This chapter describes the allotments of inheritances that were assigned to the rest of the seven tribes that had not yet received any. The tribe of Simeon received a portion of inheritance within the borders of land that had originally been set aside for Judah. We would do well to observe that the people of Judah did not oppose the loss of some of their land when they realized that they had more than enough. Love does not seek her own benefit; indeed, true love will induce the Lord’s people to part with their own possessions in order to supply what is lacking to their brothers and sisters. As for the cities that belonged to the Simeonites, one of them was Beer-sheba, which was closely connected with various events in the lives of the families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Another of Simeon’s cities was Ziklag, which played a part in the life-story of David.
The land that was given to Zebulun did not touch the Mediterranean Sea on the west, but its borders ran toward that direction. However, a portion of it did lay upon the shores of the Sea of Galilee on the east, thus fulfilling Jacob’s prophecy (Gen. 49:13) that “Zebulun shall be a haven of ships” – fishing ships upon the Sea of Galilee. Although there were some places in this tribe which were made famous in the Old Testament (especially Mount Carmel; upon which, in Elijah’s time, the famous contest was held between God and Baal), yet it was made much more illustrious in the New Testament; for within this tribe lay the village of Nazareth, where our blessed Savior spent so much of His time on earth. Mount Tabor, which was probably the summit upon which Christ was transfigured, was also within the borders of Zebulun; as well as a portion of the coastline of the sea of Galilee, upon which Christ preached so many sermons and worked so many miracles.
The lot of Issachar was sandwiched between the western half of Manasseh on the south and Zebulun on the north. Tola, one of the judges of Israel, was from this tribe; and so was Baasha, one of the kings of the Northern Kingdom that split from Judah after the death of King Solomon. The most considerable places in this tribe were Jezreel, the location of King Ahab’s palace, with Naboth’s vineyard nearby; Shunem, the hometown of a Godly woman and her family who entertained Elisha the prophet; the Kishon River, where Sisera was beaten by Deborah and Barak; the mountains of Gilboa, where Saul and Jonathan died; and the valley of Megiddo, where righteous King Josiah was slain.
Asher’s land lay upon the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. We never read of any famous person from this tribe – except for Anna the prophetess, who was a constant resident in the Temple at the time of our Savior’s birth (Luke 2:36). Nor were there many famous places in this tribe. Aphek (mentioned in verse 30) was the place near which the Syrian king Ben-hadad was once beaten by Israel’s King Ahab. But close by the borders of this tribe were the famous Phoenician sea-port towns of Tyre and Sidon.
Naphtali was the farthest north of all the tribes, bordering on the mountains of Lebanon. The city of Leshem, or Laish, lay on its northern border; and this city was taken over by the Danites not many decades after the dividing up of the land of Canaan. Naphtali’s inheritance was bordered by Zebulun on the south, Asher on the west, and the Jordan River on the east. It was in the land occupied by this tribe – near the waters of Merom – that Joshua and the Israelites had fought and defeated Jabin (chapter 11). Also in this tribe stood Capernaum and Bethsaida, on the northern end of the Sea of Galilee. In these cities, Christ did many mighty works (Matt. 11:20-24).
Dan’s allotment of inheritance fell in the southern part of Canaan – between Benjamin on the east and the Mediterranean Sea on the west, and between Ephraim on the north and Judah on the south. The land of the Philistines lay in the area belonging to Judah, but it was directly south of Dan. The Lord’s Providence ordered this numerous and powerful tribe of Dan into a post of danger, for they were the ones who were the best able to help deal with those troublesome neighbors – the Philistines. And Samson himself – who, on Israel’s behalf, performed some of the mightiest acts of annoyance to the Philistines – was a Danite. Some of the places within this tribe included Zorah, Eshtaol, and the camp of Dan, of which we read in the history of Samson. Also in this vicinity was the valley of Eshcol, where the 12 spies had found the famous bunch of grapes that they carried suspended from a staff held by two men. The town of Joppa was in this lot as well.
Before this account of the dividing of the land is solemnly closed up, the last verses give an account of the particular inheritance that was assigned to Joshua. He was the last one to be served, even though he was the eldest and greatest man in all Israel. Moreover, Timnath-serah was a city that had to be built before it was fit to be lived in. While others dwelt in houses which they themselves did not construct, Joshua was content with such buildings as he could hastily put up, without grandeur or magnificence. It was a similar case with our Lord Jesus; He came and dwelt among us – not in pomp, but in poverty. He was busy providing rest for us, yet He Himself had nowhere to lay His head. Nor would He enter upon His inheritance until – by His obedience to death – He secured the eternal inheritance for us. And He will not reckon His own glory completed until every ransomed sinner is brought home to heavenly rest!
Lord Jesus, as our spiritual Joshua, we beseech You to bring us in safety to that heavenly rest which belongs to all the people of God! Amen.
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