Read Joshua 21
Towns for the Levites
1 Now the family heads of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the heads of the other tribal families of Israel 2 at Shiloh in Canaan and said to them, “The Lord commanded through Moses that you give us towns to live in, with pasturelands for our livestock.” 3 So, as the Lord had commanded, the Israelites gave the Levites the following towns and pasturelands out of their own inheritance:
4 The first lot came out for the Kohathites, according to their clans. The Levites who were descendants of Aaron the priest were allotted thirteen towns from the tribes of Judah, Simeon and Benjamin. 5 The rest of Kohath’s descendants were allotted ten towns from the clans of the tribes of Ephraim, Dan and half of Manasseh.
6 The descendants of Gershon were allotted thirteen towns from the clans of the tribes of Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and the half-tribe of Manasseh in Bashan.
7 The descendants of Merari, according to their clans, received twelve towns from the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Zebulun.
8 So the Israelites allotted to the Levites these towns and their pasturelands, as the Lord had commanded through Moses.
9 From the tribes of Judah and Simeon they allotted the following towns by name 10 (these towns were assigned to the descendants of Aaron who were from the Kohathite clans of the Levites, because the first lot fell to them):
19 The total number of towns for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.
20 The rest of the Kohathite clans of the Levites were allotted towns from the tribe of Ephraim:
26 All these ten towns and their pasturelands were given to the rest of the Kohathite clans.
27 The Levite clans of the Gershonites were given:
28 from the tribe of Issachar,
30 from the tribe of Asher,
32 from the tribe of Naphtali,
33 The total number of towns of the Gershonite clans came to thirteen, together with their pasturelands.
34 The Merarite clans (the rest of the Levites) were given:
36 from the tribe of Reuben,
38 from the tribe of Gad,
40 The total number of towns allotted to the Merarite clans, who were the rest of the Levites, came to twelve.
41 The towns of the Levites in the territory held by the Israelites were forty-eight in all, together with their pasturelands. 42 Each of these towns had pasturelands surrounding it; this was true for all these towns.
43 So the Lord gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The Lord gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.
Another chapter, another division of land. This chapter begins with the Levites coming to Joshua, Eleazar, and the other leaders of Israel to ask for the land that God had instructed Moses to give them. Over the next forty-ish verses, we see all the ways the land was divided up. The final verse in this chapter leaves us with an important reminder that sums up much of the book of Joshua: “Not one of all the Lord’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.” God had been faithful to the Israelites, just as He had promised. Despite Israel’s shortcomings along the way, God protected and provided for His people.
It’s interesting to note that the Levites weren’t given one particular plot of land like the other tribes were. Instead, they were scattered about amongst 48 different towns (and pasture lands). The Levites were the teachers and instructors of the Law. Their role was to provide spiritual counsel to the rest of the people. Instead of the Levites going off and creating their own sect of society, removed from the rest of the world, they were dispersed all throughout the land. But why? They were needed to point people back to God. They were needed to explain what the Law meant. They were needed in society.
In the same way that the Levites were the priests who were meant to be scattered around, we too are part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9). As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to point people towards Him. We, too, need to be living among the rest of the world, rubbing shoulders with people far from God, explaining the Scriptures and the gospel to people that need to hear it. Another way to put it: We are to be salt and light in the world (Matthew 5:13-16). It would have been easier for the Levites to form their own separate nation, but that’s not the role God had for them. As tempting as it may be for us as Christians to want to pull ourselves out of society and live a life only focused on ourselves, we have been given the opportunity to take the Good News to a world that needs to hear it.
- Why is it so important for us to know that all of God’s promises to Israel were fulfilled?
- Why was it necessary that the Levites be in close proximity to the rest of Israel?
- How are you using your sphere of influence to impact those around you for the Kingdom? How are you being salt and light?
Did You Know?
The pasturelands referenced throughout this passage refer to the common land on the outskirts of each city that were used for the grazing of livestock.