Joshua 13: Dividing the Land (Gad, Reuben, & Manasseh)

Joshua divides the land amongst the tribes of Israel. This post focuses on the land east of the Jordan River.

Introduction

God instructs Joshua to divide the land amognst the tribes of Israel. The division of land is spread from chapter 13 through chapter 20. I have broken it up in sections for ease of reading. The first section reminds us of the inheritance of the tribes of Gad, Reuben, and Manasseh, who received land east of the Jordan River during Moses' leadership.
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Importance of the Land

Photocredit: Holman KJV Study Bible pg. 391
Interestingly, by comparing a scholarly map of Israel based on Biblical description and a modern map of Israel, we can see some of the same cities. For instance, Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh inherited land in what is presently the country of Jordan (a touch of Manasseh is in Syria, as well). Joshua 13:10 tells us they received this land by conquering the Ammorites, thus earning them the territory up to the "children of Ammon"'s borders. Maps of this territory show the land of Ammon just east of the Jordan, between the sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea. On today's map, in this same location, is the Jordanian capital Amman. Further south, in Reuben's territory according to a Biblical map, we see a city called Dibon. Today, in the same location, we have the Jordanian city of Dhiban.[1][2] Other cities mentioned in the text that are listed as modern cities include Hebron, Jericho, Gaza, and Jerusalem, all of which are in the disputed territories of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. In modern Israel we still see the cities of that bear the names of cities or people from the Bible—even in territories that don't belong to God's people anymore.

We also learn that Israel has quite some difficulty expelling the Canaanites from the land. There are nations that remain in Israel's land, such as the Geshurites and Maachathites, even until the time of King David! During almost each passage on a tribe receiving it's inheritance, we also see a list of cities they failed to conquer. We know that their failure to conquer these lands was tied to their lack of faith, as in the Battle of Ai.
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The Tribe of Reuben

Photocredit: Holman KJV Study Bible pg. 391
Reuben's inheritance is discussed first, which is fitting since he was the first born son. As far as the east side of Jordan, Reuben's territory was the farthest South. The southern border of Reuben's territory is given as the Arnon River, which still flows today. This land is in the modern nation of Jordan and contains the city Dhiban/Dibon mentioned above. Archeological evidence suggests that Dhiban may not be the Biblical Dibon, however, in addition to the Bible, Egyptian scribes confirm the existence of a city in that region known as Dibon.[2] Perhaps the modern Dhiban is a continuation of Dibon. The residents of Dibon may have been forced to abandon their home, due to famine, drought, war, etc., and when they resettled, not far away, they created Dhiban (which may have still been called Dibon and merely experienced a change of spelling over time). Either way it is still quite interesting. Another important and historical location in Rueben is Mt. Nebo, where Moses was permitted to view the Promised Land.
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The Tribe of Gad

Photocredit: Holman KJV Study Bible pg. 391
The next passage discusses the tribe of Gad's inheritance. Gad inherited half of Ammon, including the capital city of Rabbah. Rabbah is now known as Amman, and is the current capital of Jordan.[4][5] Archeological digs have uncovered evidence of the pagan Ammonites in Amman, including a cemetery that may show evidence of child sacrifices to Molech.[3] Gad's northern border extended to the Sea of Galilee (referred to as the Sea of Chinneroth in the text). Within Gad, was also the city of Succoth which is often mapped to the modern city of Tell Der 'Alla. This city is near the city in which Jacob "wrestled" with God and prevailed (see Genesis 32:24-30).[6] What's even more interesting is that archeologists have found inscriptions dating back to the time of the exodus, which describe Balaam son of Beor in Tell Der 'Alla.[7][8]
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1/2 The Tribe of Manasseh

Photocredit: Holman KJV Study Bible pg. 391
Only 1/2 of Manasseh received land east of the Jordan; the rest of the tribe received its inheritance west of the Jordan. Manasseh's overall portion, on both sides of the Jordan, is quite large. Though Jacob blessed Ephraim over Manasseh (see Genesis 48:17-19), it seems that being the first born of Jacob's favorite son still played in the tribe of Manasseh's favor. The land to the east was given to the family of Machir, one of Manasseh's sons. A man from this lineage named Jair was given 60 cities from Bashan to rule over! We are given the name of 3 cities that were included in the land to the east of the Jordan: Gilead, Ashtaroth, and Edrei. The city of Gilead may be named after one of Manasseh's grandsons (see Numbers 26:29). Ashtaroth is actually connected to the pagan gods of Canaan and demonology.[9][10][11] Perhaps, this is why there is no longer a city named Ashtaroth—though in that general location there is a Syrian city calls Ash Sahajarah, which seems close in pronunciation (if I'm pronouncing either correctly). Modern Israel and Syria dispute ownership of a territory known as Golan Heights; this area consists of a large part of the north western territory given to Manasseh and likely gets its name from the Biblical Golan.
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References

  1. "Israel". Google Maps. 2016
  2. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 388-391. 2014
  3. Bulkeley, Tim. "Rabbah". Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos. 2005
  4. "Philadelphia Rabbah". Bible History. 2016
  5. "Rabbah". Wikipedia. 2016
  6. "Penuel". Jewish Virtual Library. 2013
  7. Rudd, Steve. "Balaam Son of Beor Inscription at Tell Deir Alla, Succoth: 1406/750 BC". Bible Archeology. 2013
  8. "Balaam". Jewish Virtual Library. 2016
  9. "Ashtaroth". Bible Hub. 2016
  10. "Baal and Ashtaroth". Institute for Creation Research. 2016
  11. "Astaroth". Wikipedia. 2016

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Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
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