7:2).
Avvim (i.e., ruins) is unknown. Phara has been preserved in the ruins of Fara, on Wady Fara, three hours to the north-east of Jerusalem, and the same distance to the west of Jericho. Ophrah is mentioned again in Sa1 13:17, but it is a different place from the Ophrah of Gideon in Manasseh (Jdg 6:11, Jdg 6:24; Jdg 8:27). According to the Onom. (s. v. Aphra), it was a κώμη Ἀφρήλ in the time of Eusebius (Jer. vicus Effrem), five Roman miles to the east of Bethel; and according to Van de Velde, v. Raumer, and others, it is probably the same place as Ephron or Ephrain, which Abijah took from Jeroboam along with Jeshanah and Bethel (Ch2 13:19), also the same as Ephraim, the city to which Christ went when He withdrew into the desert (Joh 11:54), as the Onom. (s. v. Ephron) speaks of a villa praegrandis Ephraea nomine (Ἐφρα̈́́ι in Euseb.), although the distance given there, viz., twenty Roman miles to the north of Jerusalem, reaches far beyond the limits of Benjamin.
Chephar-haammonai and Ophni are only mentioned here, and are still unknown. Gaba, or Geba of Benjamin (Sa1 13:16; Kg1 15:22) which was given up to the Levites (Jos 21:17; Ch1 6:45), was in the neighbourhood of Ramah (Kg1 15:22; Ch2 16:6). It is mentioned in Kg2 23:8; Zac 14:10, as the northern boundary of the kingdom of Judah, and was still inhabited after the captivity (Neh 7:30). It is a different place from Gibea, and is not to be found, as I formerly supposed, in the Moslem village of Jibia, by the Wady el Jib, between Beitin and Sinjil (Rob. iii. p. 80), but in the small village of Jeba, which is lying half in ruins, and where there are relics of antiquity, three-quarters of an hour to the north-east of er-Rm (Ramah), and about three hours to the north of Jerusalem, upon a height from which there is an extensive prospect (vid., Rob. ii. pp. 113ff.). This eastern group also included the two other towns Anathoth and Almon (Jos 21:18), which were given up by Benjamin to the Levites. Anathoth, the home of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 1:1; Jer 11:21.), which was still inhabited by Benjaminites after the captivity (Neh 11:32), is the present village of Anta, where there are ruins of great antiquity, an hour and a quarter to the north of Jerusalem (Rob. ii. pp. 109ff.). Almon, called Allemeth in Ch1 6:45, has been preserved in the ruins of Almt (Rob. Bibl. Res. pp. 287ff.), or el-Mid (Tobler, Denkbl. p. 631), on the south-east of Anta.
The second group of fourteen towns in the western portion of Benjamin. - Jos 18:25. Gibeon, the present Jib: see at Jos 9:3. Ramah, in the neighbourhood of Gibeah and Geba (Jdg 19:13; Isa 10:29; Kg1 15:17; Ezr 2:26), most probably the Ramah of Samuel (Sa1 1:19; Sa1 2:11; Sa1 25:1; Sa1 28:3), is the present village of er-Rm, upon a mountain with ruins between Gibeon and Geba, half an hour to the west of the latter, two hours to the north of Jerusalem (see Rob. ii. p. 315). Beeroth, the present Bireh: see at Jos 9:17.
Mizpeh, commonly called Mizpah, where the war with Benjamin was decided upon (Judg 20-21), and where Samuel judged the people, and chose Saul as king (Sa1 7:5., Jos 10:17), was afterwards the seat of the Babylonian governor Gedaliah (Kg2 25:23; Jer 40:6.). According to the Onom. (s. v. Massepha), it was near Kirjath-jearim, and Robinson (ii. p. 139) is no doubt correct in supposing it to be the present Neby Samvil (i.e., prophet Samuel), an hour and a quarter to the east of Kureyet Enab (Kirjath-jearim), two hours to the north-west of Jerusalem, half an hour to the south of Gibeon, a place which stands like a watch-tower upon the highest point in the whole region, and with a mosque, once a Latin church, which is believed alike by Jews, Christians, and Mahometans to cover the tomb of the prophet Samuel (see Rob. ii. pp. 135ff.). Chephirah, i.e., Kefir: see at Jos 9:17. Mozah is only mentioned here, and is still unknown. Jos 18:27. This also applies to Rekem, Irpeel, and Taralah.
Zelah, the burial-place of Saul and his family (Sa2 21:14), is otherwise unknown. Gibeath or Gibeah, i.e., Gibeah of Benjamin, which was destroyed by the other tribes of Israel in the time of the judges, on account of the flagrant crime which had been committed there (Judg 19-20), is also called Gibeah of Saul, as being the home and capital of Saul (Sa1 10:26; Sa1 11:4, etc.), and was situated, according to Jdg 19:13 and Isa 10:29, between Jerusalem and Ramah, according to Josephus (Bell. Jud. v. 2, 1, 8) about twenty or thirty stadia from Jerusalem. These statements point to the Tell or Tuleil el Phul, i.e., bean-mountain, a conical peak about an hour from Jerusalem, on the road to er-Rm, with a large heap of stones upon the top, probably the ruins of a town that was built of unhewn stones, from which there is a very extensive prospect in all directions (Rob. ii. p. 317). Consequently modern writers have very naturally agreed in the conclusion, that the ancient Gibeah of Benjamin or Saul was situated either by the side of or upon this Tell (see Rob. Bibl. Res. p. 286; Strauss, Sinai, etc., p. 331, ed. 6; v. Raumer, Pal. p. 196). Kirjath has not yet been discovered, and must not be confounded with Kirjath-jearim, which belonged to the tribe of Judah (Jos 18:14; cf. Jos 15:60).