THE IMPORTANCE OF THE TRIBE OF JUDAH IS REFLECTED IN THE PROMINENCE GIVEN TO THE ALLOTMENT OF HER TERRITORY
Robert Hubbard: Now, many readers will find the Judah section—hands down, the largest in chs. 14–19—tediously detailed. But that is the point: Its sheer quantity underscores Judah’s importance within Israel. Canonically, this continues the biblical theme of Judah’s destiny for leadership that first sounds subtly in the Joseph story (Gen. 43:3–10; 44:14–34), develops in Jacob’s last words (Gen. 49:8–12), echoes in the book of Ruth (Ruth 4:17–22), finds full voice in David’s emergence (1-2 Samuel), and reaches its climax in Jesus Christ (Matt. 1). It also firmly establishes Judah’s tribal footprint in the land and founds Judah’s claim to its land, whether centuries before the exile to Babylon (587 B.C.) or after its return (538 B.C.). Later history will confirm the importance of Judah’s foothold in the land for it constituted the remnant of the twelve tribes that enabled Israel to continue its mission to the world.
Trent Butler: Judah is the first to receive its inheritance, the last to fall, and the only remaining hope for restoring the lot of the people of God.
Kenneth Gangel: The settling of the promised land should have been an easy task after the seven-year conquest, but we find that the tribes lacked the initiative and courage to drive out the Canaanite inhabitants completely. This problem repeats itself throughout the second half of the Book of Joshua.
During the conquest and the division of the land, Joshua and the Israelites had to learn that no matter how big their group or how strong their leaders, it was essential to follow God’s commands down to the smallest detail.
I. (:1-12) DEFINITION OF JUDAH’S BORDERS
David Howard: Judah’s boundary list is painstaking and true to life in its presentation, describing, it seems, every twist and turn, every dip and rise, every right angle of the lines that marked off this tribe. It is a dynamic, vibrant boundary (not static), almost lifelike in its movement.
Robert Hubbard: Its northeast and northwest sections—between the Jordan’s mouth and Jerusalem, and from Jerusalem to the sea—may in fact have corresponded to ancient roads.
A. (:1-4) Southern Border
“Now the lot for the tribe of the sons of Judah according to their families reached the border of Edom, southward to the wilderness of Zin at the extreme south. 2 And their south border was from the lower end of the Salt Sea, from the bay that turns to the south. 3 Then it proceeded southward to the ascent of Akrabbim and continued to Zin, then went up by the south of Kadesh-barnea and continued to Hezron, and went up to Addar and turned about to Karka. 4 And it continued to Azmon and proceeded to the brook of Egypt; and the border ended at the sea. This shall be your south border.”
David Howard: The southern boundary is first. It pulsates with life, as it wends its way westward from the southern end of the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. Attention to the verbs here highlights this, describing the “movement” of the boundary as it travels east to west.
B. (:5a) Eastern Border
“And the east border was the Salt Sea, as far as the mouth of the Jordan.”
David Howard: Judah’s eastern boundary was simple enough: the western shores of the Dead Sea.
C. (:5b-11) Northern Border
“And the border of the north side was from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan. 6 Then the border went up to Beth-hoglah, and continued on the north of Beth-arabah, and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. 7 And the border went up to Debir from the valley of Achor, and turned northward toward Gilgal which is opposite the ascent of Adummim, which is on the south of the valley; and the border continued to the waters of En-shemesh, and it ended at En-rogel. 8 Then the border went up the valley of Ben-hinnom to the slope of the Jebusite on the south (that is, Jerusalem); and the border went up to the top of the mountain which is before the valley of Hinnom to the west, which is at the end of the valley of Rephaim toward the north. 9 And from the top of the mountain the border curved to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah and proceeded to the cities of Mount Ephron, then the border curved to Baalah (that is, Kiriath-jearim). 10 And the border turned about from Baalah westward to Mount Seir, and continued to the slope of Mount Jearim on the north (that is, Chesalon), and went down to Beth-shemesh and continued through Timnah. 11 And the border proceeded to the side of Ekron northward. Then the border curved to Shikkeron and continued to Mount Baalah and proceeded to Jabneel, and the border ended at the sea.”
