Joshua 14:1 to 19:51

  THE great war for the conquest of Canaan was now ended, though in the land some cities were still held by the Canaanite people. Yet the Israelites were now the rulers over most of the country, and Joshua prepared to divide the land among the tribes of Israel.

One day the rulers of the tribe of Judah came to Joshua's tent at Gilgal, and with them came an old man, Caleb, whom you remember as one of the twelve spies sent by Moses from Kadesh-barnea to go through the land of Canaan. This had been many years before, and Caleb was now, like Joshua, an old man, past eighty years of age. He said to Joshua:

"You remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, when we were in the desert at Kadesh-barnea, and you and I with the other spies brought back our report. I spoke to Moses the word that was in my heart, and I followed the Lord wholly, when the other spies spoke out of their own fear, and made the people afraid. On that day, you remember that Moses said to me, 'The land where your feet have trodden and over which you have walked shall be yours, because you trusted in the Lord.'

"That was forty-five years ago," Caleb went on to say, "and God has kept me alive all those years. To-day, at eighty-five years of age, I am as strong as I was in that day. And now I ask that the promise made by Moses be kept, and that I have my choice of the places in the land."

"Well," said Joshua, "you can take your choice in the land. What part of it will you choose?"

And Caleb answered:

"The place that I will choose is the very mountain on which we saw the city with the high walls, where the giants were living then, and where other giants, their sons, are living now, the city of Hebron. I know that the walls are high, and the giants live there. But the Lord will help to take the cities, and to drive out the people who live in them. Let me have the city of Hebron."

This was very bold in so old a man as Caleb, to choose the city which was not yet taken from the enemies, and one of the hardest cities to take, when he might have chosen some rich place already won. But Caleb at eighty-five showed the same spirit of courage, and willingness to war, and faith in God, that he had shown in his prime at forty years of age. Then Joshua said to Caleb, "You shall have the city of Hebron, with all its giants, if you will gather together your men, and take it." And the old soldier brought together his men, and led them against the strong city of Hebron, where was the tomb of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. By the help of the Lord, Caleb was able to drive out the giants, tall and mighty as they were. They fled from Caleb's men and went down to the shore on the west of the land, and lived among the people of that region, who were called the Philistines; while Caleb, and his children, and his descendants long after him, held the city of Hebron in the south of the land.

After this, by the command of the Lord, Joshua divided the land among the tribes. Two tribes and half of another tribe had already received their land on the east of Jordan; so there were nine tribes and a half tribe to receive their shares. Judah, one of the largest, had the mountain country west of the Dead Sea, from Hebron to Jerusalem; Simeon was on the south toward the desert; Benjamin was north of Judah on the east, toward the Jordan, and Dan north of Judah on the west, toward the Great Sea.

In the middle of the country, around the city of Shechem, and the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim, where Joshua had read the law to the people, was the land of the tribe of Ephraim. This was one of the best parts of all the country, for the soil was rich and there were many springs and streams of water. And here, near Mount Ebal, they buried the body of their tribe-father Joseph, which they had kept in its coffin of stone, unburied, ever since they left Egypt, more than forty years before. As Joshua himself belonged to the tribe of Ephraim, his home was also in this land.

North of Ephraim, and reaching from the river Jordan to the Great Sea, was the land of the other half of the tribe of Manasseh. Both tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh had sprung from Joseph. So Joseph's descendants had two tribes, as had been promised by Jacob when he was about to die.

The northern part of the land was divided among four tribes. Issacher was in the south, Asher on the west beside the Great Sea, Zebulun was in the middle among the mountains, and Naphtali was in the north, and by the lake afterward called the Sea of Galilee. At that time this lake was called the Sea of Kinnoreth, because the word "kinnor" means "a harp;" and as they thought that this lake was shaped somewhat like a harp, they named it "the Harp-shaped Sea."

But although all the land had been divided, it had not all been completely conquered. Nearly all the Canaanite people were there, still living upon the land, though in the mountain region they were under the rule of the Israelites. But on the plain beside the Great Sea, on the west of the land were the Philistines, a very strong people whom the Israelites had not yet met in war, though the time was coming when they would meet them, and suffer from them.

And even among the mountains were many cities where the Canaanite people still lived, and in some of these cities they were strong. Years afterward, when Joshua the great warrior was no longer living, many of these people rose up to trouble the Israelites. The time came when the tribes of Israel wished often that their fathers had driven out or entirely destroyed the Canaanites, before they ceased the war and divided the land.

But when Joshua divided the land, and sent the tribes to their new homes, peace seemed to reign over all the country. Up to this time we have spoken of all this land as the land of Canaan, but now and henceforth it was to be called "The Land of Israel," or "The Land of the Twelve Tribes," for it was now their home.