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

19:1.  “And the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah.”

Two is the number of witness or testimony, so that what is written concerning Simeon has typological application to us as those who are God’s witnesses here on earth.

Simeon, meaning hearkening, declares symbolically that we are to be spiritual Simeonites, men who “hearken” to God, i.e., those who read and obey His Word.  As Levi was unique in that he was given no inheritance in Canaan, so is Simeon unique in that he was assigned his place within the territory of Judah.  There are several reasons for this: first, it was the fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy in Ge 49:5-7, “Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.... I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel”;  second, the territory initially given Judah proved to be too large for them, see verse 9, “... the part of Judah was too much for them.”  And the third reason is related to a spiritual lesson which is easily read.  Praise, which Judah represents, and obedience, which Simeon represents, cannot be separated, for obedience is the highest form of praise or worship, as it is written, “Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams” 1 Sa 15:22.  And the Lord Himself declared the same truth in Jn 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”       

This scattering of Levi and Simeon, however, furnishes an example of God’s overruling evil for good.  The Levites were appointed to minister to the spiritual needs of their brethren, that ministry being made possible only by their being scattered throughout the other tribes.  And as has been noted already, Simeon’s being placed within the territory of Judah, was to strengthen the hands of their brethren in the maintenance of a possession that “was too much for them.”  Incidentally, the spiritual significance of Judah’s territory being too much for him, teaches the lesson that we are incapable of rendering to God all the praise that is His due.     

For all practical purposes Judah’s territorial boundary was also Simeon’s, though the latter, located as he was in Judah, actually had no boundary; and the lesson being taught in this is that obedience also has no boundary, no limit: it includes every part of our lives.  Since Simeon’s literal border was the same as Judah’s, the spiritual significance of the border points is the same for both.   

19:2.  “And they had in their inheritance Beer-sheba, or Sheba, and Moladah,”

The first is Beer-sheba well of the oath, very obviously a picture of the well of the Word.  The obedience which Simeon represents is dependent upon a knowledge of, and obedience to, the written Word.  The believer’s obedience is not to be according to the dictates of his own mind, but to what is written in Scripture.  For additional comments on Beer-sheba please see the notes on 15:28.

There is some question as to whether Sheba is a separate place, or simply a contraction for Beer-sheba.  If it is a different place, it has several meanings he who is coming: seven: oath.  It is generally agreed that seven and oath are related to the covenant made between Abraham and Abimelech in connection with the well of Beer-sheba (Ge 21:25-31, the seven reminding us of the perfection of the written Word; and the oath reminding us of the immutable promises contained in it.  The third meaning he who is coming reminds us that we are to live in the constant expectation of the Lord’s return.

Moladah means birth: bringing forth.  Few spiritual minds will fail to be reminded here of the need to preach the Gospel, for apart from that Gospel there can be no second birth, the imperative need of which is declared by the Lord Himself, “Ye must be born again,” Jn 3:7. The believer who fails to spread the Gospel fails to obey the Lord’s commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15.  Our disobedience discounts our claim to be spiritual Simeonites.  See also comments on 15:26.

19:3.  “And Hazar-shual, and Balah, and Azem,”

Hazar-shual, meaning enclosure of the jackal, has been discussed in our study of 15:28, the notes on which should be reviewed here since the spiritual significance is the same.               

Balah, meaning waxed old, and following as it does Hazar-shual which speaks of the old nature, serves to remind us that everything pertaining to the flesh has become old for the believer.  By God’s reckoning in relation to us that state has become old.  It has passed away.  We have had a new birth.  We are new creatures in Christ, and are responsible to live accordingly.       

Since Azem, meaning strenuous: bone: self-same, has been discussed in our study of 15:29, those notes should be reviewed here since it has the same significance here as there.   

19:4.  “And Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah,”

Since Eltolad, meaning may God cause thee to beget, has been discussed in our study of 15:30, it is suggested that the reader review those notes.

Bethul, meaning separated, scarcely needs comment.  It emphasizes the need of keeping ourselves separate from this present evil world if we would live as those who have become dead to that world, having been crucified to it by the cross of Christ, Ga 6:14, the injunction of Paul being, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind” Ro 12:1-2.     

Hormah means destruction, and the notes on 12:14 should be reviewed here since the application is the same.

19:5.  “And Ziklag, and Beth-marcaboth, and Hazar-susah,”

Ziklag, meaning enveloped in grief, reminds us of the Lord’s words in Jn 16:33, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”  Peter likewise, writing relative to our living hope, our incorruptible inheritance, and our being kept by the power of God, says, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations (trials: that the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ....” 1 Pe 1:3-9.

As Ziklag was within the border of Judah and Simeon, and therefore within the borders of all Israel, so is what Ziklag portrays part of every believer’s portion here on earth: our pilgrimage through this vale of tears must of necessity have its share of sorrow, but as noted above, the trials are for the refining of our faith, and God’s encouragement is that, “Weeping may endure for a night, but (great joy cometh in the morning” Ps 30:5. 

Beth-marcaboth, means the chariot-house, but a chariot without a horse or horses is useless, so it isn’t surprising that we find Hazar-susah mare enclosure in association with Beth-marcaboth.  Israel was forbidden to multiply horses to themselves, De 17:16, and in De 20:1 they were told, “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses, and chariots and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt.”  As Israel’s enemies put their trust in horses and chariots, His people were to trust in Him, and the encouragement to do so was given when He brought them out of Egypt, for their last sight of the Egyptians was at the Red Sea when God engulfed them and their chariots and horses under the same waters which He had miraculously divided to permit His redeemed people safe passage.  He, the God Who had redeemed and delivered them, is more powerful than all the chariots and horses on earth, as it is written, “... the weakness of God is stronger than me” 1 Co 1:25.  We too can safely place our trust in that same omnipotent God.

It is also instructive to note the meaning of Hazar-susah: it is mare enclosure, the emphasis being upon its being an enclosure for female horses.  Since the female in Scripture represents the submission of the will, as the male portrays its activity, the lesson is that our safety and blessing lie in being completely submissive to God’s will.

19:6.  “And Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen: thirteen cities and their villages:”

Beth-lebaoth means house of lionesses, and as with Hazar-susah, the feminine gender is stressed, the lesson being that those who are submissive to God’s will are like a house of lionesses: all the power of God is at their disposal.  This is the OT typological presentation of the same assurance as was given Paul, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perefect in weakness” 2 Co 12:9, so that the Apostle could exult, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong” 2 Co 12:9-10.

Sharuhen means they beheld grace, and reminds us that all the blessings Israel enjoyed had been given them by the God of all grace.  We too, who have been made the recipients of infinitely greater blessings, owe them all to that same grace.

“... thirteen cities with their villages.”  With prime numbers greater than seven, the method of deciphering the meaning seems to be that one, the number of God, is first to be subtracted, and then the remainder either factorized or examined as a whole.  This method, when applied to 13, leaves us with 12, which is the number of God’s government on display, as for example, the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Church built upon the foundation of the doctrine of the twelve Apostles.  These thirteen cities therefore serve to remind us that as spiritual Simeonites we are to display by our obedience that we are willingly submissive to God’s government.

19:7.  “Ain, Remmon, and Ether, and Ashan; four cities and their villages:”  

Ain, meaning an eye: fountain; and Remmon or Rimmon meaning pomegranate, have been discussed in our study of 15:32, the notes on which may now be reviewed since the spiritual application is the same here as there.  

Since Ether, meaning entreaty: abundance; and Ashan, meaning smoke, have been discussed in our study of 15:42, the notes on that section may be reviewed here.  

“... four cities and their villages.”  Since four is the number of earth and testing, the mention of these four cities is to remind us that all the time spent here on earth is a time of testing, the results of which will be revealed at the Bema.

19:8.  And all the villages that were round about these cities to Baalath-beer, Ramath of the south.  This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families.”    

Baalath-beer, meaning mistress of the well, points again to the need of submission to the written Word, for, as noted already, the female speaks of submission; and the well, of the Word.

And finally, Ramath the height directs us to the contemplation of the high ground upon which every believer stands.  We should never forget, however, that that exalted place is ours only because the Lord Jesus Christ took our guilty place in death, descending into depths of agony beyond our ability to comprehend.  The south, as already noted, represents the realm of faith.

19:9.  “Out of the portion of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon: for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them.”

As discussed already, the appointment of Simeon’s lot within that of Judah, teaches the truth that worship and obedience are inseparable.  The fact that Judah’s lot was too much for them is the symbolic announcement of the truth that the praise and worship of which God is worthy are beyond the ability of finite minds to grasp. 

19:10.  “And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families: and the border of their inheritance was unto Sarid,”

Since three is the number of resurrection, the underlying lesson being taught in the places assigned to Zebulun relate to us as those who stand spiritually on resurrection ground, having been raised up out of spiritual death. 

Zebulun means dwelling, and since the tribes of Israel represent features that should characterise us as believers, this tribe reminds us that we are those who will “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,” Ps 23:6, and that here on earth we are those who “dwell in the secret place of the most High (abiding under the shadow of the Almighty,” Ps 91:1.

His border points, and the towns and villages within his lot, have therefore lessons relative to us as a people occupying the privileged position portrayed by this tribe.  Its being the third lot (number of resurrection reminds us that as those who have been raised from spiritual death, we stand spiritually, as we will one day literally, on resurrection ground.

Sarid, meaning survivor, remainder, remnant, begins the boundary, from which point it is traced, first westward, then eastward, and finally northward.  The west is the direction that speaks of approach or nearness to God, and fittingly identifies the place occupied by the spiritual Zebulunite.  The meaning of Sarid points to what survives testing.  Inasmuch as we are one with Christ, Who by His death and resurrection has “survived” the judgment due to us, we too have survived that judgment, and now as those who have been raised up out of spiritual death we stand before God as new creatures, as holy and sinless as Christ Himself.  Throughout eternity we will be the remainder or remnant that will be the testimony to God’s saving grace.   But here on earth we will occupy the spiritual position portrayed by Sarid only as we ignore the allurements of the world, being satisfied simply to have God as our portion, counting all else but dross.  Such separation will make us God’s “remnant.”  They are always in the minority.

19:11.  “And their border went up toward the sea, and Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and reached to the river that is before Jokneam:”

While it went toward the sea, Zebulun’s portion was separated from it by that of Asher, which would remind us of our responsibility to carry the Gospel to the “sea” of the nations (Isa 57:20, while maintaining a Divinely appointed separation from their ways and works.  Such separation ensures true happiness, as is indicated in the meaning of the name of the separating tribe, for Asher means happy.

Maralah, the location of which is uncertain, means causing shaking, a meaning which has a bad scriptural connotation relating to fear or to God’s shaking the earth in judgment.  It may be meant here to teach the truth that while there may be much to make us fearful in connection with confronting  unconverted men with their need of a Savior, we have more cause to fear God if we fail to sound that warning.

Dabbasheth means hump of a camel: he whispered shame, and as with Maralah, the spiritual message may have two sides. The camel’s hump indicates its condition, a large hump consisting of reserve fat upon which the animal can subsist when food is scarce, and a small hump declaring the opposite.  But the application to us lies in the fact that the camel is the biblical symbol of the body placed at the disposal of the Holy Spirit, just as the ass represents the body at the disposal of the old nature.  As “camels” our spiritual condition is revealed in the size of our “humps,” the spiritual equivalent of a large hump being great faith in God; while a small one portrays a correspondingly small measure of faith.  As courage is the result of great faith, so is shame the result of little faith.  Much faith is needed by those who would fearlessly present the Gospel to an unbelieving world.

Jokneam means the people will be purchased: the people will be lamented, and since it has been discussed in our study of 12:22, the notes on that verse may be reviewed here  

19:12.  “And turned from Sarid eastward toward the sunrising unto the border of Chisloth-tabor, and then goeth out to Daberath, and goeth up to Japhia,”

This return to Sarid (verse 10 to trace the border eastward is significant, for it teaches the truth that it is by the action of our own wills that we walk spiritually “westward” toward God, or “eastward,” away from Him, for, as noted in earlier studies, the east is always synonymous with sin and departure from God, as the west is with approach to Him.

“... toward the sunrising” is a term that has led many to erroneously associate the east with good rather than evil, but the east is associated with mere natural light or knowledge, which is not to govern the life of the believer.

Chisloth-tabor means foolish confidences thou wilt purge.  Reliance on the world’s wisdom all too often begets a foolish confidence which God has to purge.  We would spare ourselves many a sorrow if we simply obeyed the injunction of Pr 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Daberath means pasture.  God’s purging or chastisement is always for our good.  As He teaches the folly of reliance on worldly wisdom, and leads us to abandon it, He conducts us to what Daberath represents: the good pasture of His Word.

