Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible
JOSHUA CHAPTER 21
Cities given out of the other tribes by lot to the Levites, Joshua 21:1-8. Particularly to the priests, the children of Aaron, Joshua 21:9-19; to the Levites, the Kohathites, Joshua 21:20-26, the Gershonites, Joshua 21:27-33, and Merarites, Joshua 21:34-40; in all forty-eight cities, with their suburbs, Joshua 21:41,42. The Israelites quietly enjoy the Promised Land, Joshua 21:43-45.
Then, i.e. when the whole land was distributed unto the several tribes, but not actually possessed by them; which was the proper season for them to put in their claim.
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.
It seems most probable that they gave to the Levites promiscuously such cities as God commanded, and that the lot appropriated them to their several houses or families.
Out of their inheritance, i.e. out of their several possessions; partly that the burden and loss might be equally divided and principally, that the Levites being dispersed among the several tribes, according to Jacob’s prediction, Genesis 49:7, might more easily, and frequently, and effectually teach the Israelites God’s law and judgments, which they were engaged to do, Deuteronomy 33:10; and that the people might upon all occasions resort to them, and require the meaning of the law at their mouths, Malachi 2:7.
These cities and their suburbs; not only the use, but the absolute dominion of them, as is manifest both from Joshua 21:11,12, where a distinction is made between
the city and suburbs of Hebron, and the fields and villages thereof, and the former are 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, Leviticus 25:33,34.
Which three tribes were nearest to 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, Leviticus 25:33, much more might they let them; and therefore it is probable their cities were not very long uninhabited, many being inclined to dwell with them by virtue of relations contracted with them, or dependence upon or expectation from them; or out of respect to the service of God, and the good of their souls.
The children of Kohath were of Aaron’s family, or priests, but Levites only. These 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 for the three former tribes, because their inheritance was less than the former. See Numbers 35:8.
These cities with their suburbs; of which See Poole "Numbers 35:2".
Simeon are mentioned together, because the cities of Simeon lay within Judah’s portion.
Of the families, i.e. of the family, the plural number for the singular, which is not unusual.
The fields of the city, i.e. all beyond the 2000 cubits expressed Numbers 35:5. This is here mentioned, not as his peculiar case, but as one eminent instance, to show 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 contentedly and cheerfully resign so great a 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.
Holon, called Hilen, 1 Chronicles 6:58, as Juttah here is called Ashan, 1 Chronicles 6:59, and Kibzaim called Jokmeam, 1 Chronicles 6:68, and so some others, the names of the places being changed by length of time, and upon special occasions, as was frequent among the Jews; though their doctors add, that some of these places here mentioned, being now in the Canaanites’ possession, and not speedily recovered from them, there were others put in their stead.
Ain here, and Gibeon Joshua 21:17, and some others here named, are not named 1Ch 6, either because they were destroyed in some of those hostile invasions and wars wherewith their land was grievously harassed and wasted before that time; or they appear there under other names, as was said.
The families which remained of the children of Kohath, over and above those of them who were priests.
To wit, that half which dwelt in Canaan, by comparing this with Joshua 21:27.
Bezer, a city of refuge, as it is called Joshua 20:8, and therefore needless to be here repeated.
Quest. Why hath this tribe, which was the least of all, more cities than any of them?
Answ. 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, as is evident. Secondly, The Levites were confined to their cities and suburbs; the rest had large territories belonging to their cities, which also 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, partly to put honour upon those whom he foresaw many would be prone to despise; and partly, that being free from all outward distractions, they might more entirely and fervently devote themselves to the service of God, and the instruction of souls.
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 and convenient for them, which was by degrees, when their numbers were increased, &c., Exodus 23:29,30, and the absolute dominion of all the people remaining in it.
To wit, all the days of Joshua, by comparing Joshua 1:5, for afterwards it was otherwise with them.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 21". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25