This chapter begins with the Tabernacle being settled in the town of Shiloh, which lay in the allotment of land that was given to the tribe of Ephraim. Shiloh was near the center of the whole land of Israel, and so it was a convenient meeting-place where all the people could assemble before the Lord. The Lord surely gave the people some kind of direction to bring the Tabernacle to this location, for He had promised to choose the place where He would cause His name to dwell (Deut. 12:10-12). It was a promise of a good settlement for the people in the land of Canaan, when their first care was to see the Lord’s Tabernacle permanently settled as soon as they had a safe place for it. The Ark of the Covenant remained there in Shiloh for over 300 years, until the sins of the family of Eli forfeited the Ark and ruined the town (1 Sam. 2-4; Ps. 78:60; Jer. 7:12).
The name of the town of Shiloh – meaning, “heavenly peace” – was the same as that name by which Jacob prophesied of the Messiah in Genesis 49:10. Some people think that the town was actually given that name when it became the resting-place for the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant, which foreshadowed our great Peace-maker, and the way – by Him – to our reconciled Father. But just as Shiloh was centrally located in the land of Israel, Jesus is the center of His people! They gather around Him, for He is their true rest-giver. Our spiritual life must have its center in the risen Savior; and in proportion as we focus our eyes upon Him, we shall find ourselves brought nearer and nearer into loving fellowship with Him and all those who love Him.
After the Tabernacle was brought to Shiloh, Joshua blamed the slackness of the seven tribes that had yet to obtain their allotments of inheritance. They seemed to be too well-pleased with their present condition, and it is possible that they were slow to take possession of their lands because it would involve a little bit of hard work and effort. God, by His grace, has given us a title-deed to a good land – the heavenly Canaan. But alas! We are often slack to take possession of it; we do not enter into that rest by faith, hope, and holy joy. How long shall it be thus with us? How long shall we stand in idleness? Joshua knew the dangers and bad results that the people’s delay could potentially bring about. While they were idly neglecting the land after they had conquered it, the Canaanites were recovering their strength and spirits. They would end up fortifying themselves especially well in the places that were still in their hands, and this would make their final expulsion even more difficult. Therefore, to prevent the Israelites from losing their advantages by not following up on their victories, he encouraged them to stir themselves and take possession of their inheritances. He directed that three men from each of the seven unsettled tribes (21 men in all) should take a survey of the lands and cities that were still unassigned. The survey was accordingly made; the surveyors divided up the land into seven lots, and wrote down their descriptions in a book. When this book was brought to Joshua at Shiloh, he cast lots before the Lord to determine which of these seven portions of land would be assigned to each of the seven remaining tribes. Thus all contests and selfish claims were prevented by the wise appointment of God.
The heavenly Canaan is also described to us in a book – the Book of the Scriptures. In this Promised Land, there are mansions and portions sufficient for all the members of God’s spiritual Israel. And Christ is our spiritual Joshua Who divides it out to us. What a sweet and precious thought to the believer! We shall not only have that very mansion which Jesus Himself has purchased for us, but what will render it doubly precious is that He Himself will put us in possession of it with His own dear hands!
The tribe of Benjamin was the first of the remaining seven to receive their allotment of land. The portion assigned to them was the small but important piece of highland between Judah on the south and Ephraim on the north. The tribe of Dan touched their western border, and the Jordan River formed their eastern boundary. Twenty-six of the cities within the tribe of Benjamin are listed in this chapter. The ruins of the destroyed city of Jericho were in this tribe, as well as the location of Gilgal. Some other notable cities of Benjamin included Bethel, where King Jeroboam later set up two idolatrous golden calves; Gibeon, where the Lord’s altar stood in the time of King Solomon; and Gibeah, a place of infamous wickedness not many decades after the division of the land among the tribes. Mizpah and Ebenezer were also within the borders of Benjamin; and so was Anathoth, the hometown of the prophet Jeremiah. The Apostle Paul was the crowning glory of this tribe; but where his family’s land was situated, we do not know – for he sought and found the “better country” in heaven!
Lord, as we behold the Israelites busily engaged in setting up the Tabernacle in Shiloh; we pray for grace to turn our eyes upon that true Tabernacle which the Lord pitched, and not man – namely, our precious Jesus, Who is Shiloh Himself! O dear Redeemer! Cause us to hear that voice which John heard, and to know our personal interest in it: “Behold! the tabernacle of God is with men; and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God!” Amen.
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