Bible Study
Survey of the Former Prophets - Program 04

John H. Ogwyn (1949-2005)

This Bible Study is part of the "Survey of the Former Prophets" series. See other Bible Studies which are part of this series

We have come to the point in Joshua 13 where most of the initial conquest of the Promised Land had been achieved. Joshua was old and stricken in years. Scripture details the areas that had been taken. He was told to divide this land as an inheritance for the nine tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh.

Greetings, friends!

This is John Ogwyn. We are continuing our survey through the book of Joshua. We have come to the point in Joshua 13 where most of the initial conquest of the Promised Land had been achieved. Joshua was old and stricken in years. Scripture details the areas that had been taken. He was told to divide this land as an inheritance for the nine tribes and the half tribe of Manasseh. We saw in a previous section that the two tribes of Reuben and Gad, along with half the tribe of Manasseh, had received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan. Now they are ready to parcel out the land for the remaining tribes of Israel. Only the tribe of Levi was not to be given an inheritance. Joshua 13 details what Moses had instructed regarding the east side of the Jordan. The land had been subdued and the men of war from Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were to be allowed to go back and cross over the Jordan to be with their families and inherit that land.

In Joshua 14, as Joshua was preparing to follow Moses' instructions, Caleb came to Joshua in Gilgal. (v. 6) If you remember the story from the book of Numbers, Caleb was, along with Joshua, one of the two spies who was faithful and who brought a good report. He encouraged the people to believe God and follow God's instructions and enter into the Promised Land. Since the people as a whole did not believe Joshua and Caleb, but rather followed the others, God allowed that generation to wander in the wilderness for forty years, and ultimately to die. As a result, Joshua and Caleb were the only ones of their generation to actually come into the Promised Land. Now Caleb came to Joshua and reminded him of what Moses had told the two of them years earlier.

It is interesting that we know exactly how long it took Israel to subdue the Promised Land. It took them six years. Very interestingly, this statement of Israel entering into rest is used quite a bit in the books of Deuteronomy and Joshua. Do you know when Israel entered into rest-when they ceased wandering and entering temporary dwellings and actually inherited the Promised Land? They entered into rest, they received their inheritance, in the seventh year, just as God gave six days and then a seventh day that He reserved for Himself, the day of rest. HOW do we know that it took six years? The answer is right here in Joshua 14. Caleb reminds Joshua of what happened years earlier.

Joshua 14:7

"I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land,.. And now, behold, the LORD has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, here I am this day, eighty-five years old."

If you go back to the story recorded in Numbers 13 and 14, you will find that the spies went into the land just about a year after Israel had come out of Egypt and into the wilderness. A year had passed, then God had said Israel would wander for forty years. That included the first year. Here we have come to a time forty-five years after Moses made the promise to Joshua and Caleb, since the people did not follow them and enter the Promised Land and therefore came under the sentence of wandering. Forty-five years have elapsed since that day, which means forty-six years have elapsed since the Exodus. Israel entered the Promised Land forty years after the Exodus, so this event comes six years after the entrance into the land.

Caleb was given an inheritance there in Hebron. We find details beginning to be given of the borders of the different tribes. We read about Judah in Joshua 15. In Joshua 16 we read of the children of Joseph, particularly Ephraim (mentioned in verse 5) and the half tribe of Manasseh on the west bank of the Jordan (not the half that had already received its inheritance beyond the Jordan-Joshua 17:1).

In Joshua 18, the whole congregation assembled together at Shiloh and set up the tabernacle of the congregation. The land was subdued. Here we are, six years after the entrance into the land--very likely at the Fall Festival period-and Israel is now preparing to enter into rest. Seven tribes have not received their inheritance. We find in verse 10 that Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the Eternal. Benjamin's inheritance is described in verse 11. In Joshua 19:1 the second lot came forth-the tribe of Simeon. In Joshua 19:10, the third came for Zebulun; in verse 17 the fourth lot for the tribe of Issachar; in verse 24 the fifth lot for the tribe of Asher; in verse 32 the sixth lot for Naphtali and in verse 40 the seventh lot-for the seventh of the tribes, the final remaining of the twelve tribes-was cast for Dan. So all the details of that inheritance are given and spelled out here in terms of the geographic boundaries, and they can be traced on a map.

Joshua 18:51

These are the inheritances which…Joshua…and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel divided as an inheritance by lot in Shiloh before the LORD, at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. So they made an end of dividing the country.

The Levitical cities were appointed (the cities of refuge) in Joshua 20. In Joshua 21 we read of the cities that were assigned to the Levites, and their locations are spelled out.

Joshua 21:43

So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers…The LORD gave them REST all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers.

God's promises came to pass. In Joshua 22, Joshua called the men of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh and he said, "You have done what I asked you to do."

Joshua 22:4

"And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brethren, as He promised them."

He told them that they could return to their inheritance, and can also enter into rest. So the whole nation was entering into God's rest, they had received the promises. Joshua blessed them and sent them away (verse 6).

There is a good lesson in the latter part of Joshua 22. As the men of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh were coming back to the Jordan River, they began to talk about something. When they got to the bank of the Jordan, there on the edge of the Jordan River, they constructed an altar-an exact model of the altar at Shiloh.

Joshua 22:11

Now the children of Israel heard someone say, "Behold, the children of Reuben, the children of Gad, and half the tribe of Manasseh have built an altar."

God had instructed that there should be a central place of worship and that all the nation was to come and appear before Him at the Tabernacle.

It is amazing how rumors get started and how people jump to conclusions. In fact, I have observed over the years that the biggest exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions. Well, the nations jumped to conclusions here. They heard there was an altar, and that was right. Just like the one at Shiloh. They assumed that the reason this was being done was because these people were, in effect, starting their own religion! They said, "Oh, this will never do, this will bring a curse of God upon us." The people got together a great army and they were going to attack these tribes on the east side of the Jordan. Thankfully, before they did, someone thought to inquire and ask what they were doing. The tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh explained that they were building a memorial. They were not going to offer sacrifices there; they were not building a center of worship. They got to thinking that the Jordan River is a dividing line and in generations to come some of their descendents living on the east of the Jordan may say, "What connection do we have with Israel and the tabernacle at Shiloh? What connection do we have with that?" They wanted to build an altar that would be an exact replica that would serve as reminder that they were intimately connected and interwoven with all of Israel and that they all point toward that altar at Shiloh.

Their explanation was perfectly innocent. The rest of the nation realized that they had almost launched a civil war based upon a rumor. This is an important lesson for the rest of us to learn. You hear something, that somebody has done such-and-such. It is always a good idea to find out straight from the individual what they did and why they did it, rather than jump to conclusions and assume things. Sometimes all sorts of problems get started that way. They called this altar (verse 34) "Witness"-it was a witness between the two and a half tribes and the God of Israel.

Joshua 23:1

Now it came to pass, a long time after the LORD had given rest to Israel from all their enemies round about, that Joshua was old, advanced in age.

Here several years have gone by and Joshua is quite old; he knows he is reaching the end of his life and is not going to be able to continue. He calls the people together; he calls for their elders and their leaders (verse 2).

Joshua 23:6, 8,1 3

"Therefore be very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses, lest you turn aside from it to the right hand or to the left. Hold fast to the LORD your God, as you have done to this day. The LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps."

If you do not remain faithful to God and trust Him and look to Him, you are going to fall into various problems. God won't fight your battles for you if you are not faithful to Him.

Joshua 23:14

"Behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth. And you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one thing has failed of all the good things which the LORD your God spoke concerning you."

In Joshua 24, Joshua gathers the tribes of Israel together in Shechem. He reminded them of their history, their forbearers who had dwelt beyond the Euphrates (verse 2), the ancestors of Abraham and Terah the father of Abraham. That family had worshipped idols, but Abraham had served God. Abraham had come from beyond the Euphrates to the Promised Land. Joshua briefly reminded them of that-of the promises God made to Abraham and then of how they came down to Egypt and the family grew to great size-and how God ultimately brought them into the Promised Land. Joshua asked the people to renew the covenant, and the people answered:

Joshua 24:16,21

"Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods." "We will serve the LORD!"

Joshua had told them that they had to choose whom they would serve, but that for him and his house they would serve the Eternal. The people reiterated the covenant. Joshua said in verse 23, "If you are really going to serve God, then put away the strange gods." The covenant was reiterated, and Joshua wrote these words (verse 26) "in the Book of the Law of God." In other words, he wrote the book of Joshua and it was added to the canon of scripture. So "Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua" (Joshua 24:31)

With this session we have concluded our survey of the book of Joshua. Next time we will continue on in our survey of the Former Prophets, going into the book of Judges.

Until next time, this is John Ogwyn for the Living Church of God.