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Joshua 19-21 Listen
The Tribes participate in the lottery (Joshua 19:1-48)
The Tribe of Simeon receive their territory allocation
1 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.
2 And they had in their inheritance Beersheba, or Sheba, and Moladah,
3 And Hazarshual, and Balah, and Azem,
4 And Eltolad, and Bethul, and Hormah,
5 And Ziklag, and Bethmarcaboth, and Hazarsusah,
6 And Bethlebaoth, and Sharuhen; thirteen cities and their villages:
7 Ain, Remmon, and Ether, and Ashan; four cities and their villages:
8 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.
9 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.
The Tribe of Zebulun receive their territory allocation
10 And the third lot came up for the children of Zebulun according to their families: and the border of their inheritance was unto Sarid:
11 And their border went up toward the sea, and Maralah, and reached to Dabbasheth, and reached to the river that is before Jokneam;
12 And turned from Sarid eastward toward the sunrising unto the border of Chislothtabor, and then goeth out to Daberath, and goeth up to Japhia,
13 And from thence passeth on along on the east to Gittahhepher, to Ittahkazin, and goeth out to Remmonmethoar to Neah;
14 And the border compasseth it on the north side to Hannathon: and the outgoings thereof are in the valley of Jiphthahel:
15 And Kattath, and Nahallal, and Shimron, and Idalah, and Bethlehem: twelve cities with their villages.
16 This is the inheritance of the children of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.
The Tribe of Issachar receive their territory allocation
17 And the fourth lot came out to Issachar, for the children of Issachar according to their families.
18 And their border was toward Jezreel, and Chesulloth, and Shunem,
19 And Hapharaim, and Shion, and Anaharath,
20 And Rabbith, and Kishion, and Abez,
21 And Remeth, and Engannim, and Enhaddah, and Bethpazzez;
22 And the coast reacheth to Tabor, and Shahazimah, and Bethshemesh; and the outgoings of their border were at Jordan: sixteen cities with their villages.
23 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Issachar according to their families, the cities and their villages.
The Tribe of Asher receive their territory allocation
24 And the fifth lot came out for the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families.
25 And their border was Helkath, and Hali, and Beten, and Achshaph,
26 And Alammelech, and Amad, and Misheal; and reacheth to Carmel westward, and to Shihorlibnath;
27 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,
28 And Hebron, and Rehob, and Hammon, and Kanah, even unto great Zidon;
29 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:
30 Ummah also, and Aphek, and Rehob: twenty and two cities with their villages.
31 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.
The Tribe of Naphtali receive their territory allocation
32 The sixth lot came out to the children of Naphtali, even for the children of Naphtali according to their families.
33 And their coast was from Heleph, from Allon to Zaanannim, and Adami, Nekeb, and Jabneel, unto Lakum; and the outgoings thereof were at Jordan:
34 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.
35 And the fenced cities are Ziddim, Zer, and Hammath, Rakkath, and Chinnereth,
36 And Adamah, and Ramah, and Hazor,
37 And Kedesh, and Edrei, and Enhazor,
38 And Iron, and Migdalel, Horem, and Bethanath, and Bethshemesh; nineteen cities with their villages.
39 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Naphtali according to their families, the cities and their villages.
The Tribe of Dan receive their territory allocation
40 And the seventh lot came out for the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families.
41 And the coast of their inheritance was Zorah, and Eshtaol, and Irshemesh,
42 And Shaalabbin, and Ajalon, and Jethlah,
43 And Elon, and Thimnathah, and Ekron,
44 And Eltekeh, and Gibbethon, and Baalath,
45 And Jehud, and Beneberak, and Gathrimmon,
46 And Mejarkon, and Rakkon, with the border before Japho.
47 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.
48 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.
So, let's recap what's already been handed out by Joshua to the Tribes of Israel previously. Reuben (Leah's first son), Gad (Jacob's first son by Leah's handmaid, Zilpah) and half of Manasseh (Joseph's son) have already been allocated territory on the east side of the Jordan River. You will recall that Joseph was Rachel's oldest son. Ephraim was Joseph's other son. Ephraim and the other half of Manasseh's tribe received their allocations in Canaan in Joshua 16-17 (see notes). Jacob had adopted Joseph's two sons as his own back in Genesis 48:5 (see notes). Judah (Leah's fourth son) received their allocation first back in Joshua 15 (see notes). After the spies were sent out and returned in Joshua 18:1-10 (see notes), Benjamin (Rachels second son) was next to receive the tribal allotment in Joshua 18:11-28 (see notes). Theirs was the first lot of the remaining seven.
