Chapter 18


The Allotments for the Remaining Seven Tribes (18:1-19:51)

Survey of the Remaining Land

        • The entire Israelite community gathered together at Shiloh and set the Tabernacle up there. They had brought the land under their control, but there were still seven tribes that had not yet been allotted their inheritance of land.

        • HCSB writes, “The central encampment of Joshua, the priests, and the whole assembly moved from Gilgal to Shiloh. This is the first mention of the tent of meeting (ie, the tabernacle) in the book of Joshua. It was the place where the presence of the Lord dwelt and where the people came to meet with God. The account of its origin is found in Exodus 25-27. The reference to the tent of meeting her and in Joshua 19:51 indicates that all was done according to the Lord’s directives…Although the land had been subdued (18:1) the other seven Cisjordan tribes (after Judah and the Joseph tribes) had not taken possession of it or apportioned their inheritance.”

        • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Shiloh was about twenty miles north of Jerusalem, in the hill country of Ephraim. By setting up the Tabernacle there, Joshua made Shiloh Israel’s religious and political center. The Tabernacle remained at Shiloh until the Philistines captured the Ark (1 Samuel 4:10-11).”

      • Joshua said to the Israelites, “How long will you put off going out to take possession of the land that the Lord, the God of your fathers, has given to you? Appoint three men from each tribe and I’ll send them out to survey the land. They are to write up a description of it, taking into consideration the division of the land for the purpose of allotments, and bring this report to me. They are to divide the land into seven portions. Judah will remain in their territory in the south and Joseph will remain in their territory in the north. After you have written the description of the seven portions of land, bring it to me, and I will cast lots for you in the presence of the Lord our God. However, the Levites do not receive an allotment among you because the priesthood of the Lord is their inheritance. Also, Gad, Reuben, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have already received their inheritance on the east side of the Jordan River- which the Lord’s servant, Moses, gave to them.”

        • HCSB makes note of the following contrast, “Then men of Judah, including Caleb, had approached Joshua about their allotment of land (14:6). Here Joshua had to confront the remaining seven tribes about completing the allotment of land.”

        • Notice that Joshua tells the surveyors to write a report and bring it to him. This is actually a important point since many scholars claim that people weren’t literate at this point in history. The ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “Many scholars question the presence of literacy during this period. It appears that early Israel was not solely an oral society. While written records rarely survive in the archaeological record, evidence suggests that alphabetic writing was known.”

        • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible also writes, “Joshua publicly cast sacred lots to eliminate envy or suspicion.” HCSB adds, “…The casting of lots was the means the Lord had directed for this purpose…His presence would determine the extent of tribal allotments.”

      • As the men started on their way to survey the land, Joshua commanded them, “Go survey the land, write a description of it, and come back to me. Then, I’ll cast lots for you here in Shiloh in the presence of the Lord.”

      • The men did as they were told. They surveyed the land and described it by cities, in seven portions, in a book. They returned to Joshua at camp in Shiloh, where he cast lots lots for them in the presence of the Lord and allotted the land to the Israelites, according to their portion.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible says, “This book would have been a scroll or some other writing material (the Hebrew term seper does not specify).”

Land Allotted to Benjamin

      • The first lot of land that came up went to the clans of the tribe of Benjamin, and it was located between the territory allotted to the tribes of Judah and Joseph:

        • Benjamin’s northern border began at the Jordan River and went up to the slope of Jericho on the north, then continued into the hill country in the west, and ended at the wilderness of Beth-aven. From there, the border continued on to Luz, to the slope of Luz to the south (that is, Bethel). Then, it went down to Ataroth-addar- to the hill that is south of Lower Beth-horon.

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “This boundary matches Ephraim’s southern border (16:2-3, 5-7).”

        • Then the border changed direction and turned to the western side, southward from the mountain that is opposite Beth-horon to the south. It ended at Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), which is a city that belonged to the descendants of Judah. This was the western border.

          • ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “This boundary matches Judah’s northern border (15:15b-9).”

        • The southern border began at the edge of Kiriath-jearim, and continued west to the spring at the waters of Nephtoah. Then it went down to the foot of the hill that is opposite the Valley of Ben-Hinnom, which was at the north end of the valley of the Rephaim. It went down the valley of Hinnom, crossing south of the slope of the Jebusites, and then down to En-rogel. From there, it curved northward and went to En-shemesh, then on to Geliloth, which is opposite the slopes of Adummim. Then it went down to the Stone of Bohan. (Bohan was Reuben’s son.) It continued along the north side of the slope overlooking the Jordan Valley. The border then went down into the valley, continued to the north slope of Beth-hoglah, and ended at the northern bay of the Dead Sea, which was at the southern end of the Jordan River. This was the southern border.

        • The Jordan River was the eastern border.

      • These were the borders of the territory allotted to Benjamin’s descendants, according to their clans.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Benjamin was Jacob’s twelfth and last son, and the second son of Rachel, Jacob’s favorite wife. The land received by his descendants reflected this favored position; they received a small but central portion between…Judah and Joseph.”

Benjamin’s Cities

      • The following cities with their villages were given to the tribe of Benjamin’s descendants according to their clans:

        • The first 12 were: Jericho, Beth-hoglah, Emek-keziz, Beth-arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, Chephar-ammoni, Ophni, and Geba.

        • These 14 cities were also included: Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, Mizpah, Chephirah, Mozah, Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, Zela, Haeleph, the Jebusite city (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah, and Kiriath.

      • This was the inheritance of Benjamin’s descendants according to their clans.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “While Judah’s land included eleven or twelve districts, the tribe of Benjamin had two, totaling twenty-six towns. However, the location between the lands of Judah and Joseph gave Benjamin an economic and military importance significantly greater than its size.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “The sites of Jericho, Bethel, Geba, Ramah, Mizpah, Jerusalem, and Gibeah have been archaeologically investigated, and a majority of these sites have been identified…”