Joshua 18-20

Good morning! Today’s chapters from Joshua (18-20) finish describing the boundaries of the remaining tribes and then identify the six “cities of refuge” for those who unintentionally commit murder, as called for in Numbers 35.

Joshua 18-19 focus on tribal boundaries and may be read quickly, but there are several things to notice in advance. First, Joshua gathers the Hebrews in Shiloh and sets up the tent of meeting there. Shiloh is where one of the historic shrines will later be situated for the northern kingdom of Israel after the civil war (it becomes a rival to Judah’s temple in Jerusalem). Mention of Shiloh in this context essentially validates it as a holy site, adding weight to later Israel’s claim that Jerusalem isn’t the only place where God may truly be worshipped. I also find it interesting that Joshua sends out representative from the remaining tribes in what amounts to a “Lewis and Clark” expedition, surveying the land prior to taking possession of it.

Most of the remaining part of these chapters is given to describing the land that each tribe inhabits (at least on paper, so to speak). Chapter 19 makes clear that Simeon is a subset of Judah—though the name “Judah” is used to describe the greater portion of the area set forth in Joshua 15, it’s not the only tribe that was located within those boundaries. The only thing I find of interest in the remaining description of tribal allotments is the reference to the tribe of Dan’s search for land in 19:40-48. The story is told in much greater depth (and with a pejorative slant) in Judges 18, where the city is called Laish rather than Leshem.

Joshua 20 returns to the idea of the cities of refuge. The six cities mentioned are spread throughout the land, on both sides of the Jordan River. This means that they are mostly within a day’s journey for any resident of Israel, intended as sanctuary for those who commit unintentional manslaughter. Happy reading!

Read Joshua 18-20.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Joshua 21-22. Thanks for reading!

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