It is somewhat interesting to me that the tribes who were the descendants of the sons of the maidservants of Jacob's wives were the last three to receive their allotments. The other maidservant's son was Gad who chose to stay on the other side of the Jordan with Reuben and Manasseh. Click here to see the sons of Jacob in order of their births.
Remember what Jacob's sons, Simeon and Levi, did to the Shechemites back in Genesis 34 (see notes) with that whole circumcision ploy? That was an amusing way to get revenge for which Jacob later, at his death, demonstrated that he never forgot. In the process of giving out blessings upon his boys, he gives a very specific one concerning Simeon and Levi. Jacob said in Genesis 49 (see notes) "Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel." Now isn't it interesting that the Tribe of Levi (the priests) end up scattered in the towns of the other tribes and Simeon ends up with no specific territory, but also scattered in the cities of Judah. Jacob's words over 400 years earlier became reality - fascinating!
With regard to the Tribe of Simeon, later on, they get very little attention in scripture. Remember that attempt to overthrow the theocracy in lieu of a democracy back in Numbers 16 (see notes)? Well, the Tribes on the south side of the Tabernacle (Simeon was one) took a big hit as a result. When the census is taken at the end of the 40 years, their numbers have diminished by nearly two-thirds. (Click here to see the population chart of the tribes.) Now, at the end of the 40 years, they are the smallest Tribe of Israel with just 22,200 men. Moreover, Beersheba was one of the cities listed in verse 2 as the inheritance of Simeon, but in Elijah's day in I Kings 19:3 (see notes), we are told that Beersheba belongs to Judah. Apparently the assimilation of Simeon into the Tribe of Judah had largely taken place at that point, 500 years after Israel's conquest of Canaan. However, we see in II Chronicles 4:24-43 (see notes) that some from the Tribe of Simeon cross over the Jordan River and set up housekeeping over on Mount Seir. That occurs during Hezekiah's reign (715-686 B.C.). So, they never disappear as one of the Tribes of Israel.
But the Tribe of Levi ends up faring much better due to a subsequent extraordinary act of faithfulness. Although scattered throughout Israel as Jacob had decreed back in Genesis 49:7 (see notes), being a Levite in Israel wasn't that bad of a deal in those days. So how did they earn this partial reprieve from Jacob's decree? The answer is found in Deuteronomy 33 (see notes) when Moses blessed the Tribes of Israel prior to his death:
Deuteronomy 33:8 And of Levi he said, Let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one, whom thou didst prove at Massah, and with whom thou didst strive at the waters of Meribah; (For the significance of the Urim and Thummim, see notes on Exodus 28:30)
Deuteronomy 33:9 Who said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor knew his own children: for they have observed thy word, and kept thy covenant.
Deuteronomy 33:10 They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law: they shall put incense before thee, and whole burnt sacrifice upon thine altar.
Deuteronomy 33:11 Bless, LORD, his substance, and accept the work of his hands: smite through the loins of them that rise against him, and of them that hate him, that they rise not again.
So...what exactly did the Levites do to shake off some of their curse? Verse 8 (above) tells us that it was their action of faithfulness at Massah/Meribah, the location where Aaron manufactured the golden calf while Moses was away (Exodus 32, see notes). When Moses returned, here's what Moses told the Hebrews:
Exodus 32:27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.
Exodus 32:28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.
Exodus 32:29 For Moses had said, Consecrate yourselves to day to the LORD, even every man upon his son, and upon his brother; that he may bestow upon you a blessing this day.
So...because the Levites were faithful to God and Moses in Exodus 32 (see notes), they receive a special blessing from Moses in Deuteronomy 33 (see notes). As a result, though scattered, life as a Levite in Israel turned out to be a position of honor.
Joshua gets his reward (Joshua 19:49-51)
49 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:
50 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.
51 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.
And...finally...old man Joshua gets his own city, Timnathserah in mount Ephraim. The specific "word of the LORD" in verse 50 is not given, but it probably refers back to the events of Numbers 14 (see notes) when Joshua and Caleb were commended after their return with the other ten spies from Canaan. We saw in Joshua 18:1 (see notes) that the tabernacle had been erected in Shiloh; now we see in verse 51 that all of the territory assignments had been issued from the "door of the tabernacle" there at Shiloh, within the territory of Ephraim, about 10 miles from Timnathserah.
Time to establish those cities of refuge (Joshua 20)
(See table below for locations)
1 The LORD also spake unto Joshua, saying,
2 Speak to the children of Israel, saying, Appoint out for you cities of refuge, whereof I spake unto you by the hand of Moses:
3 That the slayer that killeth any person unawares and unwittingly may flee thither: and they shall be your refuge from the avenger of blood.
4 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.
5 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.
6 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.
7 And they appointed Kedesh in Galilee in mount Naphtali, and Shechem in mount Ephraim, and Kirjatharba, which is Hebron, in the mountain of Judah.
8 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.
9 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.
Remember the lengthy discussions in Numbers 35:6-34 (see notes) and Deuteronomy 19:1-13 (see notes) about what happens when you accidentally kill someone? These six cities of refuge were to be safe havens until a trial could be held for he who had committed manslaughter. These verses establish those cities. By my calculations, that puts nearly everyone in Israel within 40 miles or so from one of these cities, those in the southern extremities of Judah being an exception. Remember, one is not safe from the avenger until he is within the protective custody of that city...and then only until his trial. Found guilty, he becomes open season to his avenger. Found innocent, he may continue to enjoy the protection of the city, but unprotected from his avenger outside the city (so much for vacationing). One more caveat - after the High priest dies, he may leave the city without fear of his avenger...theoretically.
1 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;
2 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.
3 And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.
4 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.
5 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.
6 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.
7 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.
8 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.
9 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,
10 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.
11 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.
12 But the fields of the city, and the villages thereof, gave they to Caleb the son of Jephunneh for his possession.
13 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,
14 And Jattir with her suburbs, and Eshtemoa with her suburbs,
15 And Holon with her suburbs, and Debir with her suburbs,
16 And Ain with her suburbs, and Juttah with her suburbs, and Bethshemesh with her suburbs; nine cities out of those two tribes.
17 And out of the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with her suburbs, Geba with her suburbs,
18 Anathoth with her suburbs, and Almon with her suburbs; four cities.
19 All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their suburbs.
20 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.
21 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,
22 And Kibzaim with her suburbs, and Bethhoron with her suburbs; four cities.
23 And out of the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with her suburbs, Gibbethon with her suburbs,
24 Aijalon with her suburbs, Gathrimmon with her suburbs; four cities.
25 And out of the half tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with her suburbs, and Gathrimmon with her suburbs; two cities.
26 All the cities were ten with their suburbs for the families of the children of Kohath that remained.
27 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.
28 And out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishon with her suburbs, Dabareh with her suburbs,
29 Jarmuth with her suburbs, Engannim with her suburbs; four cities.
30 And out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with her suburbs, Abdon with her suburbs,
31 Helkath with her suburbs, and Rehob with her suburbs; four cities.
32 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.
33 All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their suburbs.
34 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,
35 Dimnah with her suburbs, Nahalal with her suburbs; four cities.
36 And out of the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with her suburbs, and Jahazah with her suburbs,
37 Kedemoth with her suburbs, and Mephaath with her suburbs; four cities.
38 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,
39 Heshbon with her suburbs, Jazer with her suburbs; four cities in all.
40 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.
41 All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs.
42 These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.
43 And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
44 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.
45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
The Levites may not get their own region like the other tribes, but they didn't get a bad deal.
Here's the breakdown:
The "suburbs" were open areas around the cities suitable for keeping livestock. Those were included with the awarding of the cities themselves. You will notice from this chapter that the cities of refuge indicated in Joshua 20 (see above) are all cities of Levities. Living in one of those cities as a non-Levite would have been a definite change in lifestyle.
It is still interesting though that what Jacob said back in Genesis 49:7 (see notes) seems to have come true for Simeon and Levi. Both end up with cities within territories and not distinct territories of their own...just as Jacob had said.
Finally, notice verse 43 regarding Israel's new land, "And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein." It may occur to you that these boundaries of Israel at this point in time don't fulfill the promise God gave to Abraham back in Genesis 15:18 (see notes), "In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abraham, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:" Click here for a complete explanation of the fulfillment and a map of Israel's conquests.