Introduction: This chapter marks a transition in the book of Joshua between the Jews’ battles and the division of the captured lands. The chapter begins with a reminder of the work that remained for the Jews in clearing out the Promised Land. It then describes the inheritance of two kinds of peoples. This included those who decided to make God their inheritance (the Levites) and those who elected to have an inheritance in the world outside the Promised Land (the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh). The remaining chapters in this section of the book then describe the inheritance of the other tribes within the Promised Land. These chapters contain references to ancient cities, many of which may mean nothing to a modern reader. The temptation for some is to skip these chapters. Yet, God is clear that all Scripture is not only inspired, but also “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;” (2 Tim. 3:16(b)). In every verse, there is something that He is trying to teach us, even if the meaning is not immediately clear: “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, . . .” (Ro. 15:4). Thus, “[w]e are not to pass over these chapters of hard names as useless. Where God has a mouth to speak, and a hand to write, we should find an ear to hear, and an eye to read; and may God give us a heart to profit!” (Matthew Henry on Joshua 13). Here, He reveals seven lessons on choosing an inheritance in Him over the world.
First, from His command to Joshua not to delay in his old age in doing the work of God by dividing up the occupied lands, He reveals that there is always work to be done for His Kingdom. Second, from the list of five Canaanite and Philistine nations that remained to be conquered (a number symbolizing His grace), He showed His grace in offering to give these lands to the Jews if only they had the faith and obedience to drive out these peoples. Yet, the Jews were not obedient in driving out these peoples. The five nations in turn grew in size and later challenged the Jews for control over Israel. These peoples symbolized the flesh of every believer. From this, He warns that you must not make accommodations for their flesh or your flesh will be a thorn in your walk with Him. Third, from His list of the lands to be distributed outside the Promised Land, He reveals that if you choose the world over Him, you may forgo some of His blessings. Fourth, from the inheritance of the tribe of Levi, which received a relationship with God over a land inheritance, He reveals that you are to live in the world but not of the world. Fifth, from the squandered inheritance of Reuben (which could have been the pre-emanate tribe), He reveals that you should not be double minded between the things of the Spirit and the things of the flesh. Sixth, from Gad’s selection of the lands of the world that God had not promised, He reveals that believers should not covet the things of the world over Him. Finally, from the half tribe of Manasseh, which chose to join Reuben and Gad in living outside the Promised Land, He reveals that a double minded lifestyle can cause believers to stumble.
God’s command to Joshua to finish his appointed tasks. After the Jews completed their conquest of northern and southern Israel, God reminded Joshua that much work remained before the Jews could rest. Because God knew that Israel would be without a unifying leader after Joshua’s passing, He urged Joshua not to rest in leading the Jews in seizing the remaining lands and dividing them up between the tribes: “1 Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the Lord said to him, ‘You are old and advanced in years, and very much of the land remains to be possessed.” (Josh. 13:1). Although he was old, he was still ready to serve. God gave Caleb the strength to serve at age 85 (Josh. 14:11). Likewise, up until the time of his death at age 120, He gave Moses the strength of a younger man to do His work: “ . . . when he died, his eye was not dim, nor his vigor abated.” (Dt. 34:27). The message is that there is always work to do for His kingdom.
Joshua shares God’s command to finish the conquest of the Promised Land1
All things are possible through Christ when you step out in faith to serve Him. When you step out in faith to serve Jesus’ calling in your life, He can also give you the strength to complete your tasks for Him: “And looking at them Jesus said to them, ‘With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”’ (Matt. 19:26; Mk. 10:27; Lk. 18:27). “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:13). Is there any calling in your life that you have ignored due to age, health, work, or some other reason?
