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Who's First On?

Not by chance.

Joshua 1:10–15

So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.’”

But to the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh, Joshua said, “Remember the command that Moses the servant of the LORD gave you after he said, ‘The LORD your God will give you rest by giving you this land.’ Your wives, your children and your livestock may stay in the land that Moses gave you east of the Jordan, but all your fighting men, ready for battle, must cross over ahead of your fellow Israelites. You are to help them until the LORD gives them rest, as he has done for you, and until they too have taken possession of the land the LORD your God is giving them. After that, you may go back and occupy your own land, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave you east of the Jordan toward the sunrise.”

Joshua is reminding the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh of their previous agreement with Moses.

But we will arm ourselves for battle and go ahead of the Israelites … We will not return to our homes until each of the Israelites has received their inheritance. — Numbers 32:17a, 18

Those three tribes apparently made this deal for practical reasons.

“Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon— the land the LORD subdued before the people of Israel—are suitable for livestock, and your servants have livestock. If we have found favor in your eyes,” they said, “let this land be given to your servants as our possession.” — Numbers 32:3–5a

But Origen of Alexandria (ca. 184–253) doesn’t buy that. He thinks something grander is going on.

“I think it impossible for it to have happened accidentally that all who receive a portion through Moses were all firstborn. For Reuben was the firstborn of Leah; Gad, the firstborn of Zilpah; and Manasseh, the firstborn of Asenath the Egyptian Joseph married, the daughter of Potiphar the priest of Heliopolis. For myself, I can never be persuaded that it was by chance that the firstborn were the only ones whose inheritance was determined through Moses. Rather, I believe that in these things the design of two groups of people was already foreshadowed at that time: One would seem to be the firstborn according to the order of nature; the other, the people would receive the blessing of their inheritance through faith and grace.” — Homilies on Joshua 3.1 (Translation from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture)

The math is on Origen’s side. The odds easily exceed the modern standard for statistical significance.

Not all coincidences are messages, but some are. If something surprising gives you pause, then pause.

Meditate on whether God is trying to get your attention.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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