JOSHUA’S FINAL INSTRUCTIONS FROM THE LORD IN HIS OLD AGE –
PAST CONQUESTS NO EXCUSE FOR NEGLECTING FUTURE GOALS — SPECIFIC AREAS OF CANAAN STILL NEEDED TO BE CONQUERED AND POSSESSED
Kenneth Gangel: Just as God took control over the battles, God also takes control over the rest and communicates specific plans for how he wants the land of Canaan divided.
As this staggering array of geographical locations unfolds for the rest of Joshua, some readers will find the change in story line a bit boring, but it was the most exciting time for Israelites. If we put ourselves in their sandals, we notice this was the first time in their history as a nation that they had their own land, their own cities, their own fields, and their own homes. Verses 2-5 describe the portion of land that had not yet been conquered. Essentially it consisted of Philistia, Phoenicia, and Lebanon (reading south to north), the southwest coastal region, and the far north territory.
Thomas Constable: At the end of the seven-year period of conquest, Israel occupied very little of the Promised Land; very much of it remained for them to possess (v. 1). Consequently, dividing all the land among the tribes required great faith, that God would eventually give His people all of it. Joshua had removed the significant military threats to Israel’s existence. From now on, each tribe was responsible to conquer and colonize its own designated territory.
David Howard: A major emphasis in this section [13:1 – 21:45] is that God was the great landowner and landgiver. Just as in chaps. 1–12, he is presented as the one who guided and fought for Israel, giving its enemies into its hands, so now he appears as the one who gave Israel the land. The detailed boundary descriptions and lists of cities serve to emphasize the fact that God had been in control of this land all along, and he had the authority to parcel it out as he saw fit. . .
the very inclusion of the great detail in these lists shows the importance of documenting each tribes’ inheritance and of demonstrating God’s faithfulness to his promises.
Robert Hubbard: Structurally, Joshua 13–19 has two main sections: Yahweh’s commission of Joshua to distribute land west of the Jordan among nine-and-a-half tribes (ch. 13) and the detailed report that he does so (chs. 14–19).
Richard Hess: For the Christian, Israel’s failure to conquer the land fully anticipates the inability to enjoy the full favour of God’s blessing in this life (1 Cor. 10:1–13). Christians are not perfect, though they are called to perfect holiness. They live in a tension between the rewards of a life lived fully in the Holy Spirit, which are available here and now, and their own failure, which prevents the appropriation of those gifts. This paradox has no resolution in this life but it does have the promise of God’s continual presence with believers to enable them to receive forgiveness and to live a life of obedience (1 John 1:5–10).
Trent Butler: The divine speech (vv 2–7) contains four major parts:
– A description of the present situation (v 1)
– A description of the land that remains (vv 2–5)
– A promise to complete the conquest eventually (vv 6a)
– A description of Joshua’s present task and a command to begin immediately (vv 6b–7)
I. (:1) OLD AGE MARKS A TRANSITION BUT NOT A CESSATION OF SERVICE
“Now Joshua was old and advanced in years when the LORD said to him,
‘You are old and advanced in years,
and very much of the land remains to be possessed.’”
Richard Hess: The note signals the end of Joshua’s participation in wars of conquest at an age approaching his death at 110 (Josh. 24:29). It introduces a new section of the book.
Trent Butler: Joshua cannot complete the task of conquering the land. He is old: he has fought a long time (Josh 11:18); he has been entirely faithful (11:15). Now he must trust others to complete the conquest.
Robert Hubbard: Joshua’s advanced age leads Yahweh to raise an important matter. What is to be done about the “very large areas of land [still] to be taken over” (v. 1)? Before Yahweh commissions Joshua to distribute Canaan among the tribes (vv. 6b–7), Yahweh surveys the land that remains to be conquered (vv. 2–6a). His concern is twofold (v. 6): Because of Joshua’s old age, someone else will have to liberate the above lands later from possession by non-Israelites, and yet Joshua is to include those unconquered lands in the distribution.
Gordon Matties: The second main section of the book begins with a double reference to Joshua’s old age, once by the narrator and once by God (v. 1). The same emphasis is repeated in 23:1, reminding the reader of the importance of what lies in between. The point of 13:1 is not simply Joshua’s age, but also that God speaks about the fact that very much of the land still remains to be possessed (v. 1b) and then maps out the territory. Verses 2-6b chart that territory by listing the outlying areas (not the central hill country of Ephraim and Judah). Verses 1b-7 are a divine speech, which marks the words as having special significance.
David Thompson: This chapter opens with a description of Joshua. Joshua was old and advanced in years. We know that when Joshua died, he was 110-years-old (Joshua 24:29). It is guessed at this point in time that here he is about 100.
God has some special things He says about faithful older people:
Psalm 92:14 – “They will still yield fruit in old age: they shall be full of sap and very green.”
Isaiah 46:4 – “Even to your old age, I shall be the same and even to your graying years I shall bear you. I have done it and I shall carry you and I shall bear you and
I shall deliver you.”
