Lesson 7: Chapters 12-14
God's Kingship Victorious over the Kings of Canaan
The Allocation of the Tribal Lands

Almighty Lord,
You are our strength and our fortress. We are thankful that we can retreat into Your loving arms whenever the burdens of life become too heavy. We have confidence that in those times that You will refresh our souls so that we can begin anew in our journey to salvation. Thank you, Lord, for Your patience with our fears and You loving correction of our shortcomings. May we always receive Your temporal judgments with humility and with the desire to seek victory over the world through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson, as we pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Moses to Israel on the Plains of Moab: You must not behave as we are behaving here today, each of you doing what he himself sees fit, since you have not yet come to the place of rest and the inheritance that Yahweh your God is going to give you. You are about to cross to Jordan and live in the land given you by Yahweh your God as your inheritance; he will grant you rest from all the enemies surrounding you, and you will live in safety.
Deuteronomy 12:8-10; IBHE, vol. I, page 494

At the end of chapter 11, the inspired writer made the statement: "And the country [land] had rest from warfare" (Josh 11:23b; Hebrew text). It is a statement that will repeated at the end of chapter 14 (Josh 14:15; Hebrew text). This statement recalls Moses' promise to the descendants of Abraham in his homily at the Israelite camp on the Plains of Moab in Deuteronomy 12:8-10, but it was a promise based on Israel's obedience to the Law, a promise that the Israelites would fail to keep after the death of Joshua.

The Israelites conquered a mixture of peoples, all named as the descendants of Noah's grandson Canaan and listed in the "Table of Nations" in Genesis 10:15-19. The conquest of these particular peoples fulfilled the blessing in which Shem, the first born son of Noah and ancestor of Abrham, (and his descendants, the children of Israel) was promised dominion over Canaan (and his descendants) in Genesis 9:27-28 "the symbolic fulfillment of which is seen in the act of Joshua's captains stepping on the necks of the conquered kings of Canaan (Josh 10:24).

While many of the Canaanite city-states were conquered by the Israelites at the end of the three campaigns, there were still many cities occupied by Canaanites left to continue to test the faithfulness of God's covenant people (see Josh 13:2-6; Judg 2:21-3:4). The Israelites were firmly in control of the less desirable hill country, with the exception of Jerusalem (Judg 1:21), but the more fertile plains and their cities where the Gentiles had iron chariots (Judg 1:19) were still largely in Canaanite control. It was one thing to sweep through the land conquering the indigenous people in an initial conquest, but it was going to require persistence for the various tribes to dispossess the remaining Canaanites from the land and permanently settle there. The tribes' failure to continue to dispossess the original inhabitants meant that the Israelites began to live as neighbors with the pagan peoples (Judg 1:21, 27-33), preparing the way for syncretism "the combined worship of Yahweh with the local pagan gods, a violation of the first of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:3-5).(2)

Chapter 12: Review of the Conquered Lands

... Moses killed only three kings, but Joshua killed thirty. [Moses] persevered in prayer, made supplication, but did not enter [the Promised Land]. It was Joshua rather who entered and shared out the inheritance. Likewise, Samuel was greater than Eli, and Elisha received a double portion of his master's spirit after his ascension, like the Lord our Savior, for his disciples effected twice through their signs.
St. Ephraim teaching on Jesus' statement in John 14:12 that His disciples will do the same and even greater works, Commentary on Tatian's Diatessaron, 19.8(1)

Joshua 12:1-6 ~ Review of the land God conquered with Moses and the Israelites on the east side of the Jordan River
1 The kings of the country, whom the Israelites conquered and whose territory they took, on the further, eastern side of the Jordan, from the Wadi Arnon to Mount Hermon, with the entire Arabah to the east, were as follows: 2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon, ruled from Aroer which is on the edge of the Arnon Valley, including the bottom of the valley, half Gilead and 3 as far as the Jabbok, the river forming the frontier with the Ammonites; the eastern Arabah up to the Sea of Chinneroth, and as far as the Sea of the Arabah, or Salt Sea, on the eastern side, in the direction of Beth-Jeshimoth, and, in the south, the watered foothills of Mount Pisgah. 4 Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaim, who lived at Ashtaroth and Edrei, 5 ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah, the whole Bashan to the frontier of the Geshurites and Maacathites, and half Gilead to the frontier of Sihon king of Heshbon. 6 Moses, servant of Yahweh , and the Israelites conquered these, and Moses, servant of Yahweh, conferred their territory on the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The list of kings begins in verses 1-6 with the defeat of the two Amorite kings on the east side of the Jordan River, drawing a parallel to the faithfulness of Moses in the eastern conquest and the faithfulness of Joshua as Moses' successor in the conquest in the west. The list continues in verses 7-24 with the kings killed under Joshua's leadership during the three campaigns to conquer Canaan.

Question: What is the purpose of enumerating the kings killed by Israel in chapter 12?
Answer: By enumerating the conquered kings, the inspired writer is testifying that these earthy kings, who had united to defeat the people of God with all their armies, were not stronger than Israel's king, Yahweh, the One True sovereign God Almighty.

Verses 1-6 is a review of the lands taken on the east side of the Jordan River (called the Transjordan) prior to the death of Moses. The Wadi/River Arnon and the Arnon Valley is the deep gorge on the southern border with Moab (verses 1-2) while Mt. Hermon is in the far northern part of the Lebanon mountain range. The Sea of Chinneroth (verse 3) is the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias in the first century AD), and the Sea of the Arabah (verse 3) is the Dead Sea.

Question: What were the boundaries of Israel's Transjordan territory?
Answer: The Valley of Arnon on the border of Moab in the south and extending along the Jordan River to Mt. Hermon in the north. The eastern border was the land of the Ammonites.

Question: How were the Moabites and Ammonites related to the Israelites? See Gen 12:5; 13:10-11; 19:30-38.
Answer: They were the descendants of Abraham's nephew Lot and his daughters who had incestuous relations with their father.

Joshua 12:5 ... ruled over Mount Hermon and Salecah, the whole Bashan to the frontier of the Geshurites and Maacathites, and half Gilead to the frontier of Sihon king of Heshbon.