David Howard: The northern boundary is described in the most detail. This boundary corresponds closely to the southern boundary of Judah’s neighbor, Benjamin, which is described in 18:15–19. This was a boundary with which people would have been very familiar, since people from Judah and Benjamin lived and traveled along it and across it, and they knew the cities and geographical markers listed for it. This undoubtedly explains the great detail here, especially when the boundary reaches Jerusalem, where the greatest detail is given (vv. 7b–8).
D. (:12a) Western Border
“And the west border was at the Great Sea, even its coastline.”
(:12b) Summary Statement
“This is the border around the sons of Judah according to their families.”
David Howard: In this concluding statement, a sense of security is conveyed, in that the tribe had well-defined borders that surrounded them, protecting them, in a sense, from that which was outside the borders.
II. (:13-19) CALEB’S SPECIAL ALLOTMENT REVISITED –
IN HEBRON, DEBIR AND THE NEGEV
A. (:13) Distributing the Inheritance to Caleb
“Now he gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh a portion among the sons of Judah, according to the command of the LORD to Joshua, namely, Kiriath-arba, Arba being the father of Anak (that is, Hebron).”
B. (:14) Dispossessing the Inhabitants = 3 Sons of Anak
“And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak:
Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the children of Anak.”
Helene Dallaire: Ready to settle in his own land, Caleb dispossesses the dreaded and colossal Anakites (Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai) from their land and settles his family in the area bequeathed to him by Joshua (cf. Jdg 1:14). Terrified by their reputation and by their sheer size, Israel had previously avoided the Anakites in southern Canaan. The spies had described them as giants in whose eyes the Israelites appeared like mere grasshoppers (Nu 13:31–33). Undeterred by their stature and frightful demeanor, Caleb proceeds to expunge them from his newly acquired land.
C. (:15-19) Designating the Incentive for Capturing Debir = Achsah
- (:15) Pursuit of Acquiring Debir
“Then he went up from there against the inhabitants of Debir;
now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher.”
David Howard: The second passage about Caleb’s inheritance (see 14:6–15 for the first such passage) explains his further acquisition of Debir, another city that originally had been taken by Joshua (10:38–39). Here, again, the assumption must be that it had fallen back into foreign hands.
Helene Dallaire: Debir, a city previously conquered by Joshua (10:36–39), was originally called Kiriath Sefer (“book city” or “scribal city”). Its original name may indicate that at one time, the city was a repository for official records. The phenomenon of secondary names for towns is not unique to Debir (Jdg 1:11).
- (:16-17) Prize for Capturing the City = Achsah
“And Caleb said, ‘The one who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it,
I will give him Achsah my daughter as a wife.’ 17 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it;
so he gave him Achsah his daughter as a wife.”
- (:18-19) Persuasion to Acquire Land and Springs of Water
“And it came about that when she came to him, she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she alighted from the donkey, and Caleb said to her, ‘What do you want?’ 19 Then she said, ‘Give me a blessing; since you have given me the land of the Negev, give me also springs of water.’ So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.”
Helene Dallaire: Her use of a donkey for the trip indicates that her property in the Negev was not next to her father’s property, but was at a significant distance from Hebron.
Gordon Matties: Achsah takes initiative to ask Othniel to ask Caleb for a field. In the end she is the one who asks Caleb for the field that has springs of water as well (15:19). She is unhappy because the allotment has placed her in the semiarid south (Negeb). Since that is unacceptable, she asks for a field with springs of water. The syntax is awkward in verse 18. The verse begins with When she came but does not stipulate an indirect object (to whom). The next verb is she incited/urged, followed by an object pronoun him and an infinitive to ask. The NIV translates that she asks Othniel.
Three observations suggest it is Caleb:
- first, Caleb is the main actor in verse 17 as well as verse 18b.
