At the beginning of yesterday’s reading, the author duplicated his effort to call attention to Joshua’s advanced age. He held up Moses’ arms against Amalek, spied out the land, replaced Moses as Israel’s representative before the LORD, and led Israel through the years of conquest. He has served longer, harder, and more faithfully than anyone alive.
Keep this in mind as he faces new challenges today. Our reading begins with Joseph’s inheritance, going all the way back to Genesis when Jacob doubles Joseph’s blessing between his two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. There’s an inset about Zelophehad’s daughters, a situation that Moses resolved in Number 27, reminding us of the detailed promise-keeping that Joshua maintained.
Chapters 18 and 19 are bookended by the affirmation that the rest of the land was allotted at Shiloh, “at the entrance of the tent of meeting.” After Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh are settled, the remaining tribes are asked by Joshua, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?” Survey crews are sent out, lots are cast, and the remaining land is divided among these seven tribes. And finally, once everyone else is accounted for, “the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun.”
This would be one big celebration if not for two caveats. The first is emphasized in chapter 16: “However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.” While forced labor might sound better than annihilation (a tradeoff the Gibeonites were willing to make), remember God’s commands regarding the Canaanites, and pray that Israel’s present contentment doesn’t compromise their future.
A second storm on the horizon appears in the middle of chapter 17, when Ephraim and Manasseh take issue with their allotment: “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?” Joshua fires right back: “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves…” We’ll see if this tension between the sons of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Judah is revisited in the future.
One final note: there are plenty of good maps of the tribal divisions online. A simple search of “Israel tribe map” can really help you visualize these chapters.
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 11:30: By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
Joshua chapters 16 through 19. Now let’s read it!
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.