Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Next Generation

Judges 2:6-23

“And when Joshua had let the people go, the children of Israel went every man unto his inheritance to possess the land.  And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the LORD, that he did for Israel. 

And Joshua, the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.  And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathheres, in the mount of Ephraim, on the north side of the hill Gaash.” (Judges 2:6-9) 

Assuming Joshua was about the same age as Caleb, which seems likely, he would have been about eighty when he assumed leadership of Israel, or about the same age Moses was when God selected him.  Since all the other men over twenty years old had died in the wilderness, Joshua and Caleb were about twenty years older than the next oldest men.  Almost certainly some of those who had been in Egypt lived more than twenty years after Joshua died.

Joshua had such and impact on Israel that they served the Lord throughout his administration and as long as any of the elders who had been in Egypt and saw what God had done survived.  Few men affect the course of a nation for more than fifty years.

“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the LORD, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel.” (Judges 2:10) 

The children who were born in the land had no personal memories or experience of God’s miracles, depending totally on what they had been taught by their parents. Often, parents do not share what they have experienced completely, and children only hear the most dramatic stories which seem unreal.  As a result the parents’ insistence on certain behavior seems somewhat excessive.  Only as the children gain experience do they begin to appreciate their parents’ teachings.  The younger generation saw little value in keeping God’s law.

In Genesis, Abraham knew the Lord, experiencing his power mightily.  Isaac still believed and followed the Lord, but Esau and Jacob had no personal experience of God.  We see the same thing in the church today, with children of devoted Christians who have no real understanding of the things of God or the importance of what God has said.  It always turns out the same way.

“And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim:  And they forsook the LORD God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the LORD to anger.  And they forsook the LORD, and served Baal and Ashtaroth.” (Judges 2:11-13)

The younger generation had obeyed the law as long as the older ones insisted but they had no real convictions of their own.  When there were no longer any old ones to insist on keeping it, the younger generation began ignoring the law, adopting the standards and attitudes of the people around them, even to the point of worshipping other gods.

“And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he delivered them into the hands of spoilers that spoiled them, and he sold them into the hands of their enemies round about, so that they could not any longer stand before their enemies.  Whithersoever they went out, the hand of the LORD was against them for evil, as the LORD had said, and as the LORD had sworn unto them: and they were greatly distressed.” (Judges 2:14-15) 

A wood burning stove can cause very severe burns if touched.  A parent found it necessary to constantly keep a baby away from such a stove, repeatedly telling them it was hot.  Unfortunately a baby doesn’t understand the word hot until he has experienced it.  Almost invariably he would try to touch the stove repeatedly, often just to get the parents attention.  In order to teach his child to listen to his instructions, often a mother would allow the fire to go out in the stove and when it was cool enough to be painful but not do permanent damage, she would pretend not to see him reaching out to touch it.  The child quickly learned that his mother’s “no” was for his protection, not just an arbitrary decision.

While many view it as cruel today, this approach saved millions of babies from serious injury or death.  The parent cannot always be there to protect a child, and it is far more cruel to allow him to be seriously hurt of killed because he didn’t understand the danger.

Israel’s deliberate disobedience angered God, and he essentially took the same approach in order to teach Israel the importance of God’s commands.  While it might seem harsh, it was a very loving thing to do.  Unfortunately every generation has to learn the same lessons.

“Nevertheless the LORD raised up judges, which delivered them out of the hand of those that spoiled them.  And yet they would not hearken unto their judges, but they went a whoring after other gods, and bowed themselves unto them: they turned quickly out of the way which their fathers walked in, obeying the commandments of the LORD; but they did not so. 

And when the LORD raised them up judges, then the LORD was with the judge, and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge: for it repented the LORD because of their groanings by reason of them that oppressed them and vexed them.  And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they returned, and corrupted themselves more than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them, and to bow down unto them; they ceased not from their own doings, nor from their stubborn way.” (Judges 2:16-19) 

Like the mother who allowed her baby to touch the hot stove would rush to his side when he cried out, removing him from danger, God would rush to Israel’s rescue each time.  Just as a baby would sometimes touch the stove again, Israel frequently did the same thing again as soon as it stopped hurting.

Sometimes one child will learn from what happens to another, but every generation has to learn how important obeying God is.  When the older ones died, the lessons had to be retaught.

“And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel; and he said, Because that this people hath transgressed my covenant which I commanded their fathers, and have not hearkened unto my voice; I also will not henceforth drive out any from before them of the nations which Joshua left when he died: That through them I may prove Israel, whether they will keep the way of the LORD to walk therein, as their fathers did keep it, or not.  Therefore the LORD left those nations, without driving them out hastily; neither delivered he them into the hand of Joshua.” (Judges 2:20-23)

Even while Joshua was alive, the people had begun to neglect some of what God had said, taxing their enemies rather than destroying or driving them out.  As a result, God stopped driving them out for them, so he could use them to teach Israel to obey him in the future. Fortunately God is pretty patient.  Thirteen times he re-teaches the same lesson in the book of Judges alone.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Failure To Complete The Job

Judges 1:19-2:5

“And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron.” (Judges 1:19)

In Deuteronomy 11:25, God had promised, “There shall no man be able to stand before you: for the LORD your God shall lay the fear of you and the dread of you upon all the land that ye shall tread upon, as he hath said unto you."   The Mountainous regions were too rough for the iron Chariots and Judah was able to easily defeat them.  They were unable to take the valleys at that time however.  It must have seemed that God had broken his promise.

“And they gave Hebron unto Caleb, as Moses said: and he expelled thence the three sons of Anak.” (Judges 1:20)

The only area that was completely free of the previous inhabitants was around Hebron.  Caleb had trusted God to give him the victory over the giants the rest had feared, and he was able to drive them out completely.  None of the tribes were as successful as he was.

“And the children of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites that inhabited Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem unto this day.” (Judges 1:21)

Jerusalem marked the boundary between Judah and Benjamin, although it lay in Benjamite territory.  Almost six hundred years later, when David wanted to make Jerusalem his capital, the Jebusites had regained control and he had to fight them to take possession.

“And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel: and the LORD was with them.  And the house of Joseph sent to descry Bethel. (Now the name of the city before was Luz.)  And the spies saw a man come forth out of the city, and they said unto him, Show us, we pray thee, the entrance into the city, and we will show thee mercy.  And when he showed them the entrance into the city, they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family.  And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called the name thereof Luz: which is the name thereof unto this day.” (Judges 1:22-25)

The reputation for keeping their promises that Israel had established in their treetment of Rahab and the city of Gibeon enabled combined forces of Ephraim and Manasseh to easily breach the city of Luz’s defenses.  Luz was known to the Jews as Bethel, the house of God.  It was where Abraham had built his altar and where Jacob saw the vision of the ladder into heaven.

“Neither did Manasseh drive out the inhabitants of Bethshean and her towns, nor Taanach and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and her towns, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: but the Canaanites would dwell in that land. 

And it came to pass, when Israel was strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute, and did not utterly drive them out.” (Judges 1:27-28)

In Exodus 23:28-30, God had promised to drive out the inhabitants of the land as Israel was able to occupy it.  “And I will send hornets before thee, which shall drive out the Hivite, the Canaanite, and the Hittite, from before thee.  I will not drive them out from before thee in one year; lest the land become desolate, and the beast of the field multiply against thee.  By little and little I will drive them out from before thee, until thou be increased, and inherit the land.”

He had and was fulfilling his promise, driving out the groups in the mountains first.  Judah wanted to take over the valleys right away, but the valleys enabled the use of superior weapons that they were not able to defeat at the moment.  Apparently, God did not feel they were ready for that much land yet.

The problem was that when they became strong enough, and needed the land, the Israelites were more concerned with collecting the tribute from them than in obeying God.  In Numbers 33:51-53, God had commanded, “Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan; Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places: And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.”  The problem was not that God failed to do his part, but that Israel failed to do theirs.  The failure was not limited to a few tribes.

"Neither did Ephraim drive out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt in Gezer among them.

 Neither did Zebulun drive out the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries. 

