Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1. Take the challenge. You won’t regret it.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Joshua 18:8): So, in the verses previous to this one, Joshua asks them why they haven’t taken possession of their land and then he instructs them to survey it and divide the land. But, then when they start to do that, he calls them back. Why was the land divided up this way? What does casting sacred lots mean? Haven’t we had previous stories take place at Shiloh?
A. After the tribes were set up on the east side of the Jordan, there were 9 tribes who still needed their land. The two most prominent sons under Jacob, Judah and Joseph, went first, and since Joseph got two plots for his two sons, there were three different allotments, but only left seven sons. The other seven sons had the remainder of the land divided up by lot.
The sacred lot was an act of divination, which was something the nation was forbidden to do on their own, but was part of the responsibility of the High Priest according to Exodus 28:30. This verse describes two stones, the Urim and the Thummim, which were part of the decoration of the priestly garment. According to what I read, it appears that these two stones represented the words “yes” (Thummim), and “no” (Urim). You can see a picture of what they may have looked like here: http://www.bibleandscience.com/store/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=29. We will see more references to their usage in later stories, which you can preview here: http://www.biblegateway.com/keyword/?search=urim&version1=NIV&searchtype=all&resultspp=500.
The priest or Joshua in this case would have the tribe names — or whatever they were trying to determine — on script or ancient paper, and would basically choose one tribe in this case for a particular plot of land. So it was one tribe on one side, and the other six on the other. He would then “cast” or throw the stones or “lots”, and see which one landed closer to the isolated tribe. If the one tribe got the “yes” stone, then that was their land. But if the “no” stone turned up, then the priest would set aside a new single tribe and cast again. It went something like that as far as I can tell.
As for Shiloh, as far as I can tell, this is the first time the place has been mentioned, but it will be a very important location for the Tabernacle until King David, and therefore we won’t see it mentioned again until 2 Samuel, with sporadic references after that.
Q. Do we need to pay any particular attention to what tribe gets what land? Any idea if some tribes had different needs and thus were partnered with the area most suited to them?
A. That may have factored into the way that, according to this, God chose to divide up the land via the lots, as we talked about in the previous question, but we don’t have any way to know for sure. That certainly seems likely to me. As we discussed yesterday, don’t worry too much about what tribes get which land at this point, but we will make reference to the divisions throughout the remaining story.