Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Just when you thought we had cleared away the exceptions to the lot in chapter 13, here comes another one. Sure, we start today with another recap of the plan of allotment, and the exceptions that get us to 9.5 tribes to join the lottery. Take 2.5 from 12, then another one for the Levites, and you’ve got… 9.5? 8.5! That’s bad math! And where are the Levites supposed to live?
So verse 4 explains that Joseph was counted as 2 tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim. In Genesis, we were told that Joseph while in Egypt was married to Pharaoh’s daughter, so his kids were half-Egyptian. After all, we all owe everything to Joseph, the favourite son of Jacob, by his favourite wife Rachel, despite how his brothers treated him.
That’s more like ‘back-story’ to the much later prominence of the territory occupied by Manasseh and Ephraim, justified by some hagiography about the original patrilineage. By the time of Josiah, the second rewrite of this history, after Assyria and before Babylonian exile, only the Judean southern tribes still had sovereignty.
As for the Levites, the hereditary priesthood, including the Aaronic and Korahite clans, they got status in the religious cultic business, rather than territory. They exercised their vocation from bases in towns identitifed as theirs, with associated pasture land. It reminds me of ‘manse and glebe’, a house with enough pasture to feed the pastor’s horse – or perhaps monastery or cathedral towns.
Once more, the narration tries to get back on track in verse 5: ‘so, the Israelites allotted the land, as God told Moses’. Read this in different voices, and it’s like a constitutional monarch or parliamentary head of state being reminded that it’s parliament who will do the work, not just our Joshua!
Even then, there is an interruption, from Caleb. His entire tribe of Judah trots over to Gilgal to talk with Joshua. Caleb reminds Joshua that the two of them were the exceptions in the original spy party (story in Numbers). Caleb told Moses he loved Hebron highlands, and was ready to invade, and Moses told him to be patient and he’d get that land. Caleb was 40 when he scouted, and is now 45, and fit to claim that promise through Joshua. Caleb gets the land, and the text gives a nod to Arba, and the Anakites as tough opponents holding the strategically important Hebron before the tribe of Judah.
The chapter ends with a bit of a sigh, about rest from war – perhaps a sly acknowledgement of this haggling of exceptions before the lottery begins!
These are the inheritances that the Israelites received
in the land of Canaan,
which the priest Eleazar,
and Joshua son of Nun,
and the heads of the families of the tribes of the Israelites
distributed to them.
2Their inheritance was by lot,
as the Lord had commanded Moses
for the nine and a half tribes.
3For Moses had given an inheritance
to the two and a half tribes beyond the Jordan;
but to the Levites he gave no inheritance among them.
4For the people of Joseph were two tribes,
Manasseh and Ephraim;
and no portion was given to the Levites in the land,
but only towns to live in,
with their pasture lands for their flocks and herds.
5The Israelites did as the Lord commanded Moses;
they allotted the land.
6 Then the people of Judah
came to Joshua at Gilgal;
and Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite
said to him,
‘You know what the Lord said
to Moses the man of God
concerning you and me.
7I was forty years old
when Moses the servant of the Lord
sent me from Kadesh-barnea
to spy out the land;
and I brought him an honest report.
8But my companions who went up with me
made the heart of the people fail;
yet I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.
9And Moses swore on that day, saying,
“Surely the land on which your foot has trodden
shall be an inheritance for you and your children for ever,
because you have wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.”
10And now, as you see,
the Lord has kept me alive, as he said,
these forty-five years
since the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses,
while Israel was journeying through the wilderness;
and here I am today, eighty-five years old.
11I am still as strong today
as I was on the day that Moses sent me;
my strength now is as my strength was then,
for war, and for going and coming.
12So now give me this hill country
of which the Lord spoke on that day;
for you heard on that day how the Anakim were there,
with great fortified cities;
it may be that the Lord will be with me,
and I shall drive them out,
as the Lord said.’
13 Then Joshua blessed him,
and gave Hebron
to Caleb son of Jephunneh
for an inheritance.
14So Hebron became the inheritance
of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite
to this day,
because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord,
the God of Israel.
15Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba;
this Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.
And the land had rest from war.