Neither did Asher drive out the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor of Ahlab, nor of Achzib, nor of Helbah, nor of Aphik, nor of Rehob: But the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: for they did not drive them out. 

Neither did Naphtali drive out the inhabitants of Bethshemesh, nor the inhabitants of Bethanath; but he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land: nevertheless the inhabitants of Bethshemesh and of Bethanath became tributaries unto them. 

And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley: But the Amorites would dwell in mount Heres in Aijalon, and in Shaalbim: yet the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, so that they became tributaries.  And the coast of the Amorites was from the going up to Akrabbim, from the rock, and upward.” (Judges 1:29-36)

Every tribe failed to completely obey God in driving out their enemies, often over extending themselves by trying to drive them all out at once, rather than concentrating on completely eliminating them in the areas they had taken.

“And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.  And ye shall make no league with the inhabitants of this land; ye shall throw down their altars: but ye have not obeyed my voice: why have ye done this? 

Wherefore I also said, I will not drive them out from before you; but they shall be as thorns in your sides, and their gods shall be a snare unto you.” (Judges 2:1-3)

God sent his angel to remind Israel what he had warned them about in Numbers 33:55.  “But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.”  Through out their history, these pockets of other peoples would maintain their false religions and reinfect Israel.

“And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.  And they called the name of that place Bochim: and they sacrificed there unto the LORD.” (Judges 2:4-5)

Stepping Up To Lead

Judges 1:1-18

“Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass, that the children of Israel asked the LORD, saying, Who shall go up for us against the Canaanites first, to fight against them?” (Judges 1:1) 

During Moses’ and Joshua’s periods Israel had always had a designated leader.  God had not appointed anyone to take Joshua’s place as a national leader.  The Canaanites had not yet been fully eliminated and still posed a threat.  Israel began looking for someone to lead them into battle.

“And the LORD said, Judah shall go up: behold, I have delivered the land into his hand.  And Judah said unto Simeon his brother, Come up with me into my lot, that we may fight against the Canaanites; and I likewise will go with thee into thy lot. So Simeon went with him.” (Judges 1:2-3) 

God did not designate an individual, but the tribe of Judah to go fight.  Judah asked Simeon to come and assist in the project This makes a lot of sense since the main body of Canaanite settlements lay in the area claimed by Judah and Simeon.

The Book of Judges teaches us how God intended Israel, and the Church to function.   In Deuteronomy 17 we learn that it was not God’s intention for them to have a king or powerful national leader, but that one day they would choose to have one anyway.   God’s plan was for each individual to take responsibility for themselves.  If a problem affected several, they were to work together to correct it.  Judah and Simeon collaborating to defeat the Canaanite forces illustrates how this was to work.

This plan was satisfactory for about six hundred years, more than twice as long as Israel survived when they chose a king.

“And Judah went up; and the LORD delivered the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand: and they slew of them in Bezek ten thousand men.  And they found Adonibezek in Bezek: and they fought against him, and they slew the Canaanites and the Perizzites.  But Adonibezek fled; and they pursued after him, and caught him, and cut off his thumbs and his great toes. 

And Adonibezek said, Threescore and ten kings, having their thumbs and their great toes cut off, gathered their meat under my table: as I have done, so God hath requited me. And they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.” (Judges 1:4-7) 

Judah and Simeon handily defeated the Canaanite forces under the leadership of king Adonibezek, capturing him alive.  Cutting off his thumbs made it far more difficult to hold things and cutting off his big toe affected his ability to walk or run.  It would serve to remind him day by day of his inferior status.  Since that was the accepted way of demonstrating the conquering kings superiority, and what he had done to seventy other kings, Adonibezek accepted it as only fitting.   He lived out the remainder of his life as a captive in Jerusalem.

Six hundred years later, when Saul saved Agag, king of the Amalekites, contrary to God’s command, it appears he had a similar intention to show off his power.

“Now the children of Judah had fought against Jerusalem, and had taken it, and smitten it with the edge of the sword, and set the city on fire.  And afterward the children of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites, that dwelt in the mountain, and in the south, and in the valley.  And Judah went against the Canaanites that dwelt in Hebron: (now the name of Hebron before was Kirjatharba:) and they slew Sheshai, and Ahiman, and Talmai.

And from thence he went against the inhabitants of Debir: and the name of Debir before was Kirjathsepher: And Caleb said, He that smiteth Kirjathsepher, and taketh it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter to wife.

 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb's younger brother, took it: and he gave him Achsah his daughter to wife. 

And it came to pass, when she came to him, that she moved him to ask of her father a field: and she lighted from off her ass; and Caleb said unto her, What wilt thou?  And she said unto him, Give me a blessing: for thou hast given me a south land; give me also springs of water. And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the nether springs.” (Judges 1:8-15) 

After wiping out the main Canaanite stronghold at Bezek, Judah took and burned Jerusalem before proceeding to attack the other Canaanite villages and towns in the south and eastern mountains.  Caleb himself had killed the three giant Anakims, and had taken the city of Hebron.  He had offered to give his daughter Achsah as a wife to whoever could take the city of Debir, and his nephew Othniel took him up on the offer, as described in Joshua 15:13-20.  The tribe of Judah just mopped up the remaining pockets of resistance at this time.

“And the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lieth in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.” (Judges 1:16)

Moses’ Middianite in-laws had joined Israel after they left Mount Sinai some seventy years before.  They settled in the wilderness along the western shore of the Dead Sea and were accepted as a part of the tribe of Judah.

“And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, and utterly destroyed it. And the name of the city was called Hormah.  Also Judah took Gaza with the coast thereof, and Askelon with the coast thereof, and Ekron with the coast thereof.” (Judges 1:17-18)

Judah and Simeon then moved to the west, subjugating the Philistine cities along the Mediterranean shore.  Unfortunately, they didn’t finish the job and about two hundred years later, the Philistines were able to revolt and establish their own kingdom.

Modern Palestinians still base their claim to part of Israel on the ancient Philistine culture.  Their connection to the Philistines is questionable, as they are descendants of the mixed peoples the Assyrians resettled into Israel after they destroyed the northern kingdom known as Israel about 721 BC.  In Jesus’ day they were known as the Samaritans. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Death Of Joshua

Joshua 24:29-33

“And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being an hundred and ten years old.  And they buried him in the border of his inheritance in Timnathserah, which is in mount Ephraim, on the north side of the hill of Gaash.” (Joshua 24:29-30)

For forty years, before taking leadership of Israel, Joshua had been their top general under Moses.  After Moses‘ death, Joshua assumed the political leadership as well.  Under his leadership, they transitioned from a homeless nomadic group to a stable agrarian society with clearly defined boundaries and property.  During his seventy years of leading the army, they had defeated some of the most powerful countries and alliances of their day, suffering only two minor defeats.

Despite his long and devoted service and great accomplishments, Joshua was not held in nearly the esteem Moses had been.  It was not necessary for God to hide Joshua’s burial place to prevent their worshipping him as he had done with Moses’.   He was simply buried on his family property.

“And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.” (Joshua 24:31) 

Moses had been Israel’s first leader, leading them out of Egypt, and teaching them to serve God.  Joshua’s leadership of the army and efforts to assist Moses played a major role in Moses’ success.  After Moses’ death, it had been Joshua’s efforts that kept Israel on track, both in following what Moses had commanded and in defeating their enemies.

Assuming Joshua was about the same age as Caleb, we realize that they were at least twenty years older than any other of the people who had survived the forty years in the wilderness, implying that at least some of those who had been born in Egypt lived at least twenty and possibly forty years after Joshua’s death.   Joshua’s impact was such that they served the Lord as long as any of those survived.

Today, many pastors try to eliminate every vestige of the previous pastors work in an effort to focus attention on their own efforts.  Unlike Joshua, they do not understand the ministry is not about them, but about God.  They seldom have a lasting impact for God like Joshua had.

“And the bones of Joseph, which the children of Israel brought up out of Egypt, buried they in Shechem, in a parcel of ground which Jacob bought of the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for an hundred pieces of silver: and it became the inheritance of the children of Joseph.” (Joshua 24:32) 

Joseph had instructed his children to bury him in the land of Canaan. Genesis 50:24-26.  “And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.  And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence.  So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt.”  His remains had been kept for about four hundred thirty years, but finally were buried on the land where Jacob had lived before Simeon and Levi destroyed the city of Shechem.

