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

Two and a half tribes, Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh, had received their inheritance east of Jordan; and two and a half tribes, Judah, Ephraim, and  the other half tribe of Manasseh, had inherited west of Jordan, in Canaan.  It has been noted already that the inheritance east of Jordan represents our blessings in the midst of earthly circumstances, e.g., the comfort of knowing that even in the midst of literal poverty we are rich; in the midst of sickness, we have been made spiritually whole; in bereavement, we sorrow not as others who have no hope; in uncertainty we have the assurance of God’s provision and presence.

The portion west of Jordan, on the other hand, represents our eternal spiritual blessings, unrelated to earthly circumstances, to be enjoyed fully in heaven, but which may be enjoyed in spirit here and now on earth. 

In regard to the two and a half tribes who inherited eastward, we have noted that their fighting men crossed Jordan to assist the other tribes in the conquest of Canaan, and then recrossed Jordan to enjoy their own inheritance.  This is the symbolic revelation of the truth that to enjoy our inheritance here in the midst of earthly circumstances, we must live as those who have “crossed Jordan,” i.e., died with Christ, but who have also “recrossed Jordan” i.e., have been raised up with Him to walk in newness of life here on earth, Ro 6:4.

The other two and a half tribes had also crossed Jordan, but for them there was no recrossing.  They teach the truth that believers who would enjoy spiritual blessings, even while here on earth, must live as those who are dead to the world, “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God,” Col 3:3.

Judah, representing praise; Ephraim, fruitfulness; and Manasseh, forgetfulness, combine to teach us that these things will characterize the spiritual believer, i.e., the man who, even as he walks in newness of life, walks also as one who is dead to the world.  Praise and worship will be foremost in his life.  The paucity of true worship at the Lord’s table advertises the widespread failure to walk as those who are dead to the world.  It is not what a man says, but how he worships, that declares his spiritual state. 

Fruitfulness will also mark the spiritual believer.  His life will demonstrate the abundance of the fruits of the Spirit.  And forgetfulness will be also characteristic of his life: a forgetting of the things that are behind, the lure of the world’s wealth, fame, pleasure etc., and a forgetting also of past failure, but rather a willingness to seize each new day as opportunity for a fresh start.  That the poet had grasped the necessity of this forgetfulness is beautifully expressed in what he wrote:

They on the heights are not the souls,

Who never erred, nor went astray

Who trod unswerving toward their goals,

Along a smooth rose-bordered way.

Nay, those who stand where first comes dawn,

Are they who stumbled - but went on.

Since five is the Scriptural number of responsibility, these five tribes, inheriting before the other seven, teach the truth that every believer is responsible to walk obediently if he would enjoy all that is his in Christ.

But seven tribes had yet to inherit.  This division of their number into five and seven teachs that believers are not only responsible, but that whatever their faults as men, they are seen by God in all the perfection of which the number seven is the biblical symbol, for He sees us as we are in Christ.  The total number, twelve (the number of Divine government on display, reminds us that both individually and corporately we are to demonstrate that God is the One Who governs our lives.

With this brief review, we will now examine the spiritual lessons taught in the assignment of the lots for the remaining seven tribes.

18:1.  “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.”

Shiloh, meaning peace bringer: bringer of prosperity, is not only the name of a place, but also of the Lord Jesus Christ, see Ge 49:10 “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”  In that gathering of Israel at Shiloh we have a foreshadowing of the Church gathered, not to a place on earth, but around the Lord Jesus Christ, His promise being that, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” Mt 18:20.  Nor should we miss the significance of the meanings of Shiloh: those who gather around Him enjoy peace which passeth understanding, and spiritual prosperity.

“And the land was subdued before them.”  At that time the conquest of the land was potential, not becoming a reality until the days of David; and again we see forshadowed truth relative to the Church: today her dominion of the earth is potential: it won’t be realized until the Lord Himself returns to inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

18:2.  “And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.”

Again we have the experience of the Church foreshadowed, for since seven is the number of perfection or completeness, and five, the number of responsibility, this division of the tribes points to the fact that spiritually the Church is in a comparable position.  Some members are here on earth, responsible to walk in obedience before God, while others have completed their course and as to their souls are home in heaven, but the Church will not enter into the enjoyment of her inheritance until all are in heaven.

18:3.  “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?”

It isn’t difficult to see in this a hint of the declension that quickly set in after the initial conquest of Canaan under Joshua, that declension being itself a foreshadowing of that which set in in connection with the Church even before the Apostles had gone home to heaven.  The early days of the Apostolic age were pregnant with  possibility that was never realized, and experience teaches the sad truth that it is also the pattern of what is so frequently the personal experience of many believers: the euphoria that follows conversion is all too often followed by declining love for Christ, and apathy relative to the things that belong to His kingdom.

18:4.  “Give out from among you three men of each tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me.”         

The selection of three men from each tribe to go throughout the land to describe it, i.e., write down its features, has spiritual significance relative to the Church.  In Eph 4:11 we read of five classes of men given to the Church for her upbuilding, “apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors (elders, and teachers.”  While the first two were for the Apostolic age only, the other three are permanent gifts, raised up by the Holy Spirit generation after generation, to do spiritually what the three men from each tribe were to do literally: “describe” the inheritance that is made available to men through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  How do they do it?  By setting before others the magnificence of that inheritance: the evangelist showing it to sinners; the elder, by his example, and the teacher, by his teaching and example, showing it to saints - the glory of that inheritance being itself the inducement to men to possess it.

Since three is the biblical number of resurrection, there being three men from each tribe chosen to do this work, is the symbolic reminder that their present day counterparts must be men who stand on resurrection ground, i.e., they must be believers, for in spite of the common practice in Christendom which seems to declare the contrary, the unconverted can render God no service.

“... and they shall come again to me.”  As they were to return to Joshua to render a full report, so must every believer stand one day before the Lord at His judgment seat, as it is written, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” 2 Co 5:10.

18:5. “And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast in the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north.”

The division into seven parts, of the land described in their report, is the symbolic announcement of the need of dividing the Word (which is the “description” of our inheritance into parts appropriate to the need of each individual, or of each local church.  Each man has his own special needs, as does also each local church.  The Lord’s evangelists need to be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit as they seek to lead men to the Savior, for the Gospel message that will convict one sinner is not necessarily the same one that will convict another.  Likewise elders and teachers will minister effectively to God’s people only as they themselves are governed by the Word, and are yielded to the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

The fact that Judah and the Josephite tribes, Ephraim and Manasseh, were to remain in the territories already given them, emphasizes the fact that the allotments for the remaining tribes were not to change those already assigned to these other three, and for a good reason.  They, as already noted, represent praise, fruitfulness, and forgetfulness of what is past, and the lesson God would teach us here is that nothing is to be allowed to distract us from worship, for worship is far more important than any service we might render.  It is for this very reason that we come in on the first day of the week to present our worship, and only then do we go out to serve.

Likewise, Ephraim’s lot was not to be disturbed for he represents fruitfulness, and no service however important it may seem, is to be permitted to interfer with the production of fruit in our lives.  John chapter 15 should be studied carefully here.

Nor was Manasseh’s lot to be altered, for he represents the principle of forgetfulness.  Remembering past failures will only cause sorrow and discourgement; and dwelling on past victories, real or imagined, will beget pride.

Its being repeated that Judah’s lot was in the south (the biblical direction of faith, is to teach us that true worship is impossible apart from a walk of faith.  And its being repeated that the lot of the house of Joseph was in the north (the biblical direction of human intelligence, often opposed to God, but in the present context Spirit directed, is to remind us of the need of spiritual intelligence in the things of God, that intelligence, incidentally, being as different from worldly intelligence as day is from night.

What these three tribes represent is fundamental to successful Christian living.

18:6.  “Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the Lord our God.”

By means of the lot, God assigned each his portion in the land, the figurative reminder that it is He Who assigns each believer his portion in life.  Faith to believe that perfect knowledge combines with perfect love to make that assignment, will silence all complaint, and produce perfect contentment with what our heavenly Father has seen fit to give us. 

The lots varied: some were desert, some well watered, some were mountainous, some meadow, some were wooded, others treeless.  But whatever the character of the lot, it was assigned by the God Who knew exactly what was best for the one to whom it was given.  So is it with us.  Does another have better health than I, more money, a keener intelligence, a spiritual gift that sets him in the public eye, while mine confines me to relative obscurity?  All complaint will be silenced by realizing that it is a loving heavenly Father who has assigned me my lot in life, the revelation of the wisdom of His choice being reserved for that day when we meet Him face to face in heaven.

No details are given as to how Joshua cast lots, but since the word lots is associated with the use of smooth stones, it may be that it was by use of Urim and Thummim, the two stones kept in the high priest’s breastplate, and used in ascertaining God’s will, the one stone possibly representing No, and the other, Yes.  Since, however, no details are given, the method is unimportant; but what is important is to realize that the “drawing of lots,” or any other devices involving chance, are not to be used today to ascertain God’s will.  With the canon of Scripture now complete, His will is revealed in the written Word, either in direct statement or in principle; and in cases not covered by these we should simply wait for His guidance to be made clear through circumstances as He opens and closes doors.

18:7.  “But the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the Lord is their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them.”

Levi, meaning joined, sets before us typologically another characteristic of believers.  We are joined to Christ, and therefore to God, eternally.  And the priesthood of the Levites is a picture of our own, for in 1 Pe 2:9 we have the assurance, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood....”  As they were given no possession in Canaan, neither have we been given any inheritance here on earth, our blessings being heavenly, not earthly, as it is written, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (things in Christ” Eph 1:3.

For additional comments on Levi please see the notes on 3:3; 8:33; 13:14,33 and 14:3,4.

Relative to the fact that “Gad and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them,” as has been noted already, these two and a half tribes represent believers as those, who having been crucified with Christ, have been raised up with Him to walk in newness of life, Ro 6:4, here amid all the circumstances that attend our way on earth.

For additional comments on Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh, please see notes on 4:12; 13:7, 15, 23, 24, 28; 14:4.

18:8.  “And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the Lord in Shiloh.”

The command is almost identical to that given Abraham in Ge 13:17, “Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it....”  God would have His people enjoy to the full all He has given them.  That inheritance is spread before us in the written Word, so that the spiritual equivalent of their walking through the length and breadth of Canaan, is for us to explore the Book, claiming by faith all that God there spreads before us, enjoying now by faith what we will enjoy in all reality for ever in heaven.

And it is repeated, “...that I may here cast lots for you before the Lord in Shiloh.”  God would emphasize that our portion is assigned by One Who knows us and our needs better than we know ourselves.  “... in Shiloh peace bringer: bringer of prosperity emphasizes that as we are content with His appointment of our lot in life, there will be peace and spiritual prosperity.

18:9.  “And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book, and came again to Joshua to the host at Shiloh.”

The perfection of the inheritance is indicated again in that it was divided into seven (number of perfection parts.  Since the cities of Israel represent the local churches of this present age, and since genuine believers constitute those churches, the words “by cities” assure us that every believer is heir of an eternal inheritance.  Its being described “in a book” reminds us that our inheritance is also described in a Book, and we will enjoy what God has given us only as we acquaint ourselves with that Book.

18:10.  “And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.”

Since Joshua is a type of Christ as Captain of our salvation; and Shiloh, a type of Him in the midst of His people bringing them peace and prosperity, the mention of them here again confirms what we have already considered: it is Christ Who assigns the portion of each believer, and that portion is for his blessing when accepted as God’s “good, and acceptable, and perfect will” Ro 12:2.

“Divisions” means sections or courses, and is related to the idea of smooth stones, so that here it appears to mean the divisions of the land as determined by Joshua’s use of the lot.

18:11.  “And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families: and the coast of their lot came forth between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph."

This was the first lot assigned after the survey of the land, and it is appropriate that since one is the number of God Himself, the first lot should be assigned to the one who speaks so clearly of Christ, for Benjamin means son of the right hand.

As has been noted already, each one of the tribal names represents a characteristic belonging to us as God’s redeemed people: Judah praise declaring that we are to be a praising people; Ephraim fruitful reminding us that we are to be fruitful for God, both in begetting spiritual children (winning converts, and in producing in our lives the fruits of the Spirit, Ga 5:22-23; Manasseh forgetting reminding us that, like Paul, we are to forget “those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before (are to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” Php 3:13-14.

Benjamin, whose lot we are now to consider, means son of the right hand, and in him is declared the truth that we too are sons of God’s right hand, the hand of power; and as the Lord Jesus Christ, the true Son of His right hand, has been endowed with all power, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth,” Mt 28:18, so have we also been endowed with power, for the Holy Spirit who indwells every believer, is God, so that we can say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthenth me,” Php 4:13.

Unlike his brother Joseph who portrays Christ ascending the throne by way of humiliation and anguish, there is no suffering recorded of Benjamin.  He represents the Lord as He will be when He returns to reign as King of kings, and Lord of lords.  Benjamin reminds us that, “If we suffer (endure, we shall also reign with Him,” 2 Tim 2:12.

It follows therefore that the geographical details of Benjamin’s lot should point symbolically to what relates to us as spiritual Benjamites here on earth; and while limited knowledge may hinder our understanding the spiritual significance of every detail, enough can be understood to confirm that this is so.

A map of the tribal territories reveals that Benjamin’s lot was bounded on the east by the Jordan; on the north, by the lot of Ephraim and Manasseh, referred to here as Joseph; on the west, by Dan, though Dan isn’t mentioned here; and on the south, by Judah. Its being said that the lot lay between Judah and Joseph, the truth being declared symbolically is that as spiritual Benjamites we are to be characterized by the praise which Judah represents; and the fruitfulness and wise forgetfulness of which Ephraim and Manasseh speak.

18:12.  “And their border on the north side was from Jordan; and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains westward; and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.”

Since the Jordan was also the east border of Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh, and since its spiritual significance is the same as there, the notes on those three tribes should be reviewed here.  Jericho likewise teaches the same lesson here as where previously discussed, so that the reader should review the notes on 2:1; all of chapter 6; 12:9 and 16:1.  

Inasmuch as the lot began at Jordan, the truth being taught is that for us too our spiritual inheritance began at “Jordan,” for we had no inheritance until we saw ourselves first as having died in Christ, and then as living eternally in that same Christ raised again for our justification.

Since the north is the Biblical direction that speaks of intelligence, as the south does of faith, Ephraim’s being Benjamin’s northern border, reminds us that the fruitfulness which Ephraim represents, goes hand in hand with Spirit-directed intelligence.  But since the Spirit’s direction is not apart from obedience, the necessity of obedience is self-evident.

The border is traced running westward, and for good reason.  As the east represents departure from God, the west speaks of approach to Him.  Every believer is spiritually travelling westward, and the end of the journey will find us standing in the very presence of God.

Judah (praise, in the south (direction of faith, was the southern border, a fact which declares typologically that the power which Benjamin represents is as close a companion of praise and worship as it is also of spiritual intelligence. 

The western border was Dan meaning judging: a judge, reminding us that power and judgment, particulalrly self judgment, go together.  Only as we judge the things of the world by the standards of heaven; and live our lives in view of the judgment seat of Christ, will there be power to live our lives for God’s glory, and our own eternal profit.

As the territories of these four tribes were contiguous, so are the spiritual things they represent.  Power, praise, spiritual intelligence, and wise judgment constitute a cluster of inseparable spiritual attributes.

Bethaven, meaning house of vanity, is believed to have been the original name of Ai which means the heap of ruins, and its being named here as one of Benjamin’s boundary points sounds the warning that pursuit of the things of this world will bring ruin, for they are all vanity (emptiness, worthlessness.    

18:13.  “And the border went over from thence towards Luz, to the side of Luz, which is Bethel, southward; and the border descended to Ataroth-adar, near the hill that lieth on the south side of the nether Beth-horon.”

Luz, meaning perverse, was the Canaanite name of the city of Bethel, and it is meant to remind us that those who aren’t of God’s house, i.e., unbelievers, are perverse in His sight, being characterized by stubborn rebellion against Him.

For the spiritual significance of Ataroth-adar, please see comments on 16:5; and for Beth-horon, 16:3.

18:14.  “And the border was drawn thence, and compassed the corner of the sea southward, from the hill that lieth before Beth-horon southward; and the goings out thereof were at Kirjath-baal, which is Kirjath-jearim, a city of the children of Judah: this was the west quarter.”  

Please review the notes on 15:9 for the spiritual significance of Kirjath-jearim.

It is instructive to note also that “this was the west quarter,” the direction that speaks of approach to God.  He who dwells spiritually in the west, i.e., near to God, is he who has most to offer in praise and worship, and who has also the greatest concern for the souls of men.

18:15.  “And the south quarter was from the end of Kirjath-jearim, and the border went out on the west, and went out to the well of waters of Nephtoah:”

Everything in this verse has a good connotation, for the south quarter speaks of faith; and the west, of approach to God.  A vibrant faith cannot survive apart from “the well of waters of Nephtoah,” the living water of the written Word which is the presentation of Him Who is the living Word.  See also comments on 15:9.

18:16.  “And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of the son of Hinnom, and which is in the valley of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom, to the side of Jebusi (Jerusalem on the south, and descended to Enrogel.”    

All the places mentioned in this verse have been discussed in our study of 15:7-8, and it is suggested that the reader review those notes, since the spiritual significance is the same here as there.

18:17.  “And was drawn from the north, and went forth to Enshemish, and went forth toward Geliloth, which is over against the going up of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben.”

Since Enshemish, Adummim, Bohan have already been discussed in our study of 15:6-7; Reuben, in 4:12; 13:23, it leaves only Geliloth to be examined here.

It means circles: borders, and is to remind us, that as believers, we dwell within a sphere whose borders have been appointed by God; and inasmuch as a circle is the biblical symbol of what is eternal, there is the further assurance that we dwell within the circle of His love which is eternal, as it is written concerning Israel, and therefore of every believer, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love” Jer 31:3.

18:18.  “And passed along toward the side over against Arabah northward, and went down unto Arabah:”

Arabah, meaning desert plain, reminds us that this world through which we pass on our way to heaven is a spiritual desert, and the reference to the north, which speaks of human intelligence, sounds the warning that that intelligence is a dangerous thing when used in independence of God.  See also additional comments on 15:6.

18:19.  “And the border passed along to the side of Beth-hoglah northward: and the outgoings of the border were at the north bay of the salt sea at the south end of Jordan: this was the south coast.”

Beth-hoglah, meaning house of the languished feast, has been discussed in 15:6, so that it is necessary here to note only the repeated mention of the north, and to heed the warning relative to mere human intelligence working in independence of God.

The linking together here of the north bay of the salt or Dead sea (symbol of hell and the lake of fire; and the south end of Jordan (symbol of death, emphasizes the warning relative to human intelligence.  Where there is ignorance concerning the scriptural order governing the observance of the Lord’s Supper, there may be also ignorance relative to what constitutes genuine conversion.  Multitudes, professing to have been born again, can give no convincing testimony as to how, where, and when their conversion occurred.  It is to be feared that many of them have been deluded into thinking that mere belief in the historicity of Christ is saving faith.  It isn’t.  One may believe everything about Christ, but if he doesn’t also believe that it was his sins that required Christ to die, he is not saved.  It is unimaginable tragedy to go through life mistaking an intellectual knowledge of Christ for conversion, only to discover with horror, and too late for remedy, that “Jordan” has ended in the “Dead Sea” instead of heaven.

18:20.  “And Jordan was the border of it on the east side.  This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, by the coasts thereof round about, according to their families.”

Since the east speaks of sin and departure from God; and since the Jordan represents death, the spiritual significance of this eastern border isn’t hard to read.  It is his vicarious death with Christ that has brought the believer from the east, the place of condemnation and separation from God, which he once occupied spiritually, into the place of acceptance, light and life.  It is Jordan, his death with Christ, that is “the border” between every believer and his former state of condemnation and death.  A Benjamite’s going eastward across Jordan therefore is the figure or type of a believer’s returning to his former state, i.e., living in disobedience.  Since it was the obedience of faith that brought us “across Jordan,” from death to life, it follows that disobedience is a re-crossing that returns us to the place of death.  (A believer can never lose his salvation, but disobedience returns him to a state in which he might as well be dead, for disobedience is the fruit of a state of death, not life - it is worthless for eternity.

Disobedience is a denial of our Benjamite character, for as has been noted already, each tribe represents a characteristic of faith, and Benjamin son of the right hand is meant to remind us that as all power has been given unto the One Who is our Head (Mt 28:18, so is that same power ours, making us “more than conquerors through Him that loved us” (Ro 9:37, enabling us to provide practical evidence in our daily lives that “I (we can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (us” Php 4:13.

18:21.  “Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Beth-hoglah, and the valley of Keziz"

Having been given Benjamin’s border points we are now presented with the list of his cities.

Jericho is one whose spiritual significance is easily read.  As noted already, it represents the splendor of the world as perceived by man.  Its passing from Canaanite to Benjamite possession therefore reminds us that since Christ our Head has overcome the world, Jn.16:33, we should not permit the world to overcome us.  See also 2:1; chapter 6; 12:9 and 16:1 for additional comments on Jericho; and for the spiritual significance of Beth-hoglah, see the notes on 15:6.

Keziz means cutting off, and its being listed with Jericho and Beth-hoglah, both of which have a bad connotation, indicates that it too is smybolic of bad rather than good.  Since the valley is symbolic of the sphere of fruitfulness and service, Its being called “the valley” of Keziz points to the fact that the lesson has to do with the cutting off of fruit bearing and service.  There is constant need to guard against anything that would hinder spiritual fruitfulness and Spirit directed service.

18:22.  “And Beth-arabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel,”

Beth-arabah the desert house may be intended to remind us that it is only for a few brief years that we who comprise God’s house, must abide here in the spiritual desert of a rebel world; while Bethel house of God would focus attention on the heavenly character of that house, and remind us that our brief sojourn in the desert will be followed by a glorious eternity in our Father’s house in heaven.

Relative to Beth-arabah, please see also the notes on 15:6; and for Bethel, the notes on 12:16 and 16:1.

Zemaraim means double woolens, and since wool invariably has a good association in Scripture, we are justified in looking for a good significance here.  In Isa 1:18 we read, “... though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” and in Da 7:9 and Re 1:14 Christ’s hair is described as being like wool.  Zemaraim therefore teaches at least one lesson relative to the holiness of those who belong to Christ: we are responsible to display in our lives the holiness which is ours by Divine imputation, as it is written, “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation (living; because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” 1 Pe 1:15-16.  See also Le 11:44-45.

Double woolens reminds us that the holiness is not just to be an outward show as it was with the Pharisees of Christ’s day.  God, Who looks on the heart, must see the same holiness as meets the eye of man.

18:23.  “And Avim, Parah, and Ophrah,”

Avim perverters alerts us to the fact that right in our midst are those of whom Paul warned in Ac 20:30, “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things (distorted things, perversions of truth, wrong teaching, false doctrines, to draw away disciples after them.”  Only the spiritually blind will fail to perceive the activity of the Avites in the midst of God’s people today.  The placing of this city under Benjamite control is the symbolic warning that we are not to permit the activity of the men represented by the inhabitants of Avim.

