Judges 1-2: The Angel our Judge

Introduction

Judges is a shadow of what we see when there is no central judge for Israel, though ironic it is that the book should be called shophetim, the judges, the book of those who discern, the heads standing in between the legends of Moses, Joshua, Caleb until Saul.  It is symbolically represented by the cycle from apostasy to salvation; however, on the whole, it is a book very similar to Numbers – it is a book of constant heresy as a result of walking far away from the pillar of cloud and fire.  It is a recounting of the failure of the majority of judges, their corruption, the consequent oppression, the short periods of rest but long period of persecution, all occurring in an (overlapping) period of roughly 410 years, a number symbolic between Genesis to Exodus, between Malachi to Matthew.  The number 400 roughly representing the spiritual wilderness, as was the case when the Israelites were made slaves in Egypt; when the Israelites did not receive new revelation through the prophets until John the Baptist.  It is no surprise that this irony is not lost on these judges, a majority of which are anything but the true Judge.

It is helpful to see these patterns according to the tables set out by the ESV Study Bible:

Cycles of Good and Bad under the Judges (2:11–16:31)

Pattern

Outline

Othniel

Ehud

Deborah

Gideon

Jephthah

Samson

Apostasy 2:11–13 3:7 3:12a 4:1 6:1a 10:6 13:1a
Servitude 2:14–15 3:8 3:12b–14 4:2 6:1b–6a 10:7–9 13:16
Supplication and salvation 2:16–18 3:9–11 3:15–31 4:3–24 6:6b–8:28 11:1–33 13:24; 14:19; 15:14b–20

The Judges

Judge

Reference

Tribe

Oppressor

Period of Oppression

Period of Rest

Total Length of Time*

Othniel 3:7–11 Judah Mesopotamians 8 years (3:8) 40 years (3:11) 48 years
Ehud 3:12–30 Benjamin Moabites 18 years (3:14) 80 years (3:30) 98 years
Shamgar 3:31 Philistines
Deborah chs. 4–5 Ephraim Canaanites 20 years (4:3) 40 years (5:31) 60 years
Gideon chs. 6–8 Manasseh Midianites 7 years (6:1) 40 years (8:28) 47 years
Tola 10:1–2 Issachar 23 years (10:2) 23 years
Jair 10:3–5 Gilead-Manasseh 22 years (10:3) 22 years
Jephthah 10:6–12:7 Gilead-Manasseh Ammonites 24 years (10:8; 12:7) 24 years
Ibzan 12:8–10 Judah or Zebulun? 7 years (12:9) 7 years
Elon 12:11–12 Zebulun 10 years (12:11) 10 years
Abdon 12:13–15 Ephraim 8 years (12:14) 8 years
Samson chs. 13–16 Dan Philistines 40 years (13:1) 20 years (15:20; 16:31) 60 years

Judges 1-2:  The Angel our Judge

Judges 1

It is not surprising that we should see a large contrast between Judges 1 and Judges 21; the time before the judges when people would inquire of the LORD (Judges 1:1); and the time in the midst, the heat, the pinnacle of the period and dispensation of the judges when “there was no king in Israel [and] everyone did what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25), an infectious hereditary disease from the consumption of the fruit of the tree of good and evil.  Judges 1 and 2 takes into account two events, not chronologically recorded but these two events are important in shaping the faith of Israel and the lesson taught in the Word: the continuing conquest of Canaan riddled with continuous failures; and the death of Yeshua.  It is in the death of Yeshua, in the death of Moses, in the death of Aaron, in the death of Jacob, in the death of Isaac, in the death of Abraham – all these deaths that we understand a typology of Christ’s death on the cross.  The three days in between are the longest periods of wilderness which Jonah felt when he spent three days and nights in the belly of the sea creature; and so this period of wilderness have continued time and time again until the glory of the strong Kingdom of Israel established not until the false King Herod represented by Saul, but under the true King Jesus Christ, as typified by both David and Solomon as the two facets of Christ’s kingship – the warrior judge, and the peace-ruling king of wisdom.

However much the parallels there are between the Old and the New, the central object of faith has always been Christ, and not merely the type of Christ His shadow(s).  In the failures of the judges, and later on the failures of the kings, we see the height of the failure of these shadows and the placement of faith in these shadows.  It is in looking beyond the shadows that we understand who the true Judge, the true King, and the true God is.  And so Judges 1 begins with part-success and part-failure of Israel, to signify that though they may win battles temporarily, it is Christ who wins all battles and all wars.

1After the death of Joshua, the people of Israel(A) inquired of the LORD,(B) “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight against them?” 2The LORD said, “Judah shall go up; behold, I have given the land into his hand.” 3And Judah said to Simeon his brother, “Come up with me into the territory allotted to me, that we may fight against the Canaanites.(C) And I likewise will go with you into the territory allotted to you.” So Simeon went with him. 4Then Judah went up and the LORD gave the Canaanites and the Perizzites into their hand, and they defeated 10,000 of them at Bezek. 5They found Adoni-bezek at Bezek and fought against him and defeated the Canaanites and the Perizzites. 6Adoni-bezek fled, but they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and his big toes. 7And Adoni-bezek said, “Seventy kings with their thumbs and their big toes cut off(D) used to pick up scraps under my table.(E) As I have done, so God has repaid me.” And they brought him to Jerusalem, and he died there.

So Judges begins with the fall of the lord of lightning, as literally translated from the name Adoni-Bezek, perhaps a parallel can be conceived between the fall of the lord of lightning and Satan who fell like lightning from the sky through the work of evangelism of Christ’s disciples (Luke 10:18), compared to the true lord of lightning Christ (Matthew 24:27; 28:3).

What we furthermore see is an eschatological retribution in the treatment of Adoni-Bezek.  It may be easy to read this and conclude that such karmic retribution does not occur in this life; and indeed, it does not – but rather than subsume ourselves in the riddles of Buddhist philosophies and the mystery of the samsaric cycle, what is more important is that we see these judgments and successes through Israel and experienced by Israel as indicative of the final judgment which Enoch prophesied (Jude 1:14-15).  It is in this sense that we understand how the LORD sees justice – it is a repayment of the sins we have committed (v.7).  Therefore, for us to see Christ’s death as anything less than in the terms of repayment, as our retribution, as the cost of our death is to ignore the event of Adoni-Bezek’s treatment, or even the death of the king of Ai in Joshua 8:29.  These are all pointing towards Christ’s death as a payment for our sins, exacting all that we deserve onto the God-man.  It is in this sense that we can provide a truly Christ-focused definition of the scientific and philosophic principle behind karma.

The success of Judah against Jerusalem and Canaan can also be seen as a brief summary of displacement theology, as we once again find that cities are renamed and populated by new people with new faith, just as Christ had promised that we would be the true inheritors of new heaven and earth (Exodus 32:13; Matthew 5:5, 1 Corinthians 6:9).  Here we see Judah, the tribe of Jesus of Nazareth, take over Jerusalem where Christ would be crucified – the work of renewal beginning with his incarnation in the land of Judah, his death in the land of Judah, his resurrection in the land of Judah – to take away the city of the four giants (Kiriath-Arba) and renew it as a mercy seat of association (Hebron) akin to that in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle; to take away the false city of peace and provide Jerusalem a salvific truth which lives up to the meaning of its name, where Christ truly brought peace through this city.  Indeed, we are to inherit the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12), and there need not be a replacement, but a renewal and a displacement through the fire of judgment (v.8), refining Jerusalem and redeeming what had always been materially good but misused (Genesis 1:31) by stewards who live not by faith but merely by sight.

8(F) And the men of Judah fought against Jerusalem and captured it and struck it with the edge of the sword and set the city on fire. 9And afterward the men of Judah went down to fight against the Canaanites who lived in(G) the hill country, in the Negeb, and in the lowland. 10(H) And Judah went against the Canaanites who lived in Hebron(I) (now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba), and they defeated(J) Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai.

11From there they went against the inhabitants of Debir. The name of Debir was formerly Kiriath-sepher. 12And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kiriath-sepher and captures it, I will give him Achsah my daughter for a wife.” 13And Othniel the son of Kenaz,(K) Caleb’s younger brother, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter for a wife. 14When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 15She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have set me in the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And Caleb gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.

And so we continue with these events as chronicled in Joshua 15:13-19, making what was pagan, a city of the book into a holy sanctuary – presumably this city ‘of the book’ had a book which taught the people not to revere the true LORD, Yahweh, just as Christians have looked at the two tablets of the 10 Words as a curse rather than a blessing, rather than a testimony leading us to the holy sanctuary.  It is in Debir, this new city, that we see Caleb provide more than what his daughter had required, an example of how God would also provide us with such rich blessings in new creation, far more than the firstfruit of what we taste and more than what we ask for.

16And the descendants of the(L) Kenite, Moses’ father-in-law, went up with the people of Judah(M) from the city of palms into the wilderness of Judah, which lies in the Negeb near(N) Arad,(O) and they went and settled with the people. 17(P) And Judah went with Simeon his brother, and they defeated the Canaanites who inhabited Zephath and devoted it to destruction. So the name of the city was called(Q) Hormah.[a] 18Judah also(R) captured Gaza with its territory, and Ashkelon with its territory, and Ekron with its territory. 19(S) And the LORD was with Judah, and he took possession of the(T) hill country, but he could not drive out the inhabitants of the plain because they had(U) chariots of iron. 20(V) And Hebron was given to Caleb, as Moses had said. And he drove out from it(W) the three sons of Anak. 21But the people of Benjamin did not drive out the Jebusites who lived in Jerusalem,(X) so the Jebusites have lived with the people of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day.

Thus chapter 1 continues with the displacement of Israel, destroying what is not good and renaming and devoting what is good (as represented by the name “Hormah”, which means devoted/devotion), perhaps also implied through the Hebrew wordplay of the names Gaza, Ashkelon, Ekron, respectively revealing insight into the event of displacement as that completed by those truly strong by the LORD, as they discern and weigh what is good for His Name, and a destruction by the roots where there is anything which represents otherwise (Deuteronomy 9:3, 14).

Again, interlaced in the midst of this warfare do we see a humble people akin to Joshua and the Levites in living humbly, perhaps even in tents, in a land which is not rebuilt for its previous idolatry (Jericho, the city of palms).  In the words of Matthew Henry:

“The Kenites gained a settlement in the tribe of Judah, choosing it there rather than in any other tribe, because it was the strongest, and there they hoped to be safe and quiet, Jdg_1:16. These were the posterity of Jethro, who either went with Israel when Moses invited them (Num_10:29) or met them about the same place when they came up from their wanderings in the wilderness thirty-eight years after, and went with them then to Canaan, Moses having promised them that they should fare as Israel fared, Num_10:32. They had at first seated themselves in the city of palm-trees, that is, Jericho, a city which never was to be rebuilt, and therefore the fitter for those who dwelt in tents, and did not mind building. But afterwards they removed into the wilderness of Judah, either out of their affection to that place, because solitary and retired, or out of their affection to that tribe, which perhaps had been in a particular manner kind to them. Yet we find the tent of Jael, who was of that family, far north, in the lot of Naphtali, when Sisera took shelter there, Jdg_4:17. This respect Israel showed them, to let them fix where they pleased, being a quiet people, who, wherever they were, were content with a little. Those that molested none were molested by none. Blessed are the meek, for thus they shall inherit the earth.

