Yehoshua Eighteen: Settling the land

“And the entire congregation of the children of Israel assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there. And the land was subdued before them (Joshua 18:1).” It seems like the people can finally take a break from the exhausting business of conquering and finally begin living in their land. Of course, all of the land still hasn’t been given out, so the people are pretty restless. But Joshua throws their complaints back at them, and asks why they haven’t been taking more initiative in dividing up the land for themselves. “Appoint for yourselves three men for each tribe; and I will send them, and they shall arise, and go through the land, and describe it according to their inheritance; and they shall come to me (Joshua 18:4).” There are seven more portions to be given out, as the Levites get none, Judah and Joseph are taken care of, and Gad and Reuben have already claimed land on the other side of the Jordan. The rest of the tribes send their representatives to explore the land options.

“And Joshua cast lots of Shiloh before the Lord, and there Joshua divided the land to the children of Israel according to their divisions (Joshua 18:10).” The results are crazily detailed. In the next seventeen verses, all we hear about is the portion of the land allotted to Benjamin and the specific clans and families within that one tribe. I assume the rest will be forthcoming in the next few chapters. It’s clear that the book of Joshua is coming to a close, and that with it the conquering will be over, just as the wandering was over with the end of the Torah and Moses’s death. Each of these leaders marks an era for the people, who are transforming from a nomadic minority to a conquering force in these chapters. Next, they’ll have to deal with what it means to have a land in reality, not just a dream of a land. It’s something that the Jewish people today are still trying to figure out. It’ll be interesting to see if there are parallels between the experience of the Israelites and the modern Jewish perspective on Israel and nationhood.

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