Division of Canaan
chapter is based on Joshua 10:40-43;
11; 14 to 22.]
victory at Beth-horon was speedily followed by the conquest of southern
Canaan. "Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south,
and of the vale. . . . And all these kings and their land did Joshua take
at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. And Joshua
returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp at Gilgal."
The tribes of
northern Palestine, terrified at the success which had attended the armies
of Israel, now entered into a league against them. At the head of this
confederacy was Jabin, king of Hazor, a territory to the west of Lake
Merom. "And they went out, they and all their hosts with them."
This army was much larger than any that the Israelites had before
encountered in Canaan--"much people, even as the sand that is upon
the seashore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many. And when
all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the
waters of Merom, to fight against Israel." Again a message of
encouragement was given to Joshua: "Be not afraid because of them:
for tomorrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before
Merom he fell upon the camp of the allies and utterly routed their forces.
"The Lord delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and
chased them . . . until they left them none remaining." The chariots
and horses that had been the pride and boast of the Canaanites were not to
be appropriated by Israel. At the command of God the chariots were burned,
and the horses lamed, and thus rendered unfit for use in battle. The
Israelites were not to put their trust in chariots or horses, but "in
the name of the Lord their God."
One by one
the cities were taken, and Hazor, the stronghold of the confederacy, was
burned. The war was continued for
several years, but its close found
Joshua master of Canaan. "And the land had rest from war."
the power of the Canaanites had been broken, they had not been fully
dispossessed. On the west the Philistines still held a fertile plain along
the seacoast, while north of them was the territory of the Sidonians.
Lebanon also was in the possession of the latter people; and to the south,
toward Egypt, the land was still occupied by the enemies of Israel.
not, however, to continue the war. There was another work for the great
leader to perform before he should relinquish the command of Israel. The
whole land, both the parts already conquered and that which was yet
unsubdued, was to be apportioned among the tribes. And it was the duty of
each tribe to fully subdue its own inheritance. If the people should prove
faithful to God, He would drive out their enemies from before them; and He
promised to give them still greater possessions if they would but be true
to His covenant.
with Eleazar the high priest, and the heads of the tribes, the
distribution of the land was committed, the location of each tribe being
determined by lot. Moses himself had fixed the bounds of the country as it
was to be divided among the tribes when they should come in possession of
Canaan, and had appointed a prince from each tribe to attend to the
distribution. The tribe of Levi, being devoted to the sanctuary service,
was not counted in this allotment; but forty-eight cities in different
parts of the country were assigned the Levites as their inheritance.
distribution of the land had been entered upon, Caleb, accompanied by the
heads of his tribe, came forward with a special claim. Except Joshua,
Caleb was now the oldest man in Israel. Caleb and Joshua were the only
ones among the spies who had brought a good report of the Land of Promise,
encouraging the people to go up and possess it in the name of the Lord.
Caleb now reminded Joshua of the promise then made, as the reward of his
faithfulness: "The land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine
inheritance, and thy children's forever, because thou hast wholly followed
the Lord." He therefore presented a request that Hebron he given him
for a possession. Here had been for many years the home of Abraham, Isaac,
and Jacob; and here, in the cave of Machpelah, they were buried.
was the seat of the dreaded Anakim, whose formidable appearance had so
terrified the spies, and through them destroyed the courage of all Israel.
This, above all others, was the place which Caleb, trusting in the
strength of God, chose for his inheritance.
the Lord hath kept me alive," he said, "these forty and five
years, even since the Lord spake this word unto Moses: . . . and now, lo,
I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day
as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so
is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. Now therefore
give me this mountain, whereof the Lord spake in that day: for thou
heardest in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were
great and fenced: if so be the Lord will be with me, then I shall be able
to drive them out, as the Lord said." This request was supported by
the chief men of Judah. Caleb himself being the one appointed from this
tribe to apportion the land, he had chosen to unite these men with him in
presenting his claim, that there might be no appearance of having employed
his authority for selfish advantage.
