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Joshua Chapter Fifteen                            


Joshua 15

Chapter Contents

The borders of the lot of Judah. (1-12) Caleb's portion, His daughter's blessing. (13-19) The cities of Judah. (20-63)

Commentary on Joshua 15:1-12

(Read Joshua 15:1-12)

Joshua allotted to Judah, Ephraim, and the half of Manasseh, their inheritances before they left Gilgal. Afterwards removing to Shiloh, another survey was made, and the other tribes had their portion assigned. In due time all God's people are settled.

Commentary on Joshua 15:13-19

(Read Joshua 15:13-19)

Achsah obtained some land by Caleb's free grant. He gave her a south land. Land indeed, but a south land, dry and apt to be parched. She obtained more, on her request, and he gave the upper and the nether springs. Those who understand it but of one field, watered both with the rain of heaven, and the springs that issued out of the earth, countenance the allusion commonly made to this, when we pray for spiritual and heavenly blessings which relate to our souls, as blessings of the upper springs, and those which relate to the body and the life that now is, as blessings of the nether springs. All the blessings, both of the upper and the nether springs, belong to the children of God. As related to Christ, they have them freely given of the Father, for the lot of their inheritance.

Commentary on Joshua 15:20-63

(Read Joshua 15:20-63)

Here is a list of the cities of Judah. But we do not here find Bethlehem, afterwards the city of David, and ennobled by the birth of our Lord Jesus in it. That city, which, at the best, was but little among the thousands of Judah, Micah 5:2, except that it was thus honoured, was now so little as not to be accounted one of the cities.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Joshua


Joshua 15

Verse 1

[1] This then was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah by their families; even to the border of Edom the wilderness of Zin southward was the uttermost part of the south coast.

The lot — For the general understanding of this, it must be known 1. That casting lots was transacted with great seriousness and solemnity, in God's presence, with prayer and appeal to him for the decision of the matter. 2. That although exact survey of this land was not taken 'till chap. 18:4,5, yet there was, and must needs be a general description of it, and a division thereof into nine parts and an half; which, as far as they could guess, were equal either in quantity or quality. 3. That the lot did not at this time so unchangeably determine each tribe, that their portion could neither be increased or diminished; as is manifest, because after Judah's lot was fixed, Simeon's lot was taken out of it, chap. 19:9, though after the land was more distinctly known and surveyed, it is likely the bounds were more certain and fixed. 4. That the lot determined only in general what part of the land belonged to each tribe, but left the particulars to be determined by Joshua and Eleazar. For the manner of this, it is probably conceived, that there was two pots, into one of which were put the names of all the tribes, each in a distinct paper, and into the other the names of each portion described; then Eleazar or some other person, drew out first the name of one of the tribes out of one pot, and then the name of one portion out of the other, and that portion was appropriated to that tribe. And with respect to these pots, in the bottom of which the papers lay, these lots are often said to come up, or come forth.

Of Judah — Whose lot came out first by God's disposition, as a note of his preeminency above his brethren.

Of Edom — Which lay south-east from Judah's portion. Judah and Joseph were the two sons of Jacob, on whom Reuben's forfeited birthright devolved. Judah had the dominion entailed upon him, and Joseph the double portion. Therefore these two tribes are first seated: and on them the other seven attended.

Verse 2

[2] And their south border was from the shore of the salt sea, from the bay that looketh southward:

The bay — Heb. the tongue: either a creek or arm of that sea; or a promontory, which by learned authors is sometimes called a tongue. Every sea is salt, but this had an extraordinary saltness, the effect of that fire and brimstone which destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah: the ruins of which lie buried at the bottom of this dead water, which never was moved itself by any tides, nor had any living thing in it.

Verse 5

[5] And the east border was the salt sea, even unto the end of Jordan. And their border in the north quarter was from the bay of the sea at the uttermost part of Jordan:

The end of Jordan — That is, the place where Jordan runs into the salt-sea.

Verse 6

[6] And the border went up to Bethhogla, and passed along by the north of Betharabah; and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben:

The stone of Bohan — A place so called, not from Bohan's dwelling there, (for the Reubenites had no portion on this side Jordan) but from some notable exploit which he did there, though it is not recorded in scripture.

Verse 8

[8] And the border went up by the valley of the son of Hinnom unto the south side of the Jebusite; the same is Jerusalem: and the border went up to the top of the mountain that lieth before the valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the valley of the giants northward:

Went up — Properly; for the line went from Jordan and the salt sea, to the higher grounds nigh Jerusalem; and therefore the line is said to go down, chap. 18:16, because there it takes a contrary course, and goes downward to Jordan and the sea.

