1 And the whole congregation of the children of Israel assembled together at Shiloh, and set up the tabernacle of the congregation there. And the land was subdued before them.
The "whole congregation" ("ecclesia", LXX., cp. Acts 7:38) was summoned to appear before Joshua. The purpose of this solemn gathering was to celebrate the erection of the tabernacle at Shiloh.
Although no date or time of year is stated, it is highly probable that this important event would have coincided with one of the major feast-dates. Gilgal had now ceased to be the assembly point for Israel. Shiloh became the principal centre.
Shiloh was situated twenty miles north of Jerusalem and ten miles due south of Shechem. Its location is given in Judg. 21:19. Shiloh was to become Israel's centre of worship for a long period of time. The Tabernacle was to remain there for more than 300 years (1 Sam. 4:1-11).
The people were called together in the spirit of one united Ecclesia.
"Three times in the year all thy males shall appear before Adonai Yahweh. . .How good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. . ." (Ex. 23:17; Ps. 133:1).
Such gatherings were intended, in measure, to emphasise that the people of God were to be one unified Body under the Kingship and authority of Almighty God. Such assemblies, therefore, were of inestimable value (cp. Heb. 10:24-25; Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27).
By means of such gatherings, Yahweh desired to teach His people to appreciate the advantages of unity. A body of people, united upon a sound spiritual basis, may mutually give and receive strength and comfort, encouragement and faithfulness.
Yahweh will bless an Ecclesia which is united in the one true faith, manifesting zeal and dedication for the things of God, caring for and nurturing one another, doing all things "to the glory of God" (1 Cor. 10:31; cp. Phil. 1:27; Eph.4:31-5:2).
The name Shiloh means "tranquility, rest, place of rest" (Ges.). How did this place receive such a name? In all probability, it was so named by Joshua because of its association with the Messianic hope.
"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be. . ." (Gen. 49:10).
Joshua was aware that Israel's Messiah, when he appears in his kingdom, will become the "place of rest" for the people of Israel (Matt. 11:28; cp. Ex. 33:14; Isa. 11:10). With such thoughts in his mind, a vital principle was evident to Joshua: He saw the present conquest of the land only as a type of that which will be accomplished fully and more perfectly under the guidance and direction of a Greater Joshua - Israel's Messiah.
Shiloh is here represented as a type of Jerusalem ("habitation of peace" or "foundation of peace") in the Kingdom Age (cp. Deut.12:5, 11, 14).
Shiloh thus now acquired a special significance. In calling the nation thither Joshua was reminding the people of the necessity of placing Yahweh first in their lives. The Ark, symbolising Yahweh's presence in their midst, would provide a constant reminder that the nation could be assured of continuing "rest" so long as they honoured the terms of the covenant.
Joshua had called them to worship at the Tabernacle; and such was highly desirable. But they were not to spend their lives sitting outside the Tabernacle, as the exhortation which followed shows. Through divine worship the people were to draw closer to Yahweh, and to become invigorated and encouraged in the Truth.
Bro John Ullman
2 And there remained among the children of Israel seven tribes, which had not yet received their inheritance.
Thus renewed, they were to manifest their faith by their works. Much remained to be accomplished. Joshua was aware that many of the tribes had grown tired of war and had become indifferent and lethargic in regard to their responsibilities.
Although the record states that "the land was subdued before them" the statement means that all organised resistance on the part of the Canaanites had been crushed. However, as individual tribes and clans, the Canaanites were far from defeated at this time.
...The tribes of Reuben, Gad, Manasseh, Judah and Ephraim had received their respective allotments, and, by-and-large, were in possession of them. But what of the others?
Why had the other seven tribes not acted? Obviously, they were passively apathetic.
3 And Joshua said unto the children of Israel, How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which Yahweh Elohim of your fathers hath given you?
But what are the reasons for such slackness and lack of enthusiasm?
Basically, they may be summarised under four headings:
1. Satisfaction or compromise with existing conditions.
Doubtless, many of the Israelites considered themselves satisfied with their achievements. They could see little point in further effort and sacrifice. They thought the future would take care of itself. This state of mind represents a grave danger to the people of God in every generation. It is perfectly natural for the flesh to want to relax and put responsibilities to one side - especially when a great deal of effort and sacrifice has already been expended.
But the saints of God in every age must never become satisfied with their present attainments or circumstances. Nothing will be fully right for the saints until the Kingdom comes. Therefore, the people of God must continue their struggle in the warfare of faith until either the Lord's return, or their lives of probation come to an end.
2. Divided loyalties.
It is easy enough to wish to be "in the Truth", whilst at the same time being dominated by conflicting aims and objectives which demand our attention. In such a situation, almost certainly loyalty to the Truth will suffer.
"No man can be the bondservant of two masters; for either he will dislike one and like the other, or he will attach himself to one and think slightingly of the other. You cannot be the bondservants both of God and of mammon. . ."
(Mat.6:24, Wey., marg.).
In this statement, why did the Lord not mention "many" masters? Why did he restrict the choice to only "two"? Simply, because in this life men have precisely such a limited selection. One may serve either King Yahweh or King Sin (Rom. 6:16). No other alternative exists.
The individual who would serve Yahweh must make a clear and determined commitment
to God and to His cause. The claims which Yahweh makes upon His servants have been spelt out clearly:
"Thou shalt love the Yahweh thy Elohim with all thy heart (the intellect, and therefore the
mental processes), with all thy soul (the inner being, thus the affections), and with all thy mind"
(the Hebrew of Deut. 6:5 has "might" - meaning all the actions of life.
The Greek has dianoia, which relates primarily to the faculty of exercising the mind - thus, the ability to make sound and correct decisions based upon a proper understanding of the word - and therefore implies a way of life in harmony with the spirit of the Truth).
"This", the Lord added, "is the first and great commandment. . ." (Mat. 22:36-38).
In serving Israel's God, where is the option for divided loyalties?
This is one of the most deplorable of human weaknesses, and one which may develop without becoming fully apparent to the hapless victim. It speaks of an aversion to activity: mental, moral or physical. It becomes a particular danger to God's people in an age
of comparative peace and affluence. In effect, it amounts to simple laziness: a lack of sufficient zeal to arouse one's self to fulfil one's responsibilities and obligations.
Yahweh was well aware that such a danger would confront the Israelites once they had entered the Promised Land:
''Beware that thou forget not Yahweh thy God, in not keeping His commandments, and His judgments, and His statutes, which I command thee this day: Lest when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and dwelt therein; and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, and thy silver and thy gold is multiplied, and all that thou hast is multiplied; then thine heart be lifted up, and thou forget Yahweh thy God which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. . .Who led thee. . . Who fed thee. . ." (Deut. 8:11-18).
This form of weakness must never be overlooked or ignored by God's people. Apathy and indifference may produce a state of spiritual torpor from which recovery may become well-nigh impossible.
4. Lack of faith.
This condition is closely allied to the three already mentioned. When faith has diminished through lack of consideration and meditation upon Yahweh's word, or through alien pressures which have not been resisted, the mind becomes blinded to the reality of the things of God.
"Where there is no vision, a people is let loose. . . The law is no more; her prophets also find no vision from Yahweh. . ." (Prov. 29:18; Lam. 2:9, Roth. A.V.).
The exercise of faith requires not merely knowing and believing, but performing the will of Yahweh.
"Exert all your strength in the honourable struggle for the faith; lay hold of the Life of the Ages, to which you were called. . ." (1 Tim. 6:12, Wey.). "Without faith it is impossible to please (God). . . So faith without works is dead. . ." (Heb. 11:6; Jas. 2:26).*
Having spent many years wandering in the wilderness - during which time the older generation died - the younger generation of Israelites now found themselves on the western side of Jordan, in the Promised Land. Yet, despite years of privation and hardship, many Israelites were prepared to lightly cast aside their new-found inheritance.
Seven tribes indicated that they were tired of fighting. They had fought the Canaanites for seven years - a long and protracted war. Now, their earlier dedication had waned. Their faith in Yahweh and zeal for His cause had dissipated. They had fought valiantly; and now - poised on the brink of final and complete victory - they had given up the struggle.
They were 'slack to go to possess the land".
This was a tragic state of affairs: not merely because of the inactivity of the people but because of their disposition. At the Judgment Seat of Christ, how many will be found to have
started out on their walk towards the Kingdom full of zeal and wholehearted dedication, fired by a love of Yahweh and His saving Truth - only to surrender to pressures from within and without, and never gain the final victory.
Satisfaction or compromise with the existing worldly environment; divided loyalties; a general attitude of indolence, or lack of faith; are influences which may lead men and
women of faith to desert the cause they have espoused, and fall by the wayside.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Joshua rebuked the seven tribes with a sharp exhortation.
"How much more time will you waste before taking possession of the land?"
he challenged them (J.B.).
Having lost their "first love" they stood endangered of losing everything. They were now unwilling to further pursue the conflict against evil; yet, as Joshua indicated, they had no other course open to them but to continue the warfare.
