Joshua 13 – The Remaining Land; Allotments East of the Jordan
A. God’s command to Joshua regarding the land remaining to be conquered.
1. (1) God speaks to an old Joshua about the land remaining to be possessed.
Now Joshua was old, advanced in years. And the LORD said to him: “You are old, advanced in years, and there remains very much land yet to be possessed.”
a. You are old: Even while acknowledging Joshua’s advanced years, God still tells him about a job that needs to be done. No matter how much we have done in our Christian lives, there still remains much to do.
b. There remains very much land yet to be possessed: While there is still much to do, there can be no satisfaction with a partial inheritance – God wants us to keep pressing on.
c. Yet to be possessed: What the land was to Israel, Jesus is to us. We are to possess all of Him, and to keep pressing on to have all of Jesus.
i. How much of Jesus do you have? How much of the Bible do you possess as yours? Do you walk in the blessing of leading others to Jesus Christ? Of answered prayer? Of meeting the needs of others in God’s family?
2. (2-6a) The land that remains to be occupied is described.
This is the land that yet remains: all the territory of the Philistines and all that of the Geshurites, from Sihor, which is east of Egypt, as far as the border of Ekron northward (which is counted as Canaanite); the five lords of the Philistines; the Gazites, the Ashdodites, the Ashkelonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites; from the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorites; the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon as far as the entrance to Hamath; all the inhabitants of the mountains from Lebanon as far as the Brook Misrephoth, and all the Sidonians;
3. (6b-7) God’s method for possessing the land is described.
Them I will drive out from before the children of Israel; only divide it by lot to Israel as an inheritance, as I have commanded you. Now therefore, divide this land as an inheritance to the nine tribes and half the tribe of Manasseh.
a. Them I will drive out from before the children of Israel: God promised I will drive [them] out from before the children of Israel, but He intended that each tribe trust God for this in the portion of land divided to them by lot.
b. Divide this land as an inheritance to the nine tribes and half the tribe of Manasseh: Each tribe was responsible to possess their own land completely. God emphasizes the idea of personal responsibility and initiative. This is not only because that is how things get done, but also because that is how people are blessed in service. We are blessed by personally taking responsibility and initiative in trusting God to do what He has called us to do.
B. Land allotments east of the Jordan.
1. (8-13) The land to be divided on the east side of the Jordan River.
With the other half tribe the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance, which Moses had given them, beyond the Jordan eastward, as Moses the servant of the LORD had given them: from Aroer which is on the bank of the River Arnon, and the town that is in the midst of the ravine, and all the plain of Medeba as far as Dibon; all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, as far as the border of the children of Ammon; Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, all Mount Hermon, and all Bashan as far as Salcah; all the kingdom of Og in Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants; for Moses had defeated and cast out these. Nevertheless the children of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maachathites, but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.
a. With the other half tribe the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance: This passage describes the portion of land divided among Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. It was the land of King Sihon of the Amorites and King Og of Bashan.
b. Nevertheless the children of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maachathites: Only two small tribes of peoples were not replaced by the Jewish tribes settling on the east side of the Jordan: The Geshurites and the Maachathites.
i. David later married a princess from Geshur, and she was the mother of his son Absalom (2 Samuel 3:3). Absalom returned to Geshur and used it as a place to plot against his father David (2 Samuel 13:37-38, 14:23, and 14:32).
ii. The Maachathites may have come from the Maachah mentioned in Genesis 22:24, who was a nephew of Abraham. Later, when Sheba rebelled against David, he fled and may have taken refuge in one of the cities of the Maachathites (2 Samuel 20:14-15).
2. (14) The unique situation of the tribe of Levi.
Only to the tribe of Levi he had given no inheritance; the sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance, as He said to them.
a. Only to the tribe of Levi he had given no inheritance: Levi, the priestly tribe, was to receive no “province” such as the other tribes received; they would be given certain cities (Joshua 20-21).
b. The sacrifices of the LORD God of Israel made by fire are their inheritance: Instead, the Levites had as their inheritance the offerings that Israel would bring to the LORD. These were their “financial security” in Israel.
3. (15-23) The portion of Reuben’s land.
And Moses had given to the tribe of the children of Reuben an inheritance according to their families. Their territory was from Aroer, which is on the bank of the River Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the ravine, and all the plain by Medeba; Heshbon and all its cities that are in the plain: Dibon, Bamoth Baal, Beth Baal Meon, Jahaza, Kedemoth, Mephaath, Kirjathaim, Sibmah, Zereth Shahar on the mountain of the valley, Beth Peor, the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth Jeshimoth; all the cities of the plain and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses had struck with the princes of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, who were princes of Sihon dwelling in the country. The children of Israel also killed with the sword Balaam the son of Beor, the soothsayer, among those who were killed by them. And the border of the children of Reuben was the bank of the Jordan. This was the inheritance of the children of Reuben according to their families, the cities and their villages.
4. (24-28) The portion of Gad’s land.
Moses also had given an inheritance to the tribe of Gad, to the children of Gad according to their families. Their territory was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the Ammonites as far as Aroer, which is before Rabbah, and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the border of Debir, and in the valley Beth Haram, Beth Nimrah, Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, with the Jordan as its border, as far as the edge of the Sea of Chinnereth, on the other side of the Jordan eastward. This is the inheritance of the children of Gad according to their families, the cities and their villages.
5. (29-32) The portion of half the tribe of Manasseh’s land.
Moses also had given an inheritance to half the tribe of Manasseh; it was for half the tribe of the children of Manasseh according to their families: Their territory was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair which are in Bashan, sixty cities; half of Gilead, and Ashtaroth and Edrei, cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were for the children of Machir the son of Manasseh, for half of the children of Machir according to their families. These are the areas which Moses had distributed as an inheritance in the plains of Moab on the other side of the Jordan, by Jericho eastward.
6. (33) More on the inheritance of the Levites.
But to the tribe of Levi Moses had given no inheritance; the LORD God of Israel was their inheritance, as He had said to them.
a. The LORD God of Israel was their inheritance, as He had said to them: In Joshua 13:14, we are told that the Levites had no land for an inheritance, but instead had the sacrifices Israel brought to God. They also received a greater inheritance than that: God Himself.
b. The LORD God of Israel was their inheritance: In this sense, if there is any tribe that Christians are spiritually connected to, it is the tribe of Levi. We also are called priests (1 Peter 2:5) and have a special inheritance in God (Ephesians 1:11, Colossians 1:12, and 1 Peter 1:4).
c. As He had said to them: Many of us are dissatisfied with our place before God. We wish He would have given us something different, and we can even get bitter towards God about this. The primary answer to this is to see ourselves as priests and to understand that our real inheritance is God Himself.