Today’s reading: Joshua 19-21.
I’m offering a buffet of small treats today since I couldn’t cook up one main dish. There aren’t any “begats” in today’s chapters, but the tallying of boundaries and cities can seem uninspired unless we do a little gem mining.
First dish: Curses that come home to roost. Simeon’s tribe receives land within the territory previously designated for Judah. Judah’s tribe doesn’t mind because they have plenty of land. Nothing seems unusual about this arrangement, but think back to the days when this tribe’s ancestor, Simeon, was just a young man. He and his brother, Levi, set up a trap and killed a family of Canaanites who had assaulted their sister. On his death-bed Jacob remembers what his sons had done, and prophesied about them (Genesis 49).
Simeon and Levi are brothers; instruments of cruelty are in their dwelling place. Let not my soul enter their council; let not my honor be united to their assembly; for in their anger they slew a man, and in their self-will they hamstrung an ox. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce; and their wrath, for it is cruel! I will divide them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel.
Jacob’s prophesy comes true as Simeon is scattered through Judah’s territory. Also, the Levites are scattered in Levite cities through every tribal territory of Israel.
Second dish: Levites and priests. As mentioned above, the Levite tribe is given cities spread through all the tribal lands rather than their own territory. They probably weren’t the only ones living in these towns, and some of them lived in other cities. This arrangement had two beneficial effects: it kept the Levites accountable because they were surrounded by non-Levites, and it allowed them to be a spiritual influence throughout the nation. The Levites included the family of Aaron, who were the priests. Curiously, when the lots are drawn, all of the priests receive cities in the tribal lands of Judah/Simeon and Benjamin. This meant they all lived in the southern part of the country. Two points about that: one day the temple would be built in that same area in Jerusalem, and one day all the other tribes in the north would break away and form Israel. All of the priest cities remain in the southern part, Judah. Was this God’s providence? Did their presence help preserve Judah, and did their absence contribute to Israel’s fall?
Third dish: All things settled. The successful settlement of the Promised Land proves once again that the LORD keeps his word. The Israelites found him faithful, and so will we if we trust him.
So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their forefathers, and they took possession of it and settled there. The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their forefathers. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD handed all their enemies over to them. Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. Joshua 21:43-45
Image by CharlesFred on Flickr, CC by-nc-sa 2.0