Joshua 18-20

Sunday Evening Bible Study

June 6, 1999


The book of Joshua is a book about taking the Promised Land.

The Promised Land of learning to receive all that God has for us in our personal lives - victory over sin, experiencing Godís peace, joy, love, power.

The principles that governed the nation taking the Promised Land are the same principles that help us live in Godís promises.

Weíve seen recently:

The first half of the book was about the battles involved in conquering the Promised Land.

The second half, which weíre in now, is all about the division of the land among the tribes of Israel.

Joshua 18 - Finishing the division of the land

:1-7 The remaining tribes gather in Shiloh

:1 at Shiloh

Shiloh is located in the territory of Ephraim, and is just about exactly in the center of the Promised Land.

It will be a good place for a central government, itís equal distant for all the tribes.

Shiloh will now become kind of a spiritual and governmental headquarters for Israel.

The tabernacle now finds itís first semi-permanent location.

The intent is to create a central place of worship in Israel to provide a spiritual unifying for the nation.

God had told them back in Deut. 12 that He would be leading them to do this.

God is wanting to keep the people from going off into their own ideas of worship.

To do this, God wants them to make sure they destroy all the idolatry of the land, and then set up a central place of worship to help keep the worship pure.

The Tabernacle and the Ark would stay in Shiloh through the entire period of the Judges (about 400 years) until the Ark is captured by the Philistines (1Sam 4:3,11)

:1 the land was subdued before them

The idea is that the land was kept in line, there were no further outbreaks of war from the people in the land.

It doesnít mean that they had finished conquering everything.

:2 seven tribes which had not received their inheritance

There have now been five tribes that have received their inheritance.

Reuben, Gad, and Ĺ of Manasseh settled with land to the east of the Jordan

Judah, Ephraim, and the other half of Manasseh have gotten their portions now in the Promised Land (to west of Jordan)

Five down, seven to go.

:3 How long are ye slack to go to possess the land ...?

Joshua 18:3-NIV So Joshua said to the Israelites: "How long will you wait before you begin to take possession of the land

Joshua has had five tribes step up to the plate and take a swing.

But the other guys have decided to take a nap on the bench.

Hereís this great big beautiful Promised Land, and over half of the tribes are just sitting around waiting for something to happen.


Itís time to respond to the Lord

Whatever the reason, they just werenít taking advantage of what was in front of them.

Sometimes I wonder if Iíve really begun to even get a clue about what incredible things God wants to do in my life.

Ephesians 3:20-21 AV Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him [be] glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Many times we donít even bother to ask God, but even when we do, God is able to do way beyond what we could ever imagine.

We have such a great wealth of awesome resources at our hand, through Jesus Christ. Yet we take such little advantage of it.


The Amazon River is the largest river in the world. The mouth is 90 miles across. There is enough water to exceed the combined flow of the Yangtze, Mississippi and Nile Rivers. So much water comes from the Amazon that they can detect its currents 200 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. One irony of ancient navigation is that sailors in ancient times died for lack of water... caught in windless waters of the South Atlantic. They were adrift, helpless, dying of thirst. Sometimes other ships from South America who knew the area would come alongside and call out, "What is your problem?" And they would exclaim, "Can you spare us some water? Our sailors are dying of thirst!" And from the other ship would come the cry, "Just lower your buckets. You are in the mouth of the mighty Amazon River." The irony of ancient Israel and the tragedy around us today is that God, the fountain of living water, is right here and people donít draw from Him.

For some - need to respond to the gospel, Today is the day of salvation

For some - need to take advantage of what God has made available.

Prayer - great awesome power that God wants to unleash in our lives.

Life changing power in Godís Word.

The Holy Spirit - to let God do all that Heís had planned for you life.

:4 three men for each tribe ...

They are going to send out guys to divide the land up into small portions, then divide it up among the seven tribes.

:8-10 Land divided into seven parts

:8 to describe the land

The ancient historian Josephus reports that these men were, among other things, experts in geometry (geometry actually means "earth" + "measure")

Josephus also records that the men were to record the amount of fruitfulness of the land. (Josephusí Antiquities of the Jews, Book V, 1:21)

One of the criterions of dividing the land was how fruitful each area was.

One acre of very fruitful soil could be equivalent to a thousand acres of rocky wasteland.

:9 in a book

Or, a scroll.

Some critics would try to make us think that much of the Bible was handed down by "oral tradition", that things werenít written down in those ancient days. Wrong!

:10 Joshua cast lots for them ...

Kind of like rolling dice.

According to Jewish tradition - the name of a tribe was drawn from one urn and simultaneously the boundary lines of a territory from another.

Something interesting is going to take place.

Even though this looks kind of like drawing straws or something, a purely random placing of tribes and plots of land, weíre going to see that the decisions were no coincidence.

Proverbs 16:33-AV The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof [is] of the LORD.

:11-28 Benjaminís Portion

:11-12 the lot of the tribe of ... Benjamin (skip to vs. 28)

Benjaminís portion is going to fall right between a small crack between Israelís two tribal leaders: Judah and Ephraim.

Benjamin is going to get a rather small portion of land.

His area is only going to be about 25 miles wide, and only 15 miles across at its widest point.

But itís going to contain a very large concentration of cities, some of the most important cities in Israelís history including:

Jericho, Bethel, Gibeon, Ramah, Mizpah, Jerusalem

All this seems to point to a fulfillment of a prophecy that Moses made over Benjamin toward the end of his life (about ten years earlier):

Deuteronomy 33:12-AV [And] of Benjamin he said, The beloved of the LORD shall dwell in safety by him; [and the LORD] shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.

Itís interesting to see that even though thereís this whole process of the surveyors, and then the casting of lots, Benjamin seems to get just what heís supposed to get.

:14 Jerusalem

Jerusalem would be one of many cities that were shared by more than one tribe.

Joshua 19 - The Remaining Tribes get their portions

:1-9 Simeonís portion

:1-2 the second lot came forth to Simeon

Simeonís portion is going to be a chunk in the middle of the tribe of Judah.

Simeon will be given a cluster of 17 towns and villages.

But it wonít be too long until the identity of Simeon will kind of fade away.

The territory is going to fade back into the tribe of Judah.

The people are going to migrate north, many going to Ephraim and Manasseh. (2Chr. 15:9; 34:6)

This all is pretty amazing, considering something that the patriarch Jacob had once prophesied (probably some 400 years earlier) concerning Simeon and Levi:

Genesis 49:7-AV Cursed [be] their anger, for [it was] fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

Simeon as a tribe became scattered.

Levi was the priestly tribe that did not receive a specific chunk of land, but instead received individual cities scattered throughout the entire nation, placing priests all through the land.

:5 Ziklag

We saw last week that Ziklag was given to Judah. Itís now shared with Simeon.

:9 Out of the portion of Judah ...

Judah had more than enough land, so part of it was given to Simeon.

How could they have "too much land"?

They couldnít keep up with driving out the inhabitants and building their own cities.

Just like the mall: So many stores, so little time ...

Every once in a while someone like a Judah comes along and bites off more than they can chew.

Weíve commended Judah for being the first tribe to ask for its inheritance in the Promised Land.

But itís not uncommon for folks like Judah to take on more than they can handle.


Share the wealth.

When Moses first began leading the Israelites in the wilderness, he was doing everything. Anybody that had a question would have to stand in line for hours to get an answer from Moses. (Ex. 18)

It was Mosesí father-in-law, Jethro, who suggested that Moses learn to delegate a little and share some of the responsibility with the elders.

Moses was wearing himself and the people out.

Burnout ...

He wasnít doing anybody any good.

Get a Simeon to help cover the land with you.

:10-16 Zebulunís portion

:10-11 their border went up toward the sea

When you trace out the locations of all the cities, it looks as if Zebulun is kind of land-locked.

The closest city to the coast of the Mediterranean Sea is Jokneam, which is still about ten miles inland.

And there are cities and locations in Asher that seem to come between Zebulum and the sea.

But we know that from history, eventually Zebulunís borders did go to the sea.


Godís mysterious sovereignty

Weíve already seen how God worked things out for Benjamin and Simeon to fit right into His plan for them.

