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wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, Moses handed
over leadership to Joshua, whose responsibility it was
to bring the nation of Israel into the promised land of
Canaan. After entering Canaan, Joshua had to go to war
with the people who occupied the land. Canaan was
a land of city-states. There was no central government;
each city had its own king. To conquer the land each
city would have to be defeated.
At the time of the Conquest of
Canaan by Israel Egypt was nominally in control of the
Pharaoh Thutmose III
(1504-1450) had added the region to Egypt’s domain.
His son, Amenhotep II
(1450-1424), Pharaoh of the Exodus, continued control.
His son, Thutmose IV (1424-1414),
Pharaoh while Israel was in the wilderness, was
more interested in foreign alliances than military
He had married the Asiatic
daughter of Artatama, King of Mitanni. Mitanni
was in northern Mesopotamia, mostly Hurrian.
His son, Amenhotep III
(1414-1378), who now ruled, was not interested in
maintaining an empire. He was more concerned with
The Tell el-Amarna letters
depict him as ignoring the Canaanite pleas for help
against the Hapiru.
He left the individual
cities of Canaan to themselves during the
conquest by Israel.
Canaan culture was fairly advanced.
Cities were well laid out, and
houses showed good design and construction.
Floors of buildings, were often
paved, or plastered.
Drainage systems had been
Workers were skilled in the use
of copper, lead, and gold.
Pottery was among the finest
anywhere in the world.
Extensive trade was conducted
with foreign countries, including Egypt, Northern
Mesopotamia, and Cyprus.
God commanded that all Canaanites
be destroyed or driven from the land
(Num. 33:51-56; Deut. 7:1-5).
Had Israel done so, all
would have been well; but she did not. Many Canaanites
were allowed to remain, and Israel suffered the effects
of their influence.
This was the danger that God
wanted to avoid.
Many of the people
accepted the worship of Canaanite Baal (fig. 2) rather
The attraction was that
Baal was held to be god of rainfall and good crops. No
doubt the Canaanites advised their new farming neighbors
that technical skill was not enough to insure a good
harvest, but that worship of Baal was still more
Moses’ strategy for taking Canaan,
no doubt revealed to him by God, clearly had been to
attack the land at its approximate midpoint, coming in
from the east, and divide it into a south and north
section, that each could be conquered separately.
We may assume that Moses had
shared this plan with Joshua, so that the new leader had
the plan in mind as the people prepared for crossing the
Jericho stood as a first and
principal objective in the conquest of Canaan.
Joshua sent two spies to make
The two crossed the Jordan
and came to the city where they were protected by a
harlot, Rahab, whose house was located on the city wall.
When the men were detected, Rahab
hid them beneath stalks of flax on the roof and then
pointed the pursuers in the wrong direction.
Convinced that Jericho
would fall to Israel, Rahab requested safety for her and
her family in return for her help. The men gave their
promise and with further help escaped back to Joshua.
Joshua learned from Rahab that
the people feared Israel greatly. News of
victories over Sihon and Og had reached Jericho.
Crossing the Jordan
The morning after the spies’
return, Joshua ordered the people to move to the bank of
the Jordan. Shittim (exact location unknown), is
where they encamped.
It was spring and the
Jordan was at flood stage. Before crossing three days
were spent in final preparations and instructions.
We may believe that during these
three days the people wondered how all Israel
could possibly cross the wide expanse of water flowing
When everything was ready, the
priests, carrying the ark, moved toward the river. The
people, followed at a distance of 3000 feet
(Josh. 3:4). This
insured that a maximum number would see the ark as the
When the feet of the priests
touched the water, it miraculously separated. As if
stopped by a dam, the water from upstream that flowed
toward them “stood up in a heap.” The other water
continued its course to the Dead Sea, leaving a
wide space for the people to cross (fig. 3).
The priests bearing the ark
stopped and remained in the middle of the river as the
people moved past. As the people crossed, the water
backed up approximately 15 miles upriver, as far as the
This gave testimony to
each person that God was restraining the water.
Adam is identified with
Tell ed-Damieh about 20 miles from the Dead Sea.
Israel crossed the Jordan opposite Jericho about five
miles from the Dead Sea, so they were 15 miles from
Adam. Since rockslides have occurred near Adam
temporarily stopping the Jordan (once in AD 1267, 1906
and 1927), some have suggested that God used this means
As soon as everyone had left the
riverbed, the water was released and the river flowed
Two memorials of this crossing
were created, one in the Jordan and one across at
Gilgal, where the people encamped
Gilgal now became a continuing
center of Israelite activity. Its exact location is
still uncertain, but clearly it was somewhere in the
Jordan Valley between Jericho and the Jordan River
From here, Jericho and Ai
were soon taken.
Later the Gibeonites came to
Gilgal seeking a peace treaty
(Josh. 9:6). From Gilgal Joshua led his army by
forced march to help the Gibeonites against the southern
confederacy (Josh. 10:6-7).
From here, too, he went north to
meet the northern confederacy
And here the first allotment of
tribal territories was made
(Josh. 14:6). While the army was in the field
fighting, the people remained at Gilgal as home base.
Three important events transpired
soon after encampment.
- The circumcision of all the
men (Josh. 5:2-9).
- The observance of the
Passover (Josh. 5:10).
- The cessation of manna. God
had supplied this food since the first year of
travel (Exod. 16:14-22).
Defeat of Jericho
biblical reference to Jericho shows that it was of major
importance in the land. Jericho is well identified with
Tell es-Sultan, five miles west of the Jordan and seven
miles north of the Dead Sea. The mound covers about
eight acres (fig. 4).
After Jerusalem, Jericho
is the most excavated site in Israel. Charles Warren in
1868 sank several shafts but concluded that nothing was
to be found. Germans Sellin and Watzinger excavated
1907-13, Garstang 1930-36 and Kenyon 1952-58. Since
1997 an Italian-Palestinian team has been digging.
Kenyon’s description of the walls
of Jericho is significant.
The walls were of a type,
which made direct assault practically impossible. An
approaching enemy first encountered a stone abutment 11
feet high, back and up from which sloped a 35o
plastered scarp reaching to the main wall some 35
vertical feet above (fig. 5).
The steep, smooth slope
prohibited battering the wall by any effective device
or building fires to break it.
An army trying to storm
the wall found difficulty in climbing the slope, and
ladders to scale it could find no satisfactory footing.
God had plans for taking Jericho,
which were revealed to Joshua in an unusual manner
Joshua was met by one called the
“commander of the army of the LORD.”
“Commander of the army of the
Lord,” could be the appearance of Christ as the Angel of
God. This “Commander” called the ground “holy”
5:15), as with Moses at
the burning bush (Exod. 3:5),
and used the personal pronoun “I” as giving Jericho into
The plans were to have “armed
men,” led by seven priests carrying the ark, walk around
the city once each day for six days and seven times on
the seventh. At the close of the thirteenth circuit, the
priests would blow trumpets and the people shout with a
loud voice. When they did, the walls of the city would
collapse and the army could enter.
The plan was executed as
Thirteen times the city was
circled and then the walls fell as the trumpets sounded
and the people shouted. The army took the city with
All the people of the city were
killed, with the exception of Rahab and her family,
whose lives were spared in keeping with the spies’
promise, and the city was leveled by fire. No Israelite
was permitted to enrich himself by looting. God placed a
ban on the city, declaring that it was “devoted” to
Himself (Josh. 6:17-18).
Spared, Rahab came to be included
in the ancestral line of David and so of Christ
“The destruction was complete.
Walls and floors were blackened or reddened by fire, and
every room was filled with fallen bricks, timbers, and
household utensils; in most rooms the fallen debris was
What caused the walls
of Jericho to collapse?
The common secular explanation is an earthquake must
have caused the collapse.
It must have been a very unusual earthquake because it
struck in such a way as to allow a portion of the city
wall on the north side of the site to remain standing,
while everywhere else the wall fell.
Rahab’s house was evidently located on the north side of
The Bible states that her house was built against the
city wall. Before returning to the Israelite camp, the
spies told Rahab to bring her family into her house and
they would be spared. Rahab’s house was miraculously
spared while the rest of the city wall fell.
This is exactly what
archaeologists have found. The preserved city wall on
the north side of the city had houses built against it.