Jahphia means causing brightness.  In the present context this declares the happy result of turning from worldly wisdom to that which is of God, and which is available to us in the written Word.  It brings true enlightenment, which in turn produces a brighter testimony.  

19:13.  “And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittah-hepher to Ittah-kazin, and goeth out to Remmon-methoar to Neah;”

Gittah-hepher means toward the winepress of the digging, with “digging” embracing the idea of examining or prying into.  Since the east always has a bad scriptural connotation its being mentioned here may indicate that the spiritual lesson relates to the consequences of refusing God’s chastisement, and continuing an “eastward” course, i.e., one of disobedience.  The winepress in Scripture speaks of judgment, so that Gittah-hepher is the symbolic declaration of the fact that when believers persist in disobedience the result must be that they must suffer chastisement, as it is written, “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?  But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons” Heb 12:5-8.

Ittah-kazin means to the time of the prince, judge, or magistrate, meanings which seem to confirm the above view of Gittah-hepher, and which remind us that self-judgment is the way to avoid being brought under Divine judgment, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged” 1 Co 11:31.

Remmon-methoar means the marked out pomegranate, and the lesson is deciphered only as we recognize that the pomegranate is a symbol of the Church, of which no more perfect symbol exists.  This fruit consists of little clusters of seeds, each cluster being encased in a membranous sheath, each seed being enveloped in a sac of blood-red juice.  These clusters, each  separate from the others, yet all of them compacted together, form the fruit, which is enclosed in a reddish green skin. 

It isn’t difficult to see in each individual seed enveloped in red juice, a figure of each individual believer cleansed by Christ’s blood, and having within him the germ of eternal life.  Nor is it difficult to see in each cluster encased in its own membranous sheath, a figure of each local churc; and in all of the compacted clusters, a type of the Church universal, the green of the skin speaking of life; and the red, declaring that that life has its beginning in the precious blood shed at Calvary.

And the final brush stroke completing the symbolic picture is found in Ex 28:31-35 in which God directed that “... upon the hem of it (the high priest’s robe thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet ... and bells of gold between them ... a golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate, upon the hem of the robe round about.”  No spiritual mind will fail to see in this a typological picture of the churches joined to, and dependent upon Christ, the blue speaking of their heavenly nature; the purple, of their royal character as those destined to reign with Him; and the scarlet, of their glory.  And the golden bells scarcely need comment.  They declare that the responsibility of the churches, and therefore of each individual believer, is to be a witness for the Savior until He comes again.

In the light of all this, there can be little doubt that the lesson of Remmon-methoar a marked out pomegranate is that

Christ is the head of the Church, marked out or set apart for Him, and responsible to obey Him, if she would walk in the enjoyment of His blessing.

Neah, meaning a wandering: a shaking, is the symbolic warning that “shaking,” which speaks of God’s anger, is the concommitant of wandering, i.e., with disobedience.

19:14.  “And the border compasseth it on the north side to Hannathon: and the outgoings thereof are in the valley of Jiphthah-el.”

Due to uncertainty regarding the exact location of some of the points mentioned, scholars disagree as to whether this section of the border is on the east or west, and while I’m inclined to agree with those who maintain that it is on the west ((Jiphthah-el, for example, is certainly on the west, it is to be noted that the purpose of God is not so much to mark out exact geographical boundaries as to teach truth relative to spiritual matters.

That the lesson is connected with the meanings of the names, rather than their exact location, is apparent.  For example, some of the places do not lie on the boundary lines at all.  As frequently in Scripture (the genealogical list in Matthew 1, for example, the Holy Spirit has been discriminating, choosing what suits His purpose, and omitting what doesn’t.

Since the north is the direction that speaks of intelligence (usually mere natural intelligence, but sometimes used also of spiritual intelligence, its being mentioned in conjunction with the west (direction of approach to God, indicates that it is to be taken here as representative of spiritual intelligence. 

Hannathon therefore, meaning graciously regarded, is the symbolic assurance that in spite of all the failure that marks us here on earth, every believer is graciously regarded by God, Whose grace first made eternal life available to us at incalculable cost: the death of His beloved Son.

Jiphthah-el, meaning God will open, teaches a spiritual lesson easily read.  God never ceases to open to spiritual intelligence a deeper knowledge of Himself and His Word, but also a way of return, no matter how far folly may have carried us away from Him. 

19:15.  “And Kattath, and Nahallal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Bethlehem: twelve cities with their villages.”

19:16.  “This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.”

Kattath means diminished, and having regard to the meanings of the four places which follow, it seems that the lesson is that however much we may seem to be diminished in the eyes of the world, and as measured by our worldly possessions, we are nevertheless the objects of God’s watchful care, and of His ultimate eternal blessing.  Those who are spiritual Zebulonites, a small diminished minority, dwell “in the secret place of the most High,” having the assurance that every event in their lives is permitted or ordained by God, and is for their eternal good.

Nahallal, meaning tended as in a pasture, scarcely needs comment.  We are the sheep of His pasture, and in that pasture are tended with never failing care.  It is instructive also to note that the tending is “in a pasture,” but the pasture is His Word.  Those who constitute that group find themselves tended by the Good Shepherd as they browse in the green pastures of the written Word, His guardianship made the more effective by their knowledge of, and submission to His will as revealed in that Word. 

Shimron, meaning a guardian, likewise needs little comment, for guardianship is so closely linked with tending as to be virtually the same, the only difference being that tending suggests care for our needs, while guardianship has to do with protection from all the evil activity of Satan, and of men who make themselves his agents.

Idalah means he will fly to her: hand of imprecation, and

the thought of obedient compliance is emphasized since the female in Scripture speaks of submission of the will.  Where there is that obedient submission there is also the assurance of God’s ultimate deliverance.  The Church will stand one day in glory with the Lord Jesus Christ, He and His redeemed vindicated before all their foes.

The second meaning of Idalah reminds us, however, that that same One Who flies to the side of His own to deliver them, is no less ready to stretch out His hand against those who would harm them.

Bethlehem, meaning house of bread, scarcely needs comment.  He who dwells close to God dwells in “Bethlehem”: Christ, the true Bread fully satisfies his every need.

“... twelve cities with their villages.”  Scholars disagree as to what constitutes these twelve cities; but as noted already, our instruction comes, not from knowing their exact location, but in the meanings of their names, or, as here, in the fact that God has emphasized the number twelve, the Biblical number relating to those governed, as ten is the number relating to the One Who governs.  The spiritual Zebulonite is the witness to the truth that obedience to God’s government brings blessing.

19:17.  “And the fourth lot came out to Issachar, for the children of Issachar according to their families.”  

Since four is the biblical number of earth and testing, the underlying message being taught symbolically in the details of Issachar’s lot relates to us as those who live in the midst of earthly testing.

Issachar, meaning he will be hired: there is reward: he will bring reward, represents another characteristic that should mark all Christians: we should be willing to serve the Lord in whatever capacity or place He may direct, all such service bringing an eternal reward at the judgment seat of Christ.

19:18.  “And their border was toward Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Shunem,”

Jezreel means it will be sown of God, and since its spiritual significance has been discussed in our study of 15:56 and 17:16, those notes may be reviewed here.

Chesulloth means as raised ways: foolish confidences, and in relation to the service of which Issachar clearly speaks, it sounds a warning.  Most believers are called upon to render their service in comparitive obscurity, but evangelists, elders and teachers, on the other hand, usually serve in a more public sphere, and it is very easy in such a position, especially if God has given an unusual measure of gift, to become puffed up with pride, and to forget that the gift was given apart from any special merit in the recipient, and could just as easily have been given to another.  That pride begets foolish confidence, and we do well to remember God’s warning, “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall .... A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit” Pr 16:18; 29:23.

Shunem means double rest, and conveys the assurance that no matter how we may be called upon to serve, that service is never onerous, for God endows each man with the necessary strength to do the work assigned him, as it is written, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” Mt 11:29-30.  I have known many of God’s servants who have worked long hours, often without the comforts of home, and with rare vacations, but I’ve never known a man doing God’s work in God’s way, who has ever felt overburdened, or who didn’t find pleasure in his work.  I have, on the other hand, known many attempting to do a work to which God hadn’t called them, and for which He had not endowed them, who were wearied and who suffered what the world calls “burn out.”

God has work for every believer to do, but no one is compelled to serve.  While offering a reward that is beyond our ability to comprehend, see 1 Co 2:9, He leaves with us the choice of whether we will do His work.  The Bema will reveal the folly of having refused to serve the best of all Masters.  Nor should we ever entertain the foolish idea that by serving we are doing God a favor.  It is He Who bestows the favor by conferring upon us the privilege of serving, for He Who called the universe into existence by a word, has no need of servants.

Not only does God equip each man for his appointed work, so that the man has pleasure in serving, but He holds out also the promise that the brief day of earthly service will be followed by eternal rest. 

Since four is the Biblical number of earth and testing, Isaachar’s lot being the fourth reminds us that service and testing are linked together, as it reminds us also that earth is the scene of both.  There are not lacking indications that the faithfulness of our service here on earth will determine the degree of our eternal reward, and also the position that will be assigned us in the administration of Christ, Mt 25:14-30.  

Since the primary work assigned to every believer is the sowing of the good seed of the Gospel, Mk 16:15, one lesson we may learn is that whether by us, or by more obedient servants, that seed will be sown.  By the time the Tribulation (but not the Church age ends, the whole world will have heard the Gospel.  To refuse to sow that good seed is to make ourselves disobedient servants, and to rob ourselves of eternal reward.

Paradoxical though it seems, nothing affords true rest like obedient service, for such a servant is delivered from the anxious care that is the concomitant of human schemes.  Knowing himself to be but an instrument in the Master’s hand, he need have no concern about results.  As such an instrument he is not accountable to man, nor is he under the necessity of appearing successful.  He can serve in the peaceful assurance of knowing that his obedience will see the Lord’s work done, and he is happy to wait for the Bema to reveal that fact.

But Shunem means double rest.  This rest enjoyed by the obedient believer even while he works, is in addition to the rest enjoyed by every believer - rest from the vain attempt to fit ourselves for heaven by any means other than faith in the finished work of God’s perfect Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It is very different with the man who makes himself the servant of men, or the slave of his own schemes.

19:19.  “And Hapharaim, and Shion, and Anaharath.”  

The spiritual lesson of Hapharaim double digging is discovered as we keep in mind the overall message connected with Issachar, i.e., service, particularly the sowing of the good seed of the Gospel.  As in the physical realm, so is it also in the spiritual: digging must precede sowing, for little can be expected of seed sown in untilled soil. 

But how is this “digging” to be done?  Literal digging breaks up the ground, and the spiritual equivalent is the breaking up of the sinner’s conscience by making him aware of his danger so that he fears the prospect of meeting a Holy God.  The soil of the heart and conscience has been dug, not when the man is ready to give intellectual assent to a set of facts concerning Jesus Christ, but when he is willing to acknowledge himself a lost helpless sinner, and is ready to cry out, “What must I do to be saved?”  A man must be made aware of his need of a Savior before being told to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, otherwise his response is very likely to be simply acceptance of a set of facts concerning the historicity of Christ, a mere intellectual process that saves no one.

But there is to be “double digging,” in connection with which several thoughts suggest themselves.  Wherever possible the attempt to warn the sinner and point him to the Savior should be more than a mere one-time effort.  Nor should we forget the value of kindness.  Every opportunity should be seized to convince the man that our concern for his soul is genuine, and not just an attempt to boost the size of our local fellowship.  A word of caution, however, is necessary in this connection.  Care must be taken to ensure that the means doesn’t become the end.  Many a Christian activity begun as an aid to spreading the Gospel, has become instead a hindrance, the activity itself absorbing all the time and energy, becoming the end rather than the means.  There is need to guard against spending so much time trying to cultivate the man we’re trying to win, that the opportunity never comes to present him with the Gospel. 

Many other forms of “digging” will suggest themselves to the believer concerned about spreading the Gospel, but one that must be mentioned is prayer.  Without this essential element, the sowing of the spiritual seed is a mere “activity” very unlikely to produce fruit for eternity, save as God may be pleased to overrule our delinquency, and use His Word for His own glory.

Shion is not listed in either Strong’s or Young’s concordance, or in most Bible dictionaries, but the KJV renders it Shihon, meaning desolation or destruction.  Grant takes it to mean he who puts at ease.  If desolation or destruction is the correct meaning it is a warning both to the slothful Christian, and to the unbelieving hearer of the Gospel.  The former, by his failure to preach the Gospel, will lose his reward at the Bema; the latter, refusing to believe, will lose his soul.

If Grant’s meaning he who puts at ease is correct, then the lesson continues to confirm what we have already discussed: the believer who is doing God’s work in God’s way is at ease relative to his service.  He can safely leave the results with God.