Geshur was a kingdom east of the Jordan and north of Bashan. Maacah was a kingdom south of Mt. Hermon and north of Lake Huleh. It was an Aramaean kingdom. Israel claimed both these territories but never possessed them (Josh 13:11, 13). David married a princess of Geshur who was the mother of his son, Absolom, who escaped to the kingdom of his grandfather after killing his half-brother (2Sam 13:37; 14:23). Maacah was possibly taken in the reign of King David. Several Maacathites appear among the Israelites in a later period (2 Sam 23:34; 2 Kng 25:23; Jer 40:8; 1 Chr 4:19).

Joshua 12:6 Moses, servant of Yahweh, and the Israelites conquered these, and Moses, servant of Yahweh, conferred their territory on the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh.

The Transjordan territory on the eastern side of the River Jordan, conquered before Moses' death, was not included in the geopolitical unit that was Canaan and was not included in God's original promise to Abraham (Gen 15:18-21 and Num 34:1-15).

Question: Upon what is the claim to the Transjordan based according to verse 6?
Answer: The claim to the Transjordan is based on the authority of Moses "the servant of God" (repeated twice).

God allowed the inclusion of the Transjordan based on the petition for the land by the tribes of Reuben and Gad after the defeat of the Amorite kings Sihon and Og (Num chapter 32). It was a request that did not turn out to be good for the tribes who settled on the east side of the Jordan River. The physical separation from God's Sanctuary across the river became a spiritual separation, and those eastern tribes eventually became absorbed into the pagan, Gentile population.

Question: If this eastern settlement ended in the disunity of Israel and the loss of those tribes, why did God allow them to settle on the eastern side of the river?
Answer: It is an example of what happens when our hearts are firmly set on something that is not part of God's plan for our destiny. In those cases, He will often allow us that desire as a lesson in the inability of man to discern what is best as opposed to God's plan.

Prior to the death of Moses, the Israelites conquered the Amorite kingdoms of kings Sihon and Og in the Transjordan (east side of the Jordan River; see Num 21:21-35 and Dt 2:26-11). Og is described in Joshua 12:4 as being one of the last of the giant Rephaim.

Question: How big was Og? How does his height compare to the height of Goliath of Gath, the Philistine warrior David defeated? See Dt 3:11 and 1 Sam 17:4. Hint: a "span" was 8.8 inches/22.3 cm; the common cubit was 18 inches/45 cm.
Answer: Og's bed is described as being 9 cubits long and 4 cubits wide, which would be approximately 13.6 feet by 8 feet. Goliath was 6 cubits and a span, about 9.7 feet tall or about 3 meters. The men were both very tall men, but Og was probably taller. Presumably Goliath would have had Anakim genes and Philistine genes, which may have rendered him shorter than his giant ancestors.

Joshua 12:7-24 ~ Review of the land God conquered with Joshua and the Israelites on the west side of the Jordan River
7 The kings of the country whom Joshua and the Israelites conquered on the nearer, western side of the Jordan, from Baal-Gad in the Vale of Lebanon to Mount Halak rising towards Seir, and whose heritage Joshua distributed to the tribes of Israel, dividing it up between them, were as follows: 8 In the highlands and the lowlands, in the Arabah and in the watered foothills, in the desert and in the Negeb, belonging to the Hittites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites and the Jebusites: 9 the king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai near Bethel, one; 10 the king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; 11 the king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; 12 the king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one; 13 the king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one; 14 the king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one; 15 the king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one; 16 the king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one; 17 the king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one; 18 the king of Aphek, one; the king of Sharon, one; 19 the king of Merom, one; the king of Hazor, one; 20 the king of Shimron Meron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; 21 the king of Tannach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; 22 the king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam in Carmel, one; 23 the king of Dor, on the Slopes of Dor, one; the king of the nations in Galilee [of Gilgal], one; 24 the king of Tirzah, one; total number of all these kings: thirty-one.

Joshua 12:7a is the parallel to 12:1. The description of the boundary on the west side of the Jordan River agrees with Joshua 11:17 except is stated in reverse. The land of Canaan that Israel conquered on the western side of the Jordan River was recognized as a geopolitical unit in the 15th century BC Mesopotamian Nuzi texts, in the 14th century BC Egyptian Amarna letters, and in various other ancient Near Eastern sources. The border of Canaan extended from Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast in the northwest to Mount Hermon in the north, to the Jordan River as the eastern border. The region then extended south to the Dead Sea and then eastward across the arid Negeb to Kadesh-Barnea, located in the northern Sinai Peninsula that formed the boundary with Egyptian territory, and continued on to the Mediterranean Sea.

The kings named in verses 7-24 are conquered by the army of Joshua, but all their cities were not conquered. The king of Jerusalem was killed, but Jerusalem remained an independent city (Judg 1:21). In verse 12 the king of the city of Gezer was killed by the Israelites in the battle for Lachish (Josh 10:33), but the city was not taken (Judg 1:29), nor were the cities of Aphek, Taanach, Megiddo or Dor (verses 18-23; see Judg 1:27-31). Gaza, Ashkelon and Ekron were captured by the tribe of Judah in a separate campaign in Judges 1:18.

The list of kings in verses 9-24 basically follows the order of events in the narrative in the preceding chapters. However, there are some additional names (see the comparison of king names in the handout). For example, Taanoch and Megiddo (vs. 21) and Geder, Hormah and Arad (vs. 14) are not found in the earlier narrative but are mentioned in Numbers 21:1; 33:40; Deuteronomy 1:44 and Judges 1:17. Lasharon can be read as "to Sharon" or "belonging to Sharon" (as it is in the Greek Septuagint translation of Joshua).

Taanach and Megiddo (vs. 21), not mentioned earlier, are two cities that were located in the fertile Jezreel Valley, strategically dominating the southwest pass from the Jezreel Valley into the Plain of Sharon. The Canaanites inhabiting these cities were not expelled by the Israelites (Josh 17:11, Judg 1:27). Kesesh (vs. 22a) is probably the city assigned to the tribe of Naphtali in the Galilee (Judg 4:6). Joknean in Carmel (vs. 22b) was given to the tribe of Zebulun (19:11; 21:24). Dor was a city located on the coast near Mt. Carmel (11:2) and the reference to "the king of the nations in Galilee" is in the Hebrew text "the nations in Gilgal." In the Hebrew this place-name is not Joshua's camp near the Jordan River, but a region in the Galilee, as interpreted in the Septuagint (LXX) and in this translation and which is referenced in Isaiah's prophecy in 9:1/8:23 and repeated by Matthew in 4:13-16. Tizrah is a city a few miles northeast of Shechem and will serve as one of the capitals of the northern tribes (1 Kng 14:17).

Question: The Canaanites were guilty of crimes against humanity, but what about the severity of Joshua's punishment of the coalitions of kings and the conquered cities? Is Joshua guilty of a racial bias against the inhabitants of Canaan?
Answer: Joshua was acting as God's agent of Divine justice and therefore cannot be blamed. He showed complete faithfulness to God's command of herem applied in different degrees. However, Joshua, with God's approval, was also completely faithful to the oath sworn on behalf of the Canaanite Rahab and her family and the four Gentile towns of the Gibeonites. He also punished Achan and his family without showing any partiality to Israelites who had sinned against God and the covenant.

Bible scholar Martin Woudstra writes: "The conquest is to be seen as the result of God's giving' of the land to his covenant people. The land and its people will henceforth be the source from which God's plan of salvation will unfold" (The Book of Joshua, page 207). This is another significant step in God's plan for mankind's ultimate salvation "for Israelites and Gentiles.

Chapter 13: Distribution of the Land

Mighty in war was Joshua son of Nun, successor to Moses in the prophetic office, who well deserved his name, and was a great savior of the chosen people, wreaking vengeance on the enemies who opposed him, and so bringing Israel into its inheritance. How splendid he was when, arms uplifted, he brandished his sword against cities!
Sirach 46:1-2/3

Chapter 13 is the beginning of Part II of the Book of Joshua: The Allotment of the Tribal Lands.

Joshua 13:1-7 ~ The lands that remained to be conquered in the future
1 Now Joshua had grown old and advanced in years. Yahweh said to him, You are now old and advanced in years, yet there is still a great deal of territory left to be taken possession of. 2 This is all the territory left: All the districts of the Philistines and the whole country of the Geshurites; 3 from the Shihor, facing Egypt, to the frontier of Ekron in the north, it is reckoned as Canaanite territory. The five rulers of the Philistines have their seats at Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron, respectively; the Avvites are in 4 the south. The entire territory of the Canaanites, and Mearah which belongs to the Sidonians, as far as Aphekah and as far as the frontier of the Amorites; 5 and then the country of the Gebalites with the entire Lebanon eastwards from Baal-Gad at the foot of Mount Hermon to the Pass of Hamath. 6 All who live in the highlands from Lebanon the Misrephoth in the west "all the Sidonians "I myself shall dispossess before the Israelites. All you have to do is to distribute the territory as a heritage for the Israelites as I have ordered you. 7 The time has come to divide this territory as a heritage between the nine tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh: from the Jordan as far as the Great Sea in the west, you must give it them; the Great Sea will be their limit.'

Verses 1-7 recount God's command to Joshua to distribute the land. The conquest of the land was not completed when God told Joshua his mission was completed and it was time to divide the land among the tribes. This is not surprising news for Joshua. God told Moses that the occupation of the Promised Land would be a gradual process: I shall drive them out little by little before you, until your numbers grow sufficient for you to take possession of the land (Ex 23:30).

Caleb was 40 years old when he and Joshua were sent as spies into Canaan (Num 13:1-1-16; Josh 14:7). It is now 45 years later, and Caleb is 85 years old. It is possible that Joshua was even older (Josh 14:10). They were the oldest men in Israel.

Question: If there are lands still to be conquered, why is God not ordering Joshua to continue the conquest?
Answer: God is graciously relieving His faithful servant of the responsibilities of being a military commander and is giving Joshua rest and peace in the last years of his life.

The Philistines and Geshurites in verse 2 lived along the Mediterranean coast. The Geshurites in verse 2 are not the same people that were mentioned in 12:5 or 13:13 who lived in the Transjordan, although they are probably a related people. The Geshurites in 13:2 lived on the coast in the ancient city of Byblos. The Philistines will fight a series of wars against Israel. They will kill Israel's first king, King Saul (1 Sam 31) and will finally be defeated by King David (2 Sam 8:1) and probably became a vassal state of Israel continuing into the reign of King Solomon (1 Kng 5:1).

Question: What promise did God make concerning the lands remaining to be conquered in Joshua 13:6 and where is this land located in relation to the Jordan River?
Answer: God promised to drive out all the remaining the inhabitants on the west side of the river. However, it is a promise based on the tribes' willingness to carry out God's will to expel them.

This is a promise that will be repeated in Joshua 23:5 but is still limited to the west side of the river: ... from the Jordan all the way to the Great Sea in the west, I have allotted to you as the heritage for your tribes.

Joshua 13:8-14 ~ A general survey of the lands of the Transjordan tribes
8 As regards the other half-tribe of Manasseh, this and the Reubenites and Gadites have already received their heritage, given them by Moses on the further, eastern side of the Jordan, the one which Moses, servant of Yahweh, had already given them: 9 The country onwards from Aroer on the edge of the Arnon Valley, with the town in the bottom of the valley and the entire tableland from Medeba to Dibon; 10 all the towns of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had reigned in Heshbon, to the frontier of the Ammonites; 11 then Gilead and the territory of the Geshurites and Maacathites with the whole Hermon range and the whole of Bashan as far as Selecah; 12 and in Bashan, the whole kingdom of Og, who had reigned in Ashtaroth and Edrei, and was the last of the survivors of the Rephaim. Moses had conquered and dispossessed these two kings. 13 The Israelites did not, however, dispossess either the Geshurites or the Maacathites, hence Geshur and Maacah survive inside Israel even today. 14 To the tribe of Levi alone no heritage was given; Yahweh, God of Israel, was his heritage, as he had told him.

Verses 8-33 are a review of the distribution of the Transjordan lands. The return to this topic is probably to stress the intended unity of the people of God on both sides of the river. At Gilgal Joshua confirms the Moses' Transjordan settlement of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the two clans of Manasseh (13:8-13). The narrative of the conquest of the Transjordan is found in Numbers 32. The conquered Transjordan territory extended from Mt. Hermon in the north to the River Arnon in the south on the border with Moab.

Joshua 13:13 The Israelites did not, however, dispossess either the Geshurites or the Maacathites, hence Geshur and Maacah survive inside Israel even today. The words "even today" refer to the time when the inspired writer recorded these events. The territory of the Geshurites and the Maacahites was northeast of the Sea of Galilee. The Israelites did not drive out these pagan peoples who continued to live side by side with the Israelites on the east side of the river. Similar failures are reported for the tribes (15:53 and 16:10).

King David will take a Geshurite princess (named Maacah, by the way) as one of his wives to protect the eastern tribes by securing the Geshurites as allies of Israel (2 Sam 3:3). It is her son Absalom who will attempt to usurp his father's throne (2 Sam 15:7-12). The Maacahites will become enemies of Israel when they join the Ammonites in a war against David (2 Sam 10:6) but later are apparently conquered or made vassals by David.

Joshua 13:14 To the tribe of Levi along no heritage was given; Yahweh, God of Israel, was his heritage, as he had told him.

The lesser ministers and chief priests (descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses) of the Levites did not receive an allotment of land (Num 18:20; Dt 18:1-2). They were consecrated to God the servants of His Sanctuary (Ex 28:1, 41; Num 3:11-13; 8:5-6, 20-22; 18:1-7).

Question: How did God provide for the material support of the Levites? See Ex 2:19-20; Lev 1:9, 13, 17; 6:7; 7:32-34; Num 18:20-24; 35:1-8; Dt 18:3-24; Josh 13:33; 21:1-42.
Answer: God provided for the Levites heritage. The Law required that the other tribes had to provide for the Levites through all the tithes collected in Israel. A tenth of the total tithe received by the Levites was to be set aside and given to the chief priests. The people also had to offer a portion of their sin and communion offerings to the chief priest who presided over the altar sacrifice. The tithes included the first-fruits tithe and the first-born sons' redemption tax (Num 18:15). The Levites also received towns in which to live and associated pasture lands that were scattered throughout Israel on both sides of the Jordan River (Num 35:1-8; Josh 21:1-42).

Question: What prophecy by Jacob/Israel was fulfilled in the Levites not receiving a portion of the land but being scattered throughout Israel? Why did Jacob make this deathbed prophecy/judgment? See Gen 49:1, 5-7 and read in light of the events in Gen 34:25-31.
Answer: In his deathbed prophecy, Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi were excluded from a full inheritance in the Promised Land and because of their malicious actions which included the bad treatment of animals and their murder of the men of Shechem who had entered into a covenant treaty with Jacob. Their descendants were to receive no inheritance in Promised Land and were to be scattered among the tribes of their kinsmen.

The tribe of Simeon was allotted land within the tribal lands of Judah, but they did not keep it. At the time of the death of Solomon and the succession of his son Rehoboam (930 BC), the tribe of Simeon sided with the northern tribes against the House of David in electing a new king from the tribe of Ephraim (1 Kng 12:20). The Simeonites were absorbed into the tribe of Judah and/or migrated to the north and no longer held any ancestral lands of their own.

Joshua 13:15-23 ~ The lands allotted the tribe of Reuben
15 Moses had given the tribe of the sons of Reuben a share by clans. 16 Thus, their territory was the entire tableland from Aroer on the edge of the Arnon Valley, with the town in the bottom of the valley, as far as Medeba, 17 Heshbon with all the towns on the tableland: Dibon, Bamoth-Baal, Beth-Baal-Meon, 18 Jahaz, Kedemoth, Mephaath, 19 Kiriathaim, Sibmah and, in the highlands of the Arabah, Zereth-Shahar; 20 Beth-Peor, the watered foothills of Mount Pisgah, Beth-ha-Jeshimoth, 21 all the towns on the tableland and the entire kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites, who had reigned in Heshbon; he had been defeated by Moses, and with him the princes of Midian, Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur and Reba, vassals of Sihon, formerly living in the country. 22 As regards Balaam son of Beor, the soothsayer, the Israelites had put him to the sword with those whom they had killed. The boundary of the Reubenites was the Jordan and its territory. 23 Such was the heritage of the sons of Reuben, by clans, with the towns and villages belonging to them.

Joshua 13:15 Moses had given the tribe of the sons of Reuben a share by clans. The phrase in Hebrew, "a share by clans," is a formula that will be repeated five times in 13:15; 15:1, 20; 18:11; and 19:1. Reuben's allotted land was one the east side of the Jordan River in the southern part of the Transjordan. Their southern border was with Moab on the Arnon River and their territory extended to the north, including all the former lands of king Sihon of the Amorites and ending on a northern border with the tribe of Gad.

Question: Who is the patriarchal father of the Reubenites? See Gen 29:32; 35:22; 49:3.
Answer: Reuben was the first-born son of Leah and Jacob. He lost his status as the first-born for sleeping with his father's concubine.

Question: Reuben lost his "first-born" status in his sin with his father's concubine. The next sons in birth order, Simeon and Levi, also lost their status due to sins against their father. What son is left as the favored son? See Gen 49; Num 10:13-14; 26:22; Ruth 4:18-22; 1 Sam 16:1, 13; Mt 1:1-16.
Answer: Jacob favored Joseph, his first-born son by Rachel and acknowledged him as such in his deathbed blessing for Joseph. However, the next son in line by birth order is Judah, who becomes God's choice. It is the tribe of Judah who is given the honor of leading the march of tribes; it is Judah that is by far the largest tribe; and it is Judah that will bring forth both King David and Jesus the Messiah.

In Joshua 13:17, Bamoth-Baal literally reads "the heights of Baal," a site located near Medaba. The soothsayer Balaam, hired by the Moabite king to curse the Israelites, attempted one of his three unsuccessful curses from the heights of Bamoth-Baal (Num 22:41).

Reuben's territory also included the cities of Jahaz, Kedemoth and Mephaath (verse 18). The Israelites defeated king Sihon at Jahaz (Num 21:23) and Mephaath later became a Levitical city (Josh 21:37). Beth-Peor (verse 20), a high point overlooking the Israelite camp at Shittim, was where the Israelite men were seduced into engaging in pagan fertility rites by the women of Moab and Midian (Num 25:31; Dt 4:3), and it was the place where Moses gave his farewell address (Dt 3:29).

Joshua 13:23 As regards Balaam son of Beor, the soothsayer, the Israelites had put him to the sword with those whom they had killed.

This verse recalls the earlier event in Israel's history immediately after the Israelites set up their camp on conquered lands on the east side of the Jordan River just north of the border with Moab. At that time the king of Moab, a vassal the Midianites, hired the soothsayer Balaam to curse the Israelites. When Balaam was unsuccessful, acting as an agent of the Midianites, he told the king of Moab to have the women seduce the Israelite men into participating in the fertility rites of Baal at the shrine of Baal-Peor. The plan was successful until the priest Phinehas (grandson of Aaron and son of the reigning High Priest Eleazar) dramatically stood up for God and stopped the orgy. In retaliation, a holy war was launched against Midian, and Balaam was captured and killed. See Num 22:1-31:12; 31:7-8; Dt 23:4-5; Josh 24:9-10; Rev 2:14. Balaam was gifted with insight and he believed in the power of Yahweh, but he worked against God's plan for Israel and therefore against God's plan for humanity.

Question: What is the punishment for a false prophet in Deuteronomy 18:20?
Answer: Death.

A true prophet will be correct 100 percent of the time. Any professing prophet who predicts what does not come true, is a false prophet and must be avoided.

Joshua 13:24-28 ~ The lands allotted the tribe of Gad
24 Moses had given the tribe of Gad, the sons of Gad, a share by clans. 25 Their territory was Jazer, all the towns of Gilead, half of the country of the Ammonites as far as Aroer facing Rabbah, 26 and from Heshbon to Ramath-Mizpeh and Betonim; from Mahanaim as far as the territory of Lo-Debar, 27 and in the valley: Beth-Haram, Beth-Nimrah, Succoth, and Zaphon "the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon "the Jordan and the territory running to the tip of the Sea of Chinneroth, on the further, eastern side of the Jordan. 28 Such was the heritage of the sons of Gad, by clans, with their towns and villages belonging to them.

Gad's territory extended north of Reuben's tribal lands to the south point of the Sea of Chinneroth, which is the Galilee.

Joshua 13:29-33 ~ The lands allotted the half-tribe of Manasseh
29 Moses had given the half-tribe of Manasseh a share by clans. 30 Their territory, starting from Mahanaim, was the whole of Bashan, the entire kingdom of Og king of Bahsan, all the Encampments of Jair in Bashan: sixty towns. 31 Half of Gilead, with Ashtaroth, and Edrei, the royal cities of Og in Bashan, were allotted to the sons of Machir son of Manasseh, to half of the sons of Machir, by clans. 32 This is what Moses had conferred in heritage on the Plains of Moab on the further, eastern side of the Jordan opposite Jericho. 33 To the tribe of Levi, however, Moses gave no heritage; Yahweh, God of Israel, was his heritage, as he told him.

The land allotted to the half-tribe of Manasseh extended from the border with Gad and included the entire conquered kingdom of king Og "the entire region known as the Bashan.

Question: The allotment of land to the half-tribe of Manasseh is based on whose authority?

Answer: This allotment was based on the authority of Moses.

The tribe of Manasseh will be separated by the Jordan River "half the tribe on the east and the other half settled in the west. That Levi would not share in the land is repeated in verse 33 (also see Josh 13:14, 33; Num 18:20; Dt 18:2).

It is interesting that the promise to drive out the remaining inhabitants on the west side of the river is not repeated for the east (see Josh 13:6). Perhaps this is a result of the stubbornness of the eastern tribes in not wanting to cross the river to take possession of the land originally promised to Abraham's descendants. They have what they wanted, but they must work on their own to keep it because they did not submit to the destiny God planned for them.

Joshua 13:33 To the tribe of Levi, however, Moses gave no heritage; Yahweh, God of Israel, was his heritage, as he told him.

This verse is a repeat of Joshua 13:14 and is another reminder that the Levites serve God as the ministerial priesthood. CCC 1539 states ...But within the people of Israel, God chose one of the twelve tribes, that of Levi, and set it apart for liturgical service; God himself is its inheritance. A special rite consecrated the beginnings of the priesthood of the Old Covenant. The priests are "appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins" (quoting Heb 5:1). Aaron was God's first High Priest and the descendants of Aaron were God's chief priests who offered altar sacrifice and forgave the people's sins. The other members of the tribe of the Levites served the chief priests in the Sanctuary as the lesser ministers. In addition, there was a council of seventy elders who governed the kingdom of the Old Covenant Church (Num 11:24-25; see CCC 1541, 1547). Ever since the Sinai Covenant there has been an ordained ministerial priesthood, which continues today in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus with the successors of the Apostles who are the Bishops of the universal Church and the men they ordained to the New Covenant priesthood. Our High Priest is Jesus Christ (Heb 4:14-5:10; CCC 1546, 1548).

Chapter 14: Description of the Three Large Tribes to the West of the Jordan


For he was a follower of the Mighty One, in the time of Moses showing his devotion, he and Caleb son of Jephunneh, by opposing the whole community by preventing the people from sinning, and by silencing the mutters of rebellion. Hence these two alone were preserved out of six hundred thousand men on the march, and brought into their inheritance, into a land where milk and honey flow. And the Lord conferred strength on Caleb too, which stayed by him into old age, so that he could invest the highlands of the country which his descendants kept as their inheritance, so that every Israelite might see that it is good to follow the Lord.
Sirach 46:7/8-10/12

Chapters 14-19 contain the description of the allotment of the lands of Canaan to the tribes living west of the Jordan River. Chapter 14 is divided into two parts:

  1. The allotment process as administered by a divinely appointed committee (verses 1-5).
  2. An outstanding example of faith and courage as demonstrated by a Gentile convert (verses 6-15).

Moses' name is repeated five times in this chapter (verses 6, 7, 9, 10 and 11).

Joshua 14:1-5 ~ The allotment process
1 This was what the Israelites received as their heritage in Canaan, which was given them as their heritage by the priest, Eleazar, and by Joshua son of Nun, with the heads of families of the tribes of Israel. 2 They received their heritage by lot, as Yahweh had ordered through Moses, as regards the nine tribes and the half-tribe. 3 For Moses himself had given the two-and-a-half tribes their heritage on the further side of the Jordan, although to the Levites he had given no heritage with them. 4 Since the sons of Joseph formed two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, no share in the country was given to the Levites, apart from some towns to live in, with their pasture lands for their livestock and their possessions. 5 The Israelites did as Yahweh had ordered Moses, and shared out the country.

The Israelites' promised inheritance in Canaan is the land on the west side of the River. The east side is never referred to as Canaan. The land is an "inheritance" based on God's Divine promise made to the Patriarchs (Gen 15:18) and His promise at Sinai (Ex 23:31).

Question: What men formed the commission whose divinely appointed task was to allot the Promised Land to the tribes of Israel?

  1. Eleazar
  2. Joshua
  3. Heads of the families of the tribes

Question: What different offices within the nation of Israel did these men represent?

  1. Eleazar represented the priesthood/religious authority
  2. Joshua was the military commander
  3. The heads of families were the elders who were the governing civil authority

Question: Who is Eleazar? See Ex 6:23; 23:23; Num 3:4; 20:23-29; Dt 6:10.
Answer: He was the third son of Aaron; he succeeded his father as Israel's anointed high priest.

The High Priest Eleazar has priority in the decision of the distribution, followed by Joshua and the tribal elders. Together they have the responsibility of allotting the land to the tribes on the western side of the Jordan River. The three-fold division of responsibility reflects God's instructions for the allocation of the land in Numbers 34:16-29 and reinforces the point that the civil authority does not operate independently from the religious authority that has priority (named first in the three-part commission). The process will be determined by the casting of lots, perhaps High Priest Eleazar's Urim and Thummim (Ex 28:29-30), which would make sense if the High Priest was the one casting the lots. However, the lots will be directed by divine guidance: In the fold of the garment the lot is thrown, but from Yahweh comes the decision (Prov 16:33).

Question: How many tribes have already received land on the east side of the Jordan River? See 13:8.
Answer: Two and a half tribes: the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe (2 clans) of


Question: How many tribes will receive allotments of land on the west side of the river? See 13:14 and 14:4.
Answer: The remaining tribes and the other half of the tribe of Manasseh, with the exception of the tribe of Levi. Since the tribe of Joseph will be divided into the two separate tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, the tribes of Israel occupying the land will still number twelve tribes.

Joseph 14:3b-4 ... although to the Levites he had given no heritage with them. Since the sons of Joseph formed two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, no share in the country was given to the Levites, apart from some towns to live in, with their pasture lands for their livestock and their possessions.

In verses 3-4 there is a third and fourth statement that the Levites were not given a portion of the land (in the Book of Joshua repeated five times: see 13:14, 33; 14:3, 4 and 18:7).

It was important for the number "twelve" to be maintained; twelve is the symbolic number of perfection in government.

Question: How was the number twelve important in the New Covenant Church and what is the connection to the twelve sons of Jacob? See Acts 1:15-26.
Answer: The twelve sons of Jacob/Israel were the physical fathers of the children of Israel just as the twelve Apostles were the spiritual fathers of the New Covenant children of God. When Levi was not allotted land, the tribe of Joseph became the two separate tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh to maintain the number of twelve tribes. In the same way, when the defection and death of Judas left only eleven Apostles, another was chosen to take his place.

Joshua 14:5 5 The Israelites did as Yahweh had ordered Moses, and shared out the country.

Yahweh's instructions to Moses concerning the allocation of the land were given in Numbers 33:50-35:15. In those instructions Moses was told that the men who had the responsibility for dividing up the land were the priest Eleazar, Joshua and one leader from ten of the tribes. God also named those leaders in Numbers 34:19-29.

Question: Who was the chieftain that God named from the tribe of Judah and what was his history? See Gen 15:18-21 (see Kenizzites); Num 13:1-3, 6, 30; 14: 6-9, 30, 36-38; 32:12; 34:19; Dt 1:36.
Answer: Caleb was not an Israelite. He was the son of Jephunneh a Kenizzite Gentile. The Kenizzites were a people God named as those who were to face Divine judgment in their expulsion from Canaan (Gen 15:19). Caleb was a Gentile convert who was adopted into the tribe of Judah. His faithfulness to God led to his selection at Kadesh-Barnea as one of the spies God chose to reconnoiter the land in Numbers 13:3. From among the twelve spies selected, only Caleb and Joshua trusted God's promise that the Israelites could conquer the Promised Land. For this act of faith, God rewarded Caleb and Joshua. They were the only two men of the adult Exodus generation to survive the judgment of the wilderness wandering and to enter the Promised Land.

It is also significant that God rewarded Caleb by selected him to be the chieftain representing the tribe of Judah in the allotment of the tribal lands. Judah was the most powerful of the twelve tribes with the largest number of fighting men (see Num 26:22), and Judah was the tribe God selected to lead the march during the years in the desert. Like the Gentile woman Rahab of Jericho, Caleb was completely assimilated into the covenant of Yahweh, and with God's blessing he was recognized as a leader among the people of God.

Joshua 14:6-15 ~ Caleb's reward
6 Some sons of Judah came to Joshua at Gilgal, and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, You know what Yahweh said to Moses, man of God, at Kadesh-Barnea concerning you and me. 7 I was forty years old when Moses, servant of Yahweh, sent me from Kadesh-Barnea to reconnoiter this country, and I made him a completely honest report [a word as was in my heart]. 8 The brothers, however, who had gone up with me discouraged the people [made the heart of the people melt], whereas I myself scrupulously obeyed Yahweh my God. 9 That day Moses swore this oath, "be sure of this, that the country your foot has trodden will be a heritage for you and your children for ever, since you have scrupulously obeyed Yahweh my God." 10 From then till now, Yahweh has kept me alive in observance of his promise. It is forty-five years since Yahweh said this to Moses "Israel was then going through the desert "and now I am eighty-five years old. 11 Today I am still as strong as the day when Moses sent me out on that errand; for fighting, for going and coming, I am as strong now as then. 12 It is time you gave me the highlands, of which Yahweh spoke to me that day. You heard that day that there were Anakim and large, fortified towns there; but if Yahweh is with me, I shall drive them out, as Yahweh has said.' 13 Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as heritage. 14 And hence Hebron down to the present day has remained the heritage of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, since he had scrupulously obeyed Yahweh, God of Israel. Hebron in olden days was called Kiriath-Abra. Arba had been the greatest of the Anakim. And the country had rest from warfare.
[..] =
literal Hebrew translation (IBHE, vol. I, page 598).

The "sons of Judah," led by the chieftain Caleb, come to Joshua at Gilgal. It seems the tribal chieftains of Judah have accompanied Caleb to give both their support and their approval of his request. Caleb holds a unique position within the tribe of Judah "he is a Gentile convert who has become a trusted chieftain. He is also one of the few men in the Bible that God calls "my servant" (see Num 14:24). While many men were called "the servant of God," up to this point in the salvation history, God only personally called Abraham (Gen 26:24), Moses (Ex Num 12:7, 8; Josh 1:2, 7), Job (Job 1:8; 2:3; 19:16; 42:7, 8), and Caleb "my servant." Later it will be a title frequently used for David.

Joshua 14:8 The brothers, however, who had gone up with me discouraged the people [made the heart of the people melt], whereas I myself scrupulously obeyed Yahweh my God.

In Joshua 14:7-9, Caleb speaks of the episode 38 years earlier when Israelite spies were first sent to reconnoiter Canaan at the oasis of Kadesh-Barnea. Kadesh was an oasis situated at a strategic point in northern Sinai at the crossroads of major trade routes coming out of Egypt and Arabia.

In recounting the event in Joshua 14:8, Caleb calls the other spies "brothers," a reference to God's covenant which bound Caleb and the other Israelites spies as kinsmen. It was a tie that was stronger than a human blood tie and was forged in the sacrifice at Mt. Sinai when the blood of the sacrificed victim was sprinkled on the people and on God's altar. That symbolic act united the Israelites who swore the oath of obedience to Yahweh as one family when Moses said "This is the blood of the covenant which Yahweh has made with you ..." ( Ex 24:6-8).

Question: How does the inspired writer of Acts refer to the 120 men and women disciples of Jesus gathered in the Upper Room in Acts 1:15? What is the significance of that unity in the light of Jesus' actions at the Last Supper in Luke 22:20?
Answer: The disciples are called "brothers" because they are united in the blood of Christ as one family, as Jesus told them at the Last Supper when He said, offering them His Body and then the cup of His Divine Blood: "This cup is the New Covenant in my blood poured out for you."

In the New Testament Greek, the only word used for "brother/brothers" is the Greek word adelphos/adelphoi, literally meaning "from the womb" and referring to brothers united by a blood tie (delphos means "womb" in Greek), whether referring to siblings like St. James and St. John Zebedee or to those united in the covenant tie of kinship in Christ or in the old Sinai Covenant (as Peter did in Acts 2:29 and the Jews responded to Peter and the Apostles in Acts 2:27).(3)

Caleb recounts in verse 7 how he spoke "from the heart" (literal Hebrew) when he gave his honest assessment that, if the Israelites were obedient to God, that God would give them the land of Canaan. Caleb also reveals an oath Moses swore personally to him that is not recorded previously in Scripture but which was witnessed by Joshua (verse 9). Caleb's account is both factual and emotional. He has not only been completely faithful and obedient to Yahweh, but he heroically makes the pledge to drive out the fierce giants called the Anakim that the Israelites so feared (Num 13:28, 32-33), having confidence in God's promise that the Israelites will be successful if they have faith. Thus, the story of Caleb's part in the conquest begins and ends with the fearsome Anakim. Joshua honors the promise Moses made to Caleb and gives Hebron and its surrounding territory to Caleb and his family. You will recall that the field and cave at Hebron/Kiriath-Abra is the only land Abraham ever owned in the Promised Land, and it is where the burial cave of the Patriarchs is located (Gen 23:1-2, 17-20).

Question: What future event that will impact the history of Israel will take place at Hebron? See 2 Sam 2:1-4 and 5:1-5.
Answer: Hebron becomes David's home and it is where the tribe of Judah anoints him the king of the House of Judah. Seven years later, it was also at Hebron that the elders of Israel anointed David king of the united tribes of Israel.

At this point in the narrative, Caleb is 85 years old. Since he is still willing and able to carry on the fight it is possible that he is younger than Joshua who has retired from fighting. Caleb reports in verse 10 that 45 years have passed since the events at Kadesh-Barnea. He was 40 years old at Kadesh-Barnea when the Israelites were condemned to another 38 years in the wilderness (the Israelites were at Mt. Sinai for two years so the number of years in the wilderness totaled 40 years).

Question: Given this information, can we estimate the number of years Joshua and Caleb found for the conquest of Canaan?
Answer: 45 (the years since the failure at Kadesh) minus 38 years spend in the wilderness from Kadesh to the beginning of the conquest leaves 7 years from crossing the Jordan River into Canaan to the present time in the narrative as we count years.

This chapter ends with the same phrase in 11:23 and will be repeated again in 22:4: And the country [land] had rest from warfare.

Questions for group discussion:

Origen saw the allegorical significance of the conquest of Canaan. In his commentary on the Book of Joshua, he wrote: It is clear that Moses saw in his mind the truth of the law and the allegorical meanings related to the anagogical sense of the stories he recorded, and that Joshua understood the true distribution of land ... since he could see better than us that the things as accomplished through himself were shadows of certain realities (Origen, Commentary on Joshua, 6.21-22). St. Paul wrote to Jewish Christians that they shouldn't be ashamed of the old Law or let anyone to criticize them about the past Old Covenant observances since the events in God's first testimony (the Old Testament) were a prelude to the events in the testament of Jesus Christ (New Testament): Then never let anyone criticize you for what you eat or drink, or about observances of annual festivals, New Moons or Sabbaths. These are only a shadow of what was coming: the reality is the body of Christ (Col 2:16-17).

In Joshua 1:23 and 22:4, God tells the Israelites of Joshua's time that they are granted "rest" in the Promised Land. Commenting on these verses, the inspired writer of Hebrews wrote: If Joshua had led them into this place of rest, God would not later have spoken of another day. There must still be, therefore, a seventh-day rest reserved for God's people, since to enter the place of rest is to rest after your work, as God did after his. Let us, then, press forward to enter this place of rest, or some of you might copy this example of refusal to believe and be lost (Heb 4:8-11).

Question: How can the events that record Joshua's defeat of the sinful Canaanites, the conquest that drove them from the land and the settlement of the children of Israel in their inheritance of "rest" in the Promised Land that was purified by fire, be seen as a prelude to the final victory that will lead to the settlement of the righteous in the "rest" of the Promised Land of Heaven? See Ps 37:9; 95:10-11; Hab 3:11-4:11; Mt 3:11-12; 5:5; 1 Cor 3:10-15; Heb 4:1-11; Rev 20:11-21:8.
Answer: In the Letter to the Hebrews, the inspired writer refers to the Israelites who doubted the word of God and did not enter "the place of rest" which was the Promised Land (Heb 3:17-19; also see Num 14:23, 30, 34-35; Ps 95:10-11). However, God's promises are eternal and cannot remain unfulfilled. The writer of Hebrews points out that the temporal "rest" God spoke of in Joshua is symbolic of a promised final "rest." The events in the Book of Joshua foreshadow Joshua/Jesus' final victory over Satan and his "seed." While we wait for the return of Jesus, God purges His people with cleansing fire to prepare them for heaven (1 Cor 3:10-15), but when Jesus/Joshua returns, God will purge the world a final time of those who have rejected Jesus' gift of eternal salvation. At that time, God will give His new creation of a purified world to the children of God as their inheritance, and they will take possession of the eternal "rest" in the Promised Land of heaven.

Question: Why is the Bible such a difficult book "why doesn't God tell us simply and clearly in the written text all that we need to know to prepare for heaven and/or the return of the Redeemer-Messiah?
Answer: We might as well ask: Why didn't God make it easier for the children of Israel to take possession of the Promised Land by simply driving out all the inhabitants or destroying them with holy fire or a plague before the Israelites arrived? The point is the Israelites had to cooperate with God's plan to give them the land of promise "they had to invest themselves in that promised in order to make it their own. In the same way, we must cooperate with God and do our part in our journey to salvation by celebrating the Sacraments of faith and by deeply studying Sacred Scripture through the lens of Jesus Christ and the teachings of Mother Church. We must connect the "dots," so to speak, between God's first testament (what is called the Old Testament) and His testament in Christ Jesus (what is called the New Testament) in order to receive the true revelation of Holy Spirit inspired Scripture.

Question: How does Jesus answer the question when the disciples ask Him why He speaks symbolically in parables instead of speaking plainly in Matthew 13:10-17? Also see Mt 7:17-20 and Is 6:9-10 (quoted in Mt. 13:14-15; Jn 12:40; Acts 28:26-27). How does what Jesus teaches relate to studying Sacred Scripture and living the Sacrament of our faith?
Answer: In Matthew 13:10 the disciples asked Jesus why He spoke in parables that not everyone could understand. Jesus' answer was that those who lived according to the Law and studied the Scriptures would recognize the truth of His parables, and He said that their understanding will increase and be perfected by His Gospel (also see Mt 5:17, 20). However, those who did not know or practice the Law and study the Scriptures will become confused and lose even what little understanding that they had and will not receive the perfection and fulfillment Jesus brings to it. He points out that the condition of those who will not cooperate with His message of salvation is the same condition of the people in the time of the Prophet Isaiah. In Isaiah 6:9-10, God told Isaiah that his preaching would be met by incomprehension on the part of a complacent people who did not live in righteousness according to the Law. It is not that God desires this inability to understand and comprehend. Instead, He foresees it and incorporates it into His plan to bring those who willingly receive the Gospel to salvation and to bring those who willfully reject His messenger and His gift of salvation to judgment. This is why we must live the teachings of the Church in Jesus' Law of love of God and love of neighbor, and why we must STUDY Sacred Scripture and not just read the words without comprehending the spirit of the written text and the connection of each of the Bible books to the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.


1. St. Ephraim is probably accrediting to Moses the deaths of king of Arad in Num 21:1-3 and the Amorite kings Sihon and Og. However, under Moses' leadership the Israelites also killed the five kings of Midian in Num 31:7-12.

2. See Judg 2:11-13; 3:7.

3. The Jews did not have separate words to define other kinship relationships like step-brother or half-brother. This tradition is reflected in the Greek text of the New Testament where the only word for "brother" is adelphos (the plural is adelphoi). Therefore, where the brothers and sisters of Jesus are mentioned (Mk 3:31-35; 6:3; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19), it does not mean the inspired writer is suggesting that Mary of Nazareth had other children but only that there were other kinsmen and woman related to Jesus through either Joseph or Joseph's kinsmen (see CCC 500). In the Greek Septuagint translation, the same word adelphoi is used for "brothers" in Josh 14:8 where Caleb speaks of the other Israelite spies as his covenant "brothers."

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

Catechism references:

Reference to the ministerial priesthood in Joshua 13:33 see CCC 1539-54

Mary's perpetual virginity and title "Mother of God" see CCC 400-511

Christ the firstborn of a multitude of brothers and sisters see CCC 381, 501, 2012, 2448

The new heaven and purified earth at the end of the Age of Man see CCC 1042-50