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Scripture reading – Joshua 15-16

Caleb had stated his claim to the land the LORD promised him for an inheritance (14:6-13), and Judah, the most prominent of the tribes, received its land (15:1).

Joshua 15

The Inheritance and Borders of Judah (Joshua 15:1-12)

The boundaries of Judah’s territories were assigned, beginning with the southernmost point of the Dead Sea (15:2-4). Next, the tribe’s territory extended northward along the Dead Sea’s eastern shore to where the Jordan River flowed into it (15:5a). Continuing north and northwest (15:5b-11), Judah’s territory included the city of Jerusalem (15:8). Lastly, the Mediterranean Sea served as Judah’s west boundary (15:12).

The Mount Assigned to Caleb and His Heirs (Joshua 15:13-19)

Joshua 15 briefly described Caleb’s challenge to claim his inheritance (15:13-19). True to his vow (14:6-15), and with fellow warriors of Judah (Judges 1:10), they drove the sons of Anak out of his land (15:14-15). Caleb then enlisted men to assist him in claiming Kirjath-sepher as part of his inheritance. He also promised to give his daughter Achsah to be the wife of the man who aided him. Caleb’s brother, Othniel (or perhaps his father’s brother, 15:16-17; Judges 1:13; 3:9), conquered Kirjath-sepher, and Achsah became his wife (Othniel became Israel’s first judge following Joshua’s death, Judges 3:9).

The Towns and Cities with Judah’s Borders (Joshua 15:20-63)

Listed by the district are the names of the towns and cities of Judah. Recorded are the cities in the south (15:21-32), in the lowlands (15:33-47), in the mountains (15:48-60), and in the desert (15:61-62).

Perhaps a fact that might initially seem insignificant, we find a failure recorded amid Judah’s successes. We read, “As for the Jebusites the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem unto this day” (15:63). Remembering the LORD had commanded Israel to drive all the nations out of the land, we will later find that Judah’s failure would one day have grave consequences for the nation.

Joshua 16

The Tribal Lands of Ephraim and Manasseh (Joshua 16:1-4)

The inheritance promised to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, was stated in Joshua 16 and 17. Joshua 16 recorded the territory assigned to Ephraim. Joshua 17 related the borders of Manasseh’s land, which I will consider in the following devotion.

Joseph, the eleventh of twelve sons born to Jacob (the father of the Twelve Tribes of Israel), had two sons born in Egypt. Because he was faithful, Jacob honored Joseph with a double inheritance in the land and adopted his sons as his own. Ephraim and Manasseh became fathers of tribes, and each received an inheritance in Canaan (16:1-4).

Ephraim and Its Borders (Joshua 16:5-10)

The land assigned to the tribe of Ephraim is defined (16:5-10); however, the population of Ephraim was so large that additional cities in Manasseh’s territory were bequeathed to the tribe for its people (16:9). In our following Bible study, we will consider the lands assigned to the tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn son (17:1-13).

Closing thoughts:

We have noted Judah’s failure to drive the Jebusites out of Jerusalem (15:63). Unfortunately, Ephraim also failed to claim all the land that God promised them for inheritance. We read, “They drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute” (16:10).

The cause for Ephraim’s failure was not identified; nevertheless, regardless of their reason, it was inexcusable, and the effects of their failure proved tragic for their children. So it came to pass that the Canaanites, who were idol worshippers, eventually led Ephraim down a path of sin and gross wickedness.

Of course, the same danger confronts us today. In the words of the apostle Paul, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners” (1 Corinthians 15:33).

Questions to consider:

1) What people inhabited Jerusalem when it was assigned to Judah? (Joshua 15:8, 63)

2) What were the eastern and western boundaries of Judah? (Joshua 15:5, 12)

3) How did the LORD and Jacob, whom God named Israel, honor Joseph’s faithfulness in Egypt? (Joshua 16:1, 4)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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