Anaharath, meaning the groaning of fear, may be intended to remind us that as this place was within Issachar’s territory, and therefore under his control, so is the fear that so often hinders the proclamation of the Gospel, under our control.  It is one thing, however, to be afraid, quite another to submit to that fear.  While it is natural to fear the wrath of man, we should remember that, “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe,” Pr 29:25.  Far more often than most of us are willing to admit, it is fear of man that keeps us from spreading the Gospel.  The remedy is to fear the Lord, for that fear is not only the beginning of wisdom, Pr 9:10, it is also the foundation of courage, enabling the believer to say boldly, “The Lord is my helper,  and I will not fear what man shall do unto me,” Heb 13:5.

19:20. “And Rabbith, and Kishion, and Abez.”

Rabbith, meaning multiplicity, may point to the vast numbers of those to whom we are to carry the Gospel, all sharing a common need: the salvation of their souls, while the circumstances associated with them as individuals are as varied as their faces.

It may speak also of the variety of those to whom God has committed this great work.  Every believer, young or old, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, has been commanded, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15.  Whether it be a simple word of testimony to an individual, the giving of a tract, or proclaiming the good news to a large audience, there is no one able to say truthfully, “I can’t.”

Kishion means hardness, and one lesson too obvious to miss relates to the hearts of the unconverted: they are hard, and can be broken only by the Holy Spirit’s application of the Word in convicting power.  That is a work beyond man’s ability.  We must preach the Gospel, but we can neither convict nor convert.

Another lesson, relating to the believer, is expressed in Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” 2 Tim 2:3, and in connection with this Grant has commented, “Kishion ... shows us what the very opposition of the world may do for us, as begetting in us force of character and independent individuality, which dares to stand alone, in single obedience to the will of God.  All difficulties are but a discipline to the soul in earnest.  The habit of overcoming can be acquired, like other habits; and thus adverse circumstances may be none the less helpful, - God making, as He has promised, all things work together for good to them that love Him.” Numerical Bible, p.168.    

Abez means I will make white, or miry. God would remind us that where there is obedient response to the Gospel He will make that man spiritually what is represented by white, i.e., pure - as holy and spotless as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.

Mire, on the other hand, has invariably a bad scriptural connotation often connected with God’s judgment upon the unrighteous.  In Isa 57:20 it is the figurative description of the deeds of the unconverted, “The wicked (unconverted are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.”  The lesson is that he who refuses to accept God’s priceless gift of eternal life, makes himself the object of His eternal wrath.

19:21.  “And Remeth, and Engennim, and Enhaddah, and Bethpazzez.”

Remeth, meaning elevation, is generally taken to represent  our exalted position as new creatures in Christ.  The elevation of our new state is the direct anthithesis of our former.  We are in the world as God’s witnesses, but we are no longer of the world.  Our citizenship is in heaven.

Since Engannim, meaning fountain of gardens, has been discussed in our study of 15:34, the reader may wish to review those notes since the application here is the same as there.

Enhaddah, meaning fountain of joy: fount of sharpening, reminds us that Christ is not only the source of our fruitfulness, but of our joy also.  “If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.  These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” Jn 15:10-11.  Obedience and joy are inseparable.

The second meaning of Enhaddah fount of sharpening reminds us that Christ, as presented in the written Word, is not only the Source of the believer’s joy, but also of his knowledge, for in Pr 27:17 it is written, “Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”  This is generally understood to mean that a man’s mental capacity is refined or sharpened, and enlarged by the discussion and exchange of ideas that normally take place between friends.  The Lord Jesus Christ is “a friend that sticketh closer than a brother,” Pr 18:24.  There is nothing better for the believer’s mind than to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” 2 Pe 3:18.  Prayer and Bible study are the two avenues of that communication, for in prayer we speak to Him; from the Scriptures He speaks to us.

Beth-pazzez means house of dispersion, and inasmuch as Issachar speaks of work, the lesson of Beth-pazzez may be to remind us that God has dispersed believers throughout the world so that men might hear the Gospel.  While 1 Co 9 has to do with literal giving, it would be a mistake to limit it just to that, for clearly the best thing we can give to men is the Gospel, in connection with which we read Peter’s words to the lame man at the temple gate, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk ... and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.  And he leaping up ... entered with them into the temple ... leaping, and praising God” Ac 3:6-8; and in 1 Co 9:9-10 it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever.  Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness.”  If we would be spiritually rich we must sow bountifully the good seed of the Gospel.

19:22.  “And the coast reacheth to Tabor, and Shahazimah, and Bethshemesh; and the outgoings of their border were at Jordan: sixteen cities with their villages.”  

Tabor means thou wilt purge, and as the work of the refiner is to purge the gold of dross, so is God’s chastening designed to purge us of all that would hinder the outshining of the glory of Christ in our lives.  “My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.  If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons ... but if ye be without chastisement ... then are ye bastards, and not sons.... Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby” He 12:5-11.

Bethshemesh, meaning house of the sun, speaks of the true source of light for the believer, i.e., the Scriptures.  Its being one of Issachar’s boundary points is the symbolic announcement of the truth that in our service, as in everything else, we are not to go beyond what Scripture authorizes, nor are we to permit in our lives or assemblies what lacks the authority of Scripture.  The multitudinous organizations that have been set up to direct the Lord’s work and workers today bear eloquent testimony to the extent of our trespasses beyond that boundary.  No where in Scripture do we find any authority for the setting up of such organizations.  God works today, as He has in every age, through obedient individuals; and the fact that He graciously gives a measure of blessing in spite of these organizations should not be construed as indication of His approval.

Beth-shemesh should remind us that each one of us is responsible to be a “house of the sun” here on earth.  As indwelt by the Holy Spirit Who is Light, we are responsible to let that light be seen.  And when our earthly course is finished, we shall “dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,”  Ps 23:6.  Heaven is the true house of the sun, for “the Lamb is the light thereof,” Re 21:23.

As the eastern border, Jordan, meaning their descent, has the same spiritual significance as in the case of Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, so that the notes on those tribes may be reviewed here.  Relative to Issachar, it points to the truth that though this world is our sphere of service, we are to render that service as men who are separated from the world by the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are not to be occupied with its affairs beyond what is absolutely necessary.

Like all scriptural numbers, the reference to the sixteen cities has also a lesson to teach.  The principal factors are two, the number of witness or testimony, and four, the number of earth and testing.  Our work here on earth, in this scene of trial and testing, is to be witnesses for God, bringing the Gospel not only to every man and woman who crosses our path, but to as many others as possible by every means at our disposal - tracts, for example.  It is a healthy state of mind that views every individual with whom we have even the slightest contact, as one to whom God would have us present the Gospel.

19:23.  “This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar according to their families, the cities and their villages.”

May there be given to us the wisdom to recognize that the service, which Issachar represents, is part of our inheritance.  We too have the privilege of serving God.

19:24.  “And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families.”

Since five is the biblical number of responsibility, and since Asher means happy, the truth being presented symbolically is that we will be happy only as we fulfill our two-fold responsibility to obey God, and serve others.  Nor should we ever forget that of all people on earth we have most reason to be what the name Asher implies.

19:25.  “And their border was Helkath, and Hali, and Beten, and Achshaph,”   

Helkath means a possession, and would teach us that we too have a spiritual possession corresponding to Israel’s literal inheritance in Canaan.  Asher focuses attention on the fact that happiness is a part of our inheritance, but our failure to take possession of what God has given us is demonstrated all too clearly in the lack of happiness amongst God’s people today; and however numerous the causes, in the final analysis they translate into disobedience and lack of faith.  The remedy is to accept every circumstance of life in the light of what is written in Scripture, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God.... If God be for us, who can be against us?  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 8:28-32, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory: while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” 2 Co 4:17-18.  Nor should we forget that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” Ne 8:10.  An unhappy Christian is an anomaly, and fair game for Satan.

Hali, meaning an ornament, may be to remind us that “the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit ... is in the sight of God of great price,” 1 Pe 3:4, for meekness implies willing submission to God’s will; while quiet suggests gentleness, and lack of murmuring against seeming adversity.

Beten, meaning the belly (womb, may be meant to teach us that as the womb is the cradle of life, so are we responsible to be a source of life to others through the preaching of the Gospel, for few things have greater power to furnish joy for the Christian than that of seeing a soul born again through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Beten also directs attention to the fact that the believer’s joy comes from within, and is independent of outward circumstances, they having neither the power to give that joy, nor to take it away.  This doesn’t mean that the believer will never know sorrow or pain, but that even while experiencing these things, he still has also that inward joy which nothing of earth can disturb.  For example, even in the midst of the sorrow which is almost invariably the companion of bereavement, we have the assurance that we “sorrow not, even as others which have no hope,” for we commit the bodies of deceased loved ones to the grave, knowing that it is only for a little while, until that soon coming day when, “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout ... and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” 1 Th 4:13-18.

The lesson of Achshaph, meaning I shall be bewitched, is easily read in the light of Ga 3:1, “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth....?”  It is painfully obvious that too often the Galatian’s folly is also ours.

For additional comments on Achshaph, please review the notes on 11:1 and 12:20.

19:26.  “And Alammelech, and Amad, and Misheal; and reacheth to Carmel westward, and to Shihor-libnath;” 

No spiritual mind will have any difficulty in seeing the significance of Alammelech the king’s oak, for every mention of a tree should remind us of Calvary.  The tree (the cross upon which the King of glory died, is continually before the eye of the spiritual Asherite, for he remembers that it was there the ransom price of his soul was paid by Christ’s blood, as it is written, “... ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold ... but with the precious blood of Christ” 1 Pe 1:18-19.  The knowledge that that ransom has been paid brings peace and joy to a man’s soul.

Nor is the meaning of Amad people of eternity any more difficult to read.  The spiritual Asherite, the happy believer, lives his life with his eye on the judgment seat of Christ and the eternity to follow, when the reward of faithful stewardship will be full compensation for earthly loss occasioned by loyalty to Christ.  Earth is but a very small part of man’s experience: he will exist eternally, either in the lake of fire or in heaven, and no small part of the believer’s happiness is that he has the assurance of being for ever in heaven with Christ.

Misheal, meaning enquiry, is also easily translated, for it speaks of that attitude which impels a daily study of the Scriptures, so that we might learn more of the mind and will of God, and by obedience, grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, 2 Pe 3:18.  Few things are more conducive to spiritual happiness than a love for the study of God’s Word.  He is a wise man who cultivates that inquiring mind.

Carmel, meaning fruitful field, reminds us that the life of the spiritual Asherite is like a fruitful field, for the happy believer is one in whose life are produced, not only the fruits of the Spirit, Gal 5:22, but also spiritual children - men and women led to the Savior through a faithful proclamation of the Gospel.

Since the west is the direction that speaks of approach to God, the mention of it here in connection with Carmel, serves to remind us that fruitfulness and nearness to God go together.

For further comments on Carmel, please review the notes on 12:22.

Shihor-Libnath means blackness of whiteness, a meaning which is at first glance enigmatic, but which on closer examination conveys a very clear and necessary lesson.  Since

that lesson has been nowhere better stated than by Grant, Numerical Bible, p.148, I quote him, “Alas, there will not rarely be the danger of ‘doing evil,’ in some modified way, ‘that good may come’; and the over-anxiety about results may make one misjudge seriously what is the mind of God.  God’s seed may be a long time buried before it springs up, and the shallower sowing springs up all the quicker.  Results will indeed speak truly at the end; but then there must be faith to leave things to the end: and for that the word of God must test all ways and methods, and guide us as to our course in the meantime.  Here it is indeed true that ‘he that believeth shall not make haste (Isa 28:16.  What life, with all the glory of it, must seem so vain as Christ’s life?  The corn of wheat, according to His own saying, had to fall into the ground and die, that it might not abide alone. ‘Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain’: this would decide for many the failure of it;- ‘but surely,’ He adds, ‘my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God, (Isa 49:4.’” 

Even a casual survey of the methods being used today in connection with God’s work, reveals the extent to which Shihor-libnath has been left in the hand of the Canaanite: note, for example, the widspread practice of soliciting money from the unconverted, for “the Lord’s work”  - something God forbids.  Another example is found in the countless organizations that have been set up to direct both the work and the worker.  Nowhere in Scripture do we find authority for the establishment of such organizaitons.  God works through individuals.

19:27.  “And turneth toward the sunrising to Beth-dagon, and reacheth to Zebulun, and to the valley of Jiphthah-el toward the north side of Bethemek, and Neiel, and goeth out to Cabul on the left hand.”

The “sunrising,” though taken by many commentators to be indicative of good, is in fact the opposite, for it is in the east, which in Scripture, is always associated with sin and departure from God.  It speaks of mere natural light (human wisdom, which is almost always at odds with spiritual enlightenment. 

