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John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible.
Joshua 21:1INTRODUCTION TO JOSHUA 21
This chapter contains the address of the Levites to the court, to have the cities and suburbs given them according to the command of God by Moses, Jos 21:1; the grant of them by lot out of the several tribes, Jos 21:3; the particular cities out of the tribes of Judah and Simeon are mentioned by name, Jos 21:9; then those out of the tribe of Benjamin, Jos 21:17; next those out of the tribe of Ephraim, Jos 21:20; afterwards those out of the tribe of Dan,
Jos 21:23; then those out of the half tribe of Manasseh,
Jos 21:27; and out of the tribe of Issachar, Jos 21:28; and out of the tribe of Asher, Jos 21:30; and of Naphtali,
Jos 21:32; and of Zebulun, Jos 21:34; and of Reuben,
Jos 21:36; and of Gad, Jos 21:38; which in all made forty eight, Jos 21:41; and the chapter is concluded with observing, that God gave Israel all the land of Canaan, and rest in it, according to his promise, very faithfully and punctually,
Ver. 1. Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites,.... When the land was divided to the several tribes, and everyone knew the cities that belonged to them, and what they could and should part with to the Levites, and when the six cities of refuge were fixed; the Levites came to put in their claim for cities of habitation, they having no share in the division of the land; and yet it was necessary they should have habitations; the persons that undertook to put in a claim for them were the principal men among them; the fathers of them were Kohath, Gershon, and Merari; the heads of those were the chief men that were then living: these came
unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun; the high priest and chief magistrate:
and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; the princes appointed to divide the land with the two great personages before mentioned, Nu 34:17.
Ver. 2. And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan,.... Where the tabernacle was fixed, at or near which the above persons met to cast lots for the division of the land to the seven tribes that had not received their inheritance:
saying, the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle; this command is extant in Nu 35:2.
Ver. 3. And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance,.... Knowing full well there was such a command, made no objection to their motion, but freely gave them cities out of the portion of inheritance allotted to them; this they did
at the commandment of the Lord, and in obedience to it, even gave these cities and suburbs; after mentioned: this was done by the tribes themselves; as there were a certain number fixed by the commandment of God, they agreed among themselves how many and what cities should be given out of each tribe; and then lots were cast for them by Joshua, what and which cities should be appropriated to their several divisions, as the Kohathites that sprang from Aaron, and the rest of them that did not, and the Gershonites and Merarites, as follows.
Ver. 4. And the lot came out for the family of the Kohathites,.... The first lot that was drawn out of the pot or urn was for the descendants of Kohath, a son of Levi:
and the children of Aaron the priest, [which were] of the Levites; who descended from Amram, the eldest son of Kohath, and these were not only Levites, but priests: these
had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon,
and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities; which are after mentioned by name; and as these were priests, whose business was to serve in the temple, and at the altar, the cities assigned them by the lot, were, by the wise disposal of divine Providence, ordered them out of those tribes which lay nearest to Jerusalem; the place God had chosen to put his name in, where the temple would be built, and the altars erected for sacrifices and incense.
Ver. 5. And the rest of the children of Kohath,.... Which did not descend from him in the line of Amram and Aaron, but of Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel, who were not priests, but Levites:
[had] by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities; these other sort of Kohathites had their cities in tribes next to the other three where the Kohathites that were priests had theirs.
Ver. 6. And the children of Gershon [had] by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar,.... These were Levites who descended from Gershon, the eldest son of Levi, and had their cities by lot assigned them in tribes at a greater distance, not only out of Issachar, but
out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan; which was the other half of the tribe beyond Jordan:
thirteen cities; as many as were given out of the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin.
Ver. 7. The children of Merari by their families,.... The descendants of Merari, the third son of Levi:
[had] out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad; which were both on the other side Jordan:
and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities; in all forty eight, as the Lord commanded, Nu 35:7.
Ver. 8. And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs,.... Reaching two thousand cubits from the cities all around: these cities did not lie all together, and so could not be described by their coasts; but in the several tribes, and intermixed with their cities; which fulfilled Jacob's prophecy, that they should be divided and scattered in Israel, Ge 49:7; as well as it was so ordered for the benefit of the several tribes, that they might have the assistance of the priests and Levites, to instruct them in the knowledge of the laws and commandments of God, and all divine things:
as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses; Nu 35:2.
Ver. 9. And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah,.... Here follows a particular account of the several cities which were given out of each tribe, and first out of this:
and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon; which is joined with that of Judah, because the cities of it lay within it, Jos 19:1;
these cities which are [here] mentioned by name; Jos 21:13.
Ver. 10. Which the children of Aaron, [being] of the families of the Kohathites,.... Who descending from Kohath, in the line of Aaron, were priests:
[who were] of the children of Levi, had; they were Levites, as descending from Levi, but were priests also, as being of the stock of Aaron, and the cities hereafter mentioned in the said tribe fell to their portion:
for theirs was the first lot; for being of the line of Aaron, and priests, they had the honour and privilege to have the first lot drawn for them, and out of the tribe for which the first lot was also drawn, the tribe of Judah; here they had their cities allotted them, for a reason before given.
Ver. 11. And they gave them the city of Arba, the father of Anak,.... Which from him was called Kirjatharba, Jos 14:15; and Anak, according to Kimchi, is not the name of a man, but a general name, comprehending the Anakims, a race of giants, among whom Arba was the chief and principal man, a prince and ruler over them, as Ben Melech:
which [city is] Hebron in the hill [country] of Judah; as in
Jos 14:15; see Lu 1:39;
with the suburbs thereof round about it; as far as two thousand cubits, which were to put their cattle in, and provision for them.
Ver. 12. But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof,.... Which lay beyond the two thousand cubits:
gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh, for his possession; as Moses had promised, and Joshua had confirmed to him; and now the children of Israel gave them to him, and put him in the possession of,
Jos 14:6; and the same is to be observed of all the other cities given to the Levites, that they and their suburbs, extending to such a distance only, were given to them; but the fields and villages, which belonged to them, continued the inheritance of the tribes in which they were.
Ver. 13. Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest,.... The families of the Kohathites, that part of them which descended from him, and were priests:
Hebron with her suburbs, [to be] a city of refuge for the slayer; that had slain a person unawares, and without design; see on Jos 20:3;
and Libnah with her suburbs; a royal city, of which see
Ver. 14. And Jattir with her suburbs,.... See Gill on "Jos 15:48";
and Eshtemoa with her suburbs; See Gill on "Jos 15:50".
Ver. 15. And Holon with her suburbs,.... See Gill on "Jos 15:51";
and Debir with her suburbs; See Gill on "Jos 15:49".
Ver. 16. And Ain with her suburbs,.... See Gill on "Jos 15:32";
and Juttah with her suburbs; See Gill on "Jos 15:55";
[and] Bethshemesh with her suburbs; which is not mentioned among the cities of Judah, Jos 15:21; only as in the borders of it,
Jos 21:10; and perhaps is the same Bethshemesh to which the ark was directed by the Philistines from Ashdod, 1Sa 6:9; in it formerly was a temple dedicated to the sun, from whence it had its name:
nine cities out of those two tribes; and they seem all but one, which is Ain, to be of the tribe of Judah, and that originally belonged to it; and as that tribe had the largest number of cities in its lot, the more were given out of it to the Levites, according to a rule prescribed, Nu 35:8.
Ver. 17. And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs,.... See Gill "Jos 18:25"; from which came the Gibeonites.
Geba with her suburbs. Of which See Gill on "Jos 18:24".
Ver. 18. Anathoth with her suburbs,.... This is not mentioned among the cities of Benjamin, Jos 18:11; it was the native place of the Prophet Jeremiah, See Gill on "Jer 1:1"