Let’s open our Bibles to the 13th chapter of the book of Joshua. Joshua chapter 13.
This is our tenth lesson in the book of Joshua. I suspect we’ll have maybe 3 more at most. We’ll see. And then the plan is to move on to the book of Judges.
Now by opening your Bible to the 13th chapter of the book of Joshua you’re landing right at the beginning of a brand new section. The first 12 chapters chronicled Joshua’s conquering the land. We saw Israel preparing to enter the land in chapters 1 through 5. Then in chapters 6 through 12 we saw war. War to take the land of Canaan as God commanded Moses and Moses commanded Joshua. At the end of chapter 11 all that land was taken in battle and chapter 12 then gives us a quick listing of all the kings that Joshua destroyed in the land of Canaan. And finally, last week the land had rest from war.
So the preparations to enter the land are over. The land itself is open wide before Israel. And now all Israel has to do is possess it. And that’s just what they do in chapters 13 through 19 – 7 chapters devoted to this one matter of dividing the land between the tribes of Israel. And hopefully we’ll get through all of it today.
Let’s dive into this section by reading 13:1-7.
[Joshua 13:1 ¶ Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.
2 This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri, 3 From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites: 4 From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites: 5 And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath. 6 All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee. 7 Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh]
So even though the land was taken in a general sense, yet there was still some enemies in the land. In this case the Philistines’ land hadn’t been taken yet. Some areas in the south and the north hadn’t been taken either. Did that concern God? It sounds like it did. But he had a solution. Israel needed to possess the land. It was wide open before them. But now they needed to dwell in it and make it their own. And when they would do this, the Lord says he would drive out the inhabitants from before Israel. That’s a promise. God promised to drive out those enemies before Israel! We’ll see how that turns out as we study these seven chapters.
And then this section ends with God in verse 7 telling Joshua to divide the land for the 9 ½ tribes. But wait, I thought there were twelve tribes. What about the other 2 ½ tribes? Let’s read verses 8 through 12.
[Joshua 13:8 ¶ With whom [the other ½ of Manasseh] the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them; 9 From Aroer, that is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain of Medeba unto Dibon; 10 And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, unto the border of the children of Ammon; 11 And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah; 12 All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out]
Oh yeah, so Reuben, Gad, and ½ of Manasseh already got their inheritance. Do you remember that happening all the way back in the Pentateuch? And this all sounds very good. Most of what we see in this book reflects very well on Joshua and all Israel. Yes, we had Achan and Gibeon. But overall, Israel is portrayed as doing well. They’re faithful and doing what God wants them to do. This has been their pattern since entering Canaan. The generation before this current one was faithless and as a result they had to wander in the wilderness. But the children of that generation were careful to listen to God and do his will. So the next verse might come as a little bit of a shock. Verse 13.
[Joshua 13:13 Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.]
Uh-oh. That’s a phrase I kept uttering as I studied this section this week. This is one of my “uh-oh” verses. Things are going so well. The land is conquered. Now it’s being divided among the tribes and possessed by them. And God’s ideal is that Israel drive all the remaining Canaanites out. And then… Uh-oh! We get these little hints that not all is well. Verse 13 tells us that the 2 ½ tribes to the east of the Jordan River didn’t expel these two groups of Canaanites from their possession. And this was even back when they had Moses to help them. But the people didn’t do it. Well, maybe this is a one-time thing. Maybe all the other tribes did pretty well with driving the Canaanites out of the land. So, let’s move on and hope we don’t see any more of this business about not driving Canaanites out.
In verses 14 through 33 we see tribes who have no inheritance or whose inheritance is outside of the land of Canaan. In verse 14 we see Levi’s inheritance. For much of this I’m not going to read it all. I’m just going to summarize what we see in various places. So Levi actually doesn’t get an inheritance of land. They do get a few cities here-and-there throughout Israel. But their main inheritance – and this is repeated throughout the Old Testament – is the Lord himself, his offerings, and his service. Serving the Lord and benefitting from such service even on a physical level was to be sufficient for Levi.
Verses 15 through 23 talk about Reuben’s inheritance. They actually did get land and it was east of the Jordan River. It formerly belonged to Sihon until Moses destroyed him and took his land. Within this little section about Reuben’s possession lies an interesting detail. Look at verse 22. Whom did Israel kill when they took the land of Sihon? They killed Balaam. Remember him? He’s the one who for the sake of money went out hoping that God would allow him to curse Israel for the Moabites. God wouldn’t do it. So Balaam gave several very Scriptural prophecies about Israel. But since Balaam couldn’t destroy Israel through cursing them, he did the next best thing in his mind. He counseled the king of Moab to seduce the Israelite men with Moabite women. If this happened, idolatry would surely be involved in the process and God would in effect have to judge Israel for disobedience. Balaam’s plan worked. God had to kill numerous Israelites. But we see here that Balaam met his end at the hands of the nation he tried to sabotage.
Then moving on in verses 24 through 28 we have Gad’s inheritance delineated. This tribe also took some of Sihon’s land east of the Jordan.
And then the last of the 2 ½ tribes is mentioned in verses 29 through 31. It’s the ½ tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s son. They took the land that formerly belonged to Og east of the Jordan.
And then verses 32 and 33 simply summarize what we just discussed. Moses parceled out this land when he was still around.