Here it is associated with Beth-dagon house of the fish god; but Dagon was the God of the Philistines, who represent apostate Christianity, so that the lesson becomes a warning against the danger of being enticed by man’s wisdom to depart from the faith.  Since, however, such departure is possible only for a mere professor who never had faith to begin with, the lesson becomes an injunction to make sure of the reality of our faith: to be sure that it is founded on a genuine trust in the Lord Jesus Christ as the One Who died in our guilty place for our sins, and not just on an intellectual belief in the historicity of Christ.  It is to be feared that there are multitudes of professing Christians who have no better hope of heaven than this same worthless belief.

“... and reacheth to Zebulun dwelling....”  He who refuses the enlightenment of mere natural wisdom, will be preserved by God, and will know the joy of dwelling in fellowship with Him here on earth, and then of entering into a fuller experience of that fellowship for ever in heaven.

“... and to the valley of Jiphthah-el God will open....”  Mere natural wisdom is powerless to unlock the secrets hidden in Scripture for the pleasure and enrichment of the spiritual believer, and the man who refuses that natural wisdom finds himself brought spiritually to Jiphthah-el: the Holy Spirit opens up to the eye of faith treasures incomprehensible to the natural man, for “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned,” 1 Co 2:14.

We must note, however, that the reference is to the valley of Japhthah-el, for the valley represents the sphere of service, and the lesson being taught here is that our study of Scripture should be to equip us to be better workmen in God’s service, as it is written, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” 2 Tim 2:15.

“... toward the north side of Beth-emek the valley house....”  The valley, the sphere of service, continues to be emphasized, but in connection with the north, the direction that speaks of natural intelligence.  This valley house therefore may well speak of the local church, for the assembly (not the meeting place, but the people as a corporate body is the house of God where ever located, and one lesson at least being taught is that that house is to be the center of God’s work in that particular area.  But it is not to be the center where the elders, or a committee, direct the work and assign individual believers their tasks (it is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit alone to direct each believer relative to his service in the “harvest field” [the world], or in the “vine yard” [the assembly].

The north therefore in this context is to be understood in a good sense, the lesson being that spiritual intelligence is to govern all the activity.  Where these principles, and this godly wisdom do govern, there will be a happy assembly, and work done for God’s glory and the eternal profit of every believer.

Neiel means we shall be shaken of God, and it sounds the warning that while obedience will bring happiness and blessing, disobedience will rob us of both, and bring us under chastisement, for the shaking of God speaks of His anger.

Cabul means as if nothing: fettered, and it seems to reinforce the warning conveyed in Neiel.  Disobedience will leave nothing worthy of reward at the Bema; and in addition will prove to be a fetter preventing our walking through the green pastures of our spiritual inheritance here on earth, for such a walk cannot be taken without the Spirit’s enlightenment as we study the Word, and disobedience cuts off that ministry of enlightenment.  It will also hinder the rendering of any acceptable service, for God will not use an unclean vessel for His work.

Cabul’s being “on the left” has also a bad connotation, for the left hand speaks of weakness, as the right hand does of strength.  

19:28.  “And Hebron (Abdon), and Rehob, and Hammon, and Kanah, even unto great Zidon;”

It is generally recognized that Hebron here is incorrect and should be Abdon, meaning servitude, a word usually having a bad connotation.  Its lesson may be to warn that disobedience will cause the easy yoke of willing service to Christ to be exchanged for the galling chain of onerous servitude to Satan; laughter to be turned to weeping; and eternal profit, to eternal loss (not of the soul, but of reward at the Bema.

Rehob broad place is where the spiritual Asherite dwells, and it is paradoxical that the broad place of blessing is available only to the man who steps by faith from the world’s “broad way, that leads to destruction,” Mt 7:13, and enters in by the strait (narrow gate on to the narrow way that leads to eternal bliss in heaven.

The converse of this is that the believer may be enticed to return to the world’s “Rehob,” and when he does he exchanges his laughter for tears, for no true believer can ever be happy again in the world to which he has been crucified by the cross of Christ.  When anyone, professing to be a believer, continues to enjoy the things of the world, there is good reason to question the reality of his faith.

Hammon, meaning sunny or warm, conveys a message that is easily read.  As a place belonging to Asher, and as being associated in its meaning with light and warmth, it tells us that the spiritual equivalents are ours.  By grace, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ “the light of the world,” Jn 8:12,” we have been made “partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (having been delivered ... from the power of darkness, and ... translated ... into the kingdom of his dear Son,” Col 1:12-13. 

Warmth speaks of love and zeal, and would remind us that as spiritual Asherites our lives should be characterized by love for God and men that will express itself in zealous obedient service.  

Kanah he was purchased, is also easily deciphered, for the thought of purchase can never be far from the mind of the obedient, and therefore happy, believer (the spiritual Asherite, “...your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own, for ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.... Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men,” 1 Co 6:19-20; 7:23.  Obedience is the proper response to the realization that that purchase price was “the precious blood of Christ,” 1 Pe 1:19; and only as that obedience is yielded will there be enjoyed the happiness that marks the true spiritual Asherite.  See notes on 16:8 for additional comments on Kanah.

Zidon has two meanings, a hunting, and a fishery.  It represents the world as the place in which Satan hunts for the souls of men to destroy them, but where believers, as the Lord’s fishermen (Mk 1:17, go out with the Gospel and fish for men’s souls so that they might be saved.  Significantly, it is situated on the seacoast, the sea being the symbol of earth’s unconverted masses (Isa 57:20.  The believer who would enjoy the happiness which Asher represents, is he who yields obedience to the Lord’s commission, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature,” Mk 16:15.  It is in that great “sea” of humanity that we are to fish for souls.  See notes on 11:8 for additional comments on Zidon.

19:29.  “And then the coast turneth to Ramah, and to the strong city Tyre; and the coast turneth to Hosah; and the outgoings thereof are at the sea from the coast to Achzib:”

Ramah the height should remind us of the heights to which grace has lifted us, and should beget in us the same determination as it did in Paul to walk worthy of our high calling, he declaring, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” Php 3:14. 

Tyre, meaning to distress, although assigned to Asher, doesn’t appear to have been actually possessed, and this is significant in view of what is recorded in Ez 28:11-19, for it is clear that what is written there concerning the king of Tyre goes far beyond him and relates to Satan.  That being so, the distress connected with “the strong city Tyre” declares the truth that is confirmed by experience: though Satan is a defeated foe, we fail to live as becomes those who have been delivered from his dominion.  Israel suffered much distress through their failure to exterminate the Canaanites, whom God had delivered into their hand, and we also suffer much by voluntarily placing ourselves again under the dominion of the power from which the death of the Lord Jesus Christ has delivered us.  We would do well to note that it was disobedience which brought much of Israel’s distress, as it brings much of ours also.

If Tyre points to the distress that is the concomitant of disobedience, Hosah trusting shows us the remedy, not only for the distress that accompanies disobedience, but also for that which may come as the result of following the path marked out for us by God.  Paul and Silas, singing praises at midnight in the Philippian prison, are examples of those who enjoy the spiritual experience portrayed by Hosah.  Implicit trust in God is the remedy for every ill; and encouragement to exercise that trust comes to us from Ro 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God,” and from Ro 12:2 which assures us that God’s will is, “good, and acceptable, and perfect.”  Pr 3:5-6 enjoins that same trusting faith, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

“... and the outgoings thereof are at the sea.”  We are brought again to the multitudes of unconverted men and women represented by the sea, Isa 57:20.  God would keep reminding us that while there is to be a line of demarcation between them and us, that line is not to produce indifference concerning their souls.  We are to use every means in our power to bring them the Gospel.

Achzib, meaning I shall make a lie, conveys a very necessary warning.  It is possible for an outward morality to disguise a wrong condition of heart.  The Pharisees of Christ’s day are the prime examples of such dissemblance.  We may deceive men, but we cannot deceive God, for He discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Achzib’s being in the possession of Asher would remind us of the constant necessity to guard against “making a lie.”  Purity of motive in all we do is essential to the happiness which Asher represents.

For additional comments on Achzib, please see the notes on 15:44.

19:30.  “Ummah also, and Aphek, and Rehob: twenty and two cities with their villages.”

19:31.  “This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.”

Ummah, meaning he was associated: juxtaposition, reminds us of our close association with the Lord Jesus Christ, as we read in 1 Co 12:27, “Ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular,” and in Eph 5:30, “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”  It should never be forgotten that the new life within us is the very life of Christ, and it is our responsibility to live so as to demonstrate that truth, as recorded in Ga 2:19-20, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.  I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

Aphek, meaning restrained, should remind us that “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any,” 1 Co 6:12, and the context emphasizes that since we have been bought with a price, we are not our own: our bodies are to be used for God’s glory.  1 Co 10:23 repeats that, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: All things are lawful for me but all things edify not,” but now the application is to our relationship with others.  Where the exercise of our Christian liberty might stumble a weak brother, we are to impose restraint upon ourselves so that the weak brother, instead of being stumbled, may be edified or built up.

Aphek is also associated with the thought of a fortress and with strength, and calls to mind the encouragement given us in Php 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

For additional comments on Aphek in a different context, please review the notes on 12:18 and 13:4.

Rehob broad place has already been discussed in our examination of verse 28 and need not be repeated here.  We should note, however, the significance of its being repeated immediately after Aphek.  If there are restraints upon us, they are for our good, and the exercise of them is found, in fact, to be no restraint at all, but rather the means by which we are brought into the broad place of the enjoyment of even greater liberty.

As noted in other studies, it appears that the method of determining the spiritual significance of numbers like twenty-two is to factorize them, and where factorizing produces a prime number, to remove one the number of God, and then to continue the factorization.  This method, applied to twenty-two, gives 2 x 2 x 5, the numbers of witness and responsibility respectively, so that the lesson of the twenty-two cities with their villages continues to emphasize what has already been noted in connection with this fifth lot given to Asher: we are responsible to be witnesses for God, and only as we fulfill that responsibility will we enjoy the happiness of which Asher speaks.

19:32.  “The sixth lot came out to the children of Naphtali, even for the children of Naphtali according to their families.”

It is to be noted that Naphtali’s was the sixth lot, and six is the number of man, weakness, failure, incompleteness, and sin.  In this God would remind us that because we are men still in earthly bodies, and therefore subject to weakness and sin, we shall know much of failure in ourselves, but we are to look, not at self, but at Christ.  Peter, with his eyes off Christ, and on the waves, began to sink, Mt 14:30.  So will it be with us when we take our eyes off Him and look either at self or circumstances.

Naphtali, meaning my wrestling: my tortuosity, was the second son of Jacob by Bilhah, Rachel’s maid.  At the time of his birth Rachel declared, “With great wrestlings have I wrestled with my sister, and I have prevailed: and she called his name Naphtali,” Ge 30:8.

As has been noted already, each tribal name represents a characteristic of the believer, e.g., Judah, meaning He shall be praised, reminds us that we should be a praising (worshiping people; while Asher happy declares that we should be also a happy people.  Naphtali reminds us that we are also a people engaged in a warfare, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.  Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand,” Eph 6:12-13. 

The Lord Himself gave the warning and the encouragement, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” Jn 16:33.

Rachel spoke not only of having wrestled, but of having prevailed; and the Lord, while warning that we shall have tribulation, assures us also that we shall prevail, for He has overcome the world, and in Ro 8:35 it is written, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, etc.?” and Ro 8:37 declares, “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.”

However long and arduous the battle, however much it may seem that the enemy is winning, the final outcome is never in doubt, “We are more than conquerors!”

In the Epistles of John we find repeated assurances that we are overcomers, e.g., 1 Jn 2:13-14 “... ye have overcome the wicked one”; 1 Jn 4:4, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world”; and again 1 Jn 5:4-5 “For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world.... Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?”

The lesson of Naphtali is that we are engaged in a warfare, but since the outcome is never in doubt, we are to fight with the confidence and courage of those already assured of victory.

19:33.  “And their coast was from Heleph, from Allon to Zaanannim, and Adami, Nekeb, and Jabneel, unto Lakum; and the outgoings thereof were at Jordan:”  

Heleph means exchange, and reminds us that through faith in Christ we have exchanged life for death; light for darkness; a bond with Adam for a bond with Christ; knowledge for ignorance; strength for weakness; eternal torment for eternal blessing; righteousness for unrighteousness; citizenship in the world for citizenship in the kingdom of God; slavery to Satan for the privilege of serving Christ.  The list could be multiplied.  What gain has been ours through that exchange! 

But the record of Naphtali’s inheritance is to teach us truth relative to that exchange in relation to our warfare against the forces of darkness; and of primary importance is the assurance that our weakness is made perfect in Christ’s strength, as Paul has written, “And he (God said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness,” leading the Apostle to exult, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me ... for when I am weak, then am I strong” 2 Cor 9-10.  Greater success would be ours if we too were governed by that same principle.

The second place is Allon an oak, and as it was with Alammelech the king’s oak (verse 26, so is it here: every reference to a tree should remind us of the one on which the Lord hung when He paid the redemption price of your soul and mine.  We can’t determine what spiritual significance Allon had for the men of Naphtali, but no spiritual wrestler today will fail to comprehend the value of the tree represented by that place of the oak within the borders of Naphtali.  The cross is the center of the believer’s life.

The third place Zaanannim, meaning wanderings, sounds a warning that there is the danger of our pilgrimage becoming a mere wandering.  It is to be remembered that Israel’s wanderings, strictly speaking, didn’t begin when they came out of Egypt, but approximately two years later when they refused to enter Canaan, (see Nu 14.  Their disobedience caused those first two years to then become also merely years of wandering.

It is very possible for us to repeat their error.  Lack of faith to lay hold of God’s promises will turn the Christian life into a time of mere idle wandering here on earth.  Failure to believe God’s promise to meet all our needs while we do His business, will result in our joining the worldling in his scrabbling for the world’s wealth.  Failure to remember that we must one day stand at the judgment seat of Christ to render an account of our stewardship, will lead us to seek ease and pleasure here on earth, to our eternal loss.  Lack of faith will lead us to forget the terrible eternity that awaits the unbeliever, with the result that we will cease to preach the Gospel that would warn him of his danger and point him to the Savior.

The warning of Zaanannim was never more needed than today.  That it is a warning more often ignored than heeded is sadly apparent in all too many of our lives, which display far more the character of wandering than of pilgrimage.

Adami means man of, which seems to indicate that it is a prefix, and some take it to be the prefix of the following word Nekeb, meaning a varying, with a groove as a questionable second meaning. Its obvious relation to Adam man: red earth, however, suggests that it may be intended as a reminder that the old Adamic nature is still with us, and will assert itself whenever it can seize an opportunity.

The possibility of its being a prefix, with no suffix given, has suggested to some that it might perhaps be applied interrogatively, thus “man of?”.  How does God see me?  How do men see me?  As a man of earth, or as a man whose citizenship is in heaven?  As a man whose heart is set on earthly riches, or as a man whose heart is set on laying up treasure in heaven?  As a man intent upon pleasing self, or pleasing God?  As a man seeking ease and pleasure while others toil for Christ?  As a man who, though in Christ, lives more like a man still in Adam?

Altogether apart from the question of whether Adami may be used interrogatively, the fact remains that these questions are valid, and are ones we might, with profit, ask ourselves.

Nekeb, meaning a varying, or perhaps a groove, if taken as the suffix of Adami, then gives us a man of varying, and if taken simply as a word without a prefix, it still conveys the thought of varying or vacillation.  The lesson isn’t hard to read, for it is an accurate description of most of us.  It is unfortunately true that most of us are marked more by vacillation than steadfastness.

The remedy for varying or vacillation is to walk in the footsteps of Christ, for as man, He displayed the same steadfastness that marks Him as God, “... with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning,” Jas 1:17.  Nothing would turn Him aside from the work the Father had given Him to do.  “He stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,” Lk 9:51; and it was He Who declared, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” Lk 9:62.  Paul likewise could exhort, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ,” 1 Co 11:1, because he, like his Lord, was steadfast in the work given him by God.  He could say truthfully, “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.

It’s very easy to become so occupied with our failures that we listen to the voice of Satan whispering, “It’s no good.  You have wasted too much of your life to accomplish anything now.”  The voice of encouragement has a different tone, summed up very aptly in the words of the poet:

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.

Look at all that was accomplished by Peter who stumbled, but went on.  Some of God’s choicest servants are those who stumbled, but who rose up to go on well for Christ.

Jabneel God will build comes next, assuring us that in spite of all our failure and weakness, God’s work will be done.  It was the Lord Himself Who declared, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it,” Mt 16:18.

While God isn’t dependent on any man for the accomplishment of His purposes, it has pleased Him to extend to every believer the privilege of having a part in that great work of building His house.  Nor will that work go unrewarded, for God will be no man’s debtor.  It is the height of folly therefore to squander precious time that might be given to that work, wasting it on labor that brings no satisfaction; seeking ease and pleasure during time which God has appointed for work; desiring the applause of men rather than the approval of Christ.

The judgment seat of Christ will reveal the madness of such disobedience.  He is a wise man who examines is own life now while there is time to change, rather than to undergo that examination at the Bema when it will be too late for change.

Lakum means the rising up, a meaning which must certainly include the thought of resurrection.  Every believer can look back to the day when “Lakum” became part of his spiritual inheritance, when he was raised up out of spiritual death and brought into the possession of eternal life, for prior to that day we were “dead in trespasses and sins,” Ep 2:1, “... without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Ep 2:12.  But all begins with the death and resurrection of Christ, for it is His rising up that brings us the assurance, “He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you,” 2 Co 4:14.      

Then there is the “Lakum”  of baptism.  As we go under those waters which are symbolic of death, we testify in symbol that we are crucified with Christ, but in “rising up” out of them we testify, that as risen with Christ, we will henceforth walk in newness of life, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death, that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life,” Ro 6:4.

And then there is the “Lakum” of the Rapture.  The daily anticipation of the Lord’s return should be the expectation of every believer.  That rising up to meet the Lord in the air will be the one that surpasses all others as we find ourselves “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye,” 1 Co 15:52, caught up to meet the Lord in the air - in an instant transported from earth to heaven.

While awaiting that day it is our privilege to continue wrestling against the powers of darkness, doing joyfully the work the Lord has assigned us, seizing every opportunity to spread the Gospel, knowing that every sinner won for Christ is another living stone added to that glorious building, the Church, which has been “rising up” stone by stone for the past two thousand years, and must surely be now almost complete.

The final place mentioned in verse 33 is Jordan, the river of death, to remind us that Christ’s death is ours, and by it we are dead to sin, Ro 6:2; to the law. Ro 7:4; to the world, Ga 6:14.  That knowledge is to be the impassable barrier between us and a doomed world; our only concern with it being to preach the Gospel to as many as possible of its perishing billions.

19:34.  “And then the coast turneth westward to Aznoth-tabor, and goeth out from thence to Hukkok, and reacheth to Zebulun on the south side, and reacheth to Asher on the west side, and to Judah upon Jordan toward the sunrising.”

Since the west is the Biblical direction that speaks of approach to God, this westward direction of Naphtali’s border points us to the fact that what follows has to do with drawing near to God, or of walking in obedience.

Aznoth-tabor means ears thou wilt purge.  This reference to ears must surely recall what is written typologically concerning Christ under the figure of the Hebrew servant in Ex 21:1-6, for few will fail to see in that faithful servant, willing to have his ear pierced in token of his love for master and wife, a figure of the Lord Jesus Christ and His love for His Father, and for His bride the Church.

Another reference is found in Ps 40:6-8, “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire; mine ears hast thou opened (digged: burnt offering and sin offering hast thou not required.  Then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart,” where the unmistakable application is to Christ.  (This is also quoted in He 10:5-9.

A further reference to the obedience of Christ is found in Isa 50:5-6, “The Lord hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.  I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”  He is to be our great Example.  As His ears were always open and obedient to the voice of God, so are ours also to be obedient, for it is written, “Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams,” 1 Sa 15:22.

Hukkok means the law (as graven, or appointed.  God would have us remember that by the law we were condemned, and that Christ came to fulfill the law, first by keeping it, and then by accepting its penalty for transgression, by becoming our Substitute, yielding up the life it rightfully demanded when He was willing to be numbered with the transgressors.

Its being graven would remind us of the inflexibility of the law: as the Lord Himself declared, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.  For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled,” Mt 5:17-18.  The law is the expression of the unchanging holiness of God, and though we are no longer under it, it continues to be the standard by which He measures each man’s conduct.  In 2 Tim 2:4-5 it is written, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.  And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully.”  The lesson of Hukkok is that our wrestling with the powers of darkness must be according to God’s Word, for as was noted in our study of Shihor-libnath, verse 26, Christendom is guilty of having employed wrong means to accomplish a good end, but with God there is no such latitude.  The end may not be made to justify the means.  

Zebulun dwelling assures us that the obedient believer dwells under the shadow of God’s wings on earth, Ps 57:1, and will dwell in God’s house for ever Ps 23:6.  It is to be noted that Zebulun constituted part of Naphtali’s southern border, and the south is the Biblical direction that speaks of faith.  It is only as we walk by faith, and not by sight, that we enjoy the assurance of God’s presence with us here amid all the circumstances of life on earth.

For addidional comments on Zebulun, please review the notes on verses 10, 16 and 27.

Asher happy has already been discussed in our study of verses 24-31, and need not be repeated here, except to note that it formed Naphtali’s western border, that is, the direction that speaks of approach to God.  Dwelling close to God is the secret of happiness.

The next place is “Judah upon Jordan.”  No such place is known, but the explanation may be that Havoth-jair (the sixty towns or villages east of Jordan, opposite Naphtali were counted as belonging to Judah, of whom Jair was a descendant.  As noted already, however, the lessons God would teach lie not so much in the actual geography as in the meanings of the names.  The lesson of this Judah upon Jordan, then, is easily read.  It tells us that only as we live like men who are dead to the world, will there be praise to God, the highest form of praise being, as noted already, an obedient life.  We are either dead to the world and alive unto God, or alive unto the world and dead unto God. 

It is significant that this place is described, not as being in the east, but “toward the sun rising.”  The east represents mere natural light, and always speaks of departure from God; but the sun rising speaks of spiritual enlightenment.  This would teach us that spiritual enlightenment, the willingness to be dead to the world, and our ability to worship, are inseparably linked together.  It is the unenlightened, the untaught man, who lives as one alive unto the world, and who, therefore, lacks the ability to worship.

19:35.  “And the fenced cities are Ziddim, Zer, and Hammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth.”

Ziddim means the sides: liers in wait, and Grant is undoubtedly correct in his suggestion that the “liers in wait” seem to point to the minions of Satan, the adversary, for the stealth implied here is what characterizes virtually all of his activity, hence the exhortation of Paul in Eph 6:10-12, “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.  For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritul wickedness in high places.”

Ziddim would remind us that our adversary is one whose favorite strategy is to lie in wait, to strike from the side when least expected.  Peter warns us, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” 1 Pe 5:8; and Paul reminds us that “Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.  Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness,” 2 Cor 11:14-15.  That Satan is  the master of subtilty is also declared by Paul in 2 Cor 11:3, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”

From Ziddim God would have us learn that as spiritual wrestlers we are the objects of the machinations of a relentless foe lurking by the wayside, and constantly changing his tactics so that if possible he may catch us off guard.  Our only safeguard is to “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might”; to put on the whole armor of God; to have our “loins girt about with truth”; to have on “the breastplate of righteousness”; to have our “feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace”; to take “the shield of faith ... the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always,” Eph 6:10-18. 

Zer, meaning a strait, and being related to the thought of adversity, reminds us that as those who once traveled the broad way that leads to destruction, we are now those who, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, have entered in at the “strait gate” and are on the “narrow way which leads unto life,” Mt 7:13-14.  That way, however, is not without adversity, for the Lord Himself warned, “In the world ye shall have tribulation,” Jn 16:33.

A comparison of the “broad” way we once traveled, and the “strait (narrow” way on which we now walk to heaven, presents a strange paradox, however.  When we were on that “broad” way, we perceived the narrow road to heaven as being indeed a “strait (narrow, restricted” way, devoid of liberty, governed only by the “Thou shalt not’s” of a stern unloving God.  But how different the perspective becomes once we step through the “strait gate” on to that “narrow” way!  Illuminated by true wisdom, we see now how narrow was that “broad” way, and how wide is this “narrow” way.  On the former, we were the slaves of Satan, on our way to hell and the lake of fire; on the latter we are of all men most free, for we have discovered that true freedom lies in doing God’s will.  The obedient believer knows practically that, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed,” Jn.8:36.

Zer therefore teachs the lesson that true freedom lies in submission to “that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of

God,” Ro 12:2.  It would remind us that the way, which to the natural man seems so “strait,” is in reality the way that is truly “broad.”

Hammath (not the Hammath of 13:5) means hot place because of its location in an area of hot springs on the west side of the Sea of Galilee, and since cold springs are biblical symbols of the written Word, hot springs are the converse.  They seem, in fact, to portray the Word as having been corrupted by the activity of man’s intelligence working in opposition to God; and since the literal springs were heated by subterranean fire, it isn’t difficult to see that the source of this evil intelligence is Satan himself.  Relative to that distorted “wisdom” James writes, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish”, Jas 3:15.

Who will deny that a large part of the Christian’s “wrestling” is against the doctrine of Roman Catholicism and its diabolic corruption of Scripture, for such is the power of that evil system over its dupes that it is virtually impossible to convince them that salvation comes by faith in a crucified and risen Savior, and only by faith in Him?

Rakkath means leanness: her spitting.  Looking first at the meaning leanness, we are reminded of what is written concerning a disobedient Israel, “ They soon forgot his (God’s works; they waited not for his counsel: but lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert.  And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul,” Ps 106:13-15.

We do well to remember that there are two aspects of God’s will: one is directive; the other, permissive; and almost invariably what He permits is inferior to what He would direct if we left the choice with Him.  It happens not infrequently that we, like Israel, soon forget His goodness, wait not for His counsel, but lust after earthly things, thus tempting Him, and prompting Him to give us what our evil hearts desire.  What is thus given is invariably accompanied by leanness of soul.  James reminds us, “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts,” Jas 4:3.

One lesson at least to be derived from Rakkath is that we should keep reminding ourselves of God’s goodness, and seek His counsel for every detail of our lives, remembering that our lusting after earthly things may result in our receiving what we desire, but receiving with it the leanness of soul which is too high a price to pay for anything.

Spitting rarely has a good connotation in Scripture, being used very frequently to express contempt and hatred, see, for example, Mt 26:67; 27:30, where it is recorded that His enemies spat on Christ.  We note also that this second meaning of Rakkath refers to the spitting of a woman, reminding us of the custom in Israel relative to the redemption of the inheritance of a widow.  The brother of the deceased was to marry the widow, and the first child of the marriage was counted as the child of the dead man; but if the brother refused to marry the widow, “Then shall his brother’s wife come unto him in the presence of the elders, and loose his shoe from off his foot, and spit in his face, and shall answer and say, So shall it be done unto that man that will not build up his brother’s house,” De 25:9.  The type was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ came to redeem Israel; but she, failing to see Him as her great Kinsman-Redeemer, rejected Him, and spat in His face, literally and figuratively, Isa 50:6; Mt 26:67; 27:30.

But the symbolic picture of the spitting woman is also of the great harlot church, which during this Church age occupies the place of apostate Israel, and whose false doctrine brings spiritual leanness, and whose contempt and hatred of true believers is too well documented by history to need further comment.

The lesson of Rakkath therefore is two fold.  As spiritual wrestlers we are to recognize the need of total submission to God’s will; and second, we are to recognize the evil of apostate Christendom (Roman Catholic and Protestant, and be on constant guard against its evil activity. 

Chinnereth means a harp, and its significance is easily discerned, for the harp is invariably connected with praise.  As there was a Chinnereth (harp within the territory of Naphtali, so should there be the spiritual equivalent in the midst of God’s redeemed people today, for in spite of having to wrestle against a powerful and implacable foe, we have also abundant reason to sound forth the praises of Him Who “loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father,” Re 1:5-6; for “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.... (and neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Ro 8:37-39.

19:36.  “And Adamah, and Ramah, and Hazor,”

Adamah, meaning the earth: ground, is virtually the same as  Adam, of whom it is written, “The first man is of the earth, earthy,” 1 Cor 15:47.  Its being within the territory of Naphtali reminds us that the old nature, which it represents, is also with us, for it must be remembered that the reception of a new nature doesn’t rid us of the old.  That old, fallen, corrupt, earthy, Adamic nature continues to exist in us side by side with the new nature, and still strives to have the use of our bodily members (including our minds, without the use of which it can’t express itself.  But neither can the new nature express itself without the use of our bodily members, hence Paul’s plea, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship.  And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God,” Ro 12:1-2. 

Neither nature, however, can use our bodily members without our consent, and as Adamah, once under Canaanite control, was now under the control of Naphtali, so is the old nature which once controlled us, now under our control.  We are not to permit it any use of our bodily members, including our minds. 

Ramah, the height, should remind us of the heights to which grace has lifted us, that promotion being made possible only because the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to stoop to depths beyond our ability to comprehend.  We who once were dead in trespasses and sins, are now the possessors of eternal life. Once the children of darkness, we are now the children of light.  Once aliens and strangers, we are now the sons of God.  The pauper has been made a priest and a king.  Our future of eternal torment in the lake of fire, has been exchanged for the eternal enjoyment of blessing in heaven.

As we stand spiritually upon “Ramah,” surveying our hopeless past, and our bright future, the knowledge that that future is ours only because Christ was willing to die for us, should beget a sense of gratitude that will make us “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith (we are called,” Eph 4:1, for an obedient life is the most sincere expression of gratitude. 

Hazor, to trumpet: enclosure, isn’t difficult to interpret, for throughout Scripture the trumpet speaks of the Gospel.  Believers are responsible to “Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature.”  But Hazor’s having also the meaning of enclosure reminds us that the assembly is the “enclosure” from which we are to go out with the Gospel, and the unbeliever is not to be brought into that fellowship until he has been born again.

For additional comments on Hazor please review the notes on 11:1,10,13; 12:19; 15:23,25.

19:37.  “And Kedesh, and Endrei, and Enhazor,” 

There was more than one Kadesh in Palestine, and to distinguish it from the others, this one is sometimes referred to as Kadesh-Naphtali, meaning a sanctuary of Naphtali, literally “a sanctuary of the wrestler.”  Inasmuch as believers are spiritual “wrestlers,” we should see in Kedesh a picture of that “sanctuary” given us by God, and into which we may retire to find refreshment, and strength for the conflict.

For the Naphtalites there was a literal town, but where is our “Kadesh”?  It is any place where we can go aside from the cares and distractions of the world, to commune with God; where He can speak to us from the pages of the Bible, and where we can speak with Him in prayer.

It is to be feared that “Kedesh” is a place little visited in this busy age.  So many things claim our time that the good intention to spend more time in “Kedesh” is somehow never fulfilled.  It is to be noted, however, that some of the busiest believers do find time to go there - often.  Daniel was a very busy man with great responsibilities, yet three times a day he found the time to go to “Kedesh.”  There are some believers today who also have responsibilities far beyond the lot of many, yet they too find the time to go to “Kedesh” - several times a day. 

How do they do it?  The answer is surprisingly simple: they make time.  How?  It is a matter of priorities.  Knowing that that time in “Kedesh” is imperative to their spiritual well-being, they plan for it in their daily schedule.  No matter how full and inflexible a schedule may be, time must be found in it for that visit to “Kedesh.”  If that time can’t be found, the schedule is too full.  Usually an honest examination of our activities will reveal that many are unnecessary, and that there is more “free” time than we think.  Usually it is simply a matter of determining that God is going to be given that time, no matter what may have to be given up.  In the very rare instance where that examination reveals that there is indeed no time for Bible study and prayer, the fact must be faced that I’m in the wrong job.  It is not God’s will for anyone to be that busy!

Edrei means goodly pasture, and it is not without significance that Edrei follows Kedesh in the list of Naphtali’s towns, for the truth is that the time spent in “Kedesh” brings us inevitably also into “Edrei.”  The two spiritual experiences cannot be separated.  In proportion as we spend time in the sanctuary, so also will we be made “fat” spiritually, like sheep feeding in a goodly pasture.

Enhazor means fountain of the village: fount of trumpeting. The village is a picture of a local assembly, and a fountain is a picture of the written Word as ministered by the Holy Spirit.  As the literal well or fountain is essential to the life of the literal village, so is the Word essential to the life of every assembly.  The frequency with which water is drawn from the village well would remind us of the need to draw from the well of the Word with at least the same frequency.

The uses made of the water from the village fountain or well have also much to teach us.  The refreshment derived from drinking, reminds us of the spiritual refreshment to be derived from drinking the water of the Word. 

Some was used for washing, reminding us that it is by the application of the water of the Word that we keep ourselves spiritually clean.  The OT summation of this truth is found in the words of the Psalmist, “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word,” Ps 119:9; and the NT confirmation is declared by Paul, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,” Eph 5:25-26.

A third, and very important use of water was for cooking, a process which is a beautiful picture of Bible study.  The boiling process requires a pot, a fire, something to boil, and of course water.  The pot is the believer; the water in the pot is the Word with which he has filled his mind by reading and study; the item being boiled is the verse or portion presently being studied; and the fire is the Holy Spirit.  As the water bubbled up by the fire, boils the item in the pot, so does the Holy Spirit “bubble up” in our minds Scripture already read and studied, using it to give understanding of the portion presently being studied, thus transmuting it into spiritual food.

A fourth useful lesson to be learnt from the literal drawing of water from the village well or fountain centers around the fact that it was usually drawn by women, and used far more by women than by men (they did the cooking, cleaning, washing, and bathing of children - and each of these has a spiritual counterpart.  The woman represents subjection, so that the lesson being taught here is that it is the submissive (obedient believer who goes to the “well,” and who makes most use of  the “water.”

Nor should we miss the important lesson taught by the fact that the time when the women congregated at the well to draw water, was also a time of fellowship.  God wants believers to enjoy fellowship around His Word.

But Enhazor was also a fount of trumpeting, and it is scarcely necessary to say that trumpeting speaks symbolically of testimony.  All of the foregoing will be of little value if it doesn’t impel us to go out into the world with the Gospel.

19:38.  “And Iron, and Migdalel, Horem, and Beth-anath, and Beth-shemesh; nineteen cities with their villages.”

19:39.  “This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali according to their families, the cities and their villages.”

Iron means fearful, and of course we are immediately reminded of what is written concerning fear, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” Pr 9:10; but, “The fear of man bringeth a snare,” Pr 29:25.

As a place within the portion of Naphtali, who represents us as a people called upon to wrestle against the sinister powers of darkness, this city would remind us that as we walk in the fear of the Lord, no foe can stand against us; but as we are influenced by the fear of man, we are already defeated.  How much the fear of man dictates our conduct, is sadly apparent in our reluctance to fearlessly preach the Gospel, and live lives to the glory of God.  It is very easy to condemn the cowardice of the Israelites that so often robbed them of blessing, but God would teach us that their literal experiences are but the figures of our spiritual victories and defeats, the fear of God giving us the former; fear of man, the latter.

We do well to remember the repeated exhortations to courage given Joshua when the conquest of Canaan began.  That same courage is sorely needed today by a Church that knows more of defeat than victory.

Migdalel means tower of God, and if Iron reminds us of our proneness to fear, this next city sets before us the resource provided by God.  The Psalmist exulted, “I will love thee, O Lord, my strength.  The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower,” Ps 18:1-2.

When intimidated by men, we should remember that man is but a creature: the God we serve is the Creator, without Whose permission man can do nothing.  We enjoy the shelter of God as our “high tower” when we see men, not as they are according to the offices they hold on earth, but as creatures of dust whose breath is given by God.  We, on the other hand, are those into whom He has breathed the breath of eternal life: we are His sons and daughters.

Next on the list is Horem meaning banned in the sense of being devoted to destruction.  As Grant points out “The idols of the land were thus to be unsparingly destroyed by Israel; and there are idols of the heart as evil in God’s sight which a true-hearted following of Him will doom no less.”  The pertinence of his comment must be acknowledged by every honest heart.  The literal idols may have vanished, but can we deny that false gods are still worshipped by those professing to be God’s people?  How many today yield unswerving devotion to Mammon!  The devotees of the goddess pleasure are more than can be counted; while those who bow daily before the throne of the god of education are equally numerous.  The sorry state of the Church today declares that we, no less than the Israel of long ago, have been delinquent in obeying God’s command to destroy what lies under His ban.

Beth-anath, meaning house of response: house of affliction, reminds us that as this city lay within the lot of Naphtali, so does its spiritual counterpart form part of our inheritance here on earth. 

The very idea of response conjures up the thought of our responsibility to yield obedience to God’s commands; but it reminds us that Satan also seeks to secure our obedience to his evil inducements, so that invariably we find ourselves in the position of having to choose whether to obey the command of God or the inducement of Satan.

But Beth-anath speaks also of affliction, reminding us that not infrequently obedience to God brings affliction from the world.  The inducement to yield that obedience, however, comes from the knowledge that obedience to Satan’s enticements brings the affliction of chastisement, for God loves us too much to leave us to the tender mercies of one who would, if he could, destroy us.

A further inducement to respond obediently to God is that whatever affliction may come from the world as a result, it can last only for a little while; but for the unbeliever, the affliction that attends obedience to Satan is eternal.

It is significant, however, that though Beth-anath was assigned to Naphtali, it remained under the control of the Canaanites, Naphtali being content to merely exact tribute, see Jg 1:33.  That partial control, which should have been total, is an accurate foreshadowing of the spiritual condition prevailing in the Church today.  In the realm of response it is painfully apparent that we too have left “Beth-anath” in the hand of the “Canaanite,” we being satisfied to maintain merely the appearance of control.  The price of blessing, however, is total, not partial obedience, for God will not share His glory.  His command is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” Lk 10:27; and again, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways,” Pr 23:26.  Note also the many references in Scripture to a whole heart.  God will be satisfied with nothing less.

