Joshua—Receiving The Promised Land (4)

Jason L. Kortering is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Grandville, Michigan.

We are about to the end of outlining the first main division of the book of Joshua, which covers chapters 1-12. This gives the details of Israel entering into and possessing the land of Canaan. We pick up our outline at Joshua 10:28. After the death of the five kings, Joshua took in succession the following cities with their kings, Makkedah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir (Joshua 10:28-39). He destroyed all their kings and all that breathed, from Kadesh Barnea to Gaza even to Gibeon and returned to Gilgal (Joshua 10:40-43). Joshua next turned northward to conquer the kings which had confederated under the leadership of Jabin, king of Hazor. They came out as the sand upon the sea shore with horses and chariots and joined battle at the waters of Merom. The Lord assured Joshua of the victory, and the next day they houghed their horses and burnt their chariots. Then Joshua captured their cities and killed all that breathed, and kept the spoil. This covered the area from Goshen to the area near Mt. Hermon. All were destroyed, even the Anakims. None made peace save the inhabitants of Gibeon, for the Lord hardened their hearts that they might be destroyed (Joshua 11:1-23). We have a completed list of the kings which were destroyed, those east of Jordan and within Palestine itself (Joshua 12:1-24). 

2. The division of the land of Canaan, including the cities of refuge and Levitical towns (Joshua 13:1-22:34).

This begins with the Lord appearing unto Joshua, who by now is old, and pointing out to him, what land has yet to be conquered (Joshua 13:1-6). He is instructed to divide the land to the west of Jordan among the nine and a half tribes (Joshua 13:7). Detailed account is given on the territory covered to the east of Jordan (Joshua 13:8-14), specifically what was given to Reuben (Joshua 13:15-23), Gad (Joshua 13:24-28), half tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 13:29-31). Twice it is mentioned in the summary of the land distributed east of Jordan that Levi did not receive a portion. Their portion is the tabernacle and temple service (Joshua 13:14, 32, 33).

An account now follows as to how the land of Canaan west of Jordan was to be divided. We are told that determination was made by the casting of lots (Joshua 14:1-5). Caleb approached Joshua, reminding him of the promise Moses made that for his faithful activity of spying the land when he was 40 years old, he was to receive the land which he walked upon. Now he was 85 years old and still healthy and strong. He desired to receive the inheritance around Hebron as promised to him. Joshua gladly consented (Joshua 14:6-15). The portion given to Judah is described, including Caleb’s portion of Hebron. It is indicated that he defeated the three sons of Anak, during which he offered his daughter as wife to the one who would defeat Kirjathsepher. Othniel, the brother of Caleb took it and he married his daughter. She received a special portion (Joshua 15:1-20). A complete listing of the cities included in Judah’s portion is given. This excluded Jerusalem, for the Jebusites were there and Judah could not drive them out (Joshua 15:21-63). We next have the portion given to Joseph described. The general borders are described (Joshua 16:1-4) the portion given to his son Ephraim is mentioned (Joshua 16:5-10), and this is followed by that for the other half of the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 17:1-13). Ephraim and Manasseh complained that their portion is not large enough for their families. Joshua instructed them to conquer the hill country and cut down the wood and there would be plenty (Joshua 17:14-18). Interspersed between these accounts is mention of the tabernacle being set up at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1). Then the details of the land inheritance for the remaining seven tribes is given. A survey crew is sent out, consisting of three men from each tribe, which writes in a book a description of the land and proposed seven sections (Joshua 18:2-10). By the casting of lot, Benjamin now receives his portion (Joshua 18:11-28), Simeon is next (Joshua 19:1-9), Zebulun’s portion is laid out (Joshua 19:10-16), Issachar’s (Joshua 19:17-23), Asher’s (Joshua 19:24-31), and Naphtali’s (Joshua 19:32-39). Dan received a portion too small so they conquered Leshem in addition (Joshua 19:40-48). Joshua received from the children of Israel a portion, the city of Timnathserah, for which he had asked. The inheritances are then completed as the last lot was cast before the temple in Shiloh (Joshua 19:49-51).

The people are instructed to appoint cities of refuge among the tribes. On the western side of Jordan they are Kadesh in mount Naphtali, Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Hebron in the mountain of Judah. On the eastern side they are Bezer, Ramoth-Gilead, and Golan. They are also reminded what the purpose of these cities is: that the slayer of a person unawares and unwittingly may flee there for safety and remain there in safety until he stands in judgment before the congregation and the high priest of that place dies. Then he may return to his home in safety (Joshua 20:1-9).