The timing of the
earthquake and the manner in which it selectively took
down the city wall suggests something other than a
natural calamity…It was God at work.
city of Ai was the next objective before Israel.
A reconnaissance party sent by
Joshua was not impressed by Ai’s strength and,
overconfident, advised that merely “two or three
thousand” would be sufficient to take the city.
Joshua sent 3,000 soldiers, who
ended up being defeated by Ai.
The main reason for the defeat,
however, was not the number of Israelite soldiers; it
was the existence of sin in Israel’s camp. Achan
of the tribe of Judah had ignored God’s ban on the
“devoted” items from Jericho and took a Babylonian
garment, 200 shekels of silver, and a 50-shekel bar of
Following the defeat, God revealed
to Joshua that such a sin had been committed and told
him to inquire as to the identity of the guilty party.
This was done, and Achan was identified.
Identification was found probably
by using the Urim and Thummim
(Exod. 28:30; Num. 27:21).
Achan confessed to having taken
the items and hidden them in his tent. These were
recovered from their hiding place, and then Achan and
his family were stoned and then burned with all of his
possessions. This punishment was necessary, both in view
of the serious offense and as a warning to other
With the sin punished, Israel was
now able to conquer Ai (Josh.
By night, Joshua sent a large
force to hide in ambush in a valley between Ai and
The next day Joshua led another
force in a frontal attack on the city.
When the men of Ai came out from
the city, Joshua’s force retreated. The hidden force
arose and attacked the army of Ai from behind. Joshua’s
force then turned, and the enemy was trapped.
The result was that all 12,000 of
the male inhabitants of Ai were killed, the king
hanged, and the city reduced to rubble.
The location of Ai is still
uncertain but could be either et-Tell (fig. 6), or
David Livingstone theorized that
ancient Bethel should be located at modern Bireh.
Working from that hypothesis he identified Nisya as the
place the biblical description for Ai would demand.
Nisya is only two to three acres,
which correlates well with the biblical description of
Ai as a small, but walled city, and is located correctly
to be the biblical Ai.
No indication is given of a
conquest of Bethel by Joshua.
Bethel’s king is listed as killed by Joshua’s
forces (Josh. 12:16),
but no record is given of a direct attack on the city.
The reason may be that her power
was broken at the time of Ai’s defeat. It was only
logical for her to join in assisting Ai against an enemy
which she could expect would confront her next, and
8:17 states directly
that she did.
Bethel’s king may have been killed at this time,
though the record mentions only Ai’s ruler
(Josh. 8:23, 29).
Joshua’s employment of so many more troops the second
time may have been in part due to his expectation that
Bethel would join with Ai.
Jericho, Ai, and Bethel controlled, Joshua took the
people, according to God’s instruction
(Deut. 27:1-26), north
to Shechem to renew God’s covenant.
Near Shechem, at the foot of
Mount Ebal, Joshua built an altar, and the
priests made burnt offerings and peace offerings. On
prepared stones, Joshua wrote a “copy of the law of
Moses” (Josh. 8:32).
Half the tribes moved toward
Mount Gerizim, with half remaining near Mount
Ebal. Near Joshua as he read was the Ark of the
Mount Ebal and Mount Gerizim lie north and south
from each other with Shechem between their eastern ends
Israel’s conquest of this northern,
central region where Shechem was a principal city
(Gen. 12:6; 33:18-20)
is not described in Scripture.
The biblical account speaks of
the Israelites being able to move north to it,
apparently without difficulty, but does not explain how
this was possible.
Shechem was more than 30 miles
north of Ai, and her people would not have considered
themselves under Israelite domination simply because the
more southern city had fallen.
The most likely explanation is
that Israelite forces had moved north to subjugate the
area ahead of time, though after Ai’s fall. Certain
matters suggest this.
One is that
Joshua 11:19 states
that no city other than Gibeon
(Josh. 9) capitulated
to Israel peacefully, which means that Shechem must have
been taken forcibly.
Another is that
12:17, 18, 24 lists
kings of the Shechem area who were killed by Joshua’s
troops at some point in time, and so probably here at
this logical juncture.
the Amarna letters indicate that the prince of Gezer and
the prince of Shechem surrendered to Joshua during the
conquest of the land:
the actions taken by Milkilu, the prince of Gezer, and
the sons of Labayu, the princes of Shechem, who have
handed over the land to the Hapiru.”
letter also confirms the Bible, in that these two cities
were also spared, not destroyed, in Joshua’s conquest.
They are both mentioned together in
Returning to Gilgal, the Israelites
received homage from another group of people of central
Canaan, the Hivites, representing four major cities
northwest of Jerusalem a few miles - Gibeon, Chephirah,
Beeroth, and Kirjath-jearim -sometimes called the
The Hivites were one of
the seven listed national groups of Canaan at the
time of the conquest: Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites,
Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites
(Josh. 3:10; 24:11).
Doubting that Israel would accept
their treaty offer if they were identified with nearby
Gibeon, they contrived a trick, wearing worn-out
clothing and bearing moldy bread, to make themselves
appear to have traveled from a distant country.
They asked that Israel
make a treaty of peace with them, and it was granted.
This was contrary to God’s instruction
(Exod. 23:32; 34:12; Deut.
7:2), however, and the Israelites were held
responsible because they had not asked counsel “of the
When the ruse was known three
days later, Joshua and the elders honored the treaty
because it had been made in the name of God.
At this point Israel had separated the northern and
southern regions of Canaan. Jericho, Ai, Bethel, Beeroth,
Gibeon, Chephirah, and Kirjath-jearim formed a
continuous line across southern central Canaan; and the
fact that Israel had been able to assemble peaceably at
Shechem indicates control had been gained in the
northern central area as well. The South and North were
now separated and remained to be taken each by itself.
Defeat of Southern Canaan
Contact with the South came soon
after the treaty with the Hivite tetrapolis. Among the
four cities, Gibeon was the largest and most powerful
(Josh. 10:2); and when
news of her action reached the king of Jerusalem, he
formed a coalition of major southern cities. Four
leading cities joined with him: Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish,
and Eglon (all five cities have been located). Gibeon is
found at el-Jib, seven miles northwest of Jerusalem.
Excavations took place from 1957-1962.
These confederates began their
general resistance to Israel by first attacking
Gibeon, apparently to force her out of the new alliance
with Israel. Gibeon quickly appealed to Joshua in Gilgal,
and Joshua brought his troops by forced march the
24-mile distance to Gibeon in one night. He took the
attackers by surprise, routed them, and pursued them
toward the heights near Beth-horon to the west.
Near Beth-horon the fleeing
troops turned south in an apparent attempt to reach home
cities, but on the way God sent a hailstorm that killed
more of the enemy than did Israel’s swords.
The five kings, staying close
together, succeeded in getting to the vicinity of Azekah
and Makkedah, but then sought shelter in a cave.
The pursuing Israelites
found the kings in a cave, but merely sealed the opening
with stones and continued after the fleeing soldiers.
Joshua wanted the troops
themselves caught and killed before they could get to
the safety of their walled cities. This was accomplished
in major part (Josh.
then attention was again given to the trapped kings.
Joshua commanded his
military leaders to place their feet on the necks of
these rulers while he slew them. Then Joshua had the
lifeless bodies of all five hung on trees for his men to
see during the remainder of the day
an amazing piece of evidence to support this. A letter
has been found, written by a man named Abdi-Hiba,
Governor of Jerusalem, to Pharaoh Amenhotep IV
(1378-1367), requesting aid from Egypt in fighting the
approaching Hebrews. The letter states the following:
do you not hear my plea? All the governors are lost; the
king, my lord, does not have a single governor left! Let
my lord, the king, send troops of archers, or the king
will have no lands left. All the lands of the king are
being plundered by the Habiru. If archers are here by
the end of the year, then the lands of my lord, the
king, will continue to exist; but if the archers are not
sent, then the lands of the king, my lord, will be
this with the following statement found in
it came to pass when Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem heard
how Joshua had taken Ai and had utterly destroyed
it;...,Therefore Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem sent to
Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king
of Lachish, and Debir king of Eglon, saying, ‘Come up to
me and help me, that we may attack Gibeon, for it has
made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.’
Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of
Jerusalem, ....gathered together and went up, they and
all their armies, and camped before Gibeon and made war
Bible states in Joshua
10:26 that Joshua
defeated these kings, captured them and killed them,
including the king of Jerusalem, Adoni-Zedek.
The letter written by Abdi-Hiba
was probably written after the Biblical event by the
successor of Adoni-Zedek, Abdi-Hiba, as a last ditch
effort to stop the advancing Hebrews.
The time frame of this letter
also corresponds to the dating found in the Bible.
According to 1 Kings 6:1,
the Exodus was 480 years before King Solomon built the
temple, which occurred in 966 BC, that would date the
Exodus at 1446 BC. Right after the Golden calf incident
recorded in Exodus chapter 32, chapter 33 verse 11
states that Joshua was a young man at this time. The
Hebrew word used here for young man refers to a boy of
an age somewhere between infancy and adolescence.
Putting Joshua’s age at around 15
years old at the time that God gave the Ten Commandments
to Moses. Add another 40 years wandering in the
wilderness, would put Joshua’s age at approximately 55
years old when he first entered into the land of Canaan
in 1406 BC.
states that he lived to be 110 years old, which means he
would have died around 1352 BC. According to historians,
the Abdi-Hiba letter was written between 1387 and 1366
BC, right in the middle of Joshua’s conquest of Canaan.
Joshua’s Long Day
was earlier that same day, as Joshua stood on a hill
near Gibeon watching the enemy flee from his troops,
that he called to God, “O sun stand still over Gibeon, O
moon, over the Valley of Aijalon”
These words have traditionally
been taken to mean that this day was miraculously
The verb amadh is used
(twice in v. 13), and it definitely indicates a change
in pattern of movement. Further, verse 13 closes with
the expression, “and delayed going down,” where the word
“delayed” (uz) again speaks of motion, and the
phrase “going down” (labho) is normal in
reference to the sun setting. Still further, verse 14
states that this day was unique in history, which
suggests a major miracle such as the prolonging of a
natural day occurred.
The extent of this prolongation
can also be estimated. Since the hour was at noon
when Joshua voiced the call, and it is stated that the
sun did not go down for “about a full day,” it is likely
that the afternoon hours until sunset were prolonged
twice their normal length. In other words, the total
daylight hours of the day were one and one-half times
There was good reason for Joshua
wanting this day prolonged. The five strong kings had
brought their armies out from their fortified cities to
do battle with Israel in the open. Their thinking
likely had been that, since the walls of Jericho and Ai
had not helped those cities, it would be better to try a
new method. But this left them without their best means
of defense, and Joshua knew it. Now he did not want them
to get back behind their walls if he could help it, all
that would be needed was enough daylight to make the
route complete. Accordingly, Joshua asked God to supply
Although we believe the biblical
account of Joshua’s Long Day is true, the claim that
NASA has proven it is an urban myth.
The claim that astronomical
calculations proved that a day was “missing” began over
a century ago. In the last few decades, the myth has
been embellished with NASA computers performing those
No one who repeats this story has
ever provided details of these calculations on how
exactly the missing day was discovered? How could you
detect a missing day unless you had a fixed reference
point before this day?
In fact we would need to cross
check between both astronomical and historical records
to detect any missing day. And to detect a missing 40
minutes requires that these reference points are known
to within an accuracy of a few minutes.
It is certainly true that the
timing of solar eclipses observable from a certain
location can be known precisely. But the ancient records
did not record time that precisely, so the required
crosscheck is not possible. The earliest historically
recorded eclipse us 1217 BC, nearly two centuries after
Conquering of the Southern
this crucial battle won, Joshua pressed on to conquer
cities in all the southern area. The first assaults were
against Makkedah and then Libnah, both close to the
cave where the kings had been killed.
Each city was taken with the
respective kings killed. However, little physical harm
was done to the cities, a pattern Joshua followed for
all this southern campaign.
The location of each city is
uncertain, Makkedah is best identified with Khirbet el-Kheishum,
two miles northeast of Azekah at the head of the
Elah Valley, and Libnah with Tell es-Safi four miles
Joshua then moved south to three of
the cities of the confederacy: Lachish, Eglon, and
Lachish, about ten miles southwest of Azekah, was
the strongest of the three and was attacked first. The
city fell on the second day of fighting, and the people
were killed as at Makkedah and Libnah, though this time
the king had already been killed at the cave near
Lachish is identified with Tell-Lachish
(fig. 11), discovered in 1929 and excavated in 1932-1938
The king of Gezer
(identified with Tell Jezer) came with his army to aid
Lachish, but he and his men all perished before Joshua.
