Josh 21.1-45 tells us about the claim of the Levites for cities to live in once the land was divided to the tribes and everyone knew what cities belonged to them. The Levites had to live somewhere because they did not have a portion of land given to them because the Lord said he would be their inheritance (Josh 13.14, 13.33). So, cities were given to them according to their three main family divisions.
Yehovah gave Israel all the land which he had promised to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. The Levites were “sprinkled” all through the land. There was never going to be a “state of Levi” but every tribe was to have the Levitical influence of this tribe among them. That is why believers are “sprinkled” all through the world instead of having one nation. He gave them rest on every side and the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. Not one promise of God failed or did not come to pass.
These chapters tell us that God is concerned with the spiritual, but he is also concerned with the physical as well. The concept of “lots” (purim) in the Scriptures is a main theme. Lots were cast daily in the Temple, on Yom Kippur, for a replacement for Judas (Acts 1.26) and for Yeshua’s garments. The land was allotted to the tribes by lot (Josh 14.1-2). What does that tell us?
If a tribe got good land you could say, “Hey, look what the Lord gave us as an inheritance.” If you got a desert and mountains you could say, “Hey, look what the Lord gave us, there must be a blessing in it.” This teaches several messages. Why is it God calls one person to teach the Torah and not another? Why is it one person is born into a rich land like America and another is born into a poor country? Sometimes we ask ourselves why that is, but it is like a “lot” and it seems random but it isn’t. There is a plan of God involved.
We are told in the Torah that Israel was not to “trade” their land with others (Num 36.7-9). If Israel cannot transfer their inheritance from the tribe to tribe, what makes Israel think they can do it today with non-Jews like the Arabs or Palestinians? So, let’s look at Josh 21 and see what else the Lord has to teach us.
The heads of the households of the Levites and are like gifted spiritual leaders and they approached Eleazar the High Priest (like Yeshua our High Priest) and Joshua the son of Nun (Yeshua as our captain) in Shiloh (peace bringer-there is peace in God’s presence) and they brought their issue of inheritance to him, and the sons of Israel gave the Levites from their inheritance (believers need to support their leaders). Then they cast a lot and it came out for Kohath (obedience, gathering). The sons of Aaron received thirteen (the number of blessing and governed) cities from Judah (praise) and from Simeonites (to hear/obey) and from Benjamin (son of the last days/right hand), meaning, where there is praise and obedience we’ll see Messiah.
The rest of Kohath received ten cities (number of judgment) by lot from Ephraim (fruitful), Dan (judge) and the half-tribe of Manasseh (to forget) meaning leaders should be fruitful and wise in judgment and forget the past. The sons of Gershom (stranger there) received thirteen cities (blessing) from the families of Issachar (my hiring), Asher (happy) and the half-tribe of Naphtali (I will wrestle) and the half-tribe of Manasseh (to forget) meaning service to God makes us happy and we will forget the past (Phil 3.13-14).
The sons of Merari (bitterness) received twelve cities (number of teaching) from Reuben (see, a son), Gad (to cut) and from Zebulon (dwelling) meaning Yeshua’s bitter death where he was “cut off” as the son of man from the land of the living gives us a dwelling place with God. The sons of Israel also gave pasture lands with these cities meaning God provides for our temporal needs as well.
The names of these cities was Hebron (communion) in the mountain country of Judah (praise. We have commununion with God in the kingdom and we will praise him. The fields of the city and its villages they gave to Caleb (dog) as a possession. To the priests they gave Hebron, a city of refuge, and Libnah (whiteness). Communion and whiteness are linked. They also gave Jattir (excellent) and Eshtemoa (I will be heard), Holon (anguished), Debir (word), Ain (eye), Juttah (I will be turned aside= Satan) and Beth-shemesh (house of the sun…believers are a “house of the sun) a total of nine cities (resurrection). From Benjamin they gave Gibeon (hill town), Geba (hill), Anatoth (affliction), Almon (concealment). These names allude to the fact that we hear the excellent story of the anguished Messiah in the word of God and see him. Then Satan is turned aside and we make a place for the sun (Messiah) where we are raised up and concealed from the affliction of the birth-pains.
Ephraim (fruitful) gave Shechem (shoulder) and Gezer (a portion is cut off). Our place in Yeshua is cut off from the world (Rom 8.28). They also received Kibzaim (let the people arise) and Beth-horon (cavernous house), four cities (number of testing). From Dan (judge) they received Elteke (God is dread), Gibbethon (lofty…our ground in Yeshua), Aijalon (potruding, Gath-rimmon (winepress of pomegranates), four cities (testing). We are on the Lord’s shoulders and he carries us, and our portion in the world has been cut off in Yeshua. So we can arise from our graves and have been judged because we have a fear of God and are on lofty ground where we stick out in the world teaching the Torah. The half-tribe of Manasseh (forget) gave Taanach (she will afflict you) and Gath-rimmon (winepress of pomegrnates), two cities (witness) The world and false kahal will persecute us as we teach Torah.
To the sons of Gershom (stranger there) from the half-tribe of Manasseh they gave Golan (circle) in Bashan (shame), a city of refuge. They also gave Be-eshterah (in her flock), two cities (witness). We were a stranger and encircled in shame but now we are in the flock (Kahal= assembly) of God. From Issachar (my hiring) they gave Kishion (hardening), Daberath (you spoke), Jarmuth (heights), En-gannim (fountained gardens), four cities (testing). Our hearts were hardened but God spoke and lifted on high where we are washed by the word of God. The tribe of Asher (happy) gave Mishal (parables), Abdon (servant), Helkath (portion, field) and Rehob (open space= safety and salvation), four cities (testing). God was happy to speak in parables and tea h us the mysteries of hus word to give us a portion in his salvation.
From Naphtali (I will wrestle) they gave Kedesh (sanctuary) in Galilee (circle) which was a city of refuge. They also gave Hammoth-dor (habitation) and Kartan (city), three cities (resurrection). We wrestled with the Lord but he has given us sanctuary and encircled us and given us a habitation in the city of the New Jerusalem.
Zebulon (dwelling) gave Merari (bitterness) Jokneam (let the people acquire), Kartah (city), Dimnah (dung heap) and Nahalal (strength), four cities (testing). We dwelt in bitterness but the people acquired a city, leaving our fleshly works on the dung heap, thus acquiring strength. The tribe of Reuben (see a son) gave Bezer (fortress) and Jahaz (trodden down place), Kedemoth (antiquity/beginning) and Mephaath (place of radiance), four cities (testing). The son Yeshua has given us a strong place where we thresh out the word of glory from antiquity (Eph 1.4).
The tribe of Gad gave Ramoth (heights) in Gilead (heap of testimony), another city of refuge, and Mahanaim (two camps), Heshbon (human reason) and Jazer (let him help), four cities (testing). God in heaven has given his testimony and watches over us in heaven and earth and human reason plays a part in how God helps.
Altogether, the sons of Israel gave forty-eight cities (the factor is “four” meaning government is a test of obedience). God is concerned with our physical needs (the pasture lands around the cities) as well as our spiritual needs. The Lord gave them rest on every side and all their enemies into their hand. However, that doesn’t mean they were all dead. It is the same way spiritually. Our spiritual warfare isn’t over just because we are believers because our enemies will try to oppress us and retake our spiritual possessions and inheritances.
In Part 14 we will pick up in Josh 22.