Territories & Kings
Open Your Bible
Joshua 12:1-24, Nehemiah 9:22, Psalm 136:16-21, Daniel 2:19-22
BY Patti Sauls
A spunky child may disagree with me, but I appreciate a good time-out. Offer me a chance to pause, catch my breath, and regroup, and I’ll take it every time. Today, we’re offered a pause as we reach the midpoint of the book of Joshua. There’s been a lot of action already. So far, we’ve tracked Israel’s turbulent entrance into Canaan. And now we slow down for a retelling of Moses’s earlier victories on the east side of the Jordan River, as well as Joshua’s victories in the west. This clear summary gives us a chance to understand what was happening in the land.
Here’s another recap: The nation of Israel consisted of twelve tribes that descended from the families of Jacob’s twelve children. This confederation of tribes was called “Israel” because that was the new name God gave to Jacob, a Hebrew patriarch (Genesis 32:28). After hundreds of years enslaved in Egypt and forty more years wandering in the desert, Israel finally got to enter the abundant land that God had promised to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham.
In Canaan under Joshua’s leadership, Israel was a nation on the move. We read of each king who was overthrown and each city that was conquered (Joshua 12). The conquered eastern land was divided and distributed to some of the tribes, “and Moses the LORD’s servant gave their land as an inheritance to the Reubenites, Gadites and half the tribe of Manasseh” (v.6). The conquered western land was divided among the remaining tribes, including the other half of the Manasseh tribe (Joshua 13–17).
Here we have a bird’s-eye view of Israel in the land, but now we need a close-up perspective. What about each man, woman, and child? What were their hopes and dreams? This nomadic nation had been enslaved and homeless for hundreds of years. They dreamed of settling down in freedom, safety, and peace; they longed for a place to call home.
Sadly, it wouldn’t come easily. The unfolding of the Old Testament describes the challenges that God’s people encountered in their search for home. Abundant land wasn’t enough. Conquered cities weren’t enough. The people’s struggle with unbelief, disobedience, forgetfulness, and fear wrecked them again and again. The Israelites needed more than a place to call home; they needed a Person to be their home. And, so do we.
What are you running to for security and peace? Or are you weary and wrecked and barely managing to crawl? What are you trying to conquer in hopes that it will define you or protect you? As God remained faithful to the Israelites, He remains faithful to us. God not only promises an eternal place to call home; He also gives us Himself. This is what we have been looking for all along.