Joshua 21–24: Promises Fulfilled & Final Charges

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 5: Tuesday

So Yahweh gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it.
Joshua 21:43 LSB

Today’s Bible reading of Joshua 21–24 finishes the book of Joshua. The Levites receive their cities in chapter 21, and the tribes from east of the Jordan return to their lands in chapter 22 (with a brief time of tension). In Joshua 23–24, Joshua gives his final charge to Israel.

In chapter 21, the Levites are given 48 cities scattered throughout the lands of the other ten tribes and the two half-tribes. One thing to notice is that all of the six cities of refuge are given to the Levites. West of the Jordan River are Hebron, (Kiriath-arba), in the land of Judah (21:13); Shechem, in the land of Ephraim (21:21); and Kedesh, in the land of Naphtali (21:31). East of the Jordan River are Golan, in the land of Manasseh (21:27); Bezer, in the land of Reuben (21:36); and Ramoth, in the land of Gad (21:38). This was done in obedience to what God had told Moses:

Now Yahweh spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, “Command the sons of Israel that they give to the Levites from the inheritance of their possession cities to live in; and you shall give to the Levites pasture lands around the cities.”
“And the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, which you shall give for the manslayer to flee to; and in addition to them you shall give forty-two cities. All the cities which you shall give to the Levites shall be forty-eight cities, together with their pasture lands. Now as for the cities which you shall give from the possession of the sons of Israel, you shall take more from the larger, and you shall take less from the smaller; each shall give some of his cities to the Levites in proportion to his possession which he inherits.”
Numbers 35:1-2, 6-8 LSB

One of the responsibilities God gave to the Levites was to teach the Law to the people (cf. Deut. 33:8-11; 2 Chron. 17:7-9, 35:3; Neh. 8:7-8).

“They shall teach Your judgments to Jacob,
And Your law to Israel.”
Deuteronomy 33:10a LSB

By living in the lands of different tribes, they could daily teach, answer questions, understand what the people needed to learn, and ensure the Law was being followed. They would also know when the people needed encouragement or rebuke. When someone fled to a city of refuge (see Joshua 16–20: Divisions & Cities of Refuge), emotions would have run high, and their authoritative presence there would have helped prevent a mob mentality.

This ended the distribution of land to the people.

So Yahweh gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And Yahweh gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; Yahweh gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one promise of the good promises which Yahweh had promised to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.
Joshua 21:43–45 LSB

After having helped their brothers, the tribes of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh with lands east of the Jordan, Joshua charges them to obey God and hold fast to Him, and sends them home in chapter 22. Those tribes build an altar, but this creates a misunder­standing and the rest of Israel fears the altar has been built for sacrifice and offerings. They go after the three tribes because this would have been a rebellious act against the Lord’s commands regarding worship and the altars for sacrifice and offerings in the Tabernacle. Reuben, Gad and Manasseh tell the other tribes the altar was built for the sole purpose to serve as a witness between them and between their succeeding generations who live on the two sides of the Jordan, that all of the tribes are of Israel, and that the Lord is the God of all.

Finally, in his old age Joshua charges the nation in the final two chapters. Having led them through battle, he reminds them of all the Lord has done for them since the days of Abraham, and that God has kept all of His promises. Joshua challenges them to serve the Lord and to incline their hearts to Him.

“So now, fear Yahweh and serve Him in integrity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve Yahweh. If it is evil in your sight to serve Yahweh, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve Yahweh.”
Joshua 24:14–15 LSB

The book of Joshua comes to a close with the death and burial of Joshua; the burial of Joseph’s bones which they had brought with them from Egypt; and the death and burial of Eleazar, Aaron’s son, Moses’ nephew, who became high priest when Aaron died.

It was very poignant to read about Joseph finally being laid to rest in the land he had left as a slave over 400 years earlier. Reunited with his family, he was never separated from them again.

And Israel served Yahweh all the days of Joshua and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who knew all the work of Yahweh which He had done for Israel.
Joshua 24:31 LSB

Next Tuesday reading begins in the book of Judges, and we find out what happens after those elders who survived Joshua are gone.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Golan Heights: Roybb95. Public Domain.

I’m using Michael Coley’s Bible reading plan (one page PDF to print) to read through the Bible in 2023. Each day my posts are on different books because he divides Bible readings into seven categories, one for each day of the week: Epistles, The Law, History, Psalms, Poetry, Prophecy and Gospels. There’s more information on his plan and others at Read the Bible in 2023.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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