April 5, 2021

Land, Land, Land . . . Manslaughter?!

Joshua 16–20

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The Allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh

The allotment of the people of Joseph went from the Jordan by Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, into the wilderness, going up from Jericho into the hill country to...

The Allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh

The allotment of the people of Joseph went from the Jordan by Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, into the wilderness, going up from Jericho into the hill country to Bethel. Then going from Bethel to Luz, it passes along to Ataroth, the territory of the Archites. Then it goes down westward to the territory of the Japhletites, as far as the territory of Lower Beth-horon, then to Gezer, and it ends at the sea.

The people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance.

The territory of the people of Ephraim by their clans was as follows: the boundary of their inheritance on the east was Ataroth-addar as far as Upper Beth-horon, and the boundary goes from there to the sea. On the north is Michmethath. Then on the east the boundary turns around toward Taanath-shiloh and passes along beyond it on the east to Janoah, then it goes down from Janoah to Ataroth and to Naarah, and touches Jericho, ending at the Jordan. From Tappuah the boundary goes westward to the brook Kanah and ends at the sea. Such is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Ephraim by their clans, together with the towns that were set apart for the people of Ephraim within the inheritance of the Manassites, all those towns with their villages. 10 However, they did not drive out the Canaanites who lived in Gezer, so the Canaanites have lived in the midst of Ephraim to this day but have been made to do forced labor.

Then allotment was made to the people of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war. And allotments were made to the rest of the people of Manasseh by their clans, Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. These were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph, by their clans.

Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters, and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. They approached Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders and said, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers.” So according to the mouth of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father. Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is on the other side of the Jordan, because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance along with his sons. The land of Gilead was allotted to the rest of the people of Manasseh.

The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to Michmethath, which is east of Shechem. Then the boundary goes along southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the people of Ephraim. Then the boundary went down to the brook Kanah. These cities, to the south of the brook, among the cities of Manasseh, belong to Ephraim. Then the boundary of Manasseh goes on the north side of the brook and ends at the sea, 10 the land to the south being Ephraim’s and that to the north being Manasseh’s, with the sea forming its boundary. On the north Asher is reached, and on the east Issachar. 11 Also in Issachar and in Asher Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, and Ibleam and its villages, and the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; the third is Naphath.1 12 Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 13 Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

14 Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?” 15 And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16 The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 17 Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, 18 but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”

Allotment of the Remaining Land

Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at Shiloh and set up the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.

There remained among the people of Israel seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. So Joshua said to the people of Israel, “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you? Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. They shall divide it into seven portions. Judah shall continue in his territory on the south, and the house of Joseph shall continue in their territory on the north. And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the LORD our God. The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the LORD is their heritage. And Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.”

So the men arose and went, and Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land, saying, “Go up and down in the land and write a description and return to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the LORD in Shiloh.” So the men went and passed up and down in the land and wrote in a book a description of it by towns in seven divisions. Then they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh, 10 and Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel, to each his portion.

The Inheritance for Benjamin

11 The lot of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to its clans came up, and the territory allotted to it fell between the people of Judah and the people of Joseph. 12 On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan. Then the boundary goes up to the shoulder north of Jericho, then up through the hill country westward, and it ends at the wilderness of Beth-aven. 13 From there the boundary passes along southward in the direction of Luz, to the shoulder of Luz (that is, Bethel), then the boundary goes down to Ataroth-addar, on the mountain that lies south of Lower Beth-horon. 14 Then the boundary goes in another direction, turning on the western side southward from the mountain that lies to the south, opposite Beth-horon, and it ends at Kiriath-baal (that is, Kiriath-jearim), a city belonging to the people of Judah. This forms the western side. 15 And the southern side begins at the outskirts of Kiriath-jearim. And the boundary goes from there to Ephron,2 to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. 16 Then the boundary goes down to the border of the mountain that overlooks the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is at the north end of the Valley of Rephaim. And it then goes down the Valley of Hinnom, south of the shoulder of the Jebusites, and downward to En-rogel. 17 Then it bends in a northerly direction going on to En-shemesh, and from there goes to Geliloth, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim. Then it goes down to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben, 18 and passing on to the north of the shoulder of Beth-arabah3 it goes down to the Arabah. 19 Then the boundary passes on to the north of the shoulder of Beth-hoglah. And the boundary ends at the northern bay of the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan: this is the southern border. 20 The Jordan forms its boundary on the eastern side. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin, according to their clans, boundary by boundary all around.

21 Now the cities of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to their clans were Jericho, Beth-hoglah, Emek-keziz, 22 Beth-arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, 23 Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, 24 Chephar-ammoni, Ophni, Geba—twelve cities with their villages: 25 Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26 Mizpeh, Chephirah, Mozah, 27 Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28 Zela, Haeleph, Jebus4 (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah5 and Kiriath-jearim6—fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin according to its clans.

The Inheritance for Simeon

The second lot came out for Simeon, for the tribe of the people of Simeon, according to their clans, and their inheritance was in the midst of the inheritance of the people of Judah. And they had for their inheritance Beersheba, Sheba, Moladah, Hazar-shual, Balah, Ezem, Eltolad, Bethul, Hormah, Ziklag, Beth-marcaboth, Hazar-susah, Beth-lebaoth, and Sharuhen—thirteen cities with their villages; Ain, Rimmon, Ether, and Ashan—four cities with their villages, together with all the villages around these cities as far as Baalath-beer, Ramah of the Negeb. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Simeon according to their clans. The inheritance of the people of Simeon formed part of the territory of the people of Judah. Because the portion of the people of Judah was too large for them, the people of Simeon obtained an inheritance in the midst of their inheritance.

The Inheritance for Zebulun

10 The third lot came up for the people of Zebulun, according to their clans. And the territory of their inheritance reached as far as Sarid. 11 Then their boundary goes up westward and on to Mareal and touches Dabbesheth, then the brook that is east of Jokneam. 12 From Sarid it goes in the other direction eastward toward the sunrise to the boundary of Chisloth-tabor. From there it goes to Daberath, then up to Japhia. 13 From there it passes along on the east toward the sunrise to Gath-hepher, to Eth-kazin, and going on to Rimmon it bends toward Neah, 14 then on the north the boundary turns about to Hannathon, and it ends at the Valley of Iphtahel; 15 and Kattath, Nahalal, Shimron, Idalah, and Bethlehem—twelve cities with their villages. 16 This is the inheritance of the people of Zebulun, according to their clans—these cities with their villages.

The Inheritance for Issachar

17 The fourth lot came out for Issachar, for the people of Issachar, according to their clans. 18 Their territory included Jezreel, Chesulloth, Shunem, 19 Hapharaim, Shion, Anaharath, 20 Rabbith, Kishion, Ebez, 21 Remeth, En-gannim, En-haddah, Beth-pazzez. 22 The boundary also touches Tabor, Shahazumah, and Beth-shemesh, and its boundary ends at the Jordan—sixteen cities with their villages. 23 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Issachar, according to their clans—the cities with their villages.

The Inheritance for Asher

24 The fifth lot came out for the tribe of the people of Asher according to their clans. 25 Their territory included Helkath, Hali, Beten, Achshaph, 26 Allammelech, Amad, and Mishal. On the west it touches Carmel and Shihor-libnath, 27 then it turns eastward, it goes to Beth-dagon, and touches Zebulun and the Valley of Iphtahel northward to Beth-emek and Neiel. Then it continues in the north to Cabul, 28 Ebron, Rehob, Hammon, Kanah, as far as Sidon the Great. 29 Then the boundary turns to Ramah, reaching to the fortified city of Tyre. Then the boundary turns to Hosah, and it ends at the sea; Mahalab,7 Achzib, 30 Ummah, Aphek and Rehob—twenty-two cities with their villages. 31 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Asher according to their clans—these cities with their villages.

The Inheritance for Naphtali

32 The sixth lot came out for the people of Naphtali, for the people of Naphtali, according to their clans. 33 And their boundary ran from Heleph, from the oak in Zaanannim, and Adami-nekeb, and Jabneel, as far as Lakkum, and it ended at the Jordan. 34 Then the boundary turns westward to Aznoth-tabor and goes from there to Hukkok, touching Zebulun at the south and Asher on the west and Judah on the east at the Jordan. 35 The fortified cities are Ziddim, Zer, Hammath, Rakkath, Chinnereth, 36 Adamah, Ramah, Hazor, 37 Kedesh, Edrei, En-hazor, 38 Yiron, Migdal-el, Horem, Beth-anath, and Beth-shemesh—nineteen cities with their villages. 39 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Naphtali according to their clans—the cities with their villages.

