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Friday Bible Blogging - Joshua 11 to Joshua 24

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

BibleChapters 11 through 24 are the final verses of Joshua. They finish up with the conquest of the Promised Land, then get into a lot of detail on how the land was divided between all the different tribes of Israel, before describing the death of Joshua.

Joshua, Chapter 11

Chapter 11 begins the Northern Campaign. Like in the previous campaign, the kings of this region banded together to form an alliance against the Israelites. This time, they were specifically said to have "many horses and chariots". The wording in the notes of the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB) was actually pretty funny on this. It called them "dreaded horses and chariots". But with God on their side, it didn't matter. The Israelites "struck them down, until they had left no one remaining. 9 And Joshua did to them as the Lord commanded him; he hamstrung their horses, and burned their chariots with fire."

Next the Israelites slaughtered all the inhabitants of another city, Hazor, and burned the city to the ground. The book then mentioned that the Israelites conquered several more cities, killing all the inhabitants, but that they didn't burn down any more "of the towns that stood on mounds", just Hazor. And in these cities, they kept their spoils of war as booty.

The Israelites next moved on to another region and conquered yet more towns. The duration of these battles wasn't specified exactly, but "Joshua made war a long time with all those kings." This time, there was an explicit reference that "it was the Lord's doing to harden their hearts", keeping them from surrendering peacefully.

Then it was on to another region, conquering the Anakim. This included a statement that the people weren't conquered completely - just the portion of their lands in what had been promised to the Israelites, "None of the Anakim was left in the land of the Israelites; some remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod."

The last verse of the chapter stated that "the land had rest from war," bringing Joshua's final campaign to a close.

Joshua, Chapter 12

Chapter 12 was a list of Israel's conquests. It began with peoples east of the Jordan that Moses had conquered, and continued on to west of the Jordan and Joshua's victories. The way the list was worded was a bit odd. Here's an example.

9 the king of Jericho
the king of Ai, which is next to Bethel
10 the king of Jerusalem
the king of Hebron

Joshua, Chapter 13

This chapter began with God telling Jacob just how much more fighting remained to be done. This was, I believe, the first mention that the conquest of the Promised Land hadn't been complete. After listing all the peoples who would have to be conquered, and God promising that he would still aid the Israelites, Joshua was commanded to divide the land.

Now came a long, rather boring, detailing of all the lands of all the different tribes. This would go on for several more chapters. For the most part, it listed the cities that belonged to each tribe, along with a detailed description of the borders of their territory. However, different tribes received different levels of detail, with Judah getting the most attention. A few tribes had incomplete details of their borders, and a few were only addressed with a list of their cities.

Chapter 13 addressed the tribes that had gotten their inheritance directly from Moses, east of the Jordan before the Israelites conquered the promised land, the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. The chapter also described that the Levites weren't to receive any land as inheritance since "the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance".

Joshua, Chapter 14

Chapter 14 got into how the Promised Land was divided. The division was to be done by lots, assuming that God would control how the lots fell. But first, Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite, one of the heroes who remained faithful to the Lord in the spy episode, received his special inheritance. He received Jephunneh, knowing that he would drive out the Anakim with God's help.

Joshua, Chapter 15

The first part of Chapter 15 described Judah's territory in detail, and then it was back to Caleb. He conquered a few towns on his own, but then for Kiriath-sepher, he made a bargain that whoever conquered it would receive his daughter, Achsach, as a wife. Othniel son of Kenaz conquered the city and got the girl. To make Achsach a bit of a hero herself, she asked her father for springs (the water type) as a present. It's so common in the Bible that it almost goes unnoticed, but note that before she was married, Caleb had complete ownership of his daughter, and could offer her to whoever he wanted, without having to get her consent.

The chapter was then back to Judah's inheritance, this time giving a long list of their cities.

Joshua, Chapter 16

This chapter covered the inheritances of the Josephites and Ephraimites, in far less detail than was given to Judah in the previous chapter.

Joshua, Chapter 17

This chapter covered the tribes of Manasseh and Joseph. There were a couple stories in addition to the details of the inheritances. One of the male descendants of Manasseh had no sons, only daughters, and so they approached the leaders to remind them of God's promise that they should also receive an inheritance, which they did.

The tribe of Joseph approached the leaders, and said that because their tribe was so numerous, that they deserved a larger inheritance. So, they were given both plains and hill country. They were going to have to "drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong."

Joshua, Chapter 18

There were still seven tribes who hadn't received an inheritance. Each was to provide three men to scout out the land, taking notes of all that was there "with a view to their inheritances". After they returned, lots were cast to divide the land. Note that these were lands that hadn't yet been conquered, so the inheritance was promise for the future. Joshua even issued an admonition, stating "How long will you be slack about going in and taking possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you?"

The remainder of the chapter described the inheritance of Benjamin in some detail.

Joshua, Chapter 19

The remaining tribes received their inheritances, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. None of these descriptions were very detailed.

Next came the inheritance of Joshua himself, the town of Tinmath-serah, which he rebuilt.

And with that, the inheritances were complete.

Joshua, Chapter 20

There was still some work to do on dividing the land, however. First came the cities of refuge (where people who had killed someone unintentionally could flee to be safe from the "avenger of blood").

Joshua, Chapter 21

Next came the towns for the Levites. Each of the tribes had to give up some towns for the Levites to live in. However, even though the Levites received 48 towns, they weren't divided evenly among the 12 tribes. This chapter was actually rather detailed in listing all the towns, which Levites in particular received each town, and which tribe was giving the town to the Levites. Now, the division of the land was pretty much complete.

Joshua, Chapter 22

The Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, who had their inheritance east of the Jordan, and who had been made to promise to fight alongside the rest of the Israelites in the conquest of the promised land, were told that they had fulfilled their duties, and that they could return to their lands and families.

These tribes decided to build an altar alongside the Jordan, on the Israelite side. The other tribes were furious, thinking that Reubenites et al were abandoning Yahweh and setting up the altar to worship other gods. I guess this must be coming from the tradition in Deuteronomy that centralized worship, as opposed to the traditions where Israelites built altars where it seemed appropriate. At any rate, the people of Israel gathered an Army to attack the eastern tribes, thinking that their wayward ways would attract God's wrath. But the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said that they'd built the altar as a monument, to show that they were united with the rest of Israel, even though they were east of the Jordan. They didn't intend to use it as an actual altar. This explanation soothed the Israelites, and nobody fought anybody.

Joshua, Chapter 23

After a long time had passed, Joshua had grown old and was nearing the end of his days. He summoned all the leaders of Israel to give them some final words. He assured them that God would fulfill his promise and that eventually all of the Promised Land would be conquered. He reminded them of all the good God had done for them, and told them to remain faithful to God and to follow his Law.

He warned them not to intermarry with the still remaining inhabitants of the Promised Land, lest they become "a snare and a trap for you". This type of xenophobia has obviously been a hallmark of much of the Bible so far, calling for the complete extermination of enemies. It's just a bit odd to see it like this, not even allowing intermarriage during a time of peace.

There was also a short warming not to "serve other gods and bow down to them".

Joshua, Chapter 24

Joshua again summoned all the leaders. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be a different story, or if it comes from a different tradition of the same story (I suspect the latter). This time, he summarized in more detail all that the Lord had done, starting with Abraham. The book said that Abraham, his brother, and his father had originally served other gods before Yahweh called Abraham. Joshua continued on through to the conquering of the Promised Land, reminding the Israelites that it was God who was responsible for the conquest.

Joshua gave the Israelites one last chance on whether or not to serve Yahweh, with a line that most people will probably recognize, "Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." Of course, the Israelites chose Yahweh. They were told to "put away the foreign gods that are among you" and to serve God. Joshua set up statues and a monument to commemorate the occasion.

After everyone had returned to their lands, Joshua died, at the age of 110, and was buried on his land.

There followed three short appendices. First, it was noted that after Joshua's death, Israel served the Lord for as long as the elders survived who had witnessed the works of the Lord. Then, the bones of Joseph, which had been brought all the way from Egypt, "were buried at Shechem, in the portion of ground that Jacob had bought from the children of Hamor". Finally, Eleazar son of Aaron and was buried at Gibeah. The NOAB mentioned that concluding Joshua with the death of a priest was probably due to the priestly influence.


The book of Joshua contained all the questionable morality (to put it charitably) I've come to expect from the Bible, but at least, like I wrote last week, it got back into a narrative for a little while. The descriptions of all of the inheritances were rather boring, but to be honest, I just skimmed through those.

The book struck me as legendary or mythical. It seemed like a way to describe how the different peoples of Israel came to have the particular lands they did. It wasn't just historical contingency (like probably happened in reality), but the result of divine intervention - God's will.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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