- Second, he is the one to whom she speaks in verse 19.
- And third, the syntax of verse 18 allows us to read She urged him to ask, with the infinitive to ask being read as a gerund, and as an explanation of the urging: she incited him by asking her father for a field (cf. Winther-Nielsen: 255).
The text alludes to an argument in which she bargains with her father as a kind of compensation for his having given her away to Othniel (an arrangement prohibited by Lev 18:6-18). This is confirmed by the NJPS translation of Caleb’s question, which is not What can I do for you? (NIV) or What do you wish? (NRSV), but What is the matter? What is the matter is at least the matter of her family’s inadequate land in the Negeb. It may also be his unilateral action to give her to Othniel. This initiative on Achsah’s part finds a parallel, or analogy, in the request of the daughters of Zelophehad in the section on Manasseh’s distribution (17:3-6).
Kenneth Gangel: It is not impossible that Acsah’s first request for a field resulted in the land in the Negev and the second special favor (blessing) was the water to make the desert livable.
III. (:20-63) JUDAH’S TOWN LIST
“This is the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Judah
according to their families.”
David Howard: The larger units are (1) the southland (negeb), composed of one group (vv. 21–32), (2) the western foothills , with three groups (vv. 33–44), (3) three Philistine cities, listed in one group (vv. 45–47), (4) the hill country (har), with five or six groups (vv. 48–60), and (5) the desert (midbar), with one group (vv. 61–62).
Trent Butler: The list of cities according to their political and military subdivisions is incorporated to show from still another perspective the greatness of God’s gift to Judah. Judah controlled the borders and all the cities inside the borders. While not every city of Judah is named in these verses, the implication is that Judah received title to all the cities and land within her borders.
A. (:21-32) Southland – 29 Cities
“Now the cities at the extremity of the tribe of the sons of Judah toward the border of Edom in the south were Kabzeel and Eder and Jagur, 22 and Kinah and Dimonah and Adadah, 23 and Kedesh and Hazor and Ithnan, 24 Ziph and Telem and Bealoth, 25 and Hazor-hadattah and Kerioth-hezron (that is, Hazor), 26 Amam and Shema and Moladah, 27 and Hazar-gaddah and Heshmon and Beth-pelet, 28 and Hazar-shual and Beersheba and Biziothiah, 29 Baalah and Iim and Ezem, 30 and Eltolad and Chesil and Hormah, 31 and Ziklag and Madmannah and Sansannah, 32 and Lebaoth and Shilhim and Ain and Rimmon; in all, twenty-nine cities with their villages.”
David Howard: The cities here are at the southernmost extreme of Judah’s territory, and they occupy the single largest area of the groupings in this chapter. Thirty-six cities are listed, although the running total given in v. 32 is only “twenty-nine.” Possibly some locales listed were not considered to be substantial enough settlements to have merited inclusion in the running total, or an early copying error may account for the discrepancy. After this, all city listings and running totals in the chapter agree with each other. As we have noted above, several cities in this section of Judah’s list are also found in Simeon’s list in 19:1–9. We should also note that the three cities named “Hazor” in vv. 23, 25 are to be distinguished from the northern Hazor mentioned in chap. 11.
B. (:33-44) Western Foothills
“In the lowland:”
David Howard: This unit is composed of three groups of cities, located at least twenty-five miles southwest of Jerusalem. The first is the northernmost of the three (vv. 33–36), with fourteen cities; the second is to the southwest (vv. 37–41), with sixteen cities, and the third is to the southeast (vv. 42–44), with nine cities.
- (:33b-36) Northern Group – 14 Cities
“Eshtaol and Zorah and Ashnah, 34 and Zanoah and En-gannim, Tappuah and Enam, 35 Jarmuth and Adullam, Socoh and Azekah, 36 and Shaaraim and Adithaim and Gederah and Gederothaim; fourteen cities with their villages.”
