The disposition of the other seven tribes (Josh 18:1-18:10)

“Then the whole congregation of the Israelites assembled at Shiloh, and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.”

This meeting of Joshua takes place at Shiloh, which is in the territory of Ephraim, northwest of Jericho, about 10 miles south of Shechem and 24 miles north of Jerusalem. This is an important first great tent meeting place of the Israelites with the whole assembly gathered together just like the meeting tent in the wilderness. This assumes that they had conquered all the Canaanites, which they had not.

“There remained among the Israelites seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. So Joshua said to the Israelites. ‘How long will you be slack about going in to take possession of the land that Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, has given you? Provide three men from each tribe. I will send them out that they may begin to go throughout the land, writing a description of it with a view to their inheritances. Then come to me. They shall divide it into seven portions, Judah continuing in its territory on the south, and the house of Joseph in their territory on the north. You shall describe the land in seven divisions. Then bring the description here to me. I will cast lots for you here before Yahweh our God. The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of Yahweh is their heritage. Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of Yahweh gave them.”

Clearly the tribe of Judah had the south and the tribes of Joseph had the northern area. Now they must describe and split up the remaining land into seven portions since the Levites do not get any land. 3 people from each of the remaining 7 tribes will describe the land. Then they will cast lots for the land. Of course, the Levites do not get any land.

“So the men started on their way. Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land. ‘Go throughout the land and write a description of it. Then come back to me. I will cast lots for you here before Yahweh in Shiloh.’ So the men went and traversed the land. They set down in a book a description of it by towns in seven divisions. Then they came back to Joshua in the camp at Shiloh. Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before Yahweh. There Joshua apportioned the land to the Israelites, to each his portion.”

Strangely enough this must have taken some time, but there is no indication of how long this process was. There was a group of 21 Israelites traveling all over Canaan. They were to divide the land into 7 portions. The granting of the land to the three tribes of Judah, Ephraim, and Manasseh seemed to go very smooth, while this seems to be more complicated. There appears to be no divine intervention in this process, but merely casting lots. This casting of lots seems to be a common way of doing things. Perhaps God intervenes by letting the lots fall where they may. It would seem that they are going to carve out small land masses from the territories of Judah or Joseph, either in the north or south.

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