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Joshua 13


Dividing Canaan Among the Tribes Remaining Land to be Conquered The Distribution of the Land Begins The Land Still to be Taken Lands Remain Unconquered
13:1-7 13:1-7 13:1-7 13:1-7 13:1-2a
  The Land Divided East of the Jordan   The Division of the Territory East of Jordan A General Survey of Trans-Jordan
13:8-14 13:8-14 13:8-13 13:8-13 13:8-13
    13:14 13:14 13:14
  The Land of Reuben   The Territory Assigned to Reuben The Tribe of Reuben
13:15-23 13:15-23 13:15-23 13:15-23 13:15-21
  The Land of Gad   The Territory Assigned to Gad The Tribe of Gad
13:24-28 13:24-28 13:24-28 13:24-28 13:24-27
  Half the Tribe of Manasseh (East)   The Territory Assigned to East Manasseh The Half-Tribe of Manasseh
13:29-31 13:29-33 13:29-31 13:29-31 13:29-31
13:32-33   13:32-33 13:32-33 13:32-33

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.





A. This begins the second half of the book of Joshua. Chapters 1-12 are basically the conquest of the Promised Land and chapters 13-19 are the division of Canaan among the tribes of Israel.


B. The best way to study this section is to have a map close at hand. Archaeology is somewhat uncertain as to the exact locations of many of the cities and other sites mentioned in the Bible. The exact boundaries are uncertain, but the general area is relatively accurate.


C. In this type of passage books on geography become extremely significant.

1. Wycliffe Historical Geography of the Bible Lands by Vos, published by Moody Press

2. Biblical Backgrounds by Callaway, published by Broadman Press


D. The meanings of the Semitic names mentioned in these chapters are only possibilities. The exact etymology is often uncertain.


E. The type of geographical boundaries (i.e., natural land features and cities) has also been found in contemporary literature (i.e., Hittite and Ugarit), which helps confirm the historicity of Joshua.

Shisbah of Egypt invaded Palestine about 925 b.c. and lists his victories in a campaign list found at Karnack, but the names do not coincide with Joshua's list. Shisbah's list has many Hebrew family names, which implies that the list of Joshua (in the Negev) is older (see The New Bible Commentary: Revised, p. 246).

F. In chapter 13

1. Verses 2-3 refer to the unconquered area in the south.

2. Verses 4-6 refer to the unconquered area in the north.

3. Verses 8-14 refer to the unconquered area in the trans-Jordan area (eastern bank).


G. Chart of the tribes of Israel/Jacob


  By mother By Jacob's blessing By Moses' blessing By Joshua Casting Lots











Reuben by Leah   
Gen. 29:32
Simeon by Leah     
Gen. 29:33
Levi by Leah   
Gen. 29:34
Judah by Leah    
Gen. 29:35
Dan by Bilhah    
Gen. 30:6
Naphtali by Bilhah    
Gen. 30:8
Gad by Zilpah 
Gen. 30:11
Asher by Zilpah 
Issachar by Leah    
Gen. 30:18
Zebulun by Leah    
Gen. 30:20
Joseph by Rachel    
Gen. 30:24 
Benjamin by Rachel   
Gen. 35:18
Gen. 49:3-4

Gen. 49:5-7

Gen. 49:5-7

Gen. 49:8-12

Gen. 49:16-18

Gen. 49:21

Gen. 49:19  

Gen. 49:20 
Gen. 49:14-15

Gen. 49:13

Gen. 49:22-26

Gen. 49:27

Deut. 33:6


Deut. 33:8-11 

Deut. 33:8-11

Deut. 33:22

Deut. 33:23

Deut. 33:20-21

Deut. 33:24-25 
Deut. 33:18-19

Deut. 33:18-19

Deut. 33:13-17

Deut. 33:12

Jos. 13:15-23

Jos. 19:1-9


Jos. 14:6-15:63

Jos. 19:40-48

Jos. 19:37-39

Jos. 13:24-28

Jos. 19:24-31
Jos. 19:17-23


Manasseh - Jos. 13:29-31;
Ephraim - Jos. 16:4-10


 1Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the Lord said to him, "You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed. 2This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and all those of the Geshurites; 3from the Shihor which is east of Egypt, even as far as the border of Ekron to the north (it is counted as Canaanite); the five lords of the Philistines: the Gazite, the Ashdodite, the Ashkelonite, the Gittite, the Ekronite; and the Avvite 4to the south, all the land of the Canaanite, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorite; 5and the land of the Gebalite, and all of Lebanon, toward the east, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. 6All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon as far as Misrephoth-maim, all the Sidonians, I will drive them out from before the sons of Israel; only allot it to Israel for an inheritance as I have commanded you. 7Now therefore, apportion this land for an inheritance to the nine tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh."

