Joshua 19:14-16: The Borders of Zebulun, Part 2

Verse 14:[1] And the border compasseth it on the north side to Hannathon: and the outgoings thereof are in the valley of Jiphthah-el…

[And it skirted, etc., וְנָסַ֤ב אֹתוֹ֙ הַגְּב֔וּל] And the border shall skirt it (Montanus). And the border is turned back to itself (Jonathan). And the border turns itself (Syriac, similarly Bonfrerius). The border skirts the same (Munster, similarly Tigurinus, Pagnine). The same border makes a circuit to it. The to it is superfluous (Vatablus). אֺתוֹ[2] is put in the place of לוֹ, to it, by an enallage of cases (Masius). Whence that border turns away (Junius and Tremellius).

[Toward the North of Hannathon[3]] It is doubtful whether the line went around the city of Hannathon on the North, and added it to Zebulun; or on the South (Masius). The former sense is closer to the truth, says Malvenda [but supported with no argument: Bonfrerius otherwise]. The sense here does not appear to be that the border passes by toward the North of Hannathon; but that the border, after it passed by those cities, is bent back in a certain winding curve from the North, or so that he might describe the Northern border, toward Hannathan. אֶל/to is understood on the word Hannathon by the Septuagint, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Chaldean, and nearly all interpreters (Bonfrerius).

[The valley of Jiphthah-el] The same valley is established as the border of the Tribe of Asher in verse 27 (Bonfrerius). I suspect that it is part of the valley of Carmel, through which that torrent opposite to Jokneam[4] rushes down into the sea (Masius).


Verse 15:[5] And Kattath, and Nahallal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Beth-lehem: twelve cities with their villages.

[And Shimron (or Samaria), and Beth-lehem] These were diverse from those better known cities, Samaria of the Josephites, and Beth-lehem of the Judahites (Masius).

Beth-lehem; not that where Christ was born, which was in Judah, thence called Bethlehem Judah, Matthew 2:1, but another.

[Twelve cities] But in this passage nineteen were named. Response: Some of them were situated in the inheritance of the neighboring tribes (Masius, similarly Bonfrerius). This is not strange; since the borders are able to obtain by lot an appellation from the places and cities of the two tribes that are adjacent (Bonfrerius). It is certainly evident that Daberath[6] was in Issachar, by whom it was given to the Levites[7] (Masius). Moreover, it is evident that those five in verse 15 belong to the Zebulunites; and also those five in verse 13, since they were near the eastern border, that is, Jordan, or the sea of Gennesaret; Jokneam[8] in addition, out of Joshua 21:34. Here we have eleven; but we are not able to produce twelve. It is worth noting again that not all the cities are listed here, since elsewhere Kartah and Dimnah occur in this tribe, Joshua 21:34, 35; likewise Rimmon and Tabor, 1 Chronicles 6:77 (or, some cities had two names [Bonfrerius]); also Kitron, Judges 1:30. Sixty thousand men (just so many were numbered of them[9]) were not able to dwell in only twelve cities. And it was able to come to pass, that in those catalogues only those cities were named, the names of which the surveyors had hurriedly set down (Masius).

Twelve cities: there are more numbered here, but the rest either were not cities properly so called, having villages under their jurisdiction; or were not within this tribe, but only bordering upon it, and belonging to other tribes, which is evident of some of them, and may well be presumed of others.


Verse 16:[10] This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.

[1] Hebrew: וְנָסַ֤ב אֹתוֹ֙ הַגְּב֔וּל מִצְּפ֖וֹן חַנָּתֹ֑ן וְהָיוּ֙ תֹּֽצְאֹתָ֔יו גֵּ֖י יִפְתַּח־אֵֽל׃

[2] The Direct Object marker, with a third person, masculine, singular suffix.

[3] Hebrew: מִצְּפ֖וֹן חַנָּתֹ֑ן.

[4] Verse 11.

[5] Hebrew: וְקַטָּ֤ת וְנַֽהֲלָל֙ וְשִׁמְר֔וֹן וְיִדְאֲלָ֖ה וּבֵ֣ית לָ֑חֶם עָרִ֥ים שְׁתֵּים־עֶשְׂרֵ֖ה וְחַצְרֵיהֶֽן׃

[6] Verse 12.

[7] Joshua 21:28; 1 Chronicles 6:72.

[8] Verse 11.

[9] Numbers 26:27.

[10] Hebrew: זֹ֛את נַחֲלַ֥ת בְּנֵֽי־זְבוּלֻ֖ן לְמִשְׁפְּחוֹתָ֑ם הֶֽעָרִ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה וְחַצְרֵיהֶֽן׃

1 thought on “Joshua 19:14-16: The Borders of Zebulun, Part 2

  1. John Calvin: ‘In the lot of Zebulun there is a clear fulfillment of the prophecy of Jacob, which had foretold that they would dwell on the sea-coast. An old man, an exile who could not set a foot on his own land, assigned a maritime district to the posterity of his son Zebulun. What could be more extravagant? But now, when the lot assigns them a maritime region, no clearer confirmation of his decision could be desired. It was just as if God were twice thundering from heaven. The tribe of Zebulun, therefore, do not occupy the shore of their own accord or by human suffrage, but a divine arrangement fixes their habitation contiguous to the sea. Thus, although men erred, still the light was always seen shining brightly in the darkness. Jacob goes farther, and makes a clear distinction between Zebulun and Issachar. The former tribe will travel far and wide, carrying on trade and commerce; the latter remaining in his tents, will cultivate ease and a sedentary life (Genesis 49:13-15). Hence it is probable that the sea-coast where Zebulun settled, was provided with harbors and well adapted for the various forms of commercial intercourse, whereas the children of Issachar were contented with their own produce, and consumed the fruits which they had raised by their own labor and culture at home.’

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