Sunday, October 31, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 46, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Asher

The fifth lot is drawn and it falls to the tribe of Asher.

"The fifth lot came out for the tribe of Asher according to its clans. Their territory included: Helkath, Hali, Beten, Akshaph, Allammelek, Amad and Mishal. On the west the boundary touched Carmel and Shihor Libnath. It then turned east toward Beth Dagon, touched Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtah El, and went north to Beth Emek and Neiel, passing Kabul on the left. It went to Abdon, Rehob, Hammon and Kanah, as far as Greater Sidon. The boundary then turned back toward Ramah and went to the fortified city of Tyre, turned toward Hosah and came out at the Mediterranean Sea in the region of Akzib, Ummah, Aphek and Rehob. There were twenty-two towns and their villages. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Asher, according to its clans." (Joshua 19:24-31) Let's take a look at the location of Asher on the map.
We find Asher in the upper lefthand portion of the map in a grayish beige color next to the Mediterranean Sea.

Now let's take a look back at Jacob's prophecy regarding the descendants of his son Asher. "Asher's food will be rich; he will provide delicacies fit for a king." (Genesis 49:20) The land given to Asher in the promised land produced valuable goods. Moses also, when he blessed the tribes of Israel, indicated that Asher would be rich in valuable metals and in fine olive oil. "Most blessed of sons is Asher; let him be favored by his brothers, and let him bathe his feet in oil. The bolts of your gates will be iron and bronze, and your strength will equal your days." (Deuteronomy 33:24-25) 

The olive oil of Asher's land, one of the delicacies that would be "fit for a king", was so plentiful that a person could soak their feet in it if they wanted to instead of reserving it like an expensive product. To illustrate this point with a modern example, I use a prescription retinol cream that I reserve only for my face and neck and upper chest. I would not rub it on my feet because the price of it is not economical enough to use it except where it matters most. I don't purchase expensive brand name face creams but if I did I wouldn't use them as a foot cream. But Asher's land would produce olives in such abundance that the people of this tribe could apply the oil head to toe if they felt like it. Now that's luxury! Olive oil also has some medicinal properties because it promotes the healing of wounds and has anti-inflammatory benefits. The people of Asher could use this substance as a moisturizing beauty product, as a hair dressing, and as a treatment for wounds. 

We will learn later on that the tribe of Asher failed to rid their land of all the Canaanites, in the same way that the other tribes did not remove all the heathen idolaters from their land. This will cause some of them to be drawn into idolatry, just as some of the people from the other tribes will be drawn into idolatry. But Asher will produce mighty warriors to drive back armies from the east in the book of Judges and in the book of Chronicles we will find the tribe of Asher accepting King Hezekiah's invitation to come to Jerusalem for Passover to repent and turn back to the Lord---an invitation some of the other citizens of Israel will scoff at and reject. 

There is only one really famous person in the Bible from the tribe of Asher and that is the prophetess Anna, mentioned in the book of Luke. Anna was an elderly widow who spent most of her time at the temple, fasting and praying, and who recognized Jesus as the Messiah when Joseph and Mary brought Him to the temple to fulfill the law of the Lord that every firstborn male must be brought and consecrated to Him. Luke says that Anna came up to Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus and "gave thanks to God" and spoke about Jesus to all who were "looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem". (See Luke 2:36-38)

As we move throughout the Bible we'll find the people of Israel doing both good things and bad things. The Lord offered mercy and forgiveness to anyone who repented to Him of their mistakes, just as He offers mercy and forgiveness to us today. You and I have done both good things and bad things, just as the characters of the Bible did. There will be times when the story of certain tribes or certain people in the Bible looks hopeless but then we'll find the Lord's redeeming mercy at work. We'll find the story turning around. The Lord has turned our stories around too, hasn't He? The Lord never made an end of Israel even though people made mistakes; He hasn't given up on us either. It's not the Lord's desire to make an end of anyone. What He wants with all His heart for each person is for "everyone to come to repentance". (2 Peter 3:9) He longs to be gracious to us and to show us compassion. (Isaiah 30:18). 

Saturday, October 30, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 45, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Issachar

Joshua has been drawing lots to assign the seven remaining tribes their portions of the promised land. Today we look at the allotment for Issachar.

"The fourth lot came out for Issachar according to its clans. Their territory included: Jezreel, Kesulloth, Shunem, Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez, Remeth, En Gannim, En Haddah and Beth Pazzez. The boundary touched Tabor, Shahazumah and Beth Shemesh, and ended at the Jordan. There were sixteen towns and their villages. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the tribe of Issachar, according to its clans." (Joshua 19:17-23) On the map below we find Issachar in dark green right above West Manasseh and below Zebulun and Naphtali.

Now we'll take a look at the prophecy Jacob made regarding the descendants of his son Issachar. "Issachar is a rawboned donkey lying down among the sheep pens. When he sees how good is his resting place and how pleasant is his land, he will bend his shoulder to the burden and submit to forced labor." (Genesis 49:14-15) The word translated as "rawboned" can also mean "strong". Issachar's tribe was strong in numbers, according to the census of its fighting men. But Jacob's words indicate that due to the goodness of the land, the people of Issachar would become complacent and would be willing to become subject to others in order to continue enjoying the land. They had the numbers to fight invaders and oppressors but grew spiritually and militarily lazy. You've probably heard the expression, "Use it or lose it," in regard to mental or physical strength, but the same expression could be used for spiritual strength as well. I'm not saying it's possible for a person to lose their salvation but that it's possible for a person to lose their zeal for the Lord. It's possible to become complacent and lazy, especially when the living is easy, and to lose our enthusiasm for the word of God and for prayer. 

What drives us to our knees faster than anything? It's adversity isn't it? What is most likely to keep us off our knees? It's prosperity. That's why we must keep up our spiritual training in both good times and bad. If we become lazy and soft during the good times, how will we fight temptation when it comes? We might find ourselves doing what Jacob said Issachar would do: bending under the pressure instead of standing tall. We might find ourselves submitting to our enemy instead of resisting him. 

Moses said this about Issachar when he blessed the tribes of Israel: "Rejoice, Issachar, in your tents." (Deuteronomy 33:18b) He issued no warning about any troubles to come; he only made mention of the tribe of Issachar's enjoyment of their  inheritance in the promised land. There's nothing wrong with enjoying the blessings God has given us. In fact, it would be a sin not to be grateful for them. It would be wrong not to live in and enjoy and be satisfied with what He has bestowed upon us. But as we said above, we must not allow our prosperity to make us lazy. Instead we are to do what Jesus instructed His disciples to do: "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation." (Matthew 26:41, Mark 14:38) Temptation doesn't always take the form of Satan offering us something the Lord has told us is wrong (for example, committing adultery or stealing). Temptation can take the form of allowing all our time to be taken up so that we crowd God out of our daily lives---so that we don't devote part of each day to prayer and to reading and meditating upon His word. Our enemy does sometimes hit us with the things we typically think of as temptations but I suspect Satan is far happier when he manages to tempt us into spiritual laziness. A spiritually lazy person is not going to be an effective witness for the Lord. A spiritually lazy person is not going to display power and strength in the way they live their lives and a spiritually lazy person is not going to be sharing the gospel with others and leading them to salvation. 

Also a spiritually lazy person will not be able to stand firm when the things we typically think of as temptations are thrown at them. They will give in to the temptation to do something the Lord has said not to do. And a spiritually lazy person will buckle under the strain of adversity when hard times come. Adversity is unavoidable. It comes into everyone's life from time to time because we live in a fallen world where bad things happen even to good people, therefore we must keep ourselves spiritually fit so we don't give in to despair in troubled times. I'm reminded of what King Solomon said on this subject: "If you falter in a time of trouble, how small is your strength!" (Proverbs 24:10) 

I confess I've faltered sometimes when trouble has hit me out of the blue. I believe I'd have fared far better if I'd been more diligent in prayer and in Bible study during the easy times. I'd have had more spiritual muscle to help me fight anxiety and discouragement. Today's passage encourages me to be more careful about working on my spiritual fitness in good times and in bad. Jesus wouldn't have told us to "watch and pray" if it wasn't important for us to watch and pray. This is what we need to be doing every day of the year. 

Friday, October 29, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 44, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Zebulun

A couple of days ago in our study there were seven tribes of Israel who had not yet been allotted territory in the promised land. Joshua has been parceling it out according to how the lot falls. The first lot fell to the tribe of Benjamin and the second lot fell to the tribe of Simeon. The third lot falls to Zebulun.

"The third lot came up for Zebulun according to its clans: The boundary of their inheritance went as far as Sarid." (Joshua 19:10) Zebulun was one of the sons of Jacob by his wife Leah, but Issachar was born to Jacob and Leah before Zebulun. Yet this tribe is assigned its territory before Issachar. I'm not sure why this is but it's interesting to note that when bestowing prophetic blessings upon his sons prior to his death, Jacob pronounced Zebulun's blessing before Issachar's, saying, "Zebulun will live by the seashore and become a haven for ships; his border will extend toward Sidon." (Genesis 49:13) When Moses blessed the tribes of Israel before his death he also placed Zebulun's blessing before Issachar's, saying, "Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going out, and you, Issachar, in your tents. They will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer the sacrifices of the righteous; they will feast on the abundance of the seas, on the treasures hidden in the sand." (Deuteronomy 33:18-19) 

The Bible now describes the borders of the land of Zebulun. "Going west it ran to Maralah, touched Dabbesheth, and extended to the ravine near Jokneam. It turned east from Sarid toward the sunrise to the territory of Kisloth Tabor and went on to Daberath and up to Japhia. Then it continued eastward to Gath Hepher and Eth Kazin; it came out at Rimmon and turned toward Neah. There the boundary went around on the north to Hannathon and ended at the Valley of Iphtah El. Included were Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah and Bethlehem. There were twelve towns and their villages." (Joshua 19:11-15) The Bethlehem of verse 15 is not the one which lay within the territory of Judah (called Bethlehem of Judah or Bethlehem of Judea). The Bethlehem which lay within the tribe of Zebulun was known as Bethlehem of Galilee. 

"These towns and their villages were the inheritance of Zebulun, according to its clans." (Joshua 19:16) We will again insert the map we've been using so we can point out the location of Zebulun.

Zebulun is near the upper left side of the map in dark purple.

The book of Judges will tell us that Zebulun, like the other tribes, will not completely drive out the Canaanites living within its borders. "Neither did Zebulun drive out the Canaanites living in Kitron or Nahalal, so these Canaanites lived among them, but Zebulun did subject them to forced labor." (Judges 1:30) Incomplete obedience to the word of God will cause many of the Israelites to fall into idolatry later on in the Bible. Subjecting the Canaanites to forced labor was not what the Lord said to do; instead He warned them if they did not rid the land of these heathen idolaters they would "cause you to sin against Me" and that their false gods would "be a snare to you". (Exodus 23:33) As the saying goes, "If you die down with dogs you will get up with fleas." The pagan Canaanites were able to be a bad influence on some of the Israelites, which would not have happened if the land had been completely rid of the Canaanites.

But the Lord is merciful. He forgave the tribe of Zebulun (and the other tribes) for their incomplete obedience just as He forgives you and me when we repent of failing to fully follow through. Galilee lay within the borders of Zebulun and through the prophet Isaiah the Lord pronounced a blessing upon the land of Zebulun, saying that in the future He would honor Galilee and that it would be said of this region: "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:2) This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus of Nazareth (Nazareth being located in Lower Galilee) first preached in the region of Galilee. He began His ministry by calling to the people of Galilee and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near."

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 43, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Simeon

Today we'll be looking at the allotment for the tribe of Simeon.

In yesterday's passage Joshua began distributing allotments in the promised land to the remaining seven tribes. The first lot drawn went to the tribe of Benjamin. Today the second lot will be drawn and it will go to the tribe of Simeon. Some Bible scholars believe the lots were drawn by using two jars. For example, one jar may have contained seven slips of parchment or seven stones with the name of each of the remaining tribes on each one; the other jar may have contained the deeds to each portion of the land that remained to be parceled out. Then, in a prayerful attitude toward the Lord, Joshua would have drawn a name out of one jar and a land deed out of the other jar. We don't know for certain that this is how the task was accomplished but it's quite feasible it was done in this manner.

"The second lot came out for the tribe of Simeon according to its clans. Their inheritance lay within the territory of Judah. It included: Beersheba (or Sheba), Moladah, Hazar Shual, Balah, Ezem, Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth Markaboth, Hazar Susah, Beth Labaoth and Sharuhen---thirteen towns and their villages." (Joshua 19:1-6) You'll recognize the name of Beersheba, for it was mentioned a number of times in the story of Abraham back in Genesis. Ziklag will figure prominently in the life of David later in the Old Testament. 

In addition to the towns and villages above, Simeon was given: "Ain, Rimmon, Ether and Ashan---four towns and their villages---and all the villages around these towns as far as Baalath Beer (Ramah in the Negev)." (Joshua 19:7-8a) Below I'm inserting our map again so we can see the territory allotted to Simeon.

Simeon is located within Judah, so we find Simeon in the lower portion of the large green area on the lower left side of the map. This fulfills the prophecy made by Jacob when he was blessing his sons before his death. He said the tribes of Simeon and Levi would be "scattered" and "dispersed" in Israel. (Genesis 49:7b) We've already learned that the tribe of Levi was given towns and the surrounding pastureland to live in instead of a land allotment like the other tribes. The towns of Levi were spread throughout Israel, fulfilling what Jacob said about Levi by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. In our text today we find the word of the Lord coming true about Simeon also. Simeon's allotment was comprised of some of the towns and villages scattered within the allotment of Judah.

"This was the inheritance of the tribes of the Simeonites, according to its clans. The inheritance of the Simeonites was taken from the share of Judah, because Judah's portion was more than they needed. So the Simeonites received their inheritance within the territory of Judah." (Joshua 19:8b-9) The Bible does not tell us why a bigger portion than needed was given to the tribe of Judah. Some scholars suggest it was done by human error; that it was believed---before the remainder of the promised land was surveyed---that the land was bigger than it actually was. Judah was the first tribe to receive an allotment in the land west of the Jordan, then Ephraim, then the remaining half of Manasseh that had not taken land on the east of the Jordan. This was before men were sent out to survey the remainder of the land in order to parcel out allotments to the seven other tribes. Whatever the case, the Lord already knew back in Genesis that Judah would be given enough land to allow Simeon to be allotted towns and villages within its borders. This is why the Lord instructed Jacob to say what he said. 

There is nothing the Lord does not know and that ought to comfort us. It means nothing ever takes Him by surprise. He knows everything we will ever face in this life and He knows everything we will ever do in this life. This means He has a plan for every circumstance. Therefore, we ought to consult Him in all our decisions and do what He tells us to do. He knows the future and He knows the best course for us to take.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 42, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Benjamin

The land west of the Jordan has been surveyed and the remaining seven tribes receive their allotments. We begin by looking at the allotment for the tribe of Benjamin.

"The first lot came up for the tribe of Benjamin according to its clans. Their allotted territory lay between the tribes of Judah and Joseph." (Joshua 18:11) Again we'll turn to our map for guidance. Benjamin's territory is at the middle of the map in light orange. We see Judah (in green) below the tribe of Benjamin and we see Joseph (Ephraim in light purple and West Manasseh in yellow) above Benjamin's allotment. The lot, as directed by the Lord, ensured that the tribe of Benjamin ended up near to and under the protection of his brother Joseph (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh). The very small tribe of Benjamin was bordered on the south by the very large tribe of Judah, was bordered on the west by Dan, and bordered on the east by Reuben. Just as Jacob took great care to protect his youngest son Benjamin, the Lord took care to protect the tribe of Benjamin by surrounding it on all sides by other tribes of Israel.

"On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan, passed the northern slope of Jericho and headed west into the hill country, coming out at the wilderness of Beth Aven. From there it crossed to the south slope of Luz (that is, Bethel) and went down to Ataroth Addar on the hill south of lower Beth Horon. From the hill facing Beth Horon on the south the boundary turned south along the western side and came out at Kiriath Baal (that is, Kiriath Jearim), a town of the people of Judah." (Joshua 18:12-14) As we've seen in other descriptions of the promised land, the Bible often provides us with the original name of a town or region along with the name it was given after the Israelites took hold of the land. We frequently find that the original names were idolatrous in nature; for example, some included the name of Baal who was a Canaanite deity. Kiriath Baal, "city of Baal", was changed to Kiritah Jearim which means "city of woods". 

"The southern side began at the outskirts of Kiriath Jearim on the west, and the boundary came out at the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. The boundary went down to the foot of the hill facing the Valley of Ben Hinnom, north of the Valley of Rephaim. It continued down the Hinnom Valley along the southern slope of the Jebusite city and so to En Rogel. It then curved north, went to En Shemesh, continued to Geliloth, which faces the Pass of Adummim, and ran down to the Stone of Bohan son of Reuben. It continued to the northern slope of Beth Arabah and on down into the Arabah. It then went to the northern slope of Beth Hoglah and came out at the northern bay of the Dead Sea, at the mouth of the Jordan at the south. This was the southern boundary. The Jordan formed the boundary on the eastern side. These were the boundaries that marked out the inheritance of the clans of Benjamin on all sides." (Joshua 18:15-20) The descriptions of the boundaries of each tribe were invaluable to the Israelites. They were as invaluable to them as modern maps and land surveys are to us today. I have pins that mark the corners of the lot my house sits on and my land survey is on file downtown at the courthouse. A similar thing is going on in the passages we're studying; the descriptions and borders define the property rights of the tribes and will be available to clear up any disputes that may arise regarding these borders. 

Now the Bible names the towns contained within Benjamin's borders. "The tribe of Benjamin, according to its clans, had the following towns: Jericho, Beth Hoglah, Emek Keziz, Beth Arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, Kephar Ammoni, Ophni and Geba---twelve towns and their villages. Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, Mizpah, Kephirah, Mozah, Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, Zelah, Haeleph, the Jebusite city (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah and Kiriath---fourteen towns and their villages. This was the inheritance of Benjamin for its clans." (Joshua 18:21-28) Gibeah was the birthplace of Saul, a man of the tribe of Benjamin who became Israel's first king. Jerusalem, which later became the most famous location in all Israel, was originally called Jebusi (sometimes rendered Jebus) after the Jebusites. The Jebusites were descendants of Noah's son Ham through his son Canaan. At the time our current chapter was written, the Jebusites were still inhabiting Jerusalem, for as you'll recall from our passages throughout this week, the land was assigned before all the heathen tribes had been wiped out of it. In each allotment there are still pockets of pagans taking up residence. It won't be until the time of King David that Jerusalem is conquered and its name changed from Jebusi (or Jebus) to Jerusalem which means "city of peace".

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 41, Joshua Asks The People Why They're Waiting To Claim The Promises Of God

On the west side of the Jordan River we've already seen three tribes beginning to settle in their allotments: Judah, Ephraim, and the half tribe of Manasseh that had not chosen land on the east of the Jordan. Along with those Manassites who chose to dwell east of the Jordan, the tribes of Reuben and Gad had their territories there too. Today Joshua asks the rest of the people (the remaining seven tribes who are to inherit allotments), "What are you waiting for? Begin taking hold of the inheritance the Lord is giving you."

"The whole assembly of the Israelites gathered at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The country was brought under their control, but there were still seven Israelite tribes who had not yet received their inheritance." (Joshua 18:1-2) As we've already learned, not all of the tribes and clans of Canaan have been driven out at this point, but enough of them have that Israel can be said to hold sway over the majority of this land mass. The Israelites are in a position to take up residence in Canaan and to root out any remaining heathen idolaters from the region---if they will boldly move in and do so as Joshua encouraged them in yesterday's passage. In verse 1 we find the Israelites setting up the tabernacle at Shiloh where it will remain for about the next 369 years. The Israelites have enough control over the region and enough stability in the region to protect and maintain the tabernacle at this semi-permanent location for several centuries. There is no reason for the delay in the seven remaining tribes to take possession of their portions. 

"So Joshua said to the Israelites: 'How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?'" (Joshua 18:3) He asks, "What are you waiting for? What more has to happen for you to move in and claim the promises of the Lord?" I believe the Lord sometimes says this same thing to us. He has made us great and precious promises. He has called us out of darkness into light and has made us the children of the living God. Yet we are prone to doubts and fears. We hesitate and hang back. I think sometimes He says to us, "What are you waiting for? Why are you not living in the bold confidence that belongs to the children of the King? What more must I do to prove that I love you and that I hear your prayers and want to provide for you and do great things in your life? Step out in faith knowing that I am with you! I will never leave you or forsake you."

Joshua has to take steps to get the ball rolling and to end the people's hesitation. He is about to direct the people to appoint men to survey the remaining land. He is demonstrating good leadership. He starts taking action to encourage the people to take action. Have you ever noticed in a group setting that sometimes it takes one person making the first step toward a goal to get all the others to begin taking action toward that goal? In those situations, the person who takes the first step is usually a person with leadership qualities. It's usually a person who has an encouraging spirit, a person who believes the thing can be done and who shows enthusiasm for the task at hand. Surveying and taking over the large area of land must have seemed like a daunting task but as the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Great things can't be accomplished until the first step is made. The first step can encourage people enough to keep them moving forward and Joshua knows that. He embodies the qualities of a leader when he says the following, "Appoint three men from each tribe. I will send them out to make a survey of the land and to write a description of it, according to the inheritance of each. Then they will return to me." (Joshua 18:4) He tells the people what to do first so he can get things moving in the right direction.

He continues, "You are to divide the land into seven parts. Judah is to remain in its territory on the south and the tribes of Joseph in their territory on the north." (Joshua 18:5) We are dealing here with only the land on the west side of the Jordan. Judah and the tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) have already received their allotments in this region. Reuben, Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh already have their allotments east of the Jordan. That's why the remainder of the land is divided into seven parts; seven tribes are not yet in possession of their allotments.

"After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the Lord our God." (Joshua 18:6) As we've said before, the casting of lots in the Old Testament should not be compared to the rolling of dice or the flipping of a coin in today's world. It was done "in the presence of the Lord our God", as Joshua says, in a prayerful and obedient spirit, asking the Lord to cause the lots to fall according to His will. As we move through the Old Testament we'll find this method used less and less until it is not mentioned anymore. As the Scriptures began to be written down, they were available for guidance in making decisions. In our day, we who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who directs our path in conjunction with our reading of the word of God and with our prayers for guidance.

"The Levites, however, do not get a portion among you, because the priestly service of the Lord is their inheritance." (Joshua 18:7a) The Levites were given towns to dwell in throughout the territories of the other tribes. If the Levites were going to be given an allotment west of the Jordan, the land would have been divided into eight portions instead of seven. But because the Levites did not receive allotments in the promised land, we still generally refer to Israel as having twelve tribes although technically there were thirteen since Joseph's descendants through his sons Ephraim and Manasseh were essentially two tribes and each of them received their own separate allotment. The land Israel occupied on both sides of the Jordan was divided into twelve territories, excluding a territory for the tribe of Levi. The Levites did have some livestock and they did raise some crops, but they did not need large swathes of territory in which to raise great herds and flocks because they made their living serving the Lord.

Joshua reminds the people that Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh already have land east of the Jordan and are not to be considered when dividing up the remainder of the land on the west. "And Gad, Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Moses the servant of the Lord gave it to them." (Joshua 18:7b)

After three surveyors are selected from each tribe, Joshua repeats his instructions to them before they depart. "As the men started on their way to map out the land, Joshua instructed them, 'Go and make a survey of the land and write a description of it. Then return to me, and I will cast lots for you here at Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.' So the men left and went through the land. They wrote its description on a scroll, town by town, in seven parts, and returned to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. Joshua then cast lots for them in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord, and there he distributed the land to the Israelites according to their tribal divisions." (Joshua 18:8-10) We will study these allotments as we move on through the book of Joshua.

But today a good question to ask ourselves is, "What are you waiting for?" If we are not living in the bold confidence of the children of the King, why not? If we don't feel the assurance that our God loves us and is for us, why not? If we don't believe He hears our prayers and wants to direct our lives, why not? If He has told us to step forward and we haven't done it yet, why not? What more could He do than He has already done to prove to us that He loves us with all His heart? Why then do we not always trust that His love is everlasting and unchanging? And if we do believe He loves us and always will, why aren't we quicker to obey Him, considering He has our best interests at heart? If we spent more time fixing our thoughts on the goodness and greatness of our God, we'd spend far less time hesitating and far less time struggling with doubts and fears. I'm guilty of that myself; today's text speaks to me and convicts me as much as it does anybody. So I'm asking myself, "What are you waiting for? Go forth in the strength of the Lord your God who loves you and was willing to do anything it took to save you. Do what He says to do because He will never tell you to do anything He won't enable you to do. He won't ever tell you to move forward without being right there with you every step of the way."

Monday, October 25, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 40, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Joseph (Ephraim And Manasseh), Part Three

We will conclude Chapter 17 today by studying the land allotted to the tribe of Manasseh and by taking a look at a complaint the people descended from Joseph will bring to Joshua. 

"The territory of Manasseh extended from Asher to Mikmethath east of Shechem. The boundary ran southward from there to include the people living at En Tappuah. (Manasseh had the land of Tappuah, but Tappuah itself, on the boundary of Manasseh, belonged to the Ephraimites.) Then the boundary continued south to the Kanah Ravine. There were towns belonging to Ephraim lying among the towns of Manasseh, but the boundary of Manasseh was the northern side of the ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. On the south the land belonged to Ephraim, on the north to Manasseh. The territory of Manasseh reached the Mediterranean Sea and bordered Asher on the north and Issachar on the east. Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh also had Beth Shan, Ibleam and the people of Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo, together with their surrounding settlements (the third in the list is Naphoth)." (Joshua 17:7-11) We'll use our map below to illustrate these verses. This region is titled "West Manasseh" and it is in yellow right above Ephraim which is in light purple.

We were told earlier in the book of Joshua that the division of the land was accomplished by casting lots. The casting of lots performed in the Bible was done prayerfully and in a submissive spirit to the Lord, trusting that He would cause the lots to fall according to His will. (You and I, however, are not to make big decisions by flipping a coin, for example; the ancient Israelites were not playing a game of chance when they cast lots in the Old Testament. In the church age, Christians are to be guided by the Holy Spirit who indwells us and by prayer and by the word of God.) If the division of the land had been left up to human discretion, anyone unhappy with their lot could have claimed Joshua and the elders of Israel had slighted them somehow. We will actually find the descendants of Joseph making a complaint about the size of their portion, but I dare say that complaints would have been far more widespread had the division of the land not been done by casting lots. The casting of the lot was to be accepted as the decision of the Lord, not as the decision of mere mortals. The reason I mention the casting of the lots is due to our next segment of Scripture which tells us that although the boundaries of Manasseh were established by lot, the Manassites did not take hold of all of it. They did not drive out all the heathens from their land, just as we previously learned that the tribe of Judah and the tribe of Ephraim did not make an end of the pagan peoples in their land.

"Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely." (Joshua 17:12-13) The Lord wanted the tribe of Manasseh to fully occupy the land, but they had to do their part. They had to have the faith and the courage to take hold of what the Lord promised them. The Lord's promises never fail, but as we've noted time and time again, many of His promises are conditional upon our faith and obedience. They are the type of promises where the Lord says, "If you will do this, then I will do that." I have no doubt I've missed out on some of the things the Lord longed to give me because I didn't have the faith to believe I could have them or because I didn't do my part by being obedient to Him. 

"The people of Joseph said to Joshua, 'Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.'" (Joshua 17:14) When the second census was taken at the end of the book of Numbers, we were told that the tribe of Ephraim had 32,5000 men able to serve in the army and the tribe of Manasseh had 52,700 men able to serve in the army. Combined, these tribes were quite large, for those counted in the census for the army did not include women or children or males too young or too old or too infirm to serve as soldiers. The descendants of Joseph feel they should have been allotted more territory, for the Lord has blessed them abundantly in human offspring and in flocks and herds. But the truth is, the size of their allotment is not unfair, and Joshua points out that if they will do as the Lord commanded and drive the heathens from the towns they have not yet occupied, they will have more than enough. The fault does not lie with God or with Joshua and the leadership of Israel, but with those who lack the faith and obedience to do what the Lord has said. "'If you are so numerous,' Joshua answered, 'and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.'" (Joshua 17:15) 

The Perizzites are believed to have been metalworkers, and we'll see in a moment that they had horses and chariots---something the Israelites did not have---and iron was incorporated in the construction of their chariots. Their weapons of war were superior to that of the Israelites, but the God of the Israelites is superior to the false gods of the Perizzites. The Rephaites, who also inhabited the region, were giants. God is greater than any giant and He has enabled the Israelites to defeat giants before now. Still, we can see by the reply made to Joshua in our next verse that the descendants of Joseph are being held back by fear. They propose that Joshua allot them more land instead of asking them to rid more portions of their own land of its current inhabitants. "The people of Joseph replied, 'The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the valley of Jezreel.'" (Joshua 17:16) They've taken hold of the hill country but are afraid to take hold of the forested areas of their allotment because of the fierce warriors they'll have to face down. 

Joshua doesn't give in. Giving in wouldn't help them grow their faith. Giving in wouldn't encourage them to be obedient to the Lord. The forested hill country can be theirs as well as the portion they're already inhabiting if they will trust the Lord and boldly move in to take it. "But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph---to Ephraim and Manasseh---'You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment but the forested hill country instead. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out.'" (Joshua 17:17-18) Joshua uses "tough love" when dealing with this complaint. He's not being rude or unsympathetic. He's doing what a godly leader should do: encouraging the people to trust and obey the Lord. His reply to them is something like this: "It is as you said---you are numerous and very powerful and the Lord has blessed you abundantly. You have the numbers needed to take the forested hill country from those idolaters who now occupy it. Then you will have more than enough land for all the people and livestock with which the Lord has blessed you."

Joshua doesn't give them an easy way out by supplying territory from which they won't have to drive out giants or men with the highest-tech weaponry available in ancient times. Instead Joshua asks them to face their fears and fight their enemies in the strength of the Lord. He asks them to trust the promises of God. 

In our own lives there will be times when the Lord tells us to stand back and watch what He will do but there will be other times when He asks us to step up our faith by participating in the battle and in its victory. There will be times when promises can be obtained only through faith and obedience. If we would just take the Lord at His word more often, we'd obtain great victories more often. We'd receive huge boosts to our faith more often. If we never step out in faith, we can never say what David said to the Lord, "Your promises have been thoroughly tested, and Your servant loves them." (Psalm 119:140) David was a great warrior and army commander. David fought a giant and won. David received the kingdom promised to him by God. How did he accomplish these things? By taking the Lord at his word and by stepping out in faith to do what the Lord told him to do. David tested the promises of God by living them out. You and I can do the same! The men and women of the Bible were ordinary people just like we are. The reason they saw and did extraordinary things is because they trusted and obeyed the Lord for whom nothing is impossible. You and I can experience extraordinary things just like they did. If we trust and obey our God, no mountain can stand in our way, no sea can block our path, and no giant can defeat us. If the Lord tells us a thing can be done, it can be done, but we have to be men and women with the faith to believe the Lord can do what He says He can do. 

Sunday, October 24, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 39, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), Part Two

We are discussing the territory allotted to the descendants of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh. In our last study we looked at the borders of the land of Ephraim. Today we move on into Chapter 17 to begin to study the land inherited by the descendants of Manasseh. 

"This was the allotment for the tribe of Manasseh as Joseph's firstborn, that is, for Makir, Manasseh's firstborn. Makir was the ancestor of the Gileadites, who had received Gilead and Bashan because the Makirites were great soldiers." (Joshua 17:1) Makir himself was almost certainly dead by this time. He was first mentioned as an infant in Genesis 50:23 when Joseph, not long before his death, held Makir on his lap. Moses was born about sixty-four years after Joseph died and Moses was eighty years old at the time of the exodus, so if Makir left Egypt in the exodus he'd have been at least 144. Israel spent forty years in the wilderness and that would make Makir 184, if not a bit older, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River. It's estimated that it took the Israelites approximately six to seven years to conquer the territory we're studying in these allotments, which would make Makir at least 191 if he's still alive in Joshua 17. We are no longer seeing such extended lifespans by this point in the Old Testament (Moses died at 120, for example, and his brother Aaron died at 123), so I think what's happening here is that the descendants of Makir are being called by his name. They are the "house of Makir", so to speak. There's no contradiction in this. The tribes of Israel, for example, continue to be called by the names of men long dead. The clans are the same way; they are called by the names of the men who were the original heads of each clan. 

"So this allotment was for the rest of Manasseh---the clans of Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher and Shemida. These are the other male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph by their clans." (Joshua 17:2) The clans mentioned in verse 2 are named after Manasseh's great-grandsons through his son Makir. In Numbers 26:29-34 we learned that Makir was the father of Gilead and Gilead was the father of Iezer (rendered Abiezer in verse 2) and Gilead was also the father of Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Shemida, and Hepher. 

Hepher was the father of a man named Zelophehad and you may recall the story of Zelophehad's daughters from Numbers 27. The Lord established a property law regarding female heirs in Numbers 27 because Zelophehad died without any male heirs. In today's passage Zelophehad's daughters go to Joshua and the high priest and the elders of Israel to ask for their allotment. "Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, 'The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.' So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the Lord's command." (Joshua 17:3-4) Zelophehad's daughters inherited his share in the promised land just as if they were male heirs. They were commanded back in Numbers 36:6 to marry within their father's clan so the land would always remain with the correct clan within the tribe of Manasseh. The Bible tells us in Numbers 36:10-11 that these ladies did as the Lord said and married men who were their cousins on their father's side of the family.

Imagine how interesting these family trees and these personal stories were to the Israelites and how interesting they still are to the Jewish people today. I find them quite interesting even though I'm of Gentile heritage, but they'd be especially fascinating to us if we were reading about our own ancestors. These genealogies and stories and land boundaries were extremely important to ancient Israel and still have a great deal of meaning to the Jewish people of today. I wish I had detailed accounts like this of my own forebears to read, although I would probably be appalled by some of their deeds since my ancestors were heathen idolaters somewhere way back in time. But personal stories about my grandparents and great-grandparents would be priceless to me if I had written accounts in my possession. In tomorrow's study we'll look at the description of the land boundaries of Manasseh and we'll read a personal story about this tribe in which their elders bring a complaint to Joshua regarding the size of their allotment.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 38, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Joseph (Ephraim And Manasseh), Part One

In the NIV Bible our next segment of Scripture is titled "Allotment For Joseph". As we've previously discussed, there is no "tribe of Joseph" per se, but his descendants are reckoned through his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh whom Jacob adopted as his own sons. So instead of a "tribe of Joseph" we find a tribe of Ephraim and a tribe of Manasseh. Chapters 16 and 17 tell us about the land that was allotted to the descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh.

You'll recall that half the tribe of Manasseh settled on the east side of the Jordan River. Chapter 16 and Chapter 17 will tell us where the remainder of Manasseh settled and will include a dispute that arose between them and Joshua. But first we will take a look at the borders of the land given to Joseph's descendants as a whole and then we will study the borders of the territory of Ephraim.

"The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan, east of the springs of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel. It went on from Bethel (that is, Luz), crossed over to the territory of the Arkites in Ataroth, descended westward to the territory of the Japhelites as far as the region of Lower Beth Horon and on to Gezer, ending at the Mediterranean Sea. So Manasseh and Ephraim, the descendants of Joseph, received their inheritance." (Joshua 16:1-4) I'm inserting the map we've been using that illustrates the territory of each tribe. Manasseh's land is shown in yellow, with their land on the west side of the Jordan titled "West Manasseh" and their land on the east side of the Jordan titled "East Manasseh". Ephraim's land is in light purple, just below West Manasseh.

"This was the territory of Ephraim, according to its clans: The boundary of their inheritance went from Ataroth Addar in the east to Upper Beth Horon and continued to the Mediterranean Sea. From Mikmethath on the north it curved eastward to Taanath Shiloh, passing by it to Janoah on the east. Then it went down from Joanoah to Ataroth and Naarah, touched Jericho and came out at the Jordan. From Tappuah the border went west to the Kanah Ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. This was the inheritance of the Ephraimites, according to its clans. It also included all the towns and their villages that were set aside for the Ephraimites within the inheritance of the Manassites." (Joshua 16:5-9) 

The descendants of Judah and the descendants of Joseph were the first to receive their inheritance on the west side of the Jordan. Judah was the third son of Jacob by his wife Leah and we've discussed before how that Jacob's first three sons by Leah (Reuben, Simeon, and Levi) disqualified themselves for the position of primary heir and how the blessing and the birthright and the double portion, for all intents and purposes, ended up going to Judah. This is why the tribe of Judah was the first to receive their allotment in the promised land. The tribe of Joseph, because Joseph was the firstborn son of the marriage between Jacob and Rachel, was the second to receive their allotment. 

In our previous chapter we were told that the tribe of Judah did not drive out the Jebusites (who were a clan of the Amorites) from their territory. Today we learn that the Ephraimites did not drive out all the Canaanites from their territory. "They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor." (Joshua 16:10) What did the Lord say about the Amorites and Canaanites? These were some of the peoples the Israelites were to wipe out of the promised land, for the Lord warned them, "Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against Me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you." (Exodus 23:33) The Lord's instructions were not fully obeyed; some sort of compromise took place in which the Israelites made these people subject to them instead of ridding the land of them. Later in the Bible we'll see the Lord's prediction coming true: the gods of these pagan peoples will become a snare to many of the Israelites.

You and I have not fully obeyed every one of the Lord's instructions either. We've compromised our values at times. But aren't we glad the Lord is gracious to us like He was to Israel? He never turned His back on Israel and said, "I'm done with you," and He's never said that to you or to me either. He heard every prayer of repentance that the Israelites ever prayed and He hears our prayers too. Every time we are made aware that we have stopped short of full obedience or that we have compromised our values, we should run as fast as we can to bow at the feet of the Lord. He is so merciful and gracious to hear our prayers, set us back up on our feet, and place us back on the right path.


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 37, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Judah, Part Two

Today we'll conclude Chapter 15 which deals with the portion of the promised land allotted to the tribe of Judah. Our passage begins with a personal story about Joshua's friend Caleb.

You'll recall from Chapter 15 that Caleb, of the tribe of Judah, was the first to receive his portion of the promised land. The area belonging to him contained some of the descendants of Anak (the Anakites were giants) and although he was eighty-five years old when he was allotted his portion, he was still a mighty warrior who drove three of these men of great stature from the land. "In accordance with the Lord's command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah---Kiriah Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out three Anakites---Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, the sons of Anak. From there he marched against the people living in Debir (formerly called Kiriath Sepher)." (Joshua 15:13-15)

Caleb encourages others to do great deeds. He offers an advantageous alliance to the man who is able to capture Kiriath Sepher. "And Caleb said, 'I will give my daughter Aksah in marriage to the man who attacks and captures Kiriath Sepher.' Othniel son of Kenaz, Caleb's brother, took it; so Caleb gave his daughter Aksah to him in marriage." (Joshua 15:16-17) Othniel and Aksah were first cousins but the Bible does not prohibit marriage between first cousins in the Old Testament rules regarding marriage. Some scholars assume Othniel was already in love with Aksah and that this is why he boldly stepped up to take the city. Whether or not this was the case, to be the son-in-law of Caleb would have been considered a great honor, and it could be that more men than Othniel went up against Kiriath Sepher but that Othniel is the one who prevailed. 

In Old Testament times (and in some places in our modern world today) a father had all authority over the selection of spouses for his children. But Caleb's daughter Aksah is no meek lady; like Caleb himself, she is bold. Aksah asks for more than the dowry her father bestowed on her. She wants him to grant her a special area within the tribe of Judah, an area containing springs of good water. "One day when she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field." (Joshua 15:18a) Some of the commentaries I consulted state that this was probably on the day she was married to Othniel and was about to go home with him, so this verse could be rendered, "On the day she came to Othniel, she urged him to ask her father for a field." But it's possible she came back to visit her father to make her request after she was already married. Also in the commentaries it was noted that in the original text it is not entirely plain who mentioned the land to whom, so it may actually be saying that Othniel urged Aksah to ask her father for the field. Either way, Aksah has the boldness to make this request of her father because she is secure in the knowledge that her father loves her and will hear her request and will grant it. If we are the children of God, the Bible urges us to come boldly to Him for help, secure in the knowledge that our Father loves us: "Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

Caleb grants his daughter's request. "When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked, 'What can I do for you?' She replied, 'Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.' So Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs." (Joshua 15:18b-19) As soon as his daughter alights from her donkey, Caleb is ready to hear her request and to act upon it. When we go to our heavenly Father in prayer, I think we might pray with more confidence if we pictured Him saying, "Hello, My child. What can I do for you?"

The remainder of our chapter is a list of the cities within the territory allotted to the tribe of Judah. "This is the inheritance of the tribe of Judah, according to its clans: The southernmost towns of the tribe of Judah in the Negev toward the boundary of Edom were: Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, Telem, Bealoth, Hazor Hadattah, Kerioth Hezron (that is, Hazor), Amam, Shema, Moladah, Hazar Gaddah, Heshmon, Beth Pelet, Hazar Shual, Beersheba, Biziothiah, Baalah, Iyim, Ezem, Eltolad, Kesil, Hormah, Ziklag, Madmannah, Sansannah, Lebaoth, Shilhim, Ain and Rimmon---a total of twenty-nine towns and their villages." (Joshua 15:20-32)

"In the western foothills: Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, Zanoah, En Gannim, Tappuah, Enam, Jarmuth, Adullam, Sokoh, Azekah, Shaaraim, Adithaim and Gederah (or Gederothaim)---fourteen towns and their villages. Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal Gad, Dilean, Mizpah, Joktheel, Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon, Kabbon, Lahmas, Kitlish, Gederoth, Beth Dagon, Naamah and Makkedah---sixteen towns and their villages. Ekron, with its surrounding settlements and villages; west of Ekron, all that were in the vicinity of Ashdod, together with their villages; Ashdod, its surrounding settlements and villages; and Gaza, its settlements and villages, as far as the Wadi of Egypt and the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea." (Joshua 15:33-47)

"In the hill country: Shamir, Jattir, Sokoh, Dannah, Kiriath Sannah (that is, Debir), Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim, Goshen, Holon and Giloh---eleven towns and their villages. Arab, Dumah, Eshan, Janim, Beth Tappuah, Aphekah, Humtah, Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron), and Zior---nine towns and their villages. Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah, Kain, Gibeah and Timnah---ten towns and their villages. Halhul, Beth Zur, Gedor, Maarath, Beth Anoth and Eltekon---six towns and their villages. Kiriath Baal (that is, Kiriath Jearim) and Rabbah---two towns and their villages." (Joshua 15:48-60)

"In the wilderness: Beth Arabah, Middin, Sekakah, Nibshan, the City of Salt and En Gedi---six townsa and their villages." (Joshua 15:61-62)

"Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem; to this day the Jebusites live there with the people of Judah." (Joshua 15:63) The Jebusites were still in Jerusalem at the time the book of Joshua was written but they were driven out during the time of King David. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 36, The Land West of The Jordan: The Allotment For Judah, Part One

Today and tomorrow we will be studying Chapter 15 which tells us which part of the promised land was allotted to the tribe of Judah.

"The allotment for the tribe of Judah, according to its clans, extended down to the territory of Edom, to the Desert of Zin in the extreme south." (Joshua 15:1) The tribe of Judah is given the preeminence here by being the first to receive their land on the west side of the Jordan River. Judah was the fourth son of Jacob by his first wife Leah. Judah's older brothers Reuben, Simeon, and Levi disqualified themselves to be their father's chief heir who would receive the birthright. Judah therefore rose to the top spot, and just as a primary heir receives his inheritance first, the tribe of Judah receives their inheritance first. Judah was also the largest tribe of Israel. I'm inserting a map below that we will be using for the next several days to help ourselves picture how the promised land was divided up. The land given to the tribe of Judah is shown in the left lower portion of the map.

"Their southern boundary started from the bay at the southern end of the Dead Sea, crossed south of Scorpion Pass, continued on to Zin and went over to the south of Kadesh Barnea. Then it ran past Hezron up to Addar and curved around to Karka. It then passed along to Azmon and joined the Wadi of Egypt, ending at the Mediterranean Sea. This is their southern boundary." (Joshua 15:2-4)

"The eastern boundary is the Dead Sea as far as the mouth of the Jordan. The northern boundary started from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan, went up to Beth Hoglah and continued north to Beth Arabah to the Stone of Bohan son of Reuben." (Joshua 15:5-6) The Stone of Bohan was likely situated on the map at the top of the Dead Sea where the border of the tribe of Judah meets the border of the tribe of Reuben. Boundary stones were extremely important, so much so that King Solomon twice issued a warning in the book of Proverbs about moving one of these stones. "Do not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your ancestors." (Proverbs 22:28) "Do not move an ancient boundary stone or encroach on the fields of the fatherless, for their Defender is strong; he will take up their case against you." (Proverbs 23:10) The Lord Himself warned the people twice in the book of Deuteronomy not to move a boundary stone. "Do not move your neighbor's boundary stone set up by your predecessors in the inheritance you receive in the land the Lord your God is giving you to possess." (Deuteronomy 19:14) "Cursed is anyone who moves their neighbor's boundary stone." (Deuteronomy 27:17a)

Moving a boundary stone is stealing. Just as it's important in our day to have our property officially surveyed and to have the survey pins placed into the ground to mark the borders of our property, it was very important in ancient times to mark the boundary of each person's property and the boundary of each tribe's territory. If anyone moved a boundary stone it was the same as moving a survey pin in today's world. It breaks one of the ten commandments ("You shall not steal."), and it demonstrates a greedy heart and a callous disregard for the rights of others. 

You and I may be unfamiliar with many of the places mentioned in the description of the territories of the promised land. It may seem as if this detailed description doesn't have much to do with us, sitting here in the United States today. But this detailed description of the borders of each tribe was extremely important to the ancient Israelites, just as having clear borders for each of the fifty states is important to us in our country. 

After mentioning the Stone of Bohan, the author continues. "The boundary then went up to Debir from the Valley of Achor and turned north to Gilgal, which faces the Pass of Adummim south of the gorge. It continued along to the waters of En Shemesh and came out at En Rogel. Then it ran up the Valley of Ben Hinnom along the southern slope of the Jebusite city (that is Jerusalem). From there it climbed to the top of the hill west of the Hinnom Valley at the northern end of the Valley of Rephaim." (Joshua 15:7-8) The Rephaites were giants and in some translations of the Bible, in the King James Version for example, verse 8 refers to this valley as "the valley of the giants". 

"From the hilltop the boundary headed toward the spring of waters of Nephtoah, came out at the towns of Mount Ephron and went down toward Baalah (that is, Kiriath Jearim). Then it curved westward from Baalah to Mount Seir, ran along the northern slope of Mount Jearim (that is, Kesalon), continued down to Beth Shemesh and crossed to Timnah. It went to the northern slope of Ekron, turned toward Shikkeron, passed along to Mount Baalah and reached Jabneel. The boundary ended at the sea. The western boundary is the coastline of the Mediterranean Sea. These are the boundaries around the people of Judah by their clans." (Joshua 15:9-12) We will see a number of the locations from today's text again because they will feature in several important Bible stories.

As we learned in Chapter 14, Caleb of the tribe of Judah was the first to be given his portion of the promised land. Tomorrow we will take a look at a personal story involving the family of Caleb and then we will conclude our chapter with a detailed list of the towns belonging to the tribe of Judah.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 35, The Land West Of The Jordan: The Allotment For Caleb

During the past couple of days we studied the land east of the Jordan which was given to the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. Now we begin to move on to study how the territories west of the Jordan were allocated.

"Now these are the areas the Israelites received as an inheritance in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun and the heads of the tribal clans of Israel allotted to them. Their inheritances were assigned by lot to the nine and a half tribes, as the Lord had commanded through Moses. Moses had granted the two and a half tribes their inheritance east of the Jordan but had not granted the Levites an inheritance among the rest, for Joseph's descendants became two tribes---Manasseh and Ephraim. The Levites received no share of the land but only towns to live in, with pasturelands for their flocks and herds. So the Israelites divided the land, just as the Lord had commanded Moses." (Joshua 14:1-5) We typically use the expression "the twelve tribes of Israel" but in a way there were actually thirteen tribes. There was no tribe of Joseph; his descendants were reckoned through the family lines of his two sons whom Jacob adopted as his own. But only twelve tribes received swaths of land in the promised land, for the Levites were assigned towns to live in and they mainly made their living from serving the Lord. So we see it is correct to refer to Israel as having either twelve tribes or thirteen tribes, depending on which subject we are discussing. 

The first land we see being allotted on the west side of the Jordan goes to Caleb, a man of faith of the tribe of Judah. You'll recall that when Moses sent twelve spies into the promised land in the book of Numbers, ten of the spies came back with negative faithless reports. But Joshua and Caleb came back with positive reports. They wholly believed that the Lord would enable them to take the land, just as He said He would. Caleb will be given the area of Hebron as his inheritance in the promised land. 

