Joshua 11-21: The Wars and Division of Lands

Joshua 11-21: The Wars and Division of Lands

As Joshua’s campaign against the five kings is successful, we read the following entry into the story of Joshua and Israel:  “All these kings and their lands Joshua conquered in one campaign because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel.” (Joshua 10:42)  *What battle are you currently fighting?  How is it going? Do you feel like you are all alone?  Joshua was a great, brave military general, but his victory came because the Lord fought for him.

Chapters 11 & 12 record the conquests of the Northern Kings and in Joshua 11:18, we are told Joshua waged war for a ‘long time.’  My footnote tells me this is estimated to be 7 years based on the age of Caleb.  *Some battles are over in a short time- some last longer.

We also read in Joshua 11:21, they destroyed the Anakites. These were the people known for their great size, they were referred to by the original spies as giants who made them look like grasshoppers. *Some battles, the problems we come up against seem greater than others. Sometimes the enemy appears like a giant looming over us.

Verse 23 summarizes the final outcome, which now we know took years. *Look at Joshua’s life we see he spent years as a slave in Egypt, spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness, then fought battles for 7 years and then dealt with a stubborn nation for his last 10 years.

But in the end we see the use of a word we will see used multiple times in the next nine chapters- inheritance.  “So Joshua took the entire land, just as the Lord had instructed Moses and he gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal divisions. Then the land had rest from the war.”

Chapter 12 lists the kings defeated by Joshua and the nation of Israel. There are 33 listed here in this chapter. This tells me God is into details. He has recorded our works. The saved will have their works judged for rewards, not punishment.  The lost will stand before the Great White Throne and have their works judged for the level of punishment.  Those who stand before the Great White Throne, do not have their names recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Chapters 13-21 will record the assignment of lands and territories to the tribes of Israel. We want to glean the spiritual truths and learn and apply them as we claim what we have inherited. The word inheritance will be used time and time again in these chapters.

The first half of the story of Joshua has dealt with the conquests of the land. Now the last half deals with possessing what are rightfully their possessions and enjoying them.

We entered the abundant life Jesus had promised us when we got saved and were born again. Then we set out for the rest of our lives taking hold of that which Christ took hold of us.  We are joint heirs with Jesus having been blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  We have been raised up with Him and are seated in Him in heaven.

But what we have discovered is there are enemies who do not want us to take possession of what God has given us. We are having to fight for it, just like Joshua and the Israelites had to fight.

And like Paul, we do not consider ourselves to have attained it all, but we keep pressing on. Now Joshua 13: 1, 2 would not have impacted me in the way it impacts me now, if I had read and studied this book when I was 35 years old.  I was a young father with small children busy establishing myself in my chosen career.  Looking back now the 35 years have passed so quickly, Gina and I often speak of how fast it has passed.

Listen to these two verses:  “When Joshua was old and well advanced in years, the Lord said to him, “You are very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.” God is plain spoken sometimes, isn’t he?

Joshua will die at the age of 110, we estimate he is 100 years old at this time. Today we are experiencing longevity in our culture.  A healthy 65 year old male can expect to live to age 85, and a healthy 65 year old female can expect to live to be 87.4 years.  And one in four will live to be over 90 years old.  We have come to divide old age in three segments: young old, middle old and very old. What is amazing is how fast the time goes once you enter this stage in your life. Speaking to a lady who was over 80 years old and in assisted living, she asked me how old I was. I was 65 at the time and told her.  She said to me, ‘You will be 80 before you know it.’ I now know this is the truth.  No wonder Paul said he pressed on.  He pressed on because there was more to do and he wanted to get done all he could do.  At the end, Paul was no longer traveling, he was confined to a prison. But he would write letters and mentor the church leaders and pour his life and knowledge into one young man named Timothy.  And God has been using those letters to impact the life of millions and millions of people for 2000 years.  Paul’s greatest works came when he was older.  God can do some things in and through us in these years He could not do when we were younger.

Even with his advanced age, God did not say to Joshua, go sit down and take it easy. God said there is still much to do.

Again, I could not identify with the verses Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 4 when he wrote: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” I remember a lady who worked for us at Muller Optical. She was a pleasant woman, a Christian and a hard worker.  She was in her 60’s when I knew her. One day she brought a pictures of her and her classmates at their 50 year reunion. It also had a picture of their who’s who and she had been picked by her classmates as Most Beautiful.  I looked at the picture and was stunned at what a beautiful young girl she was. When visiting my in-laws in their last days in the Veterans’ nursing home in Humboldt, I would often stop to speak to some of the residents who always loved to have anyone speak to them.  Many of those men were veterans of WWII, as Gina’s father Houston was.  Often I would see photographs of them in their uniforms as young men going off to war, not much more than boys. And they were handsome, dashing, and athletic looking young men and looking at them now reminded me of how our outward man is perishing.

Now I understand what I could not then comprehend.  Yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  The weaker we grow, the more we depend upon the Lord. The more we pray about everything because we take nothing for granted.  This is the folly of youth, to think they will always be able to do this and that.  Now we rejoice in this great truth- when I am weak, I am strong. Therefore I will rejoice in my weakness!

When God was giving Moses instructions about the land, God reminded Moses of something we need to be reminded of, lest we become prideful.  God told Moses: “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is MINE. “ (Lev. 25:23)

The Lord owns it all.  We are His tenants; He is literally our LAND LORD.  He is so generous in providing all we need. He allows us to enjoy this and ask only for 10% and to obey His commands.  When your realize His ‘shall nots’ are to protect you and provide you with the best of the best- you have learned a great lesson. This land is the Lord’s land. It is not our land.

