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9th March

Joshua 13-21; Psalm 68

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
9th March

Joshua 13-21; Psalm 68

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Joshua we've read as Joshua has picked up the reins where Moses left off. Joshua is now in charge, and we read as God commanded him to be courageous and loyal to his word. In turn, the Israelites were courageous and faithful to Joshua. Continuing from Deuteronomy, we see this theme of faithfulness and obedience leading to blessing.

Joshua sent out spies, just as Moses did, but these spies were successful. God led these spies to a Canaanite woman named Rahab, who sided with them. Upon returning with news, Joshua then led the people across the river Jordan, just as Moses led the people across the Red Sea.

On the other side, Joshua led the people through the practices that God commanded them. Circumcision and the Passover. Outside of Jericho, Joshua met the commander of God's army, who reminded Joshua he was part of God's plan, not the other way around.

And then the fighting began. Through obedience and faithfulness, God led the people to victory over Jericho. Unfortunately, immediately the people began doing things their own way and were defeated in their next battle against Ai.

Joshua reaffirmed the Israelites' obedience and faithfulness by punishing those who rebelled and seeking God for wisdom. The second time round, they defeated Ai. Having learnt their lesson afresh, the Israelites once again committed themselves to their covenant relationship with God. They will be obedient and faithful.

Then yesterday, we read as the Israelites made the same mistake of checking in with God. They granted peace to a neighbouring nation, the Gibeonites, before realising their mistake. God used this mistake to gather Israel's enemies together so Israel could defeat them together. We then read the list of conquest in both southern and northern Israel, and Joshua led the people to victory through obedience.

Joshua 13-21

Today's reading is a large one. If Joshua 1-5 was about preparing the people, and Joshua 6-12 was about conquering the land, then Joshua 13-21 is all about dividing up the land.

There is a lot of detail in these chapters, specific cities and place names that are written out. To us, these can be boring. But remember, to an Israelite, this was significant stuff. These places were places they would have known, and land wasn't allowed to transfer over to different tribes, so this land would have belonged to them as long as they lived there.

Joshua is close to death, but there’s still land for Israel to claim. God encourages Joshua to start the process of dividing up the land now, and after he has gone, God will lead the people to reclaim the remaining land.

We start with the list of the land Moses had already divided up east of the Jordan. This belonged to half the tribe of Manasseh, the tribe of Reuben, and the tribe of Gad.

Next comes Caleb, the spy that went out with the original twelve back in Numbers 13 but who tried to tell the people they could win against the Canaanites. He is given a special inheritance because of his faithfulness and loyalty.

The passage explains that Caleb’s father was a non-Israelites, a Kennizite. Caleb is another added to the list of non-Israelites that showed greater faithfulness and loyalty to God than most Israelites and is rewarded for it.

Next up is the tribe of Judah that gets the largest section. They are to take most of the southern land. This is followed by the tribe of Ephraim and then the rest of the tribe of Manasseh.

The tent of Meeting, the tabernacle, is set up at Shiloh. There, the remaining seven tribes are still waiting on their territory. Joshua rebukes them for not already taking possession of it. This might mean that at this point, a lot of the northern land is still to be conquered, or that it has been conquered, but the remaining tribes haven’t yet properly occupied it.

Either way, Joshua tells the people to travel across Israel and chart the land still needing occupying. He then divided these up and cast lots to see which tribe got which piece of land.

The tribe of Benjamin gets a piece of land in between Judah and the two tribes of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh. The tribe of Simeon gets some land within the tribe of Judah.

Zebulun, Issachar, Asher and Naphtali are all given land in the north. Dan was originally given land to the west but weren’t able to keep it. They would be a nomadic people before eventually settling in the most northern part of Israel, taking land that had been given to Naphtali. Once again, we see why Jacob described Dan as a serpent that bites at a horse’s heels.

Then, like Caleb, Joshua is given his own special inheritance for his leadership. Finally, we get the cities that were to serve as the cities of refuge and the cities that would belong to the Levi, spread out across the rest of the tribes of Israel.

Psalm 68

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of praise psalm. Psalms 65-68 are often grouped together as a mini-cluster. They are all communal praise psalms that talk about ‘we’ and ‘us’.

Psalm 68:1-3 - God shall rise, scattering the wicked and lifting the righteous

Psalm 68:4-6 - Praise to the God of the marginalised

Psalm 68:7-10 - The presence of God

Psalm 68:11-14 - The mighty military God

Psalm 68:15-18 - The mountain of God vs the mountain of Bashan

Psalm 68:19-23 - Bless be the Lord of salvation and judgement

Psalm 68:24-27 - The people enter God’s sanctuary

Psalm 68:28-30 - Request for God’s power

Psalm 68:31-35 - Bless the Lord all the nations

The psalmist opens with a celebration of God. He scatters those who hate him so that they can’t stand before him. But the righteous will stand and rejoice in God.

The psalmist then praises God for how he supports the marginalised. From the orphan and the widow to the lonely and imprisoned. God protects them and causes them to flourish, while he drives out the rebellious.

Next, we get a description of God’s presence going out in mighty power. The earth quakes and the heavens pour down rain. And this rain causes flourishing amongst God’s people.

From there, we get praise for God’s military power. He causes kings to flee and creates so much bounty from defeating his enemies that the women who didn’t even fight have to be brought in to help count it.

Next up is the comparison between God’s mountain and the mountain of Bashan. Mount Bashan, along with mount Hermon, is a mountain in the north that is often associated with the demonic and forces of darkness. Talking about the mountain of God and the mountain of Bashan is a way to talk about the war of the forces of darkness against God.

But while the forces of darkness look on with hatred, God’s army is bigger and he will ultimately defeat them and take them captive.

The psalmist then turns back to God. He is a God of salvation and justice, just as the forces of Bashan are the opposite. God will strike them down and let his people have victory over them.

Next is the procession into God’s temple. Just as a victorious king has a procession back to their palace after a great campaign, the people gather and celebrate as they march back to God’s temple after his great victory. All the people will be gathered and they will offer gifts to God.

And so the psalmist asks God to step in. What the psalmist has spoken of so far is an ideal future where God will defeat his enemies and his people will flourish. Here the psalmist is asking that God bring about this future. May God defeat his enemies, and trample the wicked so all the nations of the earth can return to him.

Finally, the psalmist calls all people to praise God, the God of Israel, for his power and might.

In Psalm 65-68 we’ve seen the praise of God’s people build. We’ve praised God for his salvation, his justice, and his provision. And this has all built towards this future vision of a world where God has ultimately defeated his enemies and the forces of darkness so that all the earth can rejoice and celebrate in him.

Again, even here in the Old Testament, we get the people casting vision of an entire world united and flourishing in God.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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