The Inheritance for Dan

40 The seventh lot came out for the tribe of the people of Dan, according to their clans. 41 And the territory of its inheritance included Zorah, Eshtaol, Ir-shemesh, 42 Shaalabbin, Aijalon, Ithlah, 43 Elon, Timnah, Ekron, 44 Eltekeh, Gibbethon, Baalath, 45 Jehud, Bene-berak, Gath-rimmon, 46 and Me-jarkon and Rakkon with the territory over against Joppa. 47 When the territory of the people of Dan was lost to them, the people of Dan went up and fought against Leshem, and after capturing it and striking it with the sword they took possession of it and settled in it, calling Leshem, Dan, after the name of Dan their ancestor. 48 This is the inheritance of the tribe of the people of Dan, according to their clans—these cities with their villages.

The Inheritance for Joshua

49 When they had finished distributing the several territories of the land as inheritances, the people of Israel gave an inheritance among them to Joshua the son of Nun. 50 By command of the LORD they gave him the city that he asked, Timnath-serah in the hill country of Ephraim. And he rebuilt the city and settled in it.

51 These are the inheritances that Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the heads of the fathers’ houses of the tribes of the people of Israel distributed by lot at Shiloh before the LORD, at the entrance of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.

The Cities of Refuge

Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Say to the people of Israel, ‘Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood. He shall flee to one of these cities and shall stand at the entrance of the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. Then they shall take him into the city and give him a place, and he shall remain with them. And if the avenger of blood pursues him, they shall not give up the manslayer into his hand, because he struck his neighbor unknowingly, and did not hate him in the past. And he shall remain in that city until he has stood before the congregation for judgment, until the death of him who is high priest at the time. Then the manslayer may return to his own town and his own home, to the town from which he fled.’”

So they set apart Kedesh in Galilee in the hill country of Naphtali, and Shechem in the hill country of Ephraim, and Kiriath-arba (that is, Hebron) in the hill country of Judah. And beyond the Jordan east of Jericho, they appointed Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland, from the tribe of Reuben, and Ramoth in Gilead, from the tribe of Gad, and Golan in Bashan, from the tribe of Manasseh. These were the cities designated for all the people of Israel and for the stranger sojourning among them, that anyone who killed a person without intent could flee there, so that he might not die by the hand of the avenger of blood, till he stood before the congregation.

Footnotes

[1] 17:11 The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain
[2] 18:15 See 15:9; Hebrew westward
[3] 18:18 Septuagint; Hebrew to the shoulder over against the Arabah
[4] 18:28 Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Hebrew the Jebusite
[5] 18:28 Hebrew Gibeath
[6] 18:28 Septuagint; Hebrew Kiriath
[7] 19:29 Compare Septuagint; Hebrew Mehebel

Land, Land, Land . . . Manslaughter?!



Key Verse | Joshua 20:1-3

Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Say to the people of Israel, 'Appoint the cities of refuge, of which I spoke to you through Moses, that the manslayer who strikes any person without intent or unknowingly may flee there. They shall be for you a refuge from the avenger of blood.'''

Bio | Kristen Belveal

Hi, JTJ readers! My name is Kristen Belveal, and I'm writing to you from Lewisville, Texas, with my husband Noah and our noisy but cuddly cat Gracie! I volunteer with Watermark's anti-trafficking ministry Reclaimed, and I write Christian fiction and blog under my maiden name (Kristen Reed). In my life, I've sought refuge from a lot of things—grief, loneliness, anxiety, and more—but God has been my loving refuge. Running to Him through the ups and downs and for forgiveness of my sins has given me a sense of safety and peace that I never thought possible.

Central Truth

The cities of refuge in Joshua 20 should be a reminder to us that God is our refuge from something so much more terrifying than an avenger of blood. Through Jesus, we are saved from death and judgment.

Devotional | Joshua 16–20

Today's reading in the book of Joshua is quite interesting. These chapters start with the allotments of land for several tribes, the daughters of Zelophehad (see Numbers 27:1-11), and Joshua. Then, the...

Today's reading in the book of Joshua is quite interesting. These chapters start with the allotments of land for several tribes, the daughters of Zelophehad (see Numbers 27:1-11), and Joshua. Then, the allotments of land that remind us of God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 take a seemingly strange detour to cover cities of refuge in Joshua 20:1-9.

