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The Lands of the Twelve Tribes
“These are the countries which the children of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan.”—Jos., 14, 1.
MAP showing the portions of the Promised Land assigned by lot to the various tribes of Israel, can
be outlined in almost every particular from the full account given in the Book of Joshua. The children of Levi, being the priesthood, had no regular territory, but were assigned special cