Bible Commentary: Joshua 18

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Joshua 18

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Land Given to Benjamin

Now that Ephraim’s territory has been assigned, Joshua (an Ephraimite) and the children of Israel relocate the tabernacle and central gathering point from Gilgal to Shiloh, some 15-20 miles to the northwest, in the midst of the new land of Ephraim. In verse 5, Joshua points out that Judah has the territory in the south, conquered in chapter 10, and Joseph the northern territory, conquered in chapter 11. While we think of this territory and these tribes as being divided when the monarchy splits, in fact, the Bible records they always maintained a sort of independence from one another. Even during the united monarchy, Saul and David had to deal with the two factions (compare 1 Samuel 11:8 1 Samuel 11:8And when he numbered them in Bezek, the children of Israel were three hundred thousand, and the men of Judah thirty thousand.
American King James Version×
; 1 Samuel 17:52 1 Samuel 17:52And the men of Israel and of Judah arose, and shouted, and pursued the Philistines, until you come to the valley, and to the gates of Ekron. And the wounded of the Philistines fell down by the way to Shaaraim, even to Gath, and to Ekron.
American King James Version×
; 1 Samuel 18:16 1 Samuel 18:16But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them.
American King James Version×
; 2 Samuel 2:10 2 Samuel 2:10Ishbosheth Saul’s son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.
American King James Version×
; 2 Samuel 3:9-10 2 Samuel 3:9-10 [9] So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD has sworn to David, even so I do to him; [10] To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba.
American King James Version×
; 2 Samuel 5:5 2 Samuel 5:5In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.
American King James Version×
; 2 Samuel 19:9-43 2 Samuel 19:9-43 [9] And all the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king saved us out of the hand of our enemies, and he delivered us out of the hand of the Philistines; and now he is fled out of the land for Absalom. [10] And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why speak you not a word of bringing the king back? [11] And king David sent to Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, saying, Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house? seeing the speech of all Israel is come to the king, even to his house. [12] You are my brothers, you are my bones and my flesh: why then are you the last to bring back the king? [13] And say you to Amasa, Are you not of my bone, and of my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if you be not captain of the host before me continually in the room of Joab. [14] And he bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man; so that they sent this word to the king, Return you, and all your servants. [15] So the king returned, and came to Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to conduct the king over Jordan. [16] And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, which was of Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David. [17] And there were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, and Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they went over Jordan before the king. [18] And there went over a ferry boat to carry over the king’s household, and to do what he thought good. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan; [19] And said to the king, Let not my lord impute iniquity to me, neither do you remember that which your servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart. [20] For your servant does know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king. [21] But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed? [22] And David said, What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be adversaries to me? shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? for do not I know that I am this day king over Israel? [23] Therefore the king said to Shimei, You shall not die. And the king swore to him. [24] And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace. [25] And it came to pass, when he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, Why went not you with me, Mephibosheth? [26] And he answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: for your servant said, I will saddle me an ass, that I may ride thereon, and go to the king; because your servant is lame. [27] And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in your eyes. [28] For all of my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet did you set your servant among them that did eat at your own table. What right therefore have I yet to cry any more to the king? [29] And the king said to him, Why speak you any more of your matters? I have said, You and Ziba divide the land. [30] And Mephibosheth said to the king, Yes, let him take all, for as much as my lord the king is come again in peace to his own house. [31] And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan. [32] Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old: and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man. [33] And the king said to Barzillai, Come you over with me, and I will feed you with me in Jerusalem. [34] And Barzillai said to the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? [35] I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? why then should your servant be yet a burden to my lord the king? [36] Your servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward? [37] Let your servant, I pray you, turn back again, that I may die in my own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother. But behold your servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good to you. [38] And the king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good to you: and whatever you shall require of me, that will I do for you. [39] And all the people went over Jordan. And when the king was come over, the king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him; and he returned to his own place. [40] Then the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him: and all the people of Judah conducted the king, and also half the people of Israel. [41] And, behold, all the men of Israel came to the king, and said to the king, Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away, and have brought the king, and his household, and all David’s men with him, over Jordan? [42] And all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, Because the king is near of kin to us: why then be you angry for this matter? have we eaten at all of the king’s cost? or has he given us any gift? [43] And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, We have ten parts in the king, and we have also more right in David than you: why then did you despise us, that our advice should not be first had in bringing back our king? And the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.
