(The Distribution of the Land)
The united inheritance of Manasseh and Ephraim includes a fruitful country lying in the midst of Western Palestine. It extends from the Jordan, and the eastern slopes of mount Ephraim across to the shore of the Mediterranean. Of this entire district Ephraim received the southern portion, the half tribe of Manasseh the northern. Ephraim only, and he for a narrow space, touched the Jordan. The border between Ephraim and Manasseh is not clear nor the northern border of Manasseh.
The sacred narrator makes mention of the fact that there was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh—a lot west of the Jordan, too—he being the first born of Joseph. Though Ephraim was ordained to take rank before Manasseh, to the latter remained the privilege of the double portion. The two sons ranked with their uncles as founders of tribes in perpetual acknowledgment of the service rendered by Joseph to the family.
As has been stated in, so here. Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, had no sons but only daughters. Zelophehad himself had died in the wilderness, but the daughters declare it an injustice that their father’s name should perish, and that, too, when he had not been of those that rose up against the Lord in the company of Korah. Moses brings their cause before the Lord by whom it was maintained in the following language, “The daughters of Zelophehad speak right: thou shalt surely give them a possession of an inheritance of their father to pass unto them.” By this the name of Zelophehad was preserved, which could not have been the case without the possession of an estate to which the name of the original proprietor attached. Because, therefore, the daughters, as heirs, obtained their possession among the male descendants of Manasseh, the inheritance in Western Palestine was divided into ten parts, while the land of Gilead went to the remaining Manassites.
The portion of the country allotted to the children of Joseph had not been well cleared of its original inhabitants. This is plain from what is said in, “They drove not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer.” Hence, the children of Joseph came complaining before their fellow tribesman Joshua. “Why,” they ask, “hast thou given me but one lot and one portion, as a possession, when I am a great people, in so far as Jehovah hath blessed me hitherto.” Joshua, by no means disposed to grant special favors to his own tribe, demands of them to use their strength, to go up into the forest, to clear it out, and establish for themselves new abodes among the Perizites and the Rephaim. But they show little inclination to this course, and at the same time intimate that they cannot spread themselves further in the plain because “the Canaanites that dwell in the land of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of valley of Jezreel.” Joshua still remains firm. In both his replies he betrays a touch of irony, as if he would say: Yes it is true thou art a numerous people, and hast great strength, and oughtest therefore to have more than one share. But seek to procure this second portion thyself. Cut down the forest! Behold thou wilt drive out the Canaanites; it is precisely thy task to conquer those that have iron chariots and are mighty; no other tribe can do it.
There now occurs an event of importance. The land having been subdued and the leading tribes having received their allotments, “the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there.” No reason is given why Shiloh was selected as the religious center of the .nation, but that it was chosen by Divine direction we can hardly doubt. We should have thought that the preference would be given to Bethel, a city of primeval sanctity in Israel and lying somewhat south but still sufficiently central. Bethel, however, though its ruler had been at the very first once defeated by Joshua, was not permanently occupied by Ephraim till after Joshua’s death. Then the house of Joseph went up against Bethel and the Lord was with them. Shown the entrance into the city by a man whom they saw coming out of it, they smote the place with the edge of the sword, but let go the man and all his family,. From the days of Joshua, all through the period of the Judges, and on to the last days of Eli the high priest, Shiloh continued to be the abode of the tabernacle, and the religious center of Israel, while Shechem became the supreme seat of civil power. Yet Schechem had from the earliest times been accounted of such sanctity that it could not but rank among the Levitical cities and the cities of refuge. It was bounded on the north and south by the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, which early acquired a certain sanctity. On the former stood an altar as a memorial of the giving of the law,
Though the whole land was subdued, there remained seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance. They were slow to entertain the thought of a fixed settlement and received, it could be expected, little encouragement to such a course from the other tribes. Thus they continued in the common camp in the district allotted to the children of Joseph even when Ephraim gathered around the tabernacle and was moving onward to a permanent settlement. The listlessness of these tribes was provoking to Joshua, for he knew that God’s plan was quite different, that each tribe was to have a territory of its own, and that measures ought to be taken at once to settle the boundaries of the seven remaining tribes. He said unto the children of Israel, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you? Give out from among you three men from each tribe: and I will send them and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me. And they shall divide it into seven parts.” Judah and Joseph were not to be disturbed in the settlements that had already been given them. “Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coast on the north.” Special note was taken of the cities, for when the spies returned and gave back their report they described “the land by the cities into seven parts in a book.”
The remaining land is now divided. “And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel—unto the seven remaining tribes—according to their divisions.
The territory of Benjamin lay between the sons of Judah on the south, and the sons of Joseph on the north. For the most part it consisted of deep ravines running from west to east. Many of its cities were perched high in the mountains, as is evident from the commonness of the names Gibeon, Gibeah, Geba, all of which signify “hill.” Several of the cities of Benjamin were famous. We mention Bethel; Gibeon, the capitol of the Gibeonites; Ramah, afterwards the dwelling place of Samuel; Mispah, one of the three places where he judged Israel.
The second lot came forth to Simeon. There is little to be said of Simeon. His portion was taken out of the allotment to Judah, which was larger than the tribe required. “And their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah.” The history of this tribe as a whole can be written in the words of Jacob’s prophecy, “I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.”
The boundaries of Zebulun are given with much precision; but most of the names are unknown so that the delineation cannot be followed. Zebulun was wholly an inland tribe, as no mention is made either of the sea or the lake of Galilee as a boundary.
Issachar touched in the north on Zebulun and Naphtali; in the west on Ashur and Manasseh; in the south likewise on Manasseh in part; in the east on the Jordan. Issachar received an interesting and important site. Its most beautiful section of country was the fertile plain of Jezreel.
The fifth lot fell to the tribe of Asher, which received the territory on the slope of the Galilean mountains toward the Mediterranean. It was a very beautiful and fertile region. Naphtali was adjacent to Ashur, and had the Jordan and the lakes of Merom and Galilee for its eastern boundary.
Dan was the tribe whose lot was drawn last. He was shut in between Judah on the one hand and the Philistines on the other. The best part of his inheritance was no doubt in their hand. Soon therefore a colony of Danites went out in search of further possessions. Having dispossessed some Sidonians at Laish, in the extreme north, they gave their name to that city.
The division of the country was not completed but Joshua himself was still unprovided for. With rare self-denial, he waited until every one else had received his portion. When his turn did come, his request was a modest one. “They gave him the city that he asked, even Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he built the city and dwelt therein.”
Under Moses the camp of Israel was divided into four divisions in the Order of East, South, West, and North, with the tabernacle in the center. The four leading tribes were Judah, Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan. To the East was Judah in association with Issachar and Zebulun. To Reuben in the south was joined Simeon and Gad. On the West Manasseh and Benjamin were encamped under the leadership of Ephraim. To the north was Dan in association with Ashur and Naphtali. Essentially this same order and relative dignity of the tribes was maintained in the division of the land among them. In this order, the Israelitish nation, as settled in Canaan, stands before us as the type of the church—the church in glory—the true house of God, the heavenly and imperishable commonwealth of Israel, in which each of his numbered servants has his allotted place where he securely dwells—the city of God, the new Jerusalem.
The assembling of the people of Israel at Shiloh and the subsequent completion of the division of the land, was the first fulfillment of the prophecy of the dying respecting Judah, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.”
Canaan was the Shiloh land and Jehovah the rest and peace (such is the signification of the word Shiloh) of His people.
In His holy tabernacle near the altars that stood in its sanctuaries, the Lord—the King of peace and rest, the Shiloh—dwelt and exercised His rule. On the arrival in Canaan, this sacred tent was finally pitched at Shiloh. And whereas this structure housed the throne (the ark of the covenant) and the altars of God, it follows that the placing of it at Shiloh signified that at this spot Jehovah now took up His residence, and by His presence the very center and seat of His gracious government over a people with whom He now, after the holy warfare had been warred, took up His abode in a land converted by His might into a region of rest and peace. The city of Shiloh, in distinction from all other places (Gilgal, Nob, and Gibeon) where the sacred tent was placed, actually appears in the sacred record as a place so favored. It was at Shiloh where the host of the Lord was encamped while Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel. To Joshua and to the host at Shiloh, yea to the Lord Himself, the spies who had passed through the land (of Canaan) and described it returned. Here at Shiloh the lots were cast before the Lord in token that the rest now entered into was Jehovah’s.
Jehovah’s rest it was. For the battle had been His. Israel had gained the ascendency because the wicked tribes infesting Canaan had been delivered into its hand by the Lord. The victory gained had been His gracious gift and the promised inheritance the spoil taken in a war He through the sword of Joshua had waged. The prize gained therefore belonged exclusively to the Lord. In consequence thereof it was He Who through the instrumentality of His servant Joshua distributed all the land which He sware to give unto their fathers; the land among the tribes. “The Lord gave unto Israel and they possessed it and dwelt therein.”
And in this land the Lord with His people came to rest. He 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. There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.”.
Canaan was the Shiloh land, a country of rest and of a peace that consisted in God reigning in the midst of His enemies by Himself and through His people—a peace therefore that was at once a state of mind to be defined as a blessed inward quietude springing from the nation’s consciousness that it was reconciled to God through the blood of the offering, that God therefore was on its side with His hand on the neck of the adversary.
It is plain that with the coming of the Lord to Canaan and in particular to the city of Shiloh—that seat of blessed reign of peace—Jacob’s prophecy went into initial fulfillment. What in the first instance had risen before the eye of this prophet when on his dying bed he jubilantly exclaimed, ‘The scepter will not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes’ was the prospect of Jehovah entering His rest and tabernacling with his (Jacob’s) seed in Canaan the Shiloh land.