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David Howard: After the most important tribes have been dealt with in previous chapters, the land distribution is rapidly concluded now in two chapters that detail the remaining seven allotments. The allotment descriptions for each tribe are much shorter and much more uniform than those of Judah and the two Joseph tribes. The unity of the two chapters is indicated by the regularly patterned allotments for all the remaining tribes, by the accounting for every tribe— including those mentioned previously, and Levi, to be mentioned later—and even by the opening and closing verses (18:1; 19:51), which both mention Shiloh and the tent of meeting. The literary unity reflects the historical unity that was to be the standard for the entire nation (see 1:12–18; cf. chap. 22).

Until now, Israel’s central encampment in the land appears to have been at Gilgal, but now the entire congregation moved to Shiloh (18:1), and the tent of meeting was set up there. At this assembly at Shiloh Joshua charged Israel with the task of mapping out and possessing the land for the remaining seven tribes (18:2–10).  After the surveying was done, lots were cast, and the land was apportioned out accordingly. The seven tribes were Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. The lists for each of these are similar and straightforward, for the most part, listing boundaries and/or cities belonging to each tribe. . .

God’s presence throughout these two chapters, but especially in 18:1–10, is indicated in at least three ways:

(1)  the presence of the tent of meeting (18:1; 19:51);

(2)  the presence of the Lord (18:6, 8, 10; 19:51); and

(3)  the actual casting of the lots, since God controlled even the lot (18:6, 10–11; 19:1, 10, 17, 24, 32, 40, 51).

Trent Butler: First, the writer sets seven lazy tribes who lack courage over against the two most powerful tribes, whose representatives demand their territory and more—immediately. In so doing the biblical writer has seemed to promise success to the powerful ones in their fight against the strong Canaanites (Josh 17:18).

Richard Hess: The scene shifts from Gilgal to Shiloh. The tribes meet with Joshua. The speaker changes from the third person to the second person as Joshua addresses the whole assembly (vv. 3–7) and then the map-makers themselves (v. 8). There is a return to the third person in the final two verses as these ‘scouts’ carry out their work and Joshua begins the allotment procedure. Thus this section changes from the allotments of the earlier tribes, which had already been approved by Moses, to those of the remaining seven tribes. In so doing, there is a change of place, of mapmaking method, and of the persons involved. Its literary location is at the centre of the tribal allotments, and therefore it is theologically significant for understanding the allotments.

Kenneth Gangel: Three major things happen in these chapters:

(1)  the focus changes from Gilgal to Shiloh;

(2)  seven remaining tribes get their allocation of land; and

(3)  Joshua receives his city.


A.  (:1-2) Final Steps in the Distribution of the Inheritance Land

  1. (:1)  Requisite Staging for Final Distribution

a.  Assembly at Shiloh

Then the whole congregation of the sons of Israel

assembled themselves at Shiloh,

Gordon Matties: In the book of Joshua, then, Shiloh stands for a moment of clarity, a place of intimacy with God as though it is Israel’s Eden (Gen 2). It stands for communion with God who, according to the Deuteronomic tradition, made the divine name dwell “in that place” (cf. Deut 12:5). Exodus understands the tabernacle to be the place of instruction and discernment in the presence of God. But that presence is not limited to one place; it is “every place” (Exod 20:24). In Leviticus the tent of meeting is the relational center where Israel’s God not only dwells, but also promises to “walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people” (Lev 26:11-12). If Joshua’s meeting at Shiloh belongs to this tradition of divine presence, then Joshua 18:1 represents a significant moment in the Joshua story, which all readers would recognize as a fulfillment of the divine promise (cf. Koorevaar: 290).

David Howard: Up to this point, Israel’s central encampment in the land appears to have been at Gilgal, near Jericho, where the nation had observed several religious ceremonies (4:19–20; 5:2–12). This was where Caleb had approached Joshua to ask for his inheritance (14:6).  Now the entire congregation moved to Shiloh (18:1), about fifteen miles northwest of Jericho, and the tent of meeting was set up there. Shiloh was in the territory of Ephraim (see 16:6), and it would remain an important Israelite religious center for several hundred years, until the taking of Jerusalem in David’s day (see 19:51; 21:2; Judg 18:31; 21:12; 1 Sam 1:9). The ark was kept there (1 Sam 3:3), and it was brought into battle against the Philistines, who captured it in Samuel’s day (1 Samuel 4). Soon after that event, Shiloh was destroyed (Ps 78:60; Jer 7:14).

Richard Hess: For the Christian, the establishment of a sanctuary and centre at Shiloh testifies to how God fulfils his promises. God has given his people the blessing of his presence among them. They must respond in obedience by occupying the land and living according to the divine covenant. The fundamental importance of the sanctuary is illustrated by its central position among the tribes (in the central hill country) and by its position in the midst of the allotments of Joshua 13 – 21. Christians are also called upon to see the worship of God as central to their lives. As with the gatherings at the Shiloh sanctuary so regular meetings for worship are a chief means to provide unity and common encouragement for faithful living (Heb. 10:25).

b.  Erection of the Tent of Meeting

and set up the tent of meeting there;

Trent Butler: In this passage the use of the tent of meeting is explicitly theological. The tradition itself may have been used to explain how the tent came to be in Shiloh. In the present literary context of the Bible, the tent shows that Israel completely obeyed the will of God and that the division of the land to the seven tribes took place in the divine presence. It is also striking that the setting up of the symbol of access to Yahweh is done only when the land had rest from war. Joining tent and Shiloh “focuses attention on the name of Israel as a worshipping community in covenantal relationship with Yahweh. . . . The assembly at Shiloh . . . affirms that the presence of God with Israel in covenant relationship has now been realized in the land.

c.  Control of the Land

and the land was subdued before them.

Robert Hubbard: Several features give the scene an especially solemn, momentous aura.

(1)  There the tribes have erected the Tent of Meeting, the portable place where Yahweh and Israel may meet (18:1; cf. Ex. 33:7; 1 Sam. 2:22; Ps. 78:60).  The tent symbolically implies Yahweh’s presence (cf. vv. 6, 10 [“in the presence of the LORD”]), participation, and approval of the proceedings.

(2)  Further, the narrator comments that the land now is fully subduedunder their control” (v. 1b).  The latter echoes the phrase that Moses invokes as one condition for Reuben, Gad, and East Manasseh to receive their inheritances in Transjordan (Num. 32:22, 29). If the echo is intentional, the author signals that that condition has been met—that Israel now enters a decisively new phase. The previous legal barrier to the proper allocation of inheritances—the presence of squatters—is gone. The “take possession” part of Joshua’s invasion order now begins for the seven tribes (Josh. 1:11), with the “subdued” land ripe for the taking.

(3)  Finally, by detailing the inheritances of the last seven tribes, the narrative affirms Israel’s national identity as a unified people living on divinely given land. This theme recurs in chapter 22 and, many centuries later, in the ideal, future land distribution of Ezekiel 47.

  1. (:2)  Remaining Task

And there remained among the sons of Israel

seven tribes who had not divided their inheritance.

B.  (:3-7) Fair Distribution Based on Investigative Survey of the Land

  1. (:3)  Urgency of the Task

So Joshua said to the sons of Israel,

‘How long will you put off entering to take possession of the land

which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?’

Helene Dallaire: Joshua reprimands Israel impatiently, “How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land?” His accusatory tone seems to imply that the Israelites have become idle in their effort to inhabit the land. According to Joshua, there is still much work to be done; there is no time for apathy. Undeniably, conquest must be followed by occupation.

Joshua’s question to Israel echoes a query made by Jacob to his sons. During a time of famine in Canaan, Jacob turned to his sons and said: “Why do you just keep looking at each other?’ . . . I heard that there is grain in Egypt. Go down there and buy some for us” (Ge 42:1–2). Akin to Joshua’s frustration with Israel, Jacob projects a tone of impatience and implies that his sons were complacent in the face of potential peril.

Van Parunak: Joshua’s question in v.3 makes it clear that they are standing by idly, waiting for someone else to take action, when they should have been moving ahead themselves.

David Thompson: Apparently there were seven tribes who did not yet have their inheritance and they didn’t seem to care. They did not ask for the inheritance, they were not searching out what part of the land might be theirs, they were apathetic; in fact, they were pathetic. To take land meant self-denial, sacrifice, a love of God more than a love of ease, a love of God’s property more than the worlds.


  1. (:4)  Undertaking the Survey of the Land

Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land

and write a description of it according to their inheritance;

then they shall return to me.

Kenneth Gangel: Verse 3 almost sounds like a bit of scolding on Joshua’s part—and perhaps it was. The seven tribes just could not get organized, so Joshua stepped in to make things happen. Sometimes we need people like this in our lives. We need to recognize that organization is not anti-spiritual. Sometimes we need help in organizing our time, our resources, our finances, and our family lives so we can serve God better and live for him. Furthermore, if you are good at organization, teach or help someone else.

David Howard: In order to accomplish the equitable dividing, taking, and settlement of the remaining lands, Joshua instructed that three men from each of the seven remaining tribes be appointed as surveyors who would travel throughout the land and record its description (v. 4).  The seriousness of the task is emphasized by the repeated references to writing in this passage. Three times the text specifies that the men were to write down what they found (vv. 4, 6, 8). Then, in v. 9, the execution of the command to do this is mentioned: they carefully wrote down on a scroll the land’s contours by its cities and by its seven divisions. These things show the importance of the task as well as the fact that later generations were to know of it because it was to be written down.

  1. (:5-7)  Ultimate Division into 7 Portions – Recognizing Prior Special Dispositions

And they shall divide it into seven portions;

David Howard: In vv. 5–7, the unity of the nation and the equitable distribution of the land are the primary focus. . .  Three items bear mentioning here.

  • First, Joshua’s leadership is visible because he was actively involved in parceling out the lands. The twenty-one surveyors were to bring their findings to him, and he would cast lots before the Lord ( 6).
  • Second, the Lord’s presence was with the people, and he oversaw the lots ( 6).
  • Third, the Levites’ special inheritance is again singled out for attention and augmented. . . it was “the priestly service of the LORD” ( 7).

a.  (:5b)  Disposition for Judah (south) and Joseph (north)

Judah shall stay in its territory on the south,

and the house of Joseph shall stay in their territory on the north.

b.  (:6)  Description of the 7 Divisions Leading to Casting of Lots

And you shall describe the land in seven divisions,

and bring the description here to me.

And I will cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.

c.  (:7a)  Disposition of the Levites

For the Levites have no portion among you,

because the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance.

d.  (:7b)  Disposition of the Transjordanian Tribes

Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh also have received their inheritance eastward beyond the Jordan,

which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.

C.  (:8-9) Faithful Completion of the Survey Mission

Then the men arose and went, and Joshua commanded those who went to describe the land, saying, ‘Go and walk through the land and describe it, and return to me; then I will cast lots for you here before the LORD in Shiloh.’ 9 So the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities in seven divisions in a book; and they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh.

Richard Hess: Just as the law guides the people in their life, the map book will guide the people in their possession of God’s blessing of the land. The towns form the basis for the tribal boundaries and town lists that comprise the allotments.

Trent Butler: The commission has a different function from that of the “military” spies in Num 13 and Josh 2. The commission does not scout the opposition. Rather they seek information about the land and the cities to be allotted and settled.  In this, the commission obeys their instructions.

Van Parunak: This process forces them to exercise to character strengths:

  • Consensus: they must agree on the division.
  • Commitment: they must make a written record of what they find, which means that after they submit their report, none of them can come back and say, “That’s not the agreement I remember.”

D.  (:10) Finishing the Distribution by Casting Lots before the Lord

And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD,

and there Joshua divided the land to the sons of Israel

according to their divisions.

David Howard: This key passage ends, then, with the assurance that each tribe did indeed receive its allotted territory. The previous allotments were a matter of record, the Levites’ inheritance was the Lord’s service, and the remaining tribes did receive their lands equitably and in order. The unity of the nation was still holding firm. The rest of chaps. 18–19 are devoted to detailing the allotments, but by 18:10 the allotments were complete, an accomplished fact.

Robert Hubbard: The text itself offers no explanation of the lot-casting procedure, but one plausible scenario commends itself.  One may imagine two containers, each with seven stones. The seven in one container somehow identify each of the seven land portions, while the seven in the other bear the name of a tribe eligible for land. Joshua then “cast” one stone on the ground from each container, either in sequence or simultaneously, to match a land portion with a tribe.  The next step—the subdivision of the seven tribal portions among the clans of each tribe—would require one vessel with land descriptors equal to the number of clans and a second vessel with the names of each clan.  The final step would apply the procedure to divide the clan portions among its families.

Trent Butler: Here Joshua and Israel showed their obedience to God. They divided the land according to his plans and will, not human pride and selfishness. We hear no complaints as we did among the Joseph tribes.