American King James Version×
; 2 Samuel 20:1-22 2 Samuel 20:1-22 [1] And there happened to be there a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjamite: and he blew a trumpet, and said, We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse: every man to his tents, O Israel. [2] So every man of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri: but the men of Judah joined to their king, from Jordan even to Jerusalem. [3] And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood. [4] Then said the king to Amasa, Assemble me the men of Judah within three days, and be you here present. [5] So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah: but he tarried longer than the set time which he had appointed him. [6] And David said to Abishai, Now shall Sheba the son of Bichri do us more harm than did Absalom: take you your lord’s servants, and pursue after him, lest he get him fenced cities, and escape us. [7] And there went out after him Joab’s men, and the Cherethites, and the Pelethites, and all the mighty men: and they went out of Jerusalem, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri. [8] When they were at the great stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa went before them. And Joab’s garment that he had put on was girded to him, and on it a girdle with a sword fastened on his loins in the sheath thereof; and as he went forth it fell out. [9] And Joab said to Amasa, Are you in health, my brother? And Joab took Amasa by the beard with the right hand to kiss him. [10] But Amasa took no heed to the sword that was in Joab’s hand: so he smote him therewith in the fifth rib, and shed out his bowels to the ground, and struck him not again; and he died. So Joab and Abishai his brother pursued after Sheba the son of Bichri. [11] And one of Joab’s men stood by him, and said, He that favors Joab, and he that is for David, let him go after Joab. [12] And Amasa wallowed in blood in the middle of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he removed Amasa out of the highway into the field, and cast a cloth on him, when he saw that every one that came by him stood still. [13] When he was removed out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab, to pursue after Sheba the son of Bichri. [14] And he went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel, and to Bethmaachah, and all the Berites: and they were gathered together, and went also after him. [15] And they came and besieged him in Abel of Bethmaachah, and they cast up a bank against the city, and it stood in the trench: and all the people that were with Joab battered the wall, to throw it down. [16] Then cried a wise woman out of the city, Hear, hear; say, I pray you, to Joab, Come near here, that I may speak with you. [17] And when he was come near to her, the woman said, Are you Joab? And he answered, I am he. Then she said to him, Hear the words of your handmaid. And he answered, I do hear. [18] Then she spoke, saying, They were wont to speak in old time, saying, They shall surely ask counsel at Abel: and so they ended the matter. [19] I am one of them that are peaceable and faithful in Israel: you seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel: why will you swallow up the inheritance of the LORD? [20] And Joab answered and said, Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy. [21] The matter is not so: but a man of mount Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has lifted up his hand against the king, even against David: deliver him only, and I will depart from the city. And the woman said to Joab, Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall. [22] Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and cast it out to Joab. And he blew a trumpet, and they retired from the city, every man to his tent. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king.
American King James Version×
).

The remainder of the land is apportioned out at Shiloh to the remaining seven tribes based on the results of a land survey conducted by three members of each tribe. Seven parcels are described, and the lots cast to determine where God wanted each tribe located. The first parcel went to Benjamin. A narrow strip of land sandwiched between Ephraim and Judah, it became a very significant piece of real estate. Jerusalem was on the south, right next to the border with Judah. North of there was Gibeah, where Saul would have his home, and Ramah where Samuel would live, and Mizpeh and Gibeon. Even Jericho was part of Benjamin’s territory. Bethel is also listed, and was at least a border town with the territory of the Ephraimites, who conquered it in Judges 1:22-26 Judges 1:22-26 [22] And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them. [23] And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.) [24] And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said to him, Show us, we pray you, the entrance into the city, and we will show you mercy. [25] And when he showed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family. [26] And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof to this day.
American King James Version×
and kept it when the land was divided.

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