The battles remaining within the Promised Land. Before Joshua divided up the occupied lands, God began by reminding him of five nations within the Promised Land which had not been defeated: “2 This is the land that remains: (1) all the regions of the Philistines (2) and all those of the Geshurites; 3 from the Shihor which is east of Egypt, even as far as the border of Ekron to the north (it is counted as Canaanite); the five lords of the Philistines: the Gazite, the Ashdodite, the Ashkelonite, the Gittite, the Ekronite; and the Avvite 4 to the south, (3) all the land of the Canaanite, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorite; 5 and (4) the land of the Gebalite, and (5) all of Lebanon, toward the east, from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon as far as Lebo-hamath. 6 All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon as far as Misrephoth-maim, all the Sidonians, I will drive them out from before the sons of Israel; only allot it to Israel for an inheritance as I have commanded you. 7 Now therefore, apportion this land for an inheritance to the nine tribes and the half-tribe of Manasseh.”’ (Josh. 13:2-7). The Philistines were a non-Sematic people from the island of Crete who inhabited the coastal areas of Israel (Woudstra, Marten, The Book of Joshua, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (William Eedman’s Publishing Co. 1981) p. 210). There were five kingdoms left, and exactly five Philistine lands within the Philistine nation. In the Bible, the number five is associated with God’s grace. The five remaining kingdoms symbolized His grace in giving their lands to the Jews. Conversely, these five nations symbolized a risk to the nation of Israel if the Jews did not drive them out. Thus, like the other prior inhabitants of the Promised Land, the Jews were not to show mercy in allowing these people to remain: “and when the LORD your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them.” (Dt. 7:2, 16). “Only in the cities of these peoples that the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance, you shall not leave alive anything that breathes.” (Dt. 20:16). Only the women and children were allowed to live (Dt. 20:14). The Jews did not need to fear acquiring these lands. God also promised to drive these people out and give the Jews their lands if only the Jews showed faith and obedience (Ps. 78:55). Yet, because the Jews did not drive out these nations, these nations later grew like leaven in bread and challenged the Jews.
The lands left for the Jews to conquer2
(1) The Philistines. The Philistines included: “the five lords of the Philistines: the Gazite, the Ashdodite, the Ashkelonite, the Gittite, the Ekronite; and the Avvite.” (Josh. 13:3). The first three cities were along the coast, and the last two were in the foothills (Woudstra p. 211). The failure of the Jews to destroy the Philistines would later lead to many wars between them. At one point, the Philistines even captured the ark: “Now the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod.” (1 Sam. 5:1).
(2) The Geshurites. The Jews also needed to take the land of the Geshurities. They lived in Southern Israel (Woudstra p. 210). Yet, because the Jews did not fulfill God’s command, the Geshurites would also become a powerful nation that would threaten Israel: “Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites and the Girzites and the Amalekites; for they were the inhabitants of the land from ancient times, as you come to Shur even as far as the land of Egypt.” (1 Sam. 27:8).
(3) The Sidonians. The Jews also needed to take “all the land of the Canaanite, and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians, as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorite.” (Josh. 13:4). This land described an area held by the Phoenicians extending approximately 23 miles north of Beirut (Woudstra p. 211). The failure of the Jews to take these cities belonging to the Sidonians would also cause problems for the Jews. The city of “Aphek” would later become a sanctuary for enemy troops fighting against Israel: “Thus the word of Samuel came to all Israel. Now Israel went out to meet the Philistines in battle and camped beside Ebenezer while the Philistines camped in Aphek.” (1 Sam. 4:1).
(4) The Gebalites. The Jews also needed to clear out the Gebalites (Josh. 13:5). They lived in the ancient city of Gebal or Byblos on the Phoenician coast north of Sidon (Woudstra p. 212). Because they were left alone, they also grew in size and challenged the Jews.
(5) Lebanon. The Jews also needed to take “all the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon as far as Misrephoth-maim, all the Sidonians.” (Josh. 13:5). This territory was part of what God promised would be the northern border of Israel (Nu. 34:8-9). This included modern day Lebanon and parts of southern Syria. These areas would also one day threat the Jews. They also grew in size and challenged King Solomon (1 Ki. 11:23-25). Today these areas are still filled with Israel’s enemies, including Hezbollah.
