Joshua 19:10-13: The Borders of Zebulun, Part 1

Verse 10:[1] And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families: and the border of their inheritance was unto Sarid…

[The lot…of Zebulun] Question: Why does he preceding Issachar, who was older than he? Response: By this Divine counsel it was done, whereby Jacob also named them in the same order (Masius). It is sufficiently evident that in the distribution of the lots the order of birth was not observed (Bonfrerius).

Zebulun is here put before Issachar, his elder brother, as he is also Genesis 49:13, 14; Deuteronomy 33:18.

[Unto Sarid] These descriptions of the borders are somewhat more obscure, because these places were less well-known (Bonfrerius, similarly Masius). I, with Josephus in his Antiquities 5:3 (who was born and brought up in those places), set Issachar nearest in place to Manasseh, Zebulun to Issachar, Asher to Zebulun (Masius). But you will say that the border of Zebulun was toward Zidon, Genesis 49:13. Response 1: Therefore Wolfgang Wissenburg[2] locates the Zebulonites above the Asherites between Zidon and Berytus,[3] in Galilee of the Gentiles. But it is not likely that that most noble city, Zidon, would be passed by in silence in a description of those borders to which it was pertaining. Response 2: This only is signified by that prediction, that they were frequently going to be in the ports among the Zidonians. Thus Moses explains, Deuteronomy 33:18, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out, which is to say, Thou shalt sail successfully to markets, etc. (Masius on verse 15). [But concerning these things see what things we have gathered on Genesis 49.] Sarid was the last city of Zebulun in the southern corner, on the western border (Junius, certain interpreters in Masius). They think that it was situated on the promontory of Carmel[4] (Masius). Others: at the foot of mount Carmel (Malvenda, thus Masius on verse 11).


Verse 11:[5] (Gen. 49:13) And their border went up toward the sea, and Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and reached to the river that is (Josh. 12:22) before Jokneam…

[And it went up from the sea, וְעָלָ֙ה גְבוּלָ֧ם׀ לַיָּ֛מָּה] It went up toward the sea (Malvenda, Masius, Pagnine, Tigurinus), or, along the sea (Junius and Tremellius). Correctly, if Sarid was set near the sea, as others think (Masius). Our translation is correct, because this border does not proceed in a line straight and parallel to the sea, but gradually receding from the sea, because of the tribe of Asher, which was insinuating itself Westward all the way to the lot of Manasseh. Moreover, ל often means the same thing as ad, to or toward, as Forster teaches (Bonfrerius). Furthermore, the Tribe of Zebulun was not extending to the sea (the Mediterranean), as is evident from Joshua 17:7, where the Tribe of Asher, which was near the sea, is shown to insinuate itself in such a way that it is conjoined with Manasseh on the North: which was not able to be said, if Zebulun reached the sea. You will say, But Josephus, in Antiquities 5:1, says that this land καθήκουσαν περὶ Κάρμηλον καὶ θάλασσαν, was reaching near Carmel and the sea. Response: I translate that in this way, reaching near Carmel and the sea: or, if you translate περὶ as ad, to, towards, or near, that was able to be said, for it was not far from the sea; but what is not far, is generally esteemed not to be distant at all (Bonfrerius).

The sea, that is, the midland sea, as on the other side it reached to the sea of Galilee, and so those prophecies concerning him, Genesis 49:13; Deuteronomy 33:18, were abundantly fulfilled.

[Unto the torrent] A great many think this to be Belus, or Pagis, famous for its sands of glass (Malvenda, thus Masius, Bonfrerius).

[Over against Jokneam] This was near Carmel, as is evident from Joshua 12:22 (Masius).

Jokneam: supposed to be Kishon, Judges 4:7, or Belus, or Pagis.


Verse 12:[6] 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…

[And it returns from Sarid eastward, וְשָׁ֣ב מִשָּׂרִ֗יד קֵ֚דְמָה מִזְרַ֣ח הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ] And it returns (going forth [Munster, Dutch]) from Sarid toward the east, the rising of the sun (Montanus); eastward, toward the risin of the sun (Munster, Dutch); unto the east, toward the rising, I say, of the sun (Arabic); toward the east, that is, toward the rising of the sun (Pagnine); toward the anterior of the rising sun (Jonathan); in a contrary direction from the east of Beth-shemesh (Septuagint); forward (unto the foremost part [Masius]) toward the rising of the sun (Junius and Tremellius). Spoken by apposition, as if, toward the anterior part of the world, that is, toward the East (Tigurinus Notes). But I think that the doubling indicates the true and most direct East (Malvenda). The Southern borders are described here, from the West toward the East by proceeding from Sarid to Remmon (Masius, similarly Bonfrerius). On this border they were adjacent to the Manassites all the way to mount Tabor; to the Issacharites all the way to Jordan, who were preventing the Manassites and the Zebulonites in that region; since in Joshua 17:10, 11, the Tribe of Manasseh is conjoined with the Tribe of Issachar (Bonfrerius).

[Chisloth-tabor, כִּסְלֹ֖ת תָּבֹ֑ר[7]] Some take it appellatively, and translate it, the loins of Tabor, and maintain that those parts of the mountain are signified that are in the central place round about (Rabbis in Bonfrerius and in Masius). To others it is the proper name of a place (thus the Septuagint, Chaldean, Masius, Malvenda, Bonfrerius). That near the roots of mount Tabor there was a village in his time called Chesulum, Eusebius records (Malvenda). I think that it is the same city in the tribe of Issachar, called Chesulloth, verse 18. Perhaps this city was located on the borders and included by both tribes (Bonfrerius). This city is called Tabor in 1 Chronicles 6:77 (Masius, Junius, Bonfrerius), and Kartah in Joshua 21:34 (Junius).

[To Daberath] This city was in the tribe of Issachar, as it is evident from Joshua 21:28 (Bonfrerius, Masius).

Daberath, a city in Issachar, as appears from Joshua 21:28.

[Japhia] Japhia, or Japhe, was set in an elevated place, just like nearby Jotapata.[8] They were both heavily fortified cities, Josephus’ Jewish Wars 3:11 (Masius), and in Galilee (Bonfrerius).


Verse 13:[9] And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittah-hepher, to Ittah-kazin, and goeth out to Remmon-methoar (or, which is drawn[10]) to Neah…

[Unto the eastern quarter, קֵ֣דְמָה מִזְרָ֔חָה] [See on the preceding verse.] Verbatim: unto east, unto the rising (Malvenda); straight toward the east (Masius). The borders of this Tribe are very obscurely distinguished with respect to the diverse parts of the territory (Bonfrerius). The Southern border is drawn out all the way to Remmon (Masius and Serarius in Bonfrerius). But Methoar and Neah sum up the eastern border: and in verse 14 the Northern border is described (Serarius in Bonfrerius). I am satisfied that in verse 12 the Southern border is completed; in verse 13 the eastern border is described. And to this point I refer, eastward; which is to say, to describe the eastern border. Then it is subjoined that this border passes to the rising of Gittah-hepher (Bonfrerius).

[Unto Remmon, Methoar, and Neah, וְיָצָ֛א רִמּ֥וֹן הַמְּתֹאָ֖ר הַנֵּעָֽה׃] [They take that הַמְּתֹאָר in a variety of ways.] Some maintain that it is a proper name: Thus the Latin and the Septuagint. Hamthoar (Masius). To a great man it is a Piel participle from the verb תָּאַר, to draw in outline or trace out: Thus the Hebrews, Mercerus,[11] etc. [Others thus render the whole:] Remmon Methoar, elsewhere Neah (Junius and Tremellius); or, and hence unto Neah (Munster, Tigurinus). They translate it, which skirts, that is by a curving line it extends toward, etc. (Vatablus). Thence it was making a circuit toward Neah (Masius out of Kimchi and Rabbi Salomon). But Symmachus refers it to Remmon, it was going forth to Remmon the renowned (Masius). Question: Whether the eastern border of this Tribe reached unto the Jordan, or unto the sea of Gennesaret? Response 1: Some deny this (Masius): For certainly he that described the border would not have left so notable a border unmentioned (thus Masius). But, if this reason should prevail, neither Manasseh nor Issachar reached Jordan, neither did any Tribe extend to the sea of Gennesaret, because concerning these things there is also silence. I think rather that he made his description from the cities on that coast, of which (cities) the situation would already have been well-known to the Israelites (Bonfrerius). Response 2: Others affirm (thus Bonfrerius). Thus Josephus in Antiquities 5:1, whom Adrichomius follows. It is proven out of Genesis 49:13, he shall dwell at the shore of the seas; and out of Isaiah 9:1, the land of Zebulun and Naphtali…and the way of the sea across Jordan. In which that land in which Christ was going spend the most time, set in the borders of both Tribes, is called the way of the sea, which is to say, situated near the sea, namely, Gennesaret, as the Septuagint and Commentators of renown explain it. Of course, in that place there were cities in which Christ spent a considerable amount of time, namely, Capernaum, Matthew 4:13; John 6:17, 24; Beth-saida, Mark 6:45; 8:13, 22. Josephus affirms the same in Antiquities 18:3 (Bonfrerius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיַּ֙עַל֙ הַגּוֹרָ֣ל הַשְּׁלִישִׁ֔י לִבְנֵ֥י זְבוּלֻ֖ן לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֑ם וַיְהִ֛י גְּב֥וּל נַחֲלָתָ֖ם עַד־שָׂרִֽיד׃

[2] Wolfgang Wissenburg (1496-1575) was a Reformed scholar and exegete, and served as Professor of New Testament at Basil (1541-1554).  He wrote a Terræ Sanctæ Descriptio.

[3] Berytus (modern Beirut) is somewhat north of Zidon on the Phœnician coast.

[4] There was a headland jutting out into the Mediterranean Sea just northwest of the mountain.

[5] Hebrew: וְעָלָ֙ה גְבוּלָ֧ם׀ לַיָּ֛מָּה וּמַרְעֲלָ֖ה וּפָגַ֣ע בְּדַבָּ֑שֶׁת וּפָגַע֙ אֶל־הַנַּ֔חַל אֲשֶׁ֖ר עַל־פְּנֵ֥י יָקְנְעָֽם׃

[6] Hebrew: וְשָׁ֣ב מִשָּׂרִ֗יד קֵ֚דְמָה מִזְרַ֣ח הַשֶּׁ֔מֶשׁ עַל־גְּב֥וּל כִּסְלֹ֖ת תָּבֹ֑ר וְיָצָ֥א אֶל־הַדָּֽבְרַ֖ת וְעָלָ֥ה יָפִֽיעַ׃

[7] כֶּסֶל signifies loins or flanks.

[8] Jotapata was just south of Carmel.

[9] Hebrew: וּמִשָּׁ֤ם עָבַר֙ קֵ֣דְמָה מִזְרָ֔חָה גִּתָּ֥ה חֵ֖פֶר עִתָּ֣ה קָצִ֑ין וְיָצָ֛א רִמּ֥וֹן הַמְּתֹאָ֖ר הַנֵּעָֽה׃

[10] Hebrew: הַמְּתֹאָר.

[11] John Mercerus (c. 1510-1572) was a French Catholic Hebraist, successor to Francis Vatablus as Professor of Hebrew and Chaldean at the Hebrew College, Paris (1549), a scholar and lecturer of great reputation in his day.  He was suspected of having Calvinistic sympathies.

1 thought on “Joshua 19:10-13: The Borders of Zebulun, Part 1

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘This is the lot of Zebulun, who, though born of Leah after Issachar, yet was blessed by Jacob and Moses before him; and therefore it was so ordered that his lot was drawn before that of Issachar, north of which it lay and south of Asher. 1. The lot of this tribe was washed by the great sea on the west, and by the sea of Tiberias on the east, answering Jacob’s prophecy (Genesis 49:13), Zebulun shall be a haven of ships, trading ships on the great sea and fishing ships on the sea of Galilee. 2. Though there were some places in this tribe which were made famous in the Old Testament, especially Mount Carmel, on which the famous trial was between God and Baal in Elijah’s time, yet it was made much more illustrious in the New Testament; for within the lot of this tribe was Nazareth, where our blessed Saviour spent so much of his time on earth, and from which he was called Jesus of Nazareth, and Mount Tabor on which he was transfigured, and that coast of the sea of Galilee on which Christ preached so many sermons and wrought so many miracles.’

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