King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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Joshua 21

Cities for the Levites. (1-8) The cities allotted to the Levites. (9-42) God gave the land and rest to the Israelites, according to his promise. (43-45)

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Cities for the Levites

1 Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel;

2 And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.

3 And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.

4 And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, which were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities.

5 And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.

6 And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.

7 The children of Merari by their families had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.

8 And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.

The cities allotted to the Levites

9 And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name.

10 Which the children of Aaron, being of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, had: for theirs was the first lot.

11 And they gave them the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it.

12 But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.

13 Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs,

14 And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs,

15 And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs,

16 And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.

17 And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs,

18 Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs; four cities.

19 All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.

20 And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim.

21 For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs,

22 And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities.

23 And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs,

24 Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities.

25 And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities.

26 All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.

27 And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beeshterah with her suburbs; two cities.

28 And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs,

29 Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities.

30 And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs,

31 Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities.

32 And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammothdor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities.

33 All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.

34 And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs,

35 Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities.

36 And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs,

37 Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities.

38 And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs,

39 Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.

40 So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.

41 All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs.

42 These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.

God gave the land and rest to the Israelites, according to his promise

43 And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.

44 And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.

45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. The priest, who seems to have presided, as he is always placed first. A select number of the tribe of Levi came to represent the priests, and those of an inferior order; and to obtain what God had promised them. Num. xxxv. 2. There was one family of priests who sprang from Aaron, the son of Caath. The rest of Caath’s family, with the children of Gerson and Merari, were simply Levites, constituting three other families. God was pleased that they should be dispersed through Israel, that they might instruct the people both by word and by example, 1 Par. xxvi. 29. C. — Josue would not have neglected them. M. — But they were naturally solicitous to know where they were to live, as the tribes had now all received their portions. H.

Ver. 3. Gave, by lot, v. 4, &c. M. — Whether any changes were afterwards made, to grant more or less, in proportion to the numbers of the four families, (as seems to have been done with regard to the other tribes) or the cities were specified in four parcels, and the priests received the first lot, the text does not explain. C. — It is also uncertain what right the Levites had to these 48 cities. Some say that they had only the use of them, while others maintain that the cities were their property entirely, so that no other could live there without their consent. They could sell the houses, which returned to them in the year of the jubilee, if not redeemed before; but the suburbs were a common property of all the Levites, and could not be sold by any. Lev. xxv. The cities, therefore, belonged to God, and he abandoned the property to his ministers. Other people might live among them, as they were not debarred from choosing their habitation in places which were not originally allotted to them. Thus we find that Gabaa was chiefly people by the tribe of Benjamin, when the outrage was offered to the Levite’s wife, and no blame attached to the latter. Judg. xix. Saul and his family were of the same town, though it belonged to the Levites, and David kept his court at Hebron, a sacerdotal city, for the first seven years of his reign. C. — Here also Caleb had probably resided. C. xiv. 14. The priests and Levites were not indeed at this time sufficiently numerous to people all these cities; and Calmet supposes that they only received as many houses as they might occupy, being supplied with more by the magistrates as their numbers increased. But might not they let the houses, which they did not want to occupy, and receive the profits, so as to take possession of them when they had occasion? Were these 48 cities, which were the only part of the land to which the Levites had any claim, too many or too rich to compensate the labours of this most deserving tribe? It seems, therefore, unnecessary to call in the aid or interference of the magistrate, except any person were so bold as to refuse to give up what the law had so positively assigned to the Levites. Their rights were as well defined as those of any of the other tribes. H. — The land beyond the suburbs, was cultivated by the proprietors, who might either live in the town or country. Many of the priests and Levites chose to reside near the tabernacle, as Moses had encouraged them to do. Deut. xviii. 6. Thus Nobe became a sacerdotal city; (1 K. xxi. 1,) and after the temple was built, Jerusalem and its environs were the places of abode for most of the priests. C.

Ver. 4. Thirteen. These three tribes give more cities than any of the others, because their territories were the largest. Num. xxxv. 8. Juda in particular, had a most extensive portion allotted to him at first; so that a part was afterwards taken away to accommodate Simeon and Dan, and now so many cities are appointed for the priests, (C.) who would thus have their residence near the temple, when it should be built. H. — God ordered the lots according to the designs of his providence; and gave the priests, though so few in number, more than what fell to the share of all the rest of the family of Caath. C. — This family had in all twenty-three cities, lying south of Dor and Bethsan, and leaving the tribe of Issachar on the north. Gerson had thirteen cities among the three other northern tribes, and that of Manasses on the east side of the Jordan; while Merari had twelve, more southward on the same side, in the tribes of Gad and of Ruben, and on the west of the Jordan, in the tribe of Zabulon. Thus these two families were more intermixed. H.

Ver. 12. Possession. Only the houses which the priests occupied, were taken from him. C. — Caleb enjoyed all the dependencies of Hebron, and took the city, as he would not have been secure while the Chanaanites dwelt there. Magalian. — Serarius thinks that he abandoned the city to the priests, in which he follows Tostat, who supposes that they had to pay tribute to the tribes among whom they lived; and that mines, &c. belonged to the latter. M.

Ver. 16. Ain and Jeta. Sept. of Grabe agrees with the Vulg. But the Vatican copy (H.) has, “Asa…and Tanu.” In 1 Par. vi. 59, only Asan and Bethsemes are mentioned. Several other variations may also be observed, which may be attributed either to the changes which were afterwards made when the Chanaanites kept their hold, (Rabbins) or to the different places having two names, or to the mistakes of transcribers, &c. See C. xv. 62. Only eleven cities are specified in the Book of Paralipomenon, though it observes that there were thirteen. C. — As hath, &c. words added by S. Jerom, or rather expressing more fully the Heb. “those” two tribes. H.

Ver. 21. One of, (urbes confugii Sichem…and Gazer.) Lit. ” cities of refuge, Sichem,…Gazer,” &c. as if all the Levitical cities had enjoyed this privilege, which we have seen (Num. xxxv. 6,) is the opinion of some. But the Heb. Sept. and Chal. read in the singular, “Sichem, a city of refuge;” and interpreters generally allow only six cities of this description. C. — Without extending this privilege to all the rest, we may observe that all the cities of refuge were given to the Levites, v. 11. 21-7-32-6-7. Prot. “For they give them Shechem, with here suburbs in Mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gazer,” &c. By inserting to be, they seem to countenance the opinion that all the subsequent towns were of the same nature as Sichem. The text would be clearer without the addition, to prove the contrary sentiment. H. — See Bonfrere how the Vulg. may be vindicated. M.

Ver 22. Beth-horon. Grabe’s Sept. adds, “the upper,” which is the received opinion. C.

Ver. 23. And of, &c. This verse is omitted in Paralipomenon, (H.) whence we find Helon and Gethremmon (probably the same as Aialon and Beth-remmon, v. 24, assigned to Ephraim. — Eltheco. See C. xv. 59. and xix. 44. — Gabathon continued a long time in the hands of the Philistines. 3 K. xv. 27.

Ver. 25. Cities. Instead of these, Aner and Balaam are mentioned in Paralipomenon. C.

Ver. 26. Degree, who were not priests. Caath is placed before his eldest brother Gerson, on account of the honour of the priesthood and of Moses. M.

Ver. 27. Refuge. Lit. “the cities of refuge, Gaulon…and Bosra.“ See v. 21. H. — The latter gives place to Asteroth, in Paral.

Ver. 29. Cities. These are called Cedes and Daboreth, Ramoth and Amen, in Paralipomenon.

Ver. 35. Suburbs. Paralipomenon only mentions two, Remmono and Thabor.

Ver. 36. Four cities. There are no more, though there be five names: for Misor is the same city as Bosor, which is to be observed in some other places, where the number of names exceeds the number of cities. Ch. — With regard to the 36th and 37th verses, there seems to have been great confusion in the Hebrew MSS. both ancient and modern. In some they have been totally omitted, in others only a part. H. — The famous MS. of Hillel, and the Masorets, reject them, (C.) because they had reckoned only 656 verses in Josue, and these two verses would destroy their authority. Hence they erased them wherever they might be found; and Kimchi assures us, that he never could meet with them “in any MS. (thus) corrected.” Yet the Paralipomena universally acknowledge them, (Ken.) as the context of Josue must also do, otherwise there will be only eight cities instead of twelve, and four will be wanting to complete the number of forty-eight. The Prot. version therefore is forced to admit them, (H.) as they are found in the Eng. Polyglot, on the authority of some ancient MSS. They do not, however, express them so fully as the Sept. have done. Ken. — These read, “And beyond the Jordan, over-against Jericho, out of the tribe of Ruben, the city of refuge for the slayer Bosor, in the wilderness, (Misor) and her suburbs, and Jazer and her suburbs, (37) and Gedson and her suburbs, and Mapha (Alex. copy reads Maspha) and her suburbs, four cities.” Grabe. — Prot. only admit, “And out of the tribe of Ruben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah…Kedemoth…and Mephaath with her suburbs, four cities.” Kennicott finds in some Heb. MSS. “the city of refuge for the slayer, Bosor;” one MS. has, “in the wilderness,” &c. H. — These verses were not in the Heb. text of the Hexapla, as they are obelized in the Sept. and in the Syriac MS. of Masius; and yet, as they are found in the old Greek and Syriac versions, and in the Chal. paraphrase, they were probably omitted between the year 100 and 200. They are left out in several printed editions of the Heb. Bible, and even in that of Jablonski, (1699) though in opposition to his better judgment and all the MSS. which he had consulted: legunt omnia nostra MSS. Michaelis (1720) reprinted this text, with some few emendations, particularly with these two verse very laudably inserted. Kennicott, 2 Diss. — In the Bened. Edit. of S. Jerom, Martianay observes, that the Heb. MSS. of S. Jerom seem to have been mutilated, for if they had admitted this 36th verse, S. Jerom would have translated it, and it would have been found in the more ancient MSS. of the Latin edition, where it is wanting. Hence this editor leaves it out. He also remarks that other Heb. MSS. omit “a city of refuge for the slayer, in the desert.” The last word, he says, occurs in several copies of the best not; and Houbigant inserts it on the authority of the oratorian MS. 54. H. — In some editions of the Vulg. this verse is transposed, and placed after the cities of Gad. Louvain, R. Steph. &c. — It is therefore, probably that S. Jerom found it not in Heb. but, if he inserted it, he borrowed it from the Sept. The Syriac version places these verses before the 34th and 35th. All this shews that the Heb. MSS. have not been kept with great care in this place. Some have surmised that the Sept. have inserted this necessary supplement from Paral. But they do not entirely agree with that book, so that it seems that they found these verses in their Heb. copies. C. — We have already given the Hebrew and Sept. as it is found in the common editions. In Paral. (vi. 78,) it is thus expressed: Beyond the Jordan also, over-against Jericho, on the east side of the Jordan, out of the tribe of Ruben, Bosor in the wilderness, with its suburbs, and Jassa…79. Cademoth also…and Mephaath with its suburbs. The word Misor, which Grabe’s Sept. and the Vulg. leave untranslated, is the Heb. word which denotes a plain, (H.) as Aquila and Sym. agree, and as appears C. xx. 8. Deut. iv. 43, where Bosor is said to have been upon the plain of the wilderness. This city was the famous Bosra, in the desert Arabia, between Philadelphia and Jazer, towards the east. C. — We might translate, “the cities of refuge, Bosor in the wilderness, which is also the plain” of Moab, v. 21. H. — Jaser, or Jassa, (C. xiii. 18,) different from that v. 37, which lay on the river of the same name in the tribe of Gad. C.

Ver. 40. Families, the four great ones, which parcelled out the cities among the several branches. H. — The Levites were only 23,000, (Num. xxvi. 62,) yet they receive more cities than what are specified for any other tribe. It must be observed, however, that all the cities of the different tribes are not mentioned, and the Israelites might live along with those of the tribe of Levi, v. 3. Moreover, these had only the cities, with 2000 cubits of land round them. The Sept. here insert that Josue divided the land, and received the city of Thamnasachar; (Grabe substitutes Thamnasarach) where he deposited the knives of stone with which he had circumcised those who were born in the desert. H. — They farther remark, that they were buried in his tomb. C. xxiv. 30.

Ver. 43. Pass. How then did the Chanaanites keep possession of so many places? S. Augustine (q. 21,) answers, that they were suffered to do it for the “utility and trial” of the Israelites. For the latter were not sufficiently numerous at first to cultivate all the land. God had therefore promised that the nations should not be driven out all at once, lest the country should fall a prey to wild beasts. Ex. xxiii. 29. Masius. — During the life-time of Josue, none of them durst make head against him; and if many of the tribes did not take possession of all their cities, it was owing to their own negligence. After this hero was no more, the natives took courage, and greatly harassed the Israelites; but it is plain that the latter were not straitened for room, while Josue lived, since they invited the other tribes east of the Jordan to come and reside with them on the west, if they thought proper. C. xvii. 19. C.