March 16 Reading: Joshua 19-21 Commentary

Below is our Joshua 19-21 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):

“Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” (Joshua 21:45)

Joshua 19 – The Rest of Land Allotmentcommentary

After the seven remaining tribes had surveyed the land and brought their report to Joshua, he cast lots and divided the land among them (Josh. 18). Benjamin was the first of these tribes to receive land. The final six land divisions are listed in Josh. 19 in order as follows:

1. Simeon received the second lot that included 13 cities. They did not get an independent inheritance. Rather, their land was included within the share of Judah as they were a much smaller tribe (I Chron 4:24-27). This was predicted by Jacob in Genesis 49.

2. Zebulun received the third lot that included 12 cities just north of central Manasseh.

3. Issachar received the fourth lot that included 16 cities just north of Manasseh. Their eastern border was the Jordan River.

4. Asher received the fifth lot that included 22 cities in northwest Israel. Their western border was the Mediterranean Sea.

5. Naphtali received the sixth lot that included 19 cities in north east Israel. Their western border was Asher.

6. Dan received the 7th and final lot of this group that included 17 cities. Judges 18 records more detail about the battle mentioned in verses 47-48 that extended the borders of this tribe.

Joshua Gets His Land

Appropriately, the section on the division of the land ends with Joshua receiving his personal inheritance (vv. 49-51). Just like Caleb, the other faithful spy from Numbers 13 who received a special inheritance, so now Joshua received his rightful due. This was God fulfilling his promise to them (Num. 14:30) for their faithfulness in standing for him in the face of opposition from the people. It shows us that God rewards those who openly stand for him.

Joshua asked for and received the city of Timnath Serah in the mountains of Ephraim. We are told he built the city and dwelt there (v. 50).

Joshua 20 – Cities of Refuge

Next, Joshua appointed cities of refuge as Moses outlined in Num. 35:9-28 and Deut. 19:1-13. These were cities designed to protect a person who had “accidentally or unintentionally” killed someone. They could flee to the city and protect themselves from a person taking revenge until the case could be heard (vv. 3-5)

The person could stay in the city until the congregation could judge the case and until the death of the current high priest. At that point, they could return home from where they fled without fear of the dead person’s family taking revenge (v. 6).

The cities on the west side of the Jordan included Kadesh in Naphtali, Shechem in Ephraim, and Kirjath Arba (aka Hebron) in Judah. Additionally, on the east side of the Jordan, Joshua assigned Bezer in Reuben, Ramoth in Gad and Golan in Manasseh.

Joshua 21 – The Levite Cities

Finally, Joshua appointed cities for the Levites. The Levites came to Joshua to claim their share in the land. If you recall, God chose the tribe of Levi to serve at the tabernacle and be the religious leaders for the people (Numbers 3). Because of this, they would not receive a physical inheritance in the new land. 

So they came to Joshua saying, “The Lord commanded through Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with their common-lands for our livestock” (v. 2). To fulfill this promise, all of Israel gave the Levites cities in their territories and the common-land around each city for their livestock.

They cast lots to determine the distribution of these cities. This showed that God was in control of where they lived. Interestingly enough, the priestly lot of the Kohathites received 13 cities within the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin (21:4, 9-42). Thus, they were strategically located to oversee the future religious activities that would revolve around the temple in Jerusalem.

Furthermore, they would minister to the tribe of Judah during the divided kingdom era. And they would play a role following the Babylonian exile.

Joshua assigned a total of 48 cities to the Levites throughout the land (v. 41).

A Promise Finally Fulfilled

The work was finally done. Except for a few situations where they did not drive out the inhabitants of the land, Joshua and the people had succeeded in their task.

Additionally, God was faithful. He delivered on his promise. It may have taken longer than the people anticipated, but that is the nature of God’s timing. He works on his own timeframe.

The section of the book concludes with these encouraging words:

“So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it. The Lord gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the Lord delivered all their enemies into their hand. Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.” (vv. 43-45) 

The word of the Lord will not fail. That is a lesson we can all take away from the story of Joshua.

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

Questions to Consider:

Is it hard for you to stand up for the Lord when you are faced with opposition from those around you? How do you gather the strength and courage to stand for what you know is right.

God has made many promises to us in the Bible. He is faithful to fulfill them in our lives. Maybe it doesn’t seem like it based on our timeline. But he always come through. He stands behind his promises 100% of the time. Isn’t that some we can put our trust in?

What other points would you want to know about in our Joshua 19-21 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.