A.  (18:11-28) Territory of Benjamin

  1. (:11) Summary Introduction

Now the lot of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin came up according to their families, and the territory of their lot lay between the sons of Judah and the sons of Joseph.

  1. (:12-21) Borders

a.  (:12-13)  Northern Border

And their border on the north side was from the Jordan, then the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north, and went up through the hill country westward; and it ended at the wilderness of Beth-aven. 13 And from there the border continued to Luz, to the side of Luz (that is, Bethel) southward; and the border went down to Ataroth-addar, near the hill which lies on the south of lower Beth-horon.

David Howard: Benjamin’s northern boundary was the same as the Joseph tribes’ southern boundary, described in 16:1–4, or Ephraim’s, described briefly in 16:5. Every place mentioned here is found already in 16:1–5, except for the desert of Beth Aven.

b.  (:14)  Western Border

And the border extended from there, and turned round on the west side southward, from the hill which lies before Beth-horon southward; and it ended at Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), a city of the sons of Judah. This was the west side.

c.  (:15-19)  Southern Border

Then the south side was from the edge of Kiriath-jearim, and the border went westward and went to the fountain of the waters of Nephtoah. 16 And the border went down to the edge of the hill which is in the valley of Ben-hinnom, which is in the valley of Rephaim northward; and it went down to the valley of Hinnom, to the slope of the Jebusite southward, and went down to En-rogel. 17 And it extended northward and went to En-shemesh and went to Geliloth, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim, and it went down to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. 18 And it continued to the side in front of the Arabah northward, and went down to the Arabah. 19 And the border continued to the side of Beth-hoglah northward; and the border ended at the north bay of the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan. This was the south border.

d.  (:20a)  Eastern Border = Jordan River

Moreover, the Jordan was its border on the east side.

e.  (:20b)  Border Summary

This was the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin, according to their families and according to its borders all around.

  1. (:21-28) Cities and Villages

a.  (:21-24) Eastern Cities — 12

Now the cities of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho and Beth-hoglah and Emek-keziz, 22 and Beth-arabah and Zemaraim and Bethel, 23 and Avvim and Parah and Ophrah, 24 and Chephar-ammoni and Ophni and Geba; twelve cities with their villages.

b.  (:25-28a) Western Cities — 14

Gibeon and Ramah and Beeroth, 26 and Mizpeh and Chephirah and Mozah, 27 and Rekem and Irpeel and Taralah, 28 and Zelah, Haeleph and the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah, Kiriath; fourteen cities with their villages.

David Howard: Ten of the cities here never occur elsewhere in the Bible: Emek Keziz, Avvim, Parah, Kephar Ammoni, Ophni, Mozah, Irpeel, Taralah, Zelah, and Haeleph.

4.  (:28b) Summary Closing

This is the inheritance of the sons of Benjamin

according to their families.

B.  (19:1-9) Territory of Simeon

  1. (:1) Summary Introduction

Then the second lot fell to Simeon, to the tribe of the sons of Simeon

according to their families,

and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the sons of Judah.

David Howard: Simeon was not given an independent allotment, but rather, it inherited scattered cities (and their surrounding villages) within Judah’s allotment. . .

many centuries earlier, Simeon and Levi already had been condemned to be scattered among their fellow tribes (Gen. 49:5-7). The land inheritance lists show the fulfillment of this because neither Simeon nor Levi received independent territory; both tribes received cities scattered throughout the others’ lands.

What was behind Jacob’s harsh prophecy concerning these two tribes? The text does not specifically give a reason, but Jacob’s words about his two sons’ violence hark back to the violence they had perpetrated against the inhabitants of Shechem, when they annihilated every man in the city while these men were recuperating from having been circumcised (Gen 34:24–30). In v. 30, Jacob had foreshadowed his later prophecy by rebuking his sons for their violence. Thus, Simeon’s and Levi’s “landless” status was a punishment for their taking violent, personal vengeance.

  1. (:2-8) Cities and Villages

a.  (:2-6)  Southern Cities (Negev) — 13

So they had as their inheritance Beersheba or Sheba and Moladah, 3 and Hazar-shual and Balah and Ezem, 4 and Eltolad and Bethul and Hormah, 5 and Ziklag and Beth-marcaboth and Hazar-susah, 6 and Beth-lebaoth and Sharuhen, thirteen cities with their villages;

b.  (:7)  Negev (2 Cities) and Western Foothills = Shephelah (2 Cities)

Ain, Rimmon and Ether and Ashan, four cities with their villages;

c.  (:8a)  Special Significance of Baalath-beer

and all the villages which were around these cities as far as Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negev.

