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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 13

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-7


The enemy’s main power is broken. Joshua has taken all the land (Joshua 11:23). From Joshua 13 onwards, the tribes, starting with the two and a half tribes on the other side of the Jordan, are each assigned their own inheritance. They have to take possession of that themselves.

Through the work of the Lord Jesus, the Christian has been given all earthly blessings and all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Yet there is a distinction in enjoying that blessing. Every Christian must take personal care to enjoy it. This can only happen by really experiencing the relationship with the Lord Jesus, by reading the Bible personally and prayerful.

This chapter is the beginning of the second part of the book, which deals with the division of the land. It is a most important moment in the history of this young nation. After centuries of Egyptian slavery, after decades of wandering in a wild wilderness and after years of heavy fighting, the moment has now come when the Israelites will get their home. They can now work the land, build families and live in peace in their own land, enjoying the fruit that the land produces.

In Joshua 1-12 we saw the entry into the land and its conquest. Joshua 13 is about the division, the classification of the land. When it comes to classification, God shows us the size it has in His eyes. That does not mean that it has all already been taken into possession. God speaks about it according to His purpose.

Joshua 13 is the general introduction to the possession of one’s own inheritance by each tribe individually. First there is a reference to what remains to be possessed (Joshua 13:1) and then to the classification (Joshua 13:7). When we take possession of it, we can count on God’s power. What must be taken possession of is determined by lot. Taking possession and dividing are two things.

The part that each tribe gets differs from each other tribe. So no two believers are equal. Every believer has his own character, gifts, possessions. The same applies to local churches. No two of them are equal. Nobody has everything, nobody has a total property. Every servant has his one-sidedness and each needs the other as a complement.

In the classification God shows the great scope of His blessings. But that is something else than to take possession of it. Taking possession of the land as a whole they did together. After the classification, everyone must take possession of what God has entrusted him, because there are still enemies living there.

Land Still to Be Possessed

God must tell Joshua that there is still “very much of the land remains” that must be taken into possession. Is he also sunk into rest? We no longer taste the atmosphere of spiritual energy to continue conquering. Eventually also Joshua did not bring the people into the promised peace (Hebrews 4:8). The people will only be brought into true peace by the Lord Jesus, of whom Joshua is often a picture, but not a perfect picture.

God gives a description of what remains to be conquered. He wants them to see the value of those regions, what they can produce. In this way He wants to make them willing to fight again.

We also need this encouragement regularly. To make us willing to continue the battle, God shows us the glory of heavenly blessings. He encourages us by saying that He will drive out the enemies, even though the blessings have already been given us as inheritance (Joshua 13:6).

Conquering the land means that it is still in the hands of the enemy. In practical application, this means that we must drive out powers from our lives that still have ‘land’, so that we cannot yet enjoy certain blessings. The enjoyment of the land is linked to taking possession of it. Taking possession of them can only be done by chasing away the enemy.

The enemies that still exist include the Philistines. They did not go through the Red Sea and the Jordan. They came into the land by the easy way. In them we have a picture of the nominal Christians, people who have a confession, but no new life. These people claim the land for themselves. We have to remove everything the Philistines speak of from our lives. There are also Canaanites in the land that need to be driven out. They have always lived in the land. They are a picture of the people of this world who want to prevent us from taking possession of the land.

God’s promise is that He will drive out these enemies from before His people (Joshua 13:6). Always the people must take the initiative and then God helps. We must have the desire to drive the enemy out of our lives. When we see the promise of God that He will give us all the victories of heaven to fully enjoy at the end of the battle, that is a great exhortation to clean the land that is not yet subject from enemies.

The lot is the way God reveals His will to give Israel to enter the land as inheritances (Joshua 13:6; Proverbs 16:33). The casting of lots is the way God divides the land among His people. Each of us has his own possessions in the land, his own enjoyment of the blessing. No one has the same enjoyment of the blessing as any other.

Verses 8-13

Land to Be Divided in the Wilderness Side of the Jordan

The division of the wilderness side of the Jordan is done by Moses (Joshua 13:8). The conquest of the land to be divided in the other side of the Jordan is attributed to Moses (Joshua 13:12). But just like in the land also in the wilderness side of the Jordan all enemies have not been driven out (Joshua 13:13). This is not because of Moses, but because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The power of faith of Moses is not shared by the people.

Verse 14

The Inheritance of Levi

The Levites, to which we must also count the priests, have no inheritance. They are connected with the sacrificial service. They receive a threefold inheritance:
1. the offerings by fire,
2. the LORD Himself (Joshua 13:33) and
3. the priesthood (Joshua 18:7).
It points to the distinction between the blessing and Him Who gives the blessing. With Levi is not the inheritance in the foreground, but the LORD, the Giver of the inheritance.

Verses 15-23

The Inheritance of Reuben

In conquering the part that Reuben received as inheritance, the Israelites killed Balaam. It seems that this was Moses’ last act of war before his death (Numbers 31:1-Exodus :; Numbers 31:8). The memory of this deed must be a penetrating warning for the Reubenites to guard themselves against the evil that Balaam managed to do in Israel (Numbers 25:1-Leviticus :; Numbers 31:16). For us, it means a call to live a holy life in body and mind: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1).

Verses 24-28

The Inheritance of Gad

Ramoth, in the inheritance of Gad, seems to have been the first city to fall back into the hands of the enemies of God’s people (1 Kings 22:3). It is a harbinger of the deportation of the two and a half tribe in its entirety by the Assyrians who were later used by God as a disciplinary rod for His people.

Verses 29-31

The Inheritance of the Half-Tribe of Manasseh

The inheritance of the half-tribe of Manasseh contains the kingdom of Og, famous for the best wood, that of the oak trees of Basan. This tribe lies north of Gad, reaches up to Mount Hermon, and encloses part of Gilead. With this half-tribe of Manasseh are well known names connected. Thus, Mizpah lies in the territory of this half tribe. From there come two founders, “Jaïr the Gileadite” (Judges 10:3) and “Jephthah the Gileadite” (Judges 11:1), as well as the famous prophet “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead” (1 Kings 17:1).

The two and a half tribes did not look beyond their needs when applying for the wilderness side of the Jordan as inheritance. They have a lot of cattle, the land has a lot of pasture land, the conclusion is quickly drawn. They have been guided in their choice by their eyes (cf. Genesis 13:10-1 Kings :). But besides the fact that they have shown a certain disdain for the actual inheritance of the LORD for His people, they also have no eye for the vulnerable position they have chosen. Their land has no natural boundaries. They form a grateful object for hostile peoples. As said, they are also the first to be taken away by the Assyrians and scattered in the countries over which the king of Assyria reigns (1 Chronicles 5:26). Till this day they have not yet returned to their territory.

Verse 32


This verse establishes that the allocation of the territories on the wilderness side of the Jordan to the two-and-a-half tribe was done by Moses.

Verse 33

The LORD Himself Is the Inheritance of Levi

What the two and a half tribes have been given, forms a great contrast with the part of the Levites. The LORD Himself is the inheritance of Levi: “Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God spoke to him” (Deuteronomy 10:9; Deuteronomy 18:2). This inheritance is not given to them by Moses, but they receive it according to the promise of the LORD Himself.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 13". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-13.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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