Joshua 13: The Inheritance

February 6, 2011 Series: Joshua: Lord's Army

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Joshua 13:1–13:33


Scripture Reading 

Now Joshua was old and advanced in years, and the Lord said to him, “You are old and advanced in years, and there remains yet very much land to possess. 2 This is the land that yet remains: all the regions of the Philistines, and all those of the Geshurites 3 (from the Shihor, which is east of Egypt, northward to the boundary of Ekron, it is counted as Canaanite; there are five rulers of the Philistines, those of Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron), and those of the Avvim, 4 in the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, to Aphek, to the boundary of the Amorites, 5 and the land of the Gebalites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrise, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo-hamath, 6 all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon to Misrephoth-maim, even all the Sidonians. I myself will drive them out from before the people of Israel. Only allot the land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have commanded you. 7 Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance to the nine tribes and half the tribe of Manasseh.”


Sleepy Portions

With the closure of the northern campaign, chapter 13 begins the third major section of the record of Joshua that takes us through chapter 21—the division of the land.  As the bloody record of brutality and warfare comes to a close, we enter the section of the narrative dedicated to dividing spoils of a seven year war.  And it is in these passages, even more than a list of kings, that begin to feel our eyelids grow heavy, our ears dull, our butts numb, and the idea of watching trees grow or paint dry becomes more inviting than reading a 2,500 year old land survey.  One list was tolerable in chapter 12, but now we have 8 chapters of lists!   


Special Portion

It’s essential that our approach begins with placing ourselves into the mind and attitude of an Israelite whose father’s, father’s, father’s, father has been looking toward this day. In our culture of immediacy, we have few things to compare.  Perhaps the only one is looking forward to the day graduated college, retired, or got married.  This is Israel’s long-awaited inheritance.  Though the details of the passage can bore us, for an Israelite in this day, they were analyzing every word that described every detail of the blessings that God had given them.   It reminded me of when we bring our little babies home, but even as they grow, how we marvel at every eye, ear, finger, toe, every sound they make.  So Israel, listens to every word, making a note of every river, every city, mountain, field.  It all mattered to them. 


After over 500 years, God’s promise for His people to possess the land unfolds.  The next chapters record Joshua dividing the land among the 12 tribes of Israel, who represent the 12 sons of Jacob, the great grandchildren of Abraham to whom the promise was originally made.  Continuing with verse 8:


V. 8-14 Separating Portions 

8 With the other half of the tribe of Manasseh the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond the Jordan eastward, as Moses the servant of the Lord gave them: 9 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the valley, and all the tableland of Medeba as far as Dibon; 10 and all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, as far as the boundary of the Ammonites; 11 and Gilead, and the region of the Geshurites and Maacathites, and all Mount Hermon, and all Bashan to Salecah; 12 all the kingdom of Og in Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei (he alone was left of the remnant of the Rephaim); these Moses had struck and driven out. 13Yet the people of Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maacathites, but Geshur and Maacath dwell in the midst of Israel to this day.

14 To the tribe of Levi alone Moses gave no inheritance. The offerings by fire to the Lord God of Israel are their inheritance, as he said to him.


v. 1- 5 Severing the Umbilical Cord

The LORD began our passage telling Joshua that he is getting old—“advanced/stricken in years”.  We know that he dies at 110, so he is probably near 100 at this point—which means he was leading the fight in his nineties.  A side bar to that is to recognize that when you get old, God is not done with you.  In fact, for many of you, God is just beginning.  He tells his faithful General that there are many more lands to occupy in order to completely possess it—and he is too old to do it.   With the main campaign over, now there is a transition between Israel fighting as a community and the individual tribes fighting for themselves—the umbilical cord is being severed.  BUT, the LORD promises to continue to fight and lead each individual tribe as they clean out their allotted areas and fully occupy them.  Still led by God then, the tribes would assume smaller missions, in their own unique parts of the land, as part of the same overall mission of conquest.  The passage reminded me of what Paul wrote in: Galatians 6.2-5 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. 5 For each will have to bear his own load.


v. 6 the only true Legacy

I wonder if this is a difficult change for Joshua.  He is no longer needed, at least not in the same way.  The division of the land signals a change in his leadership like a Father watching his son or daughter begin their own family.  I wonder if Joshua is scared, if he is concerned about how well they will do on their own.  There isn’t much time to re-teach the important things.  Chapters 1-11 extend well over 7 years, while chapters 13-21 are probably a short few days—a pause before his farewell speeches in chapters 23 and 24.  But even if he had the time, what would he teach them?  Strategy? Fighting Skills?  Joshua proved successful not because of his skill, but because he obeyed God with strength and courage.  No leader’s task is ever finished, but at some point the leader’s task is not longer to lead out front.  New leaders can and should arise.  His role now is to entrust faithful men to lead the next generation—to leave a legacy for his family and for all of Israel.  Each generation has new challenges to faith.  And though Joshua can pass on all kinds of fighting skills, the only real thing of value we can pass on to others is faithfulness to God.


v. 8-13 Of Comfort and Complacency

It has to be hard because, as we all know, releasing the fight to faithful men doesn’t mean that they will always prove faithful.  That is hard as a leader, as a parent, to watch.  And as the possession east of the Jordan is described, it isn’t long before the first signs of Israel’s failure to fulfill their mission surfaces in verse 13.  I say first because it is not the last time you will hear this phrase.  Perhaps the receipt of their inheritance, the joy of materials blessing, has made  them a little more comfortable and little less vigilant.  Though they were faithful in the crisis of war, when there was a sense of urgency, when the battle was raging, their complete obedience has been threatened in peace and prosperity—threatened by the people AND by God.  Numbers 33.55 55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be as barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell. 56 And I will do to you as I thought to do to them.”


V. 15-31 Good & Bad Portions

With verse 15, we see three different inheritances described in detail—Rueben, Gad, and Manasseh. 15 And Moses gave an inheritance to the tribe of the people of Reuben according to their clans. 16 So their territory was from Aroer, which is on the edge of the Valley of the Arnon, and the city that is in the middle of the valley, and all the tableland by Medeba; 17 with Heshbon, and all its cities that are in the tableland; Dibon, and Bamoth-baal, and Beth-baal-meon, 18 and Jahaz, and Kedemoth, and Mephaath, 19 and Kiriathaim, and Sibmah, and Zereth-shahar on the hill of the valley, 20 and Beth-peor, and the slopes of Pisgah, and Beth-jeshimoth, 21 that is, all the cities of the tableland, and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses defeated with the leaders of Midian, Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the princes of Sihon, who lived in the land. 22 Balaam also, the son of Beor, the one who practiced divination, was killed with the sword by the people of Israel among the rest of their slain. 23 And the border of the people of Reuben was the Jordan as a boundary. This was the inheritance of the people of Reuben, according to their clans with their cities and villages.


24 Moses gave an inheritance also to the tribe of Gad, to the people of Gad, according to their clans. 25 Their territory was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the Ammonites, to Aroer, which is east of Rabbah, 26 and from Heshbon to Ramath-mizpeh and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to the territory of Debir, 27 and in the valley Beth-haram, Beth-nimrah, Succoth, and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, having the Jordan as a boundary, to the lower end of the Sea of Chinnereth, eastward beyond the Jordan. 28 This is the inheritance of the people of Gad according to their clans, with their cities and villages.


 29 And Moses gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh. It was allotted to the half-tribe of the people of Manasseh according to their clans. 30 Their region extended from Mahanaim, through all Bashan, the whole kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty cities, 31 and half Gilead, and Ashtaroth, and Edrei, the cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan. These were allotted to the people of Machir the son of Manasseh for the half of the people of Machir according to their clans.


