Joshua
Introduction 1-2 The Levites Ask for Their Cities 3-8 Cities for the Priests and Levites 9-19 Cities for the Priests 20-26 Cities for the Sons of Kohath 27-33 Cities for the Sons of Gershon 34-40 Cities for the Sons of Merari 41-42 The Territory of the Levite Cities 43-45 The LORD Has Fulfilled His Promise
Introduction

The forty-eight Levite cities are scattered throughout the land. The Levites have the task of teaching the law in Israel. Because each tribe gives a few cities to the Levites, all Israelites can benefit from the service of the Levites. It is important that God’s servants – today’s Levites – are everywhere among God’s children to serve them with God’s Word.

From verse 4343So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. comes a summary of the division of the land. The LORD gets the honor of all. He gives the land, He gives rest and He gives their enemies in their hands. The only conclusion is: “Not one of the good promises … failed; all came to pass” (verse 4545Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.). He also wants to make Himself known to us in this way in view of the blessings He has given us.

The division of the land has happened. The people may rest. All Christians have received blessings, but not all have taken possession of them. For every step, an enemy must be driven out of our practical life of faith. Then we can take possession of the fruits in the land, the spiritual blessings, that is to say enjoy in our hearts. This is the condition the people have reached here. In our spiritual life we can also come so far that we know and enjoy the spiritual blessings.


The Levites Ask for Their Cities

1Then the heads of households of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of households of the tribes of the sons of Israel. 2They spoke to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, “The LORD commanded through Moses to give us cities to live in, with their pasture lands for our cattle.”

In these cities of the Levites we reach a climax. This is in a way higher than anything we have seen so far. We understand this when we think about the Levites’ inheritance. They have not got a certain territory, they do not inherit like the other Israelites. Their possession consists of three great blessings that grow in size: the priesthood, a portion of the offerings by fire, and the LORD Himself (Jos 13:14,3314Only to the tribe of Levi he did not give an inheritance; the offerings by fire to the LORD, the God of Israel, are their inheritance, as He spoke to him.33But to the tribe of Levi, Moses did not give an inheritance; the LORD, the God of Israel, is their inheritance, as He had promised to them.; 18:77For the Levites have no portion among you, because the priesthood of the LORD is their inheritance. Gad and Reuben and the half-tribe of Manasseh also have received their inheritance eastward beyond the Jordan, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.”). All that they do, their whole effort, is directed entirely to the LORD, not to the land.


Cities for the Priests and Levites

3So the sons of Israel gave the Levites from their inheritance these cities with their pasture lands, according to the command of the LORD. 4Then the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites. And the sons of Aaron the priest, who were of the Levites, received thirteen cities by lot from the tribe of Judah and from the tribe of the Simeonites and from the tribe of Benjamin. 5The rest of the sons of Kohath received ten cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Ephraim and from the tribe of Dan and from the half-tribe of Manasseh. 6The sons of Gershon received thirteen cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Issachar and from the tribe of Asher and from the tribe of Naphtali and from the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan. 7The sons of Merari according to their families received twelve cities from the tribe of Reuben and from the tribe of Gad and from the tribe of Zebulun. 8Now the sons of Israel gave by lot to the Levites these cities with their pasture lands, as the LORD had commanded through Moses.

The Levites must be spread throughout the land, in forty-eight cities. This shows that they have a task for the whole people, or in the name of the whole people. Of the forty-eight, six are cities of refuge. The remaining forty-two, that is seven times six cities, are divided among the families of the three sons of Levi. With the cities the Levites also get pasture lands for their cattle.


Cities for the Priests

9They gave these cities which are [here] mentioned by name from the tribe of the sons of Judah and from the tribe of the sons of Simeon; 10and they were for the sons of Aaron, one of the families of the Kohathites, of the sons of Levi, for the lot was theirs first. 11Thus they gave them Kiriath-arba, [Arba being] the father of Anak (that is, Hebron), in the hill country of Judah, with its surrounding pasture lands. 12But the fields of the city and its villages they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as his possession. 13So to the sons of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands, and Libnah with its pasture lands, 14and Jattir with its pasture lands and Eshtemoa with its pasture lands, 15and Holon with its pasture lands and Debir with its pasture lands, 16and Ain with its pasture lands and Juttah with its pasture lands [and] Beth-shemesh with its pasture lands; nine cities from these two tribes. 17From the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with its pasture lands, Geba with its pasture lands, 18Anathoth with its pasture lands and Almon with its pasture lands; four cities. 19All the cities of the sons of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their pasture lands.

The first Levites to be assigned their share are the Kohathites. Among them, Aaron’s sons, the priests, occupy a special place. They get thirteen cities. Of these, nine are in Judah, including Simeon, including the city of refuge of Hebron, and four are in Benjamin. This division means that they will live in the right place, near Jerusalem, near the temple. Jerusalem is not yet known as such, but God places them there in view of the time He will dwell there.

The task of the Levites is to teach and to offer incense (Deu 33:1010“They shall teach Your ordinances to Jacob,
And Your law to Israel.
They shall put incense before You,
And whole burnt offerings on Your altar.
). Their task is a task towards the people and a task towards God. In their duty to the people, they must teach the people the whole truth of God. Their duty to God is to bring Him offerings. In our life as Christians, the two aspects of the Levites are connected. We have a task to God and a task to the people around us. To God we are “a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pet 2:5b5you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.). To the people we are “a royal priesthood”, to proclaim the excellencies of God (1Pet 2:99But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for [God’s] own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;).

As said, dividing the cities among the Levites is in a way a climax. We have seen everything God has prepared for His people so far. He gave the people the strength to conquer the land and also gave them the wisdom to divide the land. But this is not all. The most important thing is not what we have received, but what God receives. We see that in the Levites.

Levites are given to the priests to help them to bring offerings. Through the teaching they give, the people learn how they can bring to God something that is pleasing to Him. They always show the people to Whom they owe the blessings. That also applies to us. Every service among the believers must be aimed at creating true worship.

The service of worship rises above gratitude for what we have received. For example, the Levite of the New Testament is the servant who explains God’s Word. In his teaching he presents to the people the blessing that the church in Christ has received. That will work in the hearts of the believers worship of God. For all that we have received is for the praise of His glory (Eph 1:6,12,146to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.12to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.14who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of [God’s own] possession, to the praise of His glory.). When we have seen some of the blessings, we honor, praise, worship. For this we “have our access in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:1818for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.). We see it in Paul himself, how he bows his knees before the Father of the Lord Jesus (Eph 3:1414For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,).

It is the wonderful task of the Levites among all the people to get the people to worship the Father (Jn 4:23-2423But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.24God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”). How much do we personally owe to brothers who have shown the blessings to us, to turn our hearts, from the blessings, to Him from Whom these blessings are given.


Cities for the Sons of Kohath

20Then the cities from the tribe of Ephraim were allotted to the families of the sons of Kohath, the Levites, [even to] the rest of the sons of Kohath. 21They gave them Shechem, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands, in the hill country of Ephraim, and Gezer with its pasture lands, 22and Kibzaim with its pasture lands and Beth-horon with its pasture lands; four cities. 23From the tribe of Dan, Elteke with its pasture lands, Gibbethon with its pasture lands, 24Aijalon with its pasture lands, Gath-rimmon with its pasture lands; four cities. 25From the half-tribe of Manasseh, [they allotted] Taanach with its pasture lands and Gath-rimmon with its pasture lands; two cities. 26All the cities with their pasture lands for the families of the rest of the sons of Kohath were ten.

The remaining Kohathites (possibly descendants of Moses) get ten cities, including - the city of refuge Shechem, in the territories of Ephraim, Dan and Manasseh that lies on the west side of the Jordan, that is in the land.


Cities for the Sons of Gershon

27To the sons of Gershon, one of the families of the Levites, from the half-tribe of Manasseh, [they gave] Golan in Bashan, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands, and Be-eshterah with its pasture lands; two cities. 28From the tribe of Issachar, [they gave] Kishion with its pasture lands, Daberath with its pasture lands, 29Jarmuth with its pasture lands, En-gannim with its pasture lands; four cities. 30From the tribe of Asher, [they gave] Mishal with its pasture lands, Abdon with its pasture lands, 31Helkath with its pasture lands and Rehob with its pasture lands; four cities. 32From the tribe of Naphtali, [they gave] Kedesh in Galilee, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands and Hammoth-dor with its pasture lands and Kartan with its pasture lands; three cities. 33All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their pasture lands.

The Gershonites get thirteen cities in the territory of Issachar, Asher and Manasseh which lies on the eastern side of the Jordan, the wilderness side of the Jordan. Among their cities are two cities of refuge: Golan in Basan and Kedes in Galilee.


Cities for the Sons of Merari

34To the families of the sons of Merari, the rest of the Levites, [they gave] from the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its pasture lands and Kartah with its pasture lands. 35Dimnah with its pasture lands, Nahalal with its pasture lands; four cities. 36From the tribe of Reuben, [they gave] Bezer with its pasture lands and Jahaz with its pasture lands, 37Kedemoth with its pasture lands and Mephaath with its pasture lands; four cities. 38From the tribe of Gad, [they gave] Ramoth in Gilead, the city of refuge for the manslayer, with its pasture lands and Mahanaim with its pasture lands, 39Heshbon with its pasture lands, Jazer with its pasture lands; four cities in all. 40All [these were] the cities of the sons of Merari according to their families, the rest of the families of the Levites; and their lot was twelve cities.

The sons of Merari get twelve cities in the territory of Zebulun in the land, and in Reuben and Gad in wilderness side of the Jordan. The city of refuge among their cities, Ramoth, is located in Gad, in wilderness side of the Jordan. Of the forty-eight Levite cities, ten are in the wilderness side of the Jordan.


The Territory of the Levite Cities

41All the cities of the Levites in the midst of the possession of the sons of Israel were forty-eight cities with their pasture lands. 42These cities each had its surrounding pasture lands; thus [it was] with all these cities.

This final count does not quite fit with the enumeration in 1 Chronicles 6:39-66. A simple explanation for this difference can be that at the time of the allocation of the cities, some of them still have to be conquered. Like the other tribes, the Levites may not have succeeded in driving out all enemies.


The LORD Has Fulfilled His Promise

43So the LORD gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. 44And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand. 45Not one of the good promises which the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass.

When the land and the cities are divided, it is said again emphatically: “So the LORD gave Israel all the land.” The fact that they have taken possession of it is its consequence. Everything has gone out of the LORD. The people have not yet overcome all enemies, but they do have control over the whole land.

There is talk of a special rest (verse 4444And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand.). Joshua 11 also speaks of rest (Jos 11:2323So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.). That is the rest after the battle, a first rest, after conquering the land and taking possession of it, although there are still some enemies left. In Joshua 14 we find a second rest (Jos 14:1515Now the name of Hebron was formerly Kiriath-arba; [for Arba] was the greatest man among the Anakim. Then the land had rest from war.). Then we have already had something to do with the division of the land. We experience this second rest after fighting in personal fidelity (Caleb) and in this way discovering and enjoying the blessings.

The rest here, in Joshua 21, goes furthest (verse 4444And the LORD gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hand.). It is the rest which the LORD gives to his people. The Levites have taken their cities. Now there rises from the people through their service worship to God. There the rest is not focused on the blessings, but on Him Who has given the blessings. This is the best rest: in the presence of God Himself.

In a literal sense Joshua did not bring them in the rest either, “for if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that” (Heb 4:88For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that.). Even under David and Solomon there is no question of constant rest. The true and undisturbed rest will be brought by the Lord Jesus when He establishes His kingdom of righteousness and peace: the thousand-year realm of peace.

Now that everything of the land is divided and every tribe has taken possession of what they have received, the fulfillment of “the good promises” of the LORD has come. His “good promises” are the promises He has made and with which He has begun to make them to Abraham: “The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land”” (Gen 12:7a7The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your descendants I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD who had appeared to him.).

What He promises is good. He will not leave any promise unfulfilled, but will make everything come true. We will say this once we are with Him in His glory. Looking forward to this will give strength to walk now in faith and hope.

With entering into the rest of God, the book is actually over. What follows are three chapters containing warnings and encouragements.


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