"For ours is not a conflict with mere flesh and blood, but with the despotisms, the empires, the forces that control and govern this dark world - the spiritual hosts of evil arrayed
against us in the heavenly warfare. . ." (Eph. 6:12, Wey.).
Yahweh had made it possible for the tribes to go into the land and take up their respective inheritances; but many of them lacked the faith, courage, initiative and determination to finish the work they had begun in co-operation with their God (see Ps. 81:13-14; Deut. 5:29;
10:12-13; Isa. 48:18; Col. 3:23-24). Thus Joshua's exhortation indicated that the only reason for lack of accomplishment lay with the people themselves: "How long are ye slack. . ."
Action on the part of the tribes was all that was necessary to secure the entire land. The implication is that any assistance required from Yahweh would be readily forthcoming, provided the people went forward in faith. Joshua moved the seven tribes to action.
"Give out from among you three men for each tribe: and I will send them, and they shall rise, and go through the land, and describe it according to the inheritance of them; and they shall come again to me."
*Bro John Ullman
10 And Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before Yahweh: and there Joshua divided the land unto the children of Israel according to their divisions.
The Land Further Surveyed (Vv.8-10)
In view of the willing response to Joshua's exhortation, it is evident that his words were received by the people of the seven tribes. Despite their earlier indolence, they had been roused to positive activity. They had been prepared to "suffer the word of exhortation" (Heb. 13:22, Gk., in the Middle Voice: something one does for one's self - Lit., "to bear with", hence to hearken and accept submissively).
Of the word rendered "exhortation" (paraklesis), Bullinger has stated that it means:
"a calling near; a summons to one's side; hence an admonitory, encouraging and consolatory exhortation, invitation or entreaty".
The word is expressive of the warmth and intimate fraternity which should bind together the Ecclesia of God. It speaks of unity, in a spirit of mutual submission; of a drawing together of the One Body; of a ready willingness to reciprocally encourage and console, that all things might be done to the glory of God, and for the well-being of all the Body.
This was obviously Joshua's motive, in this matter. He was a man of God and a man of faith; therefore his words and deeds were dominated by an understanding of the spiritual needs of the moment.
Hence, "the men arose, and went away. . .". They departed with Joshua's final words of encouragement to speed them on their way: he would "cast lots" for their inheritances "before Yahweh in Shiloh". It is of interest to observe the historical and geographical accuracy of Joshua's account.
Shiloh is here especially mentioned, as lots for the earlier inheritances had been drawn at Gilgal rather than at Shiloh. Why had this been so? Because on the earlier occasion Israel's headquarters were still at Gilgal; and the Tabernacle had not, at that stage, been erected at Shiloh (see 14:1, 6;cp. 18:1).
The twenty one specially chosen men fulfilled their duties with alacrity and thoroughness. And because of this, they were rewarded accordingly. Yahweh always provides a reward for consistent faithfulness.
"Joshua cast lots for them in Shiloh before Yahweh. . .".
During the present dispensation, men and women of faith are able to "walk through the land" by means of the eye of faith, and through a consideration of the details to be found in God's word concerning those things He has promised. They must manifest an attitude of keenness and enthusiasm, longing for the coming of God's kingdom when once again the "land" will be "divided".
The Greater Joshua, together with his immortalised saints, will re-establish God's kingdom, having restored Israel and conquered her enemies.*
11 And the lot of the tribe of the children of Benjamin came up according to their families: and the coast of their lot came forth between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph.
The Territory Allotted to Benjamin
The area determined for Benjamin's inheritance provides an excellent example of the exercise of divine wisdom. A certain element of rivalry, or at the very least distrust, existed between the tribes of Judah and Ephraim. Benjamin's allotment, inserted carefully between those of Judah and Ephraim, was intended to act as a buffer between the other two; and perhaps Benjamin was expected to exercise the role of a stabilising and unifying influence.
Benjamin's portion was not large, but their numerical strength was not great. At the first census the tribe numbered 35 400, placing them eleventh in ranking among the tribes. At the second numbering they had increased to 45 600; however, this still left them in seventh position, numerically speaking.
A consideration of these verses will show that their allotment reached from a little south of Beth-horon on the west, across to Jericho and the Jordan on the east. Across this east-west northern border their land went as far north as Bethel and Ai.
From near Beth-horon their border turned south-east to Kirjath-Jearim and Jerusalem, then bore north-east to Debir, south-east once again, then moved northward in an arc, plunging south-east for the third time to the head of the Dead Sea.
Benjamin's relationship to the city of Jerusalem has been commented upon in the section which outlined the inheritance of the tribe of Judah (see ch. 15).
Bro John Ullman