Division of the land

Joshua 14-21

A. Prologue (14.1-5)

1. Caleb (14.6-15)

2. Tribe of Judah (15.1-63): Southern Canaan

3. Tribe(s) of Joseph (16.1-4, 17.14-18): Northern Canaan

3a. Ephraim (16.5-10)

3b. The rest of Manasseh (17.1-13)

4. The rest of the land for the seven tribes (18.1-10)

4a. Benjamin (18.11-25)

4b. Simeon (19.1-9)

4c. Zebulun (19.10-16)

4d. Issachar (19.17-23)

4e. Asher (19.24-31)

4f. Naphtali (19.32-39)

4g. Dan (19.40-48)

5. Joshua (19.49-51)

6. Cities for refuge (20.1-8)

7. Towns for the Levites (21.1-42)

A’. Epilogue (21.43-45)

1. The division appropriately started with Caleb and ended with Joshua (discounting cities for refuge and towns for the Levites, which were taken from the established cities of the rest of the tribes), since Caleb and Joshua were the two spies who did say that the Israelites should take possession of the land, while the other ten said that they should not and could not (Num 13). Caleb and Joshua were the only remnants from the generation that went out from Egypt. Of all people, only two managed to complete the journey from Egypt to the land of Canaan. So it is perhaps appropriate that they were specially allocated with cities and towns.

2. Two tribes were singled out from the nine-and-a-half tribes who have not been allocated the land yet (the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh have chosen to settle on the other side of Jordan): Judah and Joseph. These two have been marked out since the book of Genesis (and, for what it’s worth, Caleb is of Judah and Joshua is of Joseph, i.e., of Ephraim). These two were greater than the other tribes because (1) from Leah’s lineage, Reuben, Levi, and Simeon had forfeited their birthright (Reuben, the firstborn: sleeping with Bilhah, his stepmom’s maid; Simeon and Levi, the next in line: for their disproportionate vengeance against Shechem) so that it fell into Judah, the fourth son, and (2) from Rachel’s lineage, Joseph the firstborn (not to mention that Joseph saved the entire family of Jacob by incorporating them into Egypt).

3. Judah was given the southern Canaan and Joseph (Ephraim and the rest of Manasseh) was given the northern Canaan. This would be a sign of things to come. Judah would be the symbol of the southern kingdom while Ephraim would be the symbol of the northern kingdom.

4. Jos 15.63: “Judah could not dislodge the Jebusites, who were living in Jerusalem.” Another sign of things to come. David would attack the Jebusites, took over Jerusalem, and made it the capital of his kingdom (2 Sam 5.6-9).

5. The rest of the land for the rest seven tribes is pretty neat as well, as seven symbolizes completeness and these seven tribes “completed” Judah and Joseph.

6. The order for the rest seven tribes:

a. Rachel’s (whom Jacob loved the most) other child: Benjamin.

b. Leah’s other children: Simeon, Issachar, and Zebulun.

c. Zilpah’s (Leah’s servant): Asher.

d. Bilhah’s (Rachel’s servant): Dan and Naphtali.

7. The division basically went north as it went along. So it ended with Dan, the northernmost part of Israel. As they used to say, “from Dan to Beersheba”, to describe the extent of land occupied by the Israelites (e.g., Jdgs 20.1; naturally, Beersheba belongs to the tribe of Judah).


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