Tuesday, Jun 19th

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Joshua 21

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Though not given land like their brother-tribes, the Levites were not left as beggars, roaming perpetually in Canaan. The tribe of Levi was large, and they needed stability and shelter on a permanent basis, so they would be free to fulfil their role as priests of the Living God. Therefore each tribe was to give some of their cities to the Levites. Thus, the tribe was spread out amongst all the other tribes, a reminder that as priests the Levites had a place  everywhere where God’s people lived, amongst all the tribes, representing the Lord.

Verses 1&2

  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.

The Levite elders came to Joshua, the high priest and the elders/chiefs of all the tribes. Attendance by the latter was necessary because the various tribes had given cities to the Levites, so they needed to know what was going on. The Levites began by reminding Joshua and the others present, that their cities were given by the tribes, because Moses had the command from God.

As always it is not the human being who is responsible for what God says, but God Himself, and if He commands something it is final, with no negotiation. Today, many Christians think they can pick and choose what to obey, using the excuse that “we are now in a different era”. And some think they can even ignore actual meanings of biblical words, so their personal ‘interpretations’ can be accommodated!

Verses 3-7

  1. And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

The Kohathites (‘assembly’) descended from the second son of Levi, Kohath. They had their lot decided, as did the families of Aaron. The tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin gave the Levites 13 cities, plus their ‘suburbs’. That is, the open public land surrounding a house or city, enough to tend to flocks, but not large fields.

A further ten cities and suburbs were given by the tribes of Ephraim, Dan, and by half the tribe of Manasseh (see region on previous map). Another family of the Levites, Gershon (‘exile’: first son of Levi before Jacob took his family to live in Egypt), was given 13 cities and suburbs, by the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and the other half of Manasseh. The Levite family of Merari (‘bitter’; third son of Levi) was given 12 cities by Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.

The tribes of Israel could not complain about losing land and cities already allocated them, because all the land was owned by God and given as a free gift. Even today, EVERYTHING good we believe we own actually belongs to God, whether we are poor or rich, or just comfortably off. This is why the Lord looks dimly upon Christians who want to keep everything they accrue for themselves, preferring their own comfort to supplying the needs of fellow believers.

Verses 8-11

  1. 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.

  2. 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,

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

The Levite family of Aaron received the very first lot, possibly because of Aaron’s place in the transition of Israel from Egypt to Canaan. They had the city of Arba, once owned by the family of Anak, the greatest of the Anakim (giants), which was known as Hebron. The city and suburbs now belonged to the family of Aaron. It should remind us that even the ‘giants’ of our day, those who are wicked or troublesome, or adverse circumstances, will be crushed in a moment by Almighty God.

Verses 12-16

  1. But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.

  2. Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs,

  3. And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs,

  4. And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs,

  5. And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.

While Hebron was given to the family of Aaron, this did not include larger fields and surrounding villages. These were given to Caleb, who spied Canaan years before, giving the Israelites a favourable report so they could invade. Thus, Hebron was given to Aaron’s family as a city of refuge. The city was also a ‘normal’ city otherwise. The same family was also given Libnah, Jattir, Eshtemoa, Holon, Debir, Ain, Juttah and Bethshemesh, with all their suburbs; nine cities in total.

All were in the service of God, again underlining the fact that we own nothing in real terms – all belongs to God and given to us temporarily. Oh, how clever human beings think they are – buying at the right price, selling for a profit, purchasing nice cars or big homes, keeping money in the bank for ourselves, even when fellow believers and families might suffer. God sees and hears, and He will judge the greed and lack of compassion that disregards the plight of our fellow believers.

Verses 17-19

  1. And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs,

  2. Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs; four cities.

  3. All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.

Other cities to be put into the hands of Levites were Gibeon, Geber, Ananoth, Almon, together with their suburbs; four cities. In total the family of Aaron now had 13 cities and their suburbs.

Verses 20-24

  1. 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.

  2. 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,

  3. And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities.

  4. And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs,

  5. Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities.

The family of Kohath had their lot from the tribe of Ephraim, who gave Shechem as a city of refuge, plus Gezer, Kibzaim, Bethhoron – four cities in total. The tribe of Dan gave the priests Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Aijalon, Gathrimmon (‘winepress of the pomegranate’) – four cities.

Verses 25&26

  1. And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities.

  2. All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.

One half of the tribe of Manasseh gave two cities - Tanach, Gathrimmon. This latter city is not the same as the one given by Dan. The city with the same name given by Dan was on the flatlands of Philistia (possibly near Joppa), while the city given by Manasseh was west of the Jordan river. In total the priestly family of Kohath had ten cities with their suburbs.

Verses 27-35

  1. 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.

  2. And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs,

  3. Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities.

  4. And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs,

  5. Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities.

  6. 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.

  7. All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.

  8. 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,

  9. Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities.

The family of Gershon received a number of cities from the other half of the tribe of Manasseh: Golan (Bashan), which was also a city of refuge, Beeshterah: two cities. Issachar gave Kishon, Dabareh, Jarmuth, Engannim to Gershon – four cities in total with their suburbs.

Asher gave Mishal, Abdon, Helkath and Rehob – four cities with suburbs. Naphtali gave three cities with suburbs: Kedesh (which was also a city of refuge) Hammothdor and Kartan. (Note: four places were named ‘Kedesh’, hence this one is identified as a fortified city in Galilee). Altogether the family of Gershon received 13 cities with suburbs. Zebulun gave the family of Merari four cities – Jokneam, Kartah, Dimnah and Nahalal.

While the Levites did not have extra land, the suburbs were essential for them to raise food from animal husbandry. The priests, chosen from each of the Levite cities by rota (each serving for a year), would receive part of certain sacrificial offerings during their tenure, but the amount was not enough to feed the whole Levite tribe. That is why they needed cities and grazing land around them.

Verses 36-40

  1. And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs,

  2. Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities.

  3. 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,

  4. Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.

  5. 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.

Reuben gave Bezer, Jahazah, Kedemoth, Mephaath – four cities with suburbs. Gad also gave four cities: Ramoth (in Gilead; a city of refuge), Mahanaim, Heshbon and Jazer. Thus, the family of Merari had 12 cities in total.

Verses 41-45

  1. All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs.

  2. These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.

  3. And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.

  4. 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.

  5. There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.

And so the combined total of cities and suburbs given by the tribes to the Levites was 48. The cities of refuge, plus all the cities God told Moses to give to the tribes, were now given. God promised, and He made successful inheritances come to pass. The nation of Israel therefore began with nothing, but was later given everything. All they had to do was obey God and take what was given as a gift. The Israelites then had a long period of peace, for no enemy dared to oppose them... every time they attacked, God made sure they lost! This is His promise to all who obey.

This is not just for the new nation of Israel; it is also for us today. If God says He will do something for us, He will never fail. We can be assured completely that God always brings about what He promised. Even when we personally fail or sin. This is because GOD cannot fail, though WE can!

However, this does not thereby give us freedom to deliberately sin or fail because we think we can do things our own way! There will still be penalties if a saved person deliberately sins. We must always strive to obey in all things.

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Published on www.christiandoctrine.com

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