Canaan is divided among the twelve tribes

Josh 13:8 – 17:18    The conquered land of Canaan is allocated between the twelve tribes of Israel (see Map 49).


The boundaries of the twelve tribes

Map 49    The Boundaries of the Twelve Tribes


The Division of Canaan

After the invasion of Canaan in c.1406BC, the conquered land was divided between the twelve tribes of Israel (see Map 49). 

The land east of the Jordan, in Gilead and Bashan, captured earlier from King Sihon and King Og (see Numbers 21:23-35) was allocated, as agreed by Moses, to the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh (see Numbers 32:1-19).

The other nine and a half tribes drew lots to divide the land on the west bank of the River Jordan (see Joshua 14:2 & 18:1-10). The tribe of Levi was not allocated a separate territory as they were given land throughout Canaan wherever they served their fellow Israelites as priests and Levites. On the other hand, the descendants of Joseph were divided into two tribes named after his eldest sons Manasseh and Ephraim. Ephraim received the lightly wooded territory in the central hill country near Shiloh (later referred to as the Forest of Ephraim), while Manasseh took over the hilly land to the north in the area around Mt Gerizim, Mt Ebal and the Vale of Shechem (see Joshua 16:1-17:18). In addition, Joshua was personally rewarded with the town of Timnath Serah in the hill country of Ephraim (see Joshua 19:49-50).

Further north, land around the Vale of Jezreel was allocated to the tribe of Issachar (see Joshua 19:17-23), while the tribes of Asher, Zebulon and Napthali were granted territory stretching from the coastal foothills near Tyre to the inland basin occupied by the Lake of Kinnereth (the Sea of Galilee) (see Joshua 19:10-16 & 24-39).

On the southern boundary of Canaan, the tribe of Simeon received the semi-arid foothills of the Negev Desert between Beersheba and Kadesh Barnea (see Joshua 19:1-9), while the tribe of Judah gained the hill country between Beersheba, Bethlehem and Jerusalem (see Joshua 15:1-63). In addition, the city of Hebron was allocated to Caleb in recognition of his faithfulness to God after spying out the ‘promised land’ forty years earlier (see Joshua 14:6-15).

The most controversial allocations of territory were made to the tribes of Benjamin and Dan. Benjamin received land bounded on the south by the Jebusite fortress of Jebus (Jerusalem) (which remained a Canaanite stronghold for the next four hundred years until conquered by King David in 1004 BC) (see Joshua 18:11-28 & 15:63). Dan was allocated land on the coastal plain of Philistia, but was never able to wrestle this lowland territory from the Philistines. As a result, the tribe later conquered land in the far north around the city of Leshem (Laish), which was renamed Dan after it was captured (see Joshua 19:40-48 & Judges 18:1-31).


Israelite Gate at Tel Dan (Adrianlw)

Israelite Gateway at Tel Dan  (Adrianlw)


Josh 18:1-10    The Ark of the Covenant and the Tent of the LORD’s presence (see Genesis 26:1) are set up at Shiloh between Bethel and Shechem (see Map 49). This becomes the principal sanctuary during the time of the Judges. Samuel's parents, for example, join the annual pilgrimage to Shiloh (see 1 Samuel 1:3).

Josh 18:11-19:51    The remainder of the land is allocated amongst the tribes of Israel.

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