Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.XVIII.
(1) At Shiloh.—Seilûn (sheet 14), about ten miles due south of Shechem, in the territory of Ephraim. The inheritance of the tribe of Judah was determined in Gilgal. The assignment of the central part of the country to Ephraim and Manasseh brought the leaders of Israel into that district, and as soon as the position of Ephraim, Joshua’s tribe, was settled, the tabernacle was set up there. For the situation of Shiloh, see Judges 21:19.
And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.(2) And there remained . . . seven tribes, which had not yet received . . . inheritance.—This statement is well worthy of notice, as illustrating the character of the Israelites in a manner which is thoroughly true to nature. The conquest of the Canaanitish armies being completed, the two leading divisions of the host of Israel took possession of their shares of the conquered territory. The house of Judah and the house of Joseph were satisfied. This done, the weaker tribes were left to take care of themselves. They did not venture to select their own portions; the others did not come forward to offer them anything. Thus there remained, for a time, seven tribes which had not received their inheritance.
And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?(3) And Joshua said . . .—Joshua, who took no inheritance for himself until all the tribes had received their portions, was free from the selfishness of the other leaders. He could not rest until he had finished the work that was given him to do. He therefore ordered that the rest of the territory should be surveyed, and divided, according to the number of the cities, into seven portions, which were then to be allotted according to the instructions given by Moses.
And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north.(5-10) They shall divide it into seven parts.—The several tribes were not permitted to choose their own portions. In Numbers 26:54-55, we read: “To many thou shalt give the more inheritance, and to few thou shalt give the less inheritance. . . . notwithstanding the land shall be divided by lot.” These words imply that there must be unequal portions of territory for larger and smaller tribes, but that the particular position of each tribe must be settled by the lot, whereof “the whole disposing is of the Lord.” We are not told how this rule was carried out in the case of Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh, who received their inheritance first. Possibly a sufficient extent of territory was surveyed at first to provide three large allotments. The three tribes might then cast lots, first between Judah and Joseph for the northern or southern portions, and then between Ephraim and Manasseh for the two sections of the northern territory. This would carry out the instructions of Numbers 26. But see above (Joshua 15:1).
(11-28) The lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin.—It can have been by no accident that their lot came forth “between Judah and Joseph.” No wiser method could have been devised to secure an united Israel than thus to make Benjamin the link between the two most powerful and naturally rival tribes. In the story of Joseph, the brethren are reconciled through the mutual affection of Judah and Joseph for Benjamin as their father’s youngest and best-loved son.
The position thus given to Benjamin under Joshua was still further developed by circumstances. The tribe was almost exterminated in the time of the judges; the survivors were united in marriage with women of Ephraim and Manasseh (?). On the other hand, the city of Jerusalem, although assigned by Joshua to Benjamin, was first a joint possession of Judah and Benjamin (1Chronicles 8:28; 1Chronicles 8:32; Judges 1:8; Judges 1:21), then the royal city of the kings of the house of Judah. The selection of the first king of Israel from Benjamin, and the ultimate planting of the religious and political centre of all the tribes on the confines of Judah and Benjamin in Jerusalem, would have been two masterstrokes of policy if they had been schemes of man’s devising. They were really links in the long chain of God’s providential dealing with the chosen people.
(12) And their border.—This is first described on the north side, where it coincided with the southern border of Ephraim. Conder draws it from El ‘Aujeh (sheet 15), five miles north of Jericho, towards Beth-el (Beitin), perhaps going along the Wâdy’ Aujeh, Beth-el lying within the territory of Benjamin (Joshua 18:22), and so on to Archi (Joshua 16:2), now Ain ‘Arik (near the top of sheet 17), and thence to Ataroth-addar (Ed-Dârieh), near Beth-horon the nether (Beit- ûr-et-Tahta). This line is from east to west.
(14) And the border was drawn thence . . .—At this point it turns southward, and runs from the neighbourhood of Beth-horon to Kirjath-jearim (Khurbet ‘Erma, in sheet 17: very small, and not easily found).
Corner of the sea.—Ph’ath Yâm, “the west side.”
(15) And the south quarter.—Here the borderline again turns to the east, and runs to Ain Atân (the waters of Nephtoah), near Bethlehem. Thence it turns to the north-east, and follows the line described above (Joshua 15:6-8) as the northern boundary of Judah.
(17) The stone of Bohan the son of Reuben must have been near the Jordan. Is it possible that Bohan, the son of Reuben, did on his own account what was done for all Israel by the command of Joshua? (Joshua 4:8).
(21) The cities of the tribe of . . . Benjamin.—The following are identified: viz., in Joshua 18:21, ‘Ain-es-Sultan,’ Ain Hajlah (sheet 18); Joshua 18:22, Khurbet es-Súmnrah, Beitin (sheet 18); Joshua 18:23, Fâtah (sheet 18), Taiyibeh (sheet 14); Joshua 18:24, Jeb ‘a (sheet 17).
(22) Beth-el seems to have passed into the hands of Ephraim without question when the tribe of Benjamin was all but exterminated. In the division of the kingdoms, though the tribe of Benjamin followed the house of Judah, the town of Bethel was regarded as part of the kingdom of Israel, and Jeroboam’s southern boundary. He set up two golden calves, one in Bethel and the other in Dan, at the northern and southern extremities of his kingdom.
(25) El-Jêb, Er-Râm, Bireh (all in sheet 17).
(26) Sh’afât, Kejîreh, Beit Mizzeh (Kefireh, i.e., Kefriyeh, sheet 14); the others are in sheet 17
(27) Râfât (sheet 17).
(28) Lifta, El-Kuds, Jebî’a, Kuriet-el-’ anab (all in sheet 17).
(28) Jebusi, which is Jerusalem.—When “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killed the prophets, and stoned them that were sent unto her,” was called to account for “all the righteous blood shed upon the earth,” the cup was found in Benjamin’s sack, having been put there, as we see, by Joshua, the steward (after Moses) of the true Joseph’s house. (See Names on the Gates of Pearl—Benjamin, p. 191.) Jerusalem is always thought of as the capital of Judah. Probably few readers of the Bible would answer, if asked for its position, that it was originally a Benjamite city. And we may add that no later writer than Joshua would be likely to have placed it in the territory of Benjamin.