January 23

Joshua 16-20

We are reading from the New American Standard Bible this week. Today we are in the Nation Stream and continue the division of the land among the tribes of Israel. Here is a very helpful map as we navigate all the geographical terms in today’s reading.


Lord Jesus, Everyone receives what they needed to live and thrive.  This is your provision.  You provide.  Every tribe had what they warranted.  Those that were discontent were so because they were malcontents, not because of God.  Lord may we receive your goodness, rest in your righteousness, and proceed in your blessing. Amen.


Joshua 16

16 – The text begins with a description of the land that would go to Joseph.  If that had anyone scratching their heads (because non of the tribes are named “Joseph”), Joseph’s sons became the two tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.  So “Joseph” =is= Ephraim and Manasseh.  We may recall the phrase, half-tribe of Manasseh.  Half of their land was west of the Jordan River and half was east of it.  Be that as it may, the territory of Ephraim is delineated first after Judah.  Ephraim numbered at 32,500 men in the census ca. three decades ago; Numbers 26.   They were the tribe that Jacob blessed in Genesis 49 (to Joseph) as fruitful, well defended, blessed, anointed, wealthy, strong.  Ephraim takes his place in roughly the center of Israel.

Joshua 17

17 – Manasseh gets a two-part expanse of land that is massive.  If one stands at the Sea of Galilee today the entire east shore and much farther than can be seen is Manasseh’s eastern territory.  Check the “The Tribes of Israel” or “The 12 Tribes” map in a biblical encyclopedia or in the back of your Bible and you will see Manasseh’s western sector to the south and west of Galilee.  It borders much of the Jordan River.  Manasseh was numbered at 52,700 able-bodied men (Numbers 26).  The wondrous blessing (also Gen. 49) upon Joseph reflected to this tribe too.  They would certainly have what they needed.  As we just read, there were Canaanites that were not removed in Manasseh’s territory but they were able to get a lot of labor from these remnant rebels who could not yet be subdued.  But they were told they’d remove them soon.

Joshua 18

18 – Seven tribes are yet to receive their allotment when Joshua calls a meeting that has all the powers leaders gather at Shiloh.  Shiloh is a pivotal town in the earlier part of Israel’s history.  Jeremiah 7:12a asserts that Shiloh is the first place that God made a dwelling for His Name.  It’s mentioned nine times in Joshua, nine times in I Samuel, four times in Judges and four times in I Kings.  The glory of the LORD appeared here in breathtaking manner for a remarkable amount of time until Eli’s sons corrupted the territory with their appalling abuse of the Call of God.  But nonetheless, God was here during Joshua’s day and for a couple centuries thereafter.  Joshua sends out 3 skilled men from each of the seven remaining tribes to scout the land for their successive families; their tribes.  It is very similar to Thomas Jefferson sending Lewis and Clark to explore the Great Northwest of the USA.  They were gone 28 months and returned September 1806 and presented their diary, maps and descriptions to President Jefferson in the Whitehouse.  Here 21 men fanned out and surveyed the tribal-areas-to-be.  The need for astute precision was most earnest.  Benjamin’s land is designated next. Jacob prophesied Benjamin as a ravenous would that would have his eats and plenty of.  Benjamin was a stout sized tribe though his land was compact – their ‘army’ was bigger than 45,600 by now.  Interesting that Benjamin’s tribal territory included significant sites such as Jericho, Bethel, what would become Jerusalem, Ramah; where Samuel was buried, and three similar sounding towns of Geba, Gibeon, and Gibeah where so much biblical history transpires on the Central Benjamin Plateau.  

Joshua 19

19 – the territories of six of the tribes are delineated in succession here in 19.  Look at the map of each tribe’s territory as we touch on the prophecy of each of these tribes from Genesis 49, and note the census of each tribal army.  Simeon’s is in the southern part of the country with an army ca. 22,200.  Jacob prophesied that they are a tribe marked by anger, murder, cruelty and they will not be invited to the vital meetings.  Zebulun’s “man count” is 60,500. They will live near the sea and provide for the harboring ships.  Issachar has an army that tallied at 64,300.  Issachar is granted land that is to the southwest of the Sea of Galilee.  It is fertile and productive and very worth working.  [It happens to be beautiful territory today.]  Asher had an army of 53,400 men.  Their land in the northwest with precipitation and the sea breeze would be extremely productive.  Their food would even be coveted by kings.  Naphtali’s army was 45,400 men.  They were prophesied to be a doe set free that bears beautiful fawns. One translation strongly implies they would speak beautiful words.  They were western Galilee and northward. The land was lovely and apparently the new home of a budding and lyrical people that produces poetry and music.  Western Galilee happens to be an enchanting place to hold a worship service even today, and we have done so!  Dan’s army numbered at 64,400.  They have a rather disturbing prophecy about being a serpent that strikes at horses’ heels when they pass by.  It does turn out that in time Dan resented being situated along the coastal route of a very busy international highway.  The people passing by were not always peaceful traders.  Armies would stomp past too.  As we know, Dan also found the locals difficult so the tribe moved itself, against prophetic assignment by Jacob and Joshua’s oversight to “set up shop” well north of Galilee.  Incidentally, they were the first tribe overtaken in the Assyrian invasion centuries later.  I hope that isn’t T.M.I.  

Then in our sentimental finale~ today Joshua receives a home town to finish his life in.  It’s within Ephraim.

Joshua 20

20 – Here six cities of refuge are set up throughout Israel so that accidental murders don’t lead to more unnecessary murders from people taking ill-gotten revenge upon someone who really meant their family no harm.  This isn’t because Israel had a murder problem per se~.  It’s because people are people and God does this to minimize bloodshed.  My husband had an experience akin to this concept in Asia early 1980’s.  During a summer teaching Bible, he was taken on a hasty drive through an unsafe area hundreds of miles from a major city.  Pol Pot was on a killing spree in Cambodia just over the hill and he could actually hear the bombing in the distance.  The driver looked at my husband to explain why he was driving double speed through a village.  He said, “if we go slower they will steal items off the back of the truck.  And by the way, if we hit someone or an animal -even a pet- we will have to proceed even faster.”  My husband was incredulous wondering if they were going to encounter zombies.  The missionary continued, “if we stop to ambulate or give first aid, the village will empty out, storm us, strip the truck, and beat us to death out of revenge … the people will react as if we had done this on purpose.  We will need to keep driving or we will not survive!”  There are many parts of the world like this even now.  And a place to go for refuge is necessary.  So God planned for this.      Hey, we would prefer to end on a lighter note but this Bible is the story of what God is always doing in effort to redeem lives..

The map is from BibleStudy.org.

division-of-promised-land-to-ancient-israel (1)

And here is a map with even more of the cities identified.


At the end of this episode, Serena shares several historical tidbits which were found at bibletimeline.net.

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