“And Eleazar the son of Aaron died; and they buried him in a hill that pertained to Phinehas his son, which was given him in mount Ephraim.” (Joshua 24:33)

Aaron’s son Eleazar had assumed the High Priest’s office after Aaron’s death while Moses was still leading, and had served throughout Joshua’s leadership, teaching the people what God had said.  He was the last of the leaders to have served under Moses.  His death marks a turning point in Israel’s history.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Joshua Asks For A Commitment

Joshua 24:1-28

“And Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and called for the elders of Israel, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers; and they presented themselves before God.” (Joshua 24:1)

Probably about thirty years after he took leadership of Israel, Joshua gathered the people to Shechem for his farewell address.  Shechem was the place on Mount Ebal where they had built an altar and a monument of stones which were then plastered and the entire law engraved on it.  It was also the place where they had assembled while Joshua read the law to them and pronounced the blessings and cursings in Joshua 8. As such it was especially fitted for what Joshua had to say.

“And Joshua said unto all the people, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Your fathers dwelt on the other side of the flood in old time, even Terah, the father of Abraham, and the father of Nachor: and they served other gods.  And I took your father Abraham from the other side of the flood, and led him throughout all the land of Canaan, and multiplied his seed, and gave him Isaac.  And I gave unto Isaac Jacob and Esau: and I gave unto Esau mount Seir, to possess it; but Jacob and his children went down into Egypt. 

I sent Moses also and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt, according to that which I did among them: and afterward I brought you out.  And I brought your fathers out of Egypt: and ye came unto the sea; and the Egyptians pursued after your fathers with chariots and horsemen unto the Red sea.  And when they cried unto the LORD, he put darkness between you and the Egyptians, and brought the sea upon them, and covered them; and your eyes have seen what I have done in Egypt: and ye dwelt in the wilderness a long season. 

And I brought you into the land of the Amorites, which dwelt on the other side Jordan; and they fought with you: and I gave them into your hand, that ye might possess their land; and I destroyed them from before you. Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and warred against Israel, and sent and called Balaam the son of Beor to curse you: But I would not hearken unto Balaam; therefore he blessed you still: so I delivered you out of his hand. 

And ye went over Jordan, and came unto Jericho: and the men of Jericho fought against you, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; and I delivered them into your hand.  And I sent the hornet before you, which drave them out from before you, even the two kings of the Amorites; but not with thy sword, nor with thy bow.  And I have given you a land for which ye did not labour, and cities which ye built not, and ye dwell in them; of the vineyards and oliveyards which ye planted not do ye eat.” (Joshua 24:2-13)

Speaking as the Oracle or mouthpiece for God, Joshua briefly summarized what God had one in each period of Israel’s history.  He begins with Terah, in Ur of the Chaldees, across the Euphrates, and progresses through Abram and the Patriarchs until they went into Egypt.  From there he proceeded to remind them of what God had done to deliver them from Egypt.  He then reminded them of what they had experienced during the forty years in the wilderness, concluding with how God had given them victory over the inhabitants of Canaan during the last thirty years.

“Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.

 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

Based on their experience, Joshua asked them to make a commitment.  If they felt that serving God was worthwhile, they needed to put away completely any connection to those other religions and serve God completely with no reservations.  If they felt they would be better off serving other gods, they needed to decide which ones and commit to worship them.  As Jesus warned in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”  You cannot give your best with divided loyalties.

Joshua finished by stating that he and his family were committed to serving God, no matter what the others did.  Until a leader is willing to make such a commitment, he should not expect others to do so.

“And the people answered and said, God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; For the LORD our God, he it is that brought us up and our fathers out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage, and which did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way wherein we went, and among all the people through whom we passed: And the LORD drave out from before us all the people, even the Amorites which dwelt in the land: therefore will we also serve the LORD; for he is our God.” (Joshua 24:16-18)

When the people considered what God had done for them, it seemed like a no brainer to them to say they chose the Lord.  It would be pretty stupid to pass up such blessings.  Unfortunately, wanting the benefits is not the same as being committed.

In our day,  since no one in his right mind wants to go to hell, many join the church or ask the Lord for salvation solely for the purpose of avoiding it.  They have no commitment to Christ, or to living for him.

“And Joshua said unto the people, Ye cannot serve the LORD: for he is an holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions nor your sins.  If ye forsake the LORD, and serve strange gods, then he will turn and do you hurt, and consume you, after that he hath done you good.” (Joshua 24:19-20)

Joshua didn’t settle for the quick profession like preachers today often do.  He warned them of what the commitment meant, that they would do what God had said and that failure to do so would cost them dearly.  It’s a message that is missing in many churches today.

“And the people said unto Joshua, Nay; but we will serve the LORD. 

And Joshua said unto the people, Ye are witnesses against yourselves that ye have chosen you the LORD, to serve him.

 And they said, We are witnesses.” (Joshua 24:21-22)

Only when he was sure they understood all the implications of their commitment did Joshua accept it as being real.  He moved immediately to an action that would indicate their sincerity.

“Now therefore put away, said he, the strange gods which are among you, and incline your heart unto the LORD God of Israel. 

And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey.” (Joshua 24:23-24) 

If they were sincere they were to repent of their sin, literally to acknowledge it as wrong and quit doing it.   Simply saying they are sorry is not enough.  The people gladly acquiesced to the demand, insisting they were willing to do whatever God asked.

“So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and set them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem.  And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God, and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the LORD.  And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold, this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the LORD which he spake unto us: it shall be therefore a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.” (Joshua 24:25-27) 

Convinced of their commitment, Joshua made a covenant, or agreement with the people that day.  He set up a memorial as a reminder to them and those around them of their commitment to encourage them to keep it.  His actions illustrate the role of baptism and church membership in the Christian life.  It doesn’t save them, it memorializes their commitment to Christ.

“So Joshua let the people depart, every man unto his inheritance.” (Joshua 24:28)

Joshua 24:31 attests to the effectiveness of Joshua’s approach to getting a real commitment.  “And Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.”  They didn’t stop serving the Lord when Joshua was no longer around.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Joshua Announces His Retirement

Joshua 23:1-16

“And it came to pass a long time after that the LORD had given rest unto Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua waxed old and stricken in age.” (Joshua 23:1) 

We don’t know how old Joshua was when he became leader of Israel, but we know he was old enough to lead the army and be one of the twelve spies.  Assuming he was the same age as Caleb, he would have been approximately eighty.  He was now approaching a hundred and ten, which means he was probably the leader for about thirty years.  Declining health and age made it clear he would soon have to give up his position.

“And Joshua called for all Israel, and for their elders, and for their heads, and for their judges, and for their officers, and said unto them, I am old and stricken in age:  And ye have seen all that the LORD your God hath done unto all these nations because of you; for the LORD your God is he that hath fought for you.  Behold, I have divided unto you by lot these nations that remain, to be an inheritance for your tribes, from Jordan, with all the nations that I have cut off, even unto the great sea westward.” (Joshua 23:2-4)

Gathering Israel together, Joshua announced his impending retirement.  He began his speech with a brief summary of what God had done for them, destroying the power of the nations that had occupied the land, and fighting for them.  As a result they were able to divide the land among the different tribes and families, even though many pockets of resistance remained.

“And the LORD your God, he shall expel them from before you, and drive them from out of your sight; and ye shall possess their land, as the LORD your God hath promised unto you.  Be ye therefore very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left; That ye come not among these nations, these that remain among you; neither make mention of the name of their gods, nor cause to swear by them, neither serve them, nor bow yourselves unto them: But cleave unto the LORD your God, as ye have done unto this day. 

 For the LORD hath driven out from before you great nations and strong: but as for you, no man hath been able to stand before you unto this day.  One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.  Take good heed therefore unto yourselves, that ye love the LORD your God.” (Joshua 23:5-11)

Continued victory did not depend on Joshua’s leadership.  God would drive out the pockets of resistance just as he had in giving them possession of the land.  It would be up to the people to continue to serve God, as Joshua would not be there to lead them.  It would be essential that they not allow themselves to assimilate the customs of the people that still remained, continuing to devote themselves to the Lord.  It would not be necessary to acquiesce to their demands to maintain peace.

Their victories had not been the result of superior forces, but of God fighting for them, and that would continue if they followed him.  As long as God fought for them, even thousand to one odds were not insurmountable.

 “Else if ye do in any wise go back, and cleave unto the remnant of these nations, even these that remain among you, and shall make marriages with them, and go in unto them, and they to you: Know for a certainty that the LORD your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.” (Joshua 23:12-13)

The caveat to this was that if they began to assimilate these other peoples by intermarrying and adopting their customs, then God would no longer drive them out.  Instead they would become a source of conflict and ongoing irritation, eventually leading to the loss of the land.

 “And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof.” (Joshua 23:14)

Like every living thing on the Earth, Joshua was going to die, but the people knew that every good thing God had promised had been fulfilled.  Nothing had been left out.

“Therefore it shall come to pass, that as all good things are come upon you, which the LORD your God promised you; so shall the LORD bring upon you all evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God hath given you.  When ye have transgressed the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and have gone and served other gods, and bowed yourselves to them; then shall the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and ye shall perish quickly from off the good land which he hath given unto you.” (Joshua 23:15-16)

They could see how completely God had fulfilled his promises for obedience.  His promises for judgment if they disobeyed were equally certain.  If they broke their contract with God, worshipping other gods, he would expel them from the land in short order.  It would be up to them to serve God.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Reason For The Altar

Joshua 22:21-34

“Then the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh answered, and said unto the heads of the thousands of Israel, The LORD God of gods, the LORD God of gods, he knoweth, and Israel he shall know; if it be in rebellion, or if in transgression against the LORD, (save us not this day,) That we have built us an altar to turn from following the LORD, or if to offer thereon burnt offering or meat offering, or if to offer peace offerings thereon, let the LORD himself require it; And if we have not rather done it for fear of this thing, saying, In time to come your children might speak unto our children, saying, What have ye to do with the LORD God of Israel?

For the LORD hath made Jordan a border between us and you, ye children of Reuben and children of Gad; ye have no part in the LORD: so shall your children make our children cease from fearing the LORD.  Therefore we said, Let us now prepare to build us an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice: But that it may be a witness between us, and you, and our generations after us, that we might do the service of the LORD before him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices, and with our peace offerings; that your children may not say to our children in time to come, Ye have no part in the LORD.” (Joshua 22:21-26) 

Israel had come against the Trans-Jordan tribes convinced that the huge altar they had built indicated they were turning away from Israel and trying to separate from them, or that they were already being influenced by their neighboring nations and the people who remained in the land.

When the leaders went to confront them, the two and a half tribes pointed out that they were cut off from the rest of Israel by the Jordan River and that they were in fact concerned that Israel might accuse them of not really worshipping God and refuse to allow them access to the Tabernacle or refuse to come to their aid if they were attacked.  

“Therefore said we, that it shall be, when they should so say to us or to our generations in time to come, that we may say again, Behold the pattern of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifices; but it is a witness between us and you.  God forbid that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn this day from following the LORD, to build an altar for burnt offerings, for meat offerings, or for sacrifices, beside the altar of the LORD our God that is before his tabernacle.” (Joshua 22:28-29) 

The gigantic altar had been patterned after the traditional Jewish altar so that if the question ever arose, it could be used to show that they believed the same thing and worshipped the same way.  They had no intention of using the altar for sacrifices or in any other way turning away from God’s commands.  God had forbidden them to offer sacrifices anywhere but at the Tabernacle.  The altar was merely a symbol of their worship of God.

“And when Phinehas the priest, and the princes of the congregation and heads of the thousands of Israel which were with him, heard the words that the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the children of Manasseh spake, it pleased them.  And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the children of Manasseh, This day we perceive that the LORD is among us, because ye have not committed this trespass against the LORD: now ye have delivered the children of Israel out of the hand of the LORD. 

And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the princes, returned from the children of Reuben, and from the children of Gad, out of the land of Gilead, unto the land of Canaan, to the children of Israel, and brought them word again.  And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt.” (Joshua 22:30-31)

When they realized the concerns that had led to the construction of the altar the leadership acknowledged that no sin had in fact been committed and that there was valid reason for the construction of the altar.  Had Israel attacked the trans Jordanian tribes, they would have brought the wrath of God on themselves, because no sin had occurred.  When they explained it to the people they were equally pleased and changed their mind about attacking.

Matthew 18:15-17 gives Jesus’ instructions for dealing with sin in the church. “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”  

In their eagerness to prove their stance against sin, many churches have skipped steps moving directly to excluding a person from the church without taking the trouble to find out what was really going on or correct the problem.  By doing so they have hurt or destroyed other Christians.  In Luke 17:1-3 Jesus said, “It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!  It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.  Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him.”  

Unfortunately, such actions are taken over minor and inconsequential matters.  Romans 14:1 warns, “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.”  We are not to make issues of things God did not give specific instructions about.  Romans 14:19-21 commands. “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.  For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence.  It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.”    We ought not risk destroying weak Christians over some point God didn’t consider worth mentioning.  As Romans 15:1 says, “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves.”  The pastor or church leadership ought not set standards other than God has set.  In doing so, they put others at risk.

“And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the LORD is God.” (Joshua 22:34)

The altar was a witness that both groups of Israel worshipped the Lord as their God.  

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

An Altar Causes Conflict

Joshua 22:10-20

“And when they came unto the borders of Jordan, that are in the land of Canaan, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by Jordan, a great altar to see to. 

And the children of Israel heard say, Behold, the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh have built an altar over against the land of Canaan, in the borders of Jordan, at the passage of the children of Israel.  And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them.” (Joshua 22:10-12)

When they returned to their lands, the Trans Jordan tribes built a huge altar next to the Jordan River.  God had given commandment that they were to bring their sacrifices and offerings to the Tabernacle in Deuteronomy 12:5-7.  “But unto the place which the LORD your God shall choose out of all your tribes to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come: And thither ye shall bring your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices, and your tithes, and heave offerings of your hand, and your vows, and your freewill offerings, and the firstlings of your herds and of your flocks: And there ye shall eat before the LORD your God, and ye shall rejoice in all that ye put your hand unto, ye and your households, wherein the LORD thy God hath blessed thee.”

The huge altar looked like the Trans-Jordan tribes were turning away from God to the rest of Israel.  Remembering the results of Achan’s sin, and of other sins, they gathered an army to come stop them by force if necessary.  They did not want to experience the consequences of allowing sin in their midst.  I Corinthians 5 warns of similar danger for Christians.

“And the children of Israel sent unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, And with him ten princes, of each chief house a prince throughout all the tribes of Israel; and each one was an head of the house of their fathers among the thousands of Israel.

 And they came unto the children of Reuben, and to the children of Gad, and to the half tribe of Manasseh, unto the land of Gilead, and they spake with them, saying, Thus saith the whole congregation of the LORD, What trespass is this that ye have committed against the God of Israel, to turn away this day from following the LORD, in that ye have builded you an altar, that ye might rebel this day against the LORD? 

Is the iniquity of Peor too little for us, from which we are not cleansed until this day, although there was a plague in the congregation of the LORD, But that ye must turn away this day from following the LORD? and it will be, seeing ye rebel to day against the LORD, that to morrow he will be wroth with the whole congregation of Israel.

Notwithstanding, if the land of your possession be unclean, then pass ye over unto the land of the possession of the LORD, wherein the LORD'S tabernacle dwelleth, and take possession among us: but rebel not against the LORD, nor rebel against us, in building you an altar beside the altar of the LORD our God.  Did not Achan the son of Zerah commit a trespass in the accursed thing, and wrath fell on all the congregation of Israel? and that man perished not alone in his iniquity.” (Joshua 22:13-20) 

Before attacking, Israel sent Phineas and a leader from each of the other tribes to confront the two and a half tribes with what they were doing and remind them of the consequences of the adultery with the Moabite women at Peor, and of Achan‘s sin at Jericho.  They even offered to give them land on the other side of Jordan if that was what was needed for them to stay true to the Lord.  They were hoping to avoid having to fight and perhaps kill the Trans-Jordanians.

The approach is the same as that prescribed by Christ in Matthew 18:15-17.  “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”  Putting people out of the church, like attacking the two and a half tribes, is to be avoided, if possible.  If people refuse to repent, it is necessary, as described in I Corinthians 5.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Trans Jordan Tribes Sent Home

Joshua 22:1-9

“Then Joshua called the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh, And said unto them, Ye have kept all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you, and have obeyed my voice in all that I commanded you: Ye have not left your brethren these many days unto this day, but have kept the charge of the commandment of the LORD your God.  And now the LORD your God hath given rest unto your brethren, as he promised them: therefore now return ye, and get you unto your tents, and unto the land of your possession, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side Jordan.” (Joshua 22:1-4)

More than five years, and perhaps as much as ten years after crossing the Jordan and defeating Jericho, Israel was settled into the land.  For that time, the men of Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh had left the land given them east of Jordan to help the rest of Israel conquer their lands.  Finally, Joshua told them they had ulfuilled their obligation and are free to return to the land they had been given.

“But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the LORD charged you, to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.  So Joshua blessed them, and sent them away: and they went unto their tents.” (Joshua 22:5-6)

Separated from the rest of Israel by the Jordan river, it would be easy for the Trans-Jordan tribes to forget their connection to the rest of Israel and turn to the other groups on three sides of them.   Joshua warned them of the danger before sending them home.   The same danger exists anytime something separates one from the influences that have kept his focus on God.

“Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given possession in Bashan: but unto the other half thereof gave Joshua among their brethren on this side Jordan westward. And when Joshua sent them away also unto their tents, then he blessed them, And he spake unto them, saying, Return with much riches unto your tents, and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and with iron, and with very much raiment: divide the spoil of your enemies with your brethren.

And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned, and departed from the children of Israel out of Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go unto the country of Gilead, to the land of their possession, whereof they were possessed, according to the word of the LORD by the hand of Moses.” (Joshua 22:7-9)

The Trans-Jordanian tribes received equal shares of the Canaanite spoils which they took back to their families in their lands.  They returned home with considerable wealth to justify the time they had been away from home.

Friday, November 16, 2012

God’s Promises Fulfilled

Joshua 21:43-45

“And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.” (Joshua 21:43) 

The promise to give Abraham’s family this land had first been made in Genesis 12:6-7.  “And Abram passed through the land unto the place of Sichem, unto the plain of Moreh. And the Canaanite was then in the land.  And the LORD appeared unto Abram, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land: and there builded he an altar unto the LORD, who appeared unto him.”

Over sixty five years later, the promise was repeated to Isaac, in Genesis 26:4-5.  “And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

The same promise was given to Jacob forty years later, when he was fleeing from Esau in Genesis 28:13-14 “And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.”

One hundred seven years after his vision of the ladder reaching to heaven at Bethel,  and seventeen years after they moved to Egypt, Jacob reminded Joseph that they would return to the land in Genesis 48.  Four hundred thirty years after they entered Egypt, God renewed his promise to Israel to give them the land and delivered them from Egypt.  Forty five years after that, Joshua started dividing up the land.  Seven hundred and thirty years after the promise was first made, it was finally fulfilled.

“And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.  There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.” (Joshua 21:44-45)

God did not forget his promises.  Despite numerous additions to his promise, and after seven hundred and thirty years, God fulfilled every thing he had said to Israel.  Why do Christians today give up on God’s promises so quickly?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Individual Levite Posessions

Kohath Levites
Joshua 21:20-26

“And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites which remained of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot out of the tribe of Ephraim.  For they gave them Shechem with her suburbs in mount Ephraim, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Gezer with her suburbs, And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities. 

And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs, Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities. 

And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities.  All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.” (Joshua 21:20-26)

The rest of the Kohathites, who were not part of Aaron’s family were given ten additional cities in Ephraim, Dan and the half tribe of Manasseh.  After the split in Rehoboam’s day, they would go with Israel rather than Judah.  One of their cities, Shechem, the site where Simeon and Levi murdered the men of the city for Dinah’s sake was a city of refuge.

The Gershonites 
Joshua 21:27-33

“And unto the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, out of the other half tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan in Bashan with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Beeshterah with her suburbs; two cities.

And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs, Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities. 

And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs, Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities. 

And out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Hammothdor with her suburbs, and Kartan with her suburbs; three cities. 

All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.” (Joshua 21:27-33) 

Originally, the Gershonites had been responsible for the fabric parts of the Tabernacle, the coverings, curtains, and other leather or cloth parts.  That responsibility continued, but their primary job was to teach the northern most tribes to serve God.  To that end they were given thirteen cities scattered among the northern tribes on either side of the Jordan as far south as the southern end of the Sea of Galilee.  Included in their holdings were two Cities of Refuge, Golan on the East of Jordan in the Half tribe of Manasseh, and Kedesh in the land of Naphtali on the west side.

Merari’s Family

“And unto the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with her suburbs, and Kartah with her suburbs, Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities. 

And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs, Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities. 

And out of the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Mahanaim with her suburbs, Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all. 

So all the cities for the children of Merari by their families, which were remaining of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities.” (Joshua 21:34-40)

All twelve of the Merarite cities were located on the east of Jordan in the lands of Gad and Reuben.  Like the other tribes they were responsible for teaching the people in their area about God, but they were still responsible for the framework of the Tabernacle.  Their two Cities of Refuge were Bezer, in Reuben, and Ramoth Gilead in Gad.  Ramoth was one of the best known Cities of Refuge, and Samuel ministered there regularly five hundred years later.

“All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs. These cities were every one with their 
suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.” (Joshua 21:41-42) 

Moses command to Israel in Numbers 35:7 was fulfilled exactly.  “So all the cities which ye shall give to the Levites shall be forty and eight cities: them shall ye give with their suburbs.”  The Levites were scattered thoroughly in so that they were readily available to anyone who wished to know what God demanded.  At the same time they were separated enough they could not establish an Imperial religious entity capable of taking over Israel, thus eliminating Jacob’s concerns in Genesis 49.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Levite Inheritance

Joshua 21:1-8

“Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle.  And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.” (Joshua 21:1-3) 

God had chosen the Levites to be the priests, serving as the mediators between God and man.  As the priests and servants of the tabernacle they were to have no country of their own, as Numbers 18:24 explains.  “But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.”

In Numbers 35:23, Moses had instructed Joshua, “Command the children of Israel, that they give unto the Levites of the inheritance of their possession cities to dwell in; and ye shall give also unto the Levites suburbs for the cities round about them.  And the cities shall they have to dwell in; and the suburbs of them shall be for their cattle, and for their goods, and for all their beasts.”  

When the land had been divided among the tribes, the Levites asked that the promise made to them be fulfilled as well, and Israel did so.

“And the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites: and the children of Aaron the priest, which were of the Levites, had by lot out of the tribe of Judah, and out of the tribe of Simeon, and out of the tribe of Benjamin, thirteen cities.  And the rest of the children of Kohath had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Ephraim, and out of the tribe of Dan, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh, ten cities.” (Joshua 21:4-5)

The family of Kohath had been charged with carrying and caring for the furnishings of the Tabernacle, and Moses and Aaron were of the family.  They were given cities in Simeon, Judah, Benjamin, Ephraim and Dan, all in the southern part of the land, west of the Jordan.

“And the children of Gershon had by lot out of the families of the tribe of Issachar, and out of the tribe of Asher, and out of the tribe of Naphtali, and out of the half tribe of Manasseh in Bashan, thirteen cities.” (Joshua 21:6) 

The Gershonites received their cities in the northern region which would be known as Galilee in Roman times.  They were largely cut off from Jerusalem when Israel split.

The children of Merari by their families had out of the tribe of Reuben, and out of the tribe of Gad, and out of the tribe of Zebulun, twelve cities.” (Joshua 21:7)

Merari’s family were given land in Reuben and Gad on the east side of the Jordan and in Zebulon on the west side.  They were responsible for two of the cities of Refuge.

