For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2000 James Melough

13:1.  “Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the Lord said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”

Symbolically this section foreshadows the end of the Apostolic age, Joshua’s old age and approaching death picturing the aging and passing on of the Apostles; and as it was with regard to Israel literally at the end of Joshua’s life, so was it also spiritually as the Apostolic age drew to a close.  Of those days also it could have been said that spiritually “there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.”  Virtually there was a whole world remaining to be evangelized.  And as it was at the close of the Apostolic age, so is it also today at what is clearly the closing days of the Church age.  There remains still the greater part of the world to be evangelized, relative to which we should note in passing that it is a mistake to believe that Christ won’t come to rapture the Church home to heaven until the whole world has heard the Gospel.  If it were otherwise no one could be saved in the fast approaching Tribulation period, for as 2 Th 2 makes very clear, the only ones who can be saved in that era will be they who had never before heard the Gospel.

13:2.  “This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri,”

This gives us a symbolic description not only of the end of the Apostolic age, but also of the end of this the Church age, for the Philistine represents apostasy; and two thousand years ago the great apostate system of Judaism ruled religiously, while the great apostate system which now rules Christendom was even then also developing.

Philistine means wallowing, and it is significant that in 1 Pe 2:22 it is written concerning apostates that “The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire,” i.e., the apostate returns again to feed spiritually on that which he once professed to reject; and to wallow again in the sin from which he once professed to have been washed.

Geshuri means proud beholders, and as noted in our study of 12:5 they represent the men of the world, governed by worldly wisdom, looking with proud disdain on believers and on faith in Christ as a way to heaven.  Together the Philistines and the Geshuri represent the world as it was at the end of the Apostolic age, and as it is also today.

13:3.  “From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites:”

Sihor, meaning black: turbid is another name for the Nile, but the words “which is before Egypt” preclude that great river, and indicate that the reference is rather to the small stream in the desert between Israel and Egypt, and forming Israel’s southern boundary.  Since Canaan represents the realm of faith into which conversion brings the believer, and since Egypt represents the world, this early mention of this southern boundary between the two reminds us that we are to maintain the line of demarkation between the world and the realm of faith, which this boundary represents.  As Israel was not to go over that boundary into Egypt, neither are we to return again to the world from which we have been separated by the cross of Christ.  And as Israel was not to permit Egypt to trespass beyond that river, neither are we to permit the world to intrude into the realm of faith.  The world’s ways and wisdom have no place in the Church.  The extent, however, to which the believer and the “Egyptian” have disregarded that boundary, is painfully apparent in the lives of the multitudes of professed believers who live like worldlings, and in the countless churches which are governed more by the world’s methods than by the word of God.   “Sihor,” for the most part, has been left in the possession of the enemy.

Ekron, the most northerly Philistine city near the Mediterranean, and directly west of the northern end of the Dead Sea, means uprooting, a meaning which reminds us that apostasy, which the Philistine represents, has done immeasurable harm to the true Church by uprooting sound doctrine.  Since the north is the Biblical direction that speaks of human wisdom, the association of Ekron with the north scarcely needs comment.  Human wisdom and apostasy almost invariably dwell together.  The apostate state of Christendom trumpets the fact that “Israel” (the true Church) still hasn’t wrested “Ekron” from the hand of the enemy.  And since the Canaanite means trafficker, the description of Ekron as that “which is counted to the Canaanite,” enhances the symbolic picture still further.  Those who traffick in spiritual things abound in Christendom, the state of the great false church, in fact, being largely the result of the work of the spiritual “Canaanite.”

“... five lords of the Philistines.”  Since five is the Biblical number of responsibility, this five reminds us that the apostasy which the Philistine represents is largely the result of responsibility abandoned.  As believers we are responsible to live in obedience to God’s Word, and to be unceasing in our warfare against the great Philistine travesty which rules Christendom today, and is wreaking havoc in the midst of the true Church.  That system, and everything pertaining to it, is the foe of faith, and must be recognized as such.

The reference to “the five lords of the Philistines” has also something to teach us.  Five is associated with sensuality, for it is by means of our five senses that we have awareness of the physical world.  The great harlot church represented by the Philistine, like the wisdom which governs her, is  “earthly, sensual, devilish” Jas 3:15.

“... the Gazathites” were the inhabitants of Gaza which means she was strong.  The mention of them here is to remind us that for all its religious facade the great harlot church is far more powerful than most people imagine, nor have we any power against her except as we abide in Christ.  The evil system won’t be destroyed until the Lord returns to inaugurate His millennial kingdom, but that knowledge shouldn’t deter us from exerting every effort to thwart her nefarious activity today.

“...and the Ashdothites.”  Ashdod was another Philistine city directly west of the north end of the Dead Sea, and about 3 miles from the Mediterranean coast.  Its meaning I will spoil, continues to warn that everything “Philistine” is the enemy of faith, and where permitted, will spoil everything that is of God.

“...the Eshkalonites” were Philistines who inhabited Ashkelon or Eshkalon, meaning the fire of infamy: I shall be weighed, meanings which remind us that for all her outward power and glory, the great apostate system, weighed in God’s balances has been found wanting, her infamy bringing upon her the fire of His wrath to be endured eternally in the lake of fire.  Her power and glory are but for a day: her torment will continue for ever.  The believer’s suffering, on the other hand, is but for a day, while his bliss and glory will continue eternally.  Such a prospect should encourage us to bear with patience the worst that Satan’s apostate system may do to us.

