“The people of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, received their inheritance” (Joshua 16:4 ESV).
After conquering much of the land of Canaan, the land was divided between the tribes of Israel. This was to be their inheritance. Reuben, Gad and half of the tribe of Manasseh had already received their inheritance, their land, on the east of the Jordan in the lands they conquered before entering Canaan. In return for receiving their inheritance early, they had to lead the army as they conquered the Promised Land.
The first tribe to be allocated their inheritance west of the Jordan was Judah (Joshua 15). Next was Ephraim and the rest of Manasseh (Joshua 16-17). After these, the remaining seven tribes received their allotments of land: Benjamin (Joshua 18), Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan (Joshua 19). Even Joshua was given an inheritance for leading the people (Joshua 19:49-50). The Levites received towns within the inheritance of the other tribes (Joshua 20-21).
God had promised the land to Abraham and it was to be an inheritance for his descendants. “Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever’” (Exodus 32:13). God made a promise and he kept his promise.
Even though they had received the land as their inheritance, the Jews realized that there was more to this than something physical. We can see this in some of the questions Jesus was asked while he was teaching. “Now an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus, saying, ‘Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Luke 10:25 NET). “Now a certain ruler asked him, ‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (Luke 18:18). They understood that eternal life was what God’s people would ultimately inherit.
Christians, as God’s people today, look forward to an inheritance that we have been promised. As Paul was saying farewell to the elders from Ephesus, he reminded them of this. “And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). Throughout his letters, Paul often spoke about our inheritance as being “the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5).
It is because we have been adopted as sons into God’s family that we have this inheritance (Ephesians 1:3-12). It has become fashionable to insert “and daughters” into texts such as this one. To do this is a disservice to Christian women. All Christians are sons of God through faith because of Jesus (Galatians 3:25-27). Being a son is not a sexist statement – it is simply stating that we get to inherit. Only sons inherited in Bible times (unless you were Zelophehad’s daughters – see Joshua 17:3-6 for this special case). Just as God has no grandsons, he also has no daughters. We are all, male and female, sons of God through faith. We all will receive God’s inheritance!
Peter described this as something that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, reserved in heaven for us. If we are God’s sons, this will be ours! What a great blessing is ours – eternal life in God’s eternal kingdom!
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:3-4).
Readings for next week:
12 June – Joshua 16-17
13 June – Joshua 18
14 June – Joshua 19
15 June – Joshua 20
16 June – Joshua 21