Joshua then moved on to Eglon
(identified with Tell el-Hesi) the farthest west of the
southern three confederate cities, and then to
Hebron, the farthest east, both fell.
After these earlier conquests,
Joshua continued south to subdue the lower part of
His army reached Kadesh-barnea,
where Israel had spent time during the wilderness
Debir was probably the most
important prize in this lower southern area.
Debir is identified with
Tell Beit Mirsim, 13 miles southwest of Hebron.
Finally, Joshua returned to Gibeon
where the whole campaign had started.
One main city, however, was not
taken. That was Jerusalem, one of the five confederates.
Jerusalem had been out of the way as Joshua had
pursued the fleeing enemy on the way south.
It remained a tiny island, not
incorporated into Israelite territory, until King David
seized it later.
News of Joshua’s conquest of the South reached Jabin
the king of Hazor.
Jabin, fearing similar attack on
his region formed a confederacy.
The kings he assembled are listed
as representing all parts of northern Canaan:
The mountain region above
The plain “south of
Kinnereth (Sea of Galilee).”
The Valley of
The western region as far
Three cities mentioned in
particular, Madon, Shimron, and Achshaph.
The assembly included Canaanites,
Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Hivites.
The gathering point was the waters of Merom (Lake
Huleh), and the host numbered like “the sand on the
seashore” (Josh. 11:4).
Joshua brought his battle-tried
troops north to meet this confederacy.
Jabin’s confederacy was routed
and chased far to the west.
Joshua followed up this triumph
by putting “all these royal cities and their kings to
the sword” (Josh.
11:12). Then he
returned to the city of Hazor itself and burned it.
Similar to the Southern Campaign
most cities were spared, but Hazor was apparently seen
by Joshua as a prize of psychological value for
burning. People would be forced to recognize that any
city could have been burned had Israel chosen, if
great Hazor could not escape.
from the Amarna Tablets.
letters requesting aid from
Egypt have also been
discovered that were written during this same time
frame. The following letter is from a man named
Shuwardata, governor of Gath:
“May the king, my lord, know that the chief of the
Hapiru has besieged the lands which your god has given
me; but I have attacked him. Also let the king, my lord,
know that none of my allies have come to my aid, it is
only I and Abdu-Heba who fight against the Hapiru chief.
I plead with the king my lord, if you agree, send
Yanhamu, and let us quickly go to war, so that the lands
of the king, my lord, might be restored to their
governor of Gath is
also mentioned in the following letter from a man named
Milkilu, a prince of Gezer, with whom he was allied:
it be known to the king that there is great hostility
against me and against Shuwardata. I ask the king, my
lord, protect his land from the approaching Hapiru.”
men later seem to have offered allegiance to Joshua, as
evidence from a second letter from Abdi-Heba, governor
“Let it be known what Milkilu and Shuwardata did to the
land of the king, my lord! They sent troops of Gezer,
troops of Gath, they took the land of Rubutu; the land
of the king went over to the Hapiru. But now even a town
near Jerusalem, Bit-Lahmi (Bethlehem) by name, a village
which once belonged to the king, has fallen to the
enemy. Let the king hear the words of your servant
Abdi-Heba, and send archers to restore the imperial
lands of the king! But if no archers are sent, the lands
of the king will be taken by the Hapiru people. This act
was done by the hand of Milkilu and Shuwardata.”
This is interesting,
because even though Joshua destroyed most of the
inhabitants of the cities he came across, the city of
Gath was spared. Joshua
11:22 states: “No Anakites were left in Israelite
territory; only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did any
Before the respective tribes could begin occupation,
it was necessary to assign territory to the remaining
nine and a half tribes. This was the task to which
Joshua set himself on returning to the people still
encamped at Gilgal. The procedure had already been
indicated when the people were still east of the Jordan;
namely, by lot, which placed the decision with God
rather than men (Num.
