(Originally published January 30, 2017)
We are now zooming through the chapters of Joshua, taking three whole chapters in lesson 12, since much in them is concerned with real estate boundaries, and we will be focusing more on the people involved. We begin by reviewing the subject of the book of Joshua and how chapters 15 through 17 contribute to the theme. The theme can be summed up in two verses.
“Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.” (Genesis 12:7)
“Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.” (Joshua 1:6)
There is no difficulty seeing this theme playing out in the chapters we are covering, as we watch Joshua handing out the inheritance to the tribes of Israel— the offspring of Abraham (Abram), the Lord himself selecting them each by the cast of the lot.
The first tribe to receive their inheritance within the promised land is Judah, descendants of the fourth-born son of Jacob. We are asked to investigate why he may have been given preference over his older brothers; why does Judah have preeminence? To find the answer we are sent to the first book of the Bible in Genesis, when Jacob is giving his prophetic blessing to his sons before he dies, to the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew, and to the last book of Scripture in Revelation.
“Judah, your brothers shall praise you; your hand shall be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons shall bow down before you. Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” (Genesis 49:8-10)
“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, …Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon…and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” (Matthew 1:1-2, 6, 16-17)
“And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” (Revelation 5:5)
As we trace this line through the Bible from beginning to end we see that God planned for Jesus to come to us in his human lineage through the family line of Judah, which the patriarch Jacob prophesied would be the royal family of Israel. There were forty-two generations of Israelites (if my math is correct) from Abraham to Jesus, who is the prophesied King of kings, the lion of the tribe of Judah, to whom every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will eventually bow. As the father of the royal line, therefore, Judah is given his inheritance within the promised land first.
In Joshua 15:13 the narrative returns to Caleb, who charges into his land of inheritance with a full-throated battle cry and drives the inhabitants out, securing his full inheritance without delay. Along the way, he promised his daughter as wife to whoever would strike and capture Kiriath-sepher. His nephew Othniel responds with gusto, capturing the town in question and taking Caleb’s daughter Achsah as his wife. Now, Achsah has something gnawing at her, and she first asks her new husband for help, but then, either upon his silence, her further reflection, or a change in opportunity—we aren’t told why—she goes straight to her father. What we are told is that, in verses 18-19, she gets off her donkey (evidently a sign of respect) and asks her father, Caleb, for springs of water to go along with land of the Negeb which has already been given to her, but must have been a dry and therefore fruitless parcel. Without hesitation, he gives her “the upper springs and the lower springs.”
We are asked to look for parallels between this episode and the encounter in John 4:10-15 between Jesus and the Samaritan woman and what they teach us about prayer.
“Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” John 4:10-15
Neither of the main commentaries which I am using treat Achsah’s request beyond mentioning it and moving on, much less paralleling it with the episode of the woman at the well, so I’m going to look primarily at the passage in John, and I will draw from a recently acquired (by me— yay for Half-Price Books!) commentary on the book by the late Arthur W. Pink, who spends quite a deal of print on the subject of the water in John 4. While he first observes that many people consider the “living water” here to be the Holy Spirit, he personally thinks that there is a broader scope to our Lord’s words which suggest that it refers to salvation and all that it embraces. Arthur W. Pink then gives seven lines of thought which he believes are “suggested by “water”—living water—as a figure of the salvation which Christ gives.” (Forgive the extended quote, but every line is precious.)
“1. Water is a gift from God. It is something which man, despite all his boasted wisdom, is quite unable to create. For water we are absolutely dependent upon God. It is equally so with His salvation, of which water here is a figure. 2. Water is something which is indispensable to man. It is not a luxury, but a vital necessity. It is that without which man cannot live. It is equally so with God’s salvation—apart from it men are eternally lost. 3. Water is that which meets a universal need; it is not merely a local requirement, but a general one. All are in need of water. It is so with God’s salvation. It is not merely some particular class of people, who are more wicked than their fellows, for all who are outside of Christ are lost. 4. Water is that which first descends from the heavens. It is not a product of the earth, but comes down from above. So it is with salvation: it is “of the Lord.” Water is a blessed boon: it cools the fevered brow, slakes the thirst, refreshes and satisfies. And so does the salvation which is to be found in Christ. 6. Water is something of which we never tire. Other things satiate us, but not so with water. It is equally true of God’s salvation to the heart of everyone who has really received it. 7. Water is strangely and unevenly distributed by God. In some places there is an abundance; in others very little; in others none at all. It is so with God’s salvation. In some nations there are many who have been visited by the Dayspring from on high; in others there are few who have passed from death unto life; while in others there seem to be none at all.
“He would have given thee living water.” How blessed this is! The living water is without money and without price: it is a “gift.” This gift can be obtained from Christ alone… How blessed the gift! How wondrous the Giver!” (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, Zondervan Publishing House, copyright 1945)
Now, most of the quote I have gleaned from Arthur W. Pink deals with water and salvation and not prayer, but note the bit at the end: “How blessed the gift! How wondrous the Giver!” Achsah’s father didn’t hesitate for a moment in granting his daughter’s request. Likewise, in his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus is trying to tell her that he is the author of a great salvation for which she only need ask and he will graciously give! The greatest need of all mankind, each and every one of us, is salvation in Christ. All we need to do is ask and he will freely give. That is where prayer enters the picture. Our God hears and answers prayer, “far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
Our study now turns to chapter 17 and the request by Zelophehad’s daughters that Joshua remember their inheritance, given by God through Moses. Why are they confident that their request will be honored? Let’s look at the episode in Numbers chapters 27:1-11. Briefly stated, Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters and no sons. Inheritances generally passed to sons, and the daughters of Zelophehad were concerned that their father’s inheritance would be lost and his name forgotten among his brothers. They asked for their father’s inheritance to be transferred to them, and the Lord agreed. Furthermore, the Lord told Moses to, basically, amend the laws of inheritance to account for instances when a man dies without direct heirs. The idea being to preserve the inheritance and prevent it from being parceled out and lost to the tribe. In chapter 36 the issue is revisited as the people realized that the parcels of inherited land might be transferred to another tribe if the daughters who inherit marry outside the tribe. The Lord then declares through Moses a further decree that “…every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the people of Israel shall be wife to one of the clan of her father, so that every one of people of Israel may possess the inheritance of his fathers.” (36:8)
Instead of making a narrow exception to the laws of inheritance for this particular family, the Lord, through Moses, granted a deeper interpretation of the law for the entire nation to preserve the intent of the law to protect the inheritance of each tribe. The purpose of the law was not to strangle the people with a narrow use, but to protect and preserve their peaceful existence within their inheritance. And this law was not subject to the whims of each new generation of leaders, but was written down to be a reliable and binding guide to the nation across the generations.
Moving on in our study, we read about the apportionment of the land given to the half-tribe of Manasseh and the tribe of Ephraim within the boundaries of the promised land. Sadly, we read in verses 12-14:
“Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.”
Then the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am a numerous people, since all along the Lord has blessed me?”
The half-tribe of Mannaseh and the tribe of Ephraim are given a generous portion of land for their inheritance, but they did not drive out the inhabitants of the land—as the Lord had commanded—so they come to Joshua complaining about the size of their inheritance. Until now, every battle for the conquest of the promised land has been fought by a combined army of all the tribes. Now that the back of the enemy has been broken, it is time for the tribes to each move into their portion of the land and finish clearing their own neighborhoods. Caleb certainly took this task seriously and dispatched the Anakim without delay.
Looking at a map of the promised land it is immediately evident that the territory given to Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh is not a small plot. In fact, according to Keil and Delitzsch, it is, “one of the most fertile parts of Palestine… the separate mountains are neither so rugged, nor so lofty… moreover, they are intersected by many broad valleys and fertile plateaus, which are covered with fruitful fields…” [Commentary on The Old Testament, C. F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Volume 2, by C. F. Keil, Hendrickson Publishers] The description of the land in the 1800’s indicates that this land would have been an ideal location for farming and sustaining herds of animals. They clearly have nothing to complain about. Keil and Delitzsch conclude that their complaint indicates, “cowardice and want of confidence in the help of God.” Joshua seems to share this opinion. His answer is basically, “work it out, boys.”
“Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment only, but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.” (Joshua 17:17-18)
They have been given much, and God has told and shown them every step of the way that he is with them making it happen. Read through the Lord’s instructions in Deuteronomy and look for what he says he will do, what they are to do, and why.
“When the Lord your God brings you into the land that you are entering to take possession of it, and clears away many nations before you, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations more numerous and mightier than you, and when the Lord your God gives them over to you, and you defeat them, then you must devote them to complete destruction. You shall make no covenant with them and show no mercy to them. You shall not intermarry with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons, for they would turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods. Then the anger of the Lord would be kindled against you, and he would destroy you quickly. But thus shall you deal with them: you shall break down their altars and dash in pieces their pillars and chop down their Asherim and burn their carved images with fire. “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 7:1-6)
“If you say in your heart, ‘These nations are greater than I. How can I dispossess them?’ you shall not be afraid of them but you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt, the great trials that your eyes saw, the signs, the wonders, the mighty hand, and the outstretched arm, by which the Lord your God brought you out. So will the Lord your God do to all the peoples of whom you are afraid. Moreover, the Lord your God will send hornets among them, until those who are left and hide themselves from you are destroyed. You shall not be in dread of them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God. The Lord your God will clear away these nations before you little by little. You may not make an end of them at once, lest the wild beasts grow too numerous for you. But the Lord your God will give them over to you and throw them into great confusion, until they are destroyed. And he will give their kings into your hand, and you shall make their name perish from under heaven. No one shall be able to stand against you until you have destroyed them.” (Deuteronomy 7:17-24)
God gave them the plan and the strength to their armies, he confused and weakened their enemies, he has brought them out of slavery into the land promised to their fathers hundreds of years before. Beyond this, he knows them better than they know themselves and gives them specific commands to protect them from their own weaknesses and temptations to wander into idolatry. What more proof do they need that he will continue to keep his word to them and complete the task ahead, bringing them into full possession of the promised inheritance?
What more proof, dear friends, do we need that God will keep his promises to us?
As we see in Joshua 16:10 and 17:12-13, the Israelites did not drive the Canaanites out entirely, but settled for allowing them to stay in exchange for their forced labor. They compromised, placing themselves in peril. The heart attitude behind Israel’s disobedience, as we read in Judges chapter 2, is disbelief. They do not ultimately believe that God will keep his word to them, so the Lord allows them to stay where they are content, which then leads them directly away from him into idolatry.
Our lesson closes with the reminder from Paul that, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And yet, we must stay vigilant over our “prone-to-wandering” hearts. What sins do we rationalize? What compromises do we make? Let’s remember and put into practice Paul’s exhortation in Colossians 3:1:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.”
Be strong and courageous!