Joshua 21:13-19: Cities of the Priests, Part 2

Verse 13:[1] Thus (1 Chron. 6:57, etc.) they gave to the children of Aaron the priest (Josh. 15:54; 20:7) Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and (Josh. 15:42) Libnah with her suburbs…

[He gave, therefore…Hebron, etc.] If you compare 1 Chronicles 6 with these lists, there is certainly a great discrepancy in the names of many (of the cities): For there the city of Juttah is omitted; and in the place of Ain,[2] there it is Ashan[3] (Masius). According to the Hebrews, the variety arose from this, that, while some of the allotted cities were under the power of the Canaanites, others were provided, until those that had been appointed would come into the power of the Israelites: and so in one text the substitute cities are read, but in the other those designated initially. Perhaps it might be able to be said more truly that some places are called by a twofold name, or that over the course of time changes were made in the names (Menochius out of Masius).


Verse 14:[4] And (Josh. 15:48) Jattir with her suburbs, (Josh. 15:50) and Eshtemoa with her suburbs…


Verse 15:[5] And (Josh. 15:51) Holon (Hilen, 1 Chron. 6:58[6]) with her suburbs, (Josh. 15:49) and Debir with her suburbs…

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.


Verse 16:[7] And Ain (Ashan,[8] 1 Chron. 6:59; Josh. 15:42) with her suburbs, (Josh. 15:55) and Juttah with her suburbs, and (Josh. 15:10) Beth-shemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.

Ain here, and Gibeon verse 17, and some others here named, are not named 1 Chronicles 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.


Verse 17:[9] And out of the tribe of Benjamin, (Josh. 18:25) Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba (Gaba, Josh. 18:24[10]) with her suburbs…


Verse 18:[11] Anathoth with her suburbs, and (Alemeth,[12] 1 Chron. 6:60) Almon with her suburbs; four cities.


Verse 19:[13] All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.

[1] Hebrew: וְלִבְנֵ֣י׀ אַהֲרֹ֣ן הַכֹּהֵ֗ן נָֽתְנוּ֙ אֶת־עִיר֙ מִקְלַ֣ט הָרֹצֵ֔חַ אֶת־חֶבְר֖וֹן וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֑הָ וְאֶת־לִבְנָ֖ה וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶֽׁהָ׃

[2] Joshua 21:16.

[3] 1 Chronicles 6:59.

[4] Hebrew: וְאֶת־יַתִּר֙ וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֔הָ וְאֶת־אֶשְׁתְּמֹ֖עַ וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶֽׁהָ׃

[5] Hebrew: וְאֶת־חֹלֹן֙ וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֔הָ וְאֶת־דְּבִ֖ר וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶֽׁהָ׃

[6] 1 Chronicles 6:58:  “And Hilen (חִילֵז, but חִילֵן in many manuscripts) with her suburbs, Debir with her suburbs…”

[7] Hebrew: וְאֶת־עַ֣יִן וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֗הָ וְאֶת־יֻטָּה֙ וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֔הָ אֶת־בֵּ֥ית שֶׁ֖מֶשׁ וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֑הָ עָרִ֣ים תֵּ֔שַׁע מֵאֵ֕ת שְׁנֵ֥י הַשְּׁבָטִ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃

[8] Hebrew: עָשָׁן.

[9] Hebrew: וּמִמַּטֵּ֣ה בִנְיָמִ֔ן אֶת־גִּבְע֖וֹן וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֑הָ אֶת־גֶּ֖בַע וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶֽׁהָ׃

[10] Joshua 18:24:  “And Chephar-haammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba (וָגָ֑בַע); twelve cities with their villages…”

[11] Hebrew: אֶת־עֲנָתוֹת֙ וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֔הָ וְאֶת־עַלְמ֖וֹן וְאֶת־מִגְרָשֶׁ֑הָ עָרִ֖ים אַרְבַּֽע׃

[12] Hebrew: עָלֶמֶת.

[13] Hebrew: כָּל־עָרֵ֥י בְנֵֽי־אַהֲרֹ֖ן הַכֹּֽהֲנִ֑ים שְׁלֹשׁ־עֶשְׂרֵ֥ה עָרִ֖ים וּמִגְרְשֵׁיהֶֽן׃

1 thought on “Joshua 21:13-19: Cities of the Priests, Part 2

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘…there were thirteen cities, and those some of the best, appointed for the priests, the sons of Aaron, Joshua 21:19. Aaron left but two sons, Eleazar and Ithamar, yet his family was now so much increased, and it was foreseen that it would in process of time grow so numerous, as to replenish all these cities, though a considerable number must of necessity be resident wherever the ark and the altar were. We read in both Testaments of such numbers of priests that we may suppose none of all the families of Israel that came out of Egypt increased afterwards so much as that of Aaron did; and the promise afterwards to the house of Aaron is, God shall increase you more and more, you and your children, Psalm 115:12, 14. He will raise up a seed to serve him.’

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