David Howard: The reference to the last city functions to define the extent of the Simeonite cities to the south, since it is not part of the two lists preceding it.

  1. (:8b) Summary Closing

This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Simeon

according to their families.

  1. (:9) Explanation for Simeon’s Inheritance Being in the Midst of Judah

The inheritance of the sons of Simeon was taken from the portion of the sons of Judah, for the share of the sons of Judah was too large for them; so the sons of Simeon received an inheritance in the midst of Judah’s inheritance.

C.  (19:10-16) Territory of Zebulin

  1. (:10) Summary Introduction

Now the third lot came up for the sons of Zebulun according to their families. And the territory of their inheritance was as far as Sarid.

  1. (:11-14) Borders

Then their border went up to the west and to Maralah, it then touched Dabbesheth, and reached to the brook that is before Jokneam. 12 Then it turned from Sarid to the east toward the sunrise as far as the border of Chisloth-tabor, and it proceeded to Daberath and up to Japhia. 13 And from there it continued eastward toward the sunrise to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and it proceeded to Rimmon which stretches to Neah. 14 And the border circled around it on the north to Hannathon, and it ended at the valley of Iphtahel.

David Howard: Zebulun was a small tribe nestled between Issachar, western Manasseh, Asher, and Naphtali, although its boundary description is sufficiently vague that it cannot easily be correlated with the others. . .  The boundary description is different from the preceding ones in that it appears to consist primarily of border cities near which the boundaries ran rather than fixed boundary points through which the boundary went.

Thomas Constable: Zebulun’s territory lay north of the plain of Jezreel, that marked Manasseh’s northern border, and southwest of the hills of Naphtali. On the northwest, its neighbor was Asher, and on the southeast, Issachar. Zebulun’s land was very fertile. Zebulun received 12 towns, though the writer identified only five here (v. 15). Probably some of the towns in verses 10 through 14 were the other seven towns belonging to Zebulun, but which ones is not known.

  1. (:15) Cities and Villages

Included also were Kattah and Nahalal and Shimron and Idalah and Bethlehem; twelve cities with their villages.

  1. (:16) Summary Closing

This was the inheritance of the sons of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.

D.  (19:17-23) Territory of Issachar

  1. (:17) Summary Introduction

The fourth lot fell to Issachar, to the sons of Issachar according to their families.

  1. (:18-22) Cities and Borders

a.  (:18-21)  Cities

And their territory was to Jezreel and included Chesulloth and Shunem, 19 and Hapharaim and Shion and Anaharath, 20 and Rabbith and Kishion and Ebez, 21 and Remeth and En-gannim and En-haddah and Beth-pazzez.

b.  (:22a)  Borders

And the border reached to Tabor and Shahazumah and Beth-shemesh, and their border ended at the Jordan;

David Howard: Issachar’s general location is clear: it was north of western Manasseh, east and south of Zebulun, west of the Jordan, and south of Naphtali. However, the details of its boundaries are not so clear.

c.  (:22b)  Total Number of Cities

sixteen cities with their villages.

David Howard: The thirteen cities appear to be arranged in four groups, based on the Masoretic accents (i.e., verse divisions).

  • The first group—Jezreel, Kesulloth, Shunem ( 18)—were on a north-south line in the western portion of Issachar.
  • The second group—Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath ( 19)—also represents a north-south line, just east of the first group. The Old Greek text adds a fourth city to this group: “Reeroth.”
  • The third group—Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez ( 20)—appears to have been concentrated in the north, near Mount Tabor.
  • The fourth group—Remeth, En Gannim, En Haddah, Beth Pazzez ( 21)—was in the eastern portion of the tribal lands.
  1. (:23) Summary Closing

This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Issachar

according to their families, the cities with their villages.

E.  (19:24-31) Territory of Asher

  1. (:24) Summary Introduction

Now the fifth lot fell to the tribe of the sons of Asher

according to their families.

