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David Guzik :: Study Guide for Joshua 21

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Cities Appointed for the Levites

A. The people of the tribe of Levi receive their cities with their common lands.

1. (Jos 21:1-3) The leaders of the tribe of Levi ask for what was promised to them.

Then the heads of the fathers' houses of the Levites came near to Eleazar the priest, to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers' houses of the tribes of the children of Israel. And they spoke to them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, "The LORD commanded through Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with their common-lands for our livestock." So the children of Israel gave to the Levites from their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their common-lands:

a. The Levites received no "province" of land such as the other tribes did; however, they had to live somewhere.  So, each tribe gave certain cities and common-lands (land immediately surrounding the cities) to the tribe of Levi.

b. The tribe of Levi had no "province" of land because God had declared that He would be their inheritance (Joshua 13:14, and 13:33).

2. (Jos 21:4-42) Cities are appointed to the Levites, according to their three main family divisions.

Now the lot came out for the families of the Kohathites. And the children of Aaron the priest, who were of the Levites, had thirteen cities by lot from the tribe of Judah, from the tribe of Simeon, and from the tribe of Benjamin. The rest of the children of Kohath had ten cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Ephraim, from the tribe of Dan, and from the half-tribe of Manasseh. And the children of Gershon had thirteen cities by lot from the families of the tribe of Issachar, from the tribe of Asher, from the tribe of Naphtali, and from the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan. The children of Merari according to their families had twelve cities from the tribe of Reuben, from the tribe of Gad, and from the tribe of Zebulun. And the children of Israel gave these cities with their common-lands by lot to the Levites, as the LORD had commanded by the hand of Moses. So they gave from the tribe of the children of Judah and from the tribe of the children of Simeon these cities which are designated by name, which were for the children of Aaron, one of the families of the Kohathites, who were of the children of Levi; for the lot was theirs first. And they gave them Kirjath Arba (Arba was the father of Anak), which is Hebron, in the mountains of Judah, with the common-land surrounding it. But the fields of the city and its villages they gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh as his possession. Thus to the children of Aaron the priest they gave Hebron with its common-land (a city of refuge for the slayer), Libnah with its common-land, Jattir with its common-land, Eshtemoa with its common-land, Holon with its common-land, Debir with its common-land, Ain with its common-land, Juttah with its common-land, and Beth Shemesh with its common-land: nine cities from those two tribes; and from the tribe of Benjamin, Gibeon with its common-land, Geba with its common-land, Anathoth with its common-land, and Almon with its common-land: four cities. All the cities of the children of Aaron, the priests, were thirteen cities with their common-lands. And the families of the children of Kohath, the Levites, the rest of the children of Kohath, even they had the cities of their lot from the tribe of Ephraim. For they gave them Shechem with its common-land in the mountains of Ephraim (a city of refuge for the slayer), Gezer with its common-land, Kibzaim with its common-land, and Beth Horon with its common-land: four cities; and from the tribe of Dan, Eltekeh with its common-land, Gibbethon with its common-land, Aijalon with its common-land, and Gath Rimmon with its common-land: four cities; and from the half-tribe of Manasseh, Tanach with its common-land and Gath Rimmon with its common-land: two cities. All the ten cities with their common-lands were for the rest of the families of the children of Kohath. Also to the children of Gershon, of the families of the Levites, from the other half-tribe of Manasseh, they gave Golan in Bashan with its common-land (a city of refuge for the slayer), and Be Eshterah with its common-land: two cities; and from the tribe of Issachar, Kishion with its common-land, Daberath with its common-land, Jarmuth with its common-land, and En Gannim with its common-land: four cities; and from the tribe of Asher, Mishal with its common-land, Abdon with its common-land, Helkath with its common-land, and Rehob with its common-land: four cities; and from the tribe of Naphtali, Kedesh in Galilee with its common-land (a city of refuge for the slayer), Hammoth Dor with its common-land, and Kartan with its common-land: three cities. All the cities of the Gershonites according to their families were thirteen cities with their common-lands. And to the families of the children of Merari, the rest of the Levites, from the tribe of Zebulun, Jokneam with its common-land, Kartah with its common-land, Dimnah with its common-land, and Nahalal with its common-land: four cities; and from the tribe of Reuben, Bezer with its common-land, Jahaz with its common-land, Kedemoth with its common-land, and Mephaath with its common-land: four cities; and from the tribe of Gad, Ramoth in Gilead with its common-land (a city of refuge for the slayer), Mahanaim with its common-land, Heshbon with its common-land, and Jazer with its common-land: four cities in all. So all the cities for the children of Merari according to their families, the rest of the families of the Levites, were by their lot twelve cities. All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty-eight cities with their common-lands. Every one of these cities had its common-land surrounding it; thus were all these cities.

a. The striking thing about this list is that God wanted the Levites "sprinkled" all throughout the land of Israel.  He never intended there to be one "state" of Levi, but every tribe was to have the priestly influence and presence in their midst.

i. In the same manner, Christians (being priests, 1 Peter 2:5 and 2:9) are to be "sprinkled" all throughout the world and society, instead of heading off to make a "Christian country" somewhere.

b. Perhaps it is also significant that the priests received their cities last of all the tribes.  Priests are appointed to serve, not to be served, and there is something priestly about letting others go first.

B. Israel takes full possession of the land.

1. (Jos 21:43) The land is Israel's, given to them by God.

So the LORD gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it.

a. All the tribes had their land. They must go into every corner of what God has given, and take full possession, but God had provided everything necessary for them to do so.

2. (Jos 21:44) The rest in the land is Israel's, given to them by God.

The LORD gave them rest all around, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers. And not a man of all their enemies stood against them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.

a. The LORD gave them rest all around: This is the point where Israel stopped commemorating Passover as if equipped to travel as described in Exodus 12:11).  Now they will eat the Passover reclining at rest (as described in John 13:23), because the LORD had given them rest in the land.

3. (Jos 21:45) Not a word of God fails.

Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass.

a. Not a word failed of any good thing which the LORD had spoken: God was completely faithful in regard to the land; but Israel was not.  Any failure to fully possess was not because God had not made adequate provision, but because Israel had failed to fully follow the LORD.

b. God has been completely faithful to you, and made provision for continual victory.  He has given greatly unto you, but what do you possess?

i. "In the light of the Cross, is it not true that the enemy has no right to dwell in the land?  Is it not true that Satan's claim to your life was taken from him at Calvary?  Is it not true that sin has no right to a foothold in the life of the child of God?  Is it not true that Satan has no power in the presence of Omnipotence?  Is it not true that by virtue of His blood and His resurrection, Jesus Christ is pledged to destroy the enemy utterly?  Is it not true that in the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit there is strength for every temptation, grace for every trial, power to overcome every difficulty?" (Alan Redpath)

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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