“...the Gittites” were Philistine inhabitants of Gath, both names meaning a wine-press, a term used  symbolically to describe the outpouring of Divine wrath and judgment, see for example Isa 63:3; Re 14:19-20, and Re 19:15.  Scripture records that Philistine oppression was the “wine-press” into which Israel’s disobedience very often brought her, and it is instructive to note that part of her disobedience was her failure to drive out the Philistines; and the pattern has repeated itself in the history of the Church: her failure to stamp out apostasy has left her today, as she has been for almost two thousand years, under the oppression of the great apostate travesty which calls itself the true church, and which rules virtually all of Christendom.

God’s consolation to the faithful who also suffer under the tyranny of the harlot church is that in a fast approaching day that whole corrupt system will be cast into the winepress of His fierce wrath, nor will there ever be an end to her torment.

“...and the Ekronites.”  Since we have already discussed Ekron at the beginning of our study of this verse there is no need to repeat those comments here.

“...and the Avites.”  The name means perverters.  They were a people about whom little is known except that they lived in the vicinity of Gaza, but were destroyed by the Philistines, apparently after the days of Joshua.

To pervert is to lead astray morally, or to turn one aside from the right moral path.  Christendom abounds with spiritual “Avites” today, many of them holding impressive titles, and occupying the pulpits of churches so-called.  Such people are to be recognized for what they are: enemies of God and His people, and are to be dealt with as such.

13:4.  “From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:”

The south is the Biblical direction invariably associated with faith, and the lesson being taught here is that from the moment we enter that “southland” by trusting in Christ as Savior, we are to wage unremitting war against the “Canaanites,” i.e., those who traffick in spiritual things for an ulterior motive.  And we will have missed an important part of the lesson if we fail to remember that the Canaanite occupied, and had given his name to the whole land which represents the realm of faith.  The Lord Himself when questioned as to the number of those who were saved, emphasized that true converts were relatively few, see Mt 7:13-23.  We shouldn’t be deceived into believing that every professor is a genuine believer.  Many of those who constitute professed Christendom today are Christians in name only, many of them never having had a new birth.  As the literal Canaanites abounded in Canaan, so do their spiritual counterparts abound in Christendom today.

“...and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians.”  Mearah means a cave, and is associated with the idea of making naked, and of causing darkness by boring out the eyes; while Sidon means hunting.  Evil is associated with these two places, for a cave is associated with death, being frequently used as a burial place, while nakedness portrays lack of righteousness; and literal blindness is the counterpart of a corresponding spiritual state.  Sidon has an equally bad connotation, for hunting is never found in Scripture in anything except a bad spiritual context.

Mearah and Sidon therefore continue to portray the evil that abounds in that spiritual realm into which faith has brought us.  While it is the sphere where we can enjoy all the spiritual blessings secured for us by Christ’s death, it is also the sphere occupied by all the evil powers of darkness striving continually to pervert Scripture, and prevent our entering into the enjoyment of the riches made available to us through Christ’s death and resurrection..  As Israel was to exterminate those literal foes, and claim the land that God had given them, so are we to engage in war to the death with the spiritual foes represented by all the varied tribes of the Canaanites, and take possession of all the spiritual riches God has given and wants us to enjoy.

“...unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites:”  Aphek means restraint; and Amorite, sayer, and since Aphek was an enemy city, and the Amorites an enemy people, the meanings must be understood in connection with evil.  The two, in fact, combine to present us with a symbolic picture of the great false church, the clergy of both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism  maintaining that only they are qualified to interpret Scripture, a Satanic restraint which denies the truth that the Holy Spirit alone gives the believer the revelation of the meaning of what God has written.

The stranglehold which clericalism maintains over the professing church today is the irrefutable evidence that Israel’s delinquency has been duplicated by the Church.  “Aphek” and the “Amorite” still control much of what God meant to be subject to faith.  It is an obedient walk, not a theological education, which enables a man to understand the Scriptures.

It must also be recognized that the evil of clericalism goes far beyond the imposition of a boundary between clerics and laymen (a boundary which is abhorrent to God because it constitutes the division into classes of a priesthood which by its very nature cannot be divided): it stifles the development of spiritual gift, for where the clerical system reigns, there is virtually no opportunity for the exercise of such gift.

13:5.  “And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baal-gad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath.”

The Giblites were the inhabitants of Gebal (Greek Byblos a book).  Giblite and Gebal both mean the same thing, a boundary.  It is on the coast a few miles north of Sidon.  The control of the place by the Giblites constituted a boundary that kept Israel from the enjoyment of territory which God had given her, the restriction of the enemy being made possible only because of Israel’s refusal to go forward and take possession.  A clue to the evil represented by the Giblites is furnished by the Greek name of the place Byblos a book, the same word from which Bible is derived.  This enemy therefore represents someone or something that keeps us from taking possession of, or understanding the Scriptures as God wants us to.  There are many such hindrances, but since the focus is on the inhabitants of Gebal rather than on the city itself, our attention is being directed to people rather than things, and in this connection one group stands out beyond all others.  The clerics who rule Christendom, have placed a boundary between themselves and what they term the “laity,” having arrogated the sole right to interpret Scripture, that arrogation having been made easy by the willing acquiescence of that same laity.

Only when that false claim is rejected, and believers give themselves to the study of Scripture, depending on the Holy Spirit to give them understanding, will “the land of the Giblites” be taken out from the control of the enemy, for God’s glory and our blessing.

“...and all Lebanon... from Baal-gad... mount Hermon.”  For the significance of these places, see notes on 11:17 and 12:1,5,7.

