The Joshua 15 Districts

In here, I shall look at the text of Joshua 15, describing the inheritance of the tribe of Judah. I have already looked at the Negev. The towns whose locations are known are highlighted in bold italics. It has been well known and agreed from the days of Alt that the lists of Joshua date to between 623 and 609 BC (any other dates would create absurdities).

33 In the Shephelah:

Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, 34 Zanoah, En Gannim, Tappuah, Enam, 35 Jarmuth, Adullam, Socoh, Azekah, 36 Shaaraim, Adithaim and Gederahfourteen towns and their villages.

-This district (“Azekah”) is a fairly sizeable, encompassing both the Elah valley and Eshatol regions. Its borders can be fairly well determined, as can the timescale (Beth-Shemesh is not mentioned). Beth-Shemesh was settled lightly in the 7th century BC, when this list was composed, and it might have belonged to either Ekron or Judah.

37 Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal Gad, 38 Dilean, Mizpah, Joktheel, 39 Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon, 40 Kabbon, Lahmas, Kitlish, 41 Gederoth, Beth Dagon, Naamah and Makkedah—sixteen towns and their villages.

-This district (“Lachish”) is a very curious one. Only Lachish (Tell ed Duweir) is certain, and, possibly, Makkedah (from Eusebius’s Onomasticon, apparently Khirbet el-‘Qom). Eglon is not Tell el-Hesi, but rather either Tel ‘Erani or Tel Nagila. A good archaeological survey for 7th century sites in the area south of Lachish needs to be seen for any of the above sites to be identified. The district’s north border is that of the next one, and its south border is that of the Negev.

42 Libnah, Ether, Ashan, 43 Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, 44 Keilah, Achzib and Mareshahnine towns and their villages.

-Since Mareshah is on the road from Lachish, and Keilah is on the road from Mareshah, we can be sure that this district (“Mareshah”) extends to Tel Burna. Ether is Khirbet el-‘Ater, 31°37’2″N, 34°52’58″E. Keilah is the mound at Qilla. Nezib is Khirbet Beit Nesib, a mile (not more) south of Keilah. Achzib may be Khirbet el-Beidah, 31°38’32″N, 34°57’9″E. Libnah may be identified with Tel Burna, since Tel Goded did not seem to reveal fortifications from the Hezekian era, nor did it seem to be inhabited in the 7th century. Idhna may be identified with either Iphtah or Ashnah.

45 Ekron, with its surrounding settlements and villages; 46 west of Ekron, all that were in the vicinity of Ashdod, together with their villages; 47 Ashdod, its surrounding settlements and villages; and Gaza, its settlements and villages, as far as the Brook of Egypt and the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea.

-Ashkelon is not mentioned due to its having almost no surrounding villages (though it did have some) and Gath being unoccupied in the 7th century. Ashdod was a remnant of an Assyrian province, ruled from present-day Ashdod-Yam, Gaza probably gained back the territory owned by Assyria by the time this was written, and Ekron was the most powerful kingdom.

48 In the hill country:

Shamir, Jattir, Socoh, 49 Dannah, Kiriath Sannah (that is, Debir), 50 Anab, Eshtemoa, Anim, 51 Goshen, Holon and Giloh—eleven towns and their villages.

This district (“Eshtemoa”) includes Shamir/el-Bireh, Jattir (Khirbet Yatir, 31°20’35″N,35° 1’39″E), Debir/Rabud, Anab at Khirbet Anab es-Seghireh, 31°24’44″N, 34°57’16″E, Eshtemoa at Samu’a, and the two Anims being on the NE and SW sides of Shani-Livne.

52 Arab, Dumah, Eshan, 53 Janim, Beth Tappuah, Aphekah, 54 Humtah, Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) and Ziornine towns and their villages.

Beth-Tappuah is Tapuah, Ziot is Si’ir. Hebron is Tel Rumeidah. Arab may be al-‘Arub, near Bayt Fajar.

55 Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, 56 Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah, 57 Kain, Gibeah and Timnah—ten towns and their villages.

Maon, Carmel, Juttah, and Ziph are well identified with the present-day villages of the same names.

58 Halhul, Beth Zur, Gedor, 59 Maarath, Beth Anoth and Eltekon—six towns and their villages.

Halhul, Beth-Zur, and Gedor have kept their identification well. Beth Anoth may be Bayt Ula (if Zior is Si’ir, Bayt Anun is an implausible candidate), Maarath may be Bayt Umar or Marah al-Baqr, Eltekon may be Umm ‘Allas. There is also a Khirbet el-Hubeila with Iron IIC remains just NE of Bat Ayin.

The district of Bethlehem and Tekoa, preserved only in the Septuagint, should also be mentioned.

It reads as thus: Tekoa, Ephrathah which is Bethlehem, Peor, Etam, Koulon, Tatam, Zobah, Karem, Gallim, Bether, and Manahath-11 cities and their villages.

Etam is just south of the cisterns south of el-Khadr, Manahath may be on the north side of modern Manahat, Peor is Khirbet Faghur half a mile ESE of modern Rosh Tsurim, Karem is modern ‘Ayn Karim/Ein Kerem, Bethlehem is Bethlehem, Bether is the mound just north of modern Batir, Zobah is less than half a mile east of modern Tsuba, and has the Castle Belmont at its top.

60 Kiriath Baal (that is, Kiriath Jearim) and Rabbah—two towns and their villages.

-Kiriath Jeraim is at 31°48’9″N, 35° 5’48″E . Rabbah is almost certainly not Aharoni’s Khirbet Bir el-Hilu, near Aijalon, apparently a part of Dan (=Ekron). Rabbah is most likely one of the hills east of Kiriath-Jeraim. This district was probably an attempt by the author to accommodate both the tribal and administrative boundaries of the kingdom of Judah.

61 In the wilderness:

Beth Arabah, Middin, Secacah, 62 Nibshan, the City of Salt and En Gedisix towns and their villages.

-Beth Arabah is (was?) near the pools at 31°50’46″N, 35°29’40″E, En Gedi is En Gedi, on the north side of the wadi. The rest are some combination of sites in the Judean Buqei’a (Khirbet Abu Tabaq (31°44’30″N, 35°24’23″E), Khirbet es-Samrah (31°43’1″N, 35°23’31″E) and Khirbet el-Maqari (31°41’57″N, 35°22’57″E)) along with Qumran, ‘Ain Ghuweir, and ‘Ain Feshkha. The sites have already been discovered, it’s just up to the observer to identify them!

Author: pithom

An atheist with an interest in the history of the ancient Near East. Author of the Against Jebel al-Lawz Wordpress blog.

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