13:1 "Now Joshua was old and advanced in years" We learn from 14:10 that Caleb was eighty-five years of age. We assume that Joshua was about the same age.

▣ "and very much of the land remains to be possessed" It seems from the first twelve chapters of Joshua that he had completely defeated the Canaanites but because of (1) 11:18; (2) this verse; (3) the historical summary in Judges 1; and (4) archaeological evidence, it seems obvious that Joshua only broke the back of the main resistence of the Canaanite forces (i.e., the strong walled cities), but left it up to the individual tribes to fully possess (cf. Exod. 23:28-30) their own land allotments. Many of them never fully did this, as is obvious from Jos. 13:2ff.

13:2 "all the regions of the Philistines" The term "regions" (BDB 165) originally may have referred to a circle (or heap) of stones (e.g., 7:26; 8:29; Gen. 31:46), but it became a way of referring to a region (cf. Jos. 18:17). The same root forms the name Gilgal (cf. Jos. 4:19).

The Philistines were apparently Greeks from the Aegean Islands. They were the only group of people in this part of the world who were uncircumcized. They were apparently a mercenary force who tried to attack Egypt in the twelfth century b.c. but were defeated. They then settled on the southern coast of Palestine. They had five major cities which are delineated in Jos. 13:3: Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gad, and Ekron. They were a major military problem throughout the period of the judges and even throughout the reign of Saul and David. The name "Palestine" comes from the word "Philistine."

▣ "the Geshurites" The Geshurites are mentioned in Jos. 12:5 but this is a different group with the same name. This same group appears in Jos. 13:11,13, but it is also related to the one mentioned in Jos. 12:5. We learn from 1 Sam. 27:8 that Geshur is a tribe somewhere between Arabia and Philistia.

13:3 "the Shihor" This is from a root which means "to be black" (BDB 1009). This term is used of the Nile River in Isa. 23:3, but here it seems to refer to the border of the Promised Land. Most commentators say that this refers to a wadi called the River of Egypt. It is known today as the wadi El Arish. It is to the south of the city of Gaza.

▣ "Gazite" This means "strong" (BDB 738).

▣ "Ashdodite" This means "stronghold" (BDB 78).

▣ "Ashkelonite" This seems to come from an Assyrian root which means "migration," but there is a possibility that it comes from the Hebrew root for "weight" from which we get the word "shekel" (BDB 80).

▣ "Gittite" This means "winepress" and is very similar to the New Testament term "Gethsemane," which means "olive press." The KJV translates this location as "Gath" (BDB 388) and this may be accurate.

▣ "Avvite" This is a relatively unknown group which seems to be located in the area of Gaza (BDB 732, cf. Deut. 2:23). Some commentators believe they were the original inhabitants of this entire southern coastal area until the invasion of the Philistines.

13:4 "Mearah" This is a word which seems to come from the root for "cave" (BDB 792). It is located just to the north of the city of Sidon, which is in the land of the Phoenicians.

13:5 "and the land of the Gebalite" This is the city of Gebal, which later became Byblos, which later became famous for its writing materials (i.e., parchment, cf. 1 Kgs. 5:18; Ezek. 27:9). We get the English terms "book" and "bible" from this city.

"Baal-gad" It is obvious from the listing of these towns that fertility worship was the main religion of the Canaanites. The term "Ba'al" is a Hebrew word which means "master," "owner," "lord," or "husband." The female goddess is called Ashtaroth (cf. Jos. 13:12). See note at Jos. 11:17. For an excellent discussion of the Canaanite religion, see Archaelogy and Religion of Israel by William F. Albright, published by Anchor Books.

NASB"as far as Lebo-hamath"
NRSV, JPSOA"to Lebo-hamath"
NKJV, RSV"to the entrance to Hamath"
TEV"to Hamath Pass"
NJB"to the Pass of Hamath"

This phrase is made up of the preposition (BDB 723), a Qal infinitive construct of BDB 97, KB 112, and a proper name (BDB 333, i.e., fortress"). Hamath was a kingdom (cf. 2 Sam. 8:9) and represented the northern limit of the Promised Land (cf. 1 Kgs. 8:65; 1 Chr. 8:4).