The fathers of the Levites approach Joshua and the heads of the tribes to remind them of the command that Moses gave for them to receive cities among the people (Joshua 21:1, 2). By the casting of lots, the portion of the Kohathites is found among the tribes of Judah and Simeon and for the children of Aaron among Benjamin. The rest of the Kohathites are found among Ephraim, Dan, and Manasseh (Joshua 21:3-5, 9-19, 20-26). The cities of the Gershonites are found among the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and the half tribe of Manasseh east of Jordan (Joshua 21:6, 27-33). Those for the Merarites are found in the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun (Joshua 21:7, 34-40). This comes to a total of 48 cities scattered throughout the tribes east and west of the Jordan, (Joshua 21:8, 41, 42). A summary statement is made of the goodness of God in realizing all the promises he swore to their fathers. And they had rest and peace: “they failed not ought any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel, all came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45).

Joshua then proceeded to tell Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh that they might now return to their homeland east of the Jordan. As he dismissed them, he urged them to keep the law of God to love God and walk in His ways. They returned loaded down with much of the booty of war which they were to share with their brethren at home (Joshua 22:1-9). At the border of Jordan, they built an altar unto Jehovah, but when the children of Israel under the leadership of Phinehas, son of Eleazar the priest, heard that they did this, they called ten princes of each major house to go after them to confront them. They interpreted this as an act of rejection of Jehovah God at Shiloh (Joshua 22:10-20). They quickly answered them that they did not intend this to be rejection. They were not going to offer burnt offerings upon this altar. Rather they wanted this altar to be a memorial for their future generations, that they might not forget their God (Joshua 22:21-29). When Phinehas and the princes heard this, they gladly accepted the explanation and blessed God. As a result they named the altar ED, a witness between us (Joshua 22:30-34). 

3. The third and final division of this book covers Joshua’s farewell address and the account of his death (Joshua 23:1-24:33).

Joshua calls for the elders of Israel and all the leaders in Israel to stand before him as he rehearses how the Lord prospered their way by giving them the land and driving out their enemies. He warns them to have nothing to do with the nations that remain among them, but give wholehearted worship to Jehovah their God. If they should in any wise cleave to the remnant of these nations or intermarry with them, God will no longer drive them out from before them. He is about to die, and unless they continue to obey God, evil will come upon them. They are urged to be faithful to God (Joshua 23:1-16). In a second address, he calls the leaders of Israel to come before him at Shechem. He reviews their history from the call given to Abraham, the deliverance from Egypt, the dwelling in the wilderness, the crossing of Jordan, and finally the receiving of the land of Canaan. He urges them to put away all strange gods and choose this day to serve Jehovah. He delivers those stirring words, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” (Joshua 24:1-15). The people freely resolve to serve Jehovah. Joshua calls them to witness that they have chosen Jehovah. This means they are to put away the strange gods which are among them. Joshua made a covenant and wrote these words in the book of the law. He also set up a great stone under the oak as a witness (Joshua 24:16-28). The closing words refer to Joshua’s death at 110 years of age. He was buried in his inheritance in Timnath-serah. Israel served the Lord during the days of Joshua and during the days of the elders that outlived him (Joshua 24:29-31). The bones of Joseph which were taken out of Egypt were buried in Shechem in the parcel of ground Jacob brought from Hamor (Joshua 24:32). Eleazar, son of Aaron, died and was buried in mount Ephraim (Joshua 24:33).

Questions for Reflection:

1. Having studied the book of Joshua, is there any indication within the book itself why it is placed in the group of “former prophets?” Consider the significance of entering the land of promise in this connection.

2. Does the uncertainty of Joshua as being the author shake your faith in the inspired Bible? Why or why not?

3. The events associated with entering and receiving the land of Canaan is rich in gospel typology. Reflect upon the major events recorded in the book and make a list of them and show how they convey the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.

4. Connected with the success of taking the land (Joshua 1:1-9) and retaining the land (Joshua 23:8-16) is the specific warning not to forsake Jehovah for other gods, or He will give them over to the enemies. Is this a conditional promise, dependent upon Israel’s obedience? Explain.

5. Consider whether the three and half tribes’ desire to stay east of Jordan was wrong (see Joshua 1:10-18and Joshua 22).

6. Did Israel neglect in any way completely to destroy the nations that were in the land of Canaan? Explain your answer.

7. Discuss the significance of the standing still of the sun, Joshua 10.

8. Demonstrate that God was completely faithful to His promise which he made to Moses and Joshua in giving them the land.