THE BOOK OF JOSHUA
Lesson 8: Chapters 15-19
The Completion of the Tribal Allotments

Lord God,
In Your Divine Wisdom You have allotted each of us a destiny that You have called us to fulfill. That destiny is the path You have assigned to us on our journey to eternal salvation. Some of us will fulfill that mission in the ordinary duties of life and in witnessing to our faith by our obedience to the precepts of Mother Church and in raising godly children. Others of us will be called to Holy Orders or extraordinary acts of service and heroism like Your servants Joshua and Caleb "but all of us are called to serve Christ the King and to live as holy warriors in advancing His kingdom. Send Your Spirit to guide us, Lord, as we continue to study the narrative of the land allotted the tribes of Israel in the conquered land of Canaan.

+ + +

Judah, may your brothers praise you, your hand be on the neck of your enemies. May the sons of your father bow themselves to you. Judah is a lion's whelp. My son, you have risen up from the prey; he stoops, he crouches like a lion; and like a lioness, who can rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the lawmaker from between his feet, until Shiloh come, and the obedience of the peoples to him. Binding his foal to the vine, and his ass s colt to the choice vine, he washes his clothing in wine, and his covering in the bloods of grapes. His eyes shall be dark from wine, and his teeth white from milk.
Genesis 49:8-12, Jacob-Israel's deathbed prophecy for his son Judah

(literal Hebrew IBHE, vol. 1, page 136; emphasis added). John 8:7 defines the Hebrew word Shiloh (Siloam in Greek): "the name means one who has been sent'."

Chapter 15: The Lands Allotted the Tribe of Judah

Of Judah he said this: Listen, Yahweh, to the voice of Judah, and bring him back to his people. That his hands may defend his rights, come to his help against his foes!
Moses' blessing for Judah, Deuteronomy 33:7

But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, the least of the clans of Judah, from you will come for me a future ruler of Israel whose origins go back to the distant past, to the day of old.
Micah 5:1/2 (Judaean prophet in the late 8th century BC)

Chapter 15 is divided into four parts:

  1. The boundaries of the tribe of Judah (verses 1-12)
    1. the southern boundary (verses 2-4)
    2. the eastern boundary (verse 5)
    3. the northern boundary (verses 6-11)
    4. the western boundary and concluding statement (verse 12)
  2. The inheritance of the clan of Calebites within Judah's lands (verses 13-20)
    1. Caleb's conquest of Hebron
    2. Othniel's conquest of Debir
  3. The list of Judah's towns and their villages and dependencies* (verses 21-62)
    1. towns in the Negeb (verses 21-32)
    2. towns in the lowlands (verses 33-47)
    3. towns in the highlands (verses 48-60)
    4. towns in the desert (verses 61-62)
  4. Conclusion: Judah's failure to capture Jerusalem (verse 63)

*dependences (literally "daughters" in Hebrew) are very small settlements probably consisting of an extended family or a single family occupation site. The inheritance of the tribal lands is determined by Divine guidance in the casting of lots "according to their clans" (see 13:15, 24, 29) and overseen by a commission consisting of the High Priest Eleazar, the commander Joshua, and twelve tribal elders (Num 34:16-29; Josh 14:1). Caleb was the tribal representative for Judah, the first man named by God in the list of twelve elders (Num 34:19).

The Twelve Sons/Tribes of Jacob-Israel
Birth Order
Genesis 29:31-30:34;
35:16-20
Mother Order
L = Leah R = Rachel
Z= Zilpah B = Bilhah
Tribal Allotment Order
Joshua chapters 13-19
Reuben Reuben = L Reuben (east)
Simeon Simeon = L Gad (east)
Levi Levi = L ½ Manasseh (east)
Judah Judah = L Judah (west)
Dan Issachar = L Ephraim (west)
Naphtali Zebulun = L ½ Manasseh (west)
Gad Joseph = R Benjamin (west)
Asher Benjamin = R Simeon (west within Judah)
Issachar Gad = Z Zebulun (west)
Zebulun Asher = Z Issachar (west)
Joseph Dan = B Asher (west)
Benjamin Naphtali = B Naphtali (west)
    Dan (west)
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

The tribe of Levi did not receive an allotment of tribal lands (Num 18:20-21; Josh 13:14, 33).

Joshua 15:1-12 ~ The boundaries of the tribe of Judah

Southern boundary:
1 The portion falling to the tribe of the sons of Judah, by clans, was near the frontier of Edom, from the desert of Zin southwards to Kadesh in the south. 2 Their southern frontier began at the tip of the Salt Sea, at the southerly bay; 3 it proceeded south of the Ascent of Scorpions, crossed Zin and came to Kadesh-Barnea from the south; past Hezron, it went on the Addar and turned towards Karak; 4 the frontier then went on to Azmon, came out at the Torrent of Egypt and reached as far as the sea. This is to be your southern frontier.

Question: Who was Judah, the patriarchal ancestor of the tribe of Judah? What does his name, in Hebrew Yahudah/Yehudah, mean? See Gen 29:31-35.
Answer: He was the son of Jacob-Israel and Leah, the fourth son in birth order of the twelve sons of Jacob-Israel. Judah's name, according to Genesis 29:35, is a theophoric name (containing the name of the deity) meaning "praise/worship Yahweh."

Judah's boundaries are laid out in a counterclockwise direction beginning in the south (verses 2-4) and moving to the east (verse 5a), to the north (verses 5b-11) and finally to the west (verse 12a). The desert of Zin is northeast of Kadesh-Barnea (see Num 20:1) and is a region in the Negeb.

Eastern boundary:
5 The eastern frontier was the Salt Sea as far as the mouth of the Jordan.

In this case, the "mouth of the Jordan" refers to where the Jordan River empties into the Dead Sea (Salt Sea). The southern and eastern borders of Judah are the same as southern and eastern borders of Canaan. The Torrent of Egypt is probably the Wadi el-Arish, southwest of Gaza.

Northern boundary:
6 The northern boundary began at the bay at the mouth of the Jordan. 7 The boundary went up to Beth-Hoglah, passed north of Beth-ha-Arabah and went on to the Stone of Bohan son of Reuben. The boundary then went on to Debir from the Vale of Achor and turned north towards the stone circle opposite the Ascent of Adummim, which is south of the Torrent; the boundary went on to the Waters of En-Shemesh and came out at En-Rogel. 8 It then went back up the Valley of Hinnon, coming from the south to the flank of the Jebusite "that is, Jerusalem "and climbed to the crest of the mountain barring the Valley of Hinnom to the west, at the northern end of the Valley of the Rephaim. 9 From the mountain top, the boundary curved round to the spring of the Waters of Nephtoah, went on to the towns of Mount Ephron and then turned towards Baalah "that is, Kiriath-Jearim. 10 From Baalah, the boundary curved westwards to the highlands of Seir, skirted the northern slope of Mount Jearim "that is, Chesalon "went down to Beth-Shemesh and through Timnah, 11 came out on the northern flank of Ekron, turned towards Shikkeron and, passing through the highlands of Ballah, came out at Jabneel, and reached as far as the sea.

The northern territory is laid out in greatest detail. Judah's boundary passes south of Jerusalem, across the Valley of Hinnom. Jerusalem will be allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh 18:28). Judah will not conquer the Jebusites and take Jerusalem until the era of the United Monarchy under the leadership of King David (2 Sam 5:6-12; 1 Chr 11:4-9). The "stone circle" mentioned in verse 7 is probably one of many such memorial sites still visible in the Holy Land and throughout the ancient Near East. The "Stone of Bohan son of Reuben" is an unknown monument that is also mentioned in Joshua 18:17.