“...toward the sunrising (the east).”  Since the east is the direction associated with mere earthly wisdom, and with sin and departure from God, this reference to the east reminds us that when we make earthly wisdom, instead of Scripture, our guide, the inevitable result will be that we will be led into sin and departure from God.  In Israel’s failure to appropriate this territory we see the OT foreshadowing of the failure of the Church.  We too have not only failed to reject earthly wisdom, we have embraced it, and made it our guide far more often than we have Scripture, the tragic results of that folly being all too clearly displayed in the sorry state of the Church today..

“...unto the entering into Hamath.”  Hamath means enclosure of wrath, and reminds us that as we leave the spiritual equivalents of these places in the hand of the enemy they then become an enclosure of wrath, shutting us up to God’s chastisement rather than blessing.

13:6.  “All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephoth-maim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee.”

Misrephoth-maim meaning burnings of waters,  speaks of the judgment that will eventually overtake those who reject God’s Word, the Lord Himself, declaring relative to the day of judgment, “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.  He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” Jn 12:47-48.  That very same Word which is living water to the believer, will be “burnings” for the unbeliever.

The promise “... them will I drive out from before the children of Israel,” awaits fulfillment.  The disobedience which hindered accomplishment in the days of Joshua, will yet give place to the obedience that will make possible the outpouring of millennial blessing.  In its application to us, the lesson is that the disobedience which now hinders fullness of blessing, will give place to unhindered, and therefore unmeasured, eternal blessing.

The command, “... divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance,” has also a valuable lesson.  Each received his portion of the land by Divine appointment: one receiving his allotment in the mountains; another, in the valley; and yet another by the sea.  Those varied parts should remind us that it is an all-wise and all-loving God Who assigns to each spiritual Israelite (believer) his portion for his life here on earth; but as it was with Israel, so is it all too often with us: dissatisfaction with the lot assigned to us frequently breeds envy of another’s portion.  God’s assignment, however, is accom-

panied by His admonition, “Be content with such things as ye have” Heb 13:5.  We should never forget that His grace which was sufficient for all Paul’s needs, is sufficient also for ours.

13:7.  “Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh,”

This command to divide the land to the nine and a half tribes was the guarantee that God would fulfill His word, but the fact that complete fulfillment is still future is a sad commentary on Israel’s lack of obedience.  As has been noted already, God’s reason for driving the Canaanites out gradually was to prevent the multiplication of the wild beasts, and also to test Israel’s obedience.  As all too often, they failed the test; but also as noted already, Israel’s history is simply the prewritten history of the Church.  We too have failed to take possession of all that has been made available to us by the Lord’s death and resurrection.

Since the factors of nine are three by three, and since three is the number of resurrection, the further lesson being taught in the mention of the nine and a half tribes is that for Israel, as for us, God’s promises will be made good in resurrection.  We have a foreshadowing of this in the experience of the generation that came out of Egypt.  That first generation died out in the desert, and a new, a second generation entered Canaan.  But that second generation failed to possess all the land because they were disobedient.  In the Millennium, however, the whole land will be possessed by another generation: the one that will pass out of the Tribulation into the millennial kingdom.  For us also it will be in resurrection that we will enter into the full enjoyment of all that has been secured for us by Christ’s death and resurrection.

The reference to the half tribe of Manasseh is the symbolic announcement of the truth that here on earth, because of the limitations of these earthly bodies, we can only partially enter into the enjoyment of our inheritance.  The full enjoyment will come when these earthly bodies will have been replaced with the new, the spiritual.

Inasmuch as the half tribe was Manasseh, meaning causing to forget, a further lesson may be that on that day when these earthly bodies will have been replaced with the new, the spiritual, the splendor of our inheritance will cause us to forget all the sin, sorrow, and tears of earth.  We will then, like the queen of Sheba, exclaim, “The one half ... was not told me” 2 Ch 9:6.

We can’t consider the meaning of Manasseh without recalling the words of Paul, “...this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” Php 3:13-14.

Like all of the tribes of Israel, Manasseh represents another characteristic which should mark us as believers.  We too should be forgetful of the things which are behind.  If we keep remembering our failures we will become discouraged; and if we keep rembering our imagined successes we will become puffed up with pride.

13:8.  “With whom the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the Lord gave them;”

For the significance of Reuben and Gad see notes on 4:12, and for comments on the two and a half tribes settled east of Jordan, see 1:15.

13:9.  “From Aroer, that is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river and all the plain of Medeba unto Dibon.”

See 12:1-2 for comments on Aroer and Arnon. 

Medeba means waters of rest (quiet), and Dibon the waster.  The spiritual message of Medeba is easily read, for when one is dwelling obediently in the place of God’s appointment there will always be the spiritual equivalent of waters of rest or quietness.  The spiritual lesson of Dibon is less obvious, but since it was close to the border of Moab in the south, and of Ammon in the east (territories God had not given to Israel), it may be meant to sound a warning to every believer not to go beyond the boundary of God’s directive will.

13:10.  “And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, unto the border of the children of Ammon:”

For comments on Sihon, the Amorites, Heshbon, and Ammon, please consult the notes on 2:10; 3:10; 5:1; 7:7; 9:10; 10:5,6,12; 12:2,5,8.

13:11.  “And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites; and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah;”

For comments on all of the names mentioned in this verse, please consult the notes on 9:10; 11:3,17; 12:1,2,4,5.

13:12.  “All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out.”

For comments on all the names mentioned in this verse, please consult 2:10; 9:10; 12:4.

13:13.  “Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.”

For the significance of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, please see the notes on 12:5.  It is instructive to note that the two and a half tribes don’t appear to have even attempted to expel these enemies, so that their failure to do so was nothing less than disobedience.  And when we remember that the Geshurites represent the arrogant pride with which the world’s wisdom views believers and the Gospel of salvation through faith in a crucified and resurrected Christ; and that the Maachathites symbolize the spiritual equivalent of castration, it makes the negligence of the Israelites the more reprehensible.  We will have missed the lesson, however, if we fail to recognize that we too have failed in this same sphere.  As the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwelt in the midst of Israel, so do their spiritual equivalents dwell in the midst of those professing faith in Christ.  The professing church today is largely governed by the world’s wisdom rather than the Word of God, and with the same deadly results.  She has become Laodicean in character, so that the Lord’s condemnation of the church in Sardis, is equally true of the professing church today, “I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead” Re 3:1.

13:14.  “Only unto the tribe of Levi he gave none inheritance; the sacrifices of the Lord God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as he said unto them.”

The Levites present us with a dual picture.  First, they represent those believers of this present age whose calling to minister to God’s people has required them to devote themselves to that work to such an extent that they lack the time that would normally be devoted to obtaining the necessities of life.  They are to be supported by a reciprocal ministry on the part of those to whom they minister spiritually, “Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things,” Ga 6:6.  See also Nu 18:20-32; Dt 10:9; 18:1-8; 1 Co 9:9-14, and 1 Tim 5:18.  From the offerings brought by the other tribes, God appointed a portion for the support of the Levites, and it is instructive that their support was entirely dependent on what the other tribes gave to God.  In other words, it varied.  They had no guaranteed fixed income.  This arrangement, however, was itself a type of the arrangement for the support of those called to a “full-time” ministry to God’s people today.  These full-time servants are to be supported out of the believers’ free-will offerings.  Three words in our verse relative to those offerings deserve careful attention.  They are “made by fire.”  Fire is one of the Biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit, and the lesson God would have us learn from this is that it is the Holy Spirit, and He alone, Who is to direct our giving, and therefore the amount of the full-time servant’s income.  Scripture knows nothing of the system operating throughout Christendom today whereby a “pastor, minister, priest, clergyman, etc.,” is hired by a church, and guaranteed a salary.  The whole worldly-wise scheme, in fact, is contrary to the teaching of Scripture, and like so much in Christendom, robs the Holy Spirit of His prerogative.

Second, the Levites represent all believers of this present Church age, and in their receiving no allotment of land, we see in symbol the truth that the believer’s portion is not here on earth but in heaven.  We are to pass through this world as pilgrims and strangers on their way home to heaven, as did Abraham, of whom it is written that “he looked for a (the) city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God” Heb 11:10.  Our present position is emphasized in Heb 13:14 “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come.”

13:15.  “And Moses gave unto the tribe of the children of Reuben inheritance according to their families.”

See notes on 4:12 for the spiritual significance of Reuben.  Since Moses represents the Lord dying for us; and Joshua, the Lord resurrected and living for us in heaven, its being Moses rather than Joshua who assigned their portions to the two and a half tribes east of the river, may be meant to focus attention on the spiritual significance of what is recorded as it relates to our lives in the midst of the legitimate affairs of life, e.g., families, jobs, businesses, etc., rather than on what relates more specifically to the spiritual warfare in which we are also engaged.  The work of Moses as a type of the Lord in the midst of earthly circumstances, is therefore particularly appropriate for those also in the midst of earthly circumstances, for He is our Example in all things.

13:16.  “And their coast was from Aroer, that is on the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain by Medeba;"

Please consult verse 9 for the spiritual significance of these places.

13:17.  “Heshbon, and all her cities that are in the plain; Dibon, Bamoth-baal, and Beth-baal-meon,”

Heshbon has already been discussed in 9:10; 12:2,5; 13:10; and Dibon, in 13:9, so it is necessary only to examine the remaining two places mentioned in this verse.

Bamoth-baal means high places of Baal; and Beth-baal-meon, house of Baal of the habitation.  Since Baal, the imaginary god invented by the corrupt mind of fallen man, is nothing less than Satan himself, these things translate into instruction relative to that evil spirit and the false religion associated with the worship accorded him.  The high places of which Bamoth-baal speaks, were always associated with the idolatrous worship of Israel and the nations; but Beth-baal-meon seems to point to a more sophisticated form of that worship.  There can be little question that it points to that great “house” which rules Christendom today in the form of Roman Catholicism and apostate Protestantism, both of which will be joined together in the Tribulation under the rule of Rome.  God’s command to divide all these places to Israel, and His promise that He would one day give her possession of them, had a brief and partial fulfillment in the days of Solomon.  Complete fulfillment will come in the Millennium.  But the message goes beyond Israel and the land of Canaan.  It is, in fact, His promise to the Church that in the Millennium she will rule with Christ over the whole earth.  While we await that day we are responsible to ensure that none of the evils portrayed by these peoples and places have any part in our lives personally or corporately.

It is instructive also to note that Bamoth-baal was a Moabite city; and Beth-baal-meon, though assigned to Reuben, later also fell into the hands of the Moabites.  But as already noted, Moab speaks of the lusts of the flesh, and who will deny that such lust marks all of Christendom today?

13:18.  “And Jahazah, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath,”

Jahazah means to the treading down: the treading down place: to stamp (as in a threshing floor).  Threshing is a harvest activity, and in Scripture harvest is always associated with judgment, see, for example, Mt 13:30-39; Mk 4:29; Re 14:15.  This assignment of Jahazah to Israel for her future possession, is the symbolic announcement that after Christ’s judgment of the nations at the end of the Tribulation, dominion of the earth will be committed to Israel.  But again the message goes beyond Israel.  It reminds us who comprise the Church that while Israel will rule from the earthly Jerusalem, we will reign with Christ over the earth from the heavenly Jerusalem.

Kedemoth means beginnings: confrontings, and may be intended to teach us that the activity of God in apportioning the land in the days of Joshua was only the beginning and the foreshadowing of a far greater work that would culminate in Israel’s being given dominion over the whole earth in the Millennium, and in our reigning with Christ eternally.

Mephaath means the shining forth, and undoubtedly points to that quickly approaching day when the Lord Jesus Christ will come in power and glory to inaugurate His glorious millennial kingdom, and there will be fulfilled the promise recorded in Mt 13:43, “Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father....”  As we await that day it is our privilege to obey the command given in Mt 5:16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

13:19.  “And Kirjathaim, and Sibmah, and Zareth-shahar in the mount of the valley,”

Kirjathaim means double city, and may point symbolically to what is yet future.  In the Millennium the government of the earth will be from two Jerusalems: the one on earth, and the other in heaven.  The practical lesson is that we are responsible to demonstrate that the rule of heaven governs our lives.

Sibmah means why hoary?: spice: fragrance: place of many vines.  I regret being unable to see the significance of the first meaning, but the others, like Kirjathaim, may be also pointing to what will be in the Millennium.  Spice and fragrance are associated with what is pleasant, and the vine is the source of wine which is Biblically associated with joy.  They combine to present a typological picture of the character of the millennial age, but the practical lesson is that our lives should be marked by the fragrance and joy of heaven even as we pass through this world on our way home to heaven.

Zareth-shahar splendor of the dawn, seems also to point to the splendor of the millennial age, for the dawn is associated with the introduction of the Millennium, the expectation of the Church being the coming of Christ as the bright and morning star, and the expectation of Israel being His coming as the Sun of righteousness, both comings being the prelude to the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.

13:20.  “And Bethpeor, and Ashdoth-pisgah, and Bethjeshimoth,”

Bethpeor means house of the opening; Ashdoth-pisgah, spoilers of the survey: ravines of Pisgah; and Bethjeshimoth, house of the wastes: house of the deserts.  The spiritual message of these three places appears to be evil rather than good, for while the meaning of Bethpeor is ambiguous, the meanings of Ashdoth-pisgah and Bethjeshimoth are bad.  Pisgah was the mountain from which Moses was told to survey the land of Canaan, but here the thought is of that survey spoiled (little can be seen from the bottom of a ravine); and Bethjeshimoth, associated as it is with that which is waste or desert, has also an evil connotation.  It may be therefore that we are being directed to consider the evil that will attend the inauguration of the millennial kingdom.  For the unbelievers the house of the opening will be hell into which they will be banished to await the resurrection of death, following which they will be consigned to the eternal torment of the lake of fire.  For them survey of the millennial earth will be prevented by the impenetrable darkness into which they will descend following Christ’s judgment of the nations prior to the beginning of the Millennium.  The “house” into which they will descend will be that which is symbolically portrayed by Bethjeshimoth: it will be the prison house in the “desert” - a place without water to relieve the torment of the unquenchable fire, the same place from which the rich man begged that Lazarus might be sent with a drop of water to “cool my tongue, for I am tormented in this flame” Lk 16:24. 

13:21.  “And all the cities of the plain, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses smote with the princes of Midian, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, which were dukes of Sihon, dwelling in the country.”

For the significance of Sihon see notes on 2:10; 9:10; 12:2,5; 13:10; and for the Amorites see 2:10; 3:10; 5:1; 7:7; 9:10; 10:5,6,12; 12:2,8; 13:4,10; and for Heshbon see 9:10; 12:2,5; 13:10,17.

Midian means contention: strife, and as an enemy of Israel he is the symbolic warning that contention and strife permitted amongst God’s people will result in their ruin.

Evi means my desire: habitation, and as a prince of the Midianites he represents some powerful force associated with contention and strife related to desire and a house.  The reference may be to the great “house” of apostate Christendom, the false church whose consuming desire is the destruction of those who constitute the true Church.  History bears eloquent testimony to the malignant hatred with which that great “house” has gratified its desire.

Rekem, meaning embroidery: variegation, appears to speak of that evil work of the harlot church which has “embroidered” the Scriptures with her own deadly doctrine, so distorting them that they lead men down to hell instead of to the Savior.  For example, she teaches men to think positively, to think well of themselves, to have a good self-image, and to reject the indictment of God that they are ruined, sinful, spiritually dead, and in desperate need of being saved from hell and fitted for heaven through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.  What Rekem portrays is manifest throughout apostate Christendom today.  Such things as hell, sin, atonement, cleansing by the blood of Christ, eternal torment, etc., have all but disappeared from the vocabulary of today’s preachers, but such preaching makes God a liar, and the death of Christ unnecessary.  As Rekem was to be expelled from Canaan so is the evil which he represents to be banished from the Church.  The doctrine he represents is not to be found in Scripture, and should not therefore be found in the assemblies of God’s people.

Zur means a rock: to besiege.  Since Christ is the Rock upon which the believer’s every hope rests, this enemy represents a false Christ - not necessarily one claiming to be Christ, but rather the misrepresentation of Christ through alteration of Scripture, e.g., the presentation of Christ as being too loving to send anyone to hell.

The second meaning of Zur to besiege is in perfect keeping with this.  To misrepresent Christ is to “besiege” the whole edifice of Scriptural truth, for it is He the Living Word Who is presented on every page of the written Word.

Hur means a hole: white.  Relative to the first meaning, the thought is of the den of a serpent; the cell of a prison; a den; a cave, all of which have a bad connotation scripturally.  Relative to the second meaning white, one reference is to white linen, which is scripturally good, speaking as it does of righteousness; but the other meaning has an evil connotation, for it means to blanche as with shame; to wax pale.  In the context of this section it is evident that the latter meaning applies.