  1. (:25-30) Borders and Cities

And their territory was Helkath and Hali and Beten and Achshaph, 26 and Allammelech and Amad and Mishal; and it reached to Carmel on the west and to Shihor-libnath. 27 And it turned toward the east to Beth-dagon, and reached to Zebulun, and to the valley of Iphtahel northward to Beth-emek and Neiel; then it proceeded on north to Cabul, 28 and Ebron and Rehob and Hammon and Kanah, as far as Great Sidon. 29 And the border turned to Ramah, and to the fortified city of Tyre; then the border turned to Hosah, and it ended at the sea by the region of Achzib. 30 Included also were Ummah, and Aphek and Rehob; twenty-two cities with their villages.”

David Howard: its territory lay in a long, narrow strip in the far northwest of the tribal inheritances, with the Mediterranean Sea as its western boundary and the tribes of Zebulun and western Manasseh at its eastern edge. Its territorial description is not neatly separated into boundary and city lists, as are the others. Rather, small groups of cities are included at different points along the boundary descriptions.

Robert Hubbard: The text’s unique combination of borders and town lists serves to support Israel’s ancient territorial claim, based on God’s will spoken through lots, and to keep hope alive for reclaiming it during periods when it falls into alien hands.

  1. (:31) Summary Closing

This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Asher

according to their families, these cities with their villages.

F.  (19:32-39) Territory of Naphtali

  1. (:32) Summary Introduction

The sixth lot fell to the sons of Naphtali; to the sons of Naphtali

according to their families.

David Howard: it received the rich, forested land in the heart of the Galilee region. Asher was to the west, Zebulun and Asher to the south, and the Jordan River and eastern Manasseh to the east. Its territory is described by means of a sketchy boundary description (vv. 33–34) and a separate city list (vv. 35–38).

  1. (:33-34) Borders

And their border was from Heleph, from the oak in Zaanannim and Adami-nekeb and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum; and it ended at the Jordan. 34 Then the border turned westward to Aznoth-tabor, and proceeded from there to Hukkok; and it reached to Zebulun on the south and touched Asher on the west, and to Judah at the Jordan toward the east.

David Howard: Only Naphtali’s southern boundary is given in any detail (vv. 33–34a). It began at Heleph and ran eastward to the Jordan River. Then it returned ( wb) to its starting point and ran westward to Hukkok. Hukkok was presumably at the western edge, near the eastern boundary of Asher.

  1. (:35-38) Cities and Villages

And the fortified cities were Ziddim, Zer and Hammath, Rakkath and Chinnereth, 36 and Adamah and Ramah and Hazor, 37 and Kedesh and Edrei and En-hazor, 38 and Yiron and Migdal-el, Horem and Beth-anath and Beth-shemesh; nineteen cities with their villages.

  1. (:39) Summary Closing

This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Naphtali

according to their families, the cities with their villages.

G.  (19:40-48) Territory of Dan

  1. (:40) Summary Introduction

The seventh lot fell to the tribe of the sons of Dan according to their families.

David Howard: The Danites’ territorial interests were overshadowed by their inability to take their own land and their subsequent migration to a region far to the north, which was where they settled. Thus, the detailed description found in vv. 41–46 is primarily for historical interest because the Danites settled in the north, at Leshem, which they renamed “Dan” (v. 47). Their territorial allotment was in the south, abutting Judah and other tribes. However, they are listed here with the northern tribes in Galilee undoubtedly because that is where they eventually settled.

  1. (:41-46) Cities

And the territory of their inheritance was Zorah and Eshtaol and Ir-shemesh, 42 and Shaalabbin and Aijalon and Ithlah, 43 and Elon and Timnah and Ekron, 44 and Eltekeh and Gibbethon and Baalath, 45 and Jehud and Bene-berak and Gath-rimmon, 46 and Me-jarkon and Rakkon, with the territory over against Joppa.

  1. (:47) Migration of Dan to the Northern City of Leshem

And the territory of the sons of Dan proceeded beyond them; for the sons of Dan went up and fought with Leshem and captured it. Then they struck it with the edge of the sword and possessed it and settled in it; and they called Leshem Dan after the name of Dan their father.

David Howard: The defining characteristic for Dan was not just that they were unable to drive out the Canaanites from their territories.  After all, several other tribes had the same problem. However, the Danites were unique in that they abandoned their allotted territory and migrated elsewhere. They traveled to the far north of Canaan and took a city called Leshem, renaming it Dan.  This became an important city as a marker of the northern extreme of the land, included in the phrase “from Dan to Beersheba” (e.g., Judg 20:1; 1 Sam 3:20; 1 Kgs 4:25). It was one of the cities where Jeroboam I erected a golden calf (1 Kgs 12:29–30).

