Dividing the Land
Joshua 17:14 Then the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given us only one lot and one share to inherit, since we are a great people, inasmuch as the Lord has blessed us until now?”
Upon receiving their inheritance, the descendants of Joseph complained that it was not enough. The Ephraimites were notorious complainers (see also Jud 8:1–3; 12:1–6).
Joshua 17:15 So Joshua answered them, “If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.”
At the census of Numbers 1 the tribe of Joseph outnumbered all but the tribe of Judah. At the census taken in the plains of Moab (Num 26) they outnumbered all the other tribes. Joshua chided them not to complain.
Joshua 17:16 But the children of Joseph said, “The mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are of the Valley of Jezreel.” :17 And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—saying, “You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, :18 but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.”
Joshua’s sarcasm was directed at those who wanted their inheritance simply handed to them, those who would not work for it.
Their complaint that the Canaanites who dwell in the valley have chariots of iron apparently fell on deaf ears. Joshua simply encouraged them that they indeed were a great people and would not just have one portion But the mountain shall be yours. All they had to do was clear the forest and drive out the Canaanites.
The Remainder of the Land Divided
Joshua 18:1 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.
The text does not tell who called for this assembly, but the whole congregation closed ranks in a show of national and religious unity at the tabernacle.
This is similar to the “of one accord” expressions in Acts (2:1, 46, etc.) where the church assembled in a spirit of unity.
Having moved the administrative affairs of Israel to Shiloh, this town was to become the center of Israelite political and religious life for the next three hundred years.
Joshua 18:2 But there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes which had not yet received their inheritance. :3 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?
Now Joshua accuses the Israelites, and rightly so, of being slack to go to possess the land. How frequently God’s people give up just before victory.
Joshua 18:4 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. :5 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. :6 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.
To prod Israel into possessing her inheritance, Joshua commanded that a twenty-one-man task force be formed, three men for each tribe, and that these men bring back a written report in seven parts indicating a fair distribution of the remaining land among the remaining tribes.
Joshua 18:7 But the Levites have no part among you, for the priesthood of the Lord is 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.”
Joshua 18:8 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.” :9 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. :10 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.
Then, in order to decide which tribe would be awarded which portion of land, Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Lord.
The Land of Benjamin (READ) verses 11-28 Summary
Benjamin’s boundaries are given in verses 11–20, and the cities in verses 21–28. Benjamin’s portion was small, but it was choice. It occupied the heart of the land and possessed within its borders the firstfruits of Israel’s labors in Canaan.
Gilgal was in Benjamin’s territory, the first campsite west of the Jordan. The memorial stones were there to bear witness to the miraculous crossing of the Jordan.
There the people kept the first Passover in Canaan, and began feeding on the produce of the land. There the nation was once again circumcised and the reproach of Egypt was rolled away. There was hardly a more historically significant spot in all of Canaan, because no other place taught so many spiritual lessons.
The ruins of Jericho were still visible in Benjamin’s land. Her walls, once thought invincible, were now laid low. The portion belonging to Rahab’s house remained standing as a testimony to the grace of God, which always responds to faith. A Benjamite could always visit here whenever he needed a fresh reminder that the battle was the Lord’s.
Bethel (the house of God) caused the Benjamites to remember the faith of their fathers and the faithfulness of Israel’s divine Deliverer (Gen. 28:18–22; 35:1–15).
Jerusalem was destined to be the capital city, but it was not until the son of Jesse came that the Jebusites would be driven from their mountain fortress.
Benjamin’s land encompassed many evidences and signs of past, present, and future blessings. What a rich lot fell to Jacob’s youngest son!
Joshua 19 Summary- Dividing the Land Continued
Joshua 19:1–9. Since Simeon had no definite portion alloted to it and since it was the smallest tribe at the last census (Num 26:14), perhaps a fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy (Gen 44:5–7), her inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah. Two groups of cities were part of this inheritance, including Beer-sheba “the well of the oath,” an important town from Genesis 21:31 onward, Hazar-shual “hamlet of jackals,” Ziklag, and Ramath of the south (cf. 1 Sam 30:27).
Joshua 19:10–16. The third lot went to the descendants of Zebulun; and truly they would say with David, “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage” (Ps 16:6). The border toward the east reached Chis-loth-tabor, “the flanks of Tabor,” at the very edge of Mount Tabor and then went east to Gittahhepher, the birthplace of the prophet Jonah (2 Kgs 14:25), toward Remmon-methoar and Neah, compassing or “skirting” it on the north to the valley of Jiphthah-el.
Included in Zebulun’s inheritance was Beth-lehem, the “house of bread,” not to be confused with the birthplace of Christ. This Beth-lehem is located just west of Nazareth. Thus, it was of the utmost importance that Micah, in his prophecy of the birthplace of the Messiah, made specific reference to Bethlehem Ephratah (Mic 5:2) as being “among the thousands of Judah.” How remarkably accurate indeed are the prophecies of God’s Word!
Hinson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 121). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
MacArthur, J. F., Jr., MacDonald, Farstad, Believers Bible; Hinson, E. E., & Kroll, W. M. (Eds.). (1994). KJV Bible Commentary (p. 2195). Nashville: Thomas Nelson