Yet, there is some confusion in the translation of v.19 – why would obeying the LORD lead to a failure in conquering the iron chariots of Canaan?  Given the past conquest of Israel by the name of the LORD, in the form of the 10 plagues, of the parting of the Red Sea and river of Jordan, of the miracles witnessed time and time again, it should perhaps be explained that the verse was improperly rendered and/or something implied in between the verses lest we charge Yahweh with inconsistency in his potency to conquer his enemies:

were the iron chariots too strong for Omnipotence? The whole of this verse is improperly rendered. The first clause, The Lord was with Judah should terminate the 18th verse, and this gives the reason for the success of this tribe: The Lord was with Judah, and therefore he slew the Canaanites that inhabited Zephath, etc., etc. Here then is a complete period: the remaining part of the verse either refers to a different time, or to the rebellion of Judah against the Lord, which caused him to withdraw his support. Therefore the Lord was with Judah, and these were the effects of his protection; but afterwards, when the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, etc., God was no longer with them, and their enemies were left to be pricks in their eyes, and thorns in their side, as God himself had said. This is the turn given to the verse by Jonathan ben Uzziel, the Chaldee paraphrast: “And the Word of Jehovah was in the support of the house of Judah, and they extirpated the inhabitants of the mountains; but afterwards, When They Sinned, they were not able to extirpate the inhabitants of the plain country, because they had chariots of iron.” They were now left to their own strength, and their adversaries prevailed against them.” – Adam Clarke

Taking into the account that verse numbers and labels as used in the English Bibles are not used for the Hebrew Bible, we can see how the beginning of v.19 could in fact be actually part of v.18, and thus everything from v.19 onwards is, according to Adam Clarke here, a representation of a different period when Judah sinned, which would complement well the failure of Benjamin to conquer the Jebusites, most likely again due to their failure to adhere to the LORD, a failure in part attributed also to Judah for they are geographically tied (Joshua 15:63) due to the location of Jerusalem in between Judah and Benjamin.  However, next to their failures is once again the success of Caleb in v.20 – his defeating of the three sons of Anak surely a more powerful testimony of his obedience to Christ than being defeated by the comparatively weak iron chariots.

22The house of Joseph also went up against Bethel,(Y) and the LORD was with them. 23And the house of Joseph scouted out Bethel. ((Z) Now the name of the city was formerly Luz.) 24And the spies saw a man coming out of the city, and they said to him, “Please show us the way into the city,(AA) and we will deal kindly with you.” 25And he showed them the way into the city. And they struck the city with the edge of the sword, but they let the man and all his family go. 26And the man went to(AB) the land of the Hittites and built a city and called its name Luz. That is its name to this day.

“As Luz signifies an almond, almond or hazel tree, this place probably had its name from a number of such trees growing in that region…

…From Beth-El came the Baetylia, Bethyllia, Βαιτυλια, or animated stones, so celebrated in antiquity, and to which Divine honors were paid. The tradition of Jacob anointing this stone, and calling the place Beth-El, gave rise to all the superstitious accounts of the Baetylia or consecrated stones, which we find in Sanchoniathon and others. These became abused to idolatrous purposes, and hence God strongly prohibits them, Lev_26:1; and it is very likely that stones of this kind were the most ancient objects of idolatrous worship; these were afterwards formed into beautiful human figures, male and female, when the art of sculpture became tolerably perfected, and hence the origin of idolatry as far as it refers to the worshipping of images, for these, being consecrated by anointing, etc., were supposed immediately to become instinct with the power and energy of some divinity. Hence, then, the Baetylia or living stones of the ancient Phoenicians, etc. As oil is an emblem of the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, so those who receive this anointing are considered as being alive unto God, and are expressly called by St. Peter living stones, 1Pe_2:4, 1Pe_2:5. May not the apostle have reference to those living stones or Baetyllia of antiquity, and thus correct the notion by showing that these rather represented the true worshippers of God, who were consecrated to his service and made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and that these alone could be properly called the living stone, out of which the true spiritual temple is composed?”

Once again, we learn here a new name given to reveal new insight into God’s plan of redemption through Israel.  Here we see that the house of Joseph went up against Bethel, the house of God, formerly called Luz, which signifies an almond/almond or hazel tree.  It here that we find a connection between the almond blossoms of the lampstand of the tabernacle (Exodus 37:19-20), a prophecy once more maintained in Jeremiah 1:11 – the almond tree being the first to flower and bring forth fruit, and thus Jacob’s anointing of this stone directly related to the anointing of the Holy Spirit on the living stones referred to in Clarke’s commentary through the anointing of the Rock, the Stone of Ages.

What is ironic is that in this particular conquest against Bethel, the spies of the house of Joseph let go a man and a family who led the Israelites to destroy this city.  However, this was not a man of faith; the response is not the same as Rahab.  In fact, the response was overwhelmingly different – where Rahab stated the glories of Israel by Yahweh and positively supported the cause of the Christians (Joshua 2), the man was motivated by his desire to maintain his family and the name of Luz.  This is a strong reminder for Christians to conquer with the view of salvation, rather than a mere conquering of land.  Though Joseph succeeded against Bethel, they failed in the greater purpose of sowing seeds of the gospel in the heart of the people who helped achieve the lesser purpose of victory in warfare.

Failure to Complete the Conquest

27(AC) Manasseh did not drive out the inhabitants of Beth-shean and its villages, or Taanach and its villages, or the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, or the inhabitants of Ibleam and its villages, or the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages, for the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 28When Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not drive them out completely.

Tribe/Person/Group Success Land displaced/compromised
Judah (v.3-19) Partial Defeated Canaanites and Perizzites (v.5); Bezek; Jerusalem; Negeb; Hebron (Kiriath-arba); Sheshai; Ahiman; Talmai; Debir (Kiriath-sepher); Hormah (Zephath); Gaza; Ashkelon; Ekron; but failed against the iron chariots
Simeon (v.3-19) Same as above Same as above
Caleb (v.20) Yes Hebron
Benjamin (v.21) No Jerusalem
House of Joseph (v.22) Partial Bethel (but resulting in the new city of Luz in the land of the Hittites)
Manasseh (v.27-28) No Beth-shean; Taanach; Dor; Ibleam; Megiddo
Ephraim (v.29) No Gezer
Zebulun (v.30) No Kitron; Nahalol
Asher (v.31-32) No Acco; sidon; Ahlab; Achzib; Helbah; Aphik; Rehob
Naphtali (v.33) No Beth-shemesh; Beth-anath
Dan (v.34) No Mt. Heres; Aijalon; Shaalbim; border of Amorites (from ascent of Akrabbim, from Sela and upwards)

From the table, we can see that v.28 is a good summary of the omen for the tribes extending to v.29-36 which display the extent of the compromise of the Israelites.  Instead of the two options of eradicating the enemies of Yahweh (representing the eschatological judgment of the Day of Resurrection), or subjecting them to immediate true faith in Jesus Christ, they have opted for a third option which betrays the majority of their failures – their sympathy for their enemy.  It is this reason that they forget a very important thing: that they succeed because it is the LORD’s doing, and they fail because it is the LORD’s permission.  The sympathy of these Israelites is not their decision to make, but even mercy must come from wise discernment of the LORD rather than their own volition (Deuteronomy 23) – and it is hardly faithful to Christ that they should make their enemies their slaves (of forced rather than willing labour) who will only lead them away from the true God and instead cultivate an attitude to worship false ones.

Judges 2

1Now the angel of the LORD went up from Gilgal to(AK) Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said,(AL) ‘I will never break my covenant with you, 2(AM) and you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land;(AN) you shall break down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed my voice. What is this you have done? 3So now I say,(AO) I will not drive them out before you, but they shall become(AP) thorns in your sides,[b] and their gods shall be a snare to you.” 4As soon as the angel of the LORD spoke these words to all the people of Israel, the people lifted up their voices and wept. 5And they called the name of that place Bochim.[c] And they sacrificed there to the LORD.

The disobedience of Israel is reflected in the words of the Angel of the LORD, the sent one of the Father who is the visible of the invisible Him, rephrasing the prophecy made concerning Israel’s rebellion stated in Deuteronomy 31:16-18.  The earliest written and recorded presence of the pre-Messianic incarnation of Christ in Scripture was in Genesis 3:8, and thereafter several times not only as “Angel” but also as Commander of the LORD’s army (Joshua 5), as the mysterious man with whom Jacob struggled with (Genesis 32:24), known also as the Angel of His Presence (Isaiah 63:9), who David is but a type of (Zechariah 12:8).

“The preacher was an angel of the Lord (Jdg_2:1), not a prophet, not Phinehas, as the Jews conceit; gospel ministers are indeed called angels of the churches, but the Old Testament prophets are never called angels of the Lord; no doubt this was a messenger we from heaven. Such extraordinary messengers we sometimes find in this book employed in the raising up of the judges that delivered Israel, as Gideon and Samson; and now, to show how various are the good offices they do for God’s Israel, here is one sent to preach to them, to prevent their falling into sin and trouble. This extraordinary messenger was sent to command, if possible, the greater regard to the message, and to affect the minds of a people whom nothing seemed to affect but what was sensible. The learned bishop Patrick is clearly of opinion that this was not a created angel, but the Angel of the covenant, the same that appeared to Joshua as captain of the hosts of the Lord, who was God himself. Christ himself, says Dr. Lightfoot; who but God and Christ could say, I made you to go up out of Egypt? Joshua had lately admonished them to take heed of entangling themselves with the Canaanites, but they regarded not the words of a dying man; the same warning therefore is here brought them by the living God himself, the Son of God appearing as an angel. If they slight his servants, surely they will reverence his Son. This angel of the Lord is said to come up from Gilgal, perhaps not walking on the earth, but flying swiftly, as the angel Gabriel did to Daniel, in the open firmament of heaven; but, whether walking or flying, he seemed to come from Gilgal for a particular reason. Gilgal was long their headquarters after they came into Canaan, many signal favours they had there received from God, and there the covenant of circumcision was renewed (Mic_6:5), of all which it was designed they should be reminded by his coming from Gilgal. The remembrance of what we have received and heard will prepare us for a warning to hold fast, Rev_3:2, Rev_3:3.” – Matthew Henry

Despite the constant changing of names in chapter 1, indicating the Israelites’ intention to renew the cities, we have here a renewal of name in the opposite direction – from the place of sacrifice labeled as Shiloh, we see the area renamed as Bochim.  From the tranquility of Shiloh (a name referring to Christ (Genesis 49:10)) to the weeping of Bochim, pre-incarnate Christ is here giving us the true perspective as to how we should read the book of Judges.  Note how absent Joshua is in the duration of chapter 1 to 2, later leading up to the re-iteration of his death in chapter 2.  Instead, what takes the spotlight is the Angel and the incapability of Israel to obey His Word, as He had already prophesied by the end of Deuteronomy.

Now this is very different from the Angel of God, representing the Father, in saying that he will never break the covenant with us (Judges 2:1).  Why is that the case?  Why can’t God break his covenant with us?  It is important here that we understand this in a Trinitarian covenantal manner rather than see him as a uni-personal monotheistic God.  Before creation, He had already made a covenant with us through Christ in His love for creation, and gifted us to Christ (the repeated refrain “[the people] whom You [the Father] gave to me [Christ]” in John 17), manifested in the imagery of the bride given to the bridegroom Adam, the mystery of Christ and the church represented in this institution of marriage.  It is this Father and Son relationship by the power of the Spirit which reflects Israel’s relationship with the Father, for Israel is a shadow of Christ, and as such is the body of Christ and the Old Testament church.  The dispensation of ‘Israel’ displays to us important eschatological truths, and the failures of Israel represent the failings of a theoretically sinful Angel, one who cannot keep the covenant relationship with his father – and Satan fits that character profile.

However, on a second layer, we see Israel as a church of Christ and so because of Israel’s failure to hold onto Christ, they do not inherit the blessings of the Son’s unceasing eternal covenant with the Father by the Spirit.  As such we must stand in Christ and He impute to us his righteousness by clothing us with his royal robe (Isaiah 61).  In Eberhard Jungel’s assessment of Barth’s theology are these words precise in describing the inter-relatedness of our relationship with God which undoubtedly applies to Israel and Yahweh as well:

“The attitude and relation implicit in God’s primal decision can only be grounded in revelation, which, for Barth, means christologically.  Accordingly, Barth comprehends in the name Jesus Christ the God who elects, elect humanity, and God’s attitude and relation which determines God to be the one who elects and elect humanity.  ‘Jesus Christ is the decision of God in favour of this attitude or relation.  He is Himself the relation.’  In this relation, which is Jesus Christ, God and man are alongside each other.  For in this relation, which is Jesus Christ, God relates himself to the man Jesus.  And ‘the man and the people represented in Him are creatures and not God’.” – ‘God’s Being is in Becoming

The Death of Joshua

6When Joshua dismissed the people, the people of Israel went each to his inheritance to take possession of the land. 7(AQ) And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel. 8And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died at the age of 110 years. 9And they buried him within the boundaries of(AR) his inheritance in Timnath-heres,(AS) in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash. 10And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.

As such, it makes sense for us to read about the death of Joshua after the Angel’s brief rebuke to the Israelites.  This is chronologically before the independence of the tribes and their subsequent failures for failing to hold onto Christ in Whom they participate in the covenant relationship with the Father.  V.10 is a summary of those generations after Joshua, those who did not witness these miracles; however, that is no excuse for the command in Deuteronomy 6 is that the subsequent generations are to hear about these truths from faithful Christian parenting.  This is evidently absent in the book of Judges for the majority did what was right in their own eyes (Judges 21:25).  Like the ‘gods’ (elohim, a label used in Genesis 1:1 but literally meaning ‘gods’ rather than an implication of the unity of the Trinity in Exodus 32:4), we see the reference to the baals, literally meaning “lords”.  And so v.6-15 is a summary of all that has happened since the time of the death of Joshua, the true explanation behind the initial failures of the tribes as chronicled in Judges 1 – because they served the Baals (v.11); because they went after other gods, among the gods of the peoples who were around them (v.12-13), and so v.15 explains the difference between the ensured success of Caleb, with that of the other tribes who had compromised success (c.f. Deuteoronomy 27:15-26).  Caleb, the example of the true Christian, against the other tribes who put their enemies to forced labour against God’s will.

11(AT) And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals. 12(AU) And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt.(AV) They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and(AW) bowed down to them.(AX) And they provoked the LORD to anger. 13They abandoned the LORD(AY) and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth. 14(AZ) So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he(BA) gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them.(BB) And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies,(BC) so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. 15Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned,(BD) and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.

The LORD Raises Up Judges

16(BE) Then the LORD raised up judges,(BF) who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them. 17Yet they did not listen to their judges, for(BG) they whored after other gods and bowed down to them.(BH) They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so. 18Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them,(BI) the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge.(BJ) For the LORD was moved to pity by(BK) their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. 19But(BL) whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways. 20(BM) So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people(BN) has transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21(BO) I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22in order(BP) to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not.” 23So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.

From v.16-22 we receive another summary – that of the period of testing between the death of Joshua until the time of Saul, the first king of Israel.  V.18-19 are crucial verses determining whether Israel would fall or not, as the judges were merely examples of what we cannot do, but what Christ can do.  The analogy comes forth in the shape of king, but even ‘kingship’, ‘judgeship’, ‘prophethood’ is temporary – but eternal priesthood of Melchizedek before the dispensation of kings and judges, before the Mosaic administration of the legal covenant – Abraham, no, indeed Adam was already a priest and steward and inheritor of heaven and earth in Christ who is the true image and inheritor.  So that when Israel grew older and matured, the law has served its purpose of testing, and the gospel of Christ at full noon reveals the spiritual Israel through the shaming of the Israelites by the salvation of the Gentiles en masse, like that of the salvation of the Ninevites with Jonah representing the reluctant, introverted self-absorbed Israel.  The Israel which has continually failed its great commission as the priesthood and light to all nations.

What makes the analogy and imagery more potent compared to the lessons learnt in the book of Numbers is that many of these judges stood by the LORD; many of them were Spirit-filled; and yet many more of them became instruments for evil (Romans 6:13), and many were temporary mediators.  Their deaths as mentioned in this summary emphasise on the unlikelihood that they were sufficient in propitiating God’s wrath, and only Christ, the object of faith of the Old Testament saints, is the eternal mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5).   Thus the words of the author of Hebrews:

Heb 13:8-15  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  (9)  Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings, for it is good for the heart to be strengthened by grace, not by foods, which have not benefited those devoted to them.  (10)  We have an altar from which those who serve the tent have no right to eat.  (11)  For the bodies of those animals whose blood is brought into the holy places by the high priest as a sacrifice for sin are burned outside the camp.  (12)  So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood.  (13)  Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.  (14)  For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come.  (15)  Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.

Hebrews 13 successfully conveys the temporal nature of this world; the temporal nature of the shadows; the temporal nature of the Mosaic administration of the legal covenant – and there is no reason why we should not emphasise also the temporal nature of the dispensation of the judges.  It is through the eternal High Priest that He continually offers up a sacrifice of praise to God, through his own blood, on our behalf, until the day he leaves the Holy of Holies for his second coming as true Judge and true King of the world.

Judges 1-2: The Angel our Judge

Joshua 23-24: The Next Generation

Joshua 23

Joshua’s Charge to Israel’s Leaders

1A long time afterward, when the LORD had given(A) rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua(B) was old and well advanced in years, 2Joshua(C) summoned all Israel, its elders and heads, its judges and officers, and said to them, “I am now old and well advanced in years. 3And you have seen all that the LORD your God has done to all these nations for your sake,(D) for it is the LORD your God who has fought for you.

And so we come to the final chapters of Joshua.  How fitting a leader he has been, the entire book marking his unstoppable victory over the neighbouring races in Canaan.  v.3 in particular celebrates that these victories came from the LORD alone, it is the “LORD [their] God who has fought for [them]”.  This humility is fitting for a king, and indeed even Christ himself would proclaim that it is not His own will that he is to complete the redemption of creation through the cross, but His Father’s.

Does this mean that Christ is not glorified, and only His Father?  By no means, for he arose to the right hand of the Father; does this mean that Joshua is not glorified, and only Yahweh?  By no means, for by his obedience and faith in Christ is he clearly exalted, old and advanced in years suffering much persecution under the Egyptians and dwelling for such a long period of time being one of the last people who have lasted the entirety of the chronicles between Exodus and Joshua.  Even the great saints of old had been marred with sin – Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Miriam.  However, this book has narrated and characterized his story as that of Yeshua, a Hebrew name and term for ‘salvation’.  Although it is Joshua who has saved the Israelites by giving them the firstfruit of the land, it is through the true Yeshua that the Old and New Testament saints gain the firstfruit deposited through the Holy Spirit.

4Behold,(E) I have allotted to you as an inheritance for your tribes those nations that remain, along with all the nations that I have already cut off, from the Jordan to the Great Sea in the west. 5The LORD your God(F) will push them back before you and drive them out of your sight. And you shall possess their land,(G) just as the LORD your God promised you. 6Therefore,(H) be very strong to keep and to do all that is written in the Book of the Law of Moses,(I) turning aside from it neither to the right hand nor to the left, 7(J) that you may not mix with these nations remaining among you(K) or make mention of the names of their gods(L) or swear by them or serve them or bow down to them, 8(M) but you shall cling to the LORD your God just as you have done to this day. 9(N) For the LORD has driven out before you great and strong nations. And as for you,(O) no man has been able to stand before you to this day. 10(P) One man of you puts to flight a thousand, since it is the LORD your God(Q) who fights for you, just as he promised you. 11(R) Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God. 12For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you(S) and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, 13know for certain that(T) the LORD your God will no longer drive out these nations before you,(U) but they shall be a snare and a trap for you, a whip on your sides and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good ground that the LORD your God has given you.

Yet, like what is proclaimed in Deuteronomy 31:16, Israel will continue to whore after idols.  V.6-8 in particular uses the similar imagery and language of whoring, of prostitution, of making marriages with the remnant of these nations (v.12) – these remnants being a result of each tribe being too incapable and too disobedient to completely drive them out.  Such is the nation which does not hold onto Christ – the entangling of the whoredom epitomized in Abraham’s intercourse with Hagar, of the church of Ephesus losing her first love (Revelation 2:4), spawning off the seeds of destruction rather than the Seed of Promise whose first love is the church; the vine of Sodom and Gomorrah rather than the vine of Christ who is engaged to the Bridegroom.  Paul’s theology stems from the theology of these Old Testament saints, saying nothing beyond what Moses and the prophets had stated (Acts 26:22, 28:23), and the plucking of these Israelites from the vine of Christ will be most apparent in the first incarnation, and once more in His second coming where the spiritual church shall be revealed before the ashamed physical church which the unbelieving Israel is a type of.

Note also Christ’s words before He ascends: “…Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).  Again, in Luke 24:46-49, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.  But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  There is much similarity between his temporary departure and Joshua 23:14-16:

14“And now(V) I am about to go the way of all the earth, and you know in your hearts and souls, all of you, that(W) not one word has failed of all the good things[a] that the LORD your God promised concerning you. All have come to pass for you; not one of them has failed. 15But just as all the good things that the LORD your God promised concerning you have been fulfilled for you, so the LORD will bring upon you(X) all the evil things, until he has destroyed you from off this good land that the LORD your God has given you, 16if you transgress the covenant of the LORD your God, which he commanded you, and go and serve other gods and bow down to them. Then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and you shall perish quickly from off the good land that he has given to you.”

The difference is largely laying in the fact that Christ himself is no mere prophet – but he is the Sent One with the power to send the promise of His Father upon all Christians; the Person who can be with us to the end of the age.  Joshua, like Moses (end of Deuteronomy) and Jacob (Genesis 48-50) in their pre-sleep speeches laid out similar truths, but they were looking forward to the eternal Messiah.  As intimated in v.14, Joshua is about to “go the way of all the earth”.  What way is this?  The truth that is laid out on all the earth, as explained in Genesis 1 – that even seeds have to die and be reborn and bear new fruit; that saints are to go through the passage of death into resurrection; that the four seasons of the earth from the Jewish new year beginning at Fall (the American description of the season being more theologically poignant than the British term “Autumn”)in the month of Tishri, and the year ending in Summer, the month of full enjoyment of the harvest in the Spring-time which we are now in, beyond the Winter of death.  These are but a few tastes of the ways of the earth, of the gospel proclaimed to all of creation (Psalm 19; Romans 1), and even he must succumb to this natural process of life as Christ the head in Whom all creation holds together (Colossians 1) must forcefully resurrect even the non-believers on the Day of Resurrection, but unlike the rest of creation and the believers in Christ, they will receive no renewal nor redemption.

They were the definitive Messianic Israelites, yet they already preached the gospel in advance, the full expression of faith in Christ manifested in the central focus on the tabernacle.  As we see later in the books of Kings and Chronicles, we learn that Israel’s backsliding spirituality goes hand-in-hand with their inability to see beyond the shadows of the land, the sacrifice, and even the Name of God, beginning to call on other name(s) for protection.  V.15 in particular is proof that Israel is but a shadow and the failure of the majority in holding true to Christ so that the Gentiles should be given the gift of salvation to make them jealous (Romans 11:11), for despite Israel’s privilege and positive handicap of receiving the law of Moses, even those without the law (pre-Moses, and the Gentiles) would practice the law (c.f. Genesis 22) and become even more righteous than the Pharisees through their deeper understanding of the gospel which Israel will eventually lose.  The crux thus lies in Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”  Simon Gathercole investigates these statements of “coming” in “The Pre-existing Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark and Luke” as distinguishing between his Messiaship and his role as prophet like those before Him, from that of Joshua who is a typological Messiah-prophet.

Joshua 24

The Covenant Renewal at Shechem

1Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel(Y) to Shechem and(Z) summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel. And(AA) they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘Long ago,(AB) your fathers lived beyond the Euphrates, Terah, the father of Abraham and of Nahor; and(AC) they served other gods. 3(AD) Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and(AE) led him through all the land of Canaan, and made his offspring many.(AF) I gave him Isaac. 4And to Isaac I gave(AG) Jacob and Esau.(AH) And I gave Esau the hill country of Seir to possess,(AI) but Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. 5(AJ) And I sent Moses and Aaron,(AK) and I plagued Egypt with what I did in the midst of it, and(AL) afterward I brought you out.  6“‘Then(AM) I brought your fathers out of Egypt, and(AN) you came to the sea.(AO) And the Egyptians pursued your fathers with chariots and horsemen to the Red Sea. 7(AP) And when they cried to the LORD,(AQ) he put darkness between you and the Egyptians(AR) and made the sea come upon them and cover them;(AS) and your eyes saw what I did in Egypt.(AT) And you lived in the wilderness a long time. 8Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the other side of the Jordan.(AU) They fought with you, and I gave them into your hand, and you took possession of their land, and I destroyed them before you. 9(AV) Then Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, arose and fought against Israel.(AW) And he sent and invited Balaam the son of Beor to curse you, 10(AX) but I would not listen to Balaam. Indeed, he blessed you. So I delivered you out of his hand. 11(AY) And you went over the Jordan and came to Jericho,(AZ) and the leaders of Jericho fought against you, and also the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites [people of Jerusalem]. And I gave them into your hand. 12And I sent(BA) the hornet before you, which drove them out before you, the two kings of the Amorites; it was(BB) not by your sword or by your bow. 13I gave you a land on which you had not labored(BC) and cities that you had not built, and you dwell in them. You eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that you did not plant.’

Similar in style to the end of the last book of the Pentateuch, God repeats the works which he has done for Israel between v.2-10, from the time of Abraham to Isaac, from Isaac to Jacob the father of all Israelites, from Jacob to Moses – and under the banner of Moses, the end of the exodus of Israel finally in sight as they stand before the LORD in their own land.  For so many generations, the ancestors of the Israelites have been mobile in their witness and evangelism, and finally Israel has come to a halt.  Israel is the type of the church under the law of God, but the patriarchs themselves were also types of the church as well; the difference is the period.  Where the saints from Adam to Joseph were not under the law and in their mobility preached the good news of the promised Seed to come, typifying the Christians in the end times without a home, there are three layers to understanding what shadow Israel is portraying.

The first layer is that of Israel being the physical church, with the need to sift out those who are believing in Christ and those who, like the physical church today (but not the spiritual), attend church but do not have a relationship with Him.

The second layer is that of the difference in typology of church-hood between Israel and the mobile patriarchs – and it is that Israel represents the church in New Creation, in New Jerusalem, in True Canaan.  For we as a church today are hermits in the power of the Holy Spirit living in spiritual tents, but on the Day of Resurrection we will be ushered into the permanent physical kingdom where heaven and earth are united and we will still live under the laws of the kingdom but without compromise for we will be filled unceasingly with the intimacy of the Trinity – making the state of Israel’s kingdom so much more pitiful and less desirable when we compare her to the kingdom of New Jerusalem.

The third layer is that Israel is proclaimed as light to the nations – where the patriarchal Christians travelled in small groups, functioning as a fellowship of sorts, it is in Israel that we find a national Christocratic government of God.  Where Israel stood on the side of light, darkness confuses the pursuing Egyptians (where the narrative in Exodus shows the pillar of cloud and fire standing between the mixed multitude in Israel and Egypt c.f. Exodus 14:24, the narrative in Joshua interprets that as darkness which confounded the non-Christians for they were blind and deaf to the truth of God’s intervention for Israel).  Where Israel is incapable, the LORD fights entirely (v. 12 c.f. the hornets versus the natural weapons of the Israelites). In this manner, Israel is a type of Christ, for it is in Israel that we find the Holy Spirit; it is in Israel that we find the tabernacle, temple and shekinah glory of Yahweh, a truth foretold in the lives of the saints prior to Moses as listed out by God here.  What Israel represents is but a macro-perspective of what the patriarchs believed in; and what the New Jerusalem represents is but the true perspective of the golden times of Israel especially under the reign of David and Solomon.

And so, under these three layers of understanding the birth of the nation Israel from such a rich history of God’s provision do we see from v.13 that we as Christians will eat the fruit of vineyards and olive orchards that we did not plant as in New Creation, and as first prophesied in Genesis 2:15 when the first man was sabbathed in the garden planted by Christ.

Choose Whom You Will Serve

14(BD) “Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness.(BE) Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15(BF) And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD,(BG) choose this day whom you will serve, whether(BH) the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or(BI) the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.(BJ) But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

In v.14-15 we immediately see Joshua’s evangelism technique – he uses testimony, he uses history, he uses personal experiences to reach the conclusion of v.15 – “but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD”.  He gives the people an option – serve the gods beyond the River/in Egypt or even the ‘gods’ of the lands if they truly appeal to you still, after such a wealth and mound of witness as described at Gilead.  There is no need for him to re-iterate that there is only one true God, Yahweh, El, Elohim as the tribes on the east of Jordan had done in Joshua 22.  The historical evidence, the personal experience, the present witness of the tabernacle icons and sacrifices all witness and testify to the one true living God.  Hence their reaction in v.16-18:

16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods, 17for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed. 18And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

19But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is(BK) a holy God. He is(BL) a jealous God;(BM) he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20(BN) If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then(BO) he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.” 21And the people said to Joshua, “No, but we will serve the LORD.” 22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that(BP) you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then(BQ) put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.”

This portrayal of God in v.19-20 is undoubtedly one of the many reasons why the Marcionites amongst other heresies believe the God of the Old Testament to be different from the God of the New Testament; or even Joachim of Fiore’s interpretation of the Old Testament to be the ‘age of the Father’, the saints living under fear, and the New Testament and the End Times to be the ‘age of the Son’ and the ‘age of the Spirit’.  This however directly contradicts what the New Testament authors themselves understood, for there has always been only one mediator between man and God (1 Timothy 2:5), the creation being through Christ in  the head (bereshit – the very first word of Genesis, commonly mistranslated as “in the beginning”), and the gospel of all ages preached even to Abraham (Galatians 3-4) before the law was given.

Why then do Joshua’s words seem so misleading?  Because we are built upon misconceived Christian traditions which do not see Christ in the Old Testament!  For even in Hebrews 3, the first two chapters speaking of the supremacy and mediatorial role of Christ, emphasizes that it was those who left Egypt and were disobedient who did not enter the Promised Land.  It was those with “unbelieving heart” which led them to fall away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12); and that in 2 Peter 1 we are called to “supplement our faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfast-ness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” so that we do not act as though we have forgotten that we are cleansed from our former sins.

We are thus tested for the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:7), and like the Christians of the New Testament so also these Israelites are commanded by Joshua to serve the LORD (c.f. 1 Peter 1:13-25).  The misnomer of ‘faith alone’ has taught lies to this generation as if we are ‘secured’ in salvation by our one profession of faith, when Scripture teaches us that we are preserved in faith, that we are to persist, and that our good works are emblems of our faith and that these are done solely by God alone through the Son and Spirit.  And what this means is that if we disobey, then we grieve the Spirit and he rightly disciplines us; and if we fall after tasting the Spirit but not being indwelled by Him then we fall eternally; but if we thirst for Him, then he will continually protect us in the midst of inevitable sufferings which Christ himself experienced.  The oaths which the Israelites made in v.22 will be held against them, just as our oath to be Christians when we professed to be born again will be held against us, for we now know the truth and made a marriage vow which we should enjoy and not persistently break lest our marriage vow was built upon deception and lies and Spirit-less!  And so v.24 here is reflected in Hebrews 3:15 which quotes Psalm 95:7-8 – “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion”, the rebellion in the wildernesses.

25So Joshua(BR) made a covenant with the people that day, and put in place(BS) statutes and rules for them at Shechem. 26And Joshua(BT) wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And(BU) he took a large stone and set it up there(BV) under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. 27And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold,(BW) this stone shall be a witness against us, for(BX) it has heard all the words of the LORD that he spoke to us. Therefore it shall be a witness against you, lest you deal falsely with your God.” 28So Joshua(BY) sent the people away, every man to his inheritance.

Once again, we should not overlook the specific locations provided in the Old Testament narrative.  Let us first consider what we know of Shechem and a particular terebinth which has already been mentioned before the book of Joshua:

Gen 35:1-5  God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”  (2)  So Jacob said to his household and to all who were with him, “Put away the foreign gods that are among you and purify yourselves and change your garments.  (3)  Then let us arise and go up to Bethel, so that I may make there an altar to the God who answers me in the day of my distress and has been with me wherever I have gone.”  (4)  So they gave to Jacob all the foreign gods that they had, and the rings that were in their ears. Jacob hid them under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.  (5)  And as they journeyed, a terror from God fell upon the cities that were around them, so that they did not pursue the sons of Jacob.

Jacob hid all the foreign gods under the terebinth tree that was near Shechem.  Here, Joshua sets up a large stone and sets it up there under the terebinth that was by the sanctuary of the LORD – no doubt, any Israelite with a familiar understanding of the history of his or her ancestor would know that Joshua did not randomly choose a place to set up the large stone.  It is at Shechem, that Jacob destroyed the idols; it is under the oak, the terebinth, that the idols were taken away from sight; and it is now under the terebinth in Shechem near the sanctuary of the LORD that Joshua commands the Israelites to hold true to their words, as if it was God himself telling Jacob to do the same.  The parallel is thus made between Yahweh commanding Jacob/Israel, and Joshua commanding the nation Israel; Joshua standing in as a type of Yeshua, and Israel standing in as a fulfillment of the prophetic imagery of Jacob in Genesis 35.

Joshua’s Death and Burial

29(BZ) After these things Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the LORD, died, being 110 years old. 30And they buried him in his own inheritance at(CA) Timnath-serah, which is in the hill country of Ephraim, north of the mountain of Gaash.

Genesis 35 is not the only connection made, but also Genesis 50:26 when the patriarch Joseph also died at 110 years old.  Timnath-serah was Joshua’s inheritance as stated in Joshua 19:50, and Adam Clarke comments:

“The Septuagint add here, “And they put with him there, in the tomb in which they buried him, the knives of stone with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, according as the Lord commanded when he brought them out of Egypt; and there they are till this day.” St. Augustine quotes the same passage in his thirtieth question on the book of Joshua, which, in all probability, he took from some copy of the Septuagint. It is very strange that there is no account of any public mourning for the death of this eminent general; probably, as he was buried in his own inheritance, he had forbidden all funeral pomp, and it is likely was privately interred.”

Burial is an important tradition, and also indicative of where the promises of these OT saints lay.  The additional insight in the LXX is most welcome – putting the knives of stone with which he circumcised the children of Israel in Gilgal, reminding us of the mystery of circumcision first instituted in Genesis 18, looking forward to the life-circumcision of Christ and its replacement with water-baptism after Christ has fulfilled his incarnate mission.  This theme of burial, of necessary death, of the ‘ways of the earth’, is the typical way of how the Mosaic books have ended, with the deaths of Jacob, Joseph, Miriam, Aaron, Moses and now Joshua.

31(CB) Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua(CC) and had known all the work that the LORD did for Israel. 32(CD) As for the bones of Joseph, which the people of Israel brought up from Egypt, they buried them at Shechem, in the piece of land(CE) that Jacob bought from the sons of Hamor the father of Shechem for a hundred pieces of money.[b] It became an inheritance of the descendants of Joseph. 33And Eleazar the son of Aaron died, and they buried him at Gibeah, the town of(CF) Phinehas his son, which had been given him in(CG) the hill country of Ephraim.

Thus, it is fitting to look at the fulfillment of the treatment of Joseph’s bones from Genesis 50:25 and Exodus 13:19, the burying of the bones most likely to take place when the land of Canaan was completely taken.  It is at this point we realize that Joseph and Joshua are both receiving their funeral procession, the burial of Joseph’s bones in the land of his forefathers, as promised; and Joshua’s acceptance of the end of his life on earth in present creation.  It is interesting how he was called the servant of the LORD, a phrase used especially in Numbers 12:7, Deuteronomy 34:5 and Joshua 1:1 in reference to Moses placing him in line with those who stood by the LORD.  This is quite interesting, because the theme of servanthood is aligned to Stephen’s description of those who stand with Christ and those who stand against Him (Acts 7).  Joshua is now directly expressed to be with Christ, and Moses also – enabling us to read the Old Testament by understanding who is truly a Christian saint, doing His will, and those who belong to a non-Messianic non-Christ-focused Judaism.  As these saints were in many ways types of Christ, just as we are reflections of His image especially after being redeemed and the Holy Spirit conforming us to the Son, so an affront to Moses and Joshua is also an affront to Christ.  Matthew Henry looks at the extra-biblical views of Joshua’s death in seeing Joshua’s death in relation to Christ’s death:

“Joshua’s burying-place is here said to be on the north side of the hill Gaash, or the quaking hill; the Jews say it was so called because it trembled at the burial of Joshua, to upbraid the people of Israel with their stupidity in that they did not lament the death of that great and good man as they ought to have done. Thus at the death of Christ, our Joshua, the earth quaked. The learned bishop Patrick observes that there is no mention of any days of mourning being observed for Joshua, as there were for Moses and Aaron, in which, he says, St. Hierom and others of the fathers think there is a mystery, namely, that under the law, when life and immortality were not brought to so clear a light as they are now, they had reason to mourn and weep for the death of their friends; but now that Jesus, our Joshua, has opened the kingdom of heaven, we may rather rejoice.”