His claim was
immediately granted. To none could the conquest of this giant stronghold
be more safely entrusted. "Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb
the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance," "because that
he wholly followed the Lord God of Israel." Caleb's faith now was
just what it was when his testimony had contradicted the evil report of
the spies. He had believed God's promise that He would put His people in
possession of Canaan, and in this he had followed the Lord fully. He had
endured with his people the long wandering in the wilderness, thus sharing
the disappointments and burdens of the guilty; yet he made no complaint of
this, but exalted the mercy of God that had preserved him in the
wilderness when his brethren were cut off. Amid all the hardships, perils,
and plagues of the desert wanderings, and during the years of warfare
since entering Canaan, the Lord had preserved him; and now at upwards of
fourscore his vigor was unabated. He did not ask for himself a land
already conquered, but the place which above all others the spies had
thought it impossible to subdue. By the help of God he would wrest his
stronghold from the very giants whose power had staggered the faith of
Israel. It was no desire for honor or aggrandizement that prompted Caleb's
request. The brave old
warrior was desirous of giving to the people an
example that would honor God, and encourage the tribes fully to subdue the
land which their fathers had deemed unconquerable.
obtained the inheritance upon which his heart had been set for forty
years, and, trusting in God to be with him, he "drove thence the
three sons of Anak." Having thus secured a possession for himself and
his house, his zeal did not abate; he did not settle down to enjoy his
inheritance, but pushed on to further conquests for the benefit of the
nation and the glory of God.
and rebels had perished in the wilderness, but the righteous spies ate of
the grapes of Eschol. To each was given according to his faith. The
unbelieving had seen their fears fulfilled. Notwithstanding God's promise,
they had declared that it was impossible to inherit Canaan, and they did
not possess it. But those who trusted in God, looking not so much to the
difficulties to be encountered as to the strength of their Almighty
Helper, entered the goodly land. It was through faith that the ancient
worthies "subdued kingdoms, . . . escaped the edge of the sword, out
of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the
armies of the aliens." Hebrews 11:33, 34. "This is the victory
that overcometh the world, even our faith." 1 John 5:4.
concerning the division of the land revealed a spirit widely different
from that of Caleb. It was presented by the children of Joseph, the tribe
of Ephraim with the half tribe of Manasseh. In consideration of their
superior numbers, these tribes demanded a double portion of territory. The
lot designated for them was the richest in the land, including the fertile
plain of Sharon; but many of the principal towns in the valley were still
in possession of the Canaanites, and the tribes shrank from the toil and
danger of conquering their possessions, and desired an additional portion
in territory already subdued. The tribe of Ephraim was one of the largest
in Israel, as well as the one to which Joshua himself belonged, and its
members naturally regarded themselves as entitled to special
consideration. "Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to
inherit," they said, "seeing I am a great people?" But no
departure from strict justice could be won from the inflexible leader.
was, "If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood
country, and cut down for thyself there in the land
of the Perizzites and
of the giants, if Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee."
showed the real cause of complaint. They lacked faith and courage to drive
out the Canaanites. "The hill is not enough for us," they said;
"and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have
chariots of iron."
The power of
the God of Israel had been pledged to His people, and had the Ephraimites
possessed the courage and faith of Caleb, no enemy could have stood before
them. Their evident desire to shun hardship and danger was firmly met by
Joshua. "Thou art a great people, and hast great power," he
said; "thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron
chariots, and though they be strong." Thus their own arguments were
turned against them. Being a great people, as they claimed, they were
fully able to make their own way, as did their brethren. With the help of
God they need not fear the chariots of iron.
