Joshua 13 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Joshua 13)

Verse 1

[1] Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

Thou art old — Therefore delay not to do the work which I have commanded thee to do. It is good for those that are stricken in years, to be remembered that they are so: that they may be quickened to do the work of life, and prepare for death which is coming on apace.

Verse 2

[2] This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri,

Remaineth — Unconquered by thee, and to be conquered by the Israelites, if they behave themselves aright.

All Geshuri — A people in the northeast of Canaan, as the Philistines are on the southwest.

Verse 3

[3] From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:

Counted to the Canaanites — That is, which though now possessed by the Philistines, who drove out the Canaanites the old inhabitants of it, Deuteronomy 2:23; Amos 9:7, yet is a part of the land of Canaan, and therefore belongs to the Israelites.

The Avites — Or, the Avims, as they are called, Deuteronomy 2:23, who though they were expelled out of their ancient seat, and most of them destroyed by the Caphtorims or Philistines, as is there said, yet many of them escaped, and planted themselves not very far from the former.

Verse 4

[4] From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:

From the south — That is, from those southern parts of the sea-coast, now possessed by the Philistines, all the more northern parts of the sea-coast being yet inhibited by the Canaanites, almost as far as Sidon.

The Amorites — The Amorites were a very strong and numerous people, and we find them dispersed in several parts, some within Jordan, and some without it, some in the south and others in the north, of whom he speaks here.

Verse 6

[6] All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee.

Will I drive out — Whatever becomes of us, however we may be laid aside as broken vessels, God will do his work in his own time. I will do it by my word; so the Chaldee here, as in many other places: by the eternal word, the captain of my host. But the promise of driving them out from before the children of Israel, supposes that the Israelites must use their own endeavours, must go up against them. If Israel, thro' sloth or cowardice let them alone, they are not likely to be driven out. We must go forth on our Christian warfare, and then God will go before us.

Verse 8

[8] With whom the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them;

Which Moses gave them — By my command, and therefore do not thou disturb them in their possessions, but proceed to divide the other possessions to the rest.

Verse 9

[9] From Aroer, that is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain of Medeba unto Dibon;

Medeba unto Dibon — Two cities anciently belonging to the Moabites, and taken from them by the Amorites, Numbers 21:30, and from them by the Israelites; and after the Israelites were gone into captivity, recovered by the first possessors, the Moabites.

Verse 11

[11] And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah;

And Maacathites — Whose land God had given to the Israelites without Jordan, though they had not yet used the gift of God, nor taken possession of it, as is noted, verse 13.

Verse 12

[12] All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out.

These did Moses smite — Not all now mentioned, but Sihon and Og, and their people, and the generality of them.

Verse 14

[14] Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them.

He gave — That is, Moses.

None inheritance — Namely, in the land beyond Jordan, where yet a considerable part of the Levites were to have their settled abode. This is mentioned as the reason both why Moses gave all that land to the Reubenites and Gadites and Manassites; and why Joshua should divide the land only into nine parts and an half, as was said, verse 7, because Levi was otherwise provided for.

Made by fire — Which are here put for all the sacrifices and oblations, including first-fruits and tithes, that were assigned to the Levites; and this passage is repeated, to prevent those calumnies and injuries which God foresaw the Levites were likely to meet with, from the malice, envy and covetousness of their brethren.

Verse 15

[15] And Moses gave unto the tribe of the children of Reuben inheritance according to their families.

According to their families — Dividing the inheritance into as many parts as they had families; but this is only spoken of the greater families; for the lesser distributions to the several small families was done by inferior officers, according to the rules which Moses gave them.

Verse 19

[19] And Kirjathaim, and Sibmah, and Zarethshahar in the mount of the valley,

In the mount of the valley — In the mountain bordering upon that valley, which then was famous among the Israelites; whether that where Moses was buried, which was near to Beth-peor, Deuteronomy 34:1,6, or some other. And this clause is thought to belong to all the cities now mentioned.

Verse 21

[21] And all the cities of the plain, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the princes of Midian, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, which were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country.

Cities of the plain — Opposed to the cities of the mountain of the valley.

All the kingdom of Sihon — A great part of it; in which sense we read of all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, Matthew 3:5, and all Galilee, Matthew 4:23.

Whom Moses smote — Not in the same time or battle, as appears by comparing Numbers 21:23,24, with Numbers 31:8, but in the same manner. And they are here mentioned, partly because they were slain not long after, and upon the same occasion, even their enmity against Israel; and partly because of their relation and subjection to Sihon.

Dukes of Sihon — But how could they be so, when they were kings of Midian? Numbers 31:8. There were divers petty kings in those parts, who were subject to greater kings; and such these were, but are here called dukes or princes of Sihon, because they were subject and tributaries to him, and therefore did one way or other assist Sihon in this war, though they were not killed at this time. It is probable, that when Sihon destroyed those Moabites which dwelt in these parts, he frighted the rest of them, and with them their neighbours and confederates, the Midianites, into some kind of homage, which they were willing to pay him.

Dwelling in the country — Heb. inhabiting that land, namely Midian, last mentioned; whereby he signifies, that tho' they were subject to Sihon, yet they did not dwell in his land, but in another.

Verse 22

[22] Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.

Were slain by them — This was recorded before, Numbers 31:8, and is here repeated, because the defeating of Balaam's purpose to curse Israel, and the turning that curse into a blessing, was such an instance of the power and goodness of God, as was fit to be had in everlasting remembrance.

Verse 23

[23] And the border of the children of Reuben was Jordan, and the border thereof. This was the inheritance of the children of Reuben after their families, the cities and the villages thereof.

The border thereof — That is, those cities or places which bordered upon Jordan.

Verse 25

[25] And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before Rabbah;

The cities of Gilead — That is, all the cities of eminency; all the cities properly so called, which lay in that part of Gilead; and so this may well agree with verse 31, where half the country of Gilead is said to be given to the Manassites; but there is no mention of any cities there.

The land of the children of Ammon — Not of that which was now theirs, for that they were forbidden to meddle with, but of that which was anciently theirs, 'till taken from them by the Amorites, from whom the Israelites took it.

Aroer — The border between them and Moab.

Rabbah — The chief city of the Ammonites.

Verse 26

[26] And from Heshbon unto Ramathmizpeh, and Betonim; and from Mahanaim unto the border of Debir;

Ramath-mizpeh — Called Ramoth-Gilead, or Ramoth in Gilead.

Mahanaim — Exclusively; for Mahanaim was in the portion of Manasseh, beyond Jabbok, which was the border of Gad and Manasseh.

Verse 27

[27] And in the valley, Betharam, and Bethnimrah, and Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, Jordan and his border, even unto the edge of the sea of Chinnereth on the other side Jordan eastward.

The rest of the kingdom — The northern part of his kingdom.

Verse 29

[29] And Moses gave inheritance unto the half tribe of Manasseh: and this was the possession of the half tribe of the children of Manasseh by their families.

Of Manasseh — Not that thou desired it, as Reuben and Gad did, Numbers 32:1, but partly as a recompence to Machir the Manassite, for his valiant acts against Og; and partly for the better defence of the other two tribes, by so considerable an accession to them, which also was without any inconvenience to them, because the country was too large for the two tribes of Reuben and Gad.

Verse 30

[30] And their coast was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, threescore cities:

Of Jair — Who, though of the tribe of Judah, by the father, 1 Chronicles 2:21,22, yet is called the son of Manasseh, Numbers 32:41, because he married a daughter of Manasseh, and wholly associated himself with those valiant Manassites; and with their help took sixty cities or great towns, Deuteronomy 3:4,14, which thence were called the towns of Jair.

Verse 31

[31] And half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were pertaining unto the children of Machir the son of Manasseh, even to the one half of the children of Machir by their families.

Children of Machir — Whom before he called the children of Manasseh, he now calls the children of Machir, because Machir was the most eminent, and as it may seem, the only surviving son of Manasseh, Numbers 26:29; 1 Chronicles 7:14-16.