Location of Tribes
TRIBES, LOCATION OF. For the concept of tribe in Israel, cf. article Tribe.
Sources of information.
The main information about the tribal portions is found in
History of tribal divisions.
For reasons that are not given, the tribal portions of Judah (
The Trans-Jordan tribes
The limits of Canaan.
The main divisions of Trans-Jordan.
The River Arnon, flowing into the Dead Sea about mid-distance between the N and S ends, was always the southern boundary of Israelite territory. All S of it was Moab, whether it was independent or subject to Israel. The next effective boundary to the N was the wadi Heshban (not mentioned in the Bible), N of Heshbon. Of little importance in itself, it marks the northern end of the tableland, where the broken hills of Gilead begin. Gilead stretches N to the River Yarmuk (not mentioned in the Bible), and is divided in two by the River Jabbok. North of the Yarmuk lies Bashan (cf.
Reuben received the tableland between Heshbon and Aroer, on the edge of the Arnon valley, i.e. the former kingdom of Sihon (
Gad’s tribal portion lay between Reuben and the Jabbok, but it took in the Jordan valley as far as the S of the Sea of Galilee. Eleven cities are mentioned (
The descendants of Machir, Manasseh’s eldest son, were given their portion E of Jordan (
The gibe mentioned in
Tribes without stated boundaries.
For three tribes, cities are mentioned but no, or few, boundaries are indicated. The reason seems to be that they were never able to consolidate their hold on their land, so that when the territory finally came into effective Israelite control, it was incorporated into other tribes.
Josh 19:1-9; 1 Chron 4:28-33).
It is clearly stated that their nineteen settlements were within the territory of Judah. Not all can be identified, but they all fell into the NW Negeb. It is probable that Ziklag (
The tribal portion clearly lay in the
Josh 19:40-48; Judg 18:27-29).
It might be thought that Dan’s boundaries are not given, because those of its neighbors have already been described. The southern border of Ephraim (
Judah (Josh 15)
The description of Judah’s boundary and territory is very much more detailed than that of any other tribe. Whereas the boundary description is early, there are very clear indications that the list of cities (
Judah’s administrative districts.
Since the pioneering work of A. Alt scholars have come to general agreement that
The boundaries of Judah (Josh 15:1-12).
Though some of the places mentioned have not been identified, there are no real problems in tracing the boundary. The S boundary was the southern limit of settled population, and indeed much of the southern part remained semi-nomadic until the reign of David, if not longer. The W boundary was the Mediterranean, which took in all of what was to become the Philistine country. This was an ideal, which was never fulfilled in OT times. The northern ran SW N of Ekron, dividing Judah from Ephraim (Dan had migrated) and then along the line of the Sorek to Timnah; it then went NNE to the N of Kiriath-jearim. From there it ran ESE S of Nephtoah to take in the valley of Rephaim and the valley of the son of Hinnom. Finally it passed through the wilderness of Judah S of Jericho to the Dead Sea, which formed its eastern boundary.
(cf. IV, 1). The abandonment of part of Judah’s territory to Simeon is explained in
The central tribes
Ephraim, half-Manasseh, and Benjamin occupied the central hill country, which forms a clearly marked physical unity, with the territory of Benjamin forming the link with the Judean hills. The transitional nature of the Benjaminite territory is seen in the fact that under the divided monarchy the frontier between N and S ran almost all the time through Benjamin and not along the Ephraimite border; this has left its mark on the Benjaminite city list in
Apparently, Ephraim received the less attractive portion of the central area, since its height is repeatedly referred to as “the hill country of Ephraim.” In the long run, however, it was prob. a gain for them and one of the reasons for their early prominence in Israel. Owing to its wooded nature (
Manasseh was intended to occupy not merely the northern part of the central hill country, but also Sharon and the northern Jordan valley. In fact (cf. IV, 2), it found itself facing a line of unconquered Canaanite fortresses that controlled Esdraelon and the passes over Carmel. As it first made them tributary and then merged them in its territory, it found that it had encroached heavily on the territory of Issachar and to a much less extent on that of Asher (
Benjamin was the worst sufferer from Israel’s pact with the Gibeonite tetrapolis (
The northern tribes (for Issachar see IV, 2; for Dan, IV, 3)
The description of Zebulun’s boundary begins with Sadud (Sarid) in its SE extremity and follows the Kishon W to near Jokneam. The western boundary ran W of Galilean Bethlehem and took in most of Lower Galilee within its northern stretch until it turned almost due S to Mt. Tabor and then back to Sarid. This was an area with no Canaanite cities of importance. Zebulun seems to have been able to capture it all and then hold it effectively.
Because of the uncertain identifications of many of Asher’s cities, it is impossible to trace the boundary given in some of its parts. The mention of Dor (
Naphtali (Josh 19:32-34).
Naphtali’s border is traced eastward from Heleph, in all probability at the foot of Mt. Tabor to the Jordan just S of the Sea of Galilee. It was a natural line, that of the wadi Fajjas. For the western border the boundaries of Zebulun and Asher are given. The eastern is the upper Jordan, and no northern border is suggested. Since Dan was able to establish itself N of Huleh, apparently without protest from Naphtali, cf. IV, 3, it would seem that Naphtali had never tried to push past the Huleh marshes, and it prob. never established itself as far as the Litani River.
Josh 21:1-42; 1 Chron 6:54-81).
Though there are considerable differences between the list of Levitical cities in Joshua and 1 Chronicles, Albright can say,
With the aid of the Greek...we can eliminate nearly all the differences between the lists in Joshua and Chronicles. The two or three remaining apparent divergences may be plausibly excised by simple textual changes of well-known types.
In his list so established, he is able to divide the forty-eight cities evenly among the twelve tribes. He has given strong reasons for thinking that the lists come from the time of David. Both archeology and known history make it almost impossible to move them back into the time of Joshua, unless one follows Y. Kaufmann and sees it as a utopian forecast. Alt pointed out that most of these cities are located either in frontier areas or in such as had been Canaanite. The Levites were intended to have a religious influence esp. where the standard of religion was low. Certain premonarchical stories suggest that in the troubled period after the conquest no effort had been made to provide the Levites with the homes and means of livelihood that had been promised them.
G. A. Smith, The Historical Geography of the Holy Land (1894, 25th ed. 1931); A. Alt, Judas Gaue unter Josia (PJB, 1925, in Kleine Schriften zur Geschichte des Volkes Israel II, 1953); A. Alt, Das System der Stammesgrenzen im Buche Josua in Sellin-Festschrift (1927, in Kleine Schriften I, 1952). J. Garstang, Joshua, Judges (1931); W. F. Albright, Archaeology and the(1942, 3rd ed. 1953); A. Alt, Festungen und Levitenorte im Lande Israel (1952, in Kleine Schriften II, 1953); M. Noth, Das Buch Josua2 (1953); F. M. Cross and G. E. Wright, The Boundary and Province Lists of the (JBL 75, 1956); L. H. Grollenberg, Atlas of the Bible (1956); Y. Kaufmann, The Biblical Account of the Conquest (1953). G. E. Wright and F. V. Filson, The Westminster Historical Atlas to the Bible5 (1957); D. Baly, The Geography of the Bible (1957); Z. Kallai-Kleinmann, “The Town Lists of Judah, Simeon, Benjamin and Dan,” Vet Test VIII (1958); Y. Aharoni, “The Province List of Judah” Vet Test IX (1959); Y. Aharoni, The Land of the Bible (Heb. 1962, Eng. tr. 1966).