"Now the people of Judah approached Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, 'You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God at Kadesh Barnea about you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. So on that day Moses swore to me, 'The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.'" (Joshua 14:6-9) I don't feel like Caleb is bragging on himself when he says he wholeheartedly followed the Lord. He's simply stating a fact; he did believe the Lord was able to give them the land and therefore he was willing to do whatever the Lord said and go wherever the Lord said. Moses also recognized his faith and testified to it and made him a promise that a particular segment of the land would belong to Caleb. The Lord rewards faithfulness and, now that the Israelites have taken hold of the promised land, Caleb asks Joshua to assign him the portion promised to him by the Lord through Moses.

I love the way Caleb says he brought back a report "according to my convictions". A conviction is a firmly held belief. It is confidence. It is assurance. It is a principle, a faith, a doctrine. All of us who have made God the Lord of our lives should be people of conviction, just like Caleb. We should believe that the Lord is able to do anything He says He can do. Caleb believed the Lord when He said He would enable Israel to take the promised land. It didn't matter to Caleb that the promised land contained heavily fortified cities, large armies, and men of giant stature. He knew his God was bigger and more powerful than anything or anyone they would ever face.

Not only was Caleb a man of convictions at the age of forty, but he's still a man of convictions at eighty-five. He is still ready to go out and face giants because he still has the faith that God is with him. He says, "Now then, just as the Lord promised, He has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time He said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the wilderness. So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I'm just as vigorous to go out in battle as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as He said." (Joshua 14:10-12)

In my opinion this is one of the most powerful statements of faith in the Old Testament. Caleb says, "The same God who gave me strength when I was young gives me strength now that I am old. I can still defeat giants in His name! With His help, I can do anything." You and I may not be as physically strong as Caleb when we get to eighty-five, but we can be as spiritually strong as Caleb. There's no reason why our faith in the Lord can't continue to grow every year we're on this earth. To quote the Apostle Paul, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16) The apostle referred to himself as "Paul the aged" in Philemon 1:9, although many Bible scholars estimate he was only somewhere between sixty and sixty-five when he was put to death. But the things Paul endured in his life took a toll on his physical health. He may only have been chronologically in his sixties but he felt much older. Yet he grew in faith every day. He didn't allow distress, deprivation, imprisonment, or persecution to affect his convictions. Caleb and the Apostle Paul are just two of the people of the Bible who have set a great example of faith for us to follow. 

"Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the Lord, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.) Then the land had rest from war." (Joshua 14:13-15) As we've previously learned, the Anakites were giants. The land allotted to Caleb was formerly named after an Anakite named Arba who was evidently known for being a mighty warrior. But as we'll see later in the book of Joshua, the eighty-five-year old Caleb and his men defeated the Anakites at Hebron, just as Caleb vowed he would do with the help of the Lord.

Nothing is impossible for the Lord. If He calls us to do something, He is going to enable us to do it. Our faith---our convictions---are in Him, not in ourselves. 

Saturday, October 16, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 34, Division Of The Land On The East Side Of Jordan, Part Two

We are studying the division of the land on the east side of the Jordan River. Yesterday we took a look at the borders of the area as a whole. Today we'll see how it was divided among the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh.

"This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Reuben, according to its clans: The territory from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the middle of the gorge, and the whole plateau past Medeba to Heshbon and all its towns on the plateau, including Dibon, Bamoth Baal, Beth Baal Meon, Jahaz, Kedemoth, Mephaath, Kiriathaim, Sibmah, Zereth Shahar on the hill in the valley, Beth Peor, the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth Jeshimoth---all the towns on the plateau and the entire realm of Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled at Heshbon." (Joshua 13:15-21a) This was very fertile land, suitable for raising cattle and growing crops, which is why some of the Israelites chose the land on this side of the Jordan. 

The author reminds us of the great victory of the Israelites over King Sihon and his army and his allies. It should be noted that the main reason two and a half tribes of Israel obtained land on the east side of the Jordan is because King Sihon refused to allow the people to pass peacefully through his territory on a highway that was a major trade route. Instead he came out to oppose the Israelites and the Lord took what was Sihon's and gave it to His covenant people. "Moses had defeated him and the Midianite chiefs, Evi, Rekim, Zur, Hur and Reba---princes allied with Sihon---who lived in that country." (Joshua 13:21b)

The author reminds us that the Israelites put to death the prophet Balaam, who for money promised to him by Israel's enemies attempted to curse the nation of Israel. Not only was Balaam (once a true prophet of the Lord) willing to turn his back on the Lord's people, but he also indulged in occult practices, which is probably what caused his heart to be hard toward the Israelites. "In addition to those slain in battle, the Israelites had put to the sword Balaam son of Beor, who practice divination. The boundary of the Reubenites was the bank of the Jordan. These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the Reubenites, according to their clans." (Joshua 13:22-23)

"This is what Moses had given to the tribe of Gad, according to its clans: The territory of Jazer, all the towns of Gilead and half the Ammonite country as far as Aroer, near Rabbah; and from Heshbon to Ramath Mizpah and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir; and in the valley, Beth Haram, Beth Nimrah, Sukkoth and Zaphon with the rest of the realm of Sihon king of Heshbon (the east side of the Jordan, the territory up to the end of the Sea of Galilee). These towns and their villages were the inheritance of the Gadites, according to their clans." (Joshua 13:24-28) The Gadites had a great deal of cattle but in addition to being herdsmen they gained the reputation of being mighty warriors. An altar to the Lord will be built in the territory of Gad later in the book of Joshua.

"This is what Moses had given to the half-tribe of Manasseh, that is, to half the family of the descendants of Manasseh, according to its clans: The territory extending from Mahanaim and including all of Bashan, the entire realm of Og king of Bashan---all the settlements of Jair in Bashan, sixty towns, half of Gilead, and Ashtaroth and Edrei (the royal cities of Og in Bashan). This was for the descendants of Makir son of Manasseh---for half the sons of Makir, according to their clans." (Joshua 13:29-31) Only half of this tribe wanted their land to be on the east side of the Jordan. Later in the book of Joshua we will learn where the other half of Manasseh settled.

King Og followed the example of King Sihon by refusing to allow the Israelites peaceful passage. As a result he lost his kingdom and his life. What once was his now belongs to the people of the Lord.

"This is the inheritance Moses had given when he was in the plains of Moab across the Jordan east of Jericho. But to the tribe of Levi, Moses had given no inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as He promised them." (Joshua 13:32-33) The Levites were given cities to inhabit and later in the book of Joshua we'll learn which cities they dwelled in on both the east side and the west side of the Jordan River.

Tomorrow we will begin studying how the land on the west of the Jordan was distributed among the remaining tribes. 

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 33, Division Of The Land On The East Side Of Jordan, Part One

Joshua is old but the Lord still has work for him to do. The Lord says to him, "Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh." (Joshua 13:6b-7) Earlier in our chapter we studied the territory conquered by Israel on the west side of the Jordan. For the next several days we'll be studying how that land is divided among those who did not receive land on the east side of the Jordan. Those who received their land on the east side were the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. "The other half of Manasseh, the Reubenites and the Gadites had received the inheritance that Moses had given them east of the Jordan, as he, the servant of the Lord, had assigned it to them." (Joshua 13:8)

The Bible goes on to describe the land east of the Jordan. "It extended from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge, and from the town in the middle of the gorge, and included the whole plateau of Medeba as far as Dibon, and all the towns of Sihon king of the Amorites, who ruled in Heshbon, out to the border of the Ammonites. It also included Gilead, the territory of the people of Geshur and Maakah, all of Mount Hermon and all Bashan as far as Salekah---that is, the whole kingdom of Og in Bashan, who had reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei. (He was the last of the Rephaites.) Moses had defeated them and taken over their land. But the Israelites did not drive out the people of Geshur and Maakah, so they continue to live among the Israelites to this day." (Joshua 13:9-13) 

Whenever the Bible says the word "but", there is often something negative to follow. We see that the Israelites did not drive out the people of Geshur and Maakah. One of King David's wives was a Geshurite and the son he had with her, Absalom, plotted against him to take the kingdom away from him. Did David's Geshurite wife have something to do with how rebellious their son was? That's a definite possibility, for the Lord warned the Israelites not to allow any of the previous occupants of the land to remain in it. He said mixing with those people would become a snare to the Israelites. That certainly appears to have been true in David's case.

As we've noted many times before, partial obedience is still disobedience. When we fail to fully carry out the Lord's instructions, we are in an attitude of disobedience and cannot attain everything He promised us for our obedience. The Bible contains many beautiful promises for the believer but many of these promises are conditional upon our obedience to the Lord. If we only partially obey then we can expect to only be partially blessed. 

The tribe of Levi will inhabit towns and will not be parceled out any specific territory in the promised land; therefore, Moses did not assign them a territory. "But to the tribe of Levi he gave no inheritance, since the food offerings presented to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as He promised them." (Joshua 13:14) This promise was first made in Numbers 18:20 when the Lord said to Aaron the high priest and to the Levites as a whole: "You will have no inheritance in their land, nor will you have any share among them; I am your share and your inheritance among the Israelites."

You may have heard the expression, "When the Lord is all you have, you have all you need." The Lord said something similar to the Levites. Their primary satisfaction in life is to be found in serving Him and they are to make their living and provide for their families through the work they do for Him. 

When we make God the Lord of our lives, we have the fulfillment of the primary need of every human being: salvation. The eternal destiny of our souls is more important than anything else. But when we have the Lord we also have access to many blessings in the here and now, for He is the source of all things good. 

Tomorrow we will look at the division of the remainder of the land east of the Jordan and then for the next several days we'll be studying the division of the land west of the Jordan.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 32, Land Still To Be Taken

In Chapter 12 we studied the kings the Israelites defeated on the east side of the Jordan and on the west side of the Jordan. But the conquest of the promised land is not yet complete. In Chapter 14 the Lord tells Joshua there is work yet to be done. 

"When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, 'You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.'" (Joshua 13:1) Joshua will live to be 110 years old. We don't know how old he is here in Chapter 13 but it's generally estimated that he's anywhere from 90 to 100 at this time.

The Lord doesn't say, "Joshua, you're old and you need to retire. There's a lot left to be done but a younger man needs to do it." Instead the Lord is saying, "There's a lot of life left in you, Joshua. There is work yet to be done. I'm not finished with you." He is saying something similar to what the psalmist says in Psalm 92:12-15: "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, 'The Lord is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.'" Joshua may be old in body but spiritually he is still fresh and green. He is still able to bear fruit for the Lord. 

You and I can bear fruit for the Lord all our lives. As we grow older we don't have to move to the sidelines and say, "I'll step aside and let someone younger do it." If we still possess the health and physical strength to do the work, we are called to keep working for the Lord. Even if our bodies are frail, if our minds are still sharp we can still guide and encourage the younger generations to stay strong in the Lord. We can still give godly advice; in fact, who better to give advice than someone who is now an elder and who has experienced the faithfulness of the Lord for many decades?

Now we look at the remaining territories to be conquered by the Israelites. "This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, from the Sihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath." (Joshua 13:1-5) 

"As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon from Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites." (Joshua 13:6a) It's important for us to remember that the Israelites never did completely take over all the land the Lord wanted to give them. This does not mean His promise failed. His promise was conditional. He said that if Israel did not rebel against Him, He would "be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you". (Exodus 23:22b) He said if Israel would not bow down to idols, He would "send My terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run." (Exodus 23:27) The promise in the first half of this next passage was conditional upon Israel obeying the command in the second half of this passage: "I will establish your borders from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and from the desert to the Euphrates River. I will give into your hands the people who live in the land, and you will drive them out before you. Do not make a covenant with them or with their gods. Do not let them live in your land or they will cause you to sin against Me, because the worship of their gods will certainly be a snare to you." (Exodus 23:31-33)

The people won't fully drive out everyone the Lord told them to drive out. They will allow some of them to live in their land. As a result of co-habiting with idolaters, we'll find many citizens of Israel falling into idolatry as we move through the Old Testament. Lest we find ourselves taking on a critical attitude toward the ancient Israelites, we must stop and consider how many times we ourselves have become comfortable with ungodliness. How often have we compromised our values? How often have we been lazy about holy living? Just because certain habits and behaviors are common doesn't mean it's okay to allow ourselves to fall into them. Idolatry was common in the land of Canaan. Sinful living was rampant. Everywhere a person turned, there was something to satisfy the carnal desires of man. Everywhere a person turned, some other god was offered other than the one true God. The false gods didn't require holy living. The false gods didn't tell anyone to love their neighbor as themselves and to treat others the way they wanted to be treated. False gods didn't ask man to be anything more than what he was in his natural state. That's why the Lord commanded the Israelites to wipe out the heathen idolaters and destroy their idols and altars---so they wouldn't be continually assaulted by the temptation to be unfaithful to the Lord and give in to sinful living.

Some of the promises of the Bible depend solely on the faithfulness of God. Other promises depend on us obeying the Lord's instructions. The Lord has never made a false promise and He never will.

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 31, List Of Defeated Kings, Part Two

Today we will conclude Chapter 12 with the list of kings defeated by the Israelites in the promised land. Yesterday we talked about the kings they defeated on the east side of the Jordan River. That land went to the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. Today we'll talk about the kings defeated on the west side of the Jordan.

"Here is a list of the kings of the land that Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan, from Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon to Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir. Joshua gave their lands as an inheritance to the tribes of Israel according to their tribal divisions. The lands included the hill country, the western foothills, the Arabah, the mountain slopes, the wilderness and the Negev. These were the lands of the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites." (Joshua 12:7-8a) These nations of the promised land are those which have been on the Lord's list for a long time throughout the Old Testament, nations He commanded the Israelites to destroy.

"These were the kings: Jericho---one," (Joshua 12:8b-9a) Jericho is where we find Jesus healing blind Bartimaeus in Mark 10:46, Luke 18:35. It's also where He met the tax collector named Zacchaeus who repented of his sins and became a follower of the Lord.

"The king of Ai (near Bethel)---one," (Joshua 12:9b) It was in this area that Abraham built an altar to the Lord in Genesis 12:8, not long after he answered the Lord's call to leave his homeland and strike out for the land the Lord would give to his descendants. 

"The king of Jerusalem---one," (Joshua 12:10a) There's not enough space or time to discuss all the things that happened at Jerusalem on the pages of the Holy Bible. To me, Jerusalem is an especially holy place because Jesus taught there, healed there, died there for my sins, and rose there from the grave. 

"The king of Hebron---one," (Joshua 12:10b) Hebron is where David was anointed as king over Judah in 2 Samuel 5.

"The king of Jarmuth---one, the king of Lachish---one, the king of Eglon---one, the king of Gezer---one," (Joshua 12:11-12) Gezer was a very important location on the road between Joppa and Jerusalem. It was later recaptured by the Egyptians but the father of King Solomon's Egyptian wife gave it to his daughter and Solomon rebuilt it in 1 Kings 9.

"The king of Debir---one, the king of Geder---one, the king of Hormah---one, the king of Arad---one, the king of Libnah---one, the king of Adullam---one," (Joshua 12:13-15) Debir was a stronghold of the Anakim (the giants) of the Old Testament. Libnah was a city Joshua assigned to the priests of Israel. It was from Libnah that Sennacherib, king of Assyria, kept sending threatening messages to Jerusalem. It was at Libnah that the angel of the Lord destroyed the Assyrian army camp during the night so the Assyrians could not attack Jerusalem. We find this account in the book of 2 Kings. 

"The king of Makkedah---one, the king of Bethel---one, the king of Tappuah---one, the king of Hepher---one, the king of Aphek---one, the king of Lasheron---one, the king of Madon---one, the king of Hazor---one," (Joshua 12:16-19) Bethel was not only a place Abraham set up an altar, but Jacob had his vision there of a ladder ascending to heaven and it was at Bethel he set up a pillar to the Lord. He later returned to Bethel and built an altar.

"The king of Shimron Meron---one, the king of Akshaph---one, the king of Taanach---one, the king of Megiddo---one," (Joshua 12:20-21) It is in the area of Megiddo that man's final rebellion against the Lord will take place, according to Revelation 16. This is what is commonly called "Armageddon", from the words "Har Megiddo" which means "Mountain of Megiddo".

"The king of Kedesh---one, the king of Jokneam in Carmel---one, the king of Dor (in Naphoth Dor)---one, the king of Goyim in Gilgal---one, the king of Tirzah---one, thirty-one kings in all." (Joshua 12:22-24) Israel defeated thirty-one kings on the west side of the Jordan with the help of the Lord. This list of defeated kings is actually a list of the Lord's victories.

You and I could make a list of the Lord's victories in our own lives! As we said yesterday, it's helpful to us to regularly think back on all the things the Lord has done for us. It strengthens our faith and it strengthens our praise. It gives us confidence in the Lord regarding our current situation and regarding anything that comes against us in the future. The Israelites must have been greatly encouraged in the Lord anytime they read back over the list we've studied today. They must have comforted themselves with the fact that the Lord had given them victory over the kingdoms of thirty-one kings in the promised land. The Lord had given them victory over armies bigger than theirs, armies with more technology than they had, and armies that sometimes contained men of extraordinary physical stature. Can a God like this not fight future battles also? Of course He can! And He will! 

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 30, List Of Defeated Kings, Part One

Chapter 12 provides us with a detailed list of the kings the Israelites defeated and where the territories of these kings were located. This was a very important list to the Israelites who were inheriting the land. It should be an important list to us too, for, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:16-17) This list proves that God was able to do what He said He was going to do and that He did do it. 

The ten spies back in the book of Numbers who said, "We can't attack those people; they are stronger than we are," were wrong. They were wrong because they left God out of the equation. If the Israelites had had to go up alone against the fortified cities, the enormous armies, and the giant warriors of the land, then the spies would have been correct in their assessment. The Israelites were outnumbered. They were outgunned too, because the armies of the land of Canaan had horses and chariots and superior weaponry. But the God for whom nothing is impossible was with Israel. The God who keeps His promises kept His promise to Israel and the list of Chapter 12 is proof of that.

"These are the kings of the land whom the Israelites had defeated and whose territory they took over east of the Jordan, from the Arnon Gorge to Mount Hermon, including all the eastern side of the Arabah: Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived in Heshbon." (Joshua 12:1-2a) We read the account of Sihon's defeat in Numbers 21. He was a king who came out against the Israelites while they were still on the east side of the Jordan. 

"He ruled from Aroer on the rim of the Arnon Gorge---from the middle of the Gorge---to the Jabbok River, which is the border of the Ammonites. This included half of Gilead. He also ruled over the eastern Arabah from the Sea of Galilee to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea), to Beth Jeshimoth, and then southward below the slopes of Pisgah." (Joshua 12:2b-3) Other than the Dead Sea, the location on this list with which we are probably most familiar is the Sea of Galilee. Jesus spent a lot of time in this region, walking and talking with the people, preaching the word of God and healing the sick along the shores of Galilee.

Also on the east side of the Jordan the Lord gave the kingdom of Og into Israel's hands. "And the territory of Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, who reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei. He ruled over Mount Hermon, Salekah, all of Bashan to the border of the people of Geshur and Maakah, and half of Gilead to the border of Sihon king of Heshbon." (Joshua 12:4-5) The Rephaites were people of large stature who lived among the Ammonites. In Deuteronomy 3:11 Moses told us that Og was so tall that his bed was more than nine cubits long. Translated into feet this means the king required a bed that was about thirteen feet long. He was probably at least ten feet tall to require a bed of this size and perhaps may have been as much as twelve feet tall. Moses encouraged his readers to go see the bed for themselves if they didn't believe him: "It is still in Rabbah of the Ammonites." (Deuteronomy 3:11b) But it didn't matter how big the king was or how big his army was, for the Lord fought on the side of Israel. 

After conquering these two kings, some of the Israelites fell requested to be allowed to have as their inheritance the land on the east of the Jordan  because the land was perfect for grazing their many herds of cattle. The land which formerly belonged to Sihon and Og became the possession of the tribe of Reuben, the tribe of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh. "Moses, the servant of the Lord, and the Israelites conquered them. And Moses the servant of the Lord gave their land to the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh to be their possession." (Joshua 12:6)

It behooves us to do the same thing the author of the book of Joshua is doing in Chapter 12: we should take time to think back on the victories the Lord has already given us. Thinking back over and being thankful for everything the Lord has done for us up to this point will strengthen our faith for today and for the future. The God who fought our battles in the past hasn't lost any of His strength. He is still as mighty to save as He ever was. He is still as faithful and true as He ever was.

Join us tomorrow as we take a look at the kings the Israelites conquered on the west side of the Jordan.


Monday, October 11, 2021

The Book Of Joshua. Day 29, The Northern Kings Defeated, Part Two

A huge army from the northern region of Canaan came out against Israel in Chapter 11. These kings had heard of Israel's victories over the southern kingdoms and they made an alliance with each other in an attempt to prevent Joshua and his soldiers from doing to their cities what they had done to the southern cities. But the Lord "gave them into the hand of Israel", as verse 8 of our last study session told us. This is where we pick up today, with the Israelites taking all the royal cities of the region.

"At that time Joshua turned back and captured Hazor and put its king to the sword. (Hazor had been the head of all these kingdoms.) Everyone in it they put to the sword. They totally destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed, and he burned Hazor itself." (Joshua 11:10-11) Joshua is doing what the Lord instructed the Israelites to do once they reached the promised land. The Lord told them they must eradicate the nations and tribes of Canaan. He has given these nations and tribes hundreds of years to repent of their idolatry and its heinous rituals (which included child sacrifice, in some cases) and they have not repented. The thought of this ought to break our hearts, just as the thought of anyone rejecting the Lord ought to break our hearts. 

Yesterday on a fall road trip I saw this on a church marquee: "Eternity is a long time to be wrong." I don't know whether the tribes of Canaan lived their lives with eternity in mind or whether they lived only for the pleasures of the moment. I don't know what type of afterlife they expected to have with their false gods but it's clear that they knew about the one true God. They knew about Him but did not accept Him as the one true God or even as a God among many to be worshiped. They made the wrong choices over and over, even while Israel (in the strength of the Lord) was conquering the promised land, and the only pagan people of Canaan we can feel confident ever entered the presence of the Lord were those who were not adults or who were not mentally capable of making spiritual decisions for themselves. Difficult as it is for us to think about all the men, women, and children of those cities being put to death, I do believe the souls of the innocent went to be with the Lord. Perhaps we can at least comfort ourselves with the thought that had those Canaanite children reached adulthood, they too would have sacrificed to false gods and would have forsaken the only Savior there is, but since they did not reach adulthood they passed out of this life straight into the presence of the Lord. 

"Joshua took all these royal cities and their kings and put them to the sword. He totally destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the Lord had commanded. Yet Israel did not burn any of the cities built on their mounds---except Hazor, which Joshua burned. The Israelites carried off for themselves all the plunder and livestock of these cities, but all the people they put to the sword until they completely destroyed them, not sparing anyone that breathed. As the Lord commanded His servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua did it; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses." (Joshua 11:12-15) The Israelites are allowed to take valuable items and livestock from these cities, unlike when they conquered Jericho. 

"So Joshua took this entire land: the hill country, all the Negev, the whole region of Goshen, the western foothills, the Arabah and the mountains of Israel with their foothills, from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, to Baal Gad in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He captured all their kings and put them to death. Joshua waged war against all these kings for a long time." (Joshua 11:16-18) It's estimated that it took several years for the army of Israel to conquer all these cities and territories. Although the Bible lists these victories in just a few short verses, most Bible scholars calculate that it took six to seven years to accomplish what took place in verses 16-18. They base their opinion on some information given later in the book of Joshua regarding the age of Joshua's friend Caleb at the end of the wars described here in Joshua 11. 

"Except for the Hivites living in Gibeon, not one city made a treaty of peace with the Israelites, who took them all in battle." (Joshua 11:19) As you'll recall, the men of Gibeon deceived the Israelites into making a treaty with them, and because of this treaty their lives were spared. The Israelites swore a solemn oath in the name of the Lord when they entered into this treaty and the oath could not be broken even though they found out they'd been tricked. The men of Gibeon contrived their ruse because of their fear of Israel and of Israel's God. Yet during the years it took the Israelites to conquer the promised land, no other nations or tribes came to fear the Lord enough to repent of their sins and turn to Him. No one else approached Israel to offer themselves as Israel's subjects and to submit themselves to Israel's God. Even while Israel was conquering the promised land, the Lord was still giving people time and opportunities to repent but they did not avail themselves of His mercy. If we needed any further proof that the Lord was correct in His judgment that no amount of time would ever be enough to persuade the heathens of Canaan to repent, this is it. Even while they saw the Lord's judgment falling on the cities around them, and even when it must have appeared inevitable that their own cities would be conquered, they still had no desire to make God the Lord of their lives. 

Sadly, we see the same type of situation when we get to the book of Revelation. No matter how many signs and wonders and plagues take place in the last days, we will still find some of the earth's inhabitants cursing the name of God. They will continue to reject Him no matter what and will choose any fate that doesn't include ever bowing their knees to Him. I think that's the same attitude that was present in ancient Canaan and as I said earlier, this ought to break our hearts. This ought to compel us to want to testify about our Lord to as many people as possible, in both word and deed, so that as many people as possible will come to know Him as their Savior. 

Because the people of Canaan have no heart for the Lord, the Lord allows them to remain in their rebellion. What happens when a person rebels against the Lord over and over? His heart grows harder and harder. In our next verse the Lord is simply allowing the people to do what they want to do. He is not forcing them to be rebellious; He's just letting them have their way. He stops dealing with their hearts because He knows they are not ever going to allow Him to get through. "For it was the Lord Himself who hardened their hearts to wage war against Israel, so that He might destroy them totally, exterminating them without mercy, as the Lord had commanded Moses." (Joshua 11:20) The Lord did not harden anyone's heart against their will. Just as in Exodus when we were told the Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart, the Lord is just letting these people be who they want to be. You'll recall how much Pharaoh hated the Israelites and wanted to be cruel to them; the Lord allowed him to give vent to his natural inclinations so the Lord could deliver Israel while at the same time bringing judgment down on Egypt. The same thing is happening with the nations of Canaan. They want to be hard-hearted toward the Lord. They want to be hard-hearted toward Israel. The Lord is finished with imploring them to repent because He knows they never will repent. He always knew it but because He is holy and righteous He must provide opportunities for repentance anyway. But now He uses their hard hearts to bring about a judgment that has been a long time in coming. He's been patient for centuries. No one can ever accuse Him of not providing time and opportunities for repentance. But now He takes His hands off, so to speak, because He knows the hate in their hearts will cause them to want to exterminate Israel. But He allows Israel to exterminate them instead.

Not only did Joshua and the army of Israel defeat the mighty kings and armies of the northern territories but they also defeated the giants in the land. These are the giants the twelve spies saw back in the book of Numbers when Moses sent them to spy out the land. Joshua and Caleb did not lose heart when they saw these men of great stature but instead announced to all Israel that the Lord was able to do what He promised He would do. But the ten other spies lost heart when they saw the giants and the great fortified cities of Canaan. They enticed most of the congregation of Israel into doubt and fear, causing them to refuse to cross over into the promised land. But now, forty years later, we see that the faith of Joshua and Caleb was justified. The Lord can indeed do what He promises He will do. He enables Israel to defeat the giants. "At that time Joshua went and destroyed the Anakites from the hill country: from Hebron, Debir and Anab, from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel. No Anakites were left in Israelite territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any survive." (Joshua 11:21-22) The only giants remaining in the land are those that inhabit the territories under Philistine control. The Israelites will encounter those later on.

"So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had directed Moses, and He gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from war." (Joshua 11:23) The Bible refers to some of the territories in our passage today as being "in Israel" or "in Judah" because the book of Joshua was written after these things had been completed---after Israel was occupying the land. These territories were not called by the name of Israel or by the name of any of Israel's tribes prior to the conquering of the promised land.

Several of the commentaries I consulted pointed out that the Lord left the giants for last. He trained Israel for war against ordinary-sized men long before Israel's soldiers ever found themselves face to face with men of extraordinary stature. That's how the Lord works in our lives too. He doesn't send us out to fight giants the day after we become believers in Him. He helps us build our strength in smaller battles first. He knows we need time to develop a relationship with Him. He knows we need time to hide His words in our hearts. The twelve spies in the book of Numbers saw the giants but only two of them realized they wouldn't be expected to face them down the minute they stepped foot into the promised land. That's why only two of those spies---Joshua and Caleb---are still alive to fight those giants. They understood they would fight small, faith building battles along the way. These small battles trained them for the big battles.

This is why we face small annoyances on a regular basis. This is why we have small and medium hurdles to jump over; they're preparing us for the bigger hurdles we'll encounter from time to time. I don't know about you, but this whole year has been a series of hurdles for me. I can't recall too many times in my life when it seemed like I barely clear one hurdle until I'm having to leap over another. But the Lord never puts us through obstacle courses without having a reason for it. He sends us to boot camp from time to time in order to hone our skills, in order to build bigger spiritual muscles, and to draw us closer to Him. If He allows us to get weak and lazy then we won't have the strength to win the bigger battles that come against us in this world. So even though I don't know why I'm currently going through a "boot camp year", so to speak, I trust that there's a very good reason for it. The Lord has my best interests at heart. I admit that I don't like this type of intense training but the Lord never sends us anything that isn't necessary for our wellbeing. Maybe there's a giant up ahead that I'll have to fight. Or maybe the Lord just wants to teach me something new about Himself.