And just as God created the heavens and the earth and put man in the Garden, His command is still the same to us:  “Be fruitful and multiply.”   This is why the Lord Jesus tells us:  “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”   God is saying to Joshua and to us- now is the time to roll up your sleeves and get to work, there is much to do.  Now you have the time to do it, and you have gained some knowledge as we have experienced God, we now know more how to do what God has for us to do.* What we lack in physical strength we had when we were younger, God has made up for it in the wisdom experiencing God has provided us.   As the character in Shawshank Redemption said, here are your choices:  “Either Get busy living or get busy dying.”  Don’t sit down and start looking back and saying I wish I was young again. I wish the world was like it was 50 years ago.  I wish I had saved more money, bought that land, taken that job, not left that job  etc. etc. etc.  Here is what Paul said we are to do:

  1. Don’t think you have obtained all you are supposed to obtain. God is saying there is still much to do.
  2. Forget what is past.
  3. Press on- keep pressing on to take hold of all that for which God took hold of you.

The Promised Land was a gift of God to Israel. The Promised Abundant Life was what Jesus came and died to give us. The Abundant Life is the very life of Jesus within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. What more can He do than He has already done. By His divine power He has given us everything we need for life and godliness.  He has given us His great and precious promises by which we are partakers in His Divine Nature.  The gift of God’s love that keeps on giving.


Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh took land on the east side of the Jordan. They lived on the border of the Promised Land, not really in the Promised Land per se.  They did this because they viewed the land there better suited to raising cattle. They lived on the edge and in between the nations of Moab and Ammon and the Jews in Canaan. They would begin to intermarry with the Moabites and be influenced by their culture. Here is a lesson we must learn: *Do not be a borderline believer.  Enter into the inheritance God has provided for you.

We read in chapter 14, Caleb, who is the second oldest man in the camp ask for and receives the hill country of Hebron at age 85.  Caleb says, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out.”  We find the secret to his energy in the statement he makes: “I followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.” We are never too old to follow the Lord wholeheartedly. We are to realize we are never too old to make new conquests and grow in the faith.  We never retire from the Lord’s work. He tells us we have much yet to do.

The older generation, that’s fast becoming us, must provide for the next generation. We all want to leave our children some material blessings, but more importantly we want to provide them with spiritual inheritances.  We must set examples for them and encourage them and teach them to trust the Lord with all their heart.

God wants to give all His people their inheritance. Do you know why you do not have more of it than you do?  You have not because you ask not. Or you ask amiss. What is hindering you from claiming all God has for you?


I had a negative view of this portion of Joshua when I began to study this section. After the division of the territories to the prospective tribes, we read of the establishment of the cities of refuge.  My first reading made me think of the sanctuary cities such as San Francisco which offer safe harbor for fugitives. We find this account in Joshua 20.

The law which God established was to offer cities of refuge to anyone who killed someone accidentally. They would be protected from the ‘avenger of blood’ until the elders of the city could determine through an investigation the circumstances surrounding this death. If they found the accused guilty they would be put to death. If they found this was truly and accident, which we would consider manslaughter, the fugitive would be allowed to live in that city and be protected from the avenger.

But there is a spiritual picture here.  We are all guilty. We are sinners. And the wages of sin is death. What was Abraham looking for when he left the Ur of Chaldees to go to a place God said He would show Abraham. We are told in Hebrews 11:  “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. For he was looking for a city whose architect and builder was God.”

Is not God our refuge?  When we come to Christ, we do not come for Him to decide if we are guilty, we know we are guilty and deserving of death. No need for a trial. We confess, we are guilty. We are like Abraham we are searching for the city whose builder is God. Once we have found it- we do not ever want to leave it.  In the cities of refuge, the person was to stay there until the high priest who was serving died, and then he could return to his home from which he fled.

But our High Priest will never die and continues always to make intercession for us. He will never leave us for forsake us. We will dwell with Him forever and ever.

Now names in Scripture have meanings and the names of these cities tell us a wonderful story about the one who has built a place for our refuge for us. So that where he is we will be also and we will make our home with Him and He along with God will make His home with us.

Here are the cities:  Kedesh, Scechem, Hebron, Bezer, and Golan.

Now the meaning of these names:

Kedesh- righteousness

Schechem- shoulder

Hebron- fellowship

Bezer- strong fortress

Golan- exile.

This is what we experience when we flee by faith to our Redeemer, the Lord Jesus.

He give us His righteousness and we can never be accused or tried again for our sins.

Like the Great Shepherd He is, He leaves the 99 to go after the one lost and brings us home on His shoulder.

When Our Shepherd brings us home we enter into fellowship with Him.

We will dwell in with Him in His strong fortress. He holds me in His right hand and nothing can ever separate me from His love.

We are exiles, strangers in this world, for this world is not our home.

We are all guilty. All of our sins are what Jesus died for.  My sins put Him on the cross. I may claim ignorance for my sins up to some point. But once I become aware of them, I have reached an age of accountability.  Jesus made a provision for our ignorance at Calvary. Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The same people who said to Pilate crucify Him, were the same crowd gathered 50 days later to hear Peter preach one of the most convicting sermons ever preached. Brief, to the point and powerful.

Peter said, “ Men of Israel listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth, was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men put him to death by nailing Him to a cross. But God raised Him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.”

“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.  When they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, what shall we do?

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. This promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off- for all whom the Lord our God will call.”

We know that day over 3,000 many of whom were in the crowd that day shouting ‘crucify him’; were saved and baptized that day.

Have you found the refuge and the rest which comes from receiving the gift of Jesus Christ’s righteousness?  Have you found that city for which Abraham was searching?