God assigns our portion

As the portions of divided among these tribes, there are several things we learn here.  First, the division of the land is not by chance.  On the East side of the Jordan it was done through Moses who divided.  On the West side of the Jordan, we see that not only did God give the land o Israel he allotted it to whom he chose.  Joshua 18.6 tells us that the remaining 7 tribes would be divided by lots—which God controlled.  In other words, what each tribe received as their portion they were supposed to receive.  There were no mistakes, no boundary disputes, no confusion on who was supposed to receive what:  God assigns portions and determines lots.  And some of us don’t like our lot and we live lives of discontentment because we like the lots of other people—their gifts, talents, families, their jobs, experiences, their material blessings. Job 1.21 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”


Portion to Reuben: Sins of our Fathers

At the same time, our portions can be impacted by our sin.  Centuries before the land was divided Jacob, when dying, had uttered prophecies regarding his sons. His prophecy about his firstborn son Reuben was condemning because Reuben had at one time, slept with one of his father’s wives.  As firstborn, Reuben was entitled to a double portion but neither he nor his tribe received it. More than four centuries later, the punishment for Reuben’s sinful deed is passed on to his descendants; the right of the firstborn passed over to his brother Joseph who received two portions, one for Ephraim and the other for Manasseh (Gen. 48:12-20).  So, though the portions are distributed by God, what we have is often impacted by the sins of our parents and there parents.  At times, this plays out in what we actually have, other times it manifests itself out in the kind people we are.  Exodus 34.5-7 5 The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. 6 The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, 7 keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”  But instead of analyzing everything we don’t have and finding a Daddy wound to blame, let us consider instead how our own sins might impact the future generations to come. 


Portion to Manasseh & Gad:  Mistakes of our Fathers

As for Manasseh and Gad, we see that their portions are not tainted by the sins of their fathers but, perhaps, by the stupidity of their Fathers.  There are many things that I as a father do that may not be considered “SINFUL” but they often prove fairly stupid.  For these guys, if you read the account in Numbers 32, it seems as if the leaders of these tribes are choosing based on appearances of one portion of the land RIGHT IN FRONT OF THEM without considering what might be on the other side of the river.  The request of the two and one-half tribes to settle in Transjordan may have not been the wisest. As you read, it seemed like they made a hasty decision as the first land they conquered they asked to settle.  As a result, the territories they got were the most vulnerable of all.  They had no natural boundaries to the east and were therefore constantly exposed to invasion.  When the Assyrian King eventually looked toward Canaan, Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh were the first to be carried into captivity.  The account in Numbers 32 reads as if they are making a decision for the security of their women and children.  Unfortunately, their decision made their women and children more insecure than any other. 


CONCLUSION V. 32-33 God AS THE Portion

The final verses give us a fitting summary and conclusion to the beginning of the divisions and sets the stage for all of the portions that will come in the next 8 chapters.  Verse 32 reads:  32 These are the inheritances that Moses distributed in the plains of Moab, beyond the Jordan east of Jericho. 33 But to the tribe of Levi Moses gave no inheritance; the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance, just as he said to them.


Even if I lose…

The passage ends (v.33) by reminding Israel and all who would read this record, that land itself is little more than dirt.  The tribe of Levi, the ones chosen by God to be the priests in Israel, do not get an allotment of land.  Later they get cities within the lands of each tribe, but here we are reminded of the true nature of the promise (one that applies to the church as well—the priesthood of believers).  This passage does mark the details of a promise kept by God, but it is the LORD himself, apart from the land, which represents the true prize. 


We are all Levites

Though the levities did not get a “portion” that could be measured, they received an inheritance beyond measure.  Sadly, our sin so affects us that we want more than anything to get OUR PORTION in this earth.  We covet what we don’t have, worshipping what we think will make us happy apart from God.  We are all guilty of holding on to the land or the hope for the “land” too tightly.  And the place of true worship, the place reserved for the Christian, the church, what the Bible describes as the priesthood of belivers, is the attitude of Christ who gave up everything, not so that I might get health, wealth, power, fame, comfort, but God. 


God is the Gospel

"The critical question for our generation—and for every generation— is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied with
heaven, if Christ were not there? " —
John Piper (God Is the Gospel: Meditations on God's Love as the Gift of Himself)
Even if I lose the land, God is my portion.  Even if I lose _______________ I have Jesus. 


Benediction 1 Peter 1.3-9

1 Peter 1.3-9 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. 6 In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7 so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

More in Joshua: Lord's Army

April 3, 2011

Joshua 24: The Choice

March 27, 2011

Joshua 23: The Charge

March 20, 2011

Joshua 22: The Breach