In the present context Hur points symbolically to Satan, the old serpent, the ultimate enemy; the one whose “house” is a prison cell for all who serve him.  It is a cave, the biblical symbol of the place of death.

The evil activity portrayed here by Hur is to be kept out of the assemblies of believers.

Reba means a fourth part, but since four is the number of testing, this name is meant to remind us that in the final analysis every activity of the enemy is simply a test of our obedience.  Our prayer should be for the grace to emerge successfully from every test presented by Satan.

13:22.  “Balaam also the son of Beor, the soothsayer, did the children of Israel slay with the sword among them that were slain by them.”   

Balaam means not of the people: a foreigner.  He was the false prophet hired by Balak the Moabite king, to curse Israel, but whom God compelled to pronounce blessing instead, see Nu 22-24.  It is interesting to note that part of the blessing he was forced to utter included also the prayer, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his” NU 23:10.  That prayer was never answered for he never exercised the faith that would have allied him with God and His people.  To the end he remained the enemy of God and of Israel so that we read, “And they (Israel) slew the kings of Midian ... Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba ... Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword” Nu 31:8.  Balaam was one with whom the Spirit of God had striven, but to no avail.  He appears on the page of Scripture as a warning to all who follow in his footsteps, as it is written, “My spirit shall not always strive with man” Ge 6:3, and, “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy” Pr 29:1.  In addition to being a figure of all who reject salvation, there can be little question that he is also a type of the final false prophet who will emerge in the Tribulation, and who, with the beast, will be cast alive into the lake of fire, see Re 19:20.

13:23.  “And the border of the children of Reuben was Jordan, and the border thereof.  This was the inheritance of the children of Reuben after their families, the cities and the villages thereof.”

This concludes the designation of the borders of the portion given to the Reubenites, and we must remember that each of the tribes of Israel is the symbolic representation of a characteristic of us as the spiritual Israel of God.  Reuben therefore, meaning see ye, a son declares that this is God’s designation of us. We are His sons.  It behooves us therefore to conduct ourselves in a manner becoming our high and privileged position.

Since, as already noted, the people and places mentioned in connection with Reuben’s inheritance represent truths relative to our spiritual inheritance, it behooves us to heed the instruction thus given us symbolically.  There is special significance connected with its being emphasized that Jordan was Reuben’s border, for the Jordan is one of the biblical symbols of death.  God would remind us that the river of death separates believer from unbeliever.  We stand on the life side of that river, eternally alive in association with a resurrected Savior: unbelievers lie on the death side of that river, as it is written, “And you hath he quickened (made alive), who were “dead in trespasses and sins” Eph 2:1.  We are not to cross over that boundary to live again as we did when unconverted, to God’s dishonor and our own eternal loss relative to the reward that will be given at the judgment seat of Christ.

13:24.  “And Moses gave inheritance unto the tribe of Gad, even unto the children of Gad according to their families.”

Gad means fortune: troop, and in connection with the latter meaning, is related to the idea of attacking or invading.  The meaning  fortune is associated with the planet Jupiter who was considered to be the giver of good fortune, but Ge 30:11 makes it very clear that the scriptural meaning - and therefore the one that concerns us - is troop   Like all the  tribes of Israel he represents a characteristic of those who comprise the Church.  In obedience to the Lord’s command to go into all the world with the Gospel, we are to be as a troop empowered by God, invading Satan’s kingdom with the good news, which believed, liberates men from his bondage, and brings them into the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, Col 1:13.

Its being said that the inheritance was given “unto the tribe of Gad, even unto the children of Gad” reminds us of Paul’s warning, “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.  Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham,are they all children: but, in Isaac shall they seed be called.  That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed” Ro 9:6-8.  There were always two Israels: the professing, but apostate mass of the nation; and the small believing remnant; and there are two churches: the professing, but apostate mass calling itself the church; and the small believing remnant which is the true Church.

13:25.  “And their coast was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the children of Ammon, unto Aroer that is before Rabbah;”

As already noted, the counterpart of the literal boundaries appointed for Israel are the spiritua1 bounds within which we are to live our lives during this present age of grace.  Jazer, therefore, meaning let him help: protecting is the symbolic announcement of the fact that we are to be helpful to saint and sinner alike; and while protecting may certainly be taken in the same context, it is more likely that it relates to the need to guard sound doctrine from the activity of those who would seek to destroy it by subverting Scripture.

Gilead, meaning heap of witness: rolling for ever, represents testimony; and as the name of the whole territory given to Gad the reference to “all the cities of Gilead” reminds us that transcending everything else in our lives is the need to be the Lord’s witnesses in the Gospel.

Ammon, the son incestuously begotten by Lot, means tribal (peoplish, inbred), and as noted in our study of 12:2, which see, he represents the flesh in the believer, working through the intellect.  There is no more deadly foe of faith than that which would interpret Scripture by mere human intelligence apart from the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit.  It is by just such a means that the great apostate church has been established, and it is by the same means that the true Church lies in ruins, ignorant of the spiritual significance of the literal language of Scripture.  So successful has the enemy been in the use of this strategy that the typological method of Bible study is rejected by the vast majority of even true believers today.

“... and half the land of the children of Ammon....”  It may seem at first glance that this is a contradiction of Dt 2:19 which records God’s decree “... I will not give thee of the land of the children of Ammon.”  It is to be remembered, however, that according to Judges 13 the Amorites, three hundred years earlier, had conquered this section of Ammon’s territory, and it came into the possession of Israel when they defeated Sihon while on their way to take possession of Canaan at the end of their forty years in the wilderness.

For the significance of Aroer see 12:2.

Rabbah means populous, and its being one of Gad’s border towns may be meant to teach the lesson that there is a “Rabbah” at the border of every believer’s life, and at the border of every local church: a vast multitude of men and women who need to hear the Gospel.  These lost souls may be members of our own families, our neighbors, people we work with, those we encounter every day.  If we don’t bring them the Gospel, who will?  Remember the Lord’s command, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” Mk 16:15.

13:26.  “And from Heshbon unto Ramath-mizpeh, and Betonim; and from Mahanaim unto the border of Debir.”

For the significance of Heshbon see 9:10.

Ramath-mizpeh, meaning the watch-tower height, conveys a message easily read.  We can never afford to relax our vigilance in the conflict with an enemy who never sleeps, and who is tireless in his efforts to destroy us.  But if there is the need to “watch and pray” because of a vigilant foe, there is another and very different reason: the Lord is coming “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye” 1 Co 15:52.  That promise is for our encouragement.  A moment from now could bring our removal to heaven where no foe can follow.

Gad’s next border point was Betonim, meaning cavities (as the womb).  It also means pistachio nuts (because of their shape), but it is the first meaning that conveys spiritual instruction relative to the Gospel which, of course, is designed to result in the new birth.  As spiritual Gadites we are being reminded here in symbol that our primary business is to be fruitful in begetting many spiritual sons and daughters.

Mahanaim, meaning double camp, was the next place on Gad’s border, and is surely meant to remind us that though the enemy may encamp against us with all his legions, we are protected, as was Jacob (see Ge 32:1-2), by a far more powerful army.  God stands between us and our enemies.  Satan can do nothing without God’s permission.

The next border point was Debir meaning oracle and speaking of the Word of God.  Under Canaanite control it was called Kirjath-sepher, meaning city of the book, and the lesson God would teach in the change of name is that to the unconverted the Bible is simply another book, but to the believer it is “Debir” the living Word of the living God, presenting Christ to the eye of faith on every page.  It is to govern every aspect of our lives.

13:27.  “And in the valley, Betharam, and Bethnimrah, and Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdoms of Sihon King of Heshbon, Jordan and his border, even unto the edge of the sea of Chinnereth on the other side Jordan eastward.”

The valley speaks of cultivation and fruitfulness, and reminds us of the need to produce not only the fruits of the Spirit, but also spiritual children, men and women led to the Savior through the Gospel.

Betharam means the house of the exalted: the house of their hill.  As a place given to Gad to mark the border of his inheritance, this place assures us that those who are faithful in proclaiming the Gospel, and in producing fruit for God’s glory, are they who occupy an exalted position in God’s sight, even though men may ccount them of little worth.  God’s appraisal of them will be revealed at the judgment seat of Christ.

Bethnimrah, meaning house of the leopardess, is also related to the thought of clear water.  The leopard (masculine) is the Biblical symbol of Greece and of the Tribulation age beast emperor, but it is also used to portray God ready to execute judgment against rebellious Israel. 

Clear water is one of the symbols of the written Word, and it is to be remembered that it is by that same Word that all things will finally be judged, as declared by the Lord Himself, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” Jn 13:48.  Symbolically therefore the leopard and the Word are very closely linked together, for they speak of the judgment of God by means of the written Word.

But in the portion we are now considering the meaning of Bethnimrah is house of the leopardess, (femine), and speaking therefore as always, in a good context, of obedient submission, and reminding us that those who have willingly accepted Christ’s rule here on earth, will one day reign with Him.

Succoth, meaning booths is the next border point, and is clearly meant to remind us of our pilgrim character here on earth, for during the feast of Tabernacles Israel was to dwell in booths for seven days as a reminder of their wilderness journeyings following their redemption from Egyptian bondage, Le 23:39-43.  That deliverance, and those journeyings are symbolic of our own experience.  We have enjoyed a greater redemption, and are travelling as pilgrims and strangers towards a better place than Canaan.  It behooves us therefore to manifest that we are pilgrims and strangers passing through this evil world on our way home to heaven.

The next border point is Zaphon, which has as its primary meaning the north (from to hide), but it is also associated with the idea of darkness, and of lurking.  The context seems to be evil, for the north is the direction which speaks of the intellect, and almost invariably of the intellect in rebellion against God.  It may be therefore that it is meant to warn us against the danger of allowing human reasoning to take the place of faith.  Satan, lurking in the darkness, is ever ready to use human reasoning to make faith appear foolish, but we are never to forget that the just live by faith, and are also to walk by it.  It is worldly wisdom that is folly in God’s sight.

Having already discussed Sihon, Heshbon, and Jordan, we will look now at the spiritual significance of Chinnereth (the Sea of Galilee) meaning a harp (because of its shape).  Throughout Scripture Galilee a circuit (as enclosed or rolled around) is frequently associated with the believing remnant, e.g., Mt 26:32; 28:7,10,16; Ac 1:11.  In making Chinnereth a part of Gad’s boundary God would encourage His own by reminding them that they are the privileged members of that despised minority destined to reign with Christ in a soon coming day.

“...on the other side Jordan eastward.”  As already noted, the two and a half tribes on the eastern side of Jordan represent, not carnal, world-bordering believers, but rather, saints living in the midst of earthly circumstances in a world spiritually “east” of God, i.e., far away from Him.  In that world and in those circumstances, His own are here encouraged to live in separation from that evil world until the day when their earthly sojourn ends and they are home in heaven with Christ.

13:28.  “This is the inheritance of the children of Gad after their families, the cities, and their villages.”

The families appear to represent the individual assemblies of this present Church age, and as there is within the family a mutual concern for its wellbeing, so is there to be within each local church the same mutual loving care.

Cities seem to speak of government, and as the elders of each city were responsible for its government so are the elders of each local church responsible to govern as God’s representatives.  The mention of cities (plural) is the symbolic reminder that each one was governed by its own elders, the spiritual lesson being that the authority of elders does not extend beyond their own local assembly. 

Villages appear to represent the day-to-day activities of each local church, which is of course ultimately the activities of each member.  The lesson God would teach in this verse is that every detail of our lives is to be under His direction.

13:29.  “And Moses gave inheritance unto the half tribe of Manasseh: and this was the possession of the half tribe of the children of Manasseh by their families.”

For the spiritual significance of Manasseh please see comments on 13:7.

13:30.  “And their coast was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, threescore cities:”

See notes on verse 26 for the significance of Mahanaim; and for Bashan and Og see comments on 12:4,5.

The general meaning of Jair is he will enlighten, but in 1 Ch 20:5 it means he will stir up.  Jair was the name of several Israelites, one being the man mentioned here; another was the judge of Israel mentioned in Jg 10:3,5; another was the father of one of David’s valiant men; and another was the father of Mordecai, see Est 2:5.  All of these are found in a good connection, and the lesson connected with the name is that every believer is responsible to enlighten others: believers, with a deeper knowledge of God; and unbelievers, with their need of a Savior.

“...threescore cities.”  Since six - the number of man, weakness, failure, and sin - is an obvious factor of sixty, the lesson of the sixty conquered cities seems to be that everything pertaining to this world is stamped with the evil associated with six.  In spite of a good beginning, Israel failed to fulfill those early expectations; nor has the Church been any different.  She too has failed, so that Israel’s history has proved to be but the symbolic duplicate of that of the Church.  The melancholy histories of both, however, are relieved by the recorded exploits of individuals who stood fearlessly for God in the midst of general weakness and apostasy.  The lesson God would teach in the towns of Jair is that however great the general failure in the Church, individuals may still acquit themselves like Jair.  There has probably never been a time when saints and sinners alike were in greater need of being enlightened and stirred up relative to the the knowledge of God, and in this mention of Jair, God would encourage His own to fulfill the type.

13:31.  “And half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were pertaining unto the children of Machir the son of Manasseh, even to the one half of the children of Machir by their families.”

For the significance of Gilead please see notes on 12:2; and for Ashtaroth, Edrei, Og, and Bashan, 12:4.

Machir means a salesman.  He was Manasseh’s firstborn, see 17:1, and is not to be confused with the Machir of 2 Sa 9:4,5, who befriended Mephibosheth, and ministered to David, see 2 Sa 17:27-29.  Several things indicate that the spiritual message here is to be understood in a bad context.  First, salesman itself doesn’t seem to be good; and second, the firstborn always speaks of that which pertains to the flesh.  The lesson therefore may be that while we are here on earth the flesh is still with us, and unless kept under strict control, will produce the same evil in our lives as it did when we were unconverted.  The repeated mention of “the one half” continues also to emphasize the inferiority of the believer’s earthly state as compared with the eternal.

13:32.  “These are the countries which Moses did distribute for inheritance in the plains of Moab on the other side Jordan, by Jericho, eastward.”

The context continues the lesson of the previous verse.  As discussed already Moses represents Christ leading us out of spiritual death into eternal life, while Joshua represents Him as the Captain of our salvation leading us into the enjoyment of our spiritual inheritance.  Here on earth our attention tends to be focused on what we have been delivered from, rather than on the eternal riches that are ours in Christ, simply because we can comprehend only faintly what awaits us in heaven, as it is written, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” 1 Co 2:9.

“... in the plains of Moab” continues the symbolic description of our earthly state as compared with the heavenly, for Moab, as noted already, speaks of the flesh, particularly in connection with the gratification of lust.  We are to keep the flesh in the place of death, and to afford it no opportunity to indulge lustful desires.

“... on the other side Jordan” continues to emphasize the contrast between the earthly and the spiritual, the spiritual being represented by the Canaan side of Jordan.

“... by Jericho let him smell it: place of fragrance: his fragrance,” which as discussed already in 12:9, portrays the world as man sees it, but what is fragrant to the natural man is a stench to God.  We are to view the world from God’s perspective.

“... eastward.”  Since the east is always associated with sin and departure from God, the emphasis upon the portion assigned by Moses, as being on the eastern side of Jordan, continues to press home the lesson that our earthly state can’t begin to compare with what awaits us in heaven.

13:33.  “But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as he said unto them.”

For the spiritual significance of Levi please see notes on verse 14 which declares that “the sacrifices of the Lord God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance,” but here it is stated that “the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance.”

In verse 14 they are assured of His provision for their needs, but here it He, not the sacrifices brought by Israel, Who is their inheritance.  Abraham was given the same assurance in Ge 15:1, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.”  As those who are also still on the “eastern” side of Jordan, i.e., here on earth, we tend to be more concerned about temporal things than spiritual, but in both these verses God would direct our attention to Him.  Since He is our God, and He the One Who gave His Son to redeem our souls, we can confidently echo the words of Paul, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” Ro 8:32.  Relative to our needs, temporal and spiritual, the Apostle also exhorts us, “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.  And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” Php 6-7.  Sadly, we impoverish ourselves because deep down in most of our hearts lurks the truth that we’d rather have the dollars than this transcendent peace, in spite of the incontrovertible evidence that money doesn’t bring peace.

[Joshua 14]



     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough