Joshua 13

The Word Made Fresh

1The LORD said to Joshua, “You’re an old man now, and there are still large territories to conquer: 2the land of the Philistines and Geshurites 3from the Shihor River east of Egypt to Ekron on the north. It includes the lands of the five Philistine kings in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (Canaanite territory) and the Avvim in the south, 4and all of Canaan, Sidonian Mearah to Aphek at the boundary of the Amorites. 5Also, the land of the Gebalites, all of Lebanon from Baal-Gad below Mt. Hermon to Lebohamath, 6and the hill country between Lebanon and Misrephothmaim, including the Sidonians there. I will run them out myself, so make sure you allot the land to Israel as an inheritance. 7So, you are to divide all this land to the nine tribes plus the half tribe of Manasseh.

8The rest of Manasseh with Reuben and Gad have already received their inheritance from Moses east of the Jordan. 9It runs from Aroer beside the Arnon streambed, includes the town in the valley and all the tableland from Medeba to Dibon. 10It includes all the cities of the Amorite king Sihon in Heshbon all the way to the boundary with Ammon. 11Also Gilead and the land of the Geshurites and Maacathites, Mt. Hermon and Bashan over to Salecah; 12and all the land ruled by king Og of Bashan, the last of the Asherim, who ruled from Ashtaroth and Edrei. Moses defeated them all, 13but the Israelites failed to chase out the Geshurites and the Maacathites – those people still reside within Israel.

14The only tribe that did not receive an inheritance of land from Moses was Levi. They inherited the sacrifices made to the LORD God of Israel.

15Here is what Moses allotted to the clans belonging to the tribe of Reuben: 16from Aroer beside the Arnon streambed, including the town that was there, and the tableland near Medeba 17with Heshbon and its outlying villages (Dibon, Bamoth-Baal, Beth-Baal-Meon, 18Jahaz, Kedemoth, Mephaath, 19Keriathaim, Sibmah, Zereth-shahar on a hill in the valley, 20Beth-Peor near the slopes of Mt. Pisgah, and Beth-Shimon. 21So, all the towns in the tableland, the whole territory of the Amorite king Sihon of Heshbon whom Moses defeated, including the leaders of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba, Sihon’s princes. 22Among all those the Israelites killed was the seer Balaam son of Meor. 23Reuben’s border was the Jordan.

24Moses gave the tribe of Gad as their inheritance 25Jazer and all of Gilead, half the land of the Amorites to Aroer east of Rabah, 26then from Heshbon to Ramath-Mizpeh and Betonim, and from Mahanaim to Debir, 27the valley towns of Beth-Haram, Beth-Nimrah, Succoth, Zaphon, and the rest of king Sihon’s territory from the banks of the Jordan to the lower end of Lake Chinnereth eastward. 28All of this was inherited by Gad.

29Moses gave the half tribe of Manasseh 30the land from Mahanaim through Bashan, including all the territory of king Og of Bashan, the sixty villages of Jair in Bashan, 31and half of Gilead and Ashtaroth and Edrei; all this was given to Machir the son of Manasseh.

32All of this is what Moses distributed in the plains of Moab east of the Jordan as the inheritance of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. 33(The tribe of Levi received no allotment because the LORD God of Israel is their inheritance.)

Commentary

1-7: Joshua receives God’s word that he must allot each of the tribes their territory. Remember, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh already have been granted the country east of the Jordan. The territories outlined here still to be inhabited are the coastal lands of the Philistines (a Greek word from which the Latin word Palestine is formed) and the northern territories in what is today the extreme southern part of Lebanon.

8-14: The tribes that settled the east bank of the Jordan are allotted that territory. Note that in verse 13 there are still indigenous people in the land – they were not wiped out after all!

15-33: Now each of the three eastern tribes’ possessions are enumerated. The large number of “towns” undoubtedly included many settlements that probably had no more than a family or two.

Takeaway

As Moses reached the end of his life his task was to prepare the people spiritually for their conquest of the land. Now as Joshua comes to his last years, his task is to assign territory to each of the tribes so that (1) there will not be conflict between them in the years to come, and (2) to fulfill Abraham’s legacy that God had given them all the land. The next several chapters are filled with lists of towns, many if not most of which are lost and cannot be located today. Make use of a Bible Atlas – bound book or Internet – to get a clearer idea of the extent of Israel’s possessions.