Today it’s hard to read through the list of cities and descriptions of the borders between the tribes, but we want to try to appreciate what they meant to the Israelites who lived at that time. To them it certainly wasn’t boring; it was a concrete, genuine gift from the hand of God.
Imagine the list of the cities of Judah from Joshua 15:20-62, but with the names of the cities and the villages from your place of origin, or from the place where you live now. (In my case that would be the city of Monroe, the largest town in the area where I live, and it would include many smaller communities nearby like
Jersey, Youth, Walnut Grove, Oxford, Social Circle, Good Hope, Gratis, etc., places with no great reputation but very important to the people whose homes and families are located here.) Go through them in your mind if not in your car, appreciating each one: their hills and valleys, their advantages, their economic possibilities, their pretty sights, their pleasant corners, their places that need to be developed, others that have been destroyed and need to be rebuilt, their infrastructure or lack of it…
Now imagine that Yahweh has given all this territory, every square inch of it, to you and your family along with your distant relatives. Besides sharing the same ancestors several generations back, you have suffered years in the desert together, you have crossed the Jordan River miraculously together, you have fought Canaanites together for five years and have seen Yahweh’s hand repeatedly in your
protection and your victories. Together you worship Yahweh and go to the tabernacle to present your offerings; you’ve celebrated the Passover, the Feast of Unleavened Bread and many more together; you have learned together to keep all of Yahweh’s laws concerning your economic exchanges, your family interactions, how to determine purity or contamination, and you’ve begun to teach your children Yahweh’s marvels that you’ve seen with your own eyes. Many, many things tie you together, much more than blood and a family history. And now Yahweh tells you all, “These places are yours. Subjugate them; enjoy them; make them produce. Work, rest and relax here… Wouldn’t names like Ithnan, Ziph, Telem, Bealoth and Hazor-hadattah mean much more to us if we could understand our own participation in them like this?
That’s how we need to understand the distribution of land, Caleb’s
enthusiasm to conquer his inheritance and the concern that some tribes have not
subjugated their allotment. It is a blessing; it is a wonderful opportunity; it is dominion; it is Yahweh’s fulfillment of His promise by grace, received by His chosen people with thanksgiving.