Joshua 13
Joshua 13 Kingcomments Bible Studies


The enemy’s main power is broken. Joshua has taken the whole the land (Jos 11:23). From Joshua 13 onward, the tribes, starting with the two and a half tribes on the other side of the Jordan, are each apportioned their own inheritance. They have to take possession of it themselves.

Through the work of the Lord Jesus, the Christian has been given earthly blessings and all spiritual blessings in the heavenly places. Yet there is a distinction in enjoying that blessing. Every Christian must take personal care to enjoy it. This can only happen by really experiencing the relationship with the Lord Jesus, by reading the Bible personally and prayerful.

This chapter is the beginning of the second part of the book, which deals with the division of the land. It is a most important moment in the history of this young nation. After centuries of Egyptian slavery, after decades of wandering in a wild wilderness and after years of heavy fighting, the moment has now come when the Israelites will get their home. They can now work the land, build families and live in peace in their own land, enjoying the fruit that the land produces.

In Joshua 1-12 we saw the entry into the land and its conquest. Joshua 13 is about the division, the apportioning of the land. When it comes to classification, God shows us the size it has in His eyes. That does not mean that it has all already been taken into possession. God speaks about it according to His purpose.

Joshua 13 is the general introduction to the possession of one’s own inheritance by each tribe individually. First there is a reference to what remains to be possessed (Jos 13:1) and then to the apportioning (Jos 13:7). When we take possession of it, we can count on God’s power. What must be taken possession of is determined by lot. Taking possession and dividing are two things.

The part that each tribe gets differs from each other tribe. So no two believers are equal. Every believer has his own character, gifts, possessions. The same applies to local churches. No two of them are equal. Nobody has everything, nobody has a total property. Every servant has his one-sidedness and each needs the other as a complement.

In the apportioning God shows the great scope of His blessings. But that is something else than to take possession of it. Taking possession of the land as a whole they did together. After the apportioning, everyone must take possession of what God has entrusted him, because there are still enemies living there.

Land Still to Be Possessed

God must tell Joshua that still “very much of the land remains” that must be taken into possession. Is he also sunk into rest? We no longer taste the atmosphere of spiritual energy to continue conquering. Eventually also Joshua did not bring the people into the promised peace (Heb 4:8). The people will only be brought into the true peace by the Lord Jesus, of whom Joshua is often a picture, but not a perfect picture.

God gives a description of what remains to be conquered. He wants them to see the value of those regions, what they can produce. In this way He wants to make them willing to fight again.

We also need this encouragement regularly. To make us willing to continue the battle, God shows us the glory of heavenly blessings. He encourages us by saying that He will drive out the enemies, even though the blessings have already been given us as inheritance (Jos 13:6a).

Conquering the land means that it is still in the hands of the enemy. In practical application, this means that we must drive out powers from our lives that still have ‘land’, so that we cannot yet enjoy certain blessings. The enjoyment of the land is linked to taking possession of it. Taking possession of them can only be done by chasing away the enemy.

The enemies that still are present include the Philistines. They did not go through the Red Sea and the Jordan. They came into the land by the easy way. In them we have a picture of the nominal Christians, people who have a confession, but no new life. These people claim the land for themselves. We have to remove everything the Philistines speak of from our lives. There are also Canaanites in the land that need to be driven out. They have always lived in the land. They are a picture of the people of this world who want to prevent us from taking possession of the land.

God’s promise is that He will drive out these enemies from before His people (Jos 13:6). Always the people must take the initiative and then God helps. We must have the desire to drive the enemy out of our lives. When we see the promise of God that He will give us all the blessings of heaven to fully enjoy at the end of the battle, that is a great exhortation to cleanse the land that is not yet subject from enemies.

The lot is the way God reveals His will to give Israel the land for an inheritance (Jos 13:6b; Pro 16:33). The casting of lots is the way God divides the land among His people. Each of us has his own possession in the land, his own enjoyment of the blessing. No one has the same enjoyment of the blessing as any other.

Land to Be Divided Beyond the Jordan

The division of the wilderness side of the Jordan is done by Moses (Jos 13:8). The conquest of the land to be divided in the other side of the Jordan is attributed to Moses (Jos 13:12). But just like in the land also in the wilderness side of the Jordan all enemies have not been driven out (Jos 13:13). This is not because of Moses, but because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The power of faith of Moses is not shared by the people.

The Inheritance of Levi

The Levites, to which we must also count the priests, have no inheritance. They are connected with the sacrificial service. They receive a threefold inheritance:
1. the offerings by fire,
2. the LORD Himself (Jos 13:33) and
3. the priesthood (Jos 18:7).
It points to the distinction between the blessing and Him Who gives the blessing. With Levi not the inheritance is in the foreground, but the LORD, the Giver of the inheritance.

The Inheritance of Reuben

In conquering the part that Reuben received as inheritance, the Israelites killed Balaam. It seems this was Moses’ last act of war before his death (Num 31:1-2; 8). The memory of this deed must be a penetrating warning for the Reubenites to guard themselves against the evil that Balaam managed to do in Israel (Num 25:1-3; Num 31:16). For us, it means a call to live a holy life in body and spirit: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2Cor 7:1).

The Inheritance of Gad

Ramoth, in the inheritance of Gad, seems to have been the first city to fall back into the hands of the enemies of God’s people (1Kgs 22:3). It is a harbinger of the deportation of the two and a half tribes in its entirety by the Assyrians who were later used by God as a disciplinary rod for His people.

The Inheritance of the Half-Tribe of Manasseh

The inheritance of the half-tribe of Manasseh contains the kingdom of Og, famous for the best wood, that of the oak trees of Bashan. This tribe lies north of Gad, reaches up to Mount Hermon, and encloses part of Gilead. With this half-tribe of Manasseh are well known names connected. Thus, Mizpah lies in the territory of this half tribe. From there come two judges, “Jaïr the Gileadite” (Jdg 10:3) and “Jephthah the Gileadite” (Jdg 11:1), as well as the famous prophet “Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the settlers of Gilead” (1Kgs 17:1).

The two and a half tribes did not look beyond their needs when applying for the wilderness side of the Jordan as inheritance. They have a lot of cattle, the land has a lot of pasture land, the conclusion is quickly drawn. They have been guided in their choice by their eyes (cf. Gen 13:10-11). But besides the fact that they have shown a certain disdain for the actual inheritance of the LORD for His people, they also have no eye for the vulnerable position they have chosen. Their land has no natural boundaries. They form a grateful object for hostile peoples. As said, they are also the first to be taken away by the Assyrians and scattered in the countries over which the king of Assyria reigns (1Chr 5:26). Till this day they have not yet returned to their territory.


This verse establishes that the apportioning of the territories on the wilderness side of the Jordan to the two-and-a-half tribe was done by Moses.

The LORD Himself Is the Inheritance of Levi

What the two and a half tribes have been given, forms a great contrast with the portion of the Levites. The LORD Himself is the inheritance of Levi: “Therefore, Levi does not have a portion or inheritance with his brothers; the LORD is his inheritance, just as the LORD your God spoke to him” (Deu 10:9; Deu 18:2). This inheritance is not given to them by Moses, but they receive it according to the promise from the LORD Himself.

© 2023 Author G. de Koning

All rights reserved. No part of the publications may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.

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