From Slaves to Soldiers

Chapter 34

The southwest corner of the Fertile Crescent was the bridge between the two cradles of civilization, Mesopotamia – where Babylonia Assyria sprang up – and Egypt and its appendages.

Yahweh commanded that the territory would be geographically limited. It was to be carefully defined to eliminate boundary disputes. The Promised Land is a picture of the generous privileges of Yahweh’s chosen people, and our everlasting inheritance. It was not a continent or a large portion of a continent. Yahweh was teaching his chosen people the difference between size and importance. The extent of land doesn’t compare with the inexhaustible wealth that comes out of good ground. A square mile in the territory that Yahweh blessed is better than thousands of acres of unblessed land. The country Yahweh gave to his chosen people was large enough to impress the world with beautiful illustrations of his methods that bring peace, prosperity, and happiness. The territory was limited and compact so that with short notice the whole nation could gather to any time for worship or defense.

The southern border[1] would include some of the Wilderness of Zin where it touched Edom. Israel would remember that the Wilderness of Zin was where Meriam died and Moses struck the rock for water instead of speaking to it as Yahweh had instructed.[2] Edom was founded by Esau who was Jacob’s brother and; therefore, a close relative of Israel. The eastern border there was to be the Dead Sea, the lowest body of water on earth. It was to curve south of the steep and twisted Scorpion Pass in the eastern Negev desert. From there it was to go south of Kadesh Barnea where Israel was camped when the spies were sent out. It went further south until it took a turn in the northwest to the Brook of Egypt and on to the Mediterranean Sea, which was to be the western border. The great sea was the open pathway of nations and the symbol of Israel’s connection with the whole world. Israel had destroyed Amorites and Midianites and was commanded to drive out the Canaanites but in the seed of Abraham all families of the earth were to be blessed. From Canaan there was a path of blessing by a landward way to many lands beside, but by sea there was a way to every island.

The northern border would go from the Mediterranean Sea to Mount Hor, where Aaron was buried. It ended at the a place called Hazar Enan – Village of springs or Village of Fountains – north of present day Syria. The eastern border was to run from there to Shepham, Riblah and east of Ain along the slopes east of the Sea of Galilee. From there the border would follow the Jordan River and end at the Dead Sea. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh had received their inheritance east of Jordan-Jericho, facing the sunrise.

Yahweh provided a means for Israel to drive out the Canaanites when he set the border where they were to be driven and where Israel was not allowed to return and occupy the other side. In the same way Yahweh’s people should know that the world has its own principles and tolerate whatever way they choose to endorse them without adopting them. The world’s view of life is communicated from generation to generation according to the natural condition of human beings and what they negatively suppose human character is fated to be. For ancient Israel and us today Yahweh’s chosen people must uphold a place, and earnestly defend it, where the condescending egotism of worldly wisdom doesn’t get a foothold. Our field of faith, born of the Spirit of Yahweh, is grounded on the word of our God, Yahweh. We are born of the flesh and without Yahweh we would be stuck with the inevitable belief that what is born of the flesh is flesh, and that we must go by what other humans are. However, we know what humans ought to be, and remember that what is born of the spirit is spirit and able to transcend the things of the flesh[3].

Yahweh told Moses that Eleazar, Joshua, and the leaders of the ten remaining tribes were to distribute the land. Moses made a record of the names of the leaders of each tribe and the fact that it was at the command of Yahweh that they had the authority to do so.

 

Summary of chapter 34

The narrator described the borders of the Land of Promise, naming the southern, western, northern, and eastern lines of the land to be divided by lot among the 9 ½ tribes. Reuben and Gad, and the half of Manasseh already got their inheritance on the east side of Jordan. Yahweh told Moses that Eleazar the priest and Joshua were to assist in dividing the land with a chief out of every tribe. Moses recorded the names of the twelve chiefs. Yahweh named the princes that should divide the land in the order of their possession so that they would dwell together as brethren in unity, for the mutual help and comfort of each other. Yahweh displayed characteristics of skill, judgment, and kindness in his placement of the tribes in their new home. Their land would be given to them so that they would live in the same order that they had been camped around the tabernacle. Judah had the first lot; and dwelt in the south part of the land. Next to him Simeon’s inheritance was within the inheritance of the children of Judah[4]. Judah and Simeon were both sons of Leah. Benjamin – the youngest son of Rachel – was third and had his inheritance by Judah, between the children of Judah and the children of Joseph. Dan – a son of Rachel’s maid – was the fourth with the territory of Benjamin in the country of the Philistines.[5] Manasseh and Ephraim – Rachel’s grandsons – were six and seven and their inheritances were behind Benjamin[6]. Zebulun was seven and Issachar was number eight.[7] They were sons of Leah. Asher was nine and Naphtali was tenth[8]. Asher was a son of Leah’s maid and Naphtali was a son of Rachel’s maid.

 

Prayer: Lord, I thank you that when Christ died he took the whole rule-dominated way of life down with him and left it in the tomb, leaving me free to connect to the power of his resurrection life. For as long as I lived the old way of life, doing whatever I felt I could get away with, sin was calling most of the shots as the old law code hemmed me in. In the end, all I had to show for it was failure and unproductive exploits. Now that I’m no longer chained to that oppressing companion of sin, and out from under all those oppressive regulations and fine print, I’m free to live a new life in your freedom. The law code had a perfectly legitimate function. Without its clear guidelines for right and wrong, moral behavior would be mostly guesswork. It started out as an excellent piece of work. However, sin found a way to pervert the command into a temptation, making a piece of “forbidden fruit” out of it. The law code itself is your good and common sense, each command sane and holy counsel. Sin hid in your good commandment and did far more mischief than it could ever have accomplished on its own. I spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for me and then do it, it is obvious that your command is necessary. However, I need something more since I know the law but still can’t keep it. The power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions so I obviously need help. I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do what is right, but I don’t actually do it; I decide not to do what is wrong – unhealthy and damaging – but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do what is right, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in your commands, but it’s obvious that not all of me connects with that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge. I can’t win for losing so you acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve you with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. You came in the person of Jesus, the Messiah/ Yeshua ha Mashiach and that fateful dilemma is resolved. When I entered into Christ’s being-here-for-me I no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing me from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death. You went for the jugular when you sent your own Son. You didn’t deal with the problem as something remote and unimportant. In Your Son, Jesus/Yeshua, you personally took on the human condition, entered the disordered mess of struggling humanity in order to set it right once and for all. The law code, weakened as it always was by fractured human nature, could never have done that. The law always ended up being used as a Band-Aid on sin instead of a deep healing of it. Now what the law code asked for but I couldn’t deliver is accomplished as I, instead of redoubling my own efforts, simply embrace what the Spirit is doing in me.

You have taken up residence in my life so I can hardly be thinking more of myself than of you. Even though I still experience all the limitations of sin I experience life on your terms and because you moved into my life- you who are alive-and-present and raised Jesus from the dead moved into my life, you do the same thing in me that you did in Jesus, brought me alive to you. You live and breathe in me so I am delivered from that dead life. With your Spirit living in me, my body is as alive as Christ’s/Yeshua ha Mashiach’s.

The resurrection life I received from you is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting you with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” Your Spirit touches my spirit and confirms who I really am. I know who you are, and I know who I am: Father and child. In addition, I know I am going to get what’s coming to me—an unbelievable inheritance! I go through exactly what Christ goes through. If I go through the hard times with him, then I will certainly going to go through the good times with him. You decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love you along the same lines as the life of your Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity you restored. I see the original and intended shape of my life there in him. After you decided what your children should be like, you followed it up by calling your own by name. After you called us by name, you set us on a solid basis with yourself. Then, after getting us established, you stay with us to the end, gloriously completing what you have begun.

 

 

Things to think about

  1. What do you think was the importance of the location in the Fertile Crescent that Yahweh established for his chosen people?
  2. Why was the area so smell where Yahweh places his chosen people?
  3. Of what incident did the southern border remind Israel?
  4. Why didn’t Yahweh tell Israel to rid the land of Edom?
  5. Of what did Kadesh Barnea remind Israel?
  6. What was important about the western border?
  7. What does this chapter tell you about the character of your God, Yahweh?

 

 

[1] Joshua 15:2-4

[2] Chapter 20

[3] Romans 8

[4] Joshua 19:1

[5] IBID 19:40, 41

[6] IBID 16:7

[7] IBID 19:10-17

[8] IBID 19:24, 32

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