The Scriptorium

Settling the Land

They would have needed genealogies to do this. Joshua 14.1-5; 21.43-45

Gleanealogy: Forward, Ever Forward (2)

Pray Psalm 80.1-3.
Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
You who lead Joseph like a flock;
You who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!
Before Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,
Stir up Your strength,
And come and save us!
Restore us, O God;
Cause Your face to shine,
And we shall be saved!

Sing contemplatively Psalm 80.1-3 .
(St. Theodulph: All Glory, Laud, and Honor)
O God of grace, restore us, and shine on us Your face!
O save us, Lord, work for us; renew us by Your grace!
Give ear, O gracious Savior, Who leads us as Your flock:
Stir up Your pow’r and favor, our King and Lord and Rock!

Read Joshua 14.1-5; 21.43-45.

1. What role do you suppose genealogies played in Israel’s parceling the land of Canaan?

2. How was Israel able to subdue the land and drive their enemies from it? How does this relate to the genealogies of Scripture? What do they teach us about the faithfulness of God?

Joshua chapters 14-21 are not genealogies, but they’re some pretty serious lists; and it should be possible to see the intimate connection between what is reported in these chapters and the role genealogies must have played in this part of Israel’s history.

A preliminary question might be in order: Why was it so important that the land of Canaan be apportioned by tribes? Why couldn’t people just live where they wanted? I think one of the answers to that question relates to the role of family in the divine economy. From the beginning, families and their lineages mattered, and family members worked together to preserve the memory of their heritage, contribute to its continuity, and make sure its pedigree was passed on to subsequent generations. Families have a kind of natural affinity that keeps them together, and the genealogies of Scripture played an important role in helping those family lines to remain intact. It would have been unnatural for the Israelites to settle the land of Canaan in any other way, because family was how they thought about their place in God’s covenant.

This emphasis on families would also help them to keep in mind that their project as a people in this place to which God had brought them was to be a blessing to all the families of the earth – their families bringing the blessing of God to the families of the nations around them. Initially, Israel had to reclaim her family territory, and for this to happen, other families had to be displaced. But this was always only intended as a temporary situation. The full covenant blessings of God would come to Israel at the first Christian Pentecost, when the mandate to make all the families of the earth disciples would be launched.

In chapters 13 and 15 we notice an interesting development. Following the practicality of getting the two-and-a-half tribes back to their families on the east side of the Jordan, the first family to receive its allotment is not Reuben – Jacob’s first-born – and not Ephraim and Manasseh – the sons of Joseph. Suddenly, the family of Judah has become preeminent, and this development flows out of what we saw in Genesis 49.8-12. Judah is now the lead family of the nation of Israel.

Following the apportionment to Judah was that to the sons of Joseph (Josh. 16), then the allotments to each of the other tribes (chs. 18-21). We note also that these allotments are identified by cities or regions, not tribal family names. The actual designating of which families would live in which villages or towns was apparently left for the families to decide, based on whatever criteria they may have found most useful. This emphasizes that the inheritance consisted of land, specific tracts and locales – Personal Mission Fields, if you will – where God’s people were to put down roots, practice the Law of God, and prepare to take their place in the divine project.

The Levites are allotted cities and lands throughout all the territories, since they would serve the spiritual needs of all the families of Israel. In the end, the writer acknowledges that all this distributing of lands was the work of God in fulfillment of His promise to the fathers (21.43-45); and we can be sure that the genealogies – which God Hiimself inspired, and which the people cherished and preserved – made this distribution and settlement proceed with much greater ease and efficiency than if they did not exist at all.

1. How can you see that the settling of the land of Canaan is a kind of template or foreshadowing for the Great Commission of Matthew 28.18-20?

2. As you read the names of these cities, what do you imagine? What can you see with your mind’s eye? Can you see people? Occupations? Neighborhoods? What are the people doing? How are they relating to one another?

3. How can these lists of cities and territories, given by God to Israel, help us in pursuing our calling within our own Personal Mission Field?

God promised to give to the seed of Abraham the land of Canaan for a possession, and now they possessed it, and dwelt therein. And the promise of the heavenly Canaan is as sure to all God’s spiritual Israel; for it is the promise of Him that cannot lie. There stood not a man before them. The after-prevalence of the Canaanites was the effect of Israel’s slothfulness, and the punishment of their sinful inclinations to the idolatries and abominations of the heathen whom they harbored and indulged. There failed not ought of any good thing, which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. In due season all his promises will be accomplished; then will his people acknowledge that the Lord has exceeded their largest expectations, and made them more than conquerors, and brought them to their desired rest.
Matthew Henry (1662-1714), Commentary on Joshua 21.43-45

Lord, as I am part of the line of those meant to bring comfort and rest to the world, use me today to…

Pray Psalm 80.12-19.
God revived His people through the judgment of the wilderness, and led them into the land of promise as His people. We need God to lead and move us, as in Joshua’s day, that His Kingdom may come on earth as it is in heaven. Seek His Presence and power for revival, beginning in your own life today.

Sing Psalm 80.12-19.
Psalm 80.12-19 (St. Theodulph: All Glory, Laud, and Honor)
Now You in wrath have spoken and bruised Your chosen vine.
We languish, Lord, are broken by wrath, deserved, divine.
Once more, Lord, hear our pleading: return and heal this vine!
Look down on us, so needy, and show Your love divine!

Though we be burned and perish because of Your command,
Revive us, Lord, and cherish this son of Your right hand.
Then let us not return to our sinful, selfish ways,
But call on You and learn to surround You with our praise.

T. M. Moore

The genealogies of Scripture reveal the heart of God in His covenant relationship with His people. To learn more about God’s covenant, order our book, I Will Be Your God, by clicking here. You can learn to sing all the psalms to familiar hymn tunes by ordering a copy of The Ailbe Psalter (click here).

If you value Scriptorium as a free resource for your walk with the Lord, please consider supporting our work with your gifts and offerings. You can contribute to The Fellowship by clicking the Contribute button  at the website or by sending your gift to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 360 Zephyr Road, Williston, VT 05495.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All psalms for singing adapted from
The Ailbe Psalter. All quotations from Church Fathers from Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore