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Barnes' Notes on the Bible
1Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel;
A list of the Levitical cities, varying in some particulars from that given in this chapter, is also, given in 1 Chronicles 6:54-81.
2And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.
3And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.
4And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, which were of the Levites, 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.
Thirteen cities - This number is said to be too great for the single family of Aaron. But it appears 1 Chronicles 24 that the two surviving sons of Aaron, Eleazar and Ithamar, had together 24 sons, the heads of the priestly families. Since Aaron was 123 years old when he died Numbers 33:39, his sons' grandchildren and great grandchildren were no doubt living in the elapsing years of Joshua's course, and had to he provided with dwellings. They might altogether number several thousands. The "cities" of Canaan were for the most part small; as is manifest from the astonishing number of them in proportion to the area of the land, more particularly in the south, where the portion of the priests was situated. The priests or Levites would not occupy the whole of the dwellings in any city, nor all its "fields," nor necessarily and always all its "villages" (compare Joshua 21:12). Non-Levites, to whom the cultivation of their land, and other secular concerns, were entrusted, no doubt resided in the Levitical cities or their precincts. It appears, further, that several of the cities here enumerated were only wrested from the Canaanites at a later date.
5And the rest of the children of Kohath 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.
The non-priestly Kohathites had been diminished by the destruction of Korah and his company Numbers 16. On comparing Numbers 26:57 following with Numbers 3:27 ff, two of the families of the Kohathites seem to have disappeared altogether. Hence, it is not surprising that the rest of the Kohathites were sufficiently accommodated in ten cities.
6And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.
7The children of Merari by their families had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.
8And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.
9And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name,
The thirteen priestly cities (see the marginal references) were all in the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin. Thus, as Calvin remarks, God so overruled it that the priestly families were placed upon the spot which He had determined before hand to choose as the site of His temple.
10Which the children of Aaron, being of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, had: for theirs was the first lot.
11And they gave them the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it.
12But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.
13Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs,
14And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs,
15And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs,
16And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.
17And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs,
18Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs; four cities.
19All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.
20And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim.
Of the cities of the non-priestly Kohathites, for Kibzaim we find Jokmeam in 1 Chronicles 6:68. This is perhaps another name for the same place, since both names may be derived from roots having a similar meaning; and for Gath-rimmon in 1 Chronicles 6:70, Bileam is given, and probably correctly; Gath-rimmon having apparently been repeated inadvertently from the preceding verse. Bileam is but another form of Ibleam Joshua 17:11.
21For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs,
22And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities.
23And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs,
24Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities.
25And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities.
26All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.
27And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beeshterah with her suburbs; two cities.
Compare Joshua 19:18, etc. Of the cities of the Gershonites, for Beesh-terah read (Beeshterah.) The name is a contraction of Beth-Ashterah ("house of Ashterah") and the city is undoubtedly the Ashtaroth or Astaroth of Og Joshua 12:4; Deuteronomy 1:4; 1 Chronicles 6:71.
28And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs,
29Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities.
30And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs,
31Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities.
32And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammothdor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities.
33All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.
34And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs,
Merarite cities. Some of these places are not found in the list of Zebulonite cities in Joshua 19:10-16. The text is considered corrupt.
35Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities.
36And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs,
37Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities.
38And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs,
39Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.
40So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.
41All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs.
42These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.
After this verse, the Septuagint introduces a passage (in part a repetition from Joshua 19:49-50), recording the grant of a special inheritance to Joshua, and also that he buried at Timnath-serah the flint-knives with which he had circumcised (Joshua 5:2 note) the people after the passage of Jordan. The latter statement, which has the authority of the Septuagint only, is a Jewish legend of early date.
43And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
There is no real inconsistency between the declarations of these verses and the fact that the Israelites had not as yet possessed themselves of all the cities allotted to the various tribes Judges 1:21-36 - nor did at any time, subdue the whole extent of country promised to them Numbers 34:1-12. God had fulfilled all His part of the covenant. It was no part of His purpose that the native population should be annihilated suddenly Deuteronomy 7:22; but they were delivered into the hand of Israel, and their complete dispossession could have been effected at any time by that divine aid which was never wanting when sought. At the time referred to in the text, the Canaanites were discouraged, broken in strength, holding fast in isolated spots only up and down the land in the very midst of the tribes of God's people. The conquest of Canaan was already "ex parte Dei" a perfect work; just as in the New Testament the triumph of the individual Christian and of the Christian Church in their warfare is often spoken of as accomplished in view of the divine will that it should be so, and of divine grace that it may be so. It was therefore, only the inertness and pusillanimity of the Israelites which prevented the completion of the conquest when the allotment of Canaan was made by Joshua; as it was their subsequent backslidings which caused God to turn the tide of victory against them and even to cast them out of the land promised to their forefathers and actually won in the campaigns of Joshua. See the introduction to the Book of Joshua.
44And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.
45There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.