- (:37-41) Southwest Group – 16 Cities
“Zenan and Hadashah and Migdal-gad, 38 and Dilean and Mizpeh and Joktheel, 39 Lachish and Bozkath and Eglon, 40 and Cabbon and Lahmas and Chitlish, 41 and Gederoth, Beth-dagon and Naamah and Makkedah; sixteen cities with their villages.”
- (:42-44) Southeast Group – 9 Cities
“Libnah and Ether and Ashan, 43 and Iphtah and Ashnah and Nezib, 44 and Keilah and Achzib and Mareshah; nine cities with their villages.”
C. (:45-47) 3 Philistine Cities
“Ekron, with its towns and its villages; 46 from Ekron even to the sea, all that were by the side of Ashdod, with their villages. 47 Ashdod, its towns and its villages; Gaza, its towns and its villages; as far as the brook of Egypt and the Great Sea, even its coastline.”
David Howard: The format of this short list is distinctly different from the rest of the city list: it is much fuller, with directional markers and mention of surrounding villages, and it has no running total at the end, as do all the other city groups in the chapter. Ekron, the northernmost of the three cities, was later assigned to the tribe of Dan (19:43). The irregularities in this section are no doubt because the entire area covered by these cities remained unconquered by Judah. Yet this section is included because, according to the boundary listings, Judah’s territory included even these cities (see 15:4, 11–12).
D. (:48-60) Hill Country
“And in the hill country:”
- (:48b-51) Southern Group – 11 Cities
“Shamir and Jattir and Socoh, 49 and Dannah and Kiriath-sannah (that is, Debir), 50 and Anab and Eshtemoh and Anim, 51 and Goshen and Holon and Giloh; eleven cities with their villages.”
- (:52-54) North Group (West side) – 9 Cities
“Arab and Dumah and Eshan, 53 and Janum and Beth-tappuah and Aphekah, 54 and Humtah and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), and Zior; nine cities with their villages.”
- (:55-57) North Group – 10 Cities
“Maon, Carmel and Ziph and Juttah, 56 and Jezreel and Jokdeam and Zanoah, 57 Kain, Gibeah and Timnah; ten cities with their villages.”
- (:58-59) Far North Group – 6 Cities
“Halhul, Beth-zur and Gedor, 59 and Maarath and Beth-anoth and Eltekon; six cities with their villages.”
- (:60) 20 Miles West of Jerusalem – 2 Cities
“Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), and Rabbah; two cities with their villages.
David Howard: The Old Greek versions preserve a fifth group in v. 59 that is not found in the MT. It consists of eleven additional cities and reads: “Tekoa, Ephrathah, that is, Bethlehem, Peor, Etam, Culon, Tatam, Sores, Carem, Gallim, Baither, and Manach: eleven towns in all with their hamlets” (REB). This group is north of the fourth, centering around Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem. It is plausible that this group dropped out early in the copying process because the word “and their villages,” occurs at the end of the fourth group and at the end of this one; and a scribe’s eye easily could have jumped from the one to the other, causing him to omit an entire section.
E. (:61-62) Desert (Northwester half of the Dead Sea) – 6 Cities
“In the wilderness:
Beth-arabah, Middin and Secacah, 62 and Nibshan and the City of Salt and Engedi; six cities with their villages.”
David Howard: The major city in the list is En Gedi, an oasis halfway down the Dead Sea.
(:63) EPILOGUE – THE JEBUSITES IN JERUSALEM WITH JUDAH
“Now as for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem,
the sons of Judah could not drive them out;
so the Jebusites live with the sons of Judah at Jerusalem until this day.”
Trent Butler: The Davidic government in Jerusalem was impaired by the fact that it had not accomplished the first command of God. It had not driven the Jebusites out of the capital city. Judah thus lived its life in the shadow of temptation from Jebusite gods and Jebusite practices. All of this stood in opposition to the command of Deut 7:1–26; 20:16–18. Solomon might make the remaining nations slaves (1 Kgs 9:20–21), but this still was not what Yahweh had commanded (cf. Josh 9).