Joshua 18, 19 – Inheritance of the Remaining Tribes
A. The survey of the land for the seven remaining tribes.
1. (18:1-3) At Shiloh, Joshua exhorts the remaining tribes to possess their land.
Now the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them. But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance.
Then Joshua said to the children of Israel: “How long will you neglect to go and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you?
a. Israel assembled together at Shiloh: This would become the new center for Israel, where the tabernacle of meeting would stay for a long time. Because the tabernacle was there, so were the important items associated with it, including the ark of the covenant and the sacrificial altar. The tabernacle came from Gilgal to Shiloh, and it remained there until the time of Eli, the high priest (1 Samuel 1-4).
i. Shiloh was “a considerable town about fifteen miles from Jerusalem, in the tribe of Ephraim, and nearly in the centre of the whole land.” (Clarke)
ii. Writing in the middle of the 1600s, John Trapp considered how the movement of the tabernacle from Gilgal to Shiloh speaks of how the apparent center of God’s work may move over time. “All that I fear, saith a reverent divine yet living, is, lest according to Mr. [George] Herbert’s prophecy it prove true, viz, that the gospel be, in its solar motion, travelling for the west and American parts, and quitting its present places of residence and unworthy professors and possessors: and then, farewell, England.”
b. Seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance: There were several potential reasons why these seven tribes had not possessed the land God allotted for them. Perhaps they lacked the faith and courage to drive out the stubborn Canaanites. Perhaps they grew accustomed to a more nomadic life.
i. “That which follows immediately would lead us to believe that after districts had been allotted to Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh there was some slackness in continuing the work of settlement, for Joshua definitely rebuked the seven tribes for being slow to go up and possess the land.” (Morgan)
ii. The seven tribes without an inheritance were Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. Reuben and Gad had received their inheritance (Joshua 13:8), along with half the tribe of Manasseh (Joshua 13:29) on the east side of the Jordan. Judah (Joshua 15:1), Ephraim, and the other half of Manasseh (Joshua 16:4) had received their allotted land on the west side of the Jordan. Levi did not receive an allotment of land as the other tribes did (Joshua 13:33).
c. How long will you neglect to go and possess the land: Whatever the exact reason, the bottom line was neglect. They did not perform what God had called them to do and did not claim what God had given to them.
i. “Apparently the remaining tribes had grown complacent. They were satisfied with nomadic life in the fertile land of Ephraim and Manasseh and were not eager to be involved in the warfare required to claim their own territory.” (Madvig)
ii. “When it was necessary that all the people should go out to battle, they went with a measure of confidence, expecting miraculous help from God, and [trusting] in their numbers; but when each tribe found it necessary to fight for itself, in order to its establishment and the extension of its borders, it was discouraged, and chose rather a life of inglorious ease than the possession of an inheritance which would cost it much labour to conquer.” (Clarke)
iii. “The arresting word in this question of Joshua is the word ‘slack,’ [neglect] as it reveals a peril always threatening those who are called to carry out some divine enterprise. How perpetually the work of God suffers because His people become slack!” (Morgan)
2. (18:4-8) Joshua instructs a survey party to go out and assess the land so that it may be divided among the seven remaining tribes.
Pick out from among you three men for each tribe, and I will send them; they shall rise and go through the land, survey it according to their inheritance, and come back to me. And they shall divide it into seven parts. Judah shall remain in their territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall remain in their territory on the north. You shall therefore survey the land in seven parts and bring the survey here to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the Lord our God. But the Levites have no part among you, for the priesthood of the Lordis their inheritance. And Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them.”
Then the men arose to go away; and Joshua charged those who went to survey the land, saying, “Go, walk through the land, survey it, and come back to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the Lord in Shiloh.”
a. They shall divide it into seven parts: The remaining land would be fairly divided among the seven tribes that had yet to take their inheritance.
i. Gad, Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan on the east: “The two and one-half tribes from east of the Jordan must have become impatient to have the division of the land completed so that they could return home to their families and possessions.” (Madvig)
b. Survey it and come back to me: The land would be divided by casting lots, a method which relied on God to guide the lot. The survey was man’s responsibility, and then they trusted God to guide through the lot.
i. Bring the survey here to me: “Writing was so common that the spies were able to write their report and present it to Joshua.” (Schaeffer)
ii. “Everything is recorded in a book. Joshua writes the covenant in the Book of the Law of God (Joshua 24:26; see also Joshua 8:32, 34). Just as the law guides the people in their life, the map book will guide the people in their possession of God’s blessing of the land.” (Hess)
iii. There is an analogy connecting these scouts who surveyed the land so the tribes could possess it and some gifted believers God calls to ministry. Their job is to survey, describe, and report what God has appointed for His people, so that they may by faith and patience possess those things. “In every age of the Church’s story, God has sent forth men to walk through and describe the land of our spiritual inheritance.” (Meyer)
3. (18:9-10) The successful survey party returns and Joshua casts lots to determine which tribes will receive which land.
