The Gift of the Land.

The allotment for the tribe of the people of Judah according to their clans reached southward to the boundary of Edom, to the wilderness of Zin at the farthest south. And their south boundary ran from the end of the Salt Sea, from the bay that faces southward. It goes out southward of the ascent of Akrabbim, passes along to Zin, and goes up south of Kadesh-barnea, along by Hezron, up to Addar, turns about to Karka, passes along to Azmon, goes out by the Brook of Egypt, and comes to its end at the sea. This shall be your south boundary. And the east boundary is the Salt Sea, to the mouth of the Jordan. And the boundary on the north side runs from the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan. And the boundary goes up to Beth-hoglah and passes along north of Beth-arabah. And the boundary goes up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. And the boundary goes up to Debir from the Valley of Achor, and so northward, turning toward Gilgal, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim, which is on the south side of the valley. And the boundary passes along to the waters of En-shemesh and ends at En-rogel. Then the boundary goes up by the Valley of the Son of Hinnom at the southern shoulder of the Jebusite (that is, Jerusalem). And the boundary goes up to the top of the mountain that lies over against the Valley of Hinnom, on the west, at the northern end of the Valley of Rephaim. Then the boundary extends from the top of the mountain to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah, and from there to the cities of Mount Ephron. Then the boundary bends around to Baalah (that is, Kiriath-jearim). 10 And the boundary circles west of Baalah to Mount Seir, passes along to the northern shoulder of Mount Jearim (that is, Chesalon), and goes down to Beth-shemesh and passes along by Timnah. 11 The boundary goes out to the shoulder of the hill north of Ekron, then the boundary bends around to Shikkeron and passes along to Mount Baalah and goes out to Jabneel. Then the boundary comes to an end at the sea. 12 And the west boundary was the Great Sea with its coastline. This is the boundary around the people of Judah according to their clans.

13 According to the commandment of the Lord to Joshua, he gave to Caleb the son of Jephunneh a portion among the people of Judah, Kiriath-arba, that is, Hebron (Arba was the father of Anak). 14 And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the descendants of Anak. 15 And he went up from there against the inhabitants of Debir. Now the name of Debir formerly was Kiriath-sepher. 16 And Caleb said, “Whoever strikes Kiriath-sepher and captures it, to him will I give Achsah my daughter as wife.” 17 And Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, captured it. And he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. 18 When she came to him, she urged him to ask her father for a field. And she got off her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you want?” 19 She said to him, “Give me a blessing. Since you have given me the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” And he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs. Joshua 15:1-19 ESV

judahJudah was the largest of the 12 tribes and this may have been the reason its territory within the promised land was the first to be determined. As chapter 14 revealed, Caleb, a member of the tribe of Judah, was given the city of Hebron in recognition for his faithful service to and faith in God. He and Joshua had been the only two of the twelve spies who had believed that God could deliver the land to the people of Israel in spite of the presence of powerful enemies. The city of Hebron was located within the boundaries of what would be the tribe of Judah’s inheritance.

We are not told how the boundaries of the lands awarded to the various tribes was determined. But the passage provides detailed information regarding the specific geographic markers that would form the boundaries of Judah’s territory. The Dead Sea would form Judah’s eastern border. Verses 5-11 establish Judah’s northern boundary, with very specific details concerning where its territory begins and ends. This was important, because it would prevent future debates or disagreements from taking place between the tribes over their allotments and the cities found within them. The Mediterranean Sea would represent Judah’s western border.

Within these vast boundaries, the clans of Judah would be expected to complete the task of conquering and eliminating any and all of the current inhabitants. They were to capture the cities and make them their own. And Caleb, who had been awarded the city of Hebron, did his part.

And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the descendants of Anak. – Joshua 15:14 ESV

But Caleb didn’t stop there. He also attacked Debir and offered a special prize – the hand of his daughter in marriage – to anyone who captured the city. His own brother, Othniel, was the one who ended up garnering the reward. And Othniel would go on to become one of the judges of Israel (Judges 3:9). These two men appear to be highlighted in this passage because they provide examples of faithfulness and obedience to the will of God. They did what God had commanded all the people of Israel to do. They finished what the forces of Israel had begun, continuing the process of spiritual and moral cleansing of the land. The Canaanites were far from eradicated and it was going to take every single tribe and every member of those tribes to faithfully obey God and trust Him for the strength they would need to continue to possess the land by dispossessing its inhabitants.

Even Achsah, Caleb’s daughter, recognized that this land was a symbol of God’s promise made to Abraham, and she wanted her own part of it. While she had been given to Othniel as little more than a prize, she was not willing to go unrewarded herself. So, she requested that her father give her a portion of the land in the form of a spring.

“Give me a blessing. Since you have given me the land of the Negeb, give me also springs of water.” – Joshua 15:19 ESV).

And Caleb honored her request. The land and everything in it was of great value to the people of Israel. It represented their inheritance. Property would become a primary sign of wealth and affluence among the people of Israel. But the land given to the tribes by God was to remain within their clans. It was not theirs to sell or trade. God had made it clear that they were little more than stewards of the land, because it belonged to Him.

“The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine. For you are strangers and sojourners with me. – Leviticus 25:23 ESV

Actually, God had provided a provision by which the land could be sold, but He had placed very stringent restrictions and conditions on such sales.

25 “If your brother becomes poor and sells part of his property, then his nearest redeemer shall come and redeem what his brother has sold. 26 If a man has no one to redeem it and then himself becomes prosperous and finds sufficient means to redeem it, 27 let him calculate the years since he sold it and pay back the balance to the man to whom he sold it, and then return to his property. 28 But if he does not have sufficient means to recover it, then what he sold shall remain in the hand of the buyer until the year of jubilee. In the jubilee it shall be released, and he shall return to his property. – Leviticus 25:25-28 ESV

God had established what was known as The Year of Jubilee. Every 50 years, the land would be restored to its original owners. This was God’s plan for maintaining the original boundaries established between the tribes.

“You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years. Then you shall sound the loud trumpet on the tenth day of the seventh month. On the Day of Atonement you shall sound the trumpet throughout all your land. 10 And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, when each of you shall return to his property and each of you shall return to his clan. 11 That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you; in it you shall neither sow nor reap what grows of itself nor gather the grapes from the undressed vines. 12 For it is a jubilee. It shall be holy to you. You may eat the produce of the field.” – Leviticus 25:8-12 ESV

God knew His people well. He realized that they would be prone to take what He had given them and use it to prosper themselves. They would take what was rightfully His and attempt to profit from it in ways He never intended. The land was a gift from God, intended to provide for the people of God. It was not to be a bartering chip used to line their own pockets or to pay off debts. So, every 50 years, God required the mandatory release of any and all liens, deeds of ownership, and records of sale. The land returned to its original owners and was kept within the allotment as prescribed by God.

And God assured the people of Israel that obedience to His laws concerning the land would bring with it a blessing. They were to faithfully adhere to His commands and, in doing so, He would faithfully ensure their future prosperity and peace.

17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God. 18 “Therefore you shall do my statutes and keep my rules and perform them, and then you will dwell in the land securely. 19 The land will yield its fruit, and you will eat your fill and dwell in it securely.” – Leviticus 25:17-19 ESV

The land was a symbol of God’s love and covenant faithfulness. It was through the land that God intended to bless His people, using it to provide for all their physical needs. The land would be their source of food, water, shelter, protection and identity. But they were not to worship the land. They were never supposed to place a higher priority and value on the land than they did on God. The gift was never to take precedence over the Giver.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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