Valley of Hinnom — A very pleasant place, but afterward made infamous.

Of the Jebusites — Of the city of the Jebusites, which was anciently called Jebussi.

Jerusalem — It may seem hence, that Jerusalem properly, or at least principally, belonged to Benjamin; and yet it is ascribed to Judah also; either because a part of the city was allotted to Judah; or because the Benjamites desired the help and conjunction of this powerful tribe of Judah, for the getting and keeping of this most important place. And when the Benjamites had in vain attempted to drive out the Jebusites, this work was at last done by the tribe of Judah, who therefore had an interest in it by the right of war; as Ziglag which belonged to the tribe of Simeon, being gotten from the Philistines by David, was joined by him to his tribe of Judah, 1 Samuel 27:6.

Verse 10

[10] And the border compassed from Baalah westward unto mount Seir, and passed along unto the side of mount Jearim, which is Chesalon, on the north side, and went down to Bethshemesh, and passed on to Timnah:

Mount Seir — Not that of Edom, but another so called from some resemblance it had to it.

Verse 13

[13] And unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a part among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the LORD to Joshua, even the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron.

He — Joshua.

City of Arba — Or, Kirjath-arba. Not the city, which was the Levites, but the territory of it, chap. 21:13.

Verse 14

[14] And Caleb drove thence the three sons of Anak, Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak.

Drove thence — That is, from the said territory, from their caves and forts in it. These giants having either recovered their cities, or defended themselves in the mountains.

Three sons of Anak — Either the same who are mentioned, Numbers 13:33, and so they were long-lived men, such as mainly were in those times and places: or their sons, called by their father's names, which is very usual.

Verse 15

[15] And he went up thence to the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher.

Debir — The same mentioned above, verse 7. The name was Kirjath-sepher - This clause seems to be added to distinguish this from the other Debir subdued by Joshua, chap. 10:38,39.

Verse 16

[16] And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

To wife — Which is to be understood with some conditions, as, if he were one who could marry her by God's law; and if she were willing; for though parents had a great power over their children, they could not force them to marry any person against their own wills. He might otherwise be an unfit and unworthy person; but this was a divine impulse, that Othniel's valour might be more manifest, and so the way prepared for his future government of the people, Judges 3:9.

Verse 18

[18] And it came to pass, as she came unto him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wouldest thou?

As she came — Or, as she went, namely, from her father's house to her husband's, as the manner was.

She moved him — She persuaded her husband, either, 1. That he would ask: or rather, 2. That he would suffer her to ask, as she did.

She lighted — That she might address herself to her father in an humble posture, and as a suppliant, which he understood by her gesture.

Verse 19

[19] Who answered, Give me a blessing; for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And he gave her the upper springs, and the nether springs.

A blessing — That is, a gift, as that word signifies, Genesis 33:11.

A south land — That is, a dry land, much exposed to the south wind, which in those parts was very hot and drying, as coming from the deserts of Arabia.

Springs of water — That is, a field, wherein are springs of water, which in that country were of great price; she begs a well moistened field, which also might give some relief to that which was dry and barren.

Upper and nether springs — Or two fields, one above and the other below that south and dry ground which she complained of, that by this means it might be watered on both sides.

Verse 32

[32] And Lebaoth, and Shilhim, and Ain, and Rimmon: all the cities are twenty and nine, with their villages:

Twenty nine — Here are thirty seven or thirty eight cities named before; how then are they only reckoned twenty nine? There were only twenty nine of them, which either, 1. properly belonged to Judah; the rest fell to Simeon's lot; or 2. Were cities properly so called, that is, walled cities, or such as had villages under them, as it here follows; the rest being great, but unwalled towns, or such as had no villages under them.

Verse 48

[48] And in the mountains, Shamir, and Jattir, and Socoh,

The mountains — That is, in the higher grounds called mountains or hills, in comparison of the sea-coast.

Verse 55

[55] Maon, Carmel, and Ziph, and Juttah,

Ziph — Which gave its name to the neighbouring mountains, 1 Samuel 26:1.

Verse 62

[62] And Nibshan, and the city of Salt, and Engedi; six cities with their villages.

City of salt — So called either from the salt sea, which was near it; or from the salt which was made in, or about it.

Verse 63

[63] As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day.

Inhabitants of Jerusalem — For though Jerusalem was in part taken by Joshua before this; yet the upper and stronger part of it, called Zion, was still kept by the Jebusites, even until David's time; and it seems from thence they descended to the lower town called Jerusalem, and took it so that the Israelites were forced to win it a second time; yea, and a third time also: for afterwards it was possessed by the Jebusites, Judges 19:11; 2 Samuel 5:6,7.

Could not drive them out — Namely, because of their unbelief, as Christ could do no mighty work, because of the peoples unbelief, Mark 6:5,6; Matthew 13:58, and because of their sloth, and cowardice, and wickedness, whereby they forfeited God's help.

The children of Judah — The same things which are here said of the children of Judah, are said of the Benjamites, Judges 1:21. Hence ariseth a question, To which of the tribes Jerusalem belonged? It seems probable, that part of it, and indeed the greatest part, stood in the tribe of Benjamin; and hence this is mentioned in the list of their cities, and not in Judah's list; and part of it stood in Judah's share, even mount Moriah, on which the temple was built; and mount Sion, when it was taken from the Jebusites.

To this day — When this book was written, whether in Joshua's life, which continued many years after the taking of Jerusalem; or after his death, when this clause was added by some other man of God. But this must be done before David's time, when the Jebusites were quite expelled, and their fort taken.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Joshua


15 Chapter 15


Verses 1-12

Joshua 15:1-12

This then was the lot of . . . Judah.

The inheritance of Judah

Judah was the imperial tribe, and it was fitting that he should be planted in a conspicuous territory. Judah and the sons of Joseph seem to have obtained their settlements not only before the other tribes, but in a different manner.. They did not obtain them by lot, but apparently by their own choice and by early possession. Judah was not planted in the heart of the country. That position was gained by Ephraim and Manasseh, the children of Joseph, while Judah obtained the southern section. The territory of Judah was not pre-eminently fruitful; it was not equal in this respect to that of Ephraim and Manasseh. It had some fertile tracts, but a considerable part of it was mountainous and barren. It was of four descriptions--the hill country, the valley or low country, the south, and the wilderness. “The hill country,” says Dean Stanley, “is the part of Palestine which best exemplifies its characteristic scenery; the rounded hills, the broad valleys, the scanty vegetation, the villages and fortresses, sometimes standing, more frequently in ruins, on the hill tops; the wells in every valley, the vestiges of terraces whether for corn or wine.” (W. G. Blaikie.)

Verses 13-19

Joshua 15:13-19

To him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

Othniel’s conquest of Debir

I. The spirit which influenced caleb in the disposal of achsah. He sought to unite her to a man--

The promise was not to the man who should first enter Kirjath-sepher. This may have been the nature of the similar promise at the siege of Jerusalem, under David, although it seems by no means certain that, even in this instance, David did not refer to the captain who should first bring his company into Jebus and smite the garrison. He should be chief captain (2 Samuel 5:8; 1 Chronicles 11:6). However this may have been, Caleb’s promise ran, “He that smiteth Kirjath-sepher, and taketh it, to him,” &c. No man single-handed could “smite and take” a fortified city; and thus the promise probably refers to the leaders of the army who were under Caleb. This view has also the advantage that it does not exhibit to us an honourable man like Caleb putting up his daughter as the object of a wretched scramble, where a mere accident of a stumble or a wound might decide whose she should be. Possibly there were but few of the commanders under Caleb officially qualified to lead one or more divisions of the army against Debit; and of these Othniel might first have volunteered, or he only might have volunteered to lead the attack. Any way, out of regard for Achsah, Othniel was one who offered to conduct the assault, and he succeeded.

II. The harmony between the father and the daughter.

1. Achsah accorded with her father’s will and with the custom of the age. There can be no doubt but that, at this period, a father was held to have an absolute right to the disposal of his daughter’s hand (Genesis 29:18-28; Exodus 21:7-11; 1 Samuel 17:25, &c.). It does not follow, however, that a father would not consult his daughter’s wishes.

2. She had confidence in her father’s love, notwithstanding her recognition of his authority. She asked for a larger dowry (Joshua 15:19). On leaving her father, to cleave to her husband, we thus find her seeking her husband’s interest.

3. Her father cheerfully responded to her request. The confidence which was bold to ask was met by an affection which was pleased to bestow.

III. The honourable character in which this brief history introduces Othniel. He comes before us as a man of courage, willing to risk his life for the woman he loved. He is seen to perhaps even more advantage in not preferring the request which Achsah prompted him to make. He may have refused to comply with his wife’s wishes. The history does not actually say this; it merely shows that Achsah made her request herself. Othniel was bold enough to fight; he seems to have been too manly to have allowed himself to ask for this addition to what was probably already a just and good inheritance. He was brave enough to do battle against Debir; he was not mean enough to beg. If Achsah needed a larger dowry, such a request would come better from herself. (F. G. Marchant.)

A chance for ability

There begins the test of talent and force and quality in men. The speech is, Come, now I the palm be to the brave, the crown to him who wins it. Up to a certain point all things seem to be appointed, settled, almost arbitrarily distributed; but then there are chances in life that seem to come afterwards, as it were, amongst ourselves, competitions of a personal and social kind. How early this competitive spirit was developed, and how wonderfully it has been preserved through all history! The spirit of Providence seems to say, in homeliest language, now and again, Here is a chance for you; you had something to begin with, to that you can add more, by pluck, bravery, force--to the war! We need such voices; otherwise we would soon slumber off, and doze away our handful of years, and awake to find that the day had gone. (J. Parker, D. D.)

Thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water.

Noble discontent

1. Such noble discontent, such aspiration for higher and better things, should urge us on in the realm of the daily duty. Simply the south land of a measurable and merely respectable discharge of the daily duty should never satisfy us. We should be stirred with a noble discontent far the water springs of the best possible doing it. Thus we transform ourselves from drudges into artists. Thus, too, we compact ourselves in noble character.

2. In the realm of intellectual advance we should be stirred with this noble discontent; we should turn from a merely general and surface and newspaper information toward the springs of water of a thorough and accurate knowledge.

3. In the realm of the best good of the community in which we dwell we should be stirred with a noble discontent. The south land of a merely usual municipal security and order ought not to satisfy us; we should be restless with discontent until the springs of water of a high moral atmosphere and action are predominant.

4. In the realm of Christian experience we ought to be stirred with such noble discontent; we ought to leave behind us the south land of a merely usual and routine experience, and seek the springs of water of the peace and joy and strength of a transfiguring likeness to our Lord (1 Corinthians 3:10; 1 Corinthians 3:16). (W. Hoyt, D. D.)

The upper springs, and the nether springs.--

The upper and nether springs

I. The upper springs, as they picture forth the joy-sources of the higher nature. “My soul thirsteth for God--the living God!” Nor need we be disappointed. It is pensive to think that some thirsts, and honest thirsts too, must be disappointed, Not to all are given possibilities equal to their desires. Their ideals are above their realisation! But none need be disappointed in God! Christ has opened up a free and full channel of communication. “It pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell.” We have read of waters in the East which, copious at some times, are scarce at others. To-day the waters pour forth their freshening streams, irrigate the land, and satisfy the thirst of man and beast; to-morrow the faithless well is dry. Not so with Christ. In Him the waters dwell. But more than this, Christ is not only the fulness of God, He is the available fulness for us.

1. Take fellowship with God. Inspired words used about this are not the language of poetic fiction or overwrought religious feeling. They are the actual experiences of meditative, devout, earnest, inspired men. “God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.”

2. Take likeness to God. Who can conceive of a more magnificent ideal than God-life in the soul? Be ye holy as your leather, &c. Be ye followers of God, &c. Herein consists our true life. Not in the mere culture of art-faculty, but in the growth of the moral likeness to God! We become happier as we become more like Him. Less vexed with trifles, less anxious about losses provided they bring gains to the soul, less conformed to the world, more restful in the love of God!

3. Take the service of God. Christ does not call us to His work merely that we may work, that our moral nature may have something to do; the Lord hath need of us. I say this not only dignifies life, it makes it delightful (John 4:34). These are upper springs! Co-workers together with God!

4. Take the friends of God. These are yours! We are made for each other! Church life is designed to draw forth common sympathies and common purposes. We are pilgrims to the same shrine; soldiers in the same battlefield; fruit-gatherers in the same vineyard; children of the same Father. Thoughtful Christian friendship is one of the choicest blessings we can enjoy.

5. Take the future of God’s children. I love to think of them at home there. Upper springs coming from the throne of God and the Lamb: “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.” Shall we drink of those upper springs? I hope so! Do we love Christ now? Do we enjoy His service now? If so, when the morning of eternity comes to us, we shall know in a higher sense than we have ever known on earth the meaning of “the upper springs.”

II. The nether springs, as they illustrate the mere satisfactions of the lower nature. Take care lest all life plays upon the surface! Take care lest all life’s drinking be at the nether springs. I am not now speaking of the grossness of sensualism, but of mere sensationalism. It is possible to live a merely surface life. Let us remember that there are eyes and ears within us, that the invisible world, the world which embraces God and judgment and eternity, is always speaking through many voices to our conscience and heart. Mere earthly aims are nether springs. Some people are always drinking at the springs of position and success. They attempt to please men.

──The Biblical Illustrator