The occupied lands outside of the Promised Land. After listing the battles that remained inside the Promised Land, God affirmed Moses’ promise to two and one half tribes to live outside the Promised Land: “8 With the other half-tribe, the Reubenites and the Gadites received their inheritance which Moses gave them beyond the Jordan to the east, just as Moses the servant of the Lord gave to them; 9 from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, with the city which is in the middle of the valley, and all the plain of Medeba, as far as Dibon; 10 and all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, who reigned in Heshbon, as far as the border of the sons of Ammon; 11 and Gilead, and the territory of the Geshurites and Maacathites, and all Mount Hermon, and all Bashan as far as Salecah; 12 all the kingdom of Og in Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei (he alone was left of the remnant of the Rephaim); for Moses struck them and dispossessed them. 13 But the sons of Israel did not dispossess the Geshurites or the Maacathites; for Geshur and Maacath live among Israel until this day.” (Josh. 13:8-13). The tribes of Reuben and Gad previously gave up their right to claim land that God had promised within Israel: “For we will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this side of the Jordan toward the east.” (Nu. 32:19). Moses only agreed to give these lands to them if they helped the Jews subdue Israel (Nu. 32:29; Dt. 3:8, 12). Based upon the nine and one-half tribes that remained, Joshua was to distribute the Promised Land amongst the tribes according to their size by the Spirit (Nu. 33:54; 26:53-55). Without these two and a half tribes, there was more of an inheritance for the other tribes that remained. These two and one half tribes squandered their inheritance. Moreover, these tribes also left local peoples who would also grow to threaten them and the rest of Israel. For example:
The Gesurites. The Gesurites lived outside the Promised Land and also caused trouble for the Jews. At one point, King David married a woman from Geshur. Together, they had a son named Absalom (2 Sam. 3:3). When he grew older, Absalom left David and dwelt with the people of Geshur. He later used that place to conspire with others to overthrow David and try to usurp his throne (2 Sam. 13:37-38; 14:23, 32).
The Maachathites. The Maachathites were descendants of Abraham’s nephew (Gen. 22:24). They also caused problems for the Jews. When Sheba rebelled against David, he fled and took refuge amongst the Maachathites (2 Sam. 20:14-15). They also fought against Israel: “They hired 32,000 chariots and the king of Maacah with his army, who came and encamped before Medeba. And the Ammonites were mustered from their cities and came to battle.” (1 Chr. 19:7).
The two tribes who rejected God’s prior allocation of land for them. The tribes of Reuben and Gad both assumed what the world offered them in Jordan was better than what God offered in Israel. Thus, they told Moses that the land of Jordan “is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” (Nu. 32:4). They may have tried to justify their decision by reasoning that their brothers in the faith would benefit by receiving an increased share of the Promised Land. Yet, this was not God’s plan. Solomon warned: “There is a way that seems right to a man. But it ends in the way of death.” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25). Jesus also warned: “. . . the way is broad that leads to destruction . . . the way is narrow that leads to life.” (Matt. 7:13-14). Are you following His narrow path?
God could not force Reuben, Gad, or Manasseh to live in the Promised Land. After Reuben and Gad agreed to fight with their brothers, Moses gave them their wish and agreed to their request to forgo the Promised Land (Nu. 32:20-23). Here, Joshua honored the agreement and gave these two and a half tribes their place outside the Promised Land (Josh. 13:15-33). God also will not force anyone into His eternal Promised Land. He gives us free will. If you long for your old life (being double minded), Jesus says that you are not fit for the kingdom (Lk. 9:62). Sadly, life outside the Promised Land offers only counterfeit pleasures. The devil can only offer illusions that end with pain and misery.
