Joshua 21:1, 2: The Levites Ask for Their Cities

Verse 1:[1] Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto (Josh. 14:1; 17:4) 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…

[The princes of the families of the Levites came near, רָאשֵׁי֙ אֲב֣וֹת הַלְוִיִּ֔ם] The heads (or princes [Pagnine]) of the fathers of the Levites (Montanus, Jonathan, Pagnine, Tigurinus, Munster); princes of the priests and Levites (Syriac); nobles of the paternal families of the Levites (Junius and Tremellius); ἀρχιπατριῶται τῶν υἱῶν Λευῒ (Septuagint), which they render, the princes of the families of the sons of Levi: for πατριὰ is family. The Fathers of the Levites were those that were in charge of their families. Now, there were four families or clans, the Aaronites, the remaining Kohathites, the Gershonites, and the Merarites. Those that were in charge of them were called heads of the fathers (Drusius). The Levites were not neglected by Joshua, etc., but first to the tribes was to the assigned their portion of the region, and only then out of each tribe cities were to be chosen that would be given to the Levites (Menochius, Masius). And the Levites honorable ask for that which was due to them by right (Menochius).

Then, that is, 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.


Verse 2:[2] And they spake unto them at (Josh. 18:1) Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, (Num. 35:2) The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.

[1] Hebrew: וַֽיִּגְּשׁ֗וּ רָאשֵׁי֙ אֲב֣וֹת הַלְוִיִּ֔ם אֶל־אֶלְעָזָר֙ הַכֹּהֵ֔ן וְאֶל־יְהוֹשֻׁ֖עַ בִּן־נ֑וּן וְאֶל־רָאשֵׁ֛י אֲב֥וֹת הַמַּטּ֖וֹת לִבְנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃

[2] Hebrew: וַיְדַבְּר֙וּ אֲלֵיהֶ֜ם בְּשִׁלֹ֗ה בְּאֶ֤רֶץ כְּנַ֙עַן֙ לֵאמֹ֔ר יְהוָה֙ צִוָּ֣ה בְיַד־מֹשֶׁ֔ה לָֽתֶת־לָ֥נוּ עָרִ֖ים לָשָׁ֑בֶת וּמִגְרְשֵׁיהֶ֖ן לִבְהֶמְתֵּֽנוּ׃

1 thought on “Joshua 21:1, 2: The Levites Ask for Their Cities

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘Here is…The Levites’ petition presented to this general convention of the states, now sitting at Shiloh, Joshua 21:1, 2. Observe, 1. They had not their lot assigned them till they made their claim. There is an inheritance provided for all the saints, that royal priesthood, but then they must petition for it. Ask, and it shall be given you. Joshua had quickened the rest of the tribes who were slack to put in their claims, but the Levites, it may be supposed, knew their duty and interest better than the rest, and were therefore forward in this matter, when it came to their turn, without being called upon. They build their claim upon a very good foundation, not their own merits nor services, but the divine precept: “The Lord commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities, commanded you to grant them, which implied a command to us to ask them.” Note, The maintenance of ministers is not an arbitrary thing, left purely to the goodwill of the people, who may let them starve if they please; no, as the God of Israel commanded that the Levites should be well provided for, so has the Lord Jesus, the King of the Christian church, ordained, and a perpetual ordinance it is that those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14), and should live comfortably. 2. They did not make their claim till all the rest of the tribes were provided for, and then they did it immediately. There was some reason for it; every tribe must first know their own, else they would not know what they gave the Levites, and so it could not be such a reasonable service as it ought to be. But it is also an instance of their humility, modesty, and patience (and Levites should be examples of these and other virtues), that they were willing to be served last, and they fared never the worse for it. Let not God’s ministers complain if at any time they find themselves postponed in men’s thoughts and cares, but let them make sure of the favour of God and the honour that comes from him, and then they may well enough afford to bear the slights and neglects of men.’

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