Joshua 24 KJV Analysis, Verse 15, As For Me and My House

So, we see Joshua’s first final address in Joshua 23. He gives another one in chapter 24…

Joshua 24:1-2

[24:1 ¶ And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges [note this additional mention of Judges], and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God. 2 And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.]

What Joshua does from verse 2 to verse 13 is recall Israel’s history up to the present time – Joshua’s time. He starts in verse 2 with Terah and his ancestors. They worshiped idols. Verse 3 talks about Abraham. God took him out of his land and gave him a son. Verse 4 speaks of Isaac, Jacob, and Esau and the land that Esau was given. Jacob, on the other hand, God sent down to Egypt. When they were in the Egypt for a while, God sent Moses and Aaron and plagued Egypt and redeemed Israel out of there. We’re reminded of the peril they faced at the Red Sea when Egypt pursued them in verses 6 and 7. If you look at the end of verse 7 you see something very interesting. “Ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season.” We saw this with Moses as well. There just wasn’t much to say about that period of their existence as a nation. It was a big defeat for them because they refused to trust God. Then verse 8 reminds them how God destroyed Sihon and Og. Balak and Balaam in verse 9 tried to trip Israel up, but – verse 10 – God wouldn’t allow it. Verse 11 reminds them of the battle of Jericho and subsequent battles in the land of Canaan. Verse 12 – God sent hornets before them to help them defeat their enemies, just like he did with Sihon and Og. Israel didn’t do this with her “sword and their bow.” She did it with God’s help. And now – verse 13 – they’re living in a land filled with good things. Israel, look at your history. God has been good to you. What should be their reaction to God’s goodness? Verse 14…

Joshua 24:14-15

[14 ¶ Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD. 15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.]

It’s almost shocking that Joshua needs to admonish these folks to put away their false gods that they served back in Terah’s day and back in Egypt. They were still attracted to these silly idols. But these idols of the Egyptians, for example, God judged with the 10 Plagues. The Lord had overthrown the idols. And yet the Lord’s people were still clinging to them in some ways. Well, how do the people respond to this charge from Joshua? Verse 16…

Joshua 24:16-18

[16 ¶ And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; 17 For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: 18 And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.]

They get it right! That’s a good response. They speak the truth. Does that satisfy Joshua? Verse 19…

Joshua 24:19-20

[19 ¶ And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins. 20 If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.]

But I thought the Lord was full of forgiveness! He is. Verse 19 isn’t intended to say that he won’t forgive sins, even in the Old Testament. Verse 19 needs to be read in light of verse 20. In other words, God won’t overlook anyone’s sin. If Israel turns to strange gods, the Lord will not overlook their sins. But the people are adamant that they’ll serve God. Verse 21…

Joshua 24:21-24

[21 And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD.

22 And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him.

And they said, We are witnesses.

23 Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel.

24 And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.]

We’re going to serve the Lord. Alright, Joshua says, you’re witnesses that you made this promise. Yes, we’re witnesses. OK then, put away those gods and follow the Lord. And the people consent. So Joshua tries to make this permanent. Verse 25…

Joshua 24:25-28

[25 So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. 26 And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27 And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us [just like the altar of the 2 ½ tribes was two chapters ago]; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God. 28 So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.]

So that’s Joshua’s last word to Israel. Then the chapter and book end with three burials or deaths. Verses 29-30 tell us about Joshua’s death and burial. Verse 32 records the burial of Joseph. And finally in verse 33 we have the death and burial of Eleazar the high priest.

Joshua 24:31

Verse 31 summarizes things this way: “And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.”

Next Up: Judges!

And that’s somewhat of a happy ending, but it’s not the end of the story. Turn a few pages forward to the 2nd chapter of the book of Judges. Judges 2:7. “And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel.” And now verse 10. “And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” And then we have the rest of the book of Judges. We’ll start studying that next week, Lord-willing.

Joshua 23 KJV Commentary, Explained, Lessons, Sermons

For now, we’ll move on the chapter 23. Chapters 23 and 24 consist of Joshua giving two final addresses to Israel. Let’s start reading verse 1…

Joshua 23:1-4

[23:1 ¶ And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age. 2 And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges [We’ll see more about this group in Israel when we start studying Judges.], and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age: 3 And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you. 4 Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.]

So, Joshua says that he’s about to die. So he isn’t making this address for his own personal benefit. He turns the attention to his audience. YOU ALL have seen what the Lord has done to the nations in Canaan. And their land has been given to the Israelites. There are some Canaanites left, but the Lord will continue working with Israel to drive them out – verse 5…

Joshua 23:5

[5 And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.]

But in order for the Lord to keep doing this, Israel needs to keep the warning in verse 6…

Joshua 23:6-8

[6 Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; 7 That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: 8 But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day.]

And why would Israel even think of worshipping the gods of the Canaanites? They didn’t do much good for their own worshippers, whom Israel has destroyed. Joshua reminds them of this fact starting in verse 9…

Joshua 23:9-10

[9 For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day. 10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.]

And yet Joshua must warn Israel of what will happen if they turn from loving God. Verse 11…

Joshua 23:11-13

[11 Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God. 12 Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: 13 Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.]

If Israel stops loving God, he will stop driving their enemies out of their land. In fact, what will end up happening is that Israel itself will be driven from the land. And Joshua gives them one huge reason to love this God of theirs in verse 14…

Joshua 23:14

[14 ¶ And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.]

God has kept all his promises. He’s so good to his people. But God’s promise-keeping isn’t simply for the benefit of Israel. It can also be to their detriment that God always keeps his promises. Because, after all, God also promised Israel calamity if they turn from him. Verse 15…

Joshua 23:15-16

[15 Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you. [Under what circumstances would God do this to his people Israel?] 16 When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.]

So, that’s Joshua’s first final address. He gives another one in chapter 24…

 

Joshua 22 KJV Sermons, Devotion, Explained, King James Version, Lessons

Open your Bible to the 22nd chapter of the book of Joshua. Joshua 22.

Here we are. Our last lesson in this book. We’ve seen Joshua and Israel enter the land and conquer it. They then took possession of it. There are a small remnant of Canaanites left, but that shouldn’t be a problem. As long as Israel keeps following the Lord they’ll be able to drive them out.

In the first chapter of this book we saw Joshua addressing the 2 ½ tribes who already had their possession to the east of the Jordan River – Reuben, Gad, and ½ of Manasseh. Joshua reminded them how Moses commanded them to come over the Jordan with their brothers and help their brothers receive their land. And now finally, their brothers have already received their land. So what happens to these 2 ½ tribes now that their task is done? Let’s start reading chapter 22.

Joshua 22:1-3

[KJV Joshua 22:1 ¶ Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, 2 And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you: 3 Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.]

Let me stop for a moment. Joshua’s telling the truth here. I want us to note what he says about these 2 ½ tribes. They obeyed the commands of Moses and Joshua and even the Lord himself by not forsaking their brethren to the west of the Jordan. All 12 tribes of Israel were fighting as a united front against the Canaanites. And Joshua commends the 2 ½ tribes for taking part in this. Joshua will mention later that some of these folks have idols among them. But a least here Joshua is being very complimentary to them. They did right in this area. And so Joshua commends them. Let’s keep reading. Verse 4…

Joshua 22:4

[4 And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.]

But Joshua can’t let these folks go without a warning to do right, so verse 5…

Joshua 22:5

[5 But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.]

So, the 2 ½ tribes obeyed in regard to helping their brothers. Joshua challenges them to continue in their obedience, especially in regard to their relationship with the Lord. Joshua charges them to love the Lord and do his will with all their being.

When Joshua finished addressing them, he blessed them and sent them away to their possession. That’s basically what verse 6 says. Then verse 7 seems to offer an explanation for someone who just dropped into this chapter – as to why it seems like Joshua is sending Manasseh home, when they have a possession in Canaan. The secret is that he’s not sending the whole tribe back to the east side of the Jordan River. He’s only sending one half. We’ll continue with verse 7…

 

Joshua 22:7-9

[7 ¶ Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given possession in Bashan [east of the Jordan]: but unto the other half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them away also unto their tents, then he blessed them, 8 And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren. 9 And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.]

So, let’s catch the geography here. The 2 ½ tribes are departing from Shiloh, which is west of the Jordan River in Canaan. They’re going to Gilead which is here used as a general name for that large area where Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh had their possession east of the Jordan.

And I wonder if we’re given the last statement in verse 9 because of what we’re going to run across here. It’s OK that these 2 ½ tribes lived across the Jordan to the east. Their possessing that land was according to the word of the Lord. So, it’s not a problem that they didn’t take up residence in Canaan.

Now, let’s see what happens when the 2 ½ tribes reach their destination. Verse 10…

Joshua 22:10

[10 ¶ And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to.]

An altar? What do you do with an altar? You offer sacrifices on it. But I thought the Lord’s altar was in Shiloh at that time or wherever the Tabernacle was. If you know about Israel’s God you know he wasn’t wanting to be worshiped at every site around Canaan. He wanted to be worshiped in one central spot. So, this situation is a little concerning. What were the 2 ½ tribes doing?

Add to the confusion the fact of where they built their altar. Back in Gilead to the east of the Jordan in their possession? No! Where does it say they built it? In Canaan. On the side of the 9 ½ tribes of the sons of Israel. Why would they do that? Were they trying to make the 9 ½ tribes commit idolatry? Plus, they made it really big, so it would be really noticeable. All the more enticing to people who were naturally tempted with idolatry.

So this seems like a problem. Let’s see how the 9 ½ tribes respond. Verse 11…

Joshua 22:11-20

[11 And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel. 12 And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them. 13 ¶ And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14 And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel. 15 And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying, 16 Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD? 17 Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD, 18 But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel. 19 Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD’S tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God. 20 Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.]

So the children of Israel send over some pretty important folks to address the situation. They did not want another Peor on their hands – where Israel committed adultery and idolatry and Phinehas had to stop the plague on the people by driving a spear through two of the offenders. They didn’t want another Achan situation. They tell the 2 ½ tribes that if they sin they surely won’t suffer alone. Israel seems to have learned its lesson. Why hadn’t the 2 ½ tribes learned these same lessons? Or had they? Let’s read verse 21…

Joshua 22:21-23

[21 ¶ Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel, 22 The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,) 23 That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require it;]

So the 2 ½ tribes are vehemently denying that they’ve built this altar for sacrifices or any form of idolatry. Well, why did they build it, then? Verse 24…

Joshua 22:24-29

[24 And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel? 25 For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD. 26 Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice: 27 But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD. 28 Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you. 29 God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that is before his tabernacle.]

Wow, we wouldn’t have expected that answer. You all were thinking that the 2 ½ tribes were making an altar to be idolatrous! Well, maybe you weren’t. But that’s how the story would have led us to think about it. But that wasn’t the case at all.

So, here’s the picture we gather so far. The 9 ½ tribes even get the hint that the 2 ½ tribes are thinking about disobeying the Lord and they are ready to fight to see God’s will be done. The 2 ½ tribes are so concerned that their children be faithful to the Lord and follow him for generations to come that they build an altar to be a witness to the future generations that the Lord is the God of all Israel.

Someone somewhere in Israel apparently owns idols by the time Joshua gives his farewell speeches in the next two chapters, because he says so. However, in this chapter I see nothing of that. I see two groups both striving to stick to a pure worship of the Lord, and ready to take swift action to correct any anomalies.

Verses 30 through 34 tell us of the reaction of the 9 ½ tribes to the reasoning of the 2 ½ tribes. Everyone was pleased and no one talked anymore about going up to destroy the 2 ½ tribes. The end of that story.

When I started studying and reading this 22nd chapter I was very suspicious of the 2 ½ tribes. But I really think this section is meant to show us the extent of the obedience that all of Israel was attempting to act out while Joshua was still around. Because, as we’ll find out next week, there’s coming a time when obedience in Israel is the exception rather than the rule.

 

Joshua 21 KJV Explained, Highlights, Meaning

And that’s chapter 20. The cities of refuge. Next is chapter 21 where we see the Levites getting their cities and pasture lands. We’ll start by reading the first 3 verses of chapter 21.

Joshua 21:1-3

[21:1 ¶ Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; 2 And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle. 3 And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.]

So even though the Levites didn’t get a large contiguous portion of land they did receive some land. They were supposed to be given cities among the tribes of Israel. And not just cities, but suburbs as well. You probably didn’t know that suburbs existed back then. Well, maybe not in the form we think of them. What that word translated “suburbs” (migrash) means is something like open land or pasture land. So the Levites needed a place to stay – the cities – and they needed a place to keep their livestock – the pasture lands. And this is interesting. I mentioned that the tribe of Simeon was given its land within the tribe of Judah. I also mentioned that this seems to fulfill the prophecy that Jacob gave concerning his children in Genesis 49. In verse 7 of that chapter he said – “I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.” But did you know there was another tribe Jacob was talking about besides Simeon? Yeah, Jacob was actually addressing both Simeon and his brother… Levi. Levi was going to be divided and scattered in Israel. And what do we see happening here? The tribe of Levi was certainly scattered, wasn’t it?

Now, in verses 4 through 7 we see lots being drawn for the sons of Levi to determine which cities they would receive. Let’s read about that.

Joshua 21:4-8

[4 ¶ And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, which were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities. 5 ¶ And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities. 6 ¶ And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities. 7 ¶ The children of Merari by their families had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities. 8 ¶ And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.]

How many sons did Levi have? He had three. And yet here we see four lots being drawn. Why? Well, one son of Levi was Merari. Another was Gershon. And a third was Kohath. But did you notice Kohath was divided up into two groups? One was Aaron’s descendants. The other was the rest of the Kohathites who were not sons of Kohath. That’s why we have four lots rather than three.

And here’s another interesting fact. I have to try to keep this section interesting, right? This section just told us which tribes gave some of their cities to the Levites. And at first glance it looks like 13 tribes are mentioned, where of course there are only 12 tribes of Israel. How do you account for that? Look — in verse four it mentions Judah (1), Simeon (2), and Benjamin (3). Verse 5 – Ephraim (4), Dan (5), and the western ½ tribe of Manasseh (6). Verse 6 – Issachar (7), Asher (8), Naphtali (9), and the eastern ½ tribe of Manasseh (10). And verse 7 – Reuben (11), Gad (12), and Zebulun (13). How do we get 13 tribes? Just wanting to make sure we’re following. We don’t have 13 tribes. We actually have one tribe split across the Jordan River – Manasseh. But both halves of that tribe have their own land with their own cities which they give to the Levites. OK, moving on…

We’ll read verses 9 through 19 making comments as we go. In this section we’re going to see the cities given to sons of Aaron. And there are two main sections in these verses – verses 9 through 16 are the cities that Judah and Simeon gave to the sons of Aaron. And verses 17 and 18 list the cities that Benjamin gave to them. Then verse 19 is just a summary. Let’s start reading verse 9.

Joshua 21:9-19

[9 ¶ And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name, 10 Which the children of Aaron, being of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, had: for theirs was the first lot. 11 And they gave them the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it. 12 But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession. 13 ¶ Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron [1] with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah [2] with her suburbs, 14 And Jattir [3] with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa [4] with her suburbs, 15 And Holon [5] with her suburbs, and Debir [6] with her suburbs, 16 And Ain [7] with her suburbs, and Juttah [8] with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh [9] with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes. 17 And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon [1/10] with her suburbs, Geba [2/11] with her suburbs, 18 Anathoth [3/12] with her suburbs, and Almon [4/13] with her suburbs; four cities. 19 All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.]

So that’s the land given to the sons of Aaron. High priests came only from Aaron and his sons, so it’s interesting that their allotment of cities fell right near Jerusalem, which was in the tribe of Benjamin. And which city wasn’t at that point even the place where the Tabernacle stood.

Alright, so, Aaron was a son of Kohath. And so now in verses 20 through 26 we see the cities given to the rest of the sons of Kohath — Aaron’s sons excluded, of course. Again, I’ll point out the main sections in these verses before we read them. Verses 20 through 22 list the cities given to the sons of Kohath by the tribe of Ephraim. There are four of them. Verses 23 and 24 show us four more cities this time given by the tribe of Dan. And last in verse 25 we see the ½ tribe of Manasseh giving 2 cities. Verse 26 tells us this is a total of 10 cities given to the other sons of Kohath. Let’s start reading in verse 20.

Joshua 21:20-26

[20 ¶ And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim. 21 For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs, 22 And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities. 23 And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs, 24 Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities. 25 And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities. 26 All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.]

Next in verses 27 through 33 we have a list of the cities given to the children of Gershon, the second son of Levi after Kohath. Verse 27 shows the cities given by the ½ tribe of Manasseh. They give two cities. Next in verses 28 and 29 we see the cities from Issachar – 4 of them. Verses 30 and 31 tell us which cities Asher gave Gershon – 4 cities. And lastly we see in verse 32 that Naphtali gave 3 cities. Verse 33 tells us the total number of cities given to the sons of Gershon – 13.

And by this point something becomes apparent. Remember how the cities of refuge were given? They started in the northwest of Israel, went down south, crossed the Jordan, and came back up north again to the east of the Jordan. But now the way that these cities are given to the sons of Levi is a bit different. We actually start in the southwest, move north, jump over the Jordan River generally and come down south to end up in the southeast of Israel. Hopefully that helps us visualize what’s being described here.

Alright, let’s now start reading with verse 27.

Joshua 21:27-33

[27 ¶ And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beeshterah with her suburbs; two cities. 28 And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs, 29 Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities. 30 And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs, 31 Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities. 32 And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammothdor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities. 33 All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.]

And lastly but not leastly, we have the cities given to the sons of Merari, the last of the three sons of Levi, in verses 34 through 40. Zebulun gives them some cities in verses 34 and 35 – 4 to be exact. Reuben gives Merari four cities in verses 36 and 37. And finally, Gad gives them four cities in verses 38 and 39. And verse 40 reveals that this equals twelve cities!

Joshua 21:34-40

[34 ¶ And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs, 35 Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities. 36 And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, 37 Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities. 38 And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs, 39 Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all. 40 So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.]

Then finally verses 41 and 42 put some closure on this chapter regarding this matter of the Levites receiving their cities. Let’s read the verses.

Joshua 21:41-42

[41 ¶ All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs. 42 These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.]

Aaron got 13 cities, the other Kohathites got 10, Gershon had 13, and Merari has 12. 13 + 10 + 13 + 12 = 48 cities. So that works out right.

I want to point out one other thing before we leave the discussion of the Levitical cities. Did you notice how many of the cities of refuge became Levitical cities? Aaron received Hebron. The other Kohathites received Shechem. Gershon got Golan and Kedesh. And Merari received Ramoth. That’s how many cities of refuge? 5. But how many cities of refuge were designated? 6. Which one are we missing? Bezer in Reuben wasn’t given to the Levites. Or was it? Actually, it was. Look at verse 36. Bezer is mentioned there, but for whatever reason it’s not given the title “city of refuge” in that verse. So, actually all six cities of refuge ended up in the Levites’ hands.