Disobedience can have consequences for future generations. God warned that He would vomit the Jews out of the Promised Land if they did not keep His statutes (Lev. 20:22). Moses previously prophesized: “For if you turn away from following Him, He will once more abandon them to the wilderness; and you will destroy these people.” (Nu. 32:15). The decision of these tribes to stay outside the Promised Land would hurt them later. Years later, the tribes of Reuben and Gad abandoned Israel and broke away from the line of kings after David’s grandson Rehoboam became king in 930 BC. They felt content enjoying their own territories outside the Promised Land. Jesus, however, warns that a divided kingdom cannot stand (Mk. 3:25). And that is just what happened. In 723 BC, the Assyrians conquered the tribes of Israel and deported them.
The tribes of Reuben and Gad later became part of the lost tribes of Israel. After being deported, the tribes of Reuben and Gad never returned. They became part of the lost tribes of Israel. Because they did not live in the Promised Land, returning to it had no meaning to them. More importantly, because God never promised this land to them, He did not clear it of foreign armies to allow for their return. Thus, Ezekiel made no allowance for these territories in central and northern Jordan when he prophesized about the restoration of Israel (Ezek. 47-48). The tribes of Reuben and Gad most likely form parts of the Diaspora that still live today in Iraq and Iran. Yet, they have lost their identity. Their fateful decision on the edge of the Promised Land still has consequences today. If you make decisions against God’s will, you may suffer a lifetime of hurt and anguish as well. Even worse, your decisions can impact future generations.
Satan attacks those who live away from the herd. Satan acts like a lion (1 Pet. 5:8). Like a lion, Satan attacks the members of the herd who have strayed from the flock. Thus, we are told not to forsake the fellowship (Heb. 10:25). Jesus also warns that He is sending us as “sheep” amongst the wolves (Matt. 10:16). We have no natural defenses outside of the flock. By choosing to live outside the Promised Land, Rueben and Gad opened themselves to attacks by foreign armies. If you live outside of the protections of God’s word by being disobedient, you also open yourself to spiritual attack.
The offer to fight forward while looking back. Rather than repenting of their decision, the tribes of Reuben and Gad tried to sell a dual life to Moses. They would build their homes and cities outside the Promised Land (Nu. 32:16). Leaving their most valuable things and people behind, they would then lead the armies into Israel (Nu. 32:17-19). They believed that they would be the perfect dual citizens. But, “their heart[s] [were] divided.” (Hos. 10:2). Like a believer who dutifully shows up to church on Sundays, they would serve God only when needed. There was only one problem with this. They left what they loved the most outside the Promised Land. They fought while looking back with a longing to return to their families outside the Promised Land. They were like Lot’s wife. God has no use for these believers. Jesus warned that: “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Lk. 9:62). Is there any part of your old life that you are still clinging to?
God will allow a double minded believer to be given over to their sins. Moses warned the tribes of Reuben and Gad that if they did not live up to their commitments to God: “be sure your sin will find you out.” (Nu. 32:23). God also warns you that if you voluntarily give into sin, He will hand you over to your sins (Rom. 1:26). Are you living a dual life with your heart divided between the things of the world and God?
The inheritance of the tribe of Levi. Unlike the other tribes, the tribe of Levi would not receive an inheritance in the land because they would live amongst the other tribes and devote themselves to serving God and the other people: “14 Only to the tribe of Levi he did not give an inheritance; the offerings by fire to the Lord, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as He spoke to him.” (Josh. 13:14). They had an even better blessing. Instead, God was their “portion” and their “inheritance.” (Nu. 18:20; Dt. 18:2).
Choose your spiritual inheritance in Jesus over worldly desires3
Store up your treasures in heaven and let Jesus be your inheritance. Any person seeking to be a servant of God must be willing to make sacrifices. In the case of the Levites, they sacrificed the right to own or inherit land. Their inheritance was with God in heaven. Their food was further limited to what the people gave them as part of their tithes. Four times, Moses commanded that: “1 The Levitical priests, the whole tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the Lord’s offerings by fire and His portion. 2 They shall have no inheritance among their countrymen; the Lord is their inheritance, as He promised them.” (Dt. 18:1-2; 10:9; 12:12; Nu. 18:20). After the Jews invaded the Promised Land, Joshua repeated this rule here in Chapter 13 and once more in Chapter 18 (Josh. 13:33; 18:7). Jesus is our High Priest (Heb. 4:14). To fulfill the Law, He lived without owning land while He lived as man on Earth (Matt. 8:20; Lk. 9:58). Like the Levites, you are today part of His holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). Like the Levities, He calls upon every believer to store up all forms of wealth (not just land) in heaven (Matt. 6:19-20; Lk. 12:33). Yet, He did not prohibit people from owning land. Having wealth is not in and of itself sinful. If it were, God would not have rewarded Job or Solomon with riches (Job 42:10; 2 Chron. 1:11). Instead, Jesus asks you to give up wealth if it causes you to covet. He commanded a young man to give up his wealth because He knew that the man’s wealth had caused him to hoard wealth: “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” (Matt. 9:21; Lk. 18:22). If Jesus were to call upon you to sell your property to help the poor, would your heart be filled with sadness?
Let Jesus be your inheritance. As part of God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9), your sacrifice is not without a reward. You have the right to count Jesus as your inheritance: “And it shall be with regard to an inheritance for them, that I am their inheritance; and you shall give them no possession in Israel-- I am their possession.” (Ezek. 44:28). “The LORD is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words.” (Ps. 119:57). “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot.” (Ps. 16:5). “But you will be called the priests of the LORD; you will be spoken of as ministers of our God. You will eat the wealth of nations, and in their riches you will boast. Instead of your shame you will have a double portion, and instead of humiliation they will shout for joy over their portion. Therefore they will possess a double portion in their land, everlasting joy will be theirs.” (Is. 61:6-7). Yet, unlike the Levities, you do not need to wait to receive your inheritance. First, Jesus offers any believer the Holy Spirit as a down payment on His inheritance: “who also sealed us and gave us the Spirit in our hearts as a pledge.” (2 Cor. 1:22). Second, when you act in one accord with your fellow believers for Christ, Jesus further gives part of His glory to you (Jo. 17:22). Third, you have an inheritance in heaven that is so great that it cannot be adequately described: “[B]ut just as it is written, ‘Things which the eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’” (1 Cor. 2:9). “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” (Ro. 8:18). Are you storing up treasures in heaven by denying yourself of pleasures on Earth?
Like the Levites, you are privileged to sacrifice for God. The Levities learned that their privilege to serve was not without sacrifice. As your High Priest, Christ also sacrificed for His church by paying the ultimate price for your sins (Mk. 3:28-29). Like the Levites and like Christ, your privilege in serving as a priest means that you will also sometimes suffer for Him. Yet, you must always remember that this is a privilege. Peter advised those who suffer for the cause of Christ to rejoice (1 Pet. 4:13). Your suffering, trials, and humiliation make you a better witness for Him (Ro. 5:3; Jam. 1:2-4). Through your trials, you can tell others that Jesus offers the peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7). Yet, if you have never had to cling to God in a rough storm, how much will someone in a storm trust your advice? How good can you be at fulfilling your duty in comforting others (2 Cor. 1:4) if you have never needed comfort yourself?
The inheritance of the tribe of Reuben. Joshua’s allotment of the land began with the tribes which decided to live outside the Promised Land, the first of which was the tribe of Reuben: “15 So Moses gave an inheritance to the tribe of the sons of Reuben according to their families. 16 Their territory was from Aroer, which is on the edge of the valley of the Arnon, with the city which is in the middle of the valley and all the plain by Medeba; 17 Heshbon, and all its cities which are on the plain: Dibon and Bamoth-baal and Beth-baal-meon, 18 and Jahaz and Kedemoth and Mephaath, 19 and Kiriathaim and Sibmah and Zereth-shahar on the hill of the valley, 20 and Beth-peor and the slopes of Pisgah and Beth-jeshimoth, 21 even all the cities of the plain and all the kingdom of Sihon king of the Amorites who reigned in Heshbon, whom Moses struck with the chiefs of Midian, Evi and Rekem and Zur and Hur and Reba, the princes of Sihon, who lived in the land. 22 The sons of Israel also killed Balaam the son of Beor, the diviner, with the sword among the rest of their slain. 23 The border of the sons of Reuben was the Jordan. This was the inheritance of the sons of Reuben according to their families, the cities and their villages.” (Josh. 13:15-23). The territory included the land that once belonged to King Sihon in modern day Jordan. “Apparently, Reuben’s allotment reached as far as the Jordan, though the bulk of it was east of the Dead Sea, with its northern point reaching the northern tip of the Sea where the Jordan flowed into it.” (Woudstra p. 220).
Reuben was a double minded believer who squandered his inheritance. To understand why these tribes made bad choices, we need to learn more about them. Reuben was the son of Leah and Jacob’s first born son (Gen. 29:30-32). Normally, Reuben would be entitled to a double blessing as the firstborn (Dt. 21:15-17). Yet, out of a lust for power, Reuben slept with his stepmother, Bilhah, Rachael’s maid servant (Gen. 35:22). Leaders from the tribe of Rueben later joined in Korah’s rebellion against Moses, possibly to regain their pre-eminent role (Nu. 16:1). Yet, those who desire to be first in power will be last in God’s kingdom (Mk. 10:31). At the beginning of their journey, the tribe had 46,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:22). Yet, after more than 38 years in the wilderness, their numbers totaled only 43,730 (Nu. 26:7). This was a decrease of 2,770 or 5.95%. Jacob previously warned that Reuben would be unstable like water (Gen. 49:3-4). Water takes the path of least resistance. Like unstable water, Reuben’s tribe gave into various sins in the wilderness. It then stood on the edge of the Promised Land and decided that the world was better than what God had promised. Reuben was double minded between the things of God and the world. If you love things of the world, you are also double minded. Like Rueben, this will only lead to your decline. Are you double minded in pursuing after the things of the world and God?
The inheritance of the tribe of Gad. After describing the allotment of the tribe of Reuben, Joshua gave the allotment of the tribe of Gad: “24 Moses also gave an inheritance to the tribe of Gad, to the sons of Gad, according to their families. 25 Their territory was Jazer, and all the cities of Gilead, and half the land of the sons of Ammon, as far as Aroer which is before Rabbah; 26 and from Heshbon as far as Ramath-mizpeh and Betonim, and from Mahanaim as far as the border of Debir; 27 and in the valley, Beth-haram and Beth-nimrah and Succoth and Zaphon, the rest of the kingdom of Sihon king of Heshbon, with the Jordan as a border, as far as the lower end of the Sea of Chinnereth beyond the Jordan to the east. 28 This is the inheritance of the sons of Gad according to their families, the cities and their villages.” (Josh. 13:24-28). Gad’s territory “was situated to the east of the Jordan, north of Reuben’s domain and to the south of that of the half tribe of Manasseh. . . . Gad’s territory comprised almost the entire Jordan Valley, east of the river. From the valley it ran eastward as far as the south-north course of the Jabbok. On the north it had for its border the east-west course of that river. At two points it extended beyond that line: in the Jordan Valley it stretched to the Sea of Galilee, and in the northeast it included the district of Mahanim and the strategic city of Ramoth-gilead.” (Woudstra p. 220-1). These were also lands that God had never promised to the Jews.
Being double minded, Gad failed to discern the purpose of God’s blessings. God blessed the Jews with the wealth from four wars. First, He allowed the Jews to take the Egyptians’ wealth (Ex. 12:36). Second, He helped them defeat the Midianites (Nu. 31:7-11). From Midian alone, they captured 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, and 61,000 donkeys (Nu. 31:36-37). Third, He helped them defeat the Amorite King Sihon (Nu. 21:23-31; Dt. 2:24-37; Jdgs. 11:19-22). Finally, He helped them defeat the Amorite King Og (Nu. 21:32-35). With the one exception of Moab in the south, the Jews controlled all of modern day Jordan. God gave the Jews these things to prepare them for the Promised Land. James tells us that “every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above . . .” (Jam. 1:17). Yet, like the tribe of Rueben, the tribe of Gad assumed that He gave them this wealth for their own benefit. Like the servant who was given a talent, these tribes decided to bury their talents in a foreign land instead of watching them grow in God’s promised land (Matt. 25:14-30; Lk. 19:12-28). For those to whom much is given, much is expected (Lk. 12:48). Are you using your gifts for His kingdom?
Being double minded, Gad coveted their wealth and the foreign lands After receiving God’s many blessings, the tribe of Gad, like the tribe of Ruben noticed that they had “an exceedingly large number of livestock.” (Nu. 32:1). They also noticed that the conquered land that they were staying in “was indeed a suitable place for livestock.” (Nu. 32:1, 4). By coveting these things, they broke the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17). Their lust for wealth and foreign lands was also from the evil one: “For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 Jo. 2:16). Although he was the richest man on earth, Solomon once prayed: “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, who is the Lord?” (Prov. 30:8-9). The love of money is the root of many evils (1 Tim. 6:10). Coveting is also a sin that only grows (Hab. 2:5). People who covet without someone to pay for their sins (i.e., Jesus) also cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:10; Eph. 5:3-6). The tribes of Rueben and Gad had no reason to worry about the growth of their flocks if they had stuck to God’s plan and settled in the Promised Land. If you seek God first, do you have any reason to worry about money or anything else? (Matt. 6:33).
The inheritance of the tribe of Manasseh. Finally, Joshua gave the allotment of the tribe of Manasseh: “29 Moses also gave an inheritance to the half-tribe of Manasseh; and it was for the half-tribe of the sons of Manasseh according to their families. 30 Their territory was from Mahanaim, all Bashan, all the kingdom of Og king of Bashan, and all the towns of Jair, which are in Bashan, sixty cities; 31 also half of Gilead, with Ashtaroth and Edrei, the cities of the kingdom of Og in Bashan, were for the sons of Machir the son of Manasseh, for half of the sons of Machir according to their families. “32 These are the territories which Moses apportioned for an inheritance in the plains of Moab, beyond the Jordan at Jericho to the east. 33 But to the tribe of Levi, Moses did not give an inheritance; the Lord, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as He had promised to them.” (Josh. 13:29-33). “Manasseh’s territory stretched from Manhanaim, which was also one of the northernmost points of Gad’s territory. In general terms the description proceeds to mention all of Bashan, a rich and fertile land north of the Yarmuk, reaching to Mount Hermon and eastward to the northern slopes of the Hauran. It also mentions the whole kingdom of Og.” (Woudstra p. 223). The concluding verse makes reference to the tribe of Levi because the Levites would also live outside the Promised Land to help the Jews who lived in these areas (Lev. 13:33).
The entanglement of half of Manasseh’s tribe in their sins. Moses agreed to the requests of Reuben and Gad because God cannot force people into His Promised Land if they don’t want to be there. Yet, with the final division, half of the tribe of Manasseh decided that it would also live outside of the Promised Land (Nu. 32:33, 40-42). Unlike Rueben and Gad, Manasseh was the most obedient of all the tribes in the wilderness, and it grew the most. By the beginning of their journey, the Manasseh tribe had fighting men totaling 32,200 (Nu. 1:35). By the end of their 38-year-journey, their fighting men totaled 52,700 (Nu. 26:34). This was an increase of 20,500 or 63.66%. Apparently, even the most zealous believers can be brought down through bad company (1 Cor. 15:33). Half of this tribe gave up God’s blessings for a counterfeit promise of a better life outside the Promised Land. The lesson is that you should not let yourself be unequally yoked with bad company. If you do, you might be pulled off your walk with God.