Joshua 15-16: Judah and Joseph

Joshua 15

Judah and Joseph

(Courtesy of ESV Study Bible)

After being done with the allotment east of Jordan, we now turn to the allotment west of Jordan.

1. The Allotment for Judah


Specific boundaries


1The allotment for the tribe of the people of Judah according to their clans reached southward(A) to the boundary of Edom, to(B) the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south. 2And their south boundary ran from the end of the(C) Salt Sea, from the bay that faces southward. 3It goes out southward of(D) the ascent of Akrabbim, passes along to Zin, and goes up south of Kadesh-barnea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, turns about to Karka, 4passes along to Azmon, goes out by(E) the Brook of Egypt, and comes to its end at the sea. This shall be your south boundary.

East and North

5And the east boundary is the(F) Salt Sea, to the mouth of the Jordan. And the boundary on the north side runs from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan. 6And the boundary goes up to(G) Beth-hoglah and passes along north of(H) Beth-arabah. And the boundary goes up to(I) the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. 7And the boundary goes up to Debir from(J) the Valley of Achor, and so northward, turning toward Gilgal, which is opposite(K) the ascent of Adummim, which is on the south side of the valley. And the boundary passes along to the waters of(L) En-shemesh and ends at En-rogel. 8Then the boundary goes up by(M) the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the southern shoulder of the Jebusite ((N) that is, Jerusalem). And the boundary goes up to the top of the mountain that lies over against the Valley of Hinnom, on the west, at the northern end of the Valley(O) of Rephaim. 9Then the boundary extends from the top of the mountain(P) to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah, and from there to the cities of Mount Ephron. Then the boundary bends around to Baalah ((Q) that is, Kiriath-jearim). 10And the boundary circles west of Baalah to Mount Seir, passes along to the northern shoulder of Mount Jearim (that is, Chesalon), and goes down to(R) Beth-shemesh and passes along by(S) Timnah. 11The boundary goes out(T) to the shoulder of the hill north of Ekron, then the boundary bends around to Shikkeron and passes along to Mount(U) Baalah and goes out to Jabneel. Then the boundary comes to an end at the sea.


12And the west boundary was(V) the Great Sea with its coastline. This is the boundary around the people of Judah according to their clans.

It is important to notice that Judah is right next to the Gentile nations; next to the Great Sea, Dead Sea, and river. It is also the only nation ‘housing’ Simeon, implying its vastness in comparison to other nations incapable of being protected. Judah is on the toughest frontier and yet it is also in the prime location to be a light to the Gentiles there. Many people are skeptical of this aspect of Israel’s faith, especially that of an important tribe like Judah, but as Walter Kaiser intimates in the opening preface of his thesis “Mission in the Old Testament: Israel as Light to the Nations”:

“Centrifugal witnessing [outward-moving witnessing]… is the role assigned to Israel in actively sharing with others the Man of Promise who was to come. This is why Paul quoted Isaiah 49:6 in his attempt to convince the Jews at Antioch of Pisidia that it had been God’s intent all along to extend his blessings of redemption to the Gentiles (apart from any process of proselytism by which Gentiles converted to Judaism)… The source of world missionary activity is rooted in God’s call to the nation Israel in the Old Testament”.

Although the aspect of outward evangelizing is not the centre of attention in these chapters of Joshua, it is important to remember why God providentially placed these nations in these particular locations; the fact that Jerusalem, the place where the light of the work of salvation shone the brightest, is in Judah; the fact that the wilderness of Judah is in the extreme south next to the Gentile nations where Jesus travelled to during his struggles with Satan. Even the names of the cities in the extreme south of Judah where the wilderness is, provides ample background as to why Christ chose to go there for his trials: house of desert, city of salt (salt being commonly associated with destruction, c.f. Lot’s wife), amongst other cities briefly indicating the fallenness of the wilderness. It is a suitable battleground between Christ and Satan, where the victory of Christ in the desert symbolically points towards the victory of Israel in its exodus from Egypt through the wilderness towards Canaan the typological Promised Land.

There is no coincidence that the first tribe mentioned on the west of the Jordan, after the three ‘firstborns’ Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh, is the tribe through which the Promised Seed is to come. The focus on Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh is clearly in line with the prophecies of Genesis 48 – the superior focus on Judah and Joseph, from whom stems Ephraim and Manasseh (the greater of the two being the younger of the two – Ephraim) – hence this order; the tribe of Christ and the type of Christ side-by-side.

This awe of Judah is further re-iterated by the inclusion and greater detail of the episode of Caleb in v.13-19. It is a re-statement of what was stated in Joshua 14, with specific detail to the driving out of the sons of Anak. V.17-19 displays a picture of Caleb’s family for the first time – his nephew capturing Kiriath-sepher, and him blessing his daughter more than what she has asked for. This Christ-focused family no doubt is a good influence having looked towards Hebron and stayed in this important land of Judah. The taking of Debir, the ‘sanctuary’ (a sense of holiness), previously called the city of the book/branches implies a sense of importance to this place being displaced by the victorious Christians. So not only do we see a prophetic implication behind the allotment of Judah and its placement, as well as the microcosmic victory represented by Caleb and his Christ-focused seeds.

The inheritance of the tribe of the people of Judah according to their clans

Cities in extreme south toward the boundary of Edom

21…Kabzeel,(AB) Eder, Jagur, 22Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, 23Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, 24(AC) Ziph, Telem, Bealoth, 25Hazor-hadattah, Kerioth-hezron (that is, Hazor), 26Amam, Shema, Moladah, 27Hazar-gaddah, Heshmon, Beth-pelet, 28Hazar-shual,(AD) Beersheba, Biziothiah, 29Baalah, Iim, Ezem, 30Eltolad, Chesil, Hormah, 31(AE) Ziklag, Madmannah, Sansannah, 32Lebaoth, Shilhim, Ain, and Rimmon: in all, twenty-nine cities with their villages.

In the lowland

33… Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, 34Zanoah, En-gannim, Tappuah, Enam, 35(AG) Jarmuth,(AH) Adullam,(AI) Socoh, Azekah, 36Shaaraim, Adithaim, Gederah, Gederothaim: fourteen cities with their villages.

37Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal-gad, 38Dilean, Mizpeh, Joktheel, 39(AJ) Lachish, Bozkath,(AK) Eglon, 40Cabbon, Lahmam, Chitlish, 41Gederoth, Beth-dagon, Naamah, and(AL) Makkedah: sixteen cities with their villages.

42(AM) Libnah, Ether, Ashan, 43Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, 44(AN) Keilah, Achzib, and Mareshah: nine cities with their villages.

45(AO) Ekron, with its towns and its villages; 46from Ekron to the sea, all that were by the side of Ashdod, with their villages.

47(AP) Ashdod, its towns and its villages;(AQ) Gaza, its towns and its villages; to(AR) the Brook of Egypt, and the Great Sea with its coastline.

In the hill country

48…Shamir, Jattir, Socoh, 49Dannah, Kiriath-sannah ((AS) that is, Debir), 50Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim, 51(AT) Goshen, Holon, and(AU) Giloh: eleven cities with their villages.

52Arab, Dumah, Eshan, 53Janim, Beth-tappuah, Aphekah, 54Humtah,(AV) Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron), and Zior: nine cities with their villages.

55(AW) Maon,(AX) Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, 56Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah, 57Kain, Gibeah, and(AY) Timnah: ten cities with their villages.

58Halhul, Beth-zur, Gedor, 59Maarath, Beth-anoth, and Eltekon: six cities with their villages.

60(AZ) Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), and Rabbah: two cities with their villages.

In the wilderness

61In the wilderness,(BA) Beth-arabah, Middin, Secacah, 62Nibshan, the City of Salt, and(BB) Engedi: six cities with their villages.

63But the(BC) Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem,(BD) the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.

The common refrain of Israel’s failure to root out the pagan nations is once more repeated in v.63. Matthew Henry makes important observations about these refrains, alongside the aforementioned importance of first mentioning Judah before other tribes:

