After dealing with the land allotments to the prominent tribes of Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh, our author turned to the minor tribes in chapters 18, 19. He began in 18:1-10 with a narrative of how Joshua called for representatives of each tribe to survey these lands. And he closed in 19:49-51 with a story indicating that the tribes approved of these arrangements because they gave Joshua his own special family inheritance.
Between these opening and closing narratives, our author recorded the allotments for Israel’s minor tribes of Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. Although these tribes received inheritances, they didn’t receive nearly as much as Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh. And, in later times, these lesser tribes had difficulties maintaining their lands. Our author himself mentioned in 19:9 that the inheritance of Simeon was actually “in the midst of Judah’s inheritance,” a fact that eventually led to the assimilation of Simeon into Judah. And he also noted in 19:47 that “the territory of the people of Dan was lost to them” — a story we read in Judges 18. Knowing that these and other instabilities troubled the minor tribes, our author wrote to insure that his audience acknowledged these allotments.
Joshua’s allotments in Cisjordan also include a record of the tribe of Levi in chapters 20, 21. The author of Joshua began his record of the tribe of Levi by naming the cities of refuge in 20:1-9. According to Exodus 21:12-14 and Deuteronomy 19:1-13, these cities offered protection for those who committed unintentional homicide until Israel’s courts could determine their guilt or innocence. Following this, in chapter 21, our author listed the Levitical cities in general, following Moses’ instructions in Numbers 35:6-34.
The cities of refuge and other Levitical cities were scattered throughout the territories of other tribes in the land of Israel. This made it possible for the Levites to lead every tribe in God’s service. Unfortunately, these allotments were easily forgotten in times of trouble. But the author of Joshua insisted that his audience must remember them because the service of the Levites was so crucial to the well-being of the nation.
In balance with this first portion, the record of allotments in Cisjordan ends with a closing summary in 21:43-45. Our author explained in 21:43 that all the tribes “took possession of [their lands], and they settled there.” And to indicate to his audience how ideal the situation was, our author closed this entire section in verse 45 with the declaration that “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.”