View Joshua 21 in the note window.
The motion of the Levites, to have their cities appointed,
which is done, ver. 1 - 8.
A catalogue of those cities, ver. 9 - 42.
A testimony, that God had fulfilled his word, ver. 43 - 45.
1: Then - When the whole land was distributed to the several tribes,
but not actually possessed by them; which was the proper season for them to
put in their claim. Fathers of the Levites - The fathers of the Levites
were Kohath, Gershom, and Merari, and the heads of these were the
chief persons now alive of these several families.
2: The Lord commanded - Observe: the maintenance of ministers is not
an arbitrary thing, left purely to the good will of the people. No: as the
God of Israel commanded, that the Levites should be provided for, so
hath the Lord Jesus ordained, (and a perpetual ordinance it is) that
they who preach the gospel should live of the gospel.
3: The children of Israel gave - Probably they gave the Levites
promiscuously such cities as God commanded, and the lot appropriated them to
their several houses or families. Out of their inheritance - That is, out
of their several possessions; that the burden might be equally divided; and,
that the Levites being dispersed among the several tribes, according to
Jacob's prediction, (Ge 49:7), might more easily, and effectually
teach the Israelites God's law and judgments, which they were
engaged to do, (De 33:10), and that the people might upon all occasions
resort to them, and enquire the meaning of the law at their mouths.
And suburbs - Not only the use, but the absolute dominion of them, as is
manifest both from ver.(Jos 21:11,12), where a distinction is made
between the city and suburbs of Hebron, and the fields and villages
thereof; (the former given to the Levites, the latter to Caleb;)
and from the return of these cities in the Jubilee, unto the Levites
as to their proper owners, (Le 25:33,34).
4: Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin - Which three tribes were nearest
the temple, where their business lay. Thirteen cities - For though the
priests were now few enough for one city, yet respect was to be had to their
succeeding numbers; this division being made for all future generations.
And seeing the Levites might sell their houses until the Jubilee,(Le 25:33), much more might they let them; and therefore it is probable
their cities were not long uninhabited, many being inclined to dwell with
them by virtue of relations contracted with them; or out of respect to the
service of God, and the good of their souls.
5: Children of Kohath - Who were of Aaron's family. Ephraim,
Dan, and Manesseh - Which tribes are nearest to the three former, and
so the Kohathites are placed next to their brethren the Aaronites.
Ten cities - Fewer than they gave out of the three former tribes, because
their inheritance was less than the former.
9: Judah and Simeon - These are mentioned together, because the
cities of Simeon lay within Judah's portion.
10: Families - That is, of the family, the plural number for the
singular, which is not unusual.
12: The fields and villages - That is, all beyond the two thousand
cubits expressed, (Nu 35:5). This is here mentioned, not as his
peculiar case, but as one eminent instance, to shew, that it was so in all
the rest of the cities here named; that the fields and villages thereof
still belonged to the several tribes from whom the cities and their suburbs
were taken; and to make the rest of the Israelites more chearfully
resign part of their possessions to the Levites, because even Caleb
did so, though his possession had been long before promised, and now
actually given to him by God's special command, as a mark of honour and
compensation for his long and faithful service.
16: And Ain - Ain and Gibeon, and some others here named are
not named, (1Ch 6:59). Either they were destroyed in some of those
invasions wherewith their land was grievously wasted before that time; or
they appear there under other names.
20: Which remained - Over and above those who were priests.
25: Half the tribe - Namely, that half which dwelt in Canaan.
41: Forty eight cities - Why hath this tribe, which was the least of
all, more cities than any of them? First, it doth not appear that they had
more: for though all the cities of the Levites be expressed, it is not
so with the other tribes, but divers of their cities are omitted. Secondly,
the Levites were confined to their cities and suburbs; the rest had
large territories belonging to their cities, which also so they were in a
capacity of improving, which the Levites were not; so that one of their
cities might be more considerable than divers of the Levites.
Thirdly, God, was pleased to deal liberally with his ministers, to put
honour on those whom he foresaw many would be prone to despise; and, that
being free from outward distractions, they might more entirely and fervently
devote themselves to the service of God.
43: All the land - He gave them the right to all, and the actual
possession of the greatest part of it, and power to possess the rest, as
soon as it was needful for them, which was when their numbers were
increased, and the absolute dominion of all the people remaining in it.
44: Gave them rest - Namely, all the days of Joshua; for
afterwards it was otherwise with them.
45: All came to pass - Such an acknowledgment as this, here
subscribed by Joshua, in the name of all Israel, we afterward find
made by Solomon; and all Israel did in effect say amen to it,(1Ki 8:56).
The inviolable truth of God's promise, and the performance of it to the
uttermost, is what all believers in Christ have been always ready to bear
their testimony to. And if in any thing it has seemed to come short, they
have been as ready to take all the blame to themselves.