So now, we come to the end of what was started in chapter 13. Chapters 13 through 19 dealt with the twelve tribes possessing their land in Canaan and to the east of the Jordan River. Then we saw today that chapters 20 and 21 are still focused on the land – land for the cities of refuge and land for the Levites. And then we have verses 43 through 45. Let’s read.

Joshua 21:43-45

[43 And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein. 44 And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.]

We really need to work at keeping certain things in tension here. We have verses 43 through 45 telling us in very positive terms how the land was taken and possessed and dwelt in by Israel. We’re told that God gave Israel rest from their enemies. The Lord delivered these folks into Israel’s hands. None of God’s promises failed. Not a single one. But then we also have the fact that in our last lesson we kept seeing that Israel couldn’t or wouldn’t drive out the rest of the Canaanites from their land. How do you hold these two facts at the same time? I think here’s how we need to think about it. Both facts are true. God did indeed deliver over all Israel’s enemies to them. None of them could stand before Israel. God fulfilled all of his good promises to them. God was completely faithful in all of his promises to Israel. God kept his end of the bargain, if you will. But Israel at the same time was guilty of not completely driving out the Canaanites. God brought the Canaanites to their knees in terms of weakening them and destroying them before Israel. And all Israel had to do was to finish the process by driving the remnant of Canaanites out of their land. Did Israel do it? No.

It really does remind me of a pattern we have in the New Testament. How does the New Testament present our flesh? Our sin nature? Is it alive and well? Is it still the master of the believer? Actually, the flesh is presented as having been given a knock-out blow. You know – in boxing where one guy knocks the other guy so hard in the head that they declare it a knock-out? That’s what God did to your flesh through Christ. He’s an old landlord to whom – as Jim Berg puts it – you don’t need to pay rent anymore. It’s as if you moved residencies. You used to pay rent to the flesh. But you moved into the household of faith and you don’t need to pay rent anymore to the flesh. He can come by and ask you for money, but you have no obligation to him. He can even trick you into paying him, but you really don’t have to. Why would you want to?

So, to bring it back to Joshua – the Canaanites were severely weakened. They just needed to be given the final heave-ho out of the land! Did they get that heave-ho? No. Again, we saw last week and we’ll see next week Lord-willing that at least some of the people still had idols in their possession. Some, no doubt, were getting friendly with the Canaanites. Most of the people I think end up not really trusting God. And as a result of all these things, God refused to drive the remnant of the Canaanites out of the land. How tragic. But who can blame God? If we’re thinking right, we won’t blame him.

I had originally intended to go into the story of how the 2 ½ tribes return to their possession in chapter 22. But I decided we can end on this note: “There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” And you and I can be certain that God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” in Christ. He’ll bring them to pass for us just as he did for Israel. Can you think of some promises God has given to us as New Testament believers? [give some time] One thing I thought of was that promise in Romans to the effect that nothing will separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. There’s no condemnation for us. No death penalty, which we deserve because we sin against God. And there’s no separation from God either. Even when trials of various sorts seem to indicate God has abandoned us, he hasn’t. He won’t. Ever. No condemnation. No separation. These are good promises from God. His promises didn’t fail for Joshua and Israel. They surely won’t fail for us.

Next week I hope to look at the return of the 2 ½ tribes to their land – and the civil war that was barely averted! As well as Joshua’s farewell speeches. I hope to finish the book next week. We’ll see what happens.

Joshua 20 KJV, Cities of Refuge, Commentary, Sermon

Let’s turn to the 20th chapter of the book of Joshua.

We’re almost to the end of this book. I think we may have one more lesson left in it.

Joshua and all Israel have entered the Promise Land of Canaan. They’ve conquered all their enemies – all who opposed them. Last lesson we saw that land being divided up among the tribes of Israel and possessed by them.

Today we’ll study 2 chapters – chapters 20 and 21. We’re still talking about dividing and possessing the land, in a way. But we’re not talking about large contiguous land masses being doled out to each tribe now. No. Today we’ll be focusing on two chapters that discuss cities and who gets them and what they’re to be used for. We’re going to talk about cities in ancient Israel for 45 minutes or so here in Sunday School today. So all of you who have been earnestly desiring an in-depth study of lists of cities, your wish has finally been granted! But seriously I trust this will be an interesting lesson, once we get over the fact that we’re just going to be talking about cities the whole time. I still believe and have been convinced more and more through our Sunday School studies that nothing in Scripture is boring, if you understand it™.

Now in these 2 chapters we see 2 main topics covered. In chapter 20 Israel sets aside cities to be cities of refuge. And then chapter 21 tells us about the Levites receiving their cities and pasture lands. So, I suppose we could call this lesson A Tale of Two Chapters about Cities.

So, to start, let’s read about the cities of refuge. We’ll read 20:1-6.

Joshua 20:1-6

[Joshua 20:1 ¶ The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, 2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: 3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood. 4 And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 5 And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime. 6 And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.]

In Old Testament Israel there was no prison system. In the case of homicide, if it was premeditated or done out of hatred, that would be considered murder. The murderer would be put to death. But if the homicide happened accidentally or if it didn’t happen out of hatred, something else was required. That’s where the cities of refuge come in. The manslayer could flee there and be safe. But why would the manslayer need to be safe? Because there’s this character called the avenger of blood. Who is he? He’s someone who apparently would have been pretty unhappy that the manslayer killed the person he killed. Perhaps the avenger of blood was a relative of the victim. And this avenger of blood would seek to put the manslayer to death. That’s why the manslayer needed a city of refuge – to hide from this guy.

So here’s how this was supposed to work. The manslayer accidentally kills someone. He then flees to one of the cities of refuge so that the avenger of blood doesn’t kill him in retribution. What happened, by the way, if the avenger killed the manslayer? We have no reason to believe that there would be any punishment for the avenger. OK, so the manslayer makes it to a city of refuge. What then? The elders come to the gate of the city and listen to the manslayer’s case. If it passes their test they let the guy in. He stays there until the whole congregation can hear his case. I assume that the congregation could find him guilty of murder and execute him or they could affirm that he indeed did not commit murder and let him live in the city of refuge. At this point the manslayer needs to stay in the city or else if the avenger of blood found him outside the city he could kill him. Assuming that the manslayer stayed inside his city he would remain there until the death of the high priest of his day. And when the high priest died then the manslayer could leave the city of refuge and return to his own city from which he had come.

So that’s the idea behind the cities of refuge and the need for them. Let’s see which cities were designated by the people of Israel to be cities of refuge. Verses 7 through 9.

Joshua 20:7-9

[7 ¶ And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah. 8 And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh. 9 These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.]

So cities within the land of six tribes were chosen. Verse 7 mentions the three cities to the west of the Jordan River. The narrator starts with the northern-most city of refuge in that area – Kedesh. Then going south we have Shechem which is in the middle of the land. Last we see Hebron – Caleb’s city – in the south in Judah’s territory.

Then verse 8 brings us over the Jordan River to the east side of it. But instead of starting on the north it starts on the south with Bezer in Reuben, the southernmost tribe east of Jordan. Then we see Ramoth in Gad which is in the middle of the country sort of parallel to Shechem on the other side of the Jordan. And last we see Golan on the north of the land that belonged to the eastern tribes. Something interesting to note is that these three cities on the east of the Jordan River were already designated as cities of refuge by Moses in Deuteronomy chapter 4.

And that’s chapter 20. The cities of refuge. Next is chapter 21 where we see the Levites getting their cities and pasture lands.