If you’ve been reading along, you might find this chapter oddly familiar. In Numbers and Deuteronomy, we learned that the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh were given their portion of land before the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and conquered the Promised Land. This chapter first tells us briefly of the land that had not yet been conquered by the time that Joshua was an old man, and then describes the specific boundaries for the lands allotted to Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh.
Why is this important for us to know today? One reason is that these concrete descriptions of actual places, like the names given in Joshua 12, illustrate the factual nature of God’s Word. This isn’t a fairy tale or a legend, but the actual history of a people and the actual boundaries of their land as given to them by God.
This chapter also falls in context with the previous and following chapter. Previously, we reviewed a list of all the Kings that God gave Moses victory over and all that God gave Joshua victory over. Now we are reviewing the lands that those victories of Moses provided, and in the coming chapters, we’ll review the lands that Joshua’s victories provided and how they were allotted.
In writing fiction, each scene and each chapter should either move your plot forward or develop your character. If this were a novel and I was critiquing it, I would say, “You’re reviewing what already happened! That’s backstory.” But this isn’t a novel meant to entertain, it’s a history.
And the character that is revealed in the chapter is not Joshua, or Moses, or any of the Israelites, but God. This chapter reveals to us God’s meticulous attention to detail, His faithfulness to all that He has promised, and His power to defeat any adversary.
Are you fighting a battle and feel like you are losing? As Abraham Lincoln said when asked if God was on his side in the Civil War, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.” If you are aligning with God, your victory is assured.