13:6 "as far as Misrephoth-maim, all the Sidonians" This place name seems to refer to "burning water" or "hot springs" (BDB 977). From the same root come the angels called seraphim (i.e., "burning ones"). The fact that only Sidon is mentioned and not Tyre (cf. Jos. 19:29) points to the early date for this account (cf. R. K. Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 672).

"I will drive them out before the sons of Israel" YHWH takes full responsibility for the conquest of Canaan (cf. Exod. 34:24; Lev. 20:24; Num. 32:21; 33:53; Deut. 1:39; 4:38; 5:31; 9:4,5,6; 11:23,31; 12:1; 15:4; 16:20; 18:12; Jos. 3:10; 13:6). The verb (BDB 439, KB 441, Hiphil imperfect) basically means "take possession of" or "dispossess."

13:6-7 There are two imperatives spoken by YHWH to Joshua.

1. "allot," Jos. 13:6, BDB 656, KB 709, Hiphil imperative (cf. Jos. 23:4)

2. "apportion," Jos. 13:7, BDB 323, KB 327, Piel imperative, cf. Jos. 14:5; 18:2,5,10; 19:51; Num. 26:53,55,56


 8With the other half-tribe, the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance which Moses gave them beyond the Jordan to the east, just as Moses the servant of the Lord gave to them; 9from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, with the city which is in the middle of the valley, and all the plain of Medeba, as far as Dibon; 10and all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, as far as the border of the sons of Ammon; 11and Gilead, and the territory of the Geshurites and Maacathites, and all Mount Hermon, and all Bashan as far as Salecah; 12all the kingdom of Og in Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei (he alone was left of the remnant of the Rephaim); for Moses struck them and dispossessed them. 13But the sons of Israel did not dispossess the Geshurites or the Maacathites; for Geshur and Maacath live among Israel until this day. 14Only to the tribe of Levi he did not give an inheritance; the offerings by fire to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as He spoke to him.

13:8 "with the other half-tribe" This refers to the tribe of Manasseh who inherited land in the eastern side of Jordan.

"Reubenites" The word "Reuben" means "behold a son" (BDB 910). One can almost see the excitement when this firstborn son was presented to his father, Jacob, by Leah.

13:9 "Aroer" This is a city (BDB 792 I) very close to the southern border of Reuben, near to the Arnon River, which separated Moab from the Amorites.

13:12 "Og" The capture of this area is related to Num. 21:33-35.

▣ "Ashtaroth" This is the name of the female fertility goddess of the Canaanite pantheon (BDB 800 III). We are not exactly sure of the relationship between Ba'al and Ashtaroth because in Canaanite documents they are brother and sister, not lovers. See note at Jos. 9:10.

▣ "Rephaim" This word is used three different ways in the Bible: (1) it may refer to the dead (cf. Job 26:5); (2) it may refer to a tribal group; or (3) it may refer to the giants (cf. Jos. 14:12-15). The terms "Anakim" and "Rephaim" both seem to refer to the giants. See note at Jos. 11:21.

13:14 "only to the tribe of Levi he did not give an inheritance" The Levites were to receive their allotment from the altar by serving God (cf. Deut. 18). They take the place of the firstborn (cf. Exodus 13). The Levites did receive forty-eight cities spread throughout the Promised Land (eastern and western, cf. Joshua 20-21). They were also allowed a plot of farm land just outside the walls of these cities to grow food for their families.

▣ "the God of Israel" It is somewhat surprising that the etymology of the term "Israel" is uncertain. From Gen. 32:28 it seems to mean "may God preserve," but some see it as "right with God." As with many of these words, we simply do not know the exact etymology.


 15So Moses gave an inheritance to the tribe of the sons of Reuben according to their families. 16Their territory was from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, with the city which is in the middle of the valley and all the plain by Medeba; 17Heshbon, and all its cities which are on the plain: Dibon and Bamoth-baal and Beth-baal-meon, 18 and Jahaz and Kedemoth and Mephaath, 19and Kiriathaim and Sibmah and Zereth-shahar on the hill of the valley, 20and Beth-peor and the slopes of Pisgah and Beth-jeshimoth, 21even all the cities of the plain and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses struck with the chiefs of Midian, Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the princes of Sihon, who lived in the land. 22The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain. 23The border of the sons of Reuben was the Jordan. This was the inheritance of the sons of Reuben according to their families, the cities and their villages.

