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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Joshua 18

To really take possession of the land the LORD has given His people, there must be effort. The command is to describe the land. Are we able to describe something of the heavenly land given to us? The true Joshua, the Lord Jesus, wants to hear from us what we think of the land. We may tell Him what we have read in the Bible. The more blessings we discover in it, the more He will give us. He Himself said: “For to everyone who has, [more] shall be given” (Mt 25:29a).

The inheritance of the Levites is the priesthood of the LORD. This is a special inheritance. It is directly related to the LORD and shows us that above all blessings we may see in Him Who is the Giver of those blessings. Greater than the greatest blessing is surely He from Whom the blessing emanates, isn’t it?

Verse 1

From Gilgal to Shiloh


The people move up to a new place, Shiloh, and gather there. Judah and the sons of Joseph have been assigned their share in Gilgal, where the people have so far been together as a whole. There also stood the tabernacle, in which God dwelled in their midst. Now the tent of meeting is set up at Shiloh, which means ‘peace’. Shiloh is located in the center of the land.

In the spiritual development of a believer we see the next step in the ascending from Gilgal to Shiloh. First Gilgal, then Shiloh. In Gilgal we get to know the flesh and the judgment about it. In Shiloh there is a sharing in the rest of God.

The advance to Shiloh is worked by God. He wants to dwell in that place and have His people with Him. It will be a temporary dwelling place in the land. In the time that Eli is judge, God leaves Shiloh (1Sam 4:1-11; Psa 78:60). Until that time, that is for about three hundred years, the tent is in Shiloh. There God makes His name dwell, but He leaves because of the wickedness of Israel: “But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel” (Jer 7:12).

This reminds us of Deuteronomy 12, where we read of God’s command to His people that they will seek Him where He establishes His Name to dwell (Deu 12:5). That takes effort. For us, it means investigating Scripture to get to know that place. It is not a place where you feel good, but where the Lord Jesus is in the midst (Mt 18:20). That place must be found in the Word.

Shiloh is a provisional fulfillment of what will be fully fulfilled in Jerusalem. Did Israel find that place? They have not been aware that it is Jebus. Only David finds it in his heart when he thinks about it in the fields of Ephrathah (Psa 132:6). Jerusalem lies between Benjamin and Judah. Shiloh lies in Ephraim, rather central.

To some extent, the people have found peace in Shiloh. Peace is not just the absence of war. Peace is a benevolent atmosphere in which harmony is found. The true Shiloh for us is where the true Shiloh, the Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace (Gen 49:10; Isa 9:6), is present.

In Numbers “the tent of meeting” is also called “the tent of testimony”. That name is connected to the wilderness journey, where all the tribes around the tent have set up their camp. The order of the tribes is arranged in connection with the tent. It has to do with our testimony to the world. In the land the tent is called “the tent of meeting”. The people dwell in the land in connection with the center, the place where God dwells and where He would like to meet with His people.

Verses 2-10

The Land Not Yet Divided


There are still seven tribes that have not received any inheritance. It seems that they have remained slow. Maybe they didn’t feel like fighting as a tribe alone for the conquest of the inheritance. It may have been a good idea for them to stay together and they don’t like it to be separated. That is why Joshua is going to help the people. They must supply three men per tribe. He sends them out to describe the remaining land, to map it out, so to speak. This will give them an impression of what remains to be taken into their possession.

As an application we can think of the following. When the believers have got an eye for the heavenly blessings of the church, especially in the revival at the beginning of the nineteenth century, these believers have inherited richly. If we compare them to Judah and the Josephites, they have conquered much of the land. They have written down the riches of it. We can read about it and so enjoy it.

But is there still something for ourselves which can be divided? Those who lived before us and took possession of land by battle, have certainly inherited richly. But also for us there is a part. God wrote it in a book to show us what is left. We only find blessings in the Book, the Word of God. Paul prays – and we may do so as well – that we will learn to know our blessings (Eph 1:18; Eph 3:18-19). We will then say with the psalmist: “The LORD is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Indeed, my heritage is beautiful to me” (Psa 16:5-6).

We are not in a position comparable to that of Judah and the sons of Joseph, but to that of the other tribes. When we ask God to show us the spiritual blessings, He also gives us blessings to enjoy. We did get them, but we may also make them our own. The letters of the New Testament to believers who live in an end-time, show the part that is also there for them. That part we see par excellence in the letters of John. This is about the eternal life, which is for us the blessing of the land. God has put everything in order for us, so that we too, in our time, can take possession of land.

The land is described “according to their inheritance” (Jos 18:4). Everyone gets the appropriate part of the land. For us, “to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph 4:7). The land is also described “by cities” (Jos 18:9). If we can see a picture of local churches in the cities, then we see in this description that the blessing of the remaining land is also given in a church context.

Joshua casts the lot, in dependence on God, before Him, and assigns the seven parts of the land to the seven tribes. Joshua has no successor, but the priest Eleazar does. Priests have always been there. That’s how it is with us. We no longer have apostles, but we do have the priestly family. As long as there are believers who want to practically experience their priesthood by gathering as a priestly people at the tent of meeting, their inheritances will also be made known.

Verse 11

Location of the Inheritance of Benjamin


By the lot, which is God’s providence, the rest of the land is divided. The division of the land is not a coincidence or an own choice, but it happens according to God’s plan. After Joseph has received his inheritance, it is Benjamin’s turn, Jacob’s second son of his favorite wife, Rachel, to receive his inheritance.

In Joshua 19-20 follow the sons of Leah who have not yet received an inheritance. Judah has already been assigned his part, Reuben has his inheritance in the wilderness side of the Jordan, Levi has no inheritance. Then come Simeon, Zebulun and Issachar. Then the sons of the slaves receive their inheritance. Of Zilpah this is only Asher, because Gad also chose the wilderness side of the Jordan language. Finally, the two sons of Bilhah, Naphtali and Dan, receive their inheritance.

Each tribe has its own history. We can apply this to each individual local church. Each local church has its own spiritual history. That may be one of which one should be ashamed, or one of which one can rejoice. That history can also consist of periods of rejoicing, for example when there is growth in number or an increase in interest for the truths of God’s Word. In other periods there is little joy because believers leave or even have to be removed from among the believers because of sin. Our behavior, our mind in those different periods, determines our history.

Verses 12-20

The Borders of the Inheritance of Benjamin


From Joshua 13 onwards, two elements relating to inheritance have emerged: division and taking possession. The division, that is the plan, the council of God, is fixed. Taking possession is the practice, the responsibility of each tribe.

Now there is something else to add and that is how the tribes relate to each other. The borders between the strains shall be established. Some borders are described twice. If it is a border between two tribes, this border is mentioned for both the one and the other tribe.

These borders are different from what they will be in the realm of peace. In the realm of peace the tribes are divided from north to south in straight strips. As a result, they are separated from each other by a straight line. Then each tribe will have a large part in the land and also a small part in the wilderness side of the Jordan.

In the book of Joshua the borders are much more complicated. There are cities in another area. In the realm of peace, our relations will have nothing complicated. Everything is clear. But as the borders are set here, it is confusing.

Thus, the borders between individual believers and also between local churches are sometimes erratic. We can learn something about those interfaces between believers and churches by comparing them to a body. Then we speak about ‘each individual part’ that has a certain task or contribution compared to other parts (Eph 4:16).

In a body, the bones are connected by joints. A joint does not represent our special service – we see that more in the member – but our functioning between the other members. We have a connection with each of the other members of the body. It depends on our performance how the other members deal with each other. It depends on the functioning of the local church how other local churches interact with each other. In everything, the personal connection with the Head is of decisive importance.

Benjamin borders in the south on Judah’s northern border and in the north on Ephraim. Benjamin, which itself is small, lies between two large territories. Yet Benjamin did not focus on the great Judah or the great Ephraim, but has a history of his own. It has its dark sides, but also its light ones.

In Judges 20 Benjamin played a bad role. There Benjamin protects the evil, creating a civil war. Later Benjamin chose Judah when the kingdom was split and not Ephraim. There he plays a good role (1Kgs 12:21). From him comes the first king, Saul (1Sam 9:1). Another Saul also comes from it, Saulus of Tarsus, that is Paul (Phil 3:4-5).

Verses 21-28

The Cities of the Sons of Benjamin


Among the cities of the sons of Benjamin are cities with famous names from the history of Israel, such as Jericho, Beth-El, Gibeon, Rama, Mizpa, and Jebus, which is Jerusalem. The city where the temple will be built is in Benjamin. This is a fulfillment of the prophecy of Moses: “Of Benjamin he said, “May the beloved of the LORD dwell in security by Him, Who shields him all the day, And he dwells between His shoulders”” (Deu 33:12).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 18". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-18.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.