Parah means he increased: heifer.  Since a heifer is used frequently in Scripture as a type of Christ putting away our sins through His death, see Nu 19:2-17; Dt 21:1-9, the linking together here of the heifer and increase may be to remind us that spiritual increase or blessing comes to each man who is linked by faith to Christ.

Ophrah, meaning dustiness: fawn-like, reminds us that disobedience brings death, as our disobedience brought Christ “into the dust of death” Ps 22:15.  Ophrah represents this world: the place of death (dustiness.  Even in the midst of Israel’s idolatry, for which they should have died, God having Calvary in view, could draw near to give deliverance and blessing, if the people would but repent and return to Him.  Nor has the principle changed.  Those, who because of sin, lie in the dust of death, can be delivered and blessed if they will but repent and trust in Him, Who on Calvary’s tree, was brought into the dust of death as our Substitute, dying there the death we should have died, and by that vicarious death making full atonement for all our sins.

The second meaning fawn-like points to Christ as the innocent One Who willingly assumed responsibility for our sins.

Since the fawn is the female of the species, and the female speaks of submission of the will, we are reminded also of Christ’s perfect submission to His Father’s will.  It was even unto death on the cross.

18:24.  “And Chephar-haammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba; twelve cities with their villages:”

Chephar-haamonai means the covert of the Ammonites: the village of the Ammonites.  While covert can have a good or a bad connotation, depending on the context, its association here with the Ammonites makes it clear that it is to be understood in a bad sense, for they were descended from the second son of Lot, incestuously begotten by his younger daughter.  They represent the flesh disguised under the mask of false profession in close association with rationalism and the intellect.  This city therefore speaks of the secret hiding place of an enemy, for throughout Scripture the Ammonites are portrayed as the enemies of God and His people.  The warning could scarcely be clearer.  The enemy portrayed by the Ammonite is almost invariably found skulking amongst true believers, covertly seeking to displace faith with rationalism.  We must exercise constant vigilance against this foe, for his evil activity has wrought havoc in the churches.  

Ophni means my flying, with my darkness as a possible second meaning, but I regret being unable to see what lesson attaches to either.  Grant, however, in the Numerical Bible, suggests that the meaning may be to become mouldy, and he writes, “Certain it is that it is where decay has come in, we find a soul ready to take part with the Ammonite.  Decay shows already that the freshness of first love is gone.  Christ is not what He was to it; and here is the enemy’s opportunity to tamper with His image, and bring in something which seems, perhaps, at first, to be only a new point of knowledge.  But it is leaven in the meal, and it works as leaven: by degrees the whole is leavened; there is another Christ, and not the old one.”  

Gaba means elevation or hill, and reminds us of the high ground to which faith in Christ has lifted us; but it reminds us also of the need to spend much time alone with God in study and prayer, far above the distractions of earth.  Only as we reserve time each day to go up to the “hill” will we prosper spiritually and be able to demonstrate the Benjamite character in our lives.

“... twelve cities with their villages.”  As noted already, twelve is the number of Divine government on display, e.g., the twelve tribes of Israel were the revelaion to the nations that obedience brought blessing; and disobedience, chastisement.  We, the Church, “built upon the foundation of the (twelve apostles....” Eph 2:20, are the revelation of the same truth to the nations today.

18:25.  “Gibeon, and Ramah, and Beeroth,”

Gibeon, meaning little hill: hilly, simply emphasizes the principle of Gaba, the repetition of the lesson stressing its importance.  For additional details concerning Gibeon, please review the notes on 9:3-7; 10:2-6, and 11:19. 

Ramah means the height, and its obvious correlation with Gaba and Gibeon continues to emphasize the importance of the spiritual lesson.

Beeroth, meaning wells, is the symbolic assurance that we have what the wells represent: the Scriptures, the wells of living water for our refreshment and cleansing. 

18:26.  “And Mizpeh, and Chephirah, and Mozah,”

Mizpeh, meaning a watchtower, portrays the truth that heaven is the watchtower from which God observes the conduct of saint and sinner alike, the saint’s obedience being rewarded with a treasure to be enjoyed eternally in heaven, while the disobedience of the sinner will be recompensed with torment to be endured eternally in the lake of fire.

Since Chephirah, meaning the village: covert, with lion or lioness a possible third meaning, has been discussed in 9:17, the reader should review those notes.

Mozah means wringing out: sucking out, and the lesson being taught in the sucking out is of the need for new believers, spiritual babes, to obey the command given by Peter, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” 1 Pe 2:2.  Wringing out, on the other hand, has to do with more mature believers.  Their study of the Word should be more intensive, involving careful searching for the spiritual message being conveyed by the literal language.  As water is wrung out of a cloth by twisting and squeezing, so is the meaning of Scripture to be “wrung out,” not just by casual reading, but by diligent study, which obviously involves time and effort.

The present abysmal ignorance of Scripture so apparent amongst professing Christians today, announces all to clearly that “Mozah,” instead of being possessed and enjoyed, has been left undisputed in the hand of the Canaanite.

18:27.  “And Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah,”

Rekem, meaning embroidery: variegation, has been discussed in our study of 13:21, the notes on which should be reviewed here, since the spiritual application is the same as there.  

Irpeel, meaning God will heal, scarcely needs comment.  Just as He will heal (save the sinner who repents and trusts in Christ, so will He heal (restore the saint who repents and confesses his sin, as it is written, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” 1 Jn 1:9. 

The day is not far off when all creation will be blessed by that healing power.  At the rapture, these mortal bodies will experience that transforming touch; and in the Millennium, a creation which now “groaneth and travaileth in pain” Ro 8:23, “shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” Ro 8:21.  As Irpeel lay in the territory of Benjamin, so does the hope which Irpeel represents, lie within the province of faith for the encouragement of every spiritual Benjamite.

Taralah, meaning release the curse, emphasizes the same truth.  It points to a day when there will be no more curse, Re 22:3.  But there is additional instruction to be found in connection with this city.  It is the Gospel that releases men from the curse incurred by Adam’s disobedience, and every spiritual Benjamite has been given the commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15.

18:28.  “And Zelah, Eleph, and Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, Gibeath, and Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages.  This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.” 

Zelah, meaning limping: one-sided, may point to the character of our manner of life.  Like Mephibosheth who was lame on both his feet, we too exhibit “lameness” and lack of balance in our lives spiritually.  There is almost invariably continual fluctation between zeal and apathy, between love and coldness of heart.  We tend to be on one side of the road or the other.  We lack balance.  How different was the life of Christ!

Eleph means a thousand: a disciple.  As the first letter of the alphabet it is spelled Aleph or Alpha, a fact which links it with a disciple, i.e., a learner, for obviously the alphabet can’t be separated from learning.  The letter is also used to signify a thousand or a very large number.  The lesson therefore is that there will be spiritual increase as we devote outselves to studying and obeying the written Word.

Jebusi, the Canaanite name of Jerusalem, and meaning he will be trodden down, has been discussed in our study of 15:8, the notes on which should be reviewed here.  

Gibeath means hilliness, and since it has the same meaning and spiritual significance as Gibeon which has been discussed in our study of 9:3,5-7; 10:2-6 and 11:19, it is suggested that the reader review those notes.

Kirjath means a city, and it is generally assumed to refer here to Kirjath-jearim which has been discussed in our study of 15:9 the notes on which should be reviewed since the spiritual application is the same as here.18:21.

This concludes the description of Benjamin’s inheritance, and since the factors of fourteen are two and seven, its being said to embrace fourteen cities has also a lesson to teach.  Since two is the number of witness or testimony; and seven, of perfection or completeness, these fourteen cities are the reminder that we as spiritual Benjamites, are responsible to be witnesses for the Lord Jesus Christ.  Perfection is God’s ideal in this as in eveything else, and our failure to achieve that perfection should not be allowed to discourage us to the point where we cease to be His witnesses.  Whatever the failures of today, tomorrow affords opportunity for a fresh start. 

[Joshua 19]



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