Allotments East of the Jordan
Reuben, Gad, and half of the tribe
of Manasseh had already received their allotted
Moses had supervised this prior
to the Jordan crossing
(Num. 32:1-42; Deut. 3:13-17; Josh. 13:8-33).
The land then assigned stretched
from the Arnon River north to Mount Hermon.
Allotments of Judah, Ephraim,
While preparations were being made
for allotting portions on the west of the Jordan, Caleb
interrupted proceedings with a request
He asked that he might personally
be granted the Hebron area, where the giant
Anakim had been found, when he, Joshua, and the other
spies had surveyed the land before. He reminded Joshua
that Moses had promised him the region
(see Deut. 1:36).
Joshua granted the request.
The tribe of Judah, Caleb’s tribe
received the first regular allotment of land, which
included the area already granted to Caleb.
The territory was very large
Its eastern border was the
Dead Sea, and its western the Mediterranean. Its
southern border angled south from the Dead Sea so that
Kadesh-barnea was included and its northern border ran
irregularly from the northern tip of the Dead Sea west
to the Mediterranean. Its main cities in
Joshua 15:20-63, make a
amazing find that confirms the Book of Joshua was found
on the walls of an Egyptian temple at Medinet Habu (fig.
The walls contain a list of
cities that Rameses II (1304-1238) recorded as enemy
The cities are represented on the
wall by men bearing shields. Within the shields are the
names of the cities.
Among the list of cities are
Janum, Aphekah and Hebron.
15:53-54 states that
the among the cities on the border of the children of
Judah were “Janum,…Aphekah,… Kirjath Arba (Hebron).”
The next lot was for Ephraim,
Joshua’s tribe (Josh.
Ephraim was given a smaller
section than Judah, north of Judah and with room
left between for Benjamin.
The third lot was for the
remaining half tribe of Manasseh
This portion bordered Ephraim on
the north, stretching again, like Judah and
Ephraim, from the Jordan to the Mediterranean.
The northern boundary of Manasseh
was the southern edge of the Esdraelon Valley.
Before allotting the remaining
seven tribes, the people, for some reason, gave
themselves to the task of moving camp from Gilgal to
Shiloh, where they then erected the tabernacle in the
place it was to occupy for many years
They had been at Gilgal between
six and seven years during the time of Joshua’s
campaigns. Now they moved farther into the land to
occupy a city, which had just been allotted to Ephraim.
One reason for the interruption
was the people’s desire to locate the tabernacle in a
Another reason the Bible suggests
is the remaining tribes suddenly displayed a
surprising lack of interest in receiving their
portions. This change of attitude seems to have resulted
when both Ephraim and Manasseh objected to their
These two tribes
complained that their portions were too small,
especially since they contained large wooded areas.
Their objections evidently
were enough to influence the other tribes, which now
hesitated to occupy their allotments at all.
With the people gathered
at Shiloh, however, Joshua began allotting again
The decision on which section was
to be received by a particular tribe was still to be
revealed by lot.
Seven Remaining Allotments
The first tribe now to receive
territory was Benjamin (Josh.
Benjamin’s allotment was small,
squeezed between large Judah to the south and the Joseph
tribes to the north.
It extended only about halfway to
the Mediterranean from the Jordan. It did include
the cities Jericho and Jerusalem.
The next allotment was for Simeon.
This time no land area as such
was assigned but only cities within the large
territory of Judah.
Seventeen cities are named
Simeon was the smallest of the
tribes, numbering only 22,200 men at the second census
(Num. 26:14) and so
could fit into smaller quarters than others.
Zebulun received allotment next
followed by Issachar (Josh.
Both of these territories were
small, about the size of Benjamin, but constituted
mainly of fine level land in the fertile
Zebulun bordered on Issachar’s
Asher received the fifth allotment,
a larger section again (Josh.
It lay along the
Mediterranean, from Manasseh on the south to Israel’s
border on the north.
The sixth allotment was for
Naphtali, the last of the northern tribes
Her area was also large,
extending from north to south beside Asher.
She bordered both Zebulun and
Issachar on the south.