The Book of Judges gives us further perspectives on Dan’s migration. Judges 1:34 states that the tribe migrated because of pressure from the Canaanites, who confined them in the hill country. Judges 18 tells the entire story about their migration, the details of which are mostly sordid, showing the Danites’ apostasy (see esp. 18:27–31).

  1. (:48) Summary Closing

This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Dan

according to their families, these cities with their villages.

Robert Hubbard: In short, the report strikingly combines the ideal (i.e., Dan’s assigned location) and the real (Dan’s actual settlement at Leshem) without apparent criticism or embarrassment. In my view, the roots of that balance lie in the author’s intention through the long allotment narrative (chs. 13–19) to present the ideal of a united Israel as a hopeful antidote to despairing readers who may have experienced their own Danite-like historical displacements. At the same time, as Kitz suggests, the process also has important legal ramifications. It gives the tribes the right to occupy their assigned territory, including the subjugation of any remaining “squatters,” and denies them the right to contest the boundaries of another tribe’s territory.


A.  (:49) Joshua Waited to Receive His Distribution Until after All the Tribes

When they finished apportioning the land for inheritance by its borders, the sons of Israel gave an inheritance in their midst to Joshua the son of Nun.

Madvig: Caleb and Joshua were the two faithful spies who believed God was able to give Israel the land (Num 14:6-9, 30). The receiving of their inheritances frames the story of the dividing of the land among the nine and a half tribes, with Caleb’s at the beginning [14:6-15] and Joshua’s at the end. Caleb and Joshua are living examples of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises made more than forty years earlier

B.  (:50) Joshua Received the City He Requested

In accordance with the command of the LORD they gave him the city for which he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. So he built the city and settled in it.

David Howard: Joshua, who was usually the agent distributing the land, now received it from the Israelites (v. 49). He could not give himself his own portion. . .  It would seem that Timnath Serah was Joshua’s own personal possession because it does not appear in Ephraim’s tribal list (nor in any other list, for that matter). No other Israelite received any inheritance in this manner, that is, as a personal possession; even Caleb’s city, Hebron, belonged to the tribe of Judah (15:13, 54), and it was both a city of refuge (20:7) and a Levitical city (21:11, 13). This certainly contributes to the picture of Joshua as an extraordinary individual, one who demonstrated extraordinary faithfulness to God and who was the leader par excellence.

Richard Hess: Joshua waits until all the other inheritances are assigned before taking any for himself. Thus he preserves his right to a share of the land without any suggestion of an abuse of his leadership responsibilities. The allotment was done according to God’s will, with Eleazar the priest presiding ‘before the Lord’ at Shiloh’s sanctuary. The land is God’s blessing upon Israel and forms a testimony of the divine presence among them.

Helene Dallaire: Joshua receives Timnath Serah (Timnath Heres, Jdg 2:9) in the hill country of Ephraim, where he was later buried. Joshua receives his inheritance in the presence of Eleazar the priest and the tribal leaders at the sanctuary in Shiloh and not by lot. Joshua’s courteous and humble spirit prompts him to wait until everyone else has received an inheritance before requesting his own. This approach to leadership is the antithesis of abuse of power and exhibits a model that should be imitated by Christian leaders. While establishing roots in Timnath Serah, Joshua completes renovations to the town and stays there with his family, accessible to all Israel while living in security, until his death.


These are the inheritances which Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel distributed by lot in Shiloh before the LORD, at the doorway of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.)

David Howard: The summary statement here is a conclusion to the immediate section (chaps. 18–19), given the references to Shiloh and the tent of meeting (see 18:1). However, the statement also serves as a fitting conclusion to the entire section of chaps. 14–19, in which the land distributions west of the Jordan were accomplished. The major characters involved in the distributions are mentioned, identified by their full names: Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the tribal clans. The same cast of characters opens the section in 14:1. This concluding reference to them brings the entire arduous, and at times tedious, process full circle, assuring us that throughout the entire proceedings, these God-appointed representatives were involved. . .

Now all the tribes except for Levi had received their inheritances. All that remained was to delineate the Levites’ inheritance and to designate the special cities of refuge. The greatest portion of the task, however, was completed.