Elon, North Carolina
We have been studying the Book of Joshua. We will only have a few more weeks in Joshua. This week, we will be covering ten chapters. Last week, we said that there are three sections of the Book of Joshua. In section one, the Israelites ENTER the land. In section two, they TAKE the land and in section three, they DIVIDE UP the land. After seven years, the land is finally conquered, then it is divided up for the Twelve Tribes.
This passage is not very exciting. It is not dramatic. There are no miracles in these chapters. There are no great walls coming down like the walls of Jericho. The sun doesn’t stand still in these chapters. It is ten chapters of lists and some of the things on the list are unprounceable to most of us.
These chapters are almost never preached from the pulpit. They are almost unreadable. Why? We cannot even read some of these names. We do not even know where most of these places are and cannot pronounce them all. Are these chapters inspired? They don’t seem to be that interesting or practical.
That raises another question, that our pastor brought up last Sunday. Are the genealogies in the Bible inspired? You rarely, if ever, hear anyone ever preaching on them in the pulpit. Most people would say that they do not have much practical value to our lives but the Bible says that ALL SCRIPTURE is inspired by God AND IS PROFITABLE, not some or most of it but ALL of it is inspired.
The purpose of these chapter is not a geography lesson about the Twelve Tribes. The tribe of Dan gets one area. The tribe of Judah gets another area. The Tribe of Simeon gets this part of the land. The Tribe of Asher gets that part of the land. We will see that there are actually some powerful applications from these chapters for us today.
In the Middle East, there is a big debate about who should live in the Holy Land. Jews and Arabs have been fighting over it for years. In these chapters, God hands it over to the Jews. This is a legal document. God gives them the legal title to the land and says that the land is theirs.
They are the rightful owners of the property. It says exactly how much of the land they have the right by God to occupy and possess. It just so happens that it is more than Israel possesses today.
We are not going to go verse by verse or even chapter by chapter. We are going to look at the section as a whole. We are not going to look at all of the details in these chapters. We are just going to hit some highlights and do a survey of these chapters. We are going to do three things today. We will get an overview of the chapter. We will get an overview of the Twelve tribes of Israel and we will look at some applications form these chapters.
Four important things happen in these chapters. One, government is established. There is no police force but there were six cities of refuge: Kedesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth, Gilead and Golan (Joshua 20:7-8).
In that day and culture, they had something called revenge killings. It was family retribution. This seems strange today. We would call these people vigilantes today. They take the law into their own hands. If someone in your family died, the nearest male relative had the responsibility of killing you. He was the family executioner. it was allowed under the Law of Moses (cf. Numbers 35:16-21)
It is NOT the same thing as what Muslims today call “honor killings.” That is also done by family members but it is only done to female members of the family who brought supposed dishonor to the family but have not killed anyone. This was tracking down someone who had killed a member of your family. If you killed someone accidentally, you could flee to a city of refuge to protect people. He is only safe if he stays in that city.
There was no sanctuary for premediated murder. All murderers were to be put to death but, if you killed someone accidentally, you were not to be put to death. For your own protection, you could flee to a city of refuge. These cities were all over the country. They were easy to access. Two were in the north. Two were in the south and to were in the center of the country.
If the avenger of blood was chasing you and you were running for your life, you don’t want to have to swim the river to get away. Three of these cities were on the west side of the Jordan and three were on the east side of the Jordan. Think of having a whole city for these killers.
Two, the center of worship was moved from Gigal (Joshua 5:1) to Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there (NIV). That is where the Tabernacle and sacrifices were. That is where the Ark of the Covenant was located. Shiloh was twenty miles north of Jerusalem.
It is in the West Bank today and it was right in the center of the country. If you go to Shiloh today, there is a space that measures 400 feet long and 77 feet wide. While we can’t be completely sure, this may be where the Tabernacle at Shiloh rested.
Three, the land is divided up among the nine and a half tribes. Four, the two and a half tribes go home. Forty thousand troops went over to help fight (Joshua 4:12-13). In Joshua 22, they go home. They are thanked for their service, given an honorable discharge and all go home.
Before we look at this chapter, we need to have some basic teaching on the Twelve Tribes. Joseph had twelve sons. The twelve sons became the Twelve Tribes.
The Twelve Tribes for Dummies
1. Joseph received the double portion
Reuben was Jacob’s firstborn son but Joseph received the double portion. Joseph was the godliest of Jacob’s twelve sons. Two of his sons became tribes of Israel (Ephraim and Manasseh). Joseph’s firstborn son was Manasseh. Joshua was from the Tribe of Ephraim.
2. Levi does NOT receive an inheritance
But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as he promised them. (Joshua 13:14 NIV). They lived off the sacrifices of the people. That is why some of the priests were fat (Eli).
Now this is very interesting. At one point in their history, the Levites were cursed. Read Genesis 49. Read what Jacob said about them before he died. Now, they are blessed. They have a special role in the nation. But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as he promised them. (Joshua 13:33).
They do not need to have land. They have God. They represented the presence of God. They were in charge of worship and God took care of them. They had no tribal inheritance, but they were given cities scattered all throughout the country.
There were forty-eight cities for the Levites (Numbers 35:1-8; Joshua 21) with pasturelands for their flocks and herds (Joshua 14:4; 21:3). Most tribes have four cities for Levites to live in. God provided for the spiritual life of the nation by doing this. They were not only involved in worship but taught people the law. God scattered them all throughout the country. He did not put all of the Levites in Jerusalem.
3. The Tribe of Simeon is located within another tribe
Levi and Simeon were involved in a terrible massacre in Genesis 34. This was one of the tribes that was cursed. In Joshua 19:1 we found out that their inheritance lay within the territory of Judah. (NIV)
4. Two and a half tribes were given land OUTSIDE of the Promise Land
The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were located on the East of the Jordan River (East Bank) in the Transjordan area. Before they even entered the promise Land, they saw land that they wanted and asked for it. God said that they could have it, as long as they helped the Israelites fight the Canaanites. Jacob’s firstborn son did not even receive land in the Promise Land
5. Nine and a half tribes were given land INSIDE the Promised Land
The tribes of Judah, Simeon, Asher, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Benjamin, Naphtali and the half tribe of Ephraim were located inside the Promised Land. They were located on the west of the Jordan River (West Bank). The West Bank is where all of the controversy is today
Our chapters in Joshua deal with them receiving their tribal inheritance in the Promised Land. God tells Joshua, even though he is old, to make sure that this gets done.
“As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh” (Joshua 13:6-7 NIV).
Judah was the first tribe to get their share of the land (Joshua 15). Joseph’s two sons are next to get their portion (Joshua 16-17). The rest get their portion in Joshua 18-19. Six of them receive their allotment in Joshua 19.
Notice how the section ends. These are the territories that Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel assigned by lot at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord at the entrance to the tent of meeting. And so they finished dividing the land. (Joshua 19:51 NIV).
6. One tribe was located inside AND outside the Promise Land.
The tribe of Manasseh was located east and west of the Jordan River. It is on both sides, if you look on the map in the back of your Bible. that is why the Bible talks about the half tribe of Manasseh.
7. Land inside the Promise Land was distributed BY LOTS
Joshua and the high priest divided the land up. How did they do it? How was it divided up? Who decided which tribe got which land? The Promise Land was assigned by lots.
Their inheritances were assigned by lot to the nine-and-a-half tribes, as the LORD had commanded through Moses. (Joshua 14:2 NIV)
Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions. (Joshua 18:10 NIV)
That seems strange to us today. It is like rolling dice or flipping a coin. Why did they use that method? That was the method that God said to use. God told Moses to do it that way (Numbers 26:5-56; 34:13; 36:2). Joshua was just following Scripture.
That raises the question: Should Christians cast lots today? There is biblical precedent for it. It is in the OT and in the NT. After Judas committed suicide, the Apostles used lots to pick the next Apostle (Matthias).
This method is not recommended today as a means of determining the will of God. Why? We have the Holy Spirit today. We have the Spirit living inside us. We do not need to use lots. Even the Apostles in Acts 1 used lots before the Spirit was given in Acts 2. We are not told to use lots today. Joshua was specifically told by God to do this.
There was a reason that the tribes were divided by lot. Man did not decide, God did. That made it completely fair. This is very important. Joshua did not decide which land the tribes got. The high priest did not decide. The tribes did not decide that. God did. God owns the whole earth. He decided which country got the Promise Land and He also decided which tribe got which portion of the Promise Land.
They did not all get the same thing. If you look at a map of the Twelve tribes, Judah got a huge allotment of land. Zebulun got a small allotment and so did Benjamin. One tribe actually complained about their division of land. It was the Tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:14). They said that they did not get enough land. The Jews were always complaining to God.
Applications for Today
1) God can use us in old age
When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” (Joshua 13:1 NIV). That tells us the FACT of old age and the USE of old age.