In these six cities, people who accidentally kill someone can seek asylum from the victim's avenger of blood, a male relative who seeks to kill the manslayer to exact judgment. In those cities, the manslayer would be tried for his crime. If the congregation of judgment deemed the death unintentional, the killer would remain there until the high priest died. If they deemed the slaying intentional, the killer would be put to death. (Exodus 21:12-14)

This dilemma is likely not something most of us will face, but knowing that we will be judged for our sin should be super relatable! We may not be murderers, but we deserve death for our sins (Romans 6:23). Thankfully, we don't need a city of refuge because God is our refuge. He sent Jesus, our perfect High Priest (Hebrews 4:14-15), to die for our sins and to rise so that we can be free from the penalty we very much deserve for our sins. We no longer have to fear our spiritual adversary, who prowls around seeking to devour and destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). God is our refuge from sin, whether it's a lie that goes unnoticed or taking someone else's life.

Wherever you are on that spectrum, run from your sin and turn to God, and you'll find not a temporary place of unwanted yet safe confinement, but a kind, loving Father who celebrates when sinners repent and join His family.

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Discussion Questions

1. What sins or past hurts are you running from? Share your answer with a trusted, Christian friend or mentor to start getting the support you need.

2. Do you ever feel afraid to draw near to God in times of need? What lies are you believing about God's character that feed those fears? Read and memorize Hebrews 4:14-16 for some encouragement!

3. In this passage, do you relate more with the manslayer (running from their sin) or the avenger of blood (focused on someone else's sin), and why?

4. Who in your life needs to hear the truth from today's reading? Take a moment to pray for each one by name before reaching out.

7 Comments available

Linda Green 11 days ago

Thanks, Kristen, for pointing us to find refuge in Jesus. Unlike the person who accidentally killed someone and fled to the city of refuge from the avenger of blood, I flee to Jesus when I am guilty, even of willful sin deserving death.

And He still welcomes me and cleanses me from my sin (1John 1:9). So amazing that God provides refuge in Jesus. Thankful.

Michael Scaman 11 days ago

The daughters of Zelophehad would be the first legal challenge and God said they were right and won inheritance rights for their circumstance.

Job actually did this already and his daughters got inheritance with his sons. Job was ahead of His time.

Kristen Reed 12 days ago
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Thank you, Sue! It’s so interesting to see how grace/forgiveness show up in the OT when there’s also so much focus on The Law!

Kristen Reed 12 days ago
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So true, Hugh! There is a lot of waiting and patience in the Bible that we can definitely use to fuel our patience about and faith in God’s plans.

Sue Bohlin 12 days ago

Thanks, Kristen. I bet you were glad the JTJ folks divided up today’s reading to include chapter 20, huh?!

I wrote “GRACE” in my Bible next to the chapter heading for the Cities of Refuge chapter. How very kind of God to provide a way for people to escape a life of being hunted down after an unfortunate accident. As we walk through the whole Bible this year, I’m on a treasure hunt for grace in the Old Testament. It’s so easy to believe the lie that God suddenly invented it in the New Testament! But grace is who God is, and He doesn’t change . . . and it’s a joy to find evidence of it in the Old Testament as well as the New.

Greg Jones 12 days ago

April 5th on my calendar is distinct from the 4th and the 6th. Box lines separate the moments 11:59PM and 12:01AM. Except for one night a year the passing of those actual moments are less significant than the lines that separate them as calendar boxes. Blurred again are seconds of each day that make up 6 hours of each year that don’t fit into a 365 day calendar. There is a simple expression that recognizes this time, February 29th. The 29th compresses past extended time, not into reality actually, but onto a calendar.

As a day February 29th expresses time more than it explains it. Like that, Bible scholars are starting understand the Bible outside of some of the boxes it has been handed to them in.

Hugh Stephenson 12 days ago

GM Kristen! Love the truth that we don’t need a city of refuge because God is our refuge, (Psalm 46:1).

Reflecting on Joshua 19:51; Eleazer and Joshua finish distributing the allotments of land.

Patience. Decades and centuries of patience. God’s timeline and patience is so very different from mine.

About 4,000 years from Genesis 3:15 to the birth of Jesus; itself which came in the “fullness of time”, (Galatians 4:4-5)

About 500 years from the promise in Genesis 15:6 to Joshua 19:51.

Decades of waiting for Abram and Sarai.

The promise in Genesis was land, seed and blessing. At 2,000,000 people when they left Egypt qualifies as “seed”. Even then, God was waiting for the Amorites, (Genesis 15:16).

400 years of slavery in Egypt.

Decades in exile

400+ years of silence between Malachi and Matthew.

2,000 years since Acts 1:8.

Yet, the truth of 2 Peter 3:9 still applies.

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