Joshua was old; but he was not done serving God. Arthur Pink said it is not the revealed will of God that His people should spend their elderly years in idleness. He doesn’t preserve them, protect them and mature them so they can spend their life in a chair in front of a TV. There are jobs for elderly people to do. Perhaps not as strenuous, but still important work. Praying, giving, attending, helping, ministering are all jobs we all can do regardless of age.
II. (:2-5) OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND FOR CONSOLIDATING POSSESSION OF THE PROMISED LAND
“This is the land that remains:”
Richard Hess: The remaining land describes those towns and regions that lie within the borders of Canaan (Num. 34:1–12) but are not possessed by Israel. Its appearance in verses 2–7 serves as an introduction to what follows (cf. Judg. 1), in the case of Joshua 13 – 21 the allotments of the land.
A. (:2b-3) The Southern Region
“all the regions of the Philistines and all those of the Geshurites; 3 from the Shihor which is east of Egypt, even as far as the border of Ekron to the north (it is counted as Canaanite); the five lords of the Philistines: the Gazite, the Ashdodite, the Ashkelonite, the Gittite, the Ekronite; and the Avvite”
Richard Hess: For lands of the Philistines and Geshurites, see Joshua 11:22; 12:5. The former dwelt along the sea-coast and the latter were found east of the sea of Galilee.
David Howard: The Philistines are mentioned now for the first time in the book. They were a mixed group of peoples who settled in Canaan in large numbers ca. 1200 B.C., but forebears of whom had been in the land since the time of Abraham (see Gen 21:32–24; 26:1; etc.). The reference here is either to these forebears or else the term “Philistine” is used to label the territory that later would become identified by its occupants. The Philistines had five major cities, named here, ruled over by five “lords.” The word for “lord” here—seren—is the only clearly Philistine word known, and it is used consistently in the Bible to refer to the Philistine rulers of their five-city political organization.
B. (:4) The Canaanite Region
“to the south, all the land of the Canaanite,
and Mearah that belongs to the Sidonians,
as far as Aphek, to the border of the Amorite;”
Richard Hess: The Sidonians include the entire coastal region that borders Philistia at Aphek in the south and extends north to the border of the Gebalites. . .
The region of the Amorites represents a unique use of the term ‘Amorite’ in the Bible. Elsewhere it is a general term for the people of Canaan, perhaps especially those of the hill country. Here it represents the kingdom of Amurru, known to have existed only in the Late Bronze Age (1550–1200 BC) when it formed a state situated between the region controlled by Egypt to the south and that controlled by the Hittites to the north. This region is north of the Nahr el-Kalb River.
C. (:5) The Northern Region
“and the land of the Gebalite,
and all of Lebanon, toward the east,
from Baal-gad below Mount Hermon as far as Lebo-hamath.”
Richard Hess: Gebal is the city-state of Byblos, whose control included the coastal region from the border of the Sidonians north to the northern border of Canaan along the coast.
III. (:6-7) OBEDIENCE MUST MESH WITH GOD’S SOVEREIGN ACTIVITY
A. (:6a) Divine Promise of Sovereign Activity
“All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon as far as Misrephoth-maim, all the Sidonians, I will drive them out from before the sons of Israel;”
David Howard: The emphasis in v. 6a, however, shifts from a simple catalogue of territories (or peoples) to the activity that God promised he would undertake, namely, to drive out these peoples before the Israelites. The objects of God’s activity are emphasized syntactically by appearing in the beginning of the verse. Furthermore, God emphasizes his own activity and his own fearsome attributes: “I myself will drive them out before the Israelites.”
Trent Butler: The theological point of the whole section comes in v 6aβ, the divine promise. God will do that which Joshua is too old to do. The people of Israel may lose their perfectly obedient leader, but they will not lose the leadership of God. He has given his promise (Exod 34:24; Num 32:21; 33:52–53; Deut 9:3–5; 11:23; 18:12; Josh 3:10)
B. (:6b-7) Delegated Responsibility for Distribution of God-Given Inheritance
“only allot it to Israel for an inheritance as I have commanded you. 7 Now therefore, apportion this land for an inheritance to the nine tribes, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.”
David Howard: Verses 6b–7 shift the focus away from the unconquered territories and people to Joshua’s obligations to divide the land as an inheritance to the tribes west of the Jordan, just as God had commanded him.
Robert Hubbard: In verse 7, Yahweh formally (lit., “And now …”) commissions Joshua to “apportion” (halaq pi.) the entire land—that just described and the parts already within Israelite control—among the nine-and-a-half tribes. This command governs all the activity through 19:51. As we will see, the means of dividing them is to cast lots (lit., “throw it down”; NIV “allocate this land”). Theologically, Israel presumes that Yahweh invisibly guides the process of lot-casting that decides who gets what (e.g., 14:2; 18:11; 19:1). So, Israel accepts the results as Yahweh’s will. But the question is, what about land for the other two-and-one-half tribes? That question occasions a glance backward.