None of us like to be told that we are getting older. We don’t like it when our friends say that we are old. We don’t like it when family call us old. Here God says it. God says to Joshua, “You’re old.” God told Joshua something that he did not want to hear. God has him face reality. Some of us need a reality check. We need to face facts.
God says, “You’re old.” He was not being disrespectful to Joshua. He was not mocking Joshua, like people do today when they say that. He was just stating facts. Some of us are denial. Joshua was probably between 85 to 95 years old at this point.
He is too old to keep fighting on the battlefield, but God did NOT say, “You are old. You are no longer needed. Your time for service is over. You need to retire.” Instead, He gave him a job to do in his old age. This was Joshua’s final task assigned to him by God and he had to hurry, because he didn’t have much time left. Old age should not stop you from serving the Lord. God can still use older people to serve Him.
God says that he has one job left to do and that one job is to divide up the land that they just conquered. He only had to divide the land up for nine and a half tribes because two and a half tribes already received their inheritance.
2) God has an inheritance for all of His people
If you are in the family and your parents die, you have an inheritance. I don’t have much to leave my kids except a few books and a bible study website. If you are a child of God, you have an inheritance. You are in the family.
The Jews had a PHYSICAL inheritance. Christians do not have a physical inheritance primarily to look forward to. They have a SPIRITUAL inheritance. The Bible does say that one day we will rule and reign with Christ upon the earth, but we have a spiritual inheritance. It is an inheritance in heaven, and it is waiting for us.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept IN HEAVEN for you (I Peter 1:3-4 NIV).
An inheritance is not something you earn. It is a gift. If a parent decides to give a gift to their kids after they die, it is a gift. None of the Twelve Tribes deserved the Promised Land. It was sheer grace. God almost destroyed the whole nation when they were in the wilderness. We do not deserve our inheritance either but we still have one.
3) We still have a battle to fight
Just because we are saved does not mean the battle is over. In fact, in many ways, the battle just begins after you are saved. This is very interesting. The nation of Israel was no longer living in Egypt. They were no longer slaves to Pharaoh. They were no longer in bondage. They were no longer in the wilderness. They were in the Promise Land. They were in the place of blessing and prosperity. Even there, they had battles to fight.
In our passage, the land was surveyed. It was given to nine and a half of the tribes by lot. They moved in. When they moved in, they discovered something. All of the Canaanites were not completely gone. There were still some left in the country. In fact, the Bible seems to contradict itself.
So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. (Joshua 11:23 NIV).
When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over. (Joshua 13:1 NIV).
So which is it? Was the entire land conquered (Joshua 11) or was it not conquered and large areas of land still needed to be taken over (Joshua 13).
Both are true. One is a broad generalization. The entire land was conquered BUT large areas also needed to be taken. The major battles were fought. There were just a few mopping up operations left. There were little pockets of resistance left to fight.
What was true of Joshua and the Israelites is true of the Christian life. The major campaign is over. Satan was defeated at the cross in a major way. Jesus said, concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged (John 16:11 ESV). Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. (John 12:31 ESV)
We do not fight FOR victory. We fight FROM victory. There is a difference. This should completely change your whole perspective. Many Christians are fighting for victory. Jesus won the victory. The war was won two thousand years ago by Jesus, who is our Joshua. He disarmed Satan at the cross. He won the major campaign, but we still have some fighting to do. We still have to do battle against the world, the flesh and the devil.
4) God wants is to have full victory in our life
This is very interesting. Once the big battles were over and the tribes moved into the land that God gave them, they encountered some enemies. It was the job of each individual tribe to take care of these enemies in order to possess their possessions.
The land was theirs. It belonged to them. God has given it to them. They had the title to the land but there will still some people living in the land who had to be defeated before they could enjoy what God had given them. Not all of the tribes were able to do that.
Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah. (Joshua 15:63 NIV)
This was the territory of Ephraim, according to its clans…They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor. (Joshua 16:5, 10 NIV)
Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. 13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely. (Joshua 17:12-13 NIV)
Not every tribe was unsuccessful. The tribe of Dan had more success (cf. Joshua 19:47). What was true of the Israelites is true of many Christians. Many of us do not have full victory. Many Christians have partial victory. We have victory in some areas of our life but not in others.
God wants us to have full victory over all of the enemies in our life. We can be saved and still have strongholds in our life. We can have some enemies we have trouble defeating. God wants us to possess our possessions. Are you having spiritual victory or are there areas of defeat in your life?