In verses 9-11, the boundary continued "from the mountain top" in a northwesterly direction. Then the border turned westward to Mt. Seir (verse 10), not the same Mt. Seir that is in Edom on Israel's southeastern border. Then the border ran north to the ridge of Ekron, one of the five cities of the Philistines near the Mediterranean coast. The last site on the east-to-west boundary is Jabneel "the Jamnia of 1-2 Maccabees.

Western boundary:
12 The western boundary was the Great Sea itself. Such was the frontier surrounding the sons of Judah, by clans.

The western boundary is the Mediterranean Sea.

Joshua 15:13-19 ~ The inheritance of the clan of Calebites within Judah's lands
13 Caleb son of Jephunneh was given a share within that of the sons of Judah, in accordance with Yahweh's order to Joshua: Kiriath-Abra, the town of the father of Anak "that is, Hebron. 14 Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak: Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai, descended from Anak. 15 From there he marched on the inhabitants of Debir; Debir in olden days was called Kiriath-Sepher. 16 Caleb then said, To the man who attacks and takes Kiriath-Sepher, I shall give my daughter Achsah as wife.' 17 The man who captured it was Othniel son of Kenaz, brother of Caleb, who gave him his daughter Achsah as wife. 18 When she arrived, he urged her to ask her father for arable land, but when she alighted from the donkey and Caleb asked her, What is the matter?' 19 she said to him, Grant me a blessing! As the land you have given me is in the Negeb, give me springs of water too! So Caleb gave her what she wanted, the upper springs and the lower springs.

The Hebrew word kiriath means "city;" for example Kiriath-Baal means "city of Baal," Kiriath-sepher means "city of books/scrolls," and Kiriath-Arba means "city of Arba" (Josh 14:15). The Hebrew word beth means "place" or "house;" for example Beth-lehem means "house/place of bread.

Just as the narrative of Judah's allotment began with an account of Caleb's promised heritage within the tribal lands of Judah, so now in the middle of the allotment of territory and towns comes another part of Caleb's personal story. This account completes the promise he made to Joshua in 14:12 to drive the Anakim out of Hebron and to take the town of Debir; the taking of Debir was covered in a general summary in the story of the southern campaign in Joshua 10:38-39. See this same story recounting Caleb's conquest of Hebron repeated in Judges 1:9-15.

Question: What promise does Caleb make to the man who successfully took the city of Debir?
Answer: He promised to give his daughter as a bride to the victory.

Question: Who was Othniel, who was Othniel's father, and what is the relationship to Caleb? See Josh 15:17; Judg 1:13.
Answer: Othniel was the Judahite chieftain under Caleb's command who took Debir. Othniel's father was a man named Kenaz who was Caleb's younger brother; therefore Othniel was Caleb's nephew and his father was a Gentile convert like Caleb.

According to the genealogies of the tribe of Judah in 1 Chronicles, in addition to his daughter, Achsah, Caleb also had three sons (1 Chr 4:15), and his brother Kenaz had two sons (1 Chr 4:13). Achsah and Othniel's mothers were probably women of the tribe of Judah. As he promised, Caleb gave his nephew his daughter in marraige as a reward for Othniel's victory over Debir. It was common for first cousins to marry and there was no prohibition against it in the Holiness Code (see Lev 20:8-21).

Question: What other important role will Othniel of Judah play in the history of Israel? See Judg 1:9-21; 3:9-11, and the list of Israel's Judges in the Charts/Old Testament section of the website.
Answer: Othniel became the first warrior Judge of Israel. God placed His spirit on Othniel to be Israel's deliver in a time of apostasy when the king of Edom (on Judah's southern border) attacked Israel and made the people his vassals for eight years. Othniel went to war and delivered the Israelites from Cushan-Rishathaim, king of Edom. Othniel then continued to serve as a judge of Israel in a time of peace for 40 years until his death.

Question: Why does Achsah's husband ask her to petition her father for additional land?
Answer: Debir was located where the Judean hill country descends into the arid Negeb "therefore the land was not as favorable for growing crops.

Question: How does Achsah solve the problem?
Answer: She goes to her father and asks him for a blessing " a well to water the land he has given her new family as a part of the bridal dowry.

Question: What is her father's response and how does his answer tell us more about his character?
Answer: Before she asks, her father anticipates that she has come to make a request. He not only grants her request for a source of water, but her father generously gives her the "double blessing" of an upper and lower spring.

The story of Caleb began the allotment of ancestral lands to his adopted tribe in 14:6-15, and now the narrative Caleb's final victory comes in the middle of the recounting of the borders and towns of Judah's heritage. The former Gentile has been recognized as a leader in Judah, and it is the remembrance of this faithful man who submitted his life to the God of Israel and who was completely incorporated into the covenant of God's people that foreshadows the millions of Gentiles and Jews that will one day be united in the New Covenant in Jesus Christ.

Joshua 15:20-63 ~ The list of Judah's towns
20 Such was the heritage of the tribe of the sons of Judah, by clans. 21 Towns at the extremity of the tribe of the sons of Judah, near the frontier of Edom in the Negeb:
22 Kabzeel, Arad, Jagur, Kinah, Dimon, Aroer, 23 Kedesh, Hazor-Ithnan, 24 Ziph, Telem, Bealoth, 25 Hazor-Hadattah, Kiriath-Hezron "that is, Hazor "26 Amam, Shema, Moladah, 27 Hazar-Gaddah, Heshmon, Beth-Pelet, 28 Hazar-Shual, Beersheba and its dependencies, 29 Baalah, Iim, Ezem, 30 Eltolad, Chesil, Hormah, 31 Ziklag, Madmannah, Sansannah, 32 Lebaoth, Shilhim, Ain and Rimmon: in all twenty-nine towns with their villages.

The list in verses 20-63 is the longest and most detailed of all the tribal town lists. Usually when counts are made in Scripture the total equals the number of sites, or kings, or clans listed (i.e., list of Jacob and his descendants who arrived in Egypt in Gen 49:8-27 or the census in Num 26), but not in this case.

Verses 22-32 lists cites in the south. These cities were the farthest removed (verse 21). The list begins on the border with Edom to the south and moves then to the north (verses 30-31) and finally the west (verse 32). The count doesn't appear to come out correctly in all the lists, probably because some of these place-names are only villages or dependencies that are not be counted separately from the main towns to which they belong. . Baalah, also called Kirath-Jearim (Josh 15:9, 60; 18:14), was where King David was keeping the Ark of the Covenant before his first attempt to bring the Ark to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:1-2).

33 In the lowlands:
The towns listed in verses 33-47 are in the Shephelah, the lowlands between the mountain highlands and the coastal plain. In the narrative, the region is divided into four districts. The list of the location of the cities moves from north to south, unlike the first list.

District I: Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, 34 Zanoah, en-Gannim, Tappuah, Enam, 35 Jarmuth, Adullam, Socoh, Azekah, 36 Shaaraim, Aditaim, Ha-Gederah and Gederothaim: fourteen towns with their villages.
The place-name Jarmuth (verse 35) was one of the cities in the southern coalition (Josh 10:3) and was located 16 miles west of Jerusalem. Shaaraim (verse 36) means "two gates" and is near Ashkelon, a Philistine city (see 1 Sam 17:52). The total count doesn't agree with the 15 place-names. One of the place names is probably a village associated with one of the major towns.

District II: 37 Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal-Gad, 38 Dilean, Ha-Mizpeh, Jokteel, 39 Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon, 40 Cabbon, Lahmas, Chitlish, 41 Gederoth, Beth-Dragon, Naamah and Makkedah: sixteen towns with their villages.
The first city in list # 2 is near Lachish and may be the Zoanen in Micah 1:11. Lachish was one of the largest cities in Canaan and was part of the coalition of kings who attacked Gibeon. Two of its kings were killed by the Israelites. Eglon was another of the cities of the southern coalition and Makkedah is where the 5 Amorite kings were buried (Josh 10:3, 18-27, 34-37). The count agrees with the listed place-names.

