Levi tribe gets 48 cities
Levi’s tribe wants cities God promised them1Family leaders in Levi’s tribe called a meeting of Israel’s top leaders. They had a request for priest Eleazar, Joshua, the son of Nun, and the leaders of Israel’s other tribes. 2The meeting took place at the town of Shiloh in Canaan. Levi’s leaders said, “The LORD told Moses to give us towns once we got here. And we’re supposed to get fields near those towns, so our livestock can graze.” 3Israel’s leaders granted the request because the LORD had made that promise to Levi’s tribe. This is a list of the towns with their outlying villages and fields that Israel’s leaders gave to Levi’s tribe.
13 cities for Aaron’s people4The random toss of dice decided what towns would go to which family groups in Levi’s tribe. The extended family group called Kohath’s got the first cluster of towns. Within that group of Kohath families, those who served as priests because they descended from Aaron got 13 towns scattered throughout the southern tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin.
5Everyone else in the Kohath’s clan of extended families shared 10 towns in Israel’s centrally located tribes of Ephraim, Dan, and the western half of Manasseh’s tribe.
6Gershon’s family group got 13 towns in the northern tribes of Asher, Naphtali, and the eastern half of Manasseh’s tribe in the territory of Bashan.
7Merari’s clan of families shared 12 towns in the tribes of Reuben and Gad located east of the Jordan River and in the northern tribe of Zebulun, west of the river. 8These towns and nearby grazing fields were assigned by the random roll of dice. That’s how the LORD told Moses to do it.
Priests get Hebron, Gibeon9Several towns in the tribes of Judah and Simeon 10went to priest families—Kohath’s descended from Aaron. That’s how the dice rolled. 11They got the city of Hebron and its outlying fields. Hebron was also known as Kiriath-arba, named after Arba, father of the Anak people.
Caleb of the suburbs12Caleb the son of Jephunneh got Hebron’s outlying villages and their fields. 13Aaron’s descendants in the Kohath clan of extended families got these cities and their outlying fields:
Hebron, which was also a safe haven city, Libnah,
16Ain, Juttah, and Beth-shemesh.
17Aaron’s descendants also got these towns and grazing fields in Benjamin’s tribe:
18Anathoth, and Almon.
That’s four towns in Benjamin. 19So, Israel’s families of priests—those descended from Aaron—received 13 towns and outlying fields.
Ten towns for non-priest Kohaths20The rest of the Kohath clan got the following cities and fields. Cities located in Ephraim’s hill country:
21Shechem (a safe haven town), Gezer,
22Kibzaim, and Beth-horon.
That’s four towns in Ephraim.
23Towns in Dan’s tribe:
24Aijalon, and Gath-rimmon.
25Towns in the western half of Manasseh’s tribe:
Taanach and Gath-rimmon. That’s two towns.
26So, these Kohath families got 10 towns in all.
Thirteen towns for Gershon families27Levites in the Gershon clan of extended families got these cities in the eastern half of Manasseh’s tribe:
Golan in Bashan (a city of safe haven) and Beeshterah.
That’s two towns in Manasseh’s tribe.
28Cities in the Issachar tribe:
29Jarmuth, and En-gannim.
That four cities in Issachar.
30Cities in Asher’s tribe:
31Helkath, and Rehob.
32Cities in Naphtali’s tribe:
Kedesh in Galilee (a city of safe haven), Hammoth-dor, and Kartan.
That’s three cities in Naphtali.
33So, Gershon families got 13 towns and outlying grazing fields.
A dozen towns for Merari families34Levi’s people in the Merari group of families got these cities in Zebulun’s tribe:
35Dimnah, and Nahalal.
That’s four towns with pasture lands.
36Cities in Reuben’s tribe:
37Kedemoth, and Mephaath.
That’s four towns in Reuben’s tribe.
38Merari families got these cities in Gad’s tribe:
Ramoth in Gilead (a city of safe haven), Mahanaim,
39Heshbon, and Jazer.
That’s four towns in Gad’s tribe.
40So, Merari families got 12 cities in all.
41In all, Levi’s tribe got 48 towns and outlying fields scattered throughout the 12 tribes. 42Each of these towns was big enough to have outlying villages, settlements, and fields.
Israel settles down, lives in peace43So, the LORD kept his promise to the people of Israel. He brought them to Canaan. He gave them Canaan. And they took Canaan. They made themselves at home. 44The LORD also kept his promise to give them peace. They lived in peace. That’s because none of their enemies could defeat them.
45The LORD kept every promise he made to Israel. All the good things he said would happen did happen.
More literally, they were to throw or draw “lots.” The “lots” may have been stones or animal bones marked in a way that produced random outcomes for “yes” or “no” answers, or for determining who goes first in a group. The idea is like throwing dice, with the high number going first or getting selected. They seemed to expect that the LORD would control the selection process and give each tribe the land he wanted that tribe to have.
The other half of Manasseh’s tribe settled east of the Jordan River, with the tribes of Gad and Reuben. Those tribes had a lot of livestock and liked the grazing fields there. Another big plus: Israel had already conquered that territory (Numbers 32:33).
In Hebrew, the town was called Kiriath-arba. Kiriath can mean a town, city, community. Arba means “fourth” or “four.” So, it could mean “Town of Four.” Scholars have to guess four of what. Four settlements that later united? Four roads out of town? Four extended families, known as clans or tribes? At least three big family groups lived there (Numbers 13:22). But given what follows “Kiriath-arba” in the sentence, “Arba” could be the hero’s name. So the city may have been: Arba Town, or Arbatown, if we like.
Arba was also “the greatest hero in Anakim history” (14:15).
Anak and his descendants—the Anakites or Anakim—are described as giants (Deuteronomy 2:10-11, see also Numbers 13:22). These giants are one of the reasons the Israelites were afraid to invade Canaan. God sentenced the Israelites to 40 years in the desert wasteland for their lack of faith in him. Philistine warrior Goliath was a descendant of Anak.
Joshua gave Caleb Hebron (15:13). This note saying priests get Hebron, instead, either clarifies and corrects what was reported earlier, or it might seem Caleb later got bumped to the burbs.
Israel designated six towns scattered throughout the 12 tribal lands as “safe havens” (20:7-8). People who accidentally killed someone could go there for a fair trial and for protection from family and friends wanting to avenge the dead.
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