March 14 Reading: Joshua 12-15 Commentary

Below is our Joshua 12-15 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.

Key Verse(s):

“So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.'” (Josh. 14:9)

Joshua 12 – Conquests of Moses and Joshua

commentaryChap. 12 gives a synopsis of the kings Moses and Joshua defeated. If you recall, on their march from the wilderness to the Promised Land, several nations stood in their way. All of these conquests occurred under Moses’ leadership. We first read this in Numbers 21:21-35.

Moses defeated these kings: Sihon, king of the Amorites (v. 2) and Og, king of Bashan (v. 4). These occurred on the east side of the Jordan, which Moses gave as an inheritance to the Reubenites, Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh (v. 6).

Joshua’s military exploits are just slightly more impressive. All his victories occurred on the west side of the Jordan after they had miraculously crossed it (Josh. 3). In total, starting with the king of Jericho (v. 9), Joshua defeated 31 kings in the region (vv. 9-24). He completely purged the land of all the people groups – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and the Jebusites (v. 8) as God commanded. That is an impressive military resume.

Joshua 13 – Still More Land to Conquer

Joshua 10 and 11 paint a picture of complete victory in the land. However, in the aftermath of all the battles, we find out that Joshua and the people did not entirely drive out some of the inhabitants. When the land was divided, there were portions where some of the people groups remained.

At this point though, Joshua is old (v. 1). He can no longer lead military campaigns. So God instructed him to divide the land between the nine and one-half tribes who settled west of the Jordan. And God told Joshua to let Him drive out the rest of the people groups that remained (v. 6).

The most notable people left to drive out were the Philistine lords who led five cities: Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron (vv. 2-3).

Verses 8-33 lay out the division of the land east of the Jordan for Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh. In this area, Israel did not drive out the Geshurites or the Maachathites (v. 13).

Additionally, in this section it is noted twice the tribe of Levi was given no inheritance (vv. 14, 33). We also learn that Balaam, the fortune-teller who was hired by Balak king of Moab to curse Israel, was killed with the sword (v. 22).

Joshua 14 – The Land West of the Jordan

Chap. 14 begins the division of the land west of the Jordan. The inheritance was to be given “by lot” (v. 2) as God decided. Again, the Levites receive no inheritance in this land either because of their special duty to the Lord (v. 3).

Remember back in Numbers 13, the spies that were sent by Moses to spy out the new land? And remember that only two of them came back with a favorable report, encouraging the people that, with God’s help, they could conquer the land? Of course one of them was Joshua, the principle character in the book we are not reading. But in case you forgot, the other was Caleb.

Caleb Inherits Hebron

We find out some interesting detail about Caleb in Joshua 14. Evidently, he was a Kenizzite (v. 6). Why is that a big deal? Because the Kennizites were descendants of Esau through Kenaz (Gen. 15:19; 36:11, 15, 42). That’s right, they were a non-Israelite group.

But at some point, they had identified with the tribe of Judah (Num. 13:6). So it seems that one of God’s most faithful followers had non-Jewish roots. That makes what Caleb did in Numbers 13 by standing for God all the more astounding. 

In this section, he recounts to Joshua the events of their spy journey. Of course, Joshua is all too familiar with what happened (v. 7) and that Moses promised Caleb an inheritance in the new land (v. 9). Now at age 85, Caleb is calling for that promise to come due (v. 12).

Of course, Joshua happily grants his request by giving him Hebron (v. 13). It was his reward because he “wholly followed the Lord God of Israel” (v. 14). It shows us once again that God rewards those who are faithful to him, if not in this life, then certainly in the next.

Joshua 15 – Land for Judah (and Caleb)

First up to receive land is the tribe of Judah. You can see from the map to the right that they are one of the largest tribes, dominating the region of southern Israel.

What is interesting about all the tribe allotments is the detail given. The description is precise with cities, rivers, seas, mountains and wilderness areas being mentioned as tribe boundaries. Joshua did not want to leave any doubt among the tribes as to their inheritance.

Caleb is mentioned once more in the narrative of Judah receiving its land. Evidently, Hebron (which he inherited from Joshua) was still occupied. So he was forced to drive out “the three sons of Anak” (v. 13). Additionally, he conquered Debir, a city formerly conquered by Joshua (Josh. 10:38-39) that had fallen back into Canaanite possession.

He also issued a challenge to anyone who could take Kirjath Sepher. To the man who conquered that city, Caleb would give his daughter Achsah in marriage. A man named Othniel accepted the challenge and took it (v. 16-17).

Verses 20-62 list all the cities of Judah – over 100 including all the surrounding villages.

A final note in this section is that Judah was not able to drive out the Jebusites from their territory, which included the city of Jerusalem (v. 63).

(Map image courtesy of Richardprins, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Questions to Consider:

Can you point to something specific that you know is a reward or blessing from God because of your faithfulness to him? 

Some rewards come quickly. Others take years to materialize. And then there are those we will never see in this life. They will only be revealed on that day when we see Jesus face to face.

It took Caleb 45 years of waiting to receive the blessing from God for spying out the land in Numbers 13. In Joshua 14, he is finally given his inheritance in the new land as a reward for his faithfulness. Are you willing to wait on God? Or are you impatient with His timing?

What other points would you want to know about in our Joshua 12-15 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.