District III: 42 Libna, Ether, Asham, 43 Iphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, 44 Keilah, Achzib and Mareshah: nine towns with their villages.
The third group includes cites in the southern half of the region. Libna is probably the Libnah listed among the conquered cities in part II of the southern campaign (Josh 10:31-32, 39). The count agrees with the listed place-names.

District IV: 45 Ekron with its dependencies and its villages. 46 From Ekron to the sea, everything to the side of Ashdod, with its villages. 47 Ashdod with its dependencies and its villages; Gaza with its dependencies and its villages as far as the Torrent of Egypt, the Great Sea forming the boundary.
The fourth group is a list of principal towns in Philistine territory near the coast. Ekron (13:3; 15:11) is the most northern of the five Philistine cities and Ashdod is three miles from the coast. Gaza (10:41; 13:3) is in the extreme south of the coastal plain near the sea. In Genesis 10:19, the border of Canaan is described as stretching ... from Sidon all the way to Gerar near Gaza, and all the way to Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim near Lesha. The "Torrent of Egypt" is probably what is called today the Wadi el-Arish (see 15:4, 47) on the border with Egyptian claimed territory.

48 In the highlands:
The highlands consists of 5 districts (the LXX-Septuagint translation of Joshua has 6 districts) of cities in the hill country of the central mountains. This region has rugged limestone mountains with barren mountain peaks. The sides of the mountains, however, are covered for the most part with grasses, shrubs and trees and there are many intersecting fertile valleys. This area lies between the Shephelah in the west and the desert or wilderness of Judah in the east.

District I: Shamir, Jattir, Socoh, 49 Dannah, Kiriath-Sepher, now Debir, 50 Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim, 51 Goshen, Holon and Giloh: eleven towns with their villages.
The count agrees with the place-names; Debir is not counted since it is the new name for Kiriath-Sepher, the city taken by Caleb's nephew Othniel.

District II: 52 Arab, Dumah, Eshan, 53 Janum, Beth-Tappuah, Aphekah, 54 Humtah, Kiriath-Arba, now Hebron, and Zior: nine towns with their villages.
Hebron is the inheritance of Caleb and his descendants. The count agrees.

District III: 55 Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, 56 Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah, 57 Ha-Kain, Gibeah and Timnah: ten towns with their villages.
Jezreel in verse 56 is not the same Jezreel as the town in the Esdraelon Valley to the north. This Jezreel will be the home of King David's future wife Ahinoam. The count agrees.

District IV: 58 Halhul, Beth-Zur, Gedor, 59 Maarath, Bethj-Anoth and Eltekon: six towns with their villages.
The count agrees with the place-names.

District V: Tekoa, Ephrathah, now Bethlehem, Peor, Etam, Kulon, Tatam, Sores, Carem, Gallim, Bether and Manach: eleven towns with their villages.
The list of place-names matches the count (with Ephrathah is counted with its other name Bethlehem).

This list is missing from the Hebrew text but is present in the Septuagint Old Testament translation. The names Ephrathah and Bethlehem will be important in the prophecy of Micah (see Mic 5:1/2; also see 1 Chr 4:4).

Question: What two members of the tribe of Judah who are future kings will be born in Bethlehem?
Answer: King David and Jesus Christ the King of kings.

District VI: 60 Kiriath-Baal, that is Kiriath-Jearim, and Rabbah: two towns with their villages.
The count is correct; Kiriath-Jearim is not counted since it is the same site as Kiriath-Baal ("city of [the god] Baal").

61 In the desert:
Beth-Arabah, Middin, Secacah, 62 Nibshan, Salt Town and En-Gedi: six towns with their villages.
The final region in the list of Judah's towns are in the "desert," often referred to as the Judean wilderness "the narrow track of inhospitable land along the western side of the Dead Sea. It was the region into which the Spirit of God took Jesus after His baptism by St. John the Baptist. It is where He spent forty days and was then tempted by the devil (Mt 4:1-3; Lk 4:1-4). The count matches the place-names. These are all towns near the Dead Sea.

63 The Jebusites, however, who lived in Jerusalem, the sons of Judah were unable to dispossess, and the Jebusites still live in Jerusalem today, side by side with the sons of Judah.
The conclusion of the list records Judah's inability to drive out the Jebusites of Jerusalem. This line is a curious addition since Jerusalem is not among the cities allotted to Judah but was allotted instead to the tribe of Benjamin (see 18:28). However, this addition sets up the future narrative when King David will conquer Jerusalem and make the city his capital of a united Israel (2 Sam 5:6-12). It is also the city where David's descendant, Jesus of Nazareth, will fulfill the Sinai Covenant by offering Himself on the altar of the Cross for the sins of all mankind.

Summary of the numbers of Judahite towns (with their villages and dependencies):

For a total of 123 towns.

In Numbers 26, while the Israelites were encamped on the Plains of Moab on the east side of the Jordan River, God commanded that a census be taken of the fighting men in each tribe over twenty years of age and fit for war. There was a twofold purpose for the census:

  1. To number the fighting men in preparation for the war (Num 26:2).
  2. To prepare for allotting the Promised Land based on the population of each tribe (Num 26:52-56).
Census of the Twelve Tribes in Year 40 since the Exodus (Num 26:1-50)
Tribe Numbers of fighting men
1. Reuben 43,730
2. Simeon 22,200
3. Gad 40,500
4. Judah 76,500
5. Issachar 64,300
6. Zebulun 60,500
7. Manasseh 52,700
8. Ephraim 32,500
9. Benjamin 45,600
10. Dan 64,400
11. Asher 53,400
12. Naphtali 45,400
Total 601,730

Question: Which tribe was the largest?
Answer: The tribe of Judah was the largest of the twelve tribes. The census lists the number of fighting men as 76,500 warriors.

Question: Which was the next largest single tribe and which tribe was the smallest?
Answer: The next largest tribe was Dan and the smallest was Simeon.

That is unless you count the combined tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim that were originally the tribe of Joseph who each numbered 52,700 and 32,500 respectively for a total of 85,200 fighting men. However, in this list they are numbered as two separate tribes and are treated as such in the allotment of tribal lands that maintains the number of tribes possessing an inheritance in the Promised Land as twelve.

Question: What role did Judah play in the tragedy involving his half-brother Joseph, the favored son of Jacob-Israel and Jacob's second wife, Rachel? See Gen 37:18-27.
Answer: It was the plan of the jealous sons of Jacob-Israel to kill their favored half-brother Joseph. It was Judah who suggested that they sell him to the slave traders so that they were not guilty of the sin of shedding the innocent blood of a brother.

Question: By what unselfish act did Judah redeem himself and atone for his sin against his brother? Gen 44:1-13, 30-34. How does Judah's act of willing self-sacrifice foreshadow future events in salvation history?
Answer: Judah offers his life as a substitute for the life of his youngest brother, Benjamin. This unselfish, self-sacrificial act prefigures his descendant Jesus of Nazareth's self-sacrifice in offering His life for the lives of His "brothers" "the men and women of all humanity.

Joseph may have been Jacob-Israel's choice for the favored son, but Judah became God's choice. From the time of Judah's act of courage and unselfishness forward in the history of Israel, the tribe of Judah will have dominance over the other tribes of Israel. This is confirmed by Jacob-Israel's deathbed prophecy of Judah in Genesis 49:8-12. In that prophecy (see the quote above), the tribe of Judah is to have dominance over the other tribes with the promise of kingship. It is also confirmed by God selecting the tribe of Judah to lead all the other tribes in the march to the Promised Land (Num 2:3-4; 10:11-14) and Prince Nahshon of Judah to be the first in the order of princes/chieftains to bring their gifts to God's completed Sanctuary (Num 7:10-17).

Question: What future king of Israel is from the tribe of Judah and in what Judahite town will he be born? See 1 Sam 16:1, 11-13; 2 Sam 2:1-4; 5:1-5.
Answer: David of Bethlehem.

David is the first king from the tribe of Judah and the second King of Israel. He will establish Jerusalem as his capital and as the center of worship for Yahweh. He will be succeeded by his son, King Solomon (2 Sam 1:38-42) who will built the Jerusalem Temple on Mt. Moriah (1 Cor 3:1). However, the united monarchy of the Twelve Tribes will become a divided nation when ten tribes refuse to acknowledge the kingship of Solomon's son Rehoboam and elect their own king, a man named Jeroboam from the tribe of Ephraim (1 Kng 12:15-20). This political schism ushers in the era of the divided kingdoms of Israel in the north and Judah in the south. Nine different dynasties will rule the Northern Kingdom. However, true to Jacob-Israel's prophecy that the "scepter will not depart from Judah," only the House of David ruled over the Southern Kingdom of Judah (see Gen 49:8-12).

The prophecy was that Judah will retain the claim as the legitimate kings of Israel "until the one who has been sent comes" to whom the people render their obedience (Gen 49:10). According to the prophecy, the "One" will come on the foal of an ass (Gen 49:11); it is a prophecy repeated by the 6th century BC prophet Zechariah who declares that the Messiah will come to Jerusalem riding on the foal of an ass.

Question: Who is the "One" who will signal the climax of Judah's dominance over the tribes of Israel and where will he be born? See Zech 9:9; Mic 5:1/2; Mt 2:1; 21:1-9; Mk 11:1-11; Lk 2:1-7; 19:28-38; Jn 12:12-16; Rev 5:1-10.
Answer: That person, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the One sent by God, is Jesus of Nazareth; He who is the rightful Davidic King and the Divine Messiah who was born in the city of King David "Bethlehem.

Judah is named in both Matthew's and Luke's genealogies of Jesus (see Mt 1:3; Lk 3:34).

 

Question: Why is it an ironic twist of salvation history and perhaps a prophetic warning that it was Judah who told his brothers that they must not shed the innocent blood of a brother in Genesis 37:26-27? What will happen to Judah's descendants in Jerusalem in the spring of 30 AD? See Mt 27:20-25; Acts 2:22-23.
Answer: In the spring of 30 AD, the descendants of the tribe of Judah/nation of Judah will demand the shedding of the blood of their "brother," Jesus of Nazareth.

Chapters 16-17: The Allotment to the Two Tribes of Joseph

Chapters 16-17 are one unit divided into four parts:

  1. The general boundaries of the tribe of Joseph (16:1-4)
  2. Ephraim's boundaries (16:5-10)
  3. Manasseh's boundaries (17:1-13)
  4. The complaint of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh concerning their lot (17:14-18)

 

The Tribal Allotments for Ephraim and Manasseh
Of Joseph he said: His land is blessed by Yahweh. For him the best of heaven's dew and of the deep that lies below, 14 the best of what the sun makes grow, of what springs with every month, 15 the first-fruits of the ancient mountains, 16 the best from the hills of old, the best of the land and all it holds, the favor of him who dwells in the Bush. May the hair grow thick on the head of Joseph, on the brow of the consecrated one [nazir] among his brothers! 17 First-born of the Bull, his the glory. His horns are the wild ox's horns, with which he gores the peoples to the very ends of the earth. Such are the myriads of Ephraim, such are the thousands of Manasseh.
Moses' blessing for the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, Deuteronomy 33:13-17

(note the reference to Ex 3:1-3 in verse 16 and the similarity to Jacob's death-bed blessing in Gen 49:22-26).

Joshua 16:1-4 ~ The boundaries of the descendants of Joseph son of Jacob
1 The portion of the sons of Joseph started on the east at the Jordan opposite Jericho (the Waters of Jericho) through the desert rising from Jericho into the highlands of Bethel; 2 from Bethel it went to Luz, and on towards the frontier of the Archites at Ataroath; 3 then passed downwards and westwards to the frontier of the Japhletites as far as the border of Lower Beth-Horon and on to Gezer, and reached as far as the sea. 4 Such was the heritage of the sons of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim.

This introduction reminds the reader that the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh were at one time the single tribe of Joseph "the people descended from the first born son of Jacob-Israel and his second wife, Rachel, and also points out that Manasseh was Joseph's first born son. Manasseh and Ephraim were the sons of Joseph son of Jacob-Israel.

Question: Who was the mother of Manasseh and Ephraim? See Gen 41:45.
Answer: Their mother was Asenath, daughter of the Egyptian priest of On.

The allotment for the Josephite tribes of Ephraim and half of Manasseh (the other half of the tribe was allotted lands on the east side of the Jordan) will dominate the territory north of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the center of Canaan. The introduction in verses 1-4 treats the tribes of Joseph together and delineates their southern boundary. The boundary stretches from the oasis that watered Jericho and moves to the northeast to Bethel and Luz (the town nearest Bethel), through the mountain pass at Beth-Horon where Joshua defeated the coalition of the five central highland kings (10:1-15) and then on to the Mediterranean Sea.

Question: Bethel, meaning "house/place of God," is mentioned as part of the southern boundary of the tribe of Joseph. How was the site of Bethel important in the history of Jacob-Israel? See Gen 28:10-22; 35:1-15.
Answer: Leaving Canaan on his way to Haran, it was where Jacob had a vision of ascending and descending angels and where God first spoke to Jacob, repeating the covenant promises made to Abraham. Jacob named the site "Beth-el." Jacob was told by God to settle at Bethel after his return to Canaan from Haran. There the covenant promises were repeated and God affirmed his name change to "Israel."

Genesis 35:10 was the second time God told Jacob he was to be called "Israel." The first time was in Genesis 32:27-30/26-29.

Joshua 16:5-10 ~ The boundaries of the descendants of Ephraim
5 As regards the territory of the sons of Ephraim, by clans, the frontier of their heritage ran from Ataroth-Arach to Upper Beth-Horon; 6 the frontier then reached as far as the sea ... the Michmethath in the north, and the frontier turned east to Tanaath-Shiloh which it crossed in an easterly direction to Janoah; 7 it ran down to Ataroth and Naarah, touched Jericho and ended at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah, the frontier ran westwards to the Torrent of Kanah and reached as far as the sea. Such was the heritage of the tribe of the sons of Ephraim, by clans, 9 apart from the towns reserved for the sons of Ephraim inside the heritage of the sons of Manasseh, all these towns and their villages. 10 The Canaanites living in Gezer were not driven out; they have remained in Ephraim to the present day but are obliged to do forced labor.

Question: Sons are usually named in birth order (see 16:4) unless a younger son is more prominent. Why are Ephraim's boundaries described before Manasseh's in 16:5-16 even though Manasseh was the first-born of Joseph (Gen 41:50-52; Josh 17:1)? See Gen 48:8-22.
Answer: This preference for Ephraim reflects Jacob-Israel's blessing of the sons of Joseph when he blessed Ephraim with his right hand, making the younger dominant over his brother.

Joshua 17:1-6 ~ The boundaries of the descendants of Manasseh by clans
1 The portion of the tribe of Manasseh, who was in fact Joseph's first-born "went to Machir, Manasseh's first-born, father of Gilead, for he was a warrior; he had Gilead and Bashan. 2 The other sons of Manasseh had theirs, by clans: for the sons of Abiezer, for the sons of Helek, for the sons of Asriel, for the sons of Shechem, for the sons of Hepher, and for the sons of Shemida: these were the male children of Manasseh son of Joseph, by clans. 3 Zelophehad son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were these: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. 4 These approached the priest Eleazar, Joshua son of Nun and the leaders, and said, Yahweh ordered Moses to give us a heritage among our brothers.' In compliance with Yahweh's order, therefore, they were given a heritage among their father's brothers. 5 In this way ten portions fell to Manasseh, apart from Gilead and Bashan lying on the further side of the Jordan, since Manasseh's daughters received a heritage as well as his sons. Gilead itself belonged to Manasseh's other sons.

This section recalls the inheritance of the clans of Machir on the east side of the river in the northern Transjordan, but fails to mention the other Manasseh clans who also received land on the east side of the river (Num 32:41-42). Perhaps mention of the dominate clan is enough to remind the reader that Manasseh had additional lands on the east side of the Jordan River.

Verse 3 recalls God's command for the inheritance of daughters. Zelophehad's daughters are the great-granddaughters of Machir son of Manasseh. The names of the four daughters are reflected in the names of sites situated north of Shechem.

Question: What command of Yahweh is mentioned in verses 3-4? See Num 26:33; 27:1-11 and 36:1-12.
Answer: When there was no male heir, the daughters could divide the inheritance so long as they married within the tribe so the ancestral lands could be passed on to their sons.

Joshua 17:7-13 ~ The boundaries and shared borders of the descendants of Manasseh on the west side of the Jordan by clans continued
7 On the side of Asher, the frontier of Manasseh was the Michmethath, which is opposite Shechem, and thence continued to the right to Jashib, which is at the spring of Tappuah. 8 The territory of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but Tappuah on Manasseh's border belonged to the sons of Ephraim. 9 The boundary went down to the Torrent of Kanah; south of the Torrent were the towns of Ephraim, excluding those owned by Ephraim among the towns of Manasseh; the boundary of Manasseh was north of the Torrent and reached as far as the sea. 10 The south belonged to Ephraim and the north to Manasseh and reached as far as the sea; they touched Asher to the north and Issachar to the east. 11 With Issachar and Asher, Manasseh shared Beth-Shean and its dependent towns, Ibleam and its dependent towns, the inhabitants of Dor and of its dependent towns, the inhabitants of Taanach and Megiddo and of their dependent towns: the Three of the Slopes. 12 But because the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these towns, the Canaanites managed to live on in that territory. 13 When, however, the Israelites became stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor, though they never dispossessed them.

Manasseh shared its northern border with the tribe of Asher (verses 7 and 10), its eastern border with the tribe of Issachar (verse 10), and its southern border with the tribe of Ephraim. There were also some shared cities, like the important city of Beth-Shean (verse 11). "These towns" in verse 12 are the towns listed in verse 11. They are all located in the Jezreel Valley, an area of strategic and economic importance that was also a Canaanite stronghold. The "torrent" refers to a ravine or Wadi that has swiftly flowing waters especially during the spring and the "Three Slopes" in verse 11 probably refers to three geographic areas. The inability for the tribes to remove the Canaanites will present future problems for the confederacy of tribes both spiritually and politically. Manasseh and Ephraim's boundaries are much less detailed than the account of Judah's boundaries and there is no detailed town list.

Joshua 17:14-18 ~ Ephraim and Manasseh's complaint to Joshua
14 The sons of Joseph spoke as follows to Joshua, Why have you given me only one share, only one portion, as heritage, when I am a numerous people, since; Yahweh has so blessed me?' 15 Joshua replied, If your people are so many, go up to the wooded area and clear space for yourselves in the area belonging to the Perizzites and Rephaim, since the highlands of Ephraim are too small for you.' 16 The sons of Joseph replied, The highlands are not enough for us, and what is more, all the Canaanites living on the land of the plain have iron chariots, so do those in Beth-Shean and its dependent towns, and those in the plain of Jezreel.' 17 Joshua said to the House of Joseph, to Ephraim and to Manasseh, You are a numerous people and your strength is great; you will not only have one share, 18 but a mountain will be yours as well; even if it is a forest, you can clear it and its territories will be yours. And you will dispossess the Canaanites, although they have iron chariots and although they are strong.'

Question: Why did Ephraim and Manasseh complain about the size of their allotment?
Answer: They claimed to be the most numerous of the tribes, which they are if their numbers of fighting men are counted together instead as separate tribes. However, the allotment was fair because it was based on the numbers of fighting men in each tribe and the allotment was issued through the tribunal of the high priest, Joshua and the elders by divine decree.

Notice that they went to Joshua, a member of the tribe of Ephraim, and not to Joshua and the other members of the commission. Joshua responds to their complaint as only referring to the lack of cleared land for farming and grazing their herds and flocks.

Question: How do verses 15-18 indicate that this is Joshua's understanding of their complaint?
Answer: He suggests they just get busy and clear the land and remove the Canaanites still living there.

Question: Not satisfied with Joshua's suggestion, what is the second argument the tribes of Joseph offer for receiving more land and what is Joshua's response?
Answer: They complain that the highlands are not enough land and the Canaanites living in the plain are too powerful. Joshua is unmoved and tells them to get busy clearing the land and driving out the Canaanites who live in the plains.

But that they didn't have enough cleared land and that the enemy in the plains was too powerful may not have been the point they were trying to raise with a brother Ephraimite since they ask Why have you given me only one share, only one portion, as heritage ... (verse 14a)? The force of their complaint may have been that Joseph was the favored son and they should therefore receive not just a single lot for each tribe, but a double portion of the land (see verse 14 and Gen 48:21-22) under the rights of the "first-born" (Joseph was Rachel's first born) and favored son. They may be backing up their argument by pointing out that God approves their rights as the "first-born" because He has blessed them in their large numbers of tribal members (verse 14b). See Isaac's blessing of the firstborn that he mistakenly gave to Jacob instead of Esau and compare it to the blessing Jacob gave to Joseph.

In Genesis 48:21-22, Jacob-Israel blessed the sons of Joseph: Then Israel said to Joseph, Now I am about to die. But God will be with you and take you back to the land of your ancestors. 22 As for me, I give you a shechem more than your brothers, the one I took from the Amorites with my sword and bow.'

The in Hebrew the word shechem means "shoulder" or "ridge." In verse 22 there may be a word play associated with a pun on shechem/shoulder. The phrase is ambiguous and there are several interpretations:

  1. Jacob was giving Joseph's sons the land he purchased near the city of Shechem since he was "shoulders" above his brothers (in merit).
  2. Jacob was giving Joseph's sons a ridge of land "interpreting "shoulder" to mean ridge of land.
  3. Jacob was giving Joseph' sons one more portion of land beyond what his brothers will receive (double portion) "interpreting "shoulder" to mean "a portion."
  4. Jacob was claiming to own all of the lands of Shechem which his sons took by the sword and bow.

The third option will be part of Jacob's final blessing to his sons; Joseph (and his sons) will receive the "double portion" of the blessing. The fourth option seems odd since Jacob was not a man of war; he was described as a "quiet man, staying among the tents (Gen 25:27). Jacob condemned his sons' violence and will disinherit Simeon and Levi for their military conquest (with swords) of the city of Shechem. He lamented that if the Canaanites joined forces against him because of his sons' treachery that he would be destroyed (Gen 34:30).

The other problem is that the citizens of Shechem were Horites (Hivites) not Amorites. It is possible that Jacob was referring to a military encounter that is not recorded in Scripture or to a military conquest that will happen in the future when Jacob/Israel's people will conquer a Canaan ruled mostly by the Amorites: In the fourth generation they will come back here, for until then the iniquity of the Amorites will not have reached its full extend (prophecy to Abraham concerning his descendants' conquest of Canaan in Gen 15:16). Since Jacob's statement that precedes this phrase (Gen 48:21) prophesied the return of Israel to the land of Canaan, it is more likely that the mention of the "sword and bow" (Gen 48:22) refers to the future conquest of Canaan when the tribes of his twelve sons return. The tribe of Ephraim will take the land once associated with Shechem with the "sword and bow" (Josh 16:1-10; 20:7).

The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh will play an important role in Israel's history. They will be given equal status in the land and since the tribe of Levi is denied a portion of the Promised Land, Ephraim and Manasseh will keep the tribal count at twelve (Dt 33:17). The tribe of Ephraim will possess the city of Shechem with its territory extending from Shechem in the north to Bethel in the south (although the town of Shechem would later be given to the tribe of Levi (Josh 21:21). Ephraim will become the most powerful tribe after the tribe of Judah when a prince of Ephraim will become the Judahite kings' rival for power and, after a civil war, will form the Northern Kingdom of Israel (1 Kng 11:26-27; 12:20).

Question: Is Joshua, who is a member of the tribe of Ephraim, moved by their argument?
Answer: He either misunderstands their request or ignores it when he tells them they will have separate allotments that includes the hill country and the mountain of the Three Slopes "probably Mt. Carmel (verses 11 and 18). Joshua repeats that since they are such a large tribe (together) that they can easily clear the land for farming, and they can win more of the unconquered Gentile lands. He will not give them additional allotments.

Chapters 18-19: The Allotment of the Land is Completed at Shiloh with the Allotments to the Seven Remaining Tribes

 

Chapters 18-19 are a single unit divided into three parts:

  1. Land allotments continue at Shiloh after a survey of the remaining land (18:1-10)
  2. The allotments for the remaining seven tribes
    1. the boundary lines and towns of the tribe of Benjamin (18:11-28)
    2. the boundary lines and towns of the tribe of Simeon (19:1-9)
    3. the boundary lines and towns of the tribe of Zebulun (19:10-16)
    4. the boundary lines and towns of the tribe of Issachar (19:17-23)
    5. the boundary lines and towns of the tribe of Asher (19:24-31)
    6. the boundary lines and towns of the tribe of Naphtali (19:32-39)
    7. the boundary lines and towns of the tribe of Dan (19: 40-48)
  3. Joshua's heritage and the allotment concluded (19:49-51)
The Twelve Sons/Tribes of Jacob-Israel
Birth Order
Genesis 29:31-30:34;
35:16-20
Mother Order
L = Leah R = Rachel
Z = Zilpah B = Bilhah
Tribal Allotment Order
Joshua chapters 13-19
1. Reuben Reuben = L Reuben (east)
2. Simeon Simeon = L Gad (east)
3. Levi Levi = L ½ Manasseh (east)
Judah Judah = L Judah (west)
5. Dan Issachar = L Ephraim (west)
6. Naphtali Zebulun = L ½ Manasseh (west)
7. Gad Joseph = R Benjamin (west)
8. Asher Benjamin = R Simeon (west within Judah)
9. Issachar Gad = Z Zebulun (west)
10. Zebulun Asher = Z Issachar (west)
11. Joseph Dan = B Asher (west)
12. Benjamin Naphtali = B Naphtali (west)
    Dan (west)

The tribe of Levi did not receive an allotment of tribal lands (Num 18:20-21; Josh 13:14, 33; 18:7). Leah's slave girl was Zilpah and Rachel's slave girl was Bilhah.

Joshua 18:1-7 ~ Joshua establishes God's Sanctuary at Shiloh
1 The whole community of the Israelites assembled at Shiloh, and the Tent of Meeting was set up there; the whole country had been subdued for them. 2 But among the Israelites there were still seven tribes left who had not received their heritage. 3 Joshua then said to the Israelites, How much more time are you going to waste before you go and take possession of the country which Yahweh, God of your ancestors, has given to you? 4 Choose three men from each tribe for me to send all over the country so that they can make a survey with a view to their inheritances and then come back to me. 5 They will divide the country into seven portions. Judah will remain in his territory in the south, and those of the House of Joseph will remain in their territory in the north. 6 You must survey the county in seven sections and bring your findings to me here, so that I can cast lots for you here, in the presence of Yahweh our God. 7 The Levites, however, will have no portion with the rest of you; the priesthood of Yahweh will be their heritage. As regards Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh, they have received their heritage on the further, eastern side of the Jordan, the one given them by Moses, servant of Yahweh.'

Shiloh was located about ten miles north of Bethel within the lands assigned to the inheritance of Joshua within the tribal lands of Ephraim (Josh 24:30; Judg 2:9). It is at Shiloh that the Sanctuary is now established, making Shiloh the center of worship as well as center for the civil court of law for the twelve tribes of Israel. It was to remain the religious and administrative center until Shiloh was destroyed by the Philistines in the late eleventh century BC (1 Sam 4; Jer 7:12-14; 26:6-9). God's Divine Presence now rested at Shiloh and it was at Shiloh that Joshua called an assembly of the people of Israel.

Joshua 18:8-10 ~ The survey of the remaining lands
8 The men stood up and set off. To those who were to survey the country Joshua gave this order, Start out, then, go all over the country, survey it, and then come back to me; and I shall cast lots for you here, in the presence of Yahweh, at Shiloh. 9 The men left, went all over the country and surveyed it by towns, in seven sections, writing down their findings in a book, and then went back to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. 10 Joshua cast lots for them in Yahweh's presence at Shiloh, and there Joshua divided the country between the Israelites, share by share.

The purpose of the survey was to make an accurate assessment of the extent of the remaining land that the surveyors then divided into seven sections. Joshua and the commission then cast lots to determine which tribe received which of the seven sections.

The Boundaries and Towns for the Tribe of Benjamin
Of Benjamin he said: Beloved of Yahweh, he rests trustfully near him. The Most High protects him day after day and dwells between his hillsides.
Moses' blessing for the tribe of Benjamin, Deuteronomy 33:12

 

Joshua 18:11-20 ~ The land allotted to the tribe of Benjamin
11 A portion fell first to the tribe of the sons of Benjamin, by clans: the territory of their portion lay between the sons of Judah and the sons of Joseph. 12 Their northern frontier began at the Jordan, went up the flank of Jericho to the north, climbed westwards through the highlands and came out at the desert of Beth-Aven. 13 Thence, the frontier went on to Luz, on the southern flank of Luz "not Bethel "and then down to Ataroth-Arach, on the mountain south of Lower Beth-Horon. 14 At this westerly point, the frontier curved round and turned south, from the mountain facing Beth-Horon from the south and came out at Kiriath-Baal, now Kiriath-Jearim, a town of the sons of Judah. That was the western side. 15 This was the south side: from the tip of Kiriath-Jearim, the frontier went to Gasin and came out near the spring of the Waters of Nephtoah, 16 it then went down to the edge of the mountain facing the Valley of Hinnom, in the Valley of the Rephaim to the north; it then went down into the Valley of Hinnom, past the southerly flank of the Jebusite, and went down to En-Rogel. 17a It then curved northwards, coming out at En-Shemesh, and came out at the stone circle opposite the Ascent of Adummim, 17b then went down to the Stone of Bohanson of Reuben. 18 It then went on to Cheteph on the flank of Beth-ha-Arabah nortwards, and went down into the Arabah; 19 the frontier then passed round the northern flank of Beth-Hoglah, and the frontier came out at the northern bay of the Salt Sea, at the southern end of the Jordan. Such was the southern frontier. 20 The Jordan itself formed the frontier on the east. Such was the heritage of the sons of Benjamin as defined by their frontier, by clans.

Question: What other tribal lands bordered the lands of Benjamin? See Josh 17:10.
Answer: The lands of the tribe of Judah were to the south and the tribal lands of Ephraim were to the north.

Joshua 18:21-28 ~ The towns of the tribe of Benjamin
The towns of Benjamin are listed in two districts:
21 The towns of the tribe of the sons of Benjamin, by clans, were: 22 Jericho, Beth-Hoglah, Emek-Keziz; 23 Beth-Arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel; Avvim, Paarah, Ophrah; 24 Chephar-Ammoni, Ophni, Geba: twelve towns and their villages.

Twelve towns are listed.
25 Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth; 26 Mizpeh, Chephirah, Mozah; 27 Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah; 28 Zela-ha-Eleph, the Jebusite "that is, Jerusalem "Gibeah and Kiriath: fourteen towns with their villages. Such was the heritage of the sons of Benjamin, by clans.
One town is missing from the list. Notice that Jerusalem was assigned to Benjamin as well as part of the territory of the Gibeonites (Gibeon and Beeroth; see 9:17).

Question: Who was Benjamin among the sons of Jacob-Israel? See Gen 35:16-20; 44:1-34.
Answer: He was the youngest of the twelve sons of Jacob. His mother was Rachel and his full blood brother was Joseph. His mother died at his birth, and he was deeply loved by his father. Judah offered his life in exchange for the freedom of Benjamin when he thought the Vizier of Egypt (Joseph) was going to make Benjamin his slave.

Question: The tribal lands of Judah and Joseph (Ephraim) bordered the tribe of Benjamin. Why is it significant that these two tribes shared a border with the Benjaminites and what will be the historical significance? 1 Kng 12:20-24
Answer: The Judahites are the descendants of the brother who offered his life for the freedom the ancestor of the Benjaminites, while the Ephraimites of the tribe of Joseph are the descendants of the brother who wanted to keep his younger brother with him. The tribe of Benjamin stands between these two powerful tribes "one is God's choice and the other was Jacob's choice. The tribe of Benjamin will have to make a choice when the United Monarchy splits into two nations "the nation of Israel in the north ruled by an Ephraimite king and the nation of Judah in the south, ruled by a Judahite king. The tribe of Benjamin will remain with the nation of Judah.

 

The Boundaries and Towns for the Tribe of Simeon
Moses does not give a blessing for the tribe of Simeon in Deuteronomy 33. Jacob's deathbed judgment of Simeon was that both Simeon and Levi were to be scattered among the tribes of Israel (Gen 49:5-7): Simeon and Levi ... I shall disperse them in Jacob, I shall scatter them through Israel.

Joshua 19:1-9 ~ The tribe of Simeon's allotment within the tribe of Judah
1 The second lot to come out was for Simeon, for the tribe of the sons of Simeon, by clans; their heritage was within the heritage of the sons of Judah. 2 As heritage they received: 3 Beersheba, Shema, Moladah, 4 Hazar-Shual, Balah, Ezem, Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, 5 Ziklag, Beth-ha-Marcaboth, Hazar-Susa, 6 Beth-Lebaoath and Sharuhen: thirteen towns and their villages.

Fourteen place-names are listed.

Question: Who was Simeon among the sons of Jacob-Israel? See Gen 29:33; 34:1-26, 30; 49:5-7.
Answer: Simeon was the second son of Jacob and Leah. Simeon and his brother Levi broke Jacob-Israel's covenant with the people of Shechem and were cursed by their father on his deathbed, doomed to be scattered throughout the land of promise.

Question: What are the boundaries of the lands allotted to the tribe of Simeon? See 19:1.
Answer: All of the land allotted to Simeon falls within the lands allotted to the tribe of Judah.

There are 14 place-names instead of 13 (see verse 6); perhpas one site must be a village associated with a town. Beersheba is a major town within Israel that is in the central Negeb. It was an important site in time of the Patriarchs with ample winter pasturage and seven wells. Its name can be translated "seven wells" or "well of the oath." Abraham and King Abimelech of Gerar settled their dispute over water rights by concluding a treaty "sworn" in a ceremony by offering seven ewes (Gen 21:22-32). A generation later Isaac and (probably) the next King Abimelech resolved disputes between the shepherds of Isaac and Abimelech by another oath swearing at Beersheba (Gen 26:226-33). In the next generation, the Patriarch Jacob and his family left from Beersheba in their migration into Egypt (Gen 46:1, 5-7)

In the census from numbers chapter 26, Simeon had the smallest population of fighting men of the twelve tribes. In fulfillment of Jacob-Israel's deathbed prophecy, the tribe members of the tribe of Simeon will be absorbed within the tribe of Judah and any remaining members will oppose Davadic king Rehoboam, will defect to the north, and will be disbursed among the northern tribes in 930 BC.

 

The Boundaries and Towns for the Tribes of Zebulun and Issachar
Prosper, Zebulun, in your expeditions, and you Issachar, in your tents! On the mountain where the people come to pray they offer upright sacrifices, for they taste the riches of the seas and the treasures hidden in the sands.
Moses' blessing for Zebulun and Issachar, Deuteronomy 33:18-19

Joseph 19:10-18 ~ The land allotted to the tribe of Zebulun
10 The third lot fell to the sons of Zebulun, by clans; the territory of their heritage stretched as far as Sadud; 11 their frontier climbed westwards to Maraalah, touching Dabbesheth and the torrent facing Jokneam. 12 From Sadud, the frontier turned east, towards the rising sun, as far as the frontier of Chisloth-Tabor; it came out at Dobrath and went up to Japhia. 13 Thence, it went east, towards the sunrise, to Gath-Hepher and Ittah-Kazin, came out at Rimmon and turned towards Neah. 14 The northern frontier turned towards Hannathon and came to an end in the Valley of Iphtah-El; 15 with Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Iralah and Bethlehem: twelve towns with their villages. 16 Such was the heritage of the sons of Zebulun, by clans: these towns with their villages.

The count of towns cannot be defined according to the twelve mentioned because it is difficult to know when a town and when a region or physical feature is being named. Zebulun's territory is in the southern Galilee and is bordered by four other tribes. The town of Bethlehem mentioned in verse 15 is in the region of the Galilee and is not the Bethlehem where David and Jesus were born in the Judean hill country. Some scholars have tried to argue that Jesus was really born in the Bethlehem of the Galilee; however, the Gospels and the prophet Micah clearly state that the Bethlehem connected to the birth of the Messiah is in the ancestral lands of Judah (Mic 5:1/2; Mt 2:1; Lk 2:4-7).

Question: Who was Zebulun among the sons of Jacob-Israel? See Gen 30:20.
Answer: He was the sixth son of Jacob and Leah but the tenth son in birth order.

Joshua 19:17-23 ~ The land allotted to the tribe of Issachar
17 The fourth lot came out for Issachar, for the sons of Issachar, by clans. 18 Their territory stretched towards Jezreel and included Chesulloth, Shunem, 19 Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, 20 Dobrath, Kishion, Ebez, 21 Remeth, En-Gannim, En-Haddah and Beth-Pazzez. 22 Their frontier touched Tabor, Shahazimah and Beth-Shemesh, and the frontier came to an end at the Jordan: sixteen towns with their villages. 23 Such was the heritage of the tribe of the sons of Issachar, by clans: the towns and their villages.

Tabor is a mountain but it may also be a town "in that case there are sixteen towns listed.

Question: Who was Issachar among the sons of Jacob-Israel? See Gen 30:16-18.
Answer: He was the fifth son of Jacob and Leah but the ninth son in birth order.

Issachar's territory was between the eastern Jezreel Valley and the Jordan River.

 

The Boundaries and Towns for the Tribe of Asher
Most blessed of the sons let Asher be! Let him be the most privileged of his brothers and let him bathe his feet in oil! Be your bolts of iron and of bronze and your security as lasting as your days!
Moses' blessing for the descendants of the tribe of Asher, Deuteronomy 33:24-25

Joshua 19:24-31 ~ The land allotted to the tribe of Asher
24 The fifth lot came out for the tribe of the sons of Asher, by clans. 25 Their territory included Helkath, Hali, Beten, Achshaph, 26 Alammelech, Amad and Mishal. 27 On the west, it touched Carmel and the course of the Libnath. On the side of the rising sun, it went as far as Beth-Dragon, touched Zebulun, the Valley of Iphath-El on the north side, Beth-ha-Emek and Neiel, coming out with Cabul on the left, with 28 Abdon, Rehob, Hammon and Kanah as far as Sidon the Great. The frontier then turned towards Ramah, as far as the fortress-town of Tyre; 29 the frontier then went to Hosah and reached as far as the sea at Mahalab and Achzib, 30 with Acco, Aphek and Rehob: twenty-two towns with their villages. 31 Such was the heritage of the tribe of the sons of Asher, by clans; these towns and their villages.

The account appears to be correct, not counting mountains like Mt. Carmel or rivers and valleys named in the boundaries of the territory. Asher's territory was in the coastal region of the western Galilee and includes areas of the Phoenician cost up to Sidon and Tyre (verses 28-29) which never became part of Israel. It was a region famous for its many olive trees from which olive oil was produced (see Moses' blessing in Dt 33:24).

Question: Who was Asher among the sons of Jacob-Israel? See Gen 30:9-13.
Answer: He was the second son of Jacob-Israel and Leah's slave Zilpah. He was the eighth son in birth order.

Question: What was the name of the prophetess from Asher who blessed the Christ Child when His parents brought Him to the Jerusalem Temple for Mary's purification sacrifice, to present her firstborn son to the Lord, and to pay His redemption tax? What was her reaction to the baby Jesus? See Lk 2:36-37.
Answer: Anna was an 84 year old widow of the tribe of Asher. She came up just as Simeon prophesied that Jesus was "destined for the fall and for the rise of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is opposed..." She too recognized Jesus as the Messiah and began to praise God and spoke of the child to those who looked forward to the messianic deliverance of Jerusalem.

 

The Boundaries and Towns for the Tribe of Naphtali
Of Naphtali he said: Naphtali, sated with favors, filled with the blessings of Yahweh: the west and south are to be his domain.
Moses' blessing for the tribe of Naphtali, Deuteronomy 33:21

Joshua 19:32-39 ~ The land allotted to Naphtali
32 To the sons of Naphtali fell the sixth portion, to the sons of Naphtali, by clans. 33 Their frontier went from Heleph and the Oak of Zanaannim, with Adami-ha-Negeb and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum, and ended at the Jordan. 34 The westward boundary ran to Aznoth-Tabor and thence came out at Hukkok, marching with Zebulun in the south, Asher in the west and the Jordan in the east. 35 The fortified towns were Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth, 36 Adamah, Ramah, Hazor, 37 Kedesh, Edrei, En-Hazor, 38 Jiron, Migdal-El, Horem, Beth-Anath and Beth-Shemesh: nineteen towns and their villages. 39 Such was the heritage of the sons of Naphtali, by clans: the towns and their villages.

The lands Naphtali were in the mountainous region of upper and eastern Galilee.

Question: Who was Naphtali? See Gen 30:7-8
Answer: He was the second son of Jacob-Israel and Rachel's slave Bilhah. He was the sixth son in birth order.

 

The Boundaries and Towns for the Tribe of Dan
Of Dan he said: Dan is a lion cub leaping from Bashan.
Moses' blessing for the tribe of Dan, Deuteronomy 33:22

Joshua 19:40-48 ~ The land allotted to Dan
40 To the tribe of the sons of Dan, by clans, fell the seventh portion. 41 The territory of their heritage comprised: Zoah, Eshtaol, Ir-Shemesh, 42 Shaalbim, Aijalon, Silatha, 43 Elon, Timnah, Ekron, 44 Eltekeh, Gibbethon, 45 Baalath, Azor, Bene-Berak and Gath-Rimmon; 46 and, by the sea, Jerakon with the territory facing Jaffa. 47 The territory of the sons of Dan eluded them, however, and the sons of Dan consequently went up and attacked Leshem, captured it and put it to the sword. Having gained possession of it, they settled there and called Leshem, Dan, after Dan their ancestor. 48 Such was the heritage of the tribe of the sons of Dan, by clans: these towns and their villages.

The lands allotted to the tribe of Dan were situated west of Benjamin's territory, between the lands of Ephraim and Judah. These lands were still occupied by the Amorites and the Danites were not able to defeat them. Eventually many clans were driven out by the Amorites (Judg 1:34-35) and the rest by the Philistines (Judg 13-16). After being driven out by their enemies, the tribe of Dan will migrate to settle in the northern most part of Israel at Leshem/Laish (which means "lion") at the foot of Mt. Hermon on the frontier of Bashan (Judg 18; an event foretold in Moses' blessing for Dan and in Dt 33:22). Hence, when describing the entire nation of Israel, stretching from north to south, the saying will be "from Dan to Beersheba" (Judg 20:1; 2 Sam 3:10); 17:11; 24:2; 1 Kng 4:25), or in reverse from south to north by the saying "from Beersheba to Dan" (1 Chr 21:2; 2 Chr 30:5).

Question: Who was Dan among the sons of Jacob-Israel? Gen 30:1-6.
Answer: He was the first son of Jacob-Israel and Rachel's slave Bilhah. He was the fifth son in birth order.

 

Joshua 19:49-51 ~ Joshua's heritage and the allotment concluded
49 Having finished dividing the country, frontier by frontier, the Israelites gave Joshua son of Nun a heritage among themselves; 50 at Yahweh's command, they gave him the town which he had asked for, Timnath-Serah in the highlands of Ephraim; he rebuilt the town and settled there. 51 Such are the heritages which the priest Eleazar, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of each family apportioned by lot between the tribes of Israel at Shiloh, in Yahweh's presence, at the door of the Tent of Meeting; and thus the apportioning of the country was completed.

The allotment of the land according to Divine decree is thus completed and ends with the gift of land to faithful Joshua. Timnath-Serah was in the highlands of the tribal lands of Ephraim, north of Mount Gaash (Josh 24:30; Judg 2:9).

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

The ancestral lands of the twelve tribes were designated by Divine decree according to lots. Each tribe was expected to make the most of the gift of land they received. They were expected to clear the land, to plant it, to make it bear fruit, and to be obedient and grateful to God.

Question: Are you happy with the "lot" you have drawn in life? What are your responsibilities for the gift of life God has given you?

Question: What did St. Paul write about the fruits of the Holy Spirit in Gal 5:16-26? How does he contrast desires of the flesh/self-indulgence with a life guided by the Spirit in verses 16-21? What steps can you take to make your life spiritually fruitful? See CCC 733-36, 1852, 2744-45, 2819-20.

Far more important than our "lot" in this life is the determination of out "lot" at judgment: heaven (CCC 1023-29), purgatory (CCC 1030-32) or what Jesus called Gehenna "the hell of the damned (see Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:41-42, 50; 25:41; Mk 9:43-48, CCC 1033-37, 1861).

Question: How does dealing with your "lot" in this life prepare you for what you will receive in the next? What advice did Jesus give in Matthew 7:13-14 and what was the point of His teaching? See CCC 1036, 1470 and 1970.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references:

  1. God's Spirit leads us in this life just as His Spirit led the commission that allotted the land: CCC 733-36.
  2. God has given us different spiritual gifts just as He gave the gift of the inheritance of the Promised Land to the children of Israel. Our spiritual gifts are part of our inheritance from God the Son: Rom 12:4-8; CCC 1830-32, 2033-5. Our greatest inherited gift will be eternal life through Jesus Christ (CCC 1026).