“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.
“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.