Trust and Obey, For There’s No Other Way! (Joshua 17-18)

Scripture reading – Joshua 17-18

The dividing of the Promised Land continues in today’s Scripture reading. The tribe of Judah had received its portion (Joshua 15), and the next to be assigned their inheritance were the two tribes descended from Joseph’s sons that had been born in Egypt, Ephraim and Manasseh (Joshua 16). 

Joshua 17 – The Families of Manasseh, and Their Inheritance

The boundaries of Ephraim’s land had been determined in Joshua 16, bringing us to the lands that fell by lot to the tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn son. As the firstborn son, Manasseh was to receive a double portion for his inheritance, and you might remember a half of that tribe had been granted land in Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (17:5).

We are reminded of an appeal for an inheritance that had been made to Moses, by the five daughters of Zelophehad, whose father had no male heir (17:3-6; Numbers 27:2-11). The daughters approached Eleazar the priest, and Joshua, desiring their portion of the land would be granted to them (17:4).

The next record was of Manasseh’s lands, west of the Jordan River (17:7-11). Once again we read of a failure to obey God’s command, and drive out the heathen nations completely (17:12). We read, “the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land” (17:12).

The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh then came to Joshua, and demanded more land for their people, complaining, “Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the Lordhath blessed me hitherto?” (17:14)

Joshua then challenged their cowardice, declaring the problem was not the need of more land, but their failure to drive the Canaanites out and claim the land the LORD had promised (17:15). 

The “children of Joseph” (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh), excused their failure, complaining the Canaanites had “chariots of iron” (meaning chariots enforced with iron, 17:16). Joshua challenged the tribes to finish taking the mountain, “for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong” (17:18).

Joshua 18 – The Tabernacle Assembled at Shiloh, and The Tribe of Benjamin Given Its Inheritance

The Tabernacle was erected at Shiloh, the place that would become the central place of worship and sacrifices in Israel, throughout the era of the Judges, following Joshua’s death (18:1-2).

The narrative concerning the division of the land among the twelve tribes of Israel continues in Joshua 18,revealing seven tribes had failed to demand, and claim their inheritance (18:1-3).  

Joshua rebuked the seven tribes, saying, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?” (18:3) The cause for their failure is not identified, but we can suppose their lack of zeal, and passion to claim their inheritance might be related to either cowardice, or contentment with the nomad life they had followed for nearly a half century.

Joshua then devised a new plan for dividing up the remaining territories among the seven tribes (18:4-28), and commanded each tribe choose three men, twenty-one total, who would map out the land, and divide it into seven portions (18:4-6). The men did as Joshua commanded, and when they returned, lots were cast to determine the portion of the lands that would be assigned to each tribe (18:8-10).

The balance of Joshua 18 is a record of boundaries for the territory that was assigned to the tribe of Benjamin: the northern boundary (18:12-13), the western boundary (18:14), the southern boundary (18:15-19), and the eastern boundary (18:20). The cities of Benjamin are also named (18:21-28).

A closing thought: We are witnessing a mounting list of disappointments, as the tribes of Israel failed to trust God, obey His commands, and claim the inheritance He had promised. 

The tribe of Judah had failed to drive out the Jebusites, who continued to inhabit Jerusalem (15:63). The tribe of Ephraim “drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (16:10).  The same malady was stated of Manasseh, for they “could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land” (17:12-13).  

When Ephraim and Manasseh, boasted they were a “great people” (17:14), and complained they had not been given enough land, Joshua challenged them to go to war against the “Perizzites,” and the “giants” in the land and claim the land for their children (17:15). Instead of trusting God’s promises, and rising to the challenge, the “children of Joseph,” objected the enemy was great (17:16-18).

I wonder, how many of God’s blessings do you miss, because you fail to “Trust, and Obey.”

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith