Distribution of the Land of Canaan

God is presented as the landowner e.g. Jeremiah 16:18 they have defiled my land, they have filled mine inheritance with the carcases of their detestable and abominable things Deuteronomy 21:23 which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. Thus Naboth’s rights of inheritance over his vineyard were paramount in law over those of Ahab, king of Israel who wanted the land for himself (1 Kings:21).

Inheritance rights of succession, were enshrined under Law of Moses, and the intended permanence of this allocation is demonstrated in the laws relating to sale of land, and its subsequent release back to the designated inheriting family at the year of the Jubilee (see The Bible Narrative Part 4 for more details).

Overall allocation was on a tribal basis as described in The Book of Joshua. Allocation of the East side of Jordan was settled by Moses on the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh, prior to the crossing of Jordan. Eleazar the Priest and Joshua arranged distribution by lot to the other nine tribes and the remaining half of the tribe of Manasseh:- Joshua 14:1-3 And these are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel, distributed for inheritance to them. By lot was their inheritance, as the LORD commanded by the hand of Moses, for the nine tribes, and for the half tribe. For Moses had given the inheritance of two tribes and an half tribe on the other side Jordan: but unto the Levites he gave none inheritance among them.

The borders of each of the tribes is described in Joshua 14-21. As is evident from other scripture; subdivision of the tribal areas on the basis of families was also established, although this level of detail is not fully described.

The firstborn son had rights for a double inheritance as compared to subsequently born sons. Due to the unfaithfulness described in Genesis of Reuben, he, although the natural firstborn of Jacob did not receive the blessing of the firstborn which was given to Joseph. Thus Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s two sons receive their own inheritance effectively giving the double portion to Joseph.

Additionally Simeon received an inheritance within the tribe of Judah rather than being treated as the other sons of Jacob, plus Levi was given specific cities rather than a discrete tribal inheritance, this was due to the actions of these two sons in relation to Shechem and Dinah described in Genesis 34. Jacob’s blessing of his sons makes these points clear:- Genesis 48:5-6 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine. And thy issue, which thou begettest after them, shall be thine, and shall be called after the name of their brethren in their inheritance. Genesis 49:5, 7 Simeon and Levi are brethren; instruments of cruelty are in their habitations. Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel.

The inheritance of Simeon is described as:- Joshua 19:1 the second lot came forth to Simeon, even for the tribe of the children of Simeon according to their families: and their inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah.

The priesthood and service of the tabernacle, and later the temple, were the responsibility of Levi who, as a tribe, were allocated cities in each of the other tribes. This is detailed in Joshua 21. Joshua 21:1- 3 Then came near the heads of the fathers of the Levites unto Eleazar the priest, and unto Joshua the son of Nun, and unto the heads of the fathers of the tribes of the children of Israel; And they spake unto them at Shiloh in the land of Canaan, saying, The LORD commanded by the hand of Moses to give us cities to dwell in, with the suburbs thereof for our cattle. And the children of Israel gave unto the Levites out of their inheritance, at the commandment of the LORD, these cities and their suburbs.

Although the exact borders cannot be definitively described due to a lack of knowledge on the exact position of all the cities listed, the map below is illustrative of the approximate generally accepted borders.

Map of the layout of the tribes of the Children of Israel in the Land of Canaan

Israel’s entry into the Promised Land is taken as a metaphor for a permanent Christian reward illustrated by:- Hebrews 4:1-11 Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his

works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief.

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