13:15-23 This is the tribal allocation of Reuben. It is best seen by looking at a map which delineates the tribal allocations.

13:17 "Bamoth-baal and Beth-baal-meon" There was a Ba'al for every town. These two towns were named for the "high places of baal" (BDB 119 and 127, cf. Num. 22:41) and the "houses of baal" (BDB 111, cf. Num. 32:38; 1 Chr. 5:8; Jer. 48:23; Ezek. 25:9).


JPSOA"on the hill of the valley"
NKJV"on the mountain of the valley"
TEV"on the hill in the valley"
NJB"in the highlands of the Arabah"

This phrase is uncertain in Hebrew.

13:20 "the slopes of Pisgah" In Deut. 34:1 this is another reference to Mt. Nebo.

13:21 "even all the cities of the plain" The cities included

1. Dibon, 13:9

2. Beth-Jeshimoth, 12:3

3. Jahaz, 13:18

4. Kedemoth, 13:18

5. Mephaath, 13:18

The ones in Jos. 13:18 are mentioned again at Jos. 21:26-27.

13:22 "Balaam the son of Beor" The account of this prophet who caused Israel real problems is found in Numbers 22-25.

▣ "diviner" This participle (BDB 890, KB 1116, Qal participle) means "trying to know and control the future." Several different methods were used

1. casting lots

2. consulting idols

3. examining sheep livers

4. necromancy

5. cloud reading

6. flight and perching of birds

Some typical texts are Num. 22:7; 23:23; Deut. 18:10,14; Jos. 13:22; 1 Sam. 6:5; 15:23; 28:8; 2 Kgs. 17:17; Isa. 2:6; 3:2; 44:25; Jer. 14:14; 27:9; 29:8; Ezek. 12:24; 13:6,7,9,23; 21:21,22,23,29; 22:28.

It is based on the pagan world-view that there is information about the future hidden in natural events and that gifted humans (i.e., false prophets, e.g., Jer. 27:9; 29:8; Ezek. 13:9; 22:28) can know and influence this future.

 24Moses also gave an inheritance to the tribe of Gad, to the sons of Gad, according to their families. 25Their territory was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the sons of Ammon, as far as Aroer which is before Rabbah; 26and from Heshbon as far as Ramath-mizpeh and Betonim, and from Mahanaim as far as the border of Debir; 27and in the valley, Beth-haram and Beth-nimrah and Succoth and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, with the Jordan as a border, as far as the lower end of the Sea of Chinnereth beyond the Jordan to the east. 28This is the inheritance of the sons of Gad according to their families, the cities and their villages.

13:24-28 This is the tribal allocation of Gad.

13:25 "as far as Aroer which is before Rabbah" There are two different towns by this name, "Aroer" (BDB 792 II).

A. Aroer

1. 13:25 and Jdgs. 11:33 (in allotment of Gad)

2. 13:16 (in allotment of Reuben)

B. Rabbah (BDB 913, "great" or "populous") is also two different towns.

1. Rabbah - Ammon, Deut. 3:11; 2 Sam. 11:1; 12:26-27; Amos 1:14 (capital of Ammon)

2. Rabbah - in Judah, Jos. 15:60



NASB"as far as the border of Debir"
NRSV"the territory of Debir"
TEV"to the border of Lodebar"
NJB"as far as the territory of Lo-Debar"

The revocalization of the MT (lodebar) in the dynamic equivalent translations (TEV, NJB) is an attempt to relate this text to the place in 2 Sam. 9:4,5; 17:27; Amos 6:13.

13:27 "the sea of Chinnereth" This body of water has several different names in the Bible: (1) the Sea of Genesseret; (2) the Sea of Tiberias; and (3) the Sea of Galilee.

 29Moses also gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh; and it was for the half-tribe of the sons of Manasseh according to their families. 30Their territory was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty cities; 31also half of Gilead, with Ashtaroth and Edrei, the cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were for the sons of Machir the son of Manasseh, for half of the sons of Machir according to their families.

13:29-31 This is the allocation of part of the tribe of Manasseh, one of Joseph's two sons, who became a tribe within Israel along with his brother, Ephraim. Manasseh is the only tribe which inherited land on both sides of the Jordan River.

 32These are the territories which Moses apportioned for an inheritance in the plains of Moab, beyond the Jordan at Jericho to the east. 33But to the tribe of Levi, Moses did not give an inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as He had promised to them.

13:32-33 This is a summary statement.

13:33 See Deuteronomy 18:1-5 and Joshua 20-21.


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