“And the children of Israel gave by lot unto the Levites these cities with their suburbs, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses.” (Joshua 21:8)

Which cities were given to which family was again decided impartially, by lot.

Aaron’s Family
Joshua 21:9-19

"And they gave out of the tribe of the children of Judah, and out of the tribe of the children of Simeon, these cities which are here mentioned by name, Which the children of Aaron, being of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi, had: for theirs was the first lot.  And they gave them the city of Arba the father of Anak, which city is Hebron, in the hill country of Judah, with the suburbs thereof round about it.  But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.” (Joshua 21:9-12)

As members of the Kohath Levites, Aaron’s family was given the first lot of land in Judah.  In fact they were given the city of Arba, later called Hebron.  It was part of the land that had been conquered by Caleb.  Caleb retained most of the land, giving up the cithy and an area around it about a half mile wide on each side.  It was one of the Cities of Refuge and would figure prominently throughout Israel’s history.

“Thus they gave to the children of Aaron the priest Hebron with her suburbs, to be a city of refuge for the slayer; and Libnah with her suburbs, And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs, And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs, And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.

 And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs, Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs; four cities. 

All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.” (Joshua 21:13-19) 

All thirteen of Aaron’s cities were in Simeon, Judah, and Benjamin, which later became the Nation of Judah.  Undoubtedly, Aaron’s family played a major part in Judah’s following God longer than Israel did.  Nearly all the Levites, and all the priests in the New Testament were Aaron’s descendants.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Cities Of Refuge Designated

Joshua 20:1-9

“The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses: That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.  And when he that doth flee unto one of those cities shall stand at the entering of the gate of the city, and shall declare his cause in the ears of the elders of that city, they shall take him into the city unto them, and give him a place, that he may dwell among them. 

And if the avenger of blood pursue after him, then they shall not deliver the slayer up into his hand; because he smote his neighbour unwittingly, and hated him not beforetime. 

And he shall dwell in that city, until he stand before the congregation for judgment, and until the death of the high priest that shall be in those days: then shall the slayer return, and come unto his own city, and unto his own house, unto the city from whence he fled.” (Joshua 20:1-6) 

In Genesis 9:5-6 God had established the penalty for killing a human being.  “And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of man.  Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.”  The Law was equally explicit that they were not to kill people.  Unfortunately some wish to expand that prohibition to animals as well, but the law limited it to humans, because unlike the animals, they were created in the image of God, and killing them is by implication an attack on God.

Justice requires that the guilty give up what ever they have taken from the victim. Exodus 21:23-25 instructs, “And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."  In cases of theft or property damage, the repayment can be restored to the victim, but when he died it cannot.  Nevertheless, justice requires that the killer give up what he took from another.

The Law did distinguish between intentional killing, or murder, and death as a result of negligence, or manslaughter.  Intentional murder was to be punished by executing the murderer.  He gave up his life completely, as justice for having taken the life of another.  It also ensured he would not do it again.

In deaths resulting from negligence, the victim still lost his life, but the perpetrator had not deliberately taken it.  Justice still required he give up his life.  The law required a life sentence.  In Numbers 35, God had described the establishment of cities of refuge to provide for such cases.  They would provide protection until a trial could be conducted, and if it was determined that the death had been unintentional, the perpetrator could voluntarily remain in the city for the rest of his life , or until the current high priest died.  If he left the city, he was to be immediately executed.  The death of the current high priest provided a parole.  If the killing proved deliberate, the perpetrator was to be killed on the spot.  Either way, life was given for life,  and Justice was served.

“And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.  And on the other side Jordan by Jericho eastward, they assigned Bezer in the wilderness upon the plain out of the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead out of the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan out of the tribe of Manasseh.” (Judges 20:7-8)

The location of these six cities of refuge ensured that there was one within a day or two’s  travel from anywhere in Israel.   If one didn’t waste time trying to conceal the crime one could be fairly sure of obtaining protection, but any delay increased the risk of getting caught.

“These were the cities appointed for all the children of Israel, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them, that whosoever killeth any person at unawares might flee thither, and not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, until he stood before the congregation.” (Joshua 20:9)

These cities were selected to ensure that the accused was not unfairly executed without a proper hearing.  They were part of the Levites’ inheritance, as was commanded in Numbers 35:6. “And among the cities which ye shall give unto the Levites there shall be six cities for refuge, which ye shall appoint for the manslayer, that he may flee thither: and to them ye shall add forty and two cities.”

Monday, November 12, 2012

Napthali’s Land

Joshua 19:32-39

“The sixth lot came out to the children of Naphtali, even for the children of Naphtali according to their families. 

And their coast was from Heleph, from Allon to Zaanannim, and Adami, Nekeb, and Jabneel, unto Lakum; and the outgoings thereof were at Jordan: And then the coast turneth westward to Aznothtabor, and goeth out from thence to Hukkok, and reacheth to Zebulun on the south side, and reacheth to Asher on the west side, and to Judah upon Jordan toward the sunrising.

 And the fenced cities are Ziddim, Zer, and Hammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth, And Adamah, and Ramah, and Hazor, Jos 19:37 And Kedesh, and Edrei, and Enhazor, And Iron, and Migdalel, Horem, and Bethanath, and Bethshemesh; nineteen cities with their villages.

 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali according to their families, the cities and their villages.” (Joshua 19:32-39)

Naphtali received the land to the east of Asher, from the border of Issachar, just south of the Sea of Galilee north along the Jordan river feeding the Sea of Galilee adjacent to the half tribe of Manasseh’s land  to the northern most tip of present day Israel.  While it was as large as Asher’s land, there were only nineteen city states.

The region comprised of Zebulon, Issachar, Asher and Naphtali would be known in Roman times as Galilee.

Dan’s Lot
Joshua 19:40-48

“And the seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families. 

And the coast of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Irshemesh, And Shaalabbin, and Ajalon, and Jethlah, Jos 19:43 And Elon, and Thimnathah, and Ekron, And Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath, Jos 19:45 And Jehud, and Beneberak, and Gathrimmon, And Mejarkon, and Rakkon, with the border before Japho.” (Joshua 19:40-46)

Dan was the last tribe selected, and they were given the rest of  the area separating Judah from Ephraim and Manasseh, including some of the Philistine lands.  It reached from the border of Benjamin’s land to the Mediterranean and north to the boundary of Manasseh along the Kanah river.

“And the coast of the children of Dan went out too little for them: therefore the children of Dan went up to fight against Leshem, and took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and possessed it, and dwelt therein, and called Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their father.” (Joshua 19:47)

Deciding they needed more land than they had received, Dan sent an expedition to the northern tip of Naphtali, along the Jordan rive and conquered the city state of Leshem, renaming it Dan and claiming it.

“This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.” (Joshua 19:48) 

They owned a total of nineteen city states.

Joshua’s Portion
Joshua 19:49-51

“When they had made an end of dividing the land for inheritance by their coasts, the children of Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua the son of Nun among them: According to the word of the LORD they gave him the city which he asked, even Timnathserah in mount Ephraim: and he built the city, and dwelt therein. 

These are the inheritances, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, divided for an inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the LORD, at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. So they made an end of dividing the country.” (Joshua 19:49-51)

Unlike many leaders throughout history, Joshua did not simply take a place for himself.  After fifty years of service to his people, it was only fair that he receive an equal share among them.  He requested and was given the city of Timnathserah in the Ephraim’s land, among his own tribe.  He rebuilt the city and lived there for the rest of his life.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Simeon’s Lot

Joshua 19:1-9

“And the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah.

 And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, and Sheba, and Moladah, And Hazarshual, and Balah, and Azem, And Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah, And Ziklag, and Bethmarcaboth, and Hazarsusah, And Bethlebaoth, and Sharuhen; thirteen cities and their villages: Ain, Remmon, and Ether, and Ashan; four cities and their villages: And all the villages that were round about these cities to Baalathbeer, Ramath of the south. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families. 

Out of the portion of the children of Judah was the inheritance of the children of Simeon: for the part of the children of Judah was too much for them: therefore the children of Simeon had their inheritance within the inheritance of them.” (Joshua 19:1-9) 

The surveyors discovered that the Judah had only occupied the northern portion of the land assigned to them, and concluded they didn’t need as much as they had been given.  The entire southern portion of Judah’s land was reassigned to the tribe of Simeon.  Because it was largely desert, there were far fewer cities, only about seventeen.  Simeon actually received about as much land as Judah.    Later Simeon was absorbed by Judah.  In Genesis 49, Jacob had said Simeon and Levi were not to be allowed to unite because they would incite each other to do wrong.   Placing Simeon at the far southern end, with Judah between them and any of the other tribes minimized that risk, although the lands were assigned by lot.

Taking this piece of land from Judah for Simeon made Ephraim and Manasseh’s lands the largest of any of the tribes, further discrediting their claims that they deserved more.

Zebulon’s Parcel 
Joshua 19:10-16

“And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families: and the border of their inheritance was unto Sarid: And their border went up toward the sea, and Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and reached to the river that is before Jokneam; And turned from Sarid eastward toward the sunrising unto the border of Chislothtabor, and then goeth out to Daberath, and goeth up to Japhia. And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittahhepher, to Ittahkazin, and goeth out to Remmonmethoar to Neah; And the border compasseth it on the north side to Hannathon: and the outgoings thereof are in the valley of Jiphthahel: And Kattath, and Nahallal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Bethlehem: twelve cities with their villages. 

This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.” (Joshua 19:10-16)

Zebulon was selected next and given a small portion about midway between the Mediterranean and the sea of Galilee.  The Kishon river formed the boundary between Zebulon and Manasseh on the south.  There were twelve cities or former city states in the region.

Issachar’s Lot
Joshua 19:17-23

"And the fourth lot came out to Issachar, for the children of Issachar according to their families. 

And their border was toward Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Shunem, And Haphraim, and Shihon, and Anaharath, And Rabbith, and Kishion, and Abez, And Remeth, and Engannim, and Enhaddah, and Bethpazzez; And the coast reacheth to Tabor, and Shahazimah, and Bethshemesh; and the outgoings of their border were at Jordan: sixteen cities with their villages. 

This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar according to their families, the cities and their villages.” (Joshua 19:17-23)

Issachar was located just to the southeast of Zebulon.  They were bordered on the south by Manasseh, while the eastern border was formed by the Jordan River.  The northern boundary was just south of the sea of Galilee, extending to the border with Zebulon.

Sixteen major cities or city states were located within the boundaries of Issachar.  The Bethlehem mentioned here is not the same city as that mentioned in the land of Judah.

Asher’s Inheritance
Joshua 19:24-31

“And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families.

 And their border was Helkath, and Hali, and Beten, and Achshaph, And Alammelech, and Amad, and Misheal; and reacheth to Carmel westward, and to Shihorlibnath; And turneth toward the sunrising to Bethdagon, and reacheth to Zebulun, and to the valley of Jiphthahel toward the north side of Bethemek, and Neiel, and goeth out to Cabul on the left hand, And Hebron, and Rehob, and Hammon, and Kanah, even unto great Zidon; And then the coast turneth to Ramah, and to the strong city Tyre; and the coast turneth to Hosah; and the outgoings thereof are at the sea from the coast to Achzib: Ummah also, and Aphek, and Rehob: twenty and two cities with their villages. 

This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.” (Joshua 19:24-31)

Asher was originally given the costal area from the northern border of Manasseh near Dor  to the Phoenecian cities of Tyre and Zidon or Sidon, located in present day Lebanon.  It extended east to about half way between the Mediteranean and the sea of Galilee along the boundaries of Manasseh and Zebulon.  There had been twenty tow city states in the area.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dividing up the Land

Joshua 18:1-10

“And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.  And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance. ” (Joshua 18:1-2)

Over five years after invading the land, having successfully taking control of the entire region, Judah and Joseph’s families had claimed their land.  None of the others had made any effort to divide up or settle the land, just staying together in single large group.  As long as they were together, their enemies were not much of a threat, and they could let Joshua take most of the responsibility and make the decisions.  Joshua was no longer young, and the responsibility began to wear on him.  He hadn’t intended to become their king when he led them into the land.

“And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the LORD God of your fathers hath given you?  Give out from among you three men for each tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me.  And they shall divide it into seven parts: Judah shall abide in their coast on the south, and the house of Joseph shall abide in their coasts on the north. 

Ye shall therefore describe the land into seven parts, and bring the description hither to me, that I may cast lots for you here before the LORD our God.  But the Levites have no part among you; for the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance: and Gad, and Reuben, and half the tribe of Manasseh, have received their inheritance beyond Jordan on the east, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.” (Joshua 18:3-7) 

Because a large group makes people feel secure, they are less aware of their responsibility, and it is easy to depend on people rather than God.  The entire tower of Babel incident was the result of this desire to stay together instead of obeying God.  God had to confuse their languages to force them to separate.  In Acts, the church was doing the same thing, and God sent persecution to get them to go to other communities.

Joshua recognized that by staying together, they were avoiding doing what God had planned for them, and missing out on his blessings.  He commanded to choose three men from each tribe to survey the land and see what areas were available.  They would then be responsible for dividing the land up in seven parts for the tribes which had not yet received any.  Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh would keep the land they hade claimed, as would the trans Jordanian tribes, and the Levites would only receive individual cities.

“And the men arose, and went away: and Joshua charged them that went to describe the land, saying, Go and walk through the land, and describe it, and come again to me, that I may here cast lots for you before the LORD in Shiloh.  And the men went and passed through the land, and described it by cities into seven parts in a book, and came again to Joshua to the host at Shiloh. And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.” (Joshua 18:8-10)

Joshua instructed the surveyors to report back with physical descriptions of each of the seven divisions, which would then be assigned to each tribe by lot.  Joshua would oversee the process to maintain integrity.  That was the program that was followed.

Benjamin’s Land
Joshua 18:11-28

“And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families: and the coast of their lot came forth between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph. 

And their border on the north side was from Jordan; and the border went up to the side of Jericho on the north side, and went up through the mountains westward; and the goings out thereof were at the wilderness of Bethaven.  And the border went over from thence toward Luz, to the side of Luz, which is Bethel, southward; and the border descended to Atarothadar, near the hill that lieth on the south side of the nether Bethhoron.  And the border was drawn thence, and compassed the corner of the sea southward, from the hill that lieth before Bethhoron southward; and the goings out thereof were at Kirjathbaal, which is Kirjathjearim, a city of the children of Judah: this was the west quarter. 

And the south quarter was from the end of Kirjathjearim, and the border went out on the west, and went out to the well of waters of Nephtoah: And the border came down to the end of the mountain that lieth before the valley of the son of Hinnom, and which is in the valley of the giants on the north, and descended to the valley of Hinnom, to the side of Jebusi on the south, and descended to Enrogel, And was drawn from the north, and went forth to Enshemesh, and went forth toward Geliloth, which is over against the going up of Adummim, and descended to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben, And passed along toward the side over against Arabah northward, and went down unto Arabah: And the border passed along to the side of Bethhoglah northward: and the outgoings of the border were at the north bay of the salt sea at the south end of Jordan: this was the south coast.  And Jordan was the border of it on the east side. This was the inheritance of the children of Benjamin, by the coasts thereof round about, according to their families.” (Joshua 18:11-20)

Benjamin received an area between that claimed by Judah to the south and Ephraim to the north.  It was bounded on the east side by the Jordan river starting at the Dead Sea and reaching north to Gilgal.  The northern border was marked by Jericho and Bethel and extended about forty miles before turning south toward Kirjath Jearim.  The southern border stretched as far south as Jerusalem and back to the tip of the Dead sea.  It appears to have been the smallest of the parcels.

“Now the cities of the tribe of the children of Benjamin according to their families were Jericho, and Bethhoglah, and the valley of Keziz.  And Betharabah, and Zemaraim, and Bethel, And Avim, and Parah, and Ophrah, And Chepharhaammonai, and Ophni, and Gaba; twelve cities with their villages: Gibeon, and Ramah, and Beeroth, And Mizpeh, and Chephirah, and Mozah, And Rekem, and Irpeel, and Taralah, And Zelah, Eleph, and Jebusi, which is Jerusalem, Gibeath, and Kirjath; fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the children of Benjamin according to their families.” (Joshua 18:21-28)

Benjamin received twenty six cities, besides their surrounding villages or suburbs.  Because walking was the primary means of transportation, it was necessary that each city have farmland nearby, but time spent walking to the fields was unproductive time so villages or bedroom communities were built to provide shelter and safety for the workers.  The size of cities was limited by the amount of food which could be grown within reasonable walking distance of the city.

When Israel split after the death of Solomon, Benjamin became part of the nation of Judah.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

An Entitlement Mindset

Joshua 17:14-18

“And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto?” (Joshua 17:14) 

Seven tribes had not yet received their land but Ephraim and Manasseh are already complaining their piece isn’t big enough.  After all, they are such a great people because God has blessed them so much.  They completely ignored the fact that Manasseh’s land in Bashan and Gilead was about as large as the land of Judah,  and that their combined land on the west side was equally large.  The sense of entitlement is always selfish.

This sense of being entitlement is especially prevalent in our day.  There is a tendency to focus on the recipients of welfare, Social Security and Disability as feeling entitled, but the problem goes much deeper.  In an interview with the author of “The Plutocrats”, she stated that the highly paid executives feel they are owed huge bonuses even though their company is struggling, or that the companies were owed bailouts because they are the key to American success.  American politicians believe they are owed exorbitant retirement benefits because they worked so hard for the people.  Middle class doctors and Lawyers believe they deserve more than others because of their degrees.  Children believe they have a right to everything they want.

It has invaded the church as well, with pastors of small churches refusing to take part time employment to help support themselves, and churches expecting to be supported by other churches or have their buildings donated.  The attitude is summed up in the statement by one preacher whose church was discussing a major purchase.  “We deserve the best because we are serving the Lord.”

“And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.” (Joshua 17:15) 

Joshua’s response was that if they were that great, and they really needed more land they were capable of driving out the Canaanites that lived among them or of taking some of the land in the hills nearby.  They had enough to get by, and it was not everyone else’s responsibility to provide as much as they might want.

“And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.” (Joshua 17:16)

Their response was that it wasn’t fair that they’d have to work for the land because after all, the Canaanites had chariots of iron and would resist.  In the financial crisis, I gained a lot of respect for Ford for not accepting the bailouts like GM and Chrysler, going ahead and dealing with their problems themselves.  By doing as they did, they demonstrated that

Good leadership and hard work could succeed.   While GM has posted some of their largest profits ever, it seldom mentioned that more than half their production has been moved to China, or that a major part of the profit is the product of government subsidies.  For example the Toyota Prius and the Cheverolet Volt cost about the same on the market, but GM receives a hundred thousand dollars from the government to pay for making them, while Toyota does not.  If they are as good, they should be able to produce the same product for a competitive the same price.  If they can’t, they shouldn’t be in that market.

“And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.” (Joshua 17:17-18)

More land was available, and Ephraim and Manasseh were free to take as much as they wanted.  They were not limited to what they had been given, but it was not incumbent on the others to get it for them.  It was their responsibility to earn it themselves.  It would cost the others just as much as it would cost them to get it.  The iron chariots were just an excuse for not taking their responsibility.

In Roman times, the lands of Ephraim and Manasseh on the west of Jordan, together with the lands given to Dan would be known as Samaria.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Joseph’s land

Joshua 16:1-4

“And the lot of the children of Joseph fell from Jordan by Jericho, unto the water of Jericho on the east, to the wilderness that goeth up from Jericho throughout mount Bethel.  And goeth out from Bethel to Luz, and passeth along unto the borders of Archi to Ataroth, And goeth down westward to the coast of Japhleti, unto the coast of Bethhoron the nether, and to Gezer: and the goings out thereof are at the sea. 

So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.” (Joshua 16:1-4)

Joseph’s descendants received the land just north of Judah stretching across from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.  Joseph’s descendants were Ephraim and Manasseh.  Jacob had promised Joseph would get a double portion in Genesis 48:22.  “Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.”  Jacob effectively claimed Joseph’s sons as his own.

Joshua 16:5-10

“And the border of the children of Ephraim according to their families was thus: even the border of their inheritance on the east side was Atarothaddar, unto Bethhoron the upper; And the border went out toward the sea to Michmethah on the north side; and the border went about eastward unto Taanathshiloh, and passed by it on the east to Janohah; And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naarath, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan.  The border went out from Tappuah westward unto the river Kanah; and the goings out thereof were at the sea. This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Ephraim by their families.” (Joshua 16:5-8) 

Ephraim was given the eastward part of Joseph’s land, from the Jordan north to Naaroth and west to the south side of the brook or river Kanah which runs to the sea.  Their southern boundary ran from Jericho across to Bethel and Mizpeh.

“And the separate cities for the children of Ephraim were among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.” (Joshua 16:9)

 The border with Manasseh on the west was not strictly observed with Ephraim controlling several of the cities in Manasseh.

“And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute.” (Joshua 16:10)

Though Joshua had conquered the land, Ephraim never finished driving out the Canaanites, forming an agreement to let them stay as long as they paid tribute., contrary to God’s command in Deuteronomy 20:16-17.  “But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee:”  It wasn’t that they were unable, nor were they tricked like Gibeon had done, they just wanted the money.

Joshua 17:1-13

"There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh; for he was the firstborn of Joseph; to wit, for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead: because he was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan.

There was also a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh by their families; for the children of Abiezer, and for the children of Helek, and for the children of Asriel, and for the children of Shechem, and for the children of Hepher, and for the children of Shemida: these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph by their families.” (Joshua 17:1-2)

One of Manasseh’s sons, Machir, had been given the lands of Gilead and Bashan, on the east side of the Jordan.  As ranchers and frontiersmen, they would willingly take the risk involved with being exposed to enemy attack in exchange for the freedom and space they received.  The descendants of his other six sons were more interested in the sheltered peaceable life to be found surrounded by others.

“But Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but daughters: and these are the names of his daughters, Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

 And they came near before Eleazar the priest, and before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the princes, saying, The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brethren. Therefore according to the commandment of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among the brethren of their father. 

And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side Jordan; Because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons: and the rest of Manasseh's sons had the land of Gilead.” (Joshua 17:3-6)

God had specified that if a man had no sons, his daughters were to inherit and carry on the family name.  In Numbers 27, Moses had given specific orders that Zelophehad’s daughters were to be given land, and at this time they approached Eleazar the priest to remind him of Moses’ instruction.  Each of the girls was given a piece of land along side their uncles, making ten portions on the west side of Jordan.

“And the coast of Manasseh was from Asher to Michmethah, that lieth before Shechem; and the border went along on the right hand unto the inhabitants of Entappuah. Now Manasseh had the land of Tappuah: but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the children of Ephraim; And the coast descended unto the river Kanah, southward of the river: these cities of Ephraim are among the cities of Manasseh: the coast of Manasseh also was on the north side of the river, and the outgoings of it were at the sea: Southward it was Ephraim's, and northward it was Manasseh's, and the sea is his border; and they met together in Asher on the north, and in Issachar on the east.” (Joshua 17:7-10)

 This part of Mannaseh’s land lay to the west of Ephraim, north of the Kanah river. The area around Tappuah was technically Manasseh’s but Ephraim claimed some of the cities.  They were bounded on the north by Asher and by Issachar to the northeast.

“And Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher Bethshean and her towns, and Ibleam and her towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Endor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even three countries.” (Joshua 17:11)

Though they were technically in Asher and Issachar, geographical features made it easier for these town to trade with and relate to Mannaseh than to their own tribes, in a manner similar to what is observed between towns in neighboring counties in the United States.

“Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.  Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out.” (Joshua 17:12-13) 

Initially, Manasseh was not initially strong enough to drive out all the Canaanites.  Later, when they became strong enough, they elected to collect tribute from them instead, breaking God’s commandment.