Introduction: Joshua Chapter 19 concludes God’s allotment of land for the tribes of Israel. Seven tribes procrastinated in claiming their inheritance. This chapter describes the last six of them. In the Bible, six is the number that symbolizes mankind. These tribes symbolized the flesh and not the promise of the Spirit. These included descendants of the unloved wife Leah and descendants of the two maidservants, Zilphah and Bilhah. Like every other sinner, these tribes did not deserve an inheritance in the Promised Land. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God provided for each of them. He loves everyone equally. The Jews first left Israel as a clan of 70 people (Gen. 46:27). They spent approximately 400 years in captivity (Gen. 15:13- “400”; Ex. 12:40-“430”). After they escaped from Egypt, they had 603,550 men of fighting age (Nu. 1:46). God was faithful to bless and prosper His people. He delivered them from bondage. He provided for them. He defeated their enemies. He then gave them an inheritance in the Promised Land. From this chapter, He reveals seven lessons on claiming your inheritance.
First, from the inheritance given to the tribe of Simeon from land granted to the tribe of Judah, God reveals that part of your spiritual inheritance comes from sharing and providing for your brothers and sisters in need. Second, from the blessing given to Zebulun as part of Moses’ prior joint blessing with the tribe of Issachar, He reveals that part of your spiritual inheritance comes from working together with your brothers and sisters in Christ. Third, the tribe of Issachar received an inheritance from its younger brother tribe Zebulun. Although it received a blessing of great agricultural lands, Jacob warned in the book of Genesis that they would one day lose these lands to their enemies. The lesson is that you must stay vigilant in your walk with God to maintain your blessings. Fourth, from the blessing given to Asher, He reveals that another part of your spiritual inheritance comes from being content with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. If you feel entitled to more, you will likely become disappointed or doubting in your faith. Fifth, from the blessings given to the tribe of Naphtali, He reveals that part of your inheritance comes from using your God-given gifts for His Kingdom. Sixth, from the inheritance given to the warrior tribe of Dan, He reveals that part of your spiritual inheritance comes from serving in His army. He will bless you when you serve on the front lines as a prayer warrior interceding for others who are under spiritual attack. Finally, from the inheritance given to Joshua after all the others, He reveals that He will never forget the sacrifices of His leaders. But a true leader for God waits to receive his or her inheritance until after his brothers or sisters in Christ.
The inheritance given to the tribe of Simeon. After granting a land inheritance to the tribe of Benjamin, the next of the last seven tribes to receive an inheritance was the tribe of Simeon: “1 Then the second lot fell to Simeon, to the tribe of the sons of Simeon according to their families, and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the sons of Judah. 2 So they had as their inheritance Beersheba or Sheba and Moladah, 3 and Hazar-shual and Balah and Ezem, 4 and Eltolad and Bethul and Hormah, 5 and Ziklag and Beth-marcaboth and Hazar-susah, 6 and Beth-lebaoth and Sharuhen; thirteen cities with their villages; 7 Ain, Rimmon and Ether and Ashan; four cities with their villages; 8 and all the villages which were around these cities as far as Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negev. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Simeon according to their families. 9 The inheritance of the sons of Simeon was taken from the portion of the sons of Judah, for the share of the sons of Judah was too large for them; so the sons of Simeon received an inheritance in the midst of Judah’s inheritance.” (Josh. 19:1-9). In a fulfillment of Jacob’s prophecy, the tribe of Simeon did not receive its own inheritance (Gen. 49:6-7). The tribe received an inheritance scattered amongst cities within the lands of Judah in southern Israel. Thus, like the Levites, it had no boundaries for its lands. Yet, every child of God is important to the wellbeing of the Kingdom and the Church. In southern Israel, it played an important role with Judah in protecting the Jews from the Edomites (Richard Hess, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Joshua, an Introduction & Commentary (Intervarsity Press 1996) p. 267).
The territories of the tribe of Simeon1
God’s grace in giving an inheritance to the tribe of Simeon. Simeon was the second son of Jacob and Leah, the unloved wife (Gen. 29:33). Although he would have become the first-born child in terms of his rights of inheritance after Rueben’s sins in sleeping with his father’s concubine, Simeon later lost his chance to become the first-born due to his own sins. After his sister was raped, Simeon and Levi killed the people of Shechem in cold blood as an act of revenge. They further defamed God in doing so by asking the people to Shechem to be circumcised in order to make peace with them. They then slaughtered the men as they recovered (Gen. 28:27-29; 34:25-26). At the time of Jacob’s death, he warned that Simeon’s descendants were cursed because of his actions. They would be “scattered” throughout Israel: “Let my soul not enter into their council; let not my glory be united with their assembly . . . I will disperse them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.” (Gen. 49:6-7). Unlike Levi (Josh. 13:32-14:5), the Simeon tribe never repented for the sins of its father. Zimri was a leader from the tribe of Simeon. He openly brought a temple harlot home for all to see after God began to punish the nation of Israel for their temple prostitution (Nu. 25:6, 14). Of the 24,000 people who died in God’s punishment (Nu. 25:9), most were believed to be from this tribe. While in the wilderness, Simeon’s tribe declined in size from 59,300 to 22,200 fighting men (Nu. 1:23; 26:14). This was a decrease of 37,100 fighting men or 62.56% of its fighting aged population. In absolute terms, Simeon went from being the third largest tribe to the smallest. At the conclusion of his life, Moses blessed all of the tribes except for the tribe of Simeon (Dt. 33). Thus, what happened during the allotment of the lands was both a fulfillment of a prophecy and the consequence of their ongoing sins. Sadly, they continued to diminish in strength after entering Israel, just as God foretold through Jacob. Many believe that the tribe was eventually absorbed by the tribe of Judah. In a foreshadowing of Jesus, the people of Simeon found their salvation by turning to the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah who brings salvation for all who turn to Him (Rev. 5:5). Unlike the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh who complained about their inheritance, the tribe of Judah was willing to share from the inheritance that God had given it: “The men of Judah did not oppose taking away the cities within their border, when convinced that they had more than was right. If a true believer has obtained an unintended and improper advantage in anything, he will give it up without murmuring. Love seeketh not her own, and doth not behave unseemly; it will induce those in whom it richly dwells, to part with their own to supply what is lacking to their brethren.” (Matthew Henry on Joshua Chapter 19). Jesus said that you provide for Him when you care for your brothers and sisters in need: “The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’” (Matt. 25:40). Like the people of Judah who gave from what God gave them, will you give from your spiritual inheritance to help others?
The inheritance given to the tribe of Zebulun. As led by the Holy Spirit, the third of the last seven tribes to receive an allotment was the tribe of Zebulun: “10 Now the third lot came up for the sons of Zebulun according to their families. And the territory of their inheritance was as far as Sarid. 11 Then their border went up to the west and to Maralah, it then touched Dabbesheth and reached to the brook that is before Jokneam. 12 Then it turned from Sarid to the east toward the sunrise as far as the border of Chisloth-tabor, and it proceeded to Daberath and up to Japhia. 13 From there it continued eastward toward the sunrise to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and it proceeded to Rimmon which stretches to Neah. 14 The border circled around it on the north to Hannathon, and it ended at the valley of Iphtahel. 15 Included also were Kattah and Nahalal and Shimron and Idalah and Bethlehem; twelve cities with their villages. 16 This was the inheritance of the sons of Zebulun according to their families, these cities with their villages.” (Josh. 19:10-16). The allotment for the tribe of Zebulun was “in the western area of the Lower Galilee. Most of it lies between Jezreel and Bet Netofa (Sahl el-Battof) valleys. . . . The western border of Zebulun formed the eastern boundary of Asher.” (Hess p. 269). Yet, the blessing from these lands would only be fully realized by working with the others.
God’s grace in giving an inheritance to the tribe of Zebulun. Zebulun was also a son of Leah, the unloved wife (Gen. 30:20). He was the tenth out of twelve sons in terms of birth order. The tribe of Zebulun appeared out of order in the census listing as the sixth tribe (Nu. 1:28-31; 26:23-27). Leah was not promised to Jacob. Thus, he was also a child of the flesh and not of the Spirit. Like his brothers, he sinned against God by wanting to kill Joseph out of jealousy (Gen. 37:27-28). Yet, out of grace, Jacob later promised Zebulun a blessing of fertile lands near the seashore near Sidon in Southern Lebanon: “Zebulun will dwell at the seashore; and he shall be a haven for ships, and his flank shall be toward Sidon.” (Gen. 49:13; Josh. 19:10-16). Yet, it never had the faith to seize its blessings. The tribe managed to grow from God’s blessings while in the wilderness. The tribe, however, grew from 57,400 to 60,500 fighting men (Nu. 1:31; 26:27). This was an increase of 3,100 or 5.40%. Moses later blessed this tribe with future prosperity. Yet, he blessed it together with the tribe of Issachar, which meant that they needed to work together to seize God’s blessings: “18 Of Zebulun he said, “Rejoice, Zebulun, in your going forth, and, Issachar, in your tents. 19 They will call peoples to the mountain; there they will offer righteous sacrifices; for they will draw out the abundance of the seas, and the hidden treasures of the sand.” (Dt. 33:18-19). The lesson for believers is that they must also work together in the fullness of God’s Spirit to seize His blessings: “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3, 13). “Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.” (Col. 3:14). “To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;” (1 Pet. 3:8). Are you striving to bless other believers by building them up? Is your church working with other churches?
The inheritance given to the tribe of Issachar. The fourth of the last seven tribes to receive its land inheritance was the tribe of Issachar: “17 The fourth lot fell to Issachar, to the sons of Issachar according to their families. 18 Their territory was to Jezreel and included Chesulloth and Shunem, 19 and Hapharaim and Shion and Anaharath, 20 and Rabbith and Kishion and Ebez, 21 and Remeth and En-gannim and En-haddah and Beth-pazzez. 22 The border reached to Tabor and Shahazumah and Beth-shemesh, and their border ended at the Jordan; sixteen cities with their villages. 23 This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Issachar according to their families, the cities with their villages.” (Josh. 19:17-23). Some believe that Issachar’s territory formed part of the northern boundary line. “Issachar’s northern section extended to the Valley of Tiptah-el. Thus it consisted of much of eastern Lower Galilee.” (Hess p. 270).
Map of the allotted lands for the 12 tribes2
God’s grace in giving an inheritance to the tribe of Issachar. Issachar was also a son of Leah (Gen. 30:18). He was the ninth of Jacob’s twelve sons. Issachar’s tribe, however, received its inheritance after the inheritance of Issachar’s younger brother tribe Zebulun. The tribe of Issachar also appeared out of order in the census listing as the fifth tribe (Nu. 1:28-31; 26:23-27). All of this shows that human customs, which include but are not limited to the birth order of children, are meaningless to God. Like the other brothers, Issachar also sinned against God by wanting to kill Joseph out of jealousy (Gen 37:27-28). The tribe of Issachar managed to grow from God’s blessings while in the wilderness. The tribe grew from 54,400 to 64,300 fighting men (Nu. 1:29; 26:25). This was an increase of 9,900 or 18.19%. Moses later blessed this tribe with future prosperity. Yet, as stated above, Moses blessed this tribe together with the tribe of Zebulun (Dt. 33:18-19). Jacob, however, warned that Issachar’s blessings would be short-lived. Although Jacob also promised Issachar prosperous lands (believed to be near Mount Tabor), he warned that Issachar would be subdued by its sins through its Canaanite enemies: “14 Issachar is a strong donkey, lying down between the sheepfolds. 15 When he saw that a resting place was good and that the land was pleasant, he bowed his shoulder to bear burdens, and became a slave at forced labor.” (Gen. 49:14-15). The lesson for believers is that they cannot become complacent in their faith. If you do, you can become subjugated by your flesh. Are you becoming complacent with the blessings in your life by becoming complacent in your walk with God?
The inheritance given to the tribe of Asher. The fifth of the last seven tribes to receive a land inheritance was the tribe of Asher: “24 Now the fifth lot fell to the tribe of the sons of Asher according to their families. 25 Their territory was Helkath and Hali and Beten and Achshaph, 26 and Allammelech and Amad and Mishal; and it reached to Carmel on the west and to Shihor-libnath. 27 It turned toward the east to Beth-dagon and reached to Zebulun, and to the valley of Iphtahel northward to Beth-emek and Neiel; then it proceeded on north to Cabul, 28 and Ebron and Rehob and Hammon and Kanah, as far as Great Sidon. 29 The border turned to Ramah and to the fortified city of Tyre; then the border turned to Hosah, and it ended at the sea by the region of Achzib. 30 Included also were Ummah, and Aphek and Rehob; twenty-two cities with their villages. 31 This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Asher according to their families, these cities with their villages.” (Josh. 19:24-31). “This territory is defined by a boundary description that moves from the southern to the eastern border, and the goes on to the western coastal border.” (Hess p. 271). It was blessed with fertile agricultural lands.
God’s grace in giving an inheritance to the tribe of Asher. Asher was a son of Zilphah, Leah’s maid (Gen. 30:12). His was the eighth tribe in terms of birth order. Yet, his tribe was the tenth tribe in the census count (Nu. 26:44-47; 1:40-41). Asher, Gad, Naphtali, and Dan were children of the flesh. Leah asked Jacob to give her another child through her maidservant as an act of jealousy against her sister Rachel, whom Jacob loved more. Today, Asher would also be called an illegitimate child. Yet, in a foreshadow of God’s grace, Jacob blessed Asher with rich farmland and food: “As for Asher, his food shall be rich, and he will yield royal dainties.” (Gen. 49:20). The Asher tribe then used its grace and God’s gifts to seek after righteousness. While in the wilderness, it had the third highest growth rate. It grew from 41,500 to 53,400 fighting men (Nu. 1:41; 26:47). This was an increase of 11,900 or 28.67%. Moses responded to their righteousness by granting even greater blessings for Asher. Many who are last will be first (Matt. 19:30). It would walk in the Spirit and be favored by its brothers: “24 Of Asher he said, ‘More blessed than sons is Asher; may he be favored by his brothers, and may he dip his foot in oil. 25 Your locks will be iron and bronze, and according to your days, so will your leisurely walk be.’” (Dt. 33:24-25). The oil referenced here alluded to the oil trees near the Mediterranean Coast where it would reside. Oil was also a symbol of the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). The metals also symbolized the strength and protection that God would give it. The name Asher further meant “blessing,” “happiness” and / or “contentment.” Guided by the Holy Spirit, it would be a blessing to its brother tribes. It would also be protected and content with God’s blessings. There is again a lesson for believers. When you walk with God, you can be a blessing to others by being content with the gifts of the Holy Spirit: “But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” (1 Tim. 6:6). When you are secure in knowing that God will protect you, you can focus on serving God and others. “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ep. 2:1). When you are content with what He has given you, you are also less likely to feel entitled to more or disappointed by your lot in life. Are you content with what God has blessed you with?
The inheritance given to the tribe of Naphtali. The sixth of the last seven tribes to receive an allotment of land was the tribe of Naphtali: “32 The sixth lot fell to the sons of Naphtali; to the sons of Naphtali according to their families. 33 Their border was from Heleph, from the oak in Zaanannim and Adami-nekeb and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum, and it ended at the Jordan. 34 Then the border turned westward to Aznoth-tabor and proceeded from there to Hukkok; and it reached to Zebulun on the south and touched Asher on the west, and to Judah at the Jordan toward the east. 35 The fortified cities were Ziddim, Zer and Hammath, Rakkath and Chinnereth, 36 and Adamah and Ramah and Hazor, 37 and Kedesh and Edrei and En-hazor, 38 and Yiron and Migdal-el, Horem and Beth-anath and Beth-shemesh; nineteen cities with their villages. 39 This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Naphtali according to their families, the cities with their villages.” (Josh. 19:32-39). Its territory was in northeastern and central Israel. “Naphtali included Upper Galilee and the eastern portion of Lower Galilee. As verse 34 observes, it bordered Asher on the west, Zebulun (and Issachar) on the south, and the Jordan River (north of the Sea of Galilee) on the east.” (Hess. p. 273).
God’s grace in giving an inheritance to the tribe of Naphtali. Naphtali was the son of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid. He was the sixth son of Jacob (Gen. 30:8). Like Gad, Dan, and Asher, Naphtali was a child of the flesh. Rachel also had him out of jealousy and a lack of faith. Gad, Dan, Asher, and Naphtali would all be considered illegitimate children today. Naphtali later wanted to kill Joseph out of jealousy. Yet, out of grace, Jacob’s blessed Naphtali for his beautiful words: “Naphtali is a doe let loose, he gives beautiful words.” (Gen. 49:21). Naphtali, however, abused his grace and blessings. His tribe was listed out of order in the census as the twelfth tribe (Nu. 26:48-50; 1:42-43.) His tribe also declined from its sins while in the wilderness. It declined from 53,400 to 45,400 fighting men (Nu. 1:43; 26:50). This was a decrease of 8,000 or 14.98%. This tribe shows that some who are chastened in life will never use that humility to grow in the Lord. Their bitterness will instead merely fuel further acts of rebellion and their further decline. Yet, out of grace, Moses blessed the tribe with fertile farm lands in the Promised Land: “23 Of Naphtali he said, “O Naphtali, satisfied with favor, and full of the blessing of the Lord, take possession of the sea and the south.” (Dt. 33:23). The tribe later took the farm lands along the western edge of Galilee, which has some of the best farm lands in Israel. The lesson is that God may bless you with richness out of grace. He may not do this to make you comfortable. Instead, He blesses the undeserving so that they can give back and serve His kingdom out of gratitude. Jesus “said to His disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.’” (Matt. 9:37-38). Are you helping in God’s harvest by spreading the seed of the Word or mentoring others?
The inheritance given to the tribe of Dan. The final tribe to receive a land inheritance was the tribe of Dan: “40 The seventh lot fell to the tribe of the sons of Dan according to their families. 41 The territory of their inheritance was Zorah and Eshtaol and Ir-shemesh, 42 and Shaalabbin and Aijalon and Ithlah, 43 and Elon and Timnah and Ekron, 44 and Eltekeh and Gibbethon and Baalath, 45 and Jehud and Bene-berak and Gath-rimmon, 46 and Me-jarkon and Rakkon, with the territory over against Joppa. 47 The territory of the sons of Dan proceeded beyond them; for the sons of Dan went up and fought with Leshem and captured it. Then they struck it with the edge of the sword and possessed it and settled in it; and they called Leshem Dan after the name of Dan their father. 48 This was the inheritance of the tribe of the sons of Dan according to their families, these cities with their villages.” (Josh. 19:40-48). Some dispute exists regarding the exact location of the tribe of Dan. Most likely, “[t]he town list should be dated to the time of Dan’s conquest of the town of Dan, north of the Sea of Galilee (Jgs. 18:11).” (Hess p. 275).
God’s grace in giving an inheritance to the tribe of Dan. Dan was also the son of Bilhah, Rachel’s maid (Gen. 30:6). He was also the fifth of Jacob’s sons. But his tribe was listed out of order in the census as the tenth tribe (Nu. 26:42-43; 1:38-39). Like Gad, Asher, and Naphtali, Dan was a child of the flesh. He later wanted to kill Joseph out of jealousy. Out of grace, Jacob blessed Dan as a future tribe of mighty warriors who would judge the wicked amongst God’s people: “16 Dan shall judge his people, as one of the tribes of Israel. 17 Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a horned snake in the path, that bites the horse’s heels, so that his rider falls backward. 18 for your salvation I wait, O Lord.” (Gen. 49:16-17). Even though it had origins in the flesh, it used God’s grace to live righteously and grow in the wilderness. It grew from 62,700 to 64,000 fighting men (Nu. 1:39; 26:43). This was an increase of 1,700 or 2.71%. Like Jacob, Moses blessed Dan as a tribe of mighty soldiers in God’s army: “22 Of Dan he said, ‘Dan is a lion’s whelp, that leaps forth from Bashan.”’ (Dt. 33:22). Samson was from the tribe of Dan (Jdgs. 13:2, 24). Today, the battles believers fight are spiritual battles (Eph. 6:12). God is looking for soldiers for His army to fight spiritual battles. Will you bless others by being a prayer warrior and by equipping the saints in the armor of God?
The inheritance given to Joshua. Finally, after all the tribes had received their inheritance, Joshua received his inheritance: “49 When they finished apportioning the land for inheritance by its borders, the sons of Israel gave an inheritance in their midst to Joshua the son of Nun. 50 In accordance with the command of the Lord they gave him the city for which he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. So he built the city and settled in it. 51 These are the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel distributed by lot in Shiloh before the Lord at the doorway of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.” (Josh. 19:49-51). Because Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim, his inheritance was within that land given to that tribe. His town of “Timnath-serah” was in the hill country, 16 miles south-west of Shechem (Hess p. 277).
God’s grace in giving an inheritance to Joshua. Joshua and Caleb were the two spies who had the faith to believe that God would deliver the Promised Land to them when others doubted God (Nu. 13). Caleb received a special inheritance for his faith by receiving the south and central hill country around Hebron (Josh. 14:6-15; 15:13-19). Joshua also received a special allotment for his faith. “The LORD will repay each man for his righteousness and his faithfulness; for the LORD delivered you into my hand today, but I refused to stretch out my hand against the LORD’s anointed.” (1 Sam. 26:23; Ps. 18:24). He was also rewards faithful leaders for God: “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.” (1 Tim. 5:17). But he waited to receive his allotment until all other tribes had received their inheritance. He showed that a leader for God’s people places his own needs last after all other needs within the body have been met. Jesus likewise humbled Himself for others instead of seeking His own glory: “but [He] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil. 2:7-8; 2 Cor. 8:9; Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Lk. 22:27). Like Jesus and Joshua or a good parent, are you willing to lead by placing your own needs last after the needs of others have been met?
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