Gilgal had been the headquarters of the nation and the seat of the
tabernacle. But now the tabernacle was to be removed to the place chosen
for its permanent location. This was Shiloh, a little town in the lot of
Ephraim. It was near the center of the land, and was easy of access to all
the tribes. Here a portion of country had been thoroughly subdued, so that
the worshipers would not be molested. "And the whole congregation of
the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the
tabernacle of the congregation there." The tribes that were still
encamped when the tabernacle was removed from Gilgal followed it, and
pitched near Shiloh. Here these tribes remained until they dispersed to
remained at Shiloh for three hundred years, until, because of the sins of
Eli's house, it fell into the hands of the Philistines, and Shiloh was
ruined. The ark was never returned to the tabernacle here, the sanctuary
service was finally transferred to the temple at Jerusalem, and Shiloh
fell into insignificance. There are only ruins to mark the spot where it
once stood. Long afterward its fate was made use of as a warning to
Jerusalem. "Go ye now unto My place which was in Shiloh," the
Lord declared by the prophet Jeremiah, "where I set My name at the
first, and see what I did to it for the wickedness of My people Israel. .
. . Therefore will I do unto this house, which is called by My name,
wherein ye trust, and unto the place which
I gave to you and to your
fathers, as I have done to Shiloh." Jeremiah 7:12-14.
they had made an end of dividing the land," and all the tribes had
been allotted their inheritance. Joshua presented his claim. To him, as to
Caleb, a special promise of inheritance had been given; yet he asked for
no extensive province, but only a single city. "They gave him the
city which he asked, . . . and he built the city, and dwelt therein."
The name given to the city was Timnath-serah, "the portion that
remains"--a standing testimony to the noble character and unselfish
spirit of the conqueror, who, instead of being the first to appropriate
the spoils of conquest, deferred his claim until the humblest of his
people had been served.
Six of the
cities assigned to the Levites--three on each side the Jordan--were
appointed as cities of refuge, to which the manslayer might flee for
safety. The appointment of these cities had been commanded by Moses,
"that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at
unawares. And they shall be unto you cities for refuge," he said,
"that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation
in judgment." Numbers 35:11, 12. This merciful provision was rendered
necessary by the ancient custom of private vengeance, by which the
punishment of the murderer devolved on the nearest relative or the next
heir of the deceased. In cases where guilt was clearly evident it was not
necessary to wait for a trial by the magistrates. The avenger might pursue
the criminal anywhere and put him to death wherever he should be found.
The Lord did not see fit to abolish this custom at that time, but He made
provision to ensure the safety of those who should take life
The cities of
refuge were so distributed as to be within a half day's journey of every
part of the land. The roads leading to them were always to be kept in good
repair; all along the way signposts were to be erected bearing the word
"Refuge" in plain, bold characters, that the fleeing one might
not be delayed for a moment. Any person--Hebrew, stranger, or
sojourner--might avail himself of this provision. But while the guiltless
were not to be rashly slain, neither were the guilty to escape punishment.
The case of the fugitive was to be fairly tried by the proper authorities,
and only when found innocent of intentional murder was he to be protected
in the city of refuge. The guilty were
given up to the avenger. And those
who were entitled to protection could receive it only on condition of
remaining within the appointed refuge. Should one wander away beyond the
prescribed limits, and be found by the avenger of blood, his life would
pay the penalty of his disregard of the Lord's provision. At the death of
the high priest, however, all who had sought shelter in the cities of
refuge were at liberty to return to their possessions.
In a trial
for murder the accused was not to be condemned on the testimony of one
witness, even though circumstantial evidence might be strong against him.
The Lord's direction was, "Whoso killeth any person, the murderer
shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not
testify against any person to cause him to die." Numbers 35:30. It
was Christ who gave to Moses these directions for Israel; and when
personally with His disciples on earth, as He taught them how to treat the
erring, the Great Teacher repeated the lesson that one man's testimony is
not to acquit or condemn. One man's views and opinions are not to settle
disputed questions. In all these matters two or more are to be associated,
and together they are to bear the responsibility, "that in the mouth
of two or three witnesses every word may be established." Matthew
If the one
tried for murder were proved guilty, no atonement or ransom could rescue
him. "Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be
shed." Genesis 9:6. "Ye shall take no satisfaction for the life
of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to
death." "Thou shalt take him from Mine altar, that he may
die," was the command of God; "the land cannot be cleansed of
the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed
it." Numbers 35:31, 33; Exodus 21:14. The safety and purity of the
nation demanded that the sin of murder be severely punished. Human life,
which God alone could give, must be sacredly guarded.
The cities of
refuge appointed for God's ancient people were a symbol of the refuge
provided in Christ. The same merciful Saviour who appointed those temporal
cities of refuge has by the shedding of His own blood provided for the
transgressors of God's law a sure retreat, into which they may flee for
safety from the second death. No power can take out of His hands the souls
that go to Him for pardon. "There is therefore now no
them which are in Christ Jesus." "Who is he that condemneth? It
is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the
right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us;" that
"we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay
hold upon the hope set before us." Romans 8:1, 34; Hebrews 6:18.
He who fled
to the city of refuge could make no delay. Family and employment were left
behind. There was no time to say farewell to loved ones. His life was at
stake, and every other interest must be sacrificed to the one purpose--to
reach the place of safety. Weariness was forgotten, difficulties were
unheeded. The fugitive dared not for one moment slacken his pace until he
was within the wall of the city.
The sinner is
exposed to eternal death, until he finds a hiding place in Christ; and as
loitering and carelessness might rob the fugitive of his only chance for
life, so delays and indifference may prove the ruin of the soul. Satan,
the great adversary, is on the track of every transgressor of God's holy
law, and he who is not sensible of his danger, and does not earnestly seek
shelter in the eternal refuge, will fall a prey to the destroyer.
who at any time went outside the city of refuge was abandoned to the
avenger of blood. Thus the people were taught to adhere to the methods
which infinite wisdom appointed for their security. Even so, it is not
enough that the sinner believe in Christ for the pardon of sin; he
must, by faith and obedience, abide in Him. "For if we sin
willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there
remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of
judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries."
Hebrews 10:26, 27.
Two of the
tribes of Israel, Gad and Reuben, with half the tribe of Manasseh, had
received their inheritance before crossing the Jordan. To a pastoral
people, the wide upland plains and rich forests of Gilead and Bashan,
offering extensive grazing land for their flocks and herds, had
attractions which were not to be found in Canaan itself, and the two and a
half tribes, desiring to settle here, had pledged themselves to furnish
their proportion of armed men to accompany their brethren across the
Jordan and to share their battles till they also should enter upon their
inheritance. The obligation had been faithfully discharged. When the
tribes entered Canaan forty thousand of "the children of Reuben, and
the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh . . . prepared for war
passed over before the Lord unto battle, to the plains of Jericho."
Joshua 4:12, 13. For years they had fought bravely by the side of their
brethren. Now the time had come for them to get unto the land of their
possession. As they had united with their brethren in the conflicts, so
they had shared the spoils; and they returned "with much riches . . .
and with very much cattle, with silver, and with gold, and with brass, and
with iron, and with very much raiment," all of which they were to
share with those who had remained with the families and flocks.
They were now
to dwell at a distance from the sanctuary of the Lord, and it was with an
anxious heart that Joshua witnessed their departure, knowing how strong
would be the temptations, in their isolated and wandering life, to fall
into the customs of the heathen tribes that dwelt upon their borders.
minds of Joshua and other leaders were still oppressed with anxious
forebodings, strange tidings reached them. Beside the Jordan, near the
place of Israel's miraculous passage of the river, the two and a half
tribes had erected a great altar, similar to the altar of burnt offering
at Shiloh. The law of God prohibited, on pain of death, the establishment
of another worship than that at the sanctuary. If such was the object of
this altar, it would, if permitted to remain, lead the people away from
the true faith.
representatives of the people assembled at Shiloh, and in the heat of
their excitement and indignation proposed to make war at once upon the
offenders. Through the influence of the more cautious, however, it was
decided to send first a delegation to obtain from the two and a half
tribes an explanation of their conduct. Ten princes, one from each tribe,
were chosen. At their head was Phinehas, who had distinguished himself by
his zeal in the matter of Peor.
The two and a
half tribes had been at fault in entering, without explanation, upon an
act open to such grave suspicions. The ambassadors, taking it for granted
that their brethren were guilty, met them with sharp rebuke. They accused
them of rebelling against the Lord, and bade them remember how judgments
had been visited upon Israel for joining themselves to Baalpeor. In behalf
of all Israel, Phinehas stated to the children
of Gad and Reuben that if
they were unwilling to abide in that land without an altar for sacrifice,
they would be welcome to a share in the possessions and privileges of
their brethren on the other side.
In reply the
accused explained that their altar was not intended for sacrifice, but
simply as a witness that, although separated by the river, they were of
the same faith as their brethren in Canaan. They had feared that in future
years their children might be excluded from the tabernacle, as having no
part in Israel. Then this altar, erected after the pattern of the altar of
the Lord at Shiloh, would be a witness that its builders were also
worshipers of the living God.
joy the ambassadors accepted this explanation, and immediately carried
back the tidings to those who sent them. All thoughts of war were
dismissed, and the people united in rejoicing, and praise to God.
of Gad and Reuben now placed upon their altar an inscription pointing out
the purpose for which it was erected; and they said, "It shall be a
witness between us that Jehovah is God." Thus they endeavored to
prevent future misapprehension and to remove what might be a cause of
serious difficulties arise from a simple misunderstanding, even among
those who are actuated by the worthiest motives; and without the exercise
of courtesy and forbearance, what serious and even fatal results may
follow. The ten tribes remembered how, in Achan's case, God had rebuked
the lack of vigilance to discover the sins existing among them. Now they
resolved to act promptly and earnestly; but in seeking to shun their first
error, they had gone to the opposite extreme. Instead of making courteous
inquiry to learn the facts in the case, they had met their brethren with
censure and condemnation. Had the men of Gad and Reuben retorted in the
same spirit, war would have been the result. While it is important on the
one hand that laxness in dealing with sin be avoided, it is equally
important on the other to shun harsh judgment and groundless suspicion.
sensitive to the least blame in regard to their own course, many are too
severe in dealing with those whom they suppose to be in error. No one was
ever reclaimed from a wrong position by censure and reproach; but many are
thus driven further from the right path and led to harden their hearts
conviction. A spirit of kindness, a courteous, forbearing
deportment may save the erring and hide a multitude of sins.
displayed by the Reubenites and their companions is worthy of imitation.
While honestly seeking to promote the cause of true religion, they were
misjudged and severely censured; yet they manifested no resentment. They
listened with courtesy and patience to the charges of their brethren
before attempting to make their defense, and then fully explained their
motives and showed their innocence. Thus the difficulty which had
threatened such serious consequences was amicably settled.
false accusation those who are in the right can afford to be calm and
considerate. God is acquainted with all that is misunderstood and
misinterpreted by men, and we can safely leave our case in His hands. He
will as surely vindicate the cause of those who put their trust in Him as
He searched out the guilt of Achan. Those who are actuated by the spirit
of Christ will possess that charity which suffers long and is kind.
It is the
will of God that union and brotherly love should exist among His people.
The prayer of Christ just before His crucifixion was that His disciples
might be one as He is one with the Father, that the world might believe
that God had sent Him. This most touching and wonderful prayer reaches
down the ages, even to our day; for His words were, "Neither pray I
for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their
word." John 17:20. While we are not to sacrifice one principle of
truth, it should be our constant aim to reach this state of unity. This is
the evidence of our discipleship. Said Jesus, "By this shall all men
know that ye are My disciples, if ye have love one to another." John
13:35. The apostle Peter exhorts the church, "Be ye all of one mind,
having compassion one of another; love as brethren, be pitiful, be
courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but
contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye
should inherit a blessing." 1 Peter 3:8, 9.