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Wednesday Bible Study
Rev. Dr. Howard L. Woods, Jr.
Rev. Dr. Howard L. Woods, Jr.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
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Joshua 19 Summary- Dividing the Land Continued

Joshua 19:24–31. Asher was allotted a long, narrow strip of territory between Naphtali and the Mediterranean Sea. The difficulty in tracing her boundaries stems from the fact that they are established, not by natural or topographical features, but by the relative position of its principal cities.

The southwestern border began at the sea below Carmel and progressed toward the sunrising to Beth-dagon, finally reaching the territory of Zebulun. Going north past great Zidon, the boundary turned westward toward the strong city of Tyre, meaning a fortified city, “not the insular Tyre, but the town of Tyre, which was on the mainland, … situated by the seacoast, in a beautiful plain”, ending at the sea again. Twenty-two major cities and their villages were included in this territory.

Joshua 19:32–39. Generally, the portion which fell to the descendants of Naphtali was located in the extreme north between the Jordan River and the territory of Asher. Kedesh (home of Barak, Jud 4:6), Migdal-el (Magdala of the New Testament), and Beth-shemesh (a common name derived from the worship of the sun, and not the Bethshemesh of Judah or Issachar).

Joshua 19:40–48. The seventh lot fell to the tribe of Dan. The cities of Zorah and Eshtaol were on the border between Judah and Dan, Judah being to the south. Ajalon was where the sun was commanded to stand still. Ekron was one of the five Philistine cities. The border closed on the sea at Japho (called Joppa in 2 Chron 2:16; Ezr 3:7; in Jon, and in the New Testament), modern Jaffa.

And the coast … of Dan went out too little for them. This is a difficult passage to interpret. “Went out too little” has been interpreted to mean that the territory of Dan was too small for their number, 64,400 at the last census (see Num 26:43). Others have interpreted the expression to mean that the territory of Dan expanded, “went out,” far beyond that originally assigned to them by the taking of Leshem. But Judges 1:34 indicates the probable cause for the expansion of the Danite border when it says, “And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley.” At least a part of the tribe of Dan left, or were driven out of, their original territory, migrated north to fight against Leshem (Laish), and took it. The full account is given in Judges 18. The city was then renamed Dan after their ancestor.

Joshua 19:49–51. Only after Joshua had seen to the welfare of his people did he receive an inheritance for himself. This is a mark of a truly great leader.

Joshua’s choice of an inheritance was the city of Timnath-serah, not to be confused with the Timnath of the territory of Dan (see vs. 43). Called Thamna by Josephus and the LXX, it has been identified today with Tibneh, a city of some size in the Old Testament. It was located in the mountainous region of Ephraim. Here Joshua built the city, and dwelt in it.

With this proclamation Eleazar the priest and Joshua, whom God had told Moses to appoint to the task to dividing the land (Num 34:17–29), finished the task given them in Shiloh at the door of the tabernacle. Another plateau in the life of Israel had been reached.

The City of Refuge

Joshua 20:1 The Lord also spoke to Joshua, saying, :2 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘Appoint for yourselves cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses,

The Lord God now commands Joshua to fulfill that which He spoke to Moses, i.e., to establish the cities of refuge. The concept for these cities of shelter was expressed to Moses in Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:6ff.; and Deuteronomy 19:2. Moses actually appointed the cities east of the Jordan in Deuteronomy 4:41–43. The reference to Moses here gives veiled testimony that Joshua was acquainted with the Pentateuch, perhaps as a corpus, since the words quoted are from Numbers and Deuteronomy. Also, these books were recognized to be by the hand of Moses. What can we learn from this?

Joshua 20:3 that the slayer who kills a person accidentally or unintentionally may flee there; and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. :4 And when he flees to one of those cities, and stands at the entrance of the gate of the city, and declares his case in the hearing of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city as one of them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them.

The purpose of the cities of refuge (Heb miqlat, meaning “to contract” or “receive”) was to provide a shelter for any who kills any person unawares and unwittingly. The Old Testament makes a clear distinction between premeditated murder and unintentional manslaughter (cf. Num 35:16–18; Deut 19:5).

When a premeditated murder was committed, the penalty must be paid. The avenger of blood (Heb goel hadam) was literally a “redeemer” who bought back the honor of the family by slaying the murderer (Deut 19:12).

But he who took the life of another accidentally would present himself at the entering or gate of one of the cities of refuge (where all legal business was transacted, see Ruth 4:1; 2 Sam 15:2) and plead his cause to the elders of the city and thus would find shelter in the city.

Later, he had to stand trial before the congregation of the town nearest the scene of the slaying. If deemed innocent, he was returned to the shelter of the city of refuge until the death of the current high priest (presumably enough time for the wrath of the family of the slain to be abated).

Joshua 20:5 Then if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not deliver the slayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unintentionally, but did not hate him beforehand. :6 And he shall dwell in that city until he stands before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the one who is high priest in those days. Then the slayer may return and come to his own city and his own house, to the city from which he fled.’ ”

For the sinner, to be found in the city of refuge was to be found in the only place of salvation. The correspondence between these cities and the Lord Jesus is striking.

The Apostle Paul, after rehearsing his pedigree and privileges in the Jew’s religion (Phil 3:4–6), counted them all but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus and the joy to “… be found in him …” (Phil 3:9). Also, the writer of Hebrews alludes to God as the only one to whom we “… have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:18).

Christ Jesus is the refuge for the sinner; and thus, He calls to all and says, “Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).

Joshua 20:7 So they appointed Kedesh in Galilee, in the mountains of Naphtali, Shechem in the mountains of Ephraim, and Kirjath Arba (which is Hebron) in the mountains of Judah. :8 And on the other side of the Jordan, by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness on the plain, from the tribe of Reuben, Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh. :9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwelt among them, that whoever killed a person accidentally might flee there, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood until he stood before the congregation.

The cities of refuge are interesting and of theological importance. MacLear gives traditional details about the cities: Jewish commentators tell us how in later times, in order that the asylum offered to the involuntary homicide might be more secure—

  • (a) the roads leading to the cities of refuge were always kept in thorough repair, and required to be about 32 cubits (about 48 feet) broad;
  • (b) all obstructions were removed that might stay the flier’s foot or hinder his speed;
  • (c) no hillock was left, no river was allowed over which there was not a bridge;
  • (d) at every turning there were posts erected bearing the words ‘Refuge,’ to guide the unhappy man in his flight;
  • (e) when once settled in such a city the manslayer had a convenient habitation assigned to him, and the citizens were to teach him some trade that he might support himself.

These cities picture the nation of Israel and its guilt in connection with the slaying of the Messiah. Christ is the City of Refuge to whom penitent Israel may flee for sanctuary.

D. L. Moody noted that “the cities of refuge are a type of Christ, and their names are significant in that connection.” The cities of refuge and the meaning of the names are as follows: West of Jordan, Kedesh—Holiness, Shechem—Strength, Kirjath-Arba or Hebron—Fellowship , East of Jordan Ramoth-Gilead—Uplifting, Golan—Happiness, Bezer—Safety

Hinson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 121). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr., MacDonald, Farstad, Believers Bible; Hinson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2195). Nashville: Thomas Nelson