So the men went, passed through the land, and wrote the survey in a book in seven parts by cities; and they came to Joshua at the camp in Shiloh. Then Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions.
B. The final division of the land.
1. (18:11-28) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Benjamin.
Now the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families, and the territory of their lot came out between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph. Their border on the north side began at the Jordan, and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north, and went up through the mountains westward; it ended at the Wilderness of Beth Aven. The border went over from there toward Luz, to the side of Luz (which is Bethel) southward; and the border descended to Ataroth Addar, near the hill that lies on the south side of Lower Beth Horon.
Then the border extended around the west side to the south, from the hill that lies before Beth Horon southward; and it ended at Kirjath Baal (which is Kirjath Jearim), a city of the children of Judah. This was the west side.
The south side began at the end of Kirjath Jearim, and the border extended on the west and went out to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. Then the border came down to the end of the mountain that lies before the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is in the Valley of the Rephaim on the north, descended to the Valley of Hinnom, to the side of the Jebusite city on the south, and descended to En Rogel. And it went around from the north, went out to En Shemesh, and extended toward Geliloth, which is before the Ascent of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. Then it passed along toward the north side of Arabah, and went down to Arabah. And the border passed along to the north side of Beth Hoglah; then the border ended at the north bay at the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan. This was the southern boundary.
The Jordan was its border on the east side. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, according to its boundaries all around, according to their families.
Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin, according to their families, were Jericho, Beth Hoglah, Emek Keziz, Beth Arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, Avim, Parah, Ophrah, Chephar Haammoni, Ophni, and Gaba: twelve cities with their villages; Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, Mizpah, Chephirah, Mozah, Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, Zelah, Eleph, Jebus (which is Jerusalem), Gibeath, and Kirjath: fourteen cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.
a. The tribe of Benjamin “occupied the space between that of Judah and Ephraim…. In process of time Benjamin drew nearer in sympathy to Judah, and at the great division went with Judah altogether.” (Morgan)
b. Some notable cities in the territory of Benjamin: Bethel, Kirjath Jearim, Jerusalem (the Jebusite city), Gibeon, and Ramah.
i. As with previous lists of cities and locations, this collection of places reminds the reader that these were real places, not describing a symbolic or spiritual inheritance. When God promised a land to Abraham and his covenant descendants (Genesis 13:15, 17:8), God meant a real land.
2. (19:1-9) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Simeon.
The second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families. And their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah. They had in their inheritance Beersheba (Sheba), Moladah, Hazar Shual, Balah, Ezem, Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth Marcaboth, Hazar Susah, Beth Lebaoth, and Sharuhen: thirteen cities and their villages; Ain, Rimmon, Ether, and Ashan: four cities and their villages; and all the villages that were all around these cities as far as Baalath Beer, Ramah of the South. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families.
The inheritance of the children of Simeon was included in the share of the children of Judah, for the share of the children of Judah was too much for them. Therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of that people.
a. The land of the tribe of Simeon was eventually absorbed into or “scattered” into the land of Judah, as Jacob prophesied in Genesis 49:5-7.
i. “The towns of Simeon lie within the southern borders of Judah. The southern (Joshua 15:26–32) and central Shephelah (Joshua 15:42) districts of Judah contain these towns.” (Hess)
b. A notable city in the territory of Simeon: Beer-sheba.
3. (19:10-16) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Zebulun.
The third lot came out for the children of Zebulun according to their families, and the border of their inheritance was as far as Sarid. Their border went toward the west and to Maralah, went to Dabbasheth, and extended along the brook that is east of Jokneam. Then from Sarid it went eastward toward the sunrise along the border of Chisloth Tabor, and went out toward Daberath, bypassing Japhia. And from there it passed along on the east of Gath Hepher, toward Eth Kazin, and extended to Rimmon, which borders on Neah. Then the border went around it on the north side of Hannathon, and it ended in the Valley of Jiphthah El. Included were Kattath, Nahallal, Shimron, Idalah, and Bethlehem: twelve cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.
a. Some notable cities in the territory of Zebulun: Gath Hepher (the city of Jonah, 2 Kings 14:25) and Rimmon.
4. (19:17-23) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Issachar.
The fourth lot came out to Issachar, for the children of Issachar according to their families. And their territory went to Jezreel, and included Chesulloth, Shunem, Haphraim, Shion, Anaharath, Rabbith, Kishion, Abez, Remeth, En Gannim, En Haddah, and Beth Pazzez. And the border reached to Tabor, Shahazimah, and Beth Shemesh; their border ended at the Jordan: sixteen cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar according to their families, the cities and their villages.
a. Some notable cities in the territory of Issachar: Jezreel and Shunem.
5. (19:24-31) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Asher.
The fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families. And their territory included Helkath, Hali, Beten, Achshaph, Alammelech, Amad, and Mishal; it reached to Mount Carmel westward, along the Brook Shihor Libnath. It turned toward the sunrise to Beth Dagon; and it reached to Zebulun and to the Valley of Jiphthah El, then northward beyond Beth Emek and Neiel, bypassing Cabul which was on the left, including Ebron, Rehob, Hammon, and Kanah, as far as Greater Sidon. And the border turned to Ramah and to the fortified city of Tyre; then the border turned to Hosah, and ended at the sea by the region of Achzib. Also Ummah, Aphek, and Rehob were included: twenty-two cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.
a. A notable place in the territory of Asher: Mount Carmel.
6. (19:32-39) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Naphtali.
The sixth lot came out to the children of Naphtali, for the children of Naphtali according to their families. And their border began at Heleph, enclosing the territory from the terebinth tree in Zaanannim, Adami Nekeb, and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum; it ended at the Jordan. From Heleph the border extended westward to Aznoth Tabor, and went out from there toward Hukkok; it adjoined Zebulun on the south side and Asher on the west side, and ended at Judah by the Jordan toward the sunrise. And the fortified cities are Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth, Adamah, Ramah, Hazor, Kedesh, Edrei, En Hazor, Iron, Migdal El, Horem, Beth Anath, and Beth Shemesh: nineteen cities with their villages. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali according to their families, the cities and their villages.
a. Some notable cities in the territory of Naphtali: Hazor and Beth Shemesh.
7. (19:40-48) The boundaries and cities for the tribe of Dan.
The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. And the territory of their inheritance was Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir Shemesh, Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Jethlah, Elon, Timnah, Ekron, Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, Jehud, Bene Berak, Gath Rimmon, Me Jarkon, and Rakkon, with the region near Joppa. And the border of the children of Dan went beyond these, because the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem and took it; and they struck it with the edge of the sword, took possession of it, and dwelt in it. They called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.
a. Some notable cities in the territory of Dan: Timnah, Joppa, and Dan (after the northern migration described in Judges 18:29).
8. (19:49-51) Joshua’s inheritance.
When they had made an end of dividing the land as an inheritance according to their borders, the children of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. According to the word of the Lord they gave him the city which he asked for, Timnath Serah in the mountains of Ephraim; and he built the city and dwelt in it.
These were the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel divided as an inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the Lord, at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So they made an end of dividing the country.
a. When they had made an end of dividing the land: Joshua received what was promised to him by God, but in remarkable humility, he received his portion last. This kind of humble service and concern for others is part of what makes Joshua such a wonderful picture of Jesus Christ.
i. “Joshua waits until all the other inheritances are assigned before taking any for himself. Thus he preserves his right to a share of the land without any suggestion of an abuse of his leadership responsibilities.” (Hess)
ii. Additionally, Joshua did not take an inheritance of land for himself. Israel gave; he humbly received. “Joshua, who was usually the agent distributing the land, now received it from the Israelites (Joshua 19:49). He could not give himself his own portion.” (Howard)
b. In the mountains of Ephraim: Being from the tribe of Ephraim, it was appropriate for Joshua to receive his inheritance in the general territory of that tribe. He went to the same difficult, hilly district of Ephraim that the tribes of Joseph had previously complained about (Joshua 17:14-18).
i. “It will be remembered that when Ephraim had complained, Joshua had charged them to go to the mountains and possess their possessions. Now when his opportunity came, he proved that he was prepared to act for himself on the advice he had given. To that very hill country he went, and there is a splendid ring of resoluteness in his character in the statement, ‘He built the city, and dwelt therein.’” (Morgan)
c. So they made an end of dividing the country: The territory had been allotted to each tribe, but it was up to the tribes to fight and possess what God gave to them.
i. They did this in Shiloh before the Lord. “All the inheritances were determined by lot, and this lot was cast before the Lord—every thing was done in his immediate presence, as under his eye; hence there was no murmuring, each having received his inheritance as from the hand of God himself, though some of them thought they must have additional territory, because of the great increase of their families.” (Clarke)