Wednesday, Mar 21st

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Joshua 18

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The allocation of former Canaanite lands continues...

Verse 1

  1. And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.

For some years after entering Canaan on the East and then fighting many Canaanite tribes and kings, the Israelites were settled enough to set up the Tabernacle at Shiloh. All the tribes and people gathered in one mass to celebrate this event in Shiloh (‘place of rest’) in the tribal land of Ephraim; the tabernacle itself was still the temporary tent from the wanderings. The second sentence seems to suggest that the land was subdued either as a result of this, or as a prior circumstance after fighting the Canaanites. Though subdued and free from major wars, many Canaanites remained in the land.

Verses 2-4

  1. And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.

  2. And Joshua 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?

  3. Give out from among you three men for 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.

To that point only five tribes had received their inheritance-lands. Seven tribes had still to inherit. Joshua was impatient with this and asked why the remaining tribes were so slow in claiming their lands. God promised them a land of their own, hundreds of years previously, brought them out of bondage in Egypt, kept them safe for forty years, and subdued hostile, godless nations, so they could enjoy their inheritance. So, why are they dragging their feet and not taking what belongs to them?


Some might argue that the land of Canaan belonged to the Canaanites. No, this is a very bad notion of land. The whole earth belongs to God. As Lord of lords He can give land to anyone He wishes, and those He gives to own the land in a secondary sense, as tenants looking after their Master’s property. People who are godless own nothing and are given nothing by God; indeed, that which they think they own can be removed from them instantly by God. Godless people cannot own anything that God owns. Nor do they have rights to what they think they own. The Canaanites owned their land only until the rightful owners arrived. And yet seven tribes reluctantly held back! There is surely a sense of sin in this, almost a rejection of God’s gift.


Joshua used words that showed the seven tribes to be ‘slack’, raphah – feeble, weak, idle. The fight to subdue the Canaanites was long and hard, so a time of rest in which the tribes enjoyed their conquered lands should have been a priority. We see this today in the many Christians who will not stand up to be counted, or be strong before unbelievers, or refusing to grab what God has already given to them.

Each tribe, said Joshua, will pick three men. That is, 21 men in total from the seven tribes. These men would travel through the land and find the cities and boundaries Israel had conquered. Then they will return to speak with Joshua about what they find. The task would take several months.

Verses 5-7

  1. And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north.

  2. Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.

  3. But the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.

In this way the representatives did not just conceptualise what God has promised them – they could see it for themselves. The men, having seen what belongs to each of their tribes, would be told by Joshua which parts were theirs. Judah would mainly be in the south and the house of Joseph would mainly be north. The rest would be allocated to the remaining seven tribes, after Joshua had cast lots. It is thought that he cast pebbles to find each lot, so that the tribes could not say he favoured one tribe over another. He again reminded them that the Levites would not be included in this decision making, for their priesthood was their inheritance; thus they lived amongst most of the tribes. The ‘half-tribes’ (or, more correctly ‘half the tribes of Joseph’) already had their allocated lands, decided upon not by Joshua but by Moses.

Verses 8-10

  1. And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the LORD in Shiloh.

  2. And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book, and came again to Joshua to the host at Shiloh.

  3. And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.

And so the 21 men left to complete their task; to ‘describe’ meant to look at and record in writing. This they did, recording all that remained to be allocated. When they were finished they had to return to Shiloh so the lots could be cast. Every city, village, mountain, plain, forest and river was recorded in a book or scroll, very precisely and accurately. The men then returned to Joshua, and he cast lots confirming which parts of Canaan would belong to each of the seven tribes.

Verses 11-14

  1. And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families: and the coast of their lot came forth between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph.

  2. And their border on the north side was from Jordan; and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains westward; and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.

  3. And the border went over from thence toward Luz, to the side of Luz, which is Bethel, southward; and the border descended to Atarothadar, near the hill that lieth on the south side of the nether Bethhoron.

  4. And the border was drawn thence, and compassed the corner of the sea southward, from the hill that lieth before Bethhoron southward; and the goings out thereof were at Kirjathbaal, which is Kirjathjearim, a city of the children of Judah: this was the west quarter.

Benjamin’s land was between that of Judah and Joseph and it is possible that an actual map was drawn, though the meaning of the word ‘drawn’ may, or may not, refer to a map. It might only refer to written records of names. Really, this underlines the need to base all we believe on scripture, the written word of God, and not on the muses of men who choose what they think from their own lists of perceptions.

Verses 15-20

  1. And the south quarter was from the end of Kirjathjearim, and the border went out on the west, and went out to the well of waters of Nephtoah:

  2. And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of the son of Hinnom, and which is in the valley of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom, to the side of Jebusi on the south, and descended to Enrogel,

  3. And was drawn from the north, and went forth to Enshemesh, and went forth toward Geliloth, which is over against the going up of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben,

  4. And passed along toward the side over against Arabah northward, and went down unto Arabah:

  5. And the border passed along to the side of Bethhoglah northward: and the outgoings of the border were at the north bay of the salt sea at the south end of Jordan: this was the south coast.

  6. And Jordan was the border of it on the east side. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, by the coasts thereof round about, according to their families.

These are the beginning of the written topographic history of the people of God. The records were very precise, accurate and factual and handed down through the generations, still applicable today.

Verses 21-28

  1. Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz,

  2. And Betharabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel,

  3. And Avim, and Parah, and Ophrah,

  4. And Chepharhaammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba; twelve cities with their villages:

  5. Gibeon, and Ramah, and Beeroth,

  6. And Mizpeh, and Chephirah, and Mozah,

  7. And Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah,

  8. And Zelah, Eleph, and Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, Gibeath, and Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.

We can see that the northern portion of Jebusi/Jebus/Jerusalem was given to the tribe of Benjamin and sub-divided among the various families. In total they had many cities, some mentioned because they were major places of significance, and their satellite villages. Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin. 


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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
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