God had a plan for Zebulun too:

Jacob prophesied:

Genesis 49:13-AV Zebulun shall dwell at the haven of the sea; and he [shall be] for an haven of ships; and his border [shall be] unto Zidon.

Moses prophesied:

Deuteronomy 33:18-AV And of Zebulun he said, Rejoice, Zebulun, in thy going out; and, Issachar, in thy tents. 19 They shall call the people unto the mountain; there they shall offer sacrifices of righteousness: for they shall suck [of] the abundance of the seas, and [of] treasures hid in the sand.

Itís an awesome and mind-boggling thing to think about how God is able to plan out our lives for us, and how we in our puny little earthly perspective can be totally ignorant of Godís plan for our lives, and we do our thing and it all ends up just where God wanted it to.

Godís picked you.

Itís kind of like that good feeling of being one of the first picked for your grade school kick-ball team.

Godís got a plan for you.

There are times when I feel like I with somebody would tell me what to do with my life. I wish somebody could see the bigger picture and tell me whatís going on.

Thatís Godís job.

Ephesians 2:10-AV For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

The tribes had their portions set out ahead of time, yet now that the actual practical working of it comes about, they get their portions by lot, and it all comes out the way that God had planned it.

:15 Bethlehem

This isnít the Bethlehem where Jesus was born, that was another one far to the south in the tribe of Judah. Sometimes there are more than one city with the same name.

:17-23 Isaacharís portion

:17 the fourth lot came out to Issachar

Issacharís portion is to the east of Zebulunís, kind of in the south west corner of the Sea of Galilee.

:24-31 Asherís portion

:24 the fifth lot came out for the tribe ... Asher

Asher would get the beach front property in the north.

Of importance were the cities of Tyre and Sidon.

Though Asher seems to have lost much of itís tribal identity by the time of Davidís kingdom (400 years later), the tribe is not totally lost.

When Jesus is born, a prophetess from Asher is there:

Luke 2:36-AV And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

This is kind of an interesting verse, since there are some who claim that all the northern tribes disappeared, or migrated to Europe after the fall to Assyria in 722 b.c. - Wrong!

:32-39 Naphtaliís portion

:32 The sixth lot came out to ... Naphtali

Naphtali got the north eastern portion of Israel, along the Jordan river, coming down to the Sea of Galilee.

There was not much significance in this area, until 1400 years later, to fulfill a prophecy by Isaiah:

(Mat 4:13-16 KJV) And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim: {14} That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, {15} The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles; {16} The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.

This was the area of the majority of Jesusí ministry. The people who had been in the dark (since the fall to Assyria in 722 b.c.) would see great light, Jesus.

:40-48 Danís portion

:40 the seventh lot came out for ... Dan

Danís portion was squeezed in between Ephraim to the north, Benjamin to the east, Judah to the south, and the Mediterranean Sea to the west.

:47 the coast of ... Dan ... too little for them ...

The Danites had gotten the last lot and seemed to have gotten the least favorable land.

Sometime later (pretty soon), they got forced by the Amorites to go flee up into the mountains.

Judges 1:34-AV And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the mountain: for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley:

The Danites werenít happy with all this, so they formed a raiding party and headed north and take the city of Leshem, later renamed "Dan".

You can read about this in Judges 18. They will be the first tribe to go over the edge into idolatry.

:49-51 Joshuaís portion

:49 Israel gave an inheritance to Joshua

I think this is kind of neat.

Caleb the giant killer was first in line to get his portion.

Then hereís old Joshua, making sure that everybody else gets their portion, and somebody suggests that Joshua ought to have his own special portion.

So Joshua is given his part.

:50 the word of the Lord ... which he asked ... Timnathserah

Joshua got the portion that he asked for.

But it actually wasnít the choicest part of Canaan.

It was actually located up in the mountains, in a rugged, infertile area.

But in his selflessness, thatís what Joshua asks for.

And God grants him his request.

:51 they made an end of dividing the country

Observations about dividing the land:

Each tribe had their place in the Promised Land.

Each place was different.

Each tribe must conquer their own land.


You have a place (even if you donít know it)

Once youíve decided that you belong to Godís people, and youíve asked Jesus to come into your heart, God puts you into your place in the Body of Christ.

(1 Cor 12:13 KJV) For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

(1 Cor 12:18 KJV) But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.


Your place is unique

You canít compare it to anyone elseís

Your borders (or, KJV "coasts") arenít like anybody elseís.

1Corinthians 12:15-16 NIV If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

Only you have the gifts and ministries that God has given you. Only you have the special relationships that God has given you. You are unique.


Youíve got to "conquer" your territory

Just as each tribe had to then go out and occupy their land, to conquer the old inhabitants, to take their place on the nationís map ...

Think of the "body" analogy - what would happen if your liver had a hard time understanding that it was a liver, and it didnít want to function like a liver? Or didnít want to function at all?

A healthy body is one where each part does its thing.

We need to find that place where we function in the body, in the church, and start conquering it.

When we left the Baptist church to become a part of Calvary Chapel, we had left a place of comfort, one where we already had lots to do. But when we ended up at Calvary Chapel of Anaheim, it took a while to figure out what we were to do. I eventually started by going to the band practices, but it took me six months of showing up every week, before I was asked to be a part of the worship team, and then only as an alternate, and then playing my guitar, not the piano. We had started a home Bible Study that eventually was approved as an official "Home Fellowship". I remember at the time feeling like we had finally "arrived". I started coming early to church, helping to set up the chairs and sound system. It took time to find a place. After a couple of years I was asked to be an elder. A couple of years after that I was asked to come on staff in a paid position.

It takes time. Keep at it.

Joshua 20 - Cities of Refuge

:1-6 Purpose of the Cities of Refuge

:2 cities of refuge

It doesnít seem that the Israelites had any prisons to speak of.

There were basically two ways that crime was dealt with.

1. Capital crimes

Things like murder, sexual sins like rape or adultery, blasphemy, disobedience to parents, etc.

The penalty, if found guilty, was death.

2. Crimes against a person

Things like robbery or vandalism - you had to pay restitution, sometimes up to five times the value of what was stolen.

But there were some things that were kind of vague.

There was a whole cultural mindset of revenge.

If you did something to me, then I did something back to you.

If you were on the freeway, a tire blew out, and as you spun out of control, your car crashed into my sisterís car, accidentally killing my sister, then I was bound by honor to revenge my sisterís death, even if you did it by accident.

My role in killing you in revenge was known as the "avenger of blood".

Speaking of car crashes Ö


Three buddies die in a car crash, they go to heaven to an orientation. They are all asked, "When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning upon you, what would you like to hear them say about you? The first guy says, "I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man." The second guy says, "I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow." The last guy replies, "I would like to hear them say...... LOOK, HE'S MOVING!!!!!"

Family feuds could go on for years, even centuries.

One family paying back another family, who pays back the first family ...

These cities of refuge were Godís answer to stopping the unjust revenge, where death was caused by an accident.

God thought that they were so important, that they are mentioned in four of the first six books of the Bible: Exo 21:12-13; Num.35:6-34; Deut 4:41-43; 19:1-14; Josh 20

Jewish tradition tells us that the roads to these cities were kept in excellent condition, and the crossroads along the way were well marked with signposts reading, "Refuge! Refuge!" Runners were also stationed along the way to guide any fugitives.

:3 the avenger of blood

The Hebrew word used here is go-ël. It means to redeem, or act as kinsman-redeemer, to avenge, revenge, ransom, or do the part of a kinsman.

We see this word used in a positive way, such as a brother marrying his dead brotherís wife to raise up a name for the dead brother, or the idea of buying your relatives out of slavery (such as Boaz and Ruth).

But the role of a near relative (kinsman) might also include revenge in the case of the death of a relative.

The was the part played by a member of the family were someone was accidentally killed.

That person would be honor bound to seek out the accidental killer for the rest of their life until they killed them.

Thereís a proper role of responsibility toward relatives, and then you can carry it too far!

:4 at the entering of the gate of the city

Donít put into your mind something like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, where she and her friends were kept out of the city by a huge wall and gate, and they couldnít come in unless they had the secret password, or killed the wicked witch. The phrase "gate of the city" refers to the place you entered into the city, but it carried more than that.

The gate of the city was the traditional place where the elders and rulers of a city would hang out.

It kind of served as a city hall, city clerkís office, and city courthouse all roled up into one.

If you were buying property, you had it recorded and approved at the gates of the city.

If you had a disagreement with another person, you went to the old wise men at the gates of the city.

So here, the manslaughterer would present his petition to the leaders of the city, asking for asylum.

:6 until he stand before the congregation for judgment

There would still be some kind of trial to determine whether or not the death happened accidentally, or whether it was murder.

If it was determined that the death was caused by accident, then the slayer was given continued protection in the city of refuge.

There were all kinds of guidelines describing what was and wasnít to be considered murder.

If it was determined that the death was actually a murder, then the slayer would be put to death.

:6 until the death of the high priest ...

Apparently, the slayer would have to stay in the city of refuge not only until a trial was held, but even after that, he would have to wait until the man who served as high priest at the time died. (Num. 35:24-28)

If the slayer left the city of refuge before the death of the high priest, he could still be killed by the avenger of blood, and the avenger would not be considered guilty of murder.

Why the death of the high priest?

Not sure - except that if the accident happened when there was a young, healthy high priest, you could be in for a long sentence. I wonder if the accidental death rate went up as the high priest got older?

One possible suggestion:

Part of the original law concerning the cities of refuge says:

Numbers 35:25 And the congregation shall deliver the slayer out of the hand of the revenger of blood, and the congregation shall restore him to the city of his refuge, whither he was fled: and he shall abide in it unto the death of the high priest, which was anointed with the holy oil.

It has been suggested that since the high priest had the anointing of the holy anointing oil, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, that perhaps his death was seen as a kind of foreshadowing of the death of the One True High Priest, Jesus, who would die for all our sins.

:7-9 Locations of Refuge

:7 they appointed Kedesh ...

This setting up of the cities of refuge is something thatís already been started.

Moses had already determined which cities on the eastern side of the Jordan would be cities of refuge. (Deut. 4:41-43)

The unfinished business was to set up three more cities on the western side of the Jordan. (Deut. 19:1-3)

Three cities are chosen from the west side of the Jordan:

Kedesh in Galilee, Naphtali

Shechem, Ephraim

Kiriath Arba (Hebron), Judah

:8 on the other side Jordan ...

Three cities were already chosen on the eastern side of the Jordan:

Golan, Manasseh

Ramoth, Gad

Bezer, Reuben

:9 These were the cities ... might flee thither

The cities were spaced pretty evenly throughout the land.

Any person needing to flee might get to one of them in less than a daysí journey.

:9 these were the cities appointed

Is there more here than just the stopping of family blood feuds?


Jesus is our place of refuge

Hebrews 6:18-AV That by two immutable things, in which [it was] impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Psalms 46:1-AV God [is] our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

We mentioned the famous hymn this morning:

How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,

Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!

What more can He say than to you He hath said,

To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee; O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;

Iíll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply:

The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose

I will not, I will not desert to its foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

Iíll never, no, never, no, never forsake!"

Everyone of us has something chasing us out there, the law.

And according to the law, weíre all condemned to die.

Romans 6:23-AV For the wages of sin [is] death; but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

If youíre out there all by yourself, one day Godís Law is going to catch up with you and demand satisfaction.

That is, unless you find the city of refuge, if you run to Jesus.

Romans 8:1-AV [There is] therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus...


Heís never too far to run to

You may feel like God is just too far from you.

But Heís just around the corner, really just behind you, if you just turn around.

Psalms 139:7-10 AV Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou [art] there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou [art there]. 9 [If] I take the wings of the morning, [and] dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; 10 Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.


You arenít safe unless you stay with Him

You have to stay inside the city until the death of the high priest.

Thatís going to take a while, because of Jesus we read:

Hebrews 7:25-AV Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

We simply need to abide in Jesus, to make our home in Him.