The latter part of Joshua details the dividing up and boundaries of the land of Canaan to the twelve tribes of Israel. Two and a half tribes were given land east of the Jordan, per their request of Moses. The other nine and a half tribes received their allotted portions of the promised land west of the Jordan river. Remember that Joseph, one of Israel’s twelve sons, actually received a double portion of the land through the descendants of his two children, Ephraim and Manasseh. That left the tribe of Levi without land possession because they had been designated as the tribe of priests and tabernacle caretakers. This tribe received cities scattered throughout the land of Canaan, along with the pasturelands surrounding those cities.
Remember that God had commanded the Israelites to drive out the inhabitants of the land, tear down their sites of idol worship, and not intermarry with them. In addition to the theme of completed conquest that runs through the book of Joshua, there is also another theme which foreshadows the events of the next book, Judges. Here are a few of those foreshadowing statements.
Some of the inhabitants of the land deceived the Israelites into thinking they were from a distant place rather than from Canaan. Joshua 9:14-15 says
So the men took some of their provisions, but did not ask counsel from the Lord. And Joshua made peace with them and made a covenant with them, to let them live, and the leaders of the congregation swore to them.
This was a forbidden treaty, but the Israelites did not seek the Lord’s counsel.
But the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the people of Judah could not drive out, so the Jebusites dwell with the people of Judah at Jerusalem to this day. (Joshua 15:63)
However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor. (Joshua 16:10)
Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out. (Joshua 17:12)
There are more like these, but you get the picture – the Israelites mostly did what God commanded, but they fell short of complete obedience. This illustrates for us the general state of humanity. All in all, Joshua is a book of successful living in obedience to God, but it points out that even in the best of situations, humans fall short in their ability to completely obey God. The people needed someone who could intercede for them in their shortcomings. They needed a deliverer. They needed a savior. They needed Jesus.
This theme in the book of Joshua segues nicely into the book of Judges, which I’ll address in detail next week.