Boundaries of Israel

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What is the significance of the specific tribal boundaries found in Joshua?
As the writer of Joshua lifts up a model for how he wants his audience to reaffirm what God wants for the people of God, so that they can move the kingdom forward, one of the things he does is he wants, first, every tribe to know what part of the Promised Land they are to possess. They're to go back there; they're to occupy it again. It is to be their orientation in life, and from there they're to build out. But even more than that, Israel as a whole, the whole nation is to respect those allocations of land that were given to the people of God and various tribes, so that even in a book like Chronicles, you find there's a great deal of emphasis on all twelve tribes returning to the place that God had given to them. And this, of course, emphasizes the unity of the people of God, it emphasizes their diversity within that unity, it also emphasizes how important every single tribe of Israel was to the plan of God, and thus it helps us, even as Christians, to understand why Jesus did not simply live his entire life in Judah. He did not live his entire life in Jerusalem, the capital city, but actually traversed up north and went through all the tribal regions of Israel, including the tribal regions across the Jordan… If you're going to rebuild the kingdom of God, as Jesus was determined to do in his day, then you must go back, as it were, and reaffirm the starting point. And the starting point was that these were the areas where God's people were to settle, and the tribes were to identify themselves as part of the larger people of God with their own gifts, their own inheritance, their own responsibilities within the Land of Promise. And Jesus did that as he gathered a remnant from all the various regions of the Promised Land from all the tribes of Israel.

Answer by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr.

Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr. is founder and President of Third Millennium Ministries and adjunct Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL.