As the famed Puritan, Matthew Henry, begins his commentary on Joshua 13:1, he writes, “We are not to skip over these chapters of hard names as useless and not to be regarded.” Why? Because “ where God has a mouth to speak and a hand to write we should find an ear to hear and an eye to read.”
This is a good reminder as we venture into seven chapters composed of lists, boundary markers, and land distributions. In comparison to the exciting action of Israel’s military conquests in Joshua 1–12, Joshua 13–19 seems, well, . . . dull. But its dullness depends entirely on our inability to appreciate what these chapters meant to Israel.
For centuries, Israel had waited to receive its long-promised inheritance. And now, that the gift of the land had come, Joshua 13–19 tells the contents of this treasure and the placement of God’s people in the land. What was once promised to Abraham, is now coming to fulfillment in the days of Joshua.
For us today, this passage is equally exciting when we consider the inheritance promised to us in Christ—an inheritance we still look for in the new heavens and the new earth. Thus, these chapters should not bore us with their detail; they should stir excitement in our own hope of heaven—i.e., a heaven on earth when Christ returns.
Indeed, this is how I pursued these chapters in Sunday’s sermon. Rather than taking a microscope to each verse, we looked at them as a whole. Instead of devoting a sermon to each chapter we looked at Joshua 13–19 as a ’treasure map’ to better understand our inheritance in Christ.
You can listen to this sermon online. Discussion questions can be found below.
- What stands out about Joshua 13–19? How have you read (or struggled to read this list before)?
- In what ways did this event (the distribution of the land) encourage the second generation coming out of Egypt? How would this passage encourage/exhort the Israelites in Israel’s past? (Think about those in the land tempted to pursue the gods of Canaan).
- How does Israel receiving the promised land prefigure the New Creation? What is similar? What is different?
- What does it mean for God to be the inheritance of the Levites (13:32)? Review Psalm 16 for more on this.
- What truths and attributes of God do you observe in this narrative?
- How should we think of our inheritance under the New Covenant (1 Pet 1:3-9)?
- Word Study: Look up “inheritance” in the New Testament. How should our eternal inheritance shape our lives today?
For further study:
- In this passage we see the end of Balaam (13:22) and the introduction of Othniel (15:15-19).
- Take note of the places where Israel fails to drive out the inhabitants and remember the consequences of this (Judges 1-3).
- The daughters of Zelophehad appear (17:3-6) and receive the inheritance promised to them. Review Num 27:1-11 36:1-12.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds