Dividing the Land

There remained among the people of Israel seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given you? Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. They shall divide it into seven portions. Judah shall continue in his territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall continue in their territory on the north. And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the Lord our God. The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the Lord is their heritage. And Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave them.” Joshua 18:2-7.

It seems that the land was divided into portions that were of varying sizes. As these men made the map, they had no idea which tribe would get which portion. It can only be that their real estate had values that differed as much as our own, depending on location and resources. In the end, Benjamin was probably as satisfied as Judah.

That’s a Local Issue

Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?” And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” Joshua 17:14-18.

When the tribes of Reuben and Gad had asked Moses if they could have their inheritance in the land conquered before entering Canaan, Moses said they could if they came and helped the other tribes drive out the Canaanites. They were not going to get a free ride. Driving out the idolators was a national issue. But it seems like Joshua is telling these tribes to drive out their own Canaanites locally.

This decentralized leadership may have caused them to lose sight if what God told them to do. A United army could get the job done. But breaking them into their own self interested factions, with their own local concerns watered down the mission.

This is what denominations have done to the church. Though we agree on the major things, it is the irreconcilable minor differences that keep us from taking our own land.

Unfinished Business

The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, and the boundary goes from there to the sea. On the north is Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan. From Tappuah the boundary goes westward to the brook Kanah and ends at the sea. Such is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Ephraim by their clans, together with the towns that were set apart for the people of Ephraim within the inheritance of the Manassites, all those towns with their villages. However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor. Joshua 16:5-10.

God gave this land to the Hebrews. God was judging the idol worshippers who lived there by sending the Hebrews to wipe them out. But it didn’t get done. Instead of obeying, they modified God’s command to use the Canaanites as forced labor. Canaanites stay in the land, we get slaves: win-win!

Failing to give out or kill the inhabitants was a mistake that came back to bite them over and over. Generations of enemies who want them dead persist to this day.

Ours is not a land based religion anymore. And we convert our enemies instead of kill them. But when we stop converting and become comfortable leaving them as enemies of God, they begin to oppress us. Our failure to obey the great commission, and to just circle the wagons, has left us like the Alamo: surrounded and facing extinction.

She Was a Prize

According to the commandment of the Lord to Joshua, he gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh a portion among the people of Judah, Kiriath-arba, that is, Hebron (Arba was the father of Anak). And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the descendants of Anak. And he went up from there against the inhabitants of Debir. Now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher. And Caleb said, “Whoever strikes Kiriath-sepher and captures it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife.” And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she got off her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. Joshua 15:13-19.

I read this with the eyes of a father who has watched his only daughter marry someone she chose, but I would not. For a long time I have believed the arranged marriage was a cruel tragedy inflicted on young people by thoughtless parents, but that would be cherry picking the worst cases.

This account is not one of a man treating a daughter like a bag of grain, traded for some favor. Caleb was 85. His daughter was not a child bride being given to a middle-aged lecher. She was a grown woman who had been withheld from marriage by a father who loved her and gave her valuable water rights for the asking. And her husband had to be a real man, a warrior who slew giants. This is the kind of man who had choices among women, yet who took on a hard task to have Achsah as his bride.

We have a hard time with this because ours is a youth centered culture that values hormones over brains, and the fruit of that is rotting everywhere. Even those of us who survived our impulsive youth bear many scars on our souls because we wed while we were still not ripe and possessed less wisdom than we needed.

I now understand why some cultures still cling tenaciously to this culture. They have been watching us, and we have not convinced them we are doing it right.

They Don’t Make Them Like That Anymore

Then the people of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal. And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know what the Lord said to Moses the man of God in Kadesh-barnea concerning you and me. I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart. But my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt; yet I wholly followed the Lord my God. And Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land on which your foot has trodden shall be an inheritance for you and your children forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, just as he said, these forty-five years since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, while Israel walked in the wilderness. And now, behold, I am this day eighty-five years old. I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then, for war and for going and coming. So now give me this hill country of which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there, with great fortified cities. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall drive them out just as the Lord said.” Joshua 14:6-12.

Caleb had waited a long time for his inheritance. He was one of only two who said they were able to take the land. He had to wait out that entire unbelieving generation, and I’m sure he spent that time staying in shape for the battles he still longed for.

I just turned 60, and I can tell you that I should have taken better care of myself. I should have looked forward to the day my children were self-sufficient, we we’re out of debt, and we were free to give more time to expanding God’s kingdom. But I just wasn’t thinking. So all I have to offer is this achey, overweight body with all kinds of limitations. Right now I’m just hoping to be ambulatory at 85.

But I still have time. I can still plan what my eighties will look like. And if I dedicate this body to God’s purposes, He can renew my strength.

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:31 NIV.