Almost immediately (in the narrative) comes the death of the high priest Eleazar, the obedient and eldest son of Aaron.  It should be noted here that whether or not the narrative is accurate in its chronology, the more important message is the coalescing of all the saints who had witnessed God’s miracles in relation to Egypt, the Exodus and the arrival at Canaan, from Joseph to Moses to Joshua to Eleazar.  They are thus buried with their forefathers, and they are living among those who have set the example of faith for the next generations to come.  Yet, it begs the question: how many more saints were like these mighty men?  Yahweh had been merciful on this weak, rebellious nation and time and time again he has set them examples of imperfect Christians who are still exalted amongst people who are simply rebellious, unbelieving and completely condemnation-worthy for they have much access to God’s witnesses in the tabernacle, the testimony of these saints, and so forth.  As Adam Clarke commentates, this is the same necessity for all those who profess Christianity: to “enter into a covenant with God through Christ”, and such profession must come with it good works stemming from marital love deposited by the Holy Spirit.  He continues:

“It does not appear that Joshua was ever married, or that he had any children. That he was high in the estimation of God, we learn from his being chosen to succeed Moses in the government of the people. He was the person alone, of all the host of Israel, who was deemed every way qualified to go out before the congregation, and go in: to lead them out, and bring them in; and be the shepherd of the people, because the Spirit of God was in him. See Num_27:17, etc. He is called the servant of God, as was Moses; and was, of all men of that generation, next in eminence to that great legislator… they gave him Timnath-serah, in the barren mountains of Ephraim, and even this he asked Jos_19:50. But was not this the best city in the land? No – it was even No city; evidently no more than the ruins of one that had stood in that place; and hence it is said, he builded the city and dwelt therein – he, with some persons of his own tribe, revived the stones out of the rubbish, and made it habitable.”

In such a short paragraph, Clarke hits on all the things true also of our Messiah Yeshua Christ.  He who was not married, so that he would marry his first love the Bride, the Church (Colossians 1:16; Revelation 19:7); He who was persecuted (Hebrews 13:13); He who was humbled (Psalm 8:5); He who was the Servant of servants (Acts 3:13) – and yet Christ would still take Jerusalem, the place where he was murdered and framed, and re-frame, re-new it as the central glory of New Creation – so much as to call it the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12; 21:2), as intimated by Joshua’s treatment of this seemingly hopeless peace of land.  And yet, Joshua is just a man, and the Messiah has still not come, not for another thousand years the Israelites are given the temporary institution of the Mosaic law, completely sufficient to point their mind towards Christ’s first coming and their impending resurrection in New Creation – and so the book of Joshua ends abruptly, on the deaths of those notable saints.  Joshua ends with the spirited image of the eternal oath made at Shechem, the Israelites full of hope and future; Acts ends on the active proclamation of Christ to the ends of the earth – there is much in common, and yet in the End Times, the proclamation is with much more vigour, much more enthuasiasm, much more speed, the spiritual Bridegroom much more united – the centripetal force of the Spirit working in ways more than an indwelling in the saints of the Old.  However, where there are times of Christ-focused Christians, there are times of rebellion even in the last 2000 years, and thus the end of Joshua rightly sets up the time of the Judges and Kings just as we also are in the time of Judges and Kings today until the coming New Jerusalem embodied in David and Solomon’s Kingdom to come.

Joshua 23-24: The Next Generation

Joshua 21-22: Witness

Joshua 21

Cities and Pasturelands Allotted to Levi

1Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of the Levites came(AF) to Eleazar the priest and to Joshua the son of Nun and to the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel. 2And they said to them(AG) at Shiloh in the land of Canaan,(AH) “The LORD commanded through Moses that we be given cities to dwell in, along with their pasturelands for our livestock.” 3So by command of the LORD the people of Israel gave to the Levites the following cities and pasturelands out of their inheritance.

Again, Joshua 21 opens with the focus on the decisions being made at Shiloh (v.2) and now focusing on the promises waiting to be fulfilled as mentioned by Moses, with respect to the allotment to the tribe of Levi.  Their allotment is unlike any other, just like the allotment made to Joshua.

Before we continue with looking at these three sub-tribes of the Levites, let us remind ourselves of their roles first mentioned in the book of Numbers (chapter 3):

Levites and Tabernacle

As the image suggests, the Kohathites stood on the south side with Reuben Simeon and Gad; the Gershonites stood on the back (west) side with Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin; the Merarites on the north side with Dan Asher and Naphtali and finally Moses, Aaron and his sons on the east side, towards the sunrise (where the tabernacle entrance also faces) with Judah, Issachar and Zebulun.

However, the groups of Levites are not so aligned in Joshua 21 as they were in Numbers 3.  What is interesting though is that the choices of the tribes are clockwise; so while the allotment is different from what is shown in Numbers 3, the choices are logically clockwise.  Thus, with the Kohathite priests (the sons of Aaron), they choose Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, all on the east, south and west side of the Tabernacle.  Then, with the Kohathites were land from Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh (west and north).  Next is the Gershonites, including Manasseh, Issachar, Asher and Naphtali (west, north, east).  Finally the Merarites, unsurprisingly taking the remaining tribes clockwise on east and south – Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.  It is unexplained by these specific choices were made, but it is in his providence that there is just mathematical logic and order behind the allotment for the Levites in a different way shown for the aforementioned 12 tribes of Israel.

Groups of Levites Verse Specific cities allotted Inheritance (summary)
Kohathite Priests (sons of Aaron) 4 11(AP) They gave them(AQ) Kiriath-arba (Arba being the father of Anak), that is Hebron,(AR) in the hill country of Judah, along with the pasturelands around it. 12But the fields of the city and its villages had been given to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as his possession.  13And to the descendants of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron,(AS) the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands,(AT) Libnah with its pasturelands, 14Jattir with its pasturelands, Eshtemoa with its pasturelands, 15Holon with its pasturelands, Debir with its pasturelands, 16Ain with its pasturelands, Juttah with its pasturelands, Beth-shemesh with its pasturelands—nine cities out of these two tribes; 17then out of the tribe of Benjamin,(AU) Gibeon with its pasturelands, Geba with its pasturelands, 18Anathoth with its pasturelands, and Almon with its pasturelands—four cities. 19The cities of the descendants of Aaron, the priests, were in all thirteen cities with their pasturelands. 13 cities out of the tribes of Judah, Simeon (v.8-16) and Benjamin (v.17-19)
Kohathite Levites 5 20(AV) As to the rest of the Kohathites belonging to the Kohathite clans of the Levites, the cities allotted to them were out of the tribe of Ephraim. 21To them were given Shechem,(AW) the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasturelands in the hill country of Ephraim, Gezer with its pasturelands, 22Kibzaim with its pasturelands, Beth-horon with its pasturelands—four cities; 23and out of the tribe of Dan, Elteke with its pasturelands, Gibbethon with its pasturelands, 24Aijalon with its pasturelands, Gath-rimmon with its pasturelands—four cities; 25and out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Taanach with its pasturelands, and Gath-rimmon with its pasturelands—two cities. 26The cities of the clans of the rest of the Kohathites were ten in all with their pasturelands. 10 cities out of the tribes of Ephraim (v.20-22), Dan (v.23-24) and the half-tribe of Manasseh (v.25-27))
Gershonites 6 27(AX) And to the Gershonites, one of the clans of the Levites, were given out of the half-tribe of Manasseh, Golan in Bashan with its pasturelands,(AY) the city of refuge for the manslayer, and Beeshterah with its pasturelands—two cities; 28and out of the tribe of Issachar, Kishion with its pasturelands, Daberath with its pasturelands, 29Jarmuth with its pasturelands, En-gannim with its pasturelands—four cities; 30and out of the tribe of Asher, Mishal with its pasturelands, Abdon with its pasturelands, 31Helkath with its pasturelands, and Rehob with its pasturelands—four cities; 32and out of the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with its pasturelands,(AZ) the city of refuge for the manslayer, Hammoth-dor with its pasturelands, and Kartan with its pasturelands—three cities. 33The cities of the several clans of the Gershonites were in all thirteen cities with their pasturelands. 13 cities out of the other half tribe of Manasseh (v.25-27), and the tribes of Issachar (v.28-29), Asher (v.30-31) and Naphtali (v.32-33)
Merarites 7 34(BA) And to the rest of the Levites, the Merarite clans, were given out of the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its pasturelands, Kartah with its pasturelands, 35Dimnah with its pasturelands, Nahalal with its pasturelands—four cities; 36and out of the tribe of Reuben,(BB) Bezer with its pasturelands, Jahaz with its pasturelands, 37Kedemoth with its pasturelands, and Mephaath with its pasturelands—four cities; 38and out of the tribe of Gad,(BC) Ramoth in Gilead with its pasturelands, the city of refuge for the manslayer,(BD) Mahanaim with its pasturelands, 39(BE) Heshbon with its pasturelands, Jazer with its pasturelands—four cities in all. 40As for the cities of the several Merarite clans, that is, the remainder of the clans of the Levites, those allotted to them were in all twelve cities. 12 cities out of the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Zebulun (v.34-40)
All Levites 41-45 48 cities

43(BG) Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44(BH) And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers.(BI) Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for(BJ) the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. 45(BK) Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.

It should be noted in the final two verses of Joshua 21 that this allotment to the Levites is an exact fulfillment of all of God’s promises (v.8 and 43-35).  It goes without question that the land is equally distributed: 48 cities out of 12 tribes to all the Levites, on average four cities per tribe.   The half-tribes of Manasseh each gave two cities, and every city except for Naphtali (which gave three cities) each gave four cities (Judah and Simeon are excepted because they both give nine cities, meaning one gave five while the other gave four).  The inadequacy of Naphtali was made up by the adequacy of Judah.

Again, the text here seems sparse on the indication why there is an unequal treatment concerning Naphtali and Judah, perhaps indicative of the refuge being found in the south rather than the north; perhaps indicative of the southern kingdom coming through after the Babylonian captivity as redefining Israel through Judah; or whether this is a basic theology of the church, where the church body manifested in the expression of the 12 tribes support and make up one another where one part of the body needs to be supplemented by another part.  The intermingling of the different tribes of the Levites are important, but one must not simply glean them over, for they stick largely to their respective tribes as in Numbers 3.

Ultimately, the macro-message provided here is the fulfillment of the promisese as indicated in v.43-45, especially the true rest which is eschatologically implied in Deuteronomy.  The Levites are the best example of such, alongside Joshua, both understanding deeply that the land itself is but a shadow, and that the refuge cities, the names of the land and even the allocation itself is a revelation of the gospel of Christ and the nature and detail of his first coming – from his birth in Bethlehem, Judah, to his journey throughout the land of the 12 tribes from south to north of Israel, to south again, his important fulfillment of the meaning of the wilderness when he was tempted there for 40 days and 40 nights and his important return to Jerusalem, its ancient name (Salem) bearing truth to Melchizedek who is also a shadow pointing to Who Christ truly is.

Joshua 22

The Eastern Tribes Return Home

1At that time Joshua summoned the Reubenites and the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, 2and said to them, “You have kept(BL) all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you(BM) and have obeyed my voice in all that I have commanded you. 3You have not forsaken your brothers these many days, down to this day, but have been careful to keep the charge of the LORD your God. 4(BN) And now the LORD your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies,(BO) which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you on the other side of the Jordan. 5(BP) Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded you,(BQ) to love the LORD your God, and to walk in all his ways and to keep his commandments and to cling to him and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” 6So Joshua(BR) blessed them and sent them away, and they went to their tents.

As soon as chapter 21 comes to fruition, chapter 22 immediately opens with v.6 and 8 both focusing on the tents.  V.8 in particular is a recalling of the liquidation of assets in Acts 2:45-47 where Joshua commands that the spoils of Israel’s enemies shall be divided among the brothers – not so different from Acts 2:45’s “distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need“.  This therefore continues in the theme of the parallel between the book of Acts and Joshua, whereupon the first 21 chapters have considered the redemption of land and possessions from non-Christians to the LORD, reflective of the consequences of evangelism in the book of Acts as more are added to the body of Christ and thus their possessions are under their stewardship to be offered to Christ.

It is for this reason that the wealth of the tribes do not detract our attention from their tent-like life; the comparison is made again between Abraham and Lot – the former living in a tent (c.f. Hebrews 11), the latter living in a city; the former preaching the gospel after receiving it, travelling as the LORD commanded and tracing the steps which Israel has been taking since the book of Exodus, and the latter being stuck in one place, not heeding the LORD’s calling and bringing the gospel to no-one, not even to his wife who died as an unbeliever.

