Joshua 11:23 – Inheritance and Rest

Joshua 11:23 (ESV) — 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

This one verse sums up over forty years of God’s revelation and purpose in Israel’s history.
  • Importantly, the claim is that all that occurred in Joshua 1-11 is attributed to God’s covenant faithfulness.
    • Not the workings of a war-hungry, nation-grabbing Semitic tribe.
  • To appreciate this, we need to step back a bit and get a broad Scriptural overview of this text and the events of Joshua 1-11.
  • In other words, how did we get here?

Conquest Ordained:
(1) God made a covenant with Abram concerning the land of Canaan.
  • Genesis 12:7 (ESV) — 7 Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built there an altar to the Lord, who had appeared to him.

(2) The fulfillment of this promise would not happen overnight and was to be synergistic (God and man).
  • Exodus 23:30 (ESV) — 30 Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased and possess the land.
  • Numbers 33:53–54 (ESV) — 53 And you shall take possession of the land and settle in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it.
  • Joshua 1:11 (ESV) — 11 “Pass through the midst of the camp and command the people, ‘Prepare your provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.’ ”

(3) The land would be given as a God-ordained inheritance.
  • Exodus 32:13 (ESV) — 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever.’ ”
  • Numbers 33:54 (ESV) — 54 You shall inherit the land by lot according to your clans. To a large tribe you shall give a large inheritance, and to a small tribe you shall give a small inheritance. Wherever the lot falls for anyone, that shall be his. According to the tribes of your fathers you shall inherit.
  • Joshua 13:7 (ESV) — 7 Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance to the nine tribes and half the tribe of Manasseh.” 

(4) The inheritance will bring rest to the people of Israel
  • Deuteronomy 12:9–10 (ESV) — 9 for you have not as yet come to the rest and to the inheritance that the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But when you go over the Jordan and live in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and when he gives you rest from all your enemies around, so that you live in safety,
  • Joshua 1:13 (ESV) — 13 “Remember the word that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, ‘The Lord your God is providing you a place of rest and will give you this land.’
  • Joshua 11:23 (ESV) — 23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses. And Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.
  • Joshua 14:15 (ESV) — 15 Now the name of Hebron formerly was Kiriath-arba. (Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim.) And the land had rest from war.
  • Joshua 21:44 (ESV) — 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.
  • Joshua 22:4 (ESV) — 4 And now the Lord your God has given rest to your brothers, as he promised them. Therefore turn and go to your tents in the land where your possession lies, which Moses the servant of the Lord gave you on the other side of the Jordan.
  • Joshua 23:1 (ESV) — 1 A long time afterward, when the Lord had given rest to Israel from all their surrounding enemies, and Joshua was old and well advanced in years,

(5) This inheritance and rest were “contingent upon obedience to [Gods] law” – TWOT.
  • Deuteronomy 28:63 (ESV) — 63 And as the Lord took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the Lord will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you. And you shall be plucked off the land that you are entering to take possession of it [as a curse for disobedience].
  • Deuteronomy 28:65–68 (ESV) — 65 [More curses for disobedience] And among these nations you shall find no respite, and there shall be no resting place for the sole of your foot, but the Lord will give you there a trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul. 66 Your life shall hang in doubt before you. Night and day you shall be in dread and have no assurance of your life. 67 In the morning you shall say, ‘If only it were evening!’ and at evening you shall say, ‘If only it were morning!’ because of the dread that your heart shall feel, and the sights that your eyes shall see. 68 And the Lord will bring you back in ships to Egypt, a journey that I promised that you should never make again; and there you shall offer yourselves for sale to your enemies as male and female slaves, but there will be no buyer.”
  • Joshua 1:7–8 (ESV) — 7 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 8 This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

(6) The promise was delivered.
  • Joshua 21:43–44 (ESV) — 43 Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands.

We have dealt with all but two of these – inheritance and rest.

In our context, inheritance is meant to convey:
  • (1) A gift to the elect – what God has “given to the godly” – TWOT.
  • (2) The incumbent responsibilities of keeping the inheritance – TWOT.
  • (3) The land itself.

God made it clear it was His prerogative to choose Israel.
  • They had nothing to do with it.
  • Deuteronomy 7:7–8 (ESV) — 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
  • Deuteronomy 10:14–15 (ESV) — 14 Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.
  • Psalm 33:12 (ESV) — 12 Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people whom he has chosen as his heritage!
  • The inheritance was not deserved by works, but kept by works.

God is the Creator and King, and the land belongs to Him.
  • By bequeathing His land He “obligates His subjects to render personal services” – TWOT.
    • Israel was the steward of God’s land.
  • (1) They were to devote and dedicate the land to Him – such as the offering of firstfruits (Deut. 26:1-3).
  • (2) They were to “not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance” – Deut. 21:23.

And as we have seen, shirking their responsibilities and living in disobedience would have serious repercussions.
  • Jeremiah 17:4 (ESV) — 4 You shall loosen your hand from your heritage that I gave to you, and I will make you serve your enemies in a land that you do not know, for in my anger a fire is kindled that shall burn forever.”

In our context, the meaning of rest can be determined from scriptures that speak of its presence and of its deprivation.
  • Rest from enemies (Deut. 12:10)
  • Living in safety (Deut. 12:10)
  • Cessation of war (Josh. 11:23)
  • Removal of enemy threat (Josh. 21:44)
  • Rest from a “trembling heart and failing eyes and a languishing soul” (Deut. 28:65)
  • Assurance of life (Deut. 28:66)
  • Contentment (Deut. 28:67)
  • Prosperity (Josh. 1:8)
  • Rest for the land from war (Josh. 11:23)

These attributes of Joshua’s rest are physical and, as we saw, the rest is conditional.
  • To remain in the rest required obedience to God’s commands.
  • And over and over, Israel forsook its inheritance and lost its rest.

Is there a rest from God that is not conditional?

David apparently has an answer for us:
Psalm 95:7–11 (ESV) — 7b For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers put me to the test and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work. 10 For forty years I loathed that generation and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart, and they have not known my ways.” 11 Therefore I swore in my wrath, “They shall not enter my rest.”

How does this text speak of a new kind of rest?

The author of Hebrews took David to be referring to a number of important things.
  • One of which being that “today” is being “in Christ”.
  • Hebrews 3:13–14 (ESV) — 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

And because of our union with Christ, we have access to a new kind of rest.
  • Hebrews 4:1–3 (ESV) — 1 Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us fear lest any of you should seem to have failed to reach it. 2 For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened. 3 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest,’ ” although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.
  • As surely as disobedience resulted in not entering God’s rest in the promise land…
  • So our being “in Christ” by faith guarantees that those “who have believed enter” His rest.

And speaking of Joshua, the writer of Hebrews continues:
  • Hebrews 4:8–10 (ESV) — 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. 9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.

First the bad news:
  • There was a rest available that was not part of Joshua’s physical rest – David Howard.
  • A rest that Joshua did not bring.
  • The rest in Joshua “was a fragile, tenuous one” because of its conditional nature – David Howard.

Then the awesome news:
  • Hebrews is saying that David’s “today” is “another day later on”.
  • And this day is referring to rest in Christ.
  • And this rest is not entered into by observance of the law (works).
  • It is entered into by the state of being “in Christ”!
  • This rest is unconditional!

Finally, the writer of Hebrews wants to provide us assurance about rest in Christ.
  • Hebrews 4:11–12 (ESV) — 11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
  • God’s word will expose hypocrisy, deception and sin.
  • To find the assurance of rest in Christ, remain in God’s word!