“Now here… We do not find Bethlehem, which was afterwards the city of David, and was ennobled by the birth of our Lord Jesus in it. But that city, which at the best was but little among the thousands of Judah (Mic_5:2), except that it was thus dignified, was now so little as not to be accounted one of the cities, but perhaps was one of the villages not named. Christ came to give honour to the places he was related to, not to receive honour from them…. Jerusalem is said to continue in the hands of the Jebusites (Jos_15:63), for the children of Judah could not drive them out, through their sluggishness, stupidity, and unbelief. Had they attempted it with vigour and resolution, we have reason to think God would not have been wanting to them to give them success; but they could not do it, because they would not. Jerusalem was afterwards to be the holy city, the royal city, the city of the great King, the brightest ornament of all the land of Israel. God has designed it should be so. It may therefore be justly looked upon as a punishment of their neglect to conquer other cities which God had given them that they were so long kept out of this…. Among the cities of Judah (in all 114) we meet with Libnah, which in Joram’s days revolted, and probably set up for a free independent state (2Ki_8:22), and Lachish, where king Amaziah was slain (1Ki_14:19); it led the dance in idolatry (Mic_1:13); it was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion. Giloh, Ahithophel’s town, is here mentioned, and Tekoa, of which the prophet Amos was, and near which Jehoshaphat obtained that glorious victory, 2Ch_20:20, etc., and Maresha, where Asa was a conqueror. Many of the cities of this tribe occur in the history of David’s troubles. Adullam, Ziph, Keilah, Maon, Engedi, Ziklag, here reckoned in this tribe, were places near which David had most of his haunts; for, though sometimes Saul drove him out from the inheritance of the Lord, yet he kept as close to it as he could. The wilderness of Judah he frequented much, and in it John Baptist preached, and there the kingdom of heaven commenced, Mat_3:1. The riches of this country no doubt answered Jacob’s blessing of this tribe, that he should wash his garments in wine, Gen_49:11. And, in general, Judah, thou art he whom thy brethren shall praise, not envy.”

Matthew Henry sees how the captivity of Jerusalem is a punishment to Israel; but it is even more of a punishment for Christ to use Jerusalem as the centre of salvation, as the place where he is to be crucified, as the place prophetically provided back in Genesis 22 (Moriah). However, unlike Caleb, the rest of the Israelites did not see the importance of Jerusalem, and it took Christ’s blood to display the utter symbolism of this significant part of Judah. These failures are not only intimated in the final verses of this chapter, but prophetically implied as listed in Matthew Henry’s commentary, with reference to the list of cities of Judah which began the train of sin, leading to much trouble in both David and Saul’s ministries.

Furthermore is the humility of a place like Bethlehem which is not even named in its allotting, fitting to the nature of Christ’s humility as Son of God in flesh. Though the story of Judah is heavily implied through the allotment in Joshua 15, it is within God’s plan that these things are to come so that Christ can be glorified in the humility of Judah’s eventual failures to recognize the reality of the Son to come through their line.

Joshua 16

2. The Allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh

Joseph’s tribe

1The allotment of the people of Joseph went from the Jordan by Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho,(BE) into the wilderness, going up from Jericho into the hill country to Bethel. 2Then(BF) going from Bethel to Luz, it passes along to Ataroth, the territory of the Archites. 3Then it goes down westward to the territory of the Japhletites, as far as the territory of Lower(BG) Beth-horon, then to(BH) Gezer, and it ends at the sea.

This specific allotment to ‘Joseph’ is symbolically more important than the mentioning of Manasseh in the previous few chapters. V.4 officially recognizes this half-tribe of Manasseh and Ephraim as part of the people of Joseph, as part of the blessed tribe under Jacob, as is indicated by the willingness of the tribes on the west of the Jordan in accepting what God would provide for them providentially and geographically.

4(BI) The people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance.


(Courtesy of Bible-Atlas)



Specific boundaries

East and South

5The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was(BJ) Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, 6and the boundary goes from there to the sea.

North and East

On the north is(BK) Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, 7then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and(BL) to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan.

North and West

8From(BM) Tappuah the boundary goes westward to the brook Kanah and ends at the sea. Such is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Ephraim by their clans, 9together with(BN) the towns that were set apart for the people of Ephraim within the inheritance of the Manassites, all those towns with their villages.

10However,(BO) they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made(BP) to do forced labor.

Once more we receive the refrain here, as repeated in Joshua 13:13, Joshua 15:63; Joshua 17:12-13 and so forth. Israel is by no means a pretty nations; in fact, she is on the road to become the allegory, the proverb, of the prostitute in the book of Hosea. No man reading the Old Testament can even see how Israel could, corporately, function as a light to the nations right now; however, we can see there is hope in families like Caleb’s; in families like Abraham’s; in families like Elijah – because they all held on to the Promised Son of God. It is only in the redemption of Christ, the truth of all these shadows, that the church can corporately function as a bodily priesthood.

Joshua 15-16: Judah and Joseph

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