7Now to the one half of the tribe of Manasseh Moses had given a possession in Bashan,(BS) but to the other half Joshua had given a possession beside their brothers in the land west of the Jordan. And when Joshua sent them away to their homes and blessed them, 8he said to them, “Go back to your tents with much wealth and with very much livestock, with silver, gold, bronze, and iron, and with much clothing.(BT) Divide the spoil of your enemies with your brothers.” 9So the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned home, parting from the people of Israel at Shiloh, which is in the land of Canaan, to go(BU) to the land of Gilead, their own land of which they had possessed themselves by command of the LORD through Moses.

And so the people of Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned to their new home parting from the people of Israel at Shiloh in Canaan to the land of Gilead, from Shiloh in Canaan – both names respectively typifying Christ and the low-land (“lowland, or possibly also meaning to be humbled“) – compared with Gilead which is named as the mound of witnesses.  It is thus not coincidental that the narrator decides to use the word “Gilead” just before v.10-12 when the tribes on the east of Jordan allegedly build a pagan altar of witness.

The Eastern Tribes’ Altar of Witness

10And when they came to the region of the Jordan that is in the land of Canaan, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built there an altar by the Jordan, an altar of imposing size. 11And the people of Israel(BV) heard it said, “Behold, the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh have built the altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region about the Jordan, on the side that belongs to the people of Israel.” 12And when the people of Israel heard of it,(BW) the whole assembly of the people of Israel gathered at Shiloh to make war against them.

To begin with is the language used by the narrator between v.10-12: the “altar of imposing size”, the side that “belongs to the people of Israel” and finally the gathering at Shiloh to “make war against” the tribes on the east of the Jordan which have seemingly defected.

Here is a taste of what some commentators have said concerning the reaction of Israel and the illegality of what the eastern tribes have done:

“We know how strictly the Law prohibited two altars, (Exo_20:24) for the Lord wished to be worshipped in one place only. Therefore, when on the very first blush of the case, all were at once led to think that they were building a second altar, who would not have judged them guilty of sacrilege in framing a ritual of a degenerate description, at variance with the Law of God? Seeing, then, that the work might be deemed vicious, they ought, at least, in so great and so serious a matter, to have made their brethren sharers in their counsel; more especially were they in the wrong in neglecting to consult the high priest, from whose lips the divine will was to be ascertained. They were, therefore, deserving of blame, because, as if they had been alone in the world, they considered not what offence might arise from the novelty of the example. Wherefore, let us learn to attempt nothing rashly, even should it be free from blame, and let us always give due heed to the admonition of St. Paul, (1Co_6:12; 1Co_10:23) that it is necessary to attend not only to what is lawful, but to what is expedient; more especially let us sedulously beware of disturbing pious minds182 by the introduction of any kind of novelty.” (John Calvin)

What Calvin focuses on is absolutely true; there is no legal reason to set up an altar of ‘imposing size’ to seemingly vary from what the LORD had already required through the one High Priest and the one altar in the tabernacle.  However, I believe the focus is more on the seeming failure of Israel in accepting their brethren which seems to be the tone which the narrator is setting.  There is nothing to suggest that the brethren have taken time to send messengers to the eastern tribes; instead, their response is impulsive and reactionary to what they have ‘heard’.  They are not slow to anger and abounding in compassion; they are quick to war and slow to forgive.  Instead of the onus being on the eastern tribes to prove that they have not broken God’s law because of their pure intentions (as we shall later see), instead we have already seen the Israelites on the west side breaking God’s law of being merciful and peaceful (underlined in Deuteronomy 20:10).  This seeming failure to be graceful is included in the tone of v.11 – the altar on the side that “belongs to the people of Israel”, as if indicating that the altar should be on the eastern side even if the altar is legitimated.  Have the Israelites already forgotten the deeper truth of the Levites, that all land is but a shadow?  That even the edge of the land shall not be reaped so that the hungry and the strangers may benefit from God’s grace through the owner of the land (Leviticus 19:9).   However, that is not the case as we shall see from v.13 onwards.

13Then the people of Israel sent to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead,(BX) Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, 14and with him ten chiefs, one from each of the tribal families of Israel,(BY) every one of them the head of a family among the clans of Israel. 15And they came to the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh, in the land of Gilead, and they said to them, 16“Thus says the whole congregation of the LORD, ‘What is this breach of faith that you have committed against the God of Israel in turning away this day from following the LORD by building yourselves an altar this day(BZ) in rebellion against the LORD? 17Have we not had enough of(CA) the sin at Peor from which even yet we have not cleansed ourselves, and for which there came a plague upon the congregation of the LORD, 18that you too must turn away this day from following the LORD? And if(CB) you too rebel against the LORD today then tomorrow(CC) he will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel. 19But now, if the land of your possession is unclean, pass over into the LORD’s land(CD) where the LORD’s tabernacle stands, and take for yourselves a possession among us.(CE) Only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God. 20(CF) Did not Achan the son of Zerah break faith in the matter of the devoted things, and(CG) wrath fell upon all the congregation of Israel? And he did not perish alone for his iniquity.'”

The onslaught of the accusation is theologically precise between v.16-20 – the memory of Achan and the sin at Peor (Numbers 25:3) are still fresh in their minds.  The sin of Achan especially had induced fear into the heart of the Israelites on the west of Jordan: “only do not rebel against the LORD or make us as rebels by building for yourselves an altar other than the altar of the LORD our God“, immediately recognizing that as church of Christ they must rebuke the other parts of the Body lest those parts be thrown into Sheol.  The zest and fervour in keeping the whole congregation in tune with God’s commands is commendable, and as Adam Clarke says, we must not be “unconcerned spectators of [one’s] transgression, [as] we may all be implicated in its criminality”.

It is noticeable that the tone immediately shifts between v.12 and v.13; the opening verses of this chapter indicating that the eastern tribes have definitively sinned, as if no terms of peace or negotiation was necessary; and v.13 immediately recognizing the need for representatives to speak to the eastern tribes.  If one was to look at v.12 alone, Israel has failed; but v.13 has justified their potential act of war as necessitated in Deuteronomy (and as exampled in Peor and Achan), displaying their rigour in wanting to get things right despite their initial over-reaction.  The disciplines of God have not had their mark in the hearts of the Israelites, and for the first time we see that they have begun to grasp truly the likelihood of the sins in their hearts to lead them astray to other gods.  Such is the model for the church, that we understand just how deep our sins are so that in turning to Christ for desperation we are mutually and truly made brothers in Him.  As Glen Scrivener eloquently puts it on “Nice and Christian”:

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  (Col 3:13)”

Natural communities don’t have this.  At the first hint of nastiness, natural community fractures.  But for Christians nastiness is an opportunity.  Here’s where we truly show ourselves to be the people of Jesus.  We forgive.

Many people think nastiness ends Christian community.  The gospel says nastiness is where Christian community begins…

…We must bear with each other.  Forgive.  Show mercy towards opponents.  Die to self.  Crucify our own need to prove ourselves.  Answer harsh words with gentleness (Prov 15:1).  That’s where Christian community begins.”

21Then the people of Reuben, the people of Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said in answer to the heads of the families of Israel, 22“The Mighty One,(CH) God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD!(CI) He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the LORD, do not spare us today 23for building an altar to turn away from following the LORD. Or if we did so to offer burnt offerings or grain offerings or peace offerings on it, may the LORD himself(CJ) take vengeance. 24No, but we did it from fear that(CK) in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? 25For the LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the LORD.’ So your children might make our children cease to worship the LORD. 26Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, 27but to be(CL) a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we(CM) do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the LORD.”‘ 28And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, ‘Behold, the copy of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be(CN) a witness between us and you.’ 29Far be it from us that we should(CO) rebel against the LORD and turn away this day from following the LORD by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle!”

We see here that the tribes on the east do not wish to be immediately labeled as heretics, and given the sensitivity of Israel and their immediate procurement of the land of Canaan it is highly understandable.  Their particular proclamation in v.22 arouses great interest – “El Elohim YHVH” – using the three principal names by which the Trinity was known among the Hebrews, El simply meaning God, Elohim used commonly in God’s creative  and triune expressions (c.f. Genesis 1:1) and YHVH, the seemingly mystical name which the Christians have been calling on since before the days of Abraham (c.f. Genesis 4:26).  This proclamation shows their deep respect for God manifested in their immediate need to express everything and anything which defines him – and interestingly, it comes first in the form of proclaiming Him by his Name and character (v.21-22).  Then follows the expression of their understanding of the place of worship (the tabernacle and its mediatorial function) and the theology of offerings in Israel (v.23); then the need to exclaim this truth of God’s triunity and the deep meaning of the sacrificial offerings to the next generation (v.25; c.f. Deuteronomy 6) – and finally a return to the focus on the altar not for sacrifice but merely as a witness, fitting to the land of Gilead the mount of witnesses (v.26-29, a doctrinal repetition of truth laid down in Leviticus 17:8-9; Deuteronomy 12).

What is interesting is that it is, in a certain sense, the most ancient of all systematic theologies laid down – long before Irenaeus’ “Against All Heresies”, even longer because Peter Lombard’s “The Four Books of Sentences”.  Instead, we have here a curt summary of who God is – defined in his name, in his people (the generations to come), and in his sacrifice – and these are the things necessary to define whether the eastern tribes are truly persisting in faith, or have become apostates.

How often in present Christianity that we begin to create our own ‘core truths’ contrary to the short but insightful exclamation of the eastern tribes!  As if ‘faith alone’ is a sufficient doctrinal statement!  As if calling Jesus our “God” is a sufficient description of Who He is!  As if calling him our “sacrifice” is a true understanding of what He has done for us!  Each word is loaded with misconceptions, each capable of being misconstrued, respectively, as cheap faith and cheap grace; the Unitarian God of the Greeks and Arabs; the sacrifice which is neither penal nor substitutionary.  No – the eastern tribes have gotten it right – and they stand humbly before their second altar as witnesses to the truth which lies on the west of the Jordan; the truth and shadow which lies in Canaan; the central focus of the Old Testament which lies in the tabernacle (later to become the temple), and still the central focus of Christians today as we partake in Christ and too, our bodies become a holy temple housing His Holy Spirit.  They dare not take people’s eyes away from God, as if this is an implication of the iconoclastic controversy to come in the early church – because even those things in the proto-Roman Catholic theology are witnesses to the reality of Christ found only in the church, in the Word, leading us back to the Unseen Father.  This statement is good – and so good in their eyes (the refrain in v.30 and v.33) that it is almost a reflection of what God had stated about the six of the seven days of creation (except for day 2).

30When(CP) Phinehas the priest and the chiefs of the congregation, the heads of the families of Israel who were with him, heard the words that the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh spoke,(CQ) it was good in their eyes. 31And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the people of Reuben and the people of Gad and the people of Manasseh, “Today we know that(CR) the LORD is in our midst, because you have not committed this breach of faith against the LORD. Now you have delivered the people of Israel from the hand of the LORD.”  32Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, and the chiefs, returned from the people of Reuben and the people of Gad(CS) in the land of Gilead to the land of Canaan, to the people of Israel, and brought back word to them. 33And the report(CT) was good in the eyes of the people of Israel. And the people of Israel(CU) blessed God and spoke no more of making war against them to destroy the land where the people of Reuben and the people of Gad were settled. 34The people of Reuben and the people of Gad called the altar Witness, “For,” they said,(CV) “it is a witness between us that the LORD is God.”

In the KJV we find v.34 to be translated “Ed” as investigated by Adam Clarke:

“The word עד  Ed, which signifies witness or testimony, is not found in the common editions of the Hebrew Bible, and is supplied in Italics by our translators, at least in our modern copies; for in the first edition of this translation it stands in the text without any note of this kind; and it is found in several of Kennicott’s and De Rossi’s MSS., and also in the Syriac and Arabic. Several also of the early printed editions of the Hebrew Bible have the word עד, either in the text or in the margin, and it must be allowed to be necessary to complete the sense. It is very probable that an inscription was put on this altar, which pointed out the purposes for which it was erected.”

Despite the importance of this word being omitted from the ESV, the translation maintains the substance of the entire chapter – that the eastern tribes, and the western tribes, are all witnesses to the truth laid down in the one altar.  The one altar is the crux of their theology; the one form of offerings and sacrifices the central aspect moving Israel; the location, though mobile, still focuses on the God-ordained pattern according to heaven – the tabernacle.  However, like the second altar in the east, everything up to the incarnation of Christ is still a huge shadow, a huge Witness.  To this day, we also are witnesses – and the book of Joshua thematically carries with it the eschatological undertone which the book of Acts carries.  Both describe the firstfruits of creation, both describe the witness of redemption, and both describe that there are still greater and better things to come when the Day of Resurrection rises to full noon.

Joshua 21-22: Witness

Joshua 19-20: His Name in all names

Joshua 19

Allotment

The Inheritance for Simeon [#2]

1The second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the people of Simeon, according to their clans,(A) and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the people of Judah. 2(B) And they had for their inheritance Beersheba, Sheba, Moladah, 3Hazar-shual, Balah, Ezem, 4Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, 5Ziklag, Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah, 6Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen—thirteen cities with their villages; 7Ain, Rimmon, Ether, and Ashan—four cities with their villages, 8together with all the villages around these cities as far as Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negeb. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Simeon according to their clans.

What is particular noteworthy about Simeon is that it, alongside Levi, are the only two tribes which do not have their ‘own land’.  Indeed, the nature of Simeon’s ownership is different from Levi; the latter are perpetually part of the priesthood serving the LORD, and the former owning a small piece of land within the tents of Judah.  These two tribes are presently receiving their just deserts, in response to the massacre caused by these two brothers on the Shechemites in Genesis 34.  Genesis 49 accordingly prophesies what is to happen to these two tribes as fulfilled here in Joshua 19.

9(C) The inheritance of the people of Simeon formed part of the territory of the people of Judah. Because the portion of the people of Judah was too large for them, the people of Simeon obtained an inheritance in the midst of their inheritance.

As v.9 indicates and as aforementioned in the commentary on the borders of Judah, Simeon’s share in the land of Judah is a result of Judah having “too large” a portion of land for their own tribe.  Not only this, but their inheritance within Judah seems to be quite significant, ranging from the symbolic Beersheba (“well of (sevenfold) oath”), the house of chariots (Beth-marcaboth) and village of horses (Hazar-susah); house of lionesses (Bethlebaoth) and city of refuge (Sharuhen); alongside fountain spring, pomegranate and abundance in the city names of v.7.

It is not all rosy, given that there is also the Baalath-beer (“well of mistresses”); and if we were to look at the great possessions which Simeon now owns within the tents of Judah, one wonders whether this will become a bitter-sweet blessing, for Simeon to have the well of oath, the house of chariots, horses and lionesses, as well as including a city of refuge.  It is a land of many fruits and resources; however, like Levi, God has shined his mercy to Simeon as well.  Levi is now taken into God’s presence with more intimacy by working in the courts of the tabernacle; so also the Gibeonites who had deceived the Israelites are now forevermore the workers of the tabernacle altar; and here we see Simeon being made a brother of Judah, and Judah acting as the older brother guiding the tribe of Simeon to righteous warfare as opposed to what their forefather Simeon has done with the Shechemites (c.f. Judges 1:3; 1:17).

It is here that we learn much about familial theology; the prodigal son as commonly preached looks at the younger wayward son as representative of who we are, as if celebrating him alone.  However, the parable should always have functioned as a story of rebuke juxtaposed to restoration, rather than simply one of redemption as we spend our focus too much on the younger son when the older son’s actions should be equally if not more scrutinized.

“Gospel is not morality or immorality; it’s not somewhere in the middle… the gospel says the humble are in and the proud are not; the people who know they’re not good are in; it’s the people who think they are are out.  It’s not halfway between the two… it’s off the spectrum of human opinion altogether.  It’s something completely different… the people who heard this parable would have been confused… Jesus says that both of the ordinary human categories… are wrong…

If you become a Christian out of an elder-brother-ishness… then when you start to slide-back, you hardly even know you are sliding back.  Some of our churches are so filled with elder brother ishness and think it is normal… the elder brother lostness, deadness, which clings to so many of us…” – Tim Keller on the Prodigal Sons

Tim Keller goes on to list five of the characteristics of ‘elder brother-ishness’ in the churches today, all stemming from a lack of intimacy and assurance of the Father’s love; and here it is fitting to remind ourselves of how Simeon came to bear his name – the name literally means hearing, but it is more appropriate to describe it as “God has heard”.  The context is where Leah has heard that Rachel is more loved by Jacob, and yet God has heard Leah’s cry and pain and has continued to love Leah as equally as Rachel and Jacob.  Simeon is thus borne out of a lack of love by his human counterparts, but loved by God.  Here, we have Judah and Simeon, Judah also from Leah; however, Judah is now the bigger nation with more power.  In many ways, he is like the elder nation, yet Judah is taking Simeon under his wings.  Unlike the elder brother-ishness as described by Keller, Judah is playing the role of Christ, our true elder brother (spiritually, because Judah is actually Simeon’s younger brother).  It is by our true elder brother than we appropriate the firstfruit because he is the firstfruit.  He is the first to be resurrected; he is the first to have a renewed body; he is the first to ascend – and we will follow suit as we are his younger co-heirs.  Simeon equally, being under the shelter of Judah, receives the same blessings and like Levi and Gibeon we see a nation redeemed as God does not condemn but love them through Christ.

The Inheritance for Zebulun [#3]

10The third lot came up for the people of Zebulun, according to their clans. And the territory of their inheritance reached as far as Sarid.

Side Specific boundaries
West 11Then their boundary goes up(D) westward and on to Mareal and touches Dabbesheth, then the brook that is east of(E) Jokneam.
South and East 12From Sarid it goes in the other direction eastward toward the sunrise to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor. From there it goes to Daberath, then up to Japhia. 13From there it passes along on the east toward the sunrise to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and going on to Rimmon it bends toward Neah,
North 14then on the north the boundary turns about to Hannathon, and it ends at the Valley of Iphtahel; 15and Kattath, Nahalal,(F) Shimron, Idalah, and Bethlehem—twelve cities with their villages. 16This is the inheritance of the people of Zebulun, according to their clans—these cities with their villages.

Genesis 49:13 states that Zebulun shall be a haven for ships being near the coastline of Galilee and the Great Sea on the west.  Matthew Henry notes how Christ had spent much time in this region, so much as to be entitled Jesus of Nazareth, and whereupon on Mt. Tabor he was transfigured.  However, what is even more important is two particular occurrences: the continual reference to “eastward toward the sunrise” in v.12-13; and secondly the reference to Bethlehem of Zebulun (as opposed to the Bethlehem of Judah where Christ was born).

If this is the area where Christ performed much of his miracles and witnesses, one must wonder: why Zebulun of all tribal regions?  There is in fact much implication in the Hebrew imagery here; Zebulun is next to the sea of Galilee where there were many fishermen who would understand the theology behind fish in sea water as parallel to men to be saved from the waters of judgment as first shown during day 2 of creation and then during the Noahic flood.  Secondly, the particular Hebrew phrasing of ‘east towards the sunrise’ among all the other possible Hebrew phrases.  The sunrise is commonly associated to the dawn of the new day, of new hope (Psalm 19:4 Psalm 84:11; Malachi 4:2; Luke 1:78) – and so far for the specific descriptions of the borders of the tribes, this phrase has not been used besides that of Zebulun.  It is thus no coincidence that the LORD Jesus should use Zebulun as a working ground for his miracles and witnessing as Messiah, in a land near the sea; in a land where he was transfigured – all of these implied by the new rising hope of the coming Messiah in the second Bethlehem.  Where he is born from the House of Bread, he shall go to a symbolic second house of bread to perform his works because He is the true living Bread and He is the true living Clean Water.

The Inheritance for Issachar [#4]

17The fourth lot came out for Issachar, for the people of Issachar, according to their clans. 18Their territory included Jezreel, Chesulloth,(G) Shunem, 19Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, 20Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez, 21Remeth, En-gannim, En-haddah, Beth-pazzez.

Specific boundaries

22The boundary also touches Tabor, Shahazumah, and Beth-shemesh, and its boundary ends at the Jordan—sixteen cities with their villages. 23This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Issachar, according to their clans—the cities with their villages.

The narrative is short for the tribe of Issachar; yet it is a place of many significances, particularly the place where King Josiah is slain.  Dev Menon in his commentary on Revelation in particular looks at how this relates to Revelation 15-16 in the prophecy concerning “Armageddon”:

Revelation 16:15-16 “Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!” And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.

The Lord is coming soon, and those who are undressed, unprepared will not be ready. The Thief that comes in the night will expose all that is false, the trap shall be shut. Let us remember the Passover, and carry out the festival of Unleavened Bread – to remove the yeast of this world from our lives, until we can eat risen bread in luxury in the Promised Land:

Jesus will return like a thief.  He makes no appointment, He comes unexpectedly and on that day He will bring these plagues to an end.  He will judge His enemies and save His people.  Stay awake, stay dressed for that day.  It’s a little like the LORD’s command to the Israelites about Passover.  Eat it with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand. Be ready because the LORD will lead you out soon.  We belong to the next age – we belong to the new heavens and the new earth, don’t get caught up in this passing age (quoted from Glen Scrivener’s sermon on Revelation 15-16)

The victory is assured – the armies of the world assemble at the Mount of Megiddo, the very place where Josiah (God supports) was pierced. That is the place of their destruction. The place of the cross.”

This “Megiddo” is located in the tribe of Issachar and it sheds light on the prophecy in Genesis 49:14 which seems mysterious – a “strong donkey in the midst of the sheepfold”.  However, if we were to look at this prophecy eschatologically as referred to in Revelation, then we see the connection between King Josiah’s piercing and the place of the destruction of the enemy; it is there that Christ returns from the midst of the sheepfold as the true King; the humble Lamb who was always and continues to be the powerful Commander of the LORD’s armies, straddling the donkey victoriously into victory towards New Jerusalem.

The Inheritance for Asher [#5]

24The fifth lot came out for the tribe of the people of Asher according to their clans. 25Their territory included Helkath, Hali, Beten, Achshaph, 26Allammelech, Amad, and Mishal.

Side Specific boundaries
South and West On the west it touches(H) Carmel and Shihor-libnath, 27then it turns eastward, it goes to Beth-dagon, and touches Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtahel northward to Beth-emek and Neiel.
East, North and West Then it continues in the north to(I) Cabul, 28Ebron, Rehob, Hammon, Kanah, as far as(J) Sidon the Great. 29Then the boundary turns to Ramah, reaching to the fortified city of Tyre. Then the boundary turns to Hosah, and it ends at the sea; Mahalab,[a] Achzib, 30Ummah, Aphek and Rehob—twenty-two cities with their villages. 31This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Asher according to their clans—these cities with their villages.

The ‘fortified city of Tyre’ has generated quite a response amongst commentators, some saying that it is not the same Tyre as mentioned in the prophetic books.  Adam Clarke in particular investigates the differences in the Vulgate and LXX compared to the actual Hebrew:

“I suspect this to be an improper translation. Perhaps the words of the original should be retained: And the coast turneth to Ramah and to the city, מבצר צר  mibtsar tsor. Our translators have here left the Hebrew, and followed the Septuagint and Vulgate, a fault of which they are sometimes guilty. The former render the place ἑως πολεως οχυρωματος των Τυριων, unto the fortified city of the Tyrians. The Vulgate is nearly the same: ad civitatem munitissimam Tyrum, to the well-fortified city Tyre; but this must be incorrect for the famous city of Tyre was not known till about A.M. 2760, about two hundred years after the days of Joshua. Homer, who frequently mentions Sidon and the Sidonians, never mentions Tyre; a proof that this afterwards very eminent city was not then known. Homer is allowed by some to have flourished in the time of Joshua, though others make him contemporary with the Israelitish judges. The word צר  Tsor or Tsar, which we translate or change into Tyre, signifies a rock or strong place; and as there were many rocks in the land of Judea, that with a little art were formed into strong places of defense, hence several places might have the name of Tsar or Tyre. The ancient and celebrated Tyre, so much spoken of both in sacred and profane history, was a rock or small island in the sea, about six or seven hundred paces from the main land. In order to reduce this city, Alexander the Great was obliged to fill up the channel between it and the main land, and after all took it with much difficulty. It is generally supposed that a town on the main land, opposite to this fortified rock, went by the same name; one being called old Tyre, the other, new Tyre: it was out of the ruins of the old Tyre, or that which was situated on the main land, that Alexander is said to have filled up the channel between it and the new city. Of this city Isaiah, Isaiah 23:1-18, and Ezekiel, Ezekiel 27:1-28:26, have given a very grand description, and also predicted its irreparable ruin which prophecies have been most literally fulfilled.”

Genesis 49:20 has indicated that out of Asher shall come royal delicacies; however, the only thing “royal” about Asher is this notable city of Tyre which Adam Clarke, amongst other theologians, believes to be different from the later city of Tyre condemned by God in both Isaiah and Ezekiel.  The name “Asher” also indicates “happiness” and “blessing”, once more alluding to the fact that from Asher shall come benefits to the other nations and other tribes.  The text here by itself does not seem to yield enough information, perhaps save the Hebrew, which may have some hidden truths concerning the tribe.

The Inheritance for Naphtali [#6]

32The sixth lot came out for the people of Naphtali, for the people of Naphtali, according to their clans.

We can see that Naphtali is the furthest north of all the tribes; it is within this lot that Christ did so many of his mighty works in and around Galilee (Matthew 5:1), his sermon on the mount.  As I have done with the other tribes thus far, let us look at what some commentators say concerning the fulfillment of prophecy in Genesis 49:

“Concerning Naphtali (Gen_49:21), a tribe that carries struggles in its name; it signifies wrestling, and the blessing entailed upon it signifies prevailing; it is a hind let loose. Though we find not this prediction so fully answered in the event as some of the rest, yet, no doubt, it proved true that those of this tribe were, 1. As the loving hind (for that is her epithet, Pro_5:19), friendly and obliging to one another and to other tribes; their converse remarkably kind and endearing. 2. As the loosened hind, zealous for their liberty. 3. As the swift hind (Psa_18:33), quick in despatch of business; and perhaps, 4. As the trembling, timorous in times of public danger. It is rare that those that are most amiable to their friends are most formidable to their enemies. 5. That they should be affable and courteous, their language refined, and they complaisant, giving goodly words. Note, Among God’s Israel there is to be found a great variety of dispositions, contrary to each other, yet all contributing to the beauty and strength of the body, Judah like a lion, Issachar like an ass, Dan like a serpent, Naphtali like a hind. Let not those of different tempers and gifts censure one another, nor envy one another, any more than those of different statures and complexions.” – Matthew Henry

33And their boundary ran from Heleph, from(K) the oak in Zaanannim, and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum, and it ended at the Jordan. 34Then the boundary turns(L) westward to Aznoth-tabor and goes from there to Hukkok, touching Zebulun at the south and Asher on the west and Judah on the east at the Jordan. 35The fortified cities are Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath,(M) Chinnereth, 36Adamah, Ramah,(N) Hazor, 37Kedesh, Edrei, En-hazor, 38Yiron, Migdal-el, Horem, Beth-anath, and Beth-shemesh—nineteen cities with their villages. 39This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Naphtali according to their clans—the cities with their villages.

If we look at the borders, we can quickly come to realize that Naphtali, being at the furthest north is (like Judah in the extreme south) a beacon of light for the Gentiles.  In many ways, we track Christ’s travels from the south to the north starting from the listing of the allotments from Judah up to Naphtali; from the Bethlehem of Judah, to the second Bethlehem of Zebulun, to the northern borders of Naphtali.  We can see how after the naming of the tribes on the East of the Jordan, and the three important tribes on the West of the Jordan (Judah, and the sons of Joseph) we see a movement from the south to the north, tracing the steps of where Christ would be involved in his ministries, tracing his involvement in the tribal lands on the west of the Jordan, and eventually returning south to Jerusalem in the end of his days on earth.  It is here in the lot of this tribe that he preaches the Sermon on the Mount, the border where there are plenty of both Jews and Gentiles abound.  We therefore come to realize, ever so progressively, that Christ does not aimlessly travel around the tribes of Israel, but he intentionally does so to give the full weight and meaning behind the context and names of the cities given to these tribes.

The Inheritance for Dan [#7]

40The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the people of Dan, according to their clans. 41And the territory of its inheritance included Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir-shemesh, 42(O) Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, 43Elon, Timnah, Ekron, 44Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, 45Jehud, Bene-berak, Gath-rimmon, 46and Me-jarkon and Rakkon with the territory over against(P) Joppa. 47When(Q) the territory of the people of Dan was lost to them, the people of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and after capturing it and striking it with the sword they took possession of it and settled in it, calling Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor. 48This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Dan, according to their clans—these cities with their villages.

We finally come to the last tribe to be allotted – Dan.  From v.47 we see that the people of Dan were willing to fight for their land, renaming “Leshem” (“precious stone”) as Dan.  We also mustn’t forget that Dan was excluded from New Jerusalem in Revelation 7:5-8.  In Genesis 49 we also learn that Dan shall be like a servant, and shall judge his people.  However, if we were to take Dan’s predicament into context and given the negative imagery of the serpent throughout Scripture as an animal of God’s creation to be used (c.f. Moses’ staff turning into a serpent) and not to be obeyed (the curse on the serpent allegorical to the curse on Satan in Genesis 3) then this ‘judging’ by Dan is anything but glorious.  The Hebrew may provide some insight here, given the name “Dan” (which means “judge”) and the prophecy in Genesis 49:16 concerning Dan’s judging of the people (from the Hebrew dun דּוּן, meaning “to strive or contend”).  Now, if anything this judgment seems to be coming from the wrong source; the serpent had judged mankind though being one of God’s (now fallen) angels (c.f. Ezekiel 28).  Dan, too, is one of the tribes of Israel, and yet his attempt to judge Israel from his perspective is misplaced, much like Judas’ attempt to judge Jesus by seeing him not as Son of Man or Son of the Father.

Thus, how do we reconcile Dan’s warlike behaviour, the prophecy concerning the tribe and her eventual excluding from the tribes listed in the book of Revelation?  Adam Clarke sees the allotment to Dan as fitting to the tribe’s power, that it is “Providence [which] ordered this numerous and powerful tribe into a post of danger, as best able to deal with those vexatious neighbours the Philistines, and so it was found in Samson”.  Indeed, Dan bore one of the most celebrated judges, Samson, but even he did not escape the sin of pride so characteristic of the fallen angel behind the serpent.

The Inheritance for Joshua [#8]

49When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. 50By command of the LORD they gave him the city that he asked,(R) Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he rebuilt the city and settled in it.

So the eighth allotment is given to Joshua – “Timnath-serah” which means “portion of the sun”.  Whatever pagan religion these natives of Timnath-serah experienced, indicated by the name of the city that they were perhaps sun-worshippers, is immediately redeemed by Yeshua.  What does he do that is so different from that of the other tribes?  He rebuilt the city and settled in it.

Why rebuild the city?  Because that is the essence of redemptive theology through Christ; Christ took on flesh not to do away with it, but to save it:

“It is, then, proper for us to begin the treatment of this subject by speaking of the creation of the universe, and of God its Artificer, that so it may be duly perceived that the renewal of creation has been the work of the self-same Word that made it at the beginning. For it will appear not inconsonant for the Father to have wrought its salvation in Him by Whose means He made it…What then was God to do? or what was to be done save the renewing of that which was in God’s image, so that by it men might once more be able to know Him? But how could this have come to pass save by the presence of the very Image of God, our Lord Jesus Christ? For by men’s means it was impossible, since they are but made after an image; nor by angels either, for not even they are (God’s) images. Whence the Word of God came in His own person, that, as He was the Image of the Father, He might be able to create afresh the man after the image… But, again, it could not else have taken place had not death and corruption been done away… Whence He took, in natural fitness, a mortal body, that while death might in it be once for all done away, men made after His Image might once more be renewed. None other then was sufficient for this need, save the Image of the Father… For as, when the likeness painted on a panel has been effaced by stains from without, he whose likeness it is must needs come once more to enable the portrait to be renewed on the same wood: for, for the sake of his picture, even the mere wood on which it is painted is not thrown away, but the outline is renewed upon it… For by His becoming Man, the Saviour was to accomplish both works of love; first, in putting away death from us and renewing us again; secondly, being unseen and invisible, in manifesting and making Himself known by His works to be the Word of the Father, and the Ruler and King of the universe.” – Athanasius in “The Incarnation of the Word”

His choice of Ephraim also evokes an understanding of the prophecy of Genesis 49 where Ephraim was chosen over Manasseh, not to mention that there is no other person who is singled out and honoured enough to be given land save Joshua alone (and Caleb under his request).

51(S) These are the inheritances that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot(T) at Shiloh before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.

And so, just as previous chapter began with a rebuke on the remaining seven tribes before the temple of the LORD at Shiloh, so the allotment ends with the focus once more on this symbolic name bearing the truth of Christ alongside the symbolic tabernacle which is a pattern made according to God’s temple in heaven.

Joshua 20

The Cities of Refuge

1Then the LORD said to Joshua, 2“Say to the people of Israel,(U) ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, 3that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood. 4He shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand(V) at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. Then they shall take him into the city and give him a place, and he shall remain with them. 5And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past. 6And he shall remain in that city(W) until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled.'”

After the allotment we come to the re-statement of the cities of refuge littered throughout the books of Moses (c.f. Exodus 21; especially Numbers 35).  It is intimated through the law that the purpose of the cities of refuge is to become types of Christ as He is our true refuge (Hebrews 6:18), both sanctifying and protecting the man who runs to Him.  The geography may show that these cities are equally spaced throughout Israel implying the ease in finding shelter from the avenger, but even more importantly is the significance of the name of the cities chosen.  Adam Clarke implies that if one was to turn to Origen’s allegorical hermeneutics, then it would be quite simple for him to expose the whole gospel from just the names themselves.  Here is my tabular form inspired from his understanding of the Hebrew and significance of each name:

City of Refuge Significance Location
Kedesh קדש Kedesh, from kadash, to separate or set apart, because it implies the consecration of a person or thing to the worship or service of God alone; hence to make or be holy. Galilee, in the hill country of Naphtali
Shechem שכם Shechem, from shacham, to be ready, forward, and diligent; hence Shechem, the shoulder, because of its readiness to bear burdens, prop up, sustain, etc. Hill country of Ephraim
Kiriath-arba (Hebron) חברון  chebron; Hebron, from חבר  chabar, to associate, join, conjoin, unite as friends; and hence chebron, fellowship, friendly association. Hill country of Judah
Bezer בצר Bezer, from batsar, to restrain, enclose, shut up, or encompass with a wall; and hence the goods or treasure thus secured, and hence a fortified place, a fortress. Beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, in the wilderness on the tableland from the tribe of Reuben
Ramoth ראמות Ramoth, from ראם  raam, to be raised, made high or exalted. Gilead, from the tribe of Gad
Golan גולן Golan, from גלה  galah, to remove, transmigrate, or pass away; hence Golan, a transmigration or passage. Some derive it from גל  gal, to rejoice, hence Golan, rejoicing or exultation. Bashan from the tribe of Manasseh

It is thus outlined here that the Son Jesus Christ shall be glorified and made holy (Kedesh) as he fulfils his vocation as bearing the burden (Shechem) of the government and all the nations of the world, akin to the Levitical clothing bearing the names of the 12 tribes of Israel on his shoulder and breast, so to create fellowship between Trinity and man (Hebron) as indicated by the patriarchal altar at Hebron, a fellowship which can only be entered by God’s sons and no enemies (Bezer) while Christ is exalted (Ramoth) in his ascension to the right hand of the Father to remove our sins (Golan) and extend rejoicing to the ends of the earth.

Is this gospel truth prevented from Gentiles?  By no means – the end of this chapter displays that this is for all the children of Israel, “and for the stranger” – such is the gospel of the Old Testament that it is not only for the Israelites, for they are a light to all the Gentile nations!  What wonder it is to see God displaying his wondrous truth of Christ on the cross through the allotments, through Yeshua the type of the true Yeshua, and through the refuge cities appropriately named to intimate the most intimate truth of God’s love for us before we even knew or loved Him.

Joshua 19-20: His Name in all names