The Tribe of Reuben
The Reubenites requested an early inheritance east of the Jordan River where the land was suitable for cattle (Num. 32:1-33), extending on the south to the river Arnon, on the east to the desert of Arabia; on the west were the Dead Sea and the Jordan, and the northern border was probably marked by a line running eastward from the Jordan.They helped the other tribes claim their land, however, and Joshua commended them for their efforts (Josh. 22:9-10). The tribe also built an altar - along with the tribe of Gad and the halftribe of Manasseh - in the Jordan Valley as a witness to their unity with the tribes west of the Jordan (Josh. 22:11-34).
Joshua 13:15; Numbers 32:1-33; Joshua 22:9-10; Joshua 22:11-34
- 15. So Moses gave [an inheritance] to the tribe of the sons of Reuben according to their families.
- 1. Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock,
- 2. the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben came and spoke to Moses and to Eleazar the priest and to the leaders of the congregation, saying,
- 3. "Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo and Beon,
- 4. the land which the LORD conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock; and your servants have livestock."
- 5. And they said, "If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan."
- 6. But Moses said to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben, "Shall your brothers go to war while you yourselves sit here?
- 7. "Now why are you discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the LORD has given them?
- 8. "This is what your fathers did when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land.
- 9. "For when they went up to the valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the sons of Israel so that they did not go into the land which the LORD had given them.
- 10. "So the LORD's anger burned in that day, and He swore, saying,
- 11. 'None of the men who came up from Egypt, from twenty years old and upward, shall see the land which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob; for they did not follow Me fully,
- 12. except Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite and Joshua the son of Nun, for they have followed the LORD fully.'
- 13. "So the LORD's anger burned against Israel, and He made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until the entire generation of those who had done evil in the sight of the LORD was destroyed.
- 14. "Now behold, you have risen up in your fathers' place, a brood of sinful men, to add still more to the burning anger of the LORD against Israel.
- 15. "For if you turn away from following Him, He will once more abandon them in the wilderness; and you will destroy all these people."
- 16. Then they came near to him and said, "We will build here sheepfolds for our livestock and cities for our little ones;
- 17. but we ourselves will be armed ready [to go] before the sons of Israel, until we have brought them to their place, while our little ones live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
- 18. "We will not return to our homes until every one of the sons of Israel has possessed his inheritance.
- 19. "For we will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this side of the Jordan toward the east."
- 20. So Moses said to them, "If you will do this, if you will arm yourselves before the LORD for the war,
- 21. and all of you armed men cross over the Jordan before the LORD until He has driven His enemies out from before Him,
- 22. and the land is subdued before the LORD, then afterward you shall return and be free of obligation toward the LORD and toward Israel, and this land shall be yours for a possession before the LORD.
- 23. "But if you will not do so, behold, you have sinned against the LORD, and be sure your sin will find you out.
- 24. "Build yourselves cities for your little ones, and sheepfolds for your sheep; and do what you have promised."
- 25. And the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben spoke to Moses, saying, "Your servants will do just as my lord commands.
- 26. "Our little ones, our wives, our livestock and all our cattle shall remain there in the cities of Gilead;
- 27. while your servants, everyone who is armed for war, will cross over in the presence of the LORD to battle, just as my lord says."
- 28. So Moses gave command concerning them to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the heads of the fathers' [households] of the tribes of the sons of Israel.
- 29. And Moses said to them, "If the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben, everyone who is armed for battle, will cross with you over the Jordan in the presence of the LORD, and the land will be subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead for a possession;
- 30. but if they will not cross over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan."
- 31. And the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben answered, saying, "As the LORD has said to your servants, so we will do.
- 32. "We ourselves will cross over armed in the presence of the LORD into the land of Canaan, and the possession of our inheritance [shall remain] with us across the Jordan."
- 33. So Moses gave to them, to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben and to the half-tribe of Joseph's son Manasseh, the kingdom of Sihon, king of the Amorites and the kingdom of Og, the king of Bashan, the land with its cities with [their] territories, the cities of the surrounding land.
- 9. And the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh returned [home] and departed from the sons of Israel at Shiloh which is in the land of Canaan, to go to the land of Gilead, to the land of their possession which they had possessed, according to the command of the LORD through Moses.
- 10. And when they came to the region of the Jordan which is in the land of Canaan, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar there by the Jordan, a large altar in appearance.
- 11. And the sons of Israel heard [it] said, "Behold, the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the halftribe of Manasseh have built an altar at the frontier of the land of Canaan, in the region of the Jordan, on the side [belonging to] the sons of Israel."
- 12. And when the sons of Israel heard [of it], the whole congregation of the sons of Israel gathered themselves at Shiloh, to go up against them in war.
- 13. Then the sons of Israel sent to the sons of Reuben and to the sons of Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, into the land of Gilead, Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest,
- 14. and with him ten chiefs, one chief for each father's household from each of the tribes of Israel; and each one of them [was] the head of his father's household among the thousands of Israel.
- 15. And they came to the sons of Reuben and to the sons of Gad and to the half-tribe of Manasseh, to the land of Gilead, and they spoke with them saying,
- 16. "Thus says the whole congregation of the LORD, 'What is this unfaithful act which you have committed against the God of Israel, turning away from following the LORD this day, by building yourselves an altar, to rebel against the LORD this day?
- 17. 'Is not the iniquity of Peor enough for us, from which we have not cleansed ourselves to this day, although a plague came on the congregation of the LORD,
- 18. that you must turn away this day from following the LORD? And it will come about if you rebel against the LORD today, that He will be angry with the whole congregation of Israel tomorrow.
- 19. 'If, however, the land of your possession is unclean, then cross into the land of the possession of the LORD, where the LORD's tabernacle stands, and take possession among us. Only do not rebel against the LORD, or rebel against us by building an altar for yourselves, besides the altar of the LORD our God.
- 20. 'Did not Achan the son of Zerah act unfaithfully in the things under the ban, and wrath fall on all the congregation of Israel? And that man did not perish alone in his iniquity.'"
- 21. Then the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh answered, and spoke to the heads of the families of Israel.
- 22. "The Mighty One, God, the LORD, the Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows, and may Israel itself know. If [it was] in rebellion, or if in an unfaithful act against the LORD do not Thou save us this day!
- 23. "If we have built us an altar to turn away from following the LORD, or if to offer a burnt offering or grain offering on it, or if to offer sacrifices of peace offerings on it, may the LORD Himself require it.
- 24. "But truly we have done this out of concern, for a reason, saying, 'In time to come your sons may say to our sons, "What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel?
- 25. "For the LORD has made the Jordan a border between us and you, [you] sons of Reuben and sons of Gad; you have no portion in the LORD." So your sons may make our sons stop fearing the LORD.'
- 26. "Therefore we said, 'Let us build an altar, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice;
- 27. rather it shall be a witness between us and you and between our generations after us, that we are to perform the service of the LORD before Him with our burnt offerings, and with our sacrifices and with our peace offerings, that your sons may not say to our sons in time to come, "You have no portion in the LORD."'
- 28. "Therefore we said, 'It shall also come about if they say [this] to us or to our generations in time to come, then we shall say, "See the copy of the altar of the LORD which our fathers made, not for burnt offering or for sacrifice; rather it is a witness between us and you."'
- 29. "Far be it from us that we should rebel against the LORD and turn away from following the LORD this day, by building an altar for burnt offering, for grain offering or for sacrifice, besides the altar of the LORD our God which is before His tabernacle."
- 30. So when Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the congregation, even the heads of the families of Israel who [were] with him, heard the words which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad and the sons of Manasseh spoke, it pleased them.
- 31. And Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest said to the sons of Reuben and to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Manasseh, "Today we know that the LORD is in our midst, because you have not committed this unfaithful act against the LORD; now you have delivered the sons of Israel from the hand of the LORD."
- 32. Then Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest and the leaders returned from the sons of Reuben and from the sons of Gad, from the land of Gilead, to the land of Canaan, to the sons of Israel, and brought back word to them.
- 33. And the word pleased the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel blessed God; and they did not speak of going up against them in war, to destroy the land in which the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad were living.
- 34. And the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad called the altar [Witness]; "For," [they said], "it is a witness between us that the LORD is God."
The Tribe of Simeon
When the land of Canaan was divided, the second lot fell to Simeon. The tribe received land in the extreme southern part of Canaan, in the middle of Judah's territory (Josh. 19:1-9). Simeon united with Judah in fighting the Canaanites (Judg. 1:1,3, 17). Among the Simeonite cities were Beersheba, Hormah, and Ziklag (Josh. 19:1-9).
The Tribe of Judah
Except for Simeon, Judah was the southernmost tribe of the Israelites. However, Simeon seems to have been absorbed into Judah at an early date. Judah's eastern border was the Dead Sea, and its western border was the Mediterranean Sea, although the Philistines usually controlled the plain along the sea. Originally, Judah's northern boundary ran from just south of Jerusalem northwest to Kirjath Jearim and Jabneel. To the south Judah's border ran south to the Ascent of Akrabbim, to the Wilderness of Zin, and south from Kadesh Barnea to the Mediterranean. At its longest point Judah was about 153 kilometers (95 miles) in length. At its widest point it was about 45 miles wide, excluding the area controlled by the Philistines. During the period of the divided kingdom, its northern boundary ran north of Jerusalem. Together with Benjamin they formed the southern kingdom of Judah, which at one time included Edom to the southeast.
The Tribe of Dan
The area allotted to Dan included the towns of Aijalon, Ekron, Eltekeh, and Zorah in the west central part of Canaan (Josh. 19:40-46; 21:5, 23-24) and stretched to Joppa on the Mediterranean Sea. The Danites, however were unable to conquer much of the territory assigned to them. The original inhabitants, the Amorites, kept the Danites confined to the hill country of Ephraim and Benjamin. Unable to conquer their allotted territory, some members of the tribe of Dan migrated far to the northernmost area of the Promised Land and conquered the isolated city of LAISH, which they renamed Dan.
The Tribe of Naphtali
Along with Asher, Naphtali was the northernmost tribe of Israel, occupying a long, narrow piece of land-- about 50 miles north to south and about 10 miles from east to west. Naphtali was mountainous (Josh. 20:7) and very fertile. Fortified cities within the tribe's boundaries included Ramah, Hazor, Kedesh, Iron, and Beth Anath (Josh. 19:36-38). The three cities given to the Levites in Naphtali were Kedesh (a city of refuge), Hammoth Dor, and Kartan (Josh. 21:32).
The Tribe of Gad
The territory of Gad or Gilead lay east of the Jordan River between the halftribe of Manasseh to the north and the tribe of Reuben to the south. Its western boundary was the Jordan River; on the east it faced the territory of the Ammonites. Gad had few major towns.
The Tribe of Asher
The territory of Asher extended to the northern boundary of Palestine; its southern border was the tribe of Manasseh and the mountains of Mount Carmel. Asher was bounded on the west by the Mediterranean Sea and on the east by the tribe of Naphtali.
The Tribe of Issachar
The territory allotted to this tribe was bounded on the north by Zebulun and Naphtali, on the south and west by Manasseh, and on the east by the Jordan River (Josh. 19:17-23). Most of the fertile Valley of Jezreel, or Esdraelon, fell within Issachar's territory. Its fertile, flat plains were well-suited for the raising of cattle.
The Tribe of Zebulun
At the division of territory the lot of Zebulun came up third, and assigned to him a beautifully diversified stretch of country in the North. The area of his possession is in general clear enough, but it is impossible to define the boundaries exactly (Josh 19:10-16). The line ran northward from Mt. Tabor, keeping on the heights West of the Sea of Galilee, on to Kerr `Anan (Hannathon). It turned westward along the base of the mountain, and reached the border of Asher, probably by the vale of `Abilin. It then proceeded southward to the Kishon opposite Tell Kaimun (Jokneam). As the plain belonged to Issachar, the south border would skirt its northern edge, terminating again at Tabor, probably near Deburiyeh (Daberath), which belonged to Issachar (21:28). Nazareth, Jesus' hometown, and Cana, where He performed His first miracle, both lay in the territory of Zebulun.
The Tribe of Benjamin
Its northern boundary ran westward from the Jordan River through Bethel and just south of Lower Beth Horon; its western boundary picked up at this point to Kirjath Jearim; its southern border ran eastward to the northern point of the Dead Sea; and its easternmost limit was the Jordan River (Josh. 18:11-20). The chief towns in this hilly, fertile region were Jerusalem, Jericho, Bethel, Gibeon, Gibeath, and Mizpah (Josh. 18:21-28).
The Tribe of Ephraim
This tribe settled a territory bounded on the north by the territory of Manasseh (west of the River Jordan) and on the south by the territories of Dan and Benjamin (Josh. 16:5-10).
The Tribe of Manasseh
In the settlement of Canaan, land was provided for Manasseh on both sides of the Jordan River. Eastern Manasseh was able to occupy its land only after it had aided the other tribes in conquering their territories (Num. 32:1-33). Because of the Canaanite fortresses and strong cities in the land (for example, Megiddo, En Dor, Taanach, Dor, Ibleam, and Beth Shean), western Manasseh had difficulty settling its territory.