Beth-shemesh means house of the sun, and inasmuch as the sun has been from time immemorial a universal object of heathen worship (an idolatry of which Israel has also been guilty at times, the spiritual significance of this city may be related also to our own idolatry, as noted above. 

Since the sun rises in the east, the connection with that compass direction is also easily made, and as noted in other studies, is a direction invariably associated in Scripture with departure from God.  The east’s being the source of natural light, (itself the symbol of natural intelligence as opposed to faith), immediately reminds us that Scripture has nothing good to say of worldly wisdom.  Yet, as noted already, that same earthly wisdom is one of the gods worshipped today, even by believers.

That natural wisdom, of which Beth-shemesh appears to speak, lies within our inheritance also, and there is the very great danger that we, like Israel of old, may be guilty of bowing down to the goddess of earthly knowledge more often than we would care to admit, or even be aware of.  Are we, for example, as much concerned that our children “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as we are that they excel in the wisdom of the world?  Do we accord more respect to believers with high academic qualification than those without? 

Like Beth-anath, Beth-shemesh was also left in the hand of the Canaanite, Naphtali here also being content to merely exact tribute.

This completes the list of Naphtali’s cities, “...nineteen cities with their villages” (verse 38.  As with all prime numbers greater than seven, the method of ascertaining the spiritual lesson of 19 appears to be to divide it into 1, the number of God, and 18 whose factors are 2 x 9; 3 x 6; and 2 x 3 x 3, which combine to declare that as men and women (6, standing spiritually on resurrection ground (3 and 9, we are responsible to maintain a witness (2 for God even while engaged in spiritual warfare against the forces of evil all around us.  

19:40.  “And the seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families.”

Since seven is the biblical number of perfection and completness, its association here with Dan, meaning judging: a judge, ought to remind us of what is written in Heb 9:27, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”  The end of earthly life will be followed by judgment.  For believers that judgment will be at the Bema, where each will be given a reward according to the faithfulness of his service, that reward to be enjoyed eternally in heaven.  For unbelievers it will be at the great white throne, where each will receive a measure of punishment according to the enormity of his sins, that punishment to be endured eternally in the lake of fire.

As noted already, each tribe portrays a characteristic of (1 individual believers, (2 of each local assembly, and (3 of the Church as a whole; and since Dan means judging: a judge the lessons God would teach us, through the places lying within Dan’s territory, are related to the matter of judgment.

Before looking at the details of this section we might note a few things in general relative to judgment.  Christ, of course, is the Supreme Judge, God having committed all judgment into His hand, Jn 5:22, before Whom all men, believers and unbelievers alike, must eventually stand, He 9:27: believers appearing at the Bema for the review of their lives and the recompense of their stewardship, Ro 14:10; unbelievers appearing at the great white throne from which they will be banished into eternal torment in the lake of fire, Re 20:11-15. 

Associated with this fact is the knowledge that God has made it possible for men to escape being judged for their sins, He having poured out that judgment upon the Lord Jesus Christ at Calvary, so that, “He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me ... shall not come into condemnation (judgment.... Jn 4:24, for, “He that believeth on him (Christ is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God,” Jn 3:18.

Then there are judgments which have been committed unto us as believers.  We are to judge ourselves, 1 Co 11:31; we are to maintain purity in the assembly by judging overt sin on the part of any member, 1 Co 5; we are to make judgments in regard to disagreements between believers, 1 Co 6, our qualification being found in the assurance that “the saints shall judge the world ... and angels,” vv.2,3; and we are to judge professors, not by what they say, but by what they do, Mt 7:16,20; and clearly we are to pass judgment on whether doctrine is sound or false, Ro 16:17.

There are, however, judgments we are not to make, e.g., we are not to judge the scruples of the weak brother whose conscience forbids him to eat certain foods, etc.; nor are we to judge another’s service: he is accountable to the Lord, not to men.

With this brief introduction we will now begin our study of Dan’s allotment in the land of Canaan, remembering that what is written is to instruct us as spiritual Danites.

19:41.  “And the coast of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Irshemesh,”

Zorah means she was smitten with leprosy, a meaning less ambiguous than might at first appear, for who will fail to recall what is recorded in Numbers 12 concerning Miriam’s speaking against Moses.  She and Aaron claimed equality with Moses, God’s spokesman, and immediately she was smitten with leprosy, from which she was healed after seven days, but only in response to Moses’ intercession.

The lesson isn’t hard to read.  She and Aaron, jealous of Moses, and dissatisfied with what God had assigned them, presumptuously attempted to claim for themselves the place God had allotted only to Moses.  How easy it is to be guilty of the same sin!  Dissatisfied with our Divinely allotted place or task, envious of another, we too may be guilty of intruding into a sphere which God has denied us, of undertaking a work to which He hasn’t called us, and for which He has given no qualification. 

Much harm, often irreparable, has been done by just such an attitude, such activity.  The remedy is found in Heb 13:5, “Let your conversation (manner of life be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”  We tend to limit the application of this exhortation.  It relates, not only to the things we possess, but also to the measure of our spiritual gift, and the sphere of service to which God has appointed us.

The knowledge that we were all spiritual lepers until God saved us, should be an effective check upon the tendency to pass harsh judgment on others.  

Eshtaol means I will be entreated, a meaning which calls to mind the exhortation in James 3:17, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated....”  Significantly this admonition is found in connection with warnings against “envying and strife” Jas 3:14,16, which, as noted above, are invariably spawned by the exercise of judgment which God has forbidden.  The sin of making such judgments becomes apparent when it is realized that in the final analysis it is passing judgment on God, for it is to question both His sovereignty, as well as His wisdom.

The remedy for the envying and strife resulting from the exercise of forbidden judgment is, first of all, to be submissive to God’s entreaty to abandon this sin; and secondly, to be equally willing to respond to those who would seek reconciliation from the strife engendered by our sin, or theirs.  Refusal to be reconciled simply declares that I’m still sinning by envying another, or by refusing to forgive him for wrong, real or imagined, he may have done me.  See also comments on 15:33. 

Irshemesh, meaning city of the sun, seems to teach that we are to make our judgments, not according to the standards of earth and earthly wisdom, but according to the standards of heaven, and the wisdom imparted by the Holy Spirit, the written Word being the source of both.

19:42.  “And Shaalabbin, and Ajalon, and Jethlah.”

Shaalabbin means hand of skill: jackal of discernment, and since the jackal is an unclean animal, the meaning of this place simply continues to stress that the judgment we exercise is not to be according to the world’s wisdom, the “jackal” character of which is declared in Jas 3:15, “This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” 

The first meaning hand of skill points to the high value which the world wrongly attaches to mere human “wisdom.”  God says all such wisdom is foolishness.  It is to have no part in the judgment of spiritual things.

Ajalon means deer-field: a large stag, and since Christ and the believer are both spoken of under the figure of a deer or hart, this may be to remind us that Aijalon represents the place that God wants His own to occupy.  The deer-field would speak of pasture for deer, so that the giving of Ajalon to Dan becomes a warning against allowing the world’s wisdom to have any part either in the application of the Word to ourselves as our spiritual food, or in the use of that Word in making spiritual judgments.  Many a believer has made shipwreck of his Christian life by allowing his faith in the Scriptures to be undermined by the false teaching of the world’s intellectuals.

The second meaning a large stag points to spiritual strength in connection with spiritual things, and it is to be remembered that some Christians are weak, and others strong, see Ro 14 and 1 Co 8.  There are some matters relative to the local church which require the judgment of spiritual maturity, hence the need of  believers to submit to the authority of godly elders.

Jethlah means he will hang, with height or lofty place a possible second meaning, the ambiguity of the meanings making interpretation difficult.  Connected as it must be with some aspect of judgment, however, it certainly reminds us that the Lord Jesus Christ was “hanged on a tree” in the greatest miscarriage of justice the world has ever seen, when the Jewish leaders judged the Lord of life worthy of death.  But where the wrong judgment of unbelief saw an imagined blasphemer die for his sin, countless multitudes of awakened sinners have seen the Savior of the world dying in their guilty place, for their sins, to save them from hell and fit them for heaven.

As a result of the Lord’s obedient stooping to death, even the death of the cross, we read, “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow ... and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father,” Php 2:9-11.  Surely that is the height or lofty place to which the second meaning of Jethlah points us.

The Lord, however, is our example, hence Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross,” Php 2:5-8.

He is a wise spiritual Danite whose judgment of the value of earthly things impels him to live by the same principle as governed the Lord when He was here on earth, and who has the faith to believe that the eternal glory bestowed will be commensurate with the degree of humiliation suffered for Christ’s sake.

19:43.  “And Elon, and Thimnathah, and Ekron,”

Elon means might, but it is also related to terebinth or oak, and it continues to emphasize the lesson of Jethlah, for

we can’t think of an oak without thinking of Calvary’s tree, itself the supreme place of judgment.  It would be peculiar indeed if there were not an Elon within the territory of the tribe whose name is synonymous with judgment.  Nor is it difficult to understand the association of the tree with might, for it is at Calvary that the might of God was displayed.  There Satan, death, and hell were vanquished, the Lord’s resurrection revealing Him as the Victor over all of them.

But it was there that the judgment due to our sins was meted out to Christ.  This should remind us of the need to exercise judgment with the same righteousness and impartiality as did God.  How seldom is this the character of the judgment we pass!

Thimnathah, meaning a portion there: thou shalt number there, is meant to remind us perhaps of the truth that because Christ has borne the judgment due to us, we have a portion in heaven for ever, and will be numbered there amongst those whom God calls His children, even as He does now while we are here on earth in bodies of clay.

In close association with this truth is the reminder that we have a responsibility to exercise judgment regarding those seeking fellowship in a local assembly.  In spite of the clamor for an “open table,” and the insistence that it is the Lord’s table, not ours, it is to be remembered that nothing makes it easier for Satan to introduce his wolves amongst God’s sheep than this very policy, which, under the guise of love and liberality, would set aside God’s order.  It is as a result of negligence in regard to reception into the local church, that there are found numbered there some whose lives offer little evidence that there has ever been a new spiritual birth.  Elders are responsible to interview all such applicants, and to make a judgment, to the best of their ability, as to whether there is reasonable evidence to believe that the man or woman has a right to be received into the fellowship of a company of believers.  This is not the arrogation of authority, but rather the legitimate exercise of the responsibility resting on the shoulders of those whom the Lord has set as shepherds over His sheep.  To refuse to make that judgment is flagrant dereliction of duty that will bring the delinquent elders themselves into judgment. 

Ekron, as a place within the lot of Dan, and meaning uprooting, links the uprooting with judgment, relative to which there must obviously first be self-judgment, as it is written, “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged,” 1 Co 11:31, and again, “For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God?” 1 Pe 4:17.

This in turn directs attention to the “uprooting” that will take place when the Christ Who came once as the Lamb, to die, returns as the Lion, to reign.  Then there will be an uprooting such as earth has never seen, when He banishes every unbeliever into hell, overthrows the kingdoms of earth, and their corrupt governments, and establishes His Own glorious millennial reign of righteousness and peace. 

Another terrible “uprooting” comes also to mind: that which will occur at the great white throne as hell and the grave yield up the souls and bodies of the unbelievers of all the ages, and the Christ Who died to save them, then as the Judge rather than the Savior, banishes them into the eternal torment of the lake of fire.

These latter two uprootings surely ought to impress us with the urgency of bringing the Gospel to as many as possible while there is still time.  This could be the last day we will have such an opportunity.  Tomorrow we ourselves could have gone home to heaven.  And that calls to mind still another “uprooting” that may be nearer than we think: that which will occur at the Bema, where every work judged by the Lord as unworthy of reward, will be “uprooted” and burned, to our shame, and eternal loss.

The knowledge that we must all stand at that judgment seat, should promote the utmost care relative to all the judgments we make here on earth.  

19:44.  “And Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath.”

Eltekeh, meaning let God spew thee out, calls to mind what is written concerning Laodicea, the church regarding which Christ warns, “I will spue thee out of my mouth,” Re 3:16.  One judgment no believer should fail to make is that which pertains to his own salvation.  The man who never stops to examine or judge the reality of his own profession may discover too late that all he had was a mere “profession,” and that he is one of those whom the Lord will spue out of His mouth.  Peter’s exhortation should not be taken lightly, “...brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” 2 Pe 1:10.

Gibbethon, the lofty, may point to the high privilege bestowed upon those into whose hands God has entrusted the future judgment of the world and of angels; but it may point also to the pride that all too often develops in the hearts of those so privileged as they become forgetful of the fact that they occupy that lofty place only because the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to take the lowest place, and go to Calvary as their Representative to bear the judgment that should have fallen upon them.

Baalath means mistressship.  In Scripture the term mistress refers to a wife in subjection to her husband, but ruling over the household servants and all that pertains to the smooth running of the household.  Since the woman’s Divinely appointed place is one of subjection, the linking together here of that which is feminine, but which also indicates rule, should remind us that we, into whose hand judgment has been committed, are to exercise that judgment in the realization that our authority is delegated, that we ourselves occupy a place of subjection, and that we will be judged for the integrity with which we exercised the power entrusted to us.

19:45.  “And Jehud, and Bene-berak, and Gath-rimmon.” 

Jehud, meaning he will be praised, may be intended to remind us that Christ, the One Who bore our judgment at Calvary, is the One who is worthy of all praise, for into His hand all judgment has now been committed.  That power includes His judgment of our lives at the Bema, a fact which should induce carefulness in the exercise of the judgment which has been committed into our hand, for we are warned, “Judge not (things we are not permitted to judge), that ye be not judged, for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” Mt 7:1-2.

Bene-berak means sons of lightning, and certainly one thought at least connects itself with that meaning: lightning is almost invariably associated with the display of God’s majesty, and of His wrath; while sons must remind us of the relationship we enjoy with Him through the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are His sons only because His only begotten Son was willing to become our Substitute, and stand in the place where “the lightning” of Divine wrath against sin must fall.

Gath-rimmon means wine-press of the pomegranate, and there is no difficulty in discovering the significance of the wine-press, for it is a well-known symbol of judgment, see e.g., Isa 63:3; Re 14:19; 19:15.

Relative to the pomegranate, we read in Ex 28:33-35 of God’s command that the hem of the high priest’s robe was to be adorned with pomegranates and golden bells, “And beneath upon the hem of it thou shalt make pomegranates of blue, and purple, and of scarlet, round about the hem thereof; and bells of gold between them round about.  A golden bell and a pomegranate, a golden bell and a pomegranate upon the hem of the robe round about.  And it shall be upon Aaron to minister: and his sound shall be heard when he goeth in unto the holy place before the Lord, and when he cometh out, that he die not.”

Pomegranates are symbols of the Church universal, and also of each local church.  Each crimson seed represents the individual believer as cleansed by the blood of Christ; and each little cluster of seeds within its membranous covering, and thus separated from the other clusters, represents the believers in a local church or assembly.  All of the seeds, and all of the clusters, however, represent the Church universal.  The crimson juice enveloping all of them represents the blood of Christ.

Their being suspended on the hem of the high priest’s robe, and separated from the ground, speaks of our position in Christ.  He upholds us, and in union with Him we are separate from the world: in the world, but not of it - we are citizens of heaven.

The golden bells speak of worship and testimony, and the fact that they were to be heard when Aaron went into the holy place and when he came out, teaches us the relative order of worship and service: we go in to the presence of God on the first day of the week to worship, and then we come out to testify until the next Lord’s day.  That order is not to be reversed.  No matter how worthy the work, whatever causes us to be absent from the Lord’s table, is not acceptable

We have therefore in Gath-rimmon the symbolic revelation of truth relative to judgment, applicable certainly to each individual believer, but particularly to each local assembly.  First, as individual believers, we are redeemed only because the Lord Jesus Christ was willing to enter into the “winpress” of God’s wrath at Calvary, to bear judgment that should have fallen upon us.  As those redeemed by His precious blood we are responsible to be His witnesses.  But each local assembly, consisting of blood-washed men and women, has the same responsibility to be a light amid the surrounding darkness.

Failure to bear that light will eventually result in the removal of the local assembly; but since the failure is directly attributable to failure on the part of individual believers, our dereliction will bring judgment, not only here on earth, but also at the Bema.

Then, as already noted, there is the responsibility upon each of us to judge his or her own life, and to exercise judgment for the maintenance of purity in the local assembly.  Failure to exercise that judgment will bring God’s wrath upon us.

19:46.  “And Mejarkon, and Rakkon, with the border before Japho.”

Mejarkon means waters of mildew: waters of verdure, meanings which are virtual opposites, for mildew is associated with decay, while verdure is the evidence of life.  The spiritual lesson, however, is very fittingly told in these opposites.  Water is one of the symbols of the Word, so that the reference to waters directs our attention to the fact that God wants to teach us something relative to the Word; but its association here with the tribe of Dan adds the fact that it is the Word in connection with judgment.  Nor is the lesson difficult to read in view of what is written, “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.  This is the Word as “Majarkon” having the meaning waters of mildew.  The Word rejected brings death.

But it is also written, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlastting life” Jn 4:14, and again, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.  He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” Jn 7:37-38.  This is the Word as “Mejarkon” having the meaning waters of verdure.  The Word believed brings life.

It is what man does with the Word that determines which meaning of Mejarkon applies.

Rakkon means emaciation: spitting out, both meanings having a bad connotation.  Emaciation speaks of a state of leanness and weakness resulting from hunger or sickness.  It is a physical condition having a spiritual counterpart.  The corresponding  state results from failure to eat spiritual food, the resulting spiritual malaise being simply the judgment of God upon this sin, for it is nothing less than sin to fail to nourish that new spiritual life bestowed as God’s free gift in response to faith, but procured at incalculable cost: the death of the Lord Jesus Christ. 

It is sadly apparent that the spiritual counterpart of Rakkon exists in our midst today just as the literal Rakkon lay within the territory of Dan, and the second meaning spitting out directs attention to what must be the inevitable result of failure to nourish the new spiritual life: it will produce deeds that are worthless in God’s sight - deeds which will be “spat out” at the Bema.

There is, however, an even worse possibility.  The written Word is the revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the living Word, so that a dislike of the one is nothing less than a dislike of the Other, something no true believer could be guilty of.  A distaste for the study of Scripture may therefore indicate more than spiritual sickness: it may indicate lack of spiritual life!

Japho, meaning to be fair to him, is the direct opposite of Rakkon.  We will be fair to Him only as our new life is nourished by the written Word, not just read, but meditated upon, and obeyed.  One may read a great deal of the Word, but unless that reading produces greater conformity to the life of Christ, it is of little worth, for only the Christ-like life is fair to God.     

19:47.  “And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father.”

In contrast with Judah whose lot was too large for him, Dan’s lot was too small; and since the lesson connected with Judah’s large lot was that we can never hope to fulfill our obligation to adequately express the worship of which God is worthy, the lesson of Dan’s small lot seems to be that in the matter of judgment we tend to go beyond the boundaries set by God.  This scarcely needs comment.  It is all too readily apparent that we fail to judge ourselves as we should, but without warrant, are quick pass judgment on others.

Before proceeding, we should consider whether Dan’s lot was, in fact, too small, or whether it was so only in his own judgment, and because of his failure to drive out the enemy.  Is it likely that God would have erred in assigning the tribal lots?

Ephraim and Manasseh had complained that their lot was too small, and they were commanded to enlarge it, not by going beyond it, but by taking what the Perizzites still occupied, “Get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants.... the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong,” 17:14-18.

Surely there is reasonable ground for believing that Dan too could have enlarged his original lot, and that his decision to go north instead was simply a self-willed choice dictated by expedient, the Leshemites (see Judges 18) appearing easier to defeat than the Canaanites within the portion already assigned him by God.

It is to be feared that too often we choose to seek enlargement by going beyond Divinely appointed boundaries, simply because we are unwilling to expel the enemy from the portion God has given us.  In nothing is this more apparent than the trend within the assemblies to seek increase by means of unscriptural methods that are dictated, not by the Word of God, but by the expedient suggested by mere human intelligence. 

What is needed are self-judgment, confession of sin, repentance, prayer, meditation on the Word of God, a seeking of God’s guidance, a willingness to give ourselves to the study of Scripture, and to the service of God, both in ministry to one another, and in a fearless persistent preaching of the Gospel to the unsaved.  But it is easier to pay someone else to do the studying, the preaching, the teaching, the visiting, the shepherding, so that we may continue the pursuit of money, pleasure, ease, etc.; and to multiply ourselves by lowering God’s standards and preaching a watered down “gospel” that offends no one and saves no one, but that makes it easy for the unconverted  to flock into our “fellowships” - religious social clubs masquerading as churches - where they enjoy “the activities.”

What is unperceived by eyes blinded by self-will, and the glitter of the world’s ways, is that what we are producing are not assemblies of believers, but congregations consisting of a “mixed multitude” of sheep and goats, lambs and wolves, wheat and weeds, saints and sinners, children of God and children of Satan, those who are light and those who are darkness, those who are holy and those who are unholy, those who are on their way to heaven and those who are on their way to hell - in a word, those who, God says, are not to be mixed together.

There is ominous significance in the fact that to enlarge his portion, Dan turned northward, the direction that speaks of intelligence rather than faith, for the truth is that mere human intelligence is almost invariably the foe of faith.  And there is further ominous significance in his seizing Leshem, settling there, and changing its name to Dan, for Leshem means unto desolation.

The lesson isn’t difficult to read.  When judgment is passed on the basis of mere human intelligence, the result must always be spiritual desolation.  The barren state of the Church at large, and of many a local assembly, bears eloquent testimony to the extent of the desolation that has resulted from such judgment.

Lot furnishes one of the earliest warnings against the folly of judging according to mere human intelligence.  His survey of the well watered plain of Jordan impelled him to desire it, Ge 13:10-11, but the inadequacy of human intelligence is revealed in what that well watered plain soon became, and remains to this day - a scene of desolation unequalled on earth.

Judas is another example of the deficiency of mere human intelligence to properly judge values.  It led him to sell his Lord, and his own soul, for a paltry thirty pieces of silver.

The Jewish leaders’ estimate of Christ is a further disclosure of how little human intelligence may be relied upon to make a competent judgment.

The judgment seat of Christ will be the ultimate place of disclosure, for there will be revealed how often we were guilty of the folly of having passed judgment on the very inadequate basis of mere human intelligence.

A further lesson may be learnt from the fact that Dan fought against Leshem, and smote it with the edge of the sword.  Since the place means unto desolation, the spiritual significance of Dan’s fighting against it is that it is often with the intention of doing good that we pass judgment; but harsh destructive judgment is no improvement.  It is one thing to seek to alter a desolate, barren state in an individual or an assembly, but the remedy must be according to the Word of God, and not a mere human expedient conceived by human intelligence.  Unless it is according to Scripture, the man or the assembly will simply change from a barren state to one even more likely to incur Divine judgment.

19:48.  “This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.”

It is to be noted that Dan’s incursion into the north, and his appropriation of Leshem, simply divided the tribe into two parts.  Judgment according to human intelligence, rather than Scripture, simply produces division.  It is to be noted also, however, that some of the Danites choose to remain in their God appointed lot.  It has never been different.  In the division resulting from the use of human, rather than spiritual judgment, some have wisely chosen to remain in the place of God’s appointment.  

19:49.  “When they had made an end of dividing the land for inheritance by their coasts, the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua the son of Nun among them:”

Since Joshua Jehovah is salvation, the son of Nun perpetuity, is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as the Captain of our salvation leading us into our inheritance, the question presents itself, What is the spiritual meaning of his being given also a portion “among them”?  The answer is given typologically in the next verse.

19:50.  “According to the word of the Lord they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnath-serah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein.”

Timnath-serah means abundant portion, and Ephraim, double ash-heap: I shall be doubly fruitful.  His redeemed people are the Lord’s inheritance, see e.g., Ex 34:9; Ps 33:12.  Joshua’s choosing, and building this city, in the place that speaks of fruitfulness, presents us with a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ dwelling today in the midst of those He has redeemed and chosen for His inheritance.

19:51.  “These are the inheritances, which Eleazar the

priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, divided for an inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.  So they made an end of dividing the country.”

It is significant that Eleazar God is helper heads the list of those appointed to superintend the allotment of the tribal portions.  In this we learn that the Christ, represented by Joshua, has procured our inheritance for us, but it is the Christ represented by Eleazar, and Who is now our great High Priest, Who allocates each believer his portion here on earth, as He will also allocate each his portion for eternity, based on the faithfulness of each man’s earthly stewardship. 

And the involvement of the “fathers of the tribes” in the assignment of the tribal lots, points to the fact that the teaching of godly elders has no small part to play in guiding us into the enjoyment of the portion God has given us.  This is not to imply of course that we are not to search the Word of God for ourselves, but particularly in the case of young or immature believers, the accumulated wisdom of godly elders is often invaluable in helping us understand that Word.

Nor should we miss the lesson being taught in the mention of the place where the lots were drawn.  Shiloh means peace-bringer: bringer of prosperity, and inasmuch as the Tabernacle was there, it is synonymous with the presence of God.  Peace and prosperity are inseparable from that place.  Our peace and spiritual prosperity here on earth, and the extent of our eternal inheritance in heaven, will be in direct proportion to the amount of time we spend in God’s presence.

[Joshua 20]



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