The last tribe to receive allotment
was Dan, whose land was in the south
This territory was small, between
Judah and Ephraim, like Benjamin, which bordered it on
Eighteen cities are listed in the
Because Dan was one of the larger
tribes numerically, many Danites migrated. They went far
north to Laish, which city they conquered and then
renamed Dan (Josh.
19:47; Judg. 18).
Religious personnel were important
to the manner of worship that God had instituted in
Israel. One entire tribe was devoted by God to provide
this personnel, the tribe of Levi.
This tribe was considered by God
as a substitution for the male firstborn, spared on the
night of the initial Passover, and so otherwise claimed
by God (Exod. 13:1-15; Num.
Levites numbered 23,000 males one
month and older at the time of the conquest.
Among them, descendants of Aaron
were declared to be priests, and the eldest son of the
continuing family was designated high priest.
Priests and Levites administered
the tabernacle ceremonies. Priests did the sacrificing
and Levites assisted.
Some persons had to act as
teachers, and those persons were the priests and
Levites. God had commanded them to fill this need
10:11; Deut. 33:10).
In keeping with the idea of
theocracy, with God as chief ruler, the main unifying
instrument among the tribes was the central sanctuary at
Shiloh, the tabernacle.
As in the wilderness, the
tabernacle represented God’s presence among His people.
This religious center was for all the people of every
tribe, with no tribe favored over another.
All could come to the tabernacle
and on occasion were commanded to come for their
In addition to the revealed,
recorded Law, God supplied the priests and Levites with
a special device for receiving further information from
Himself. This was the Urim and Thummim, apparently
consisting of objects, which could be contained in the
pocket-type “breastplate” of the high priest, worn on
the front of his ephod (Exod.
28:30; Lev. 8:8; Num. 27:21; Deut. 33:8; 1 Sam. 28:6;
The exact method by which God
intended these objects to give the revelation is not
stated. Whatever it was, when so used, the Urim and
Thummim did provide a way whereby God’s will might be
known, though perhaps limited to a yes or no type of
communication. The question could be voiced and God
would use this means to give answer. Only the high
priest could use the objects, a limitation which
safeguarded against improper use.
The Urim and Thummim are rather mysterious objects.
The Bible does not specifically describe them. Even
their names, Urim, “light” and Thummim, “perfection,”
give scholars scarcely a clue to their form and
Exodus 28:30 says that the Urim and Thummim were
placed in a breastplate that Aaron, the high priest,
wore. One of the functions of this breastplate was to
reveal God’s judgment, an account of which Moses records
in Numbers 27:21.
In this case, the Urim revealed what God wanted Israel
to do. Saul and David probably consulted the Urim and
Thummim through the high priest
(1 Samuel 14:36-37; 23:2-4).
Biblical use of the Urim and Thummim is not
specifically mentioned after the reign of David.
Josephus, first century Jewish historian, wrote about
the Urim and Thummim in his Antiquities of the Jews.
The Thummim, he writes,
were twelve stones, which were set in three rows of four
stones in the breastplate (3.7.5).
He describes the Urim as
being two sardonyx stones that were placed on the
shoulders of the high priest (3.8.9).
When God wished to guide
the Israelites, He often did so by means of these
stones. Josephus states:
“God declared beforehand, by those twelve stones
which the high priest bare on his breast, and which were
inserted into his breastplate, when they should be
victorious in battle; for so great a splendor shone
forth from them before the army began to march, that all
the people were sensible of God’s being present for
Joshua was victorious from the extreme south, near
“Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir,” to the extreme
north “in the Valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon.”
The only people who made peace
without being attacked were the Hivites of the Gibeonite
It is expressly stated that among
those slain were the giants, the Anakim, of whom the
spies had particularly spoken years before
The total number of kings killed
was 31, the names of their cities being given in
This means that, when Joshua
returned to Gilgal from the northern campaign, the
military strength of the major part of the land had been
Included was the area on the east
of the Jordan from the Arnon River in the south
to Mount Hermon in the north, and on the west from below
the Dead Sea in the south to Mount Hermon again in the
One region had escaped, with
Canaanites scattered throughout the land. The plain of
Philistia, on the Mediterranean coastline, was
unconquered (Josh. 13:1-6).
Most of this territory
remained in Canaanite hands until the time of David.
Tribes of Israel