THE COVENANT TO MOSES AND JOSHUA: XVIII
To the descendants of Jacob, the conquest and the division of the conquered territory into twelve parcels, for the twelve tribes was a fulfillment of God’s Promise to Abraham, and to the “Covenant” given to Moses. At last, Yahweh had given the Israelites what they always wanted. It was a piece of real estate where they could make a name for themselves. We continue with the reason why the sun appeared not to have gone down?
3. Defeat the Kings in the North
When Jabin king of Hazor heard of this, he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshah, and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphothdor on the west, to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country. And the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. And they came out, with all their troops, a great host, in number like the sand that is upon the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. And all these kings joined their forces, and came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight with Israel.
And the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will give over all of them slain, to Israel; you shall hamstring their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.” So Joshua came suddenly upon them with all his people of war, by the waters of Merom, and fell upon them. And the LORD gave them into the hand of Israel who smote them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the valley of Mizpeh; and they smote them, until they left none remaining. And Joshua did to them as the LORD bade him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.
And Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and smote its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all those kingdoms. And they put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them; there was none left that breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire. And all the cities of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took, and smote them with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them, as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. But none of the cities that stood on mounds did Israel burn, except Hazor only; that Joshua burned. And all the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the people of Israel took for their booty; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any that breathed. As the LORD commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.
So Joshua took all that land, the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and it lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, as far as Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. And he took all their kings, and smote them, and put them to death. Joshua made was a long time with all those kings. There was not a city that made peace with the people of Israel, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; they took all in battle. For it was the LORD’S doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be utterly destroyed, and should receive no mercy but be exterminated, as the LORD commanded Moses.
And Joshua came at that time, and wiped out the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. There was none of the Anakim left in the land of the people of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, did some remain. So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war (Joshua 11:1-23).
4. The sun had set too soon for Joshua
Joshua was not able to remove all the inhabitants or take possession of all the land of Canaan; neither could they take all the land because they were shepherds and not farmers. They needed the natives to teach them how to prepare the land, seed and harvest. After four hundred and thirty years in Egypt as shepherds and as slaves, and forty years of wilderness pasture, quails, and manna, the Israelites were not prepared to take over a productive country. At the end, they did mismanage:
I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the wild beasts multiply against you. Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you are increased and possess the land. And I will set your bounds from the Read Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you shall drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not dwell in your land, lest they make you sin against me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you (Exodus 23:29-33).
5. Allotments and division of the region by Moses
The Canaanite kings, leaders, and the military were eliminated. Yet, the people were not all evicted and some were never uprooted by the Israelites. Joshua, as directed by Moses, gave every tribe their designated portions and their section of the conquered territory. Two and one half tribes settled east of Jordan and nine and a half tribes settled in Canaan. The Levites were granted cities and town. There also were designated “cities of refuge” for the accused before they were tried (Joshua 13-22). However, the tribes themselves were to take possession of their allotments. Only two and one half tribes did manage to subdue the inhabitants. This disturbed the aging Joshua, and he called the people of Israel together at Shiloh and demanded an answer! And Israel did try to possess the land:
Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there; the land lay subdued before them.
There remained among the people of Israel seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will be slack to go in and take possession of the land, which he LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you? Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land, writing a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. They shall divide it into seven portions, Judah continuing in his territory on the south, and the house of Joseph in their territory on the north. And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me; and I will cast lots for you here before the LORD our God. The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the LORD is their heritage; and Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.”
So the men started on their way; and Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land, saying, “go up and down and write a description of the land, and come again to me; and I will cast lots for you here before the LORD in Shiloh.” So the men went and passed up and down in the land and set down in a
description of it by towns in seven divisions; then they came to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh, and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD; and there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion (Joshua 18:1-10).
Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land which he swore to give to their fathers; and having taken possession of it, they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers; not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had give all their enemies into their hands. Not one of all the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass (Joshua 21:43-45).
Concern about “Unity”
Moses allowed the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh to occupy the land east of the Jordan River. The men of war had to promise to cross the Jordan into Canaan and assist their brethren in the conquest. And so they did! Joshua sent these men home, and when they crossed the Jordan, they built a huge altar. This altar raised concern that these two and one half tribes may separate from the main body of Israel. The main body sent Phinehas, the priest, with the head leaders to inquire about their reason for a separate altar. The answer they received calmed their fear of breaking up the unity of their tribes:
Then the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, “The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows, and lets Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith toward the LORD, spare us not today for building an altar to turn away from following the LORD; or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or cereal offering or peace offerings on it, may the LORD himself take vengeance. Nay, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the LORD of Israel? For the LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you Reubenites and Gadites; you have no portion in the LORD.’
So your children might make our children cease to worship the LORD. Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you, and between the generations after us, that we do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings; lest your children
Say to our children, in time to come, “You have no portion in the LORD.” And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, ‘Behold the copy of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you.’ Far be it from us that we should rebel against the LORD, and turn away this day from following the LORD by building as altar for burnt offering, cereal offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the LORD our god that stand before his tabernacle!”
When Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the Reubenites and the Gadites and the Manassites spoke, it pleased them well. And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the Reubenites and the Gadites and the Manassites, “today we know that the LORD is in the midst of us, because you have not committed this treachery against the LORD; now you have saved the people of Israel from the hand of the LORD.”
Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the chiefs, returned from the Reubenites and the Gadites in the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the people of Israel, and brought back word to them. And the report pleased the people of Israel; and the people of Israel blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them, to destroy the land where the Reubenites and the Gadites were settled. The Reubenites and the Gadites called the altar Witness; “For,” said they, “it is a witness between us that the LORD is God” (Joshua 22:21-34).
Joshua’s last charge to the Elders
A long time afterward, when the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, and Joshua was old and well advanced in yours, Joshua summoned all Israel, their elders and heads their judges and officers and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years; and you have seen all that the LORD your God had done to all these nations for your sake, for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you. Behold, I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. The LORD your God will push them back before you, and drive them out of your sight; and you shall possess their land, as the LORD your God promised you. Therefore be very steadfast to keep and do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, that you may not be mixed with these nations left here among you, or make mention of the names of their gods, or swear by them, or serve them, or bow down yourselves to them, but cleave to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day. For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations; and as for you, no man has been able to withstand you to this day. One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD you God who fights for you, as he promised you. Take good heed to yourselves, therefore, to love the LORD your God. For if you turn back and join the remnant of these nations left here among you, and make marriages with them, so that you marry their women and they yours, know assuredly that the LORD your God will not continue to drive out these nations before you; but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a scourge on your sides, and thorns in your eyes, till you perish from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you.
And now I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God promised concerning you; all have come to pass for you, not one of them has failed. But just as all the good things which the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you all the evil things, until he have destroyed you from off this good land which the LORD your God has given you, if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land which he has given to you (Joshua 23:1-16).