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6. The inheritance of the remaining tribes 18:11-19:51
First the two and one-half tribes east of the Jordan received their land. Then Judah, the primary recipient of Jacob’s patriarchal blessing, and Joseph, the recipient of Jacob’s patriarchal birthright, received their allotments (chs. 15-17). Finally the remaining tribes received their inheritances in the land.
The inheritance of Simeon 19:1-9
Simeon’s lot fell within the southern portion of the inheritance of Judah because Judah’s portion proved too large for that tribe (Joshua 19:9). Simeon received certain towns within Judah’s territory. In this way God fulfilled Jacob’s prediction, at least initially, that Simeon would experience dispersion (Genesis 49:5-7).
The Simeonites received two groups of towns (Joshua 19:2-8). The first group consisted of 13 towns in the Negev (Joshua 19:2-6). The second included four towns, two in the Negev and two in the Shephelah (Joshua 19:7). The names of all these towns also occur in Judah’s list (Joshua 15:26-32; Joshua 15:42).
The inheritance of Zebulun 19:10-16
Zebulun’s territory lay north of the plain of Jezreel that marked Manasseh’s northern border and southwest of the hills of Naphtali. On the northwest its neighbor was Asher and on the southeast Issachar. Zebulun’s land was very fertile. Zebulun received 12 towns, though the writer identified only five here (Joshua 19:15).
The inheritance of Issachar 19:17-23
The writer did not give the boundaries of Issachar in as much detail as the preceding tribes. The Jordan River on the east, the borders of Manasseh on its south and southwest, Zebulun on its northwest, and Naphtali on its north prescribed its territory. Issachar received 16 towns (Joshua 19:18-22).
The inheritance of Asher 19:24-31
Asher’s territory stretched along the Mediterranean coastline from where the Carmel range of mountains meets the Plain of Sharon northward to the northern border of Canaan. The Phoenicians lived north of Asher on this coast. Asher’s neighbor on the southeast was Zebulun, and on the east it was Naphtali. The writer mentioned 22 towns but recorded the names of only a few (Joshua 19:30).
The inheritance of Naphtali 19:32-39
The Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee) and the Jordan River north of that sea formed Naphtali’s eastern border. It extended north to Phoenician territory. Naphtali shared borders on the west with Asher, on the southwest with Zebulun, and on the south with Issachar. Nineteen fortified cities belonged to this tribe (Joshua 19:35-38).
The inheritance of Dan 19:40-48
Dan received territory primarily in the Shephelah and Coastal Plain west of Benjamin, between Judah and Ephraim. Its land was extremely fruitful.
"The Amorites, who settled portions of the Philistine plain (Judges 1:34), drove the Danites out of the plains and into the hills. This led to a migration of part of the tribe of Dan northward to Leshem near the northern part of Naphtali (cf. Judges 17-18)." [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, p. 83.]
Dan possessed 19 towns (Joshua 19:41-47). The record of the conquest of Leshem (Joshua 19:47, also called Laish and later Dan) is in Judges 18. [Note: See John C. H. Laughlin, "Dan," Biblical Illustrator 9:4 (Summer 1983):40-46.]
The inheritance of Joshua 19:49-50
Like Caleb, Joshua received a city, Timnath-serah (called Timnath-heres in Judges 2:9), within his tribal allotment of Ephraim, for being faithful to God.
"Caleb and Joshua were the two faithful spies who believed God was able to give Israel the land (Numbers 14:6-9; Numbers 14:30). The receiving of their inheritances frames the story of the dividing of the land among the nine and a half tribes, with Caleb’s at the beginning [Joshua 14:6-15] and Joshua’s at the end. Caleb and Joshua are living examples of God’s faithfulness in fulfilling his promises made more than forty years earlier." [Note: Madvig, p. 324.]
The conclusion of the allotment 19:51
Israel’s leaders completed this division of the land at Shiloh, the new location of the tabernacle.
"The gift of the land brought blessings not only to the nation as a whole and to the individual tribes. It also brought blessing to the faithful leader. God commanded Israel to reward the individual for his faithfulness. Thus the Deuteronomic understanding of blessing and curse is expressed not only on the corporate, but also on the individual level. This, too, stands as a source of encouragement to Israel through the years as many of her people become dispersed from the main body of the people of God." [Note: Butler, p. 208.]
Readers of this section of the text (chs. 14-19) notice that the writer gave much more space to the first tribes he described and progressively less attention to the remaining tribes. There seem to be several reasons for this. First, he gave the tribes of Judah and Joseph special attention because Judah and Joseph received Jacob’s blessing and birthright respectively. This made them the preeminent tribes among the others. Second, Judah and Joseph therefore became more significant in the history of Israel as the nation matured, so the historical importance of their territories was greater than that of less influential tribes. Benjamin likewise became quite important, and this is probably a reason the writer gave this territory some attention. Third, the writer clearly did not intend that the listing of tribal boundaries and towns should be complete. His record of the allotment that each tribe received, considering all the tribes together, seems intended more to stress the faithfulness of God in giving Israel what He had promised. This purpose is especially clear in the listing of Simeon’s towns. Similarly, Moses chose only selected laws to record in Exodus through Deuteronomy to make certain impressions on the reader, not that these were the only laws that God gave His people.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Joshua 19". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent