Territory for Judah
“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). And Caleb drove out from there the three sons of Anak, Sheshai and Ahiman and Talmai, the descendants of Anak” (vv. 13–14).- Joshua 15
We return to our study of the Old Testament Historical Books today and resume our look at the book of Joshua. Our look at chapters 1–14 has covered the highlights of the initial conquest of the promised land under Joshua’s leadership. Under Joshua, as we have seen, the Israelites conquered substantial portions of Canaan; however, they did not come into possession of every square inch of territory or every city (13:1–7). More fighting lay ahead for Israel, but as Joshua neared the end of his life, God told him to divide the land among the twelve tribes of Israel. He started with Judah, particularly Caleb’s family (14:6–14), and in Joshua 15 we read about the rest of the boundaries and cities of Judah.
We may not find Joshua 15 and the other chapters detailing Israel’s tribal boundaries very exciting. The names are obscure, and we find it difficult to see how these portions of Scripture apply today. Yet there is much we can learn from these texts, especially Joshua 15. First, we have to recognize that while this list of boundaries and cities may not be very meaningful to us on first reading, the Israelites to whom Joshua first gave this information and the ancient Israelite readers of this book would have found this data quite significant. After all, Joshua was laying out key information regarding their home. And of course, while these specific territorial boundaries may matter little to us, it is also true that the notion of property lines is extremely important even today. Wars between countries are fought over national boundary disputes. We can face legal action if we build our fence past the boundary of our own land. The attention of God’s Word to the boundaries of the tribes shows us that biblical religion is concerned with concrete realities, with the specific issues that shape our personal lives and our laws.
Judah received the most detailed list of cities and delineation of boundaries, which points to the tribe’s importance as the leading tribe of Israel and the clan from which its rightful monarchs would come (Gen. 49:8–12; 1 Sam. 16:1–13). Joshua 15 also notes that Judah could not drive out the Jebusites from Jerusalem (v. 63), which is interesting since Jerusalem was actually part of Benjamin’s territory (18:11–28). Jerusalem, in fact, was essentially on the border of Judah and Benjamin, so it makes sense that the Judahites would have a role in driving out the Jebusites from that city. Eventually, the city would be absorbed by Judah altogether.
Biblical religion is not about an ethereal faith that never intersects with the physical world. The Bible is concerned with concrete realities, and we are even promised a new heaven and earth (Rev. 21). God cares about the land, sea, air, and creatures that He has made, and the meek—His people—will inherit the earth. We are stewards of His creation who must pay close attention to caring for it well (Matt. 5:5).
Passages for Further Study
2 Chronicles 20:7