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God’s Word for You

1 Chronicles 6:57-61 Cities in the south

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, October 31, 2023

57 The sons of Aaron were given Hebron (one of the cities of refuge), Libnah with its pasture lands, Jattir, Eshtemoa with its pasture lands, 58 Hilen with its pasture lands, Debir with its pasture lands,  59 Ashan with its pasture lands, and Beth Shemesh with their pasture lands.  60 From the tribe of Benjamin they were given Geba with its pasture lands, Alemeth with its pasture lands, and Anathoth with its pasture lands. All their cities throughout their families totaled thirteen.  61 To the rest of the Kohathites were given ten cities by lot from out of the families of the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The other places in Judah given to the Levites were scattered all throughout the tribal lands: Libnah was in the western foothills, a few miles southeast of Gath on the Philistine border. Joshua had marched on Libnah before attacking Lachish (Joshua 10:29-31). When Sennacherib and his Assyrian army were making war in Israel, he unknowingly followed Joshua’s route backwards, laying siege to Libnah after attacking Lachish, but it was at Libnah that the Lord destroyed 185,000 Assyrians, causing Sennacherib to break camp and limp home to Nineveh where he was murdered by his sons (2 Kings 19:8,35-36).

Jattir in the far southwestern foothills was described in the 1870s as standing “on a green knoll, in an amphitheater of brown rocky hills studded with natural caves” (Tristram). Jattir was favored by David, and he sent some of the plunder of his exploits there “to the elders of Judah who were his friends” (1 Samuel 30:26-27).

Another place favored by David was the southern village of Eshtemoa, not far from the Carmel where David met Abigail and her altogether unlikable husband (1 Samuel 25:2-3, 23). It was the location of the first olive trees and cultivated fields as one traveled from Egypt to Israel—or the last of the cultivated land as one traveled the other way, such as when Joseph, Mary and Jesus fled to Egypt in the days of Herod (Matthew 2:14).

Debir, further south, was a village near a trickling creek that ran down past Beersheba and eventually spilled into the Brook Besor that empties into the Mediterranean south of Gaza. The creek is partly supplied by a pair of springs that are almost certainly the very same ones given by Caleb to his daughter and her husband, the judge Othniel (Judges 1:11-15).

Ashan was so far south that it was eventually allotted to Simeon (recall 1 Chronicles 4:32), but that tribe was as much in need of Levitical teachers and musicians as all the others. Ashan was not far from Beersheba.

Turning northward again, we come to Beth Shemesh, the “house of the rising sun.” Sitting in a lovely little valley two miles from the Philistine border, it was really just across the peaks of the Judean highlands from Jerusalem. Goliath’s home of Gath was perhaps an hour’s walk from there. This was where the cows pulled the wagon to when the Philistines sent the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel, just as the people of Beth Shemesh were out harvesting their wheat (1 Samuel 6:11-13); “corn to make their needy bread.”

The places in Benjamin set aside for the Levites included Gibeon (Joshua 21:19) and Geba as well as the other towns mentioned here.

Anathoth in Benjamin was the birthplace of Jeremiah. It sits nestled in the hills, looking eastward toward the Jordan valley. Mount Nebo, where lies the hidden grave of Moses, is there in the distance on the other side of the river, seeming to heft the rising sun on its shoulder every morning, to whose “brightest beams distracted clouds give way.”

Alemeth is an uninhabited peak today; its history unknown since the land was ravaged again and again by Assyrian, Babylonian, Roman, and Muslim. There it is, a peak south of the gulch below Geba, “a bleak, rugged hill, without a village or a house, but crowned with shapeless ruins.” Was there a ruin there “that was a worthy building”?

Geba was on a little rounded hill north of Jerusalem; the hill’s terraced slopes are ideal for farming and for the kind of military camp that Isaiah describes when the Assyrians passed through Migron and stored supplies at Micmash (both just a little north of Geba but too rugged for carts and wagons). Going over the pass (a steep rise) the Assyrians said, “We will camp overnight at Geba” (Isaiah 10:28-29). Isaiah’s picture of the advancing Assyrian threat is stirring and must have been terrifying for Israel; the announcement of the coming of the Savior through the Stump of Jesse just five verses later (Isaiah 11:1) is a reminder for us all that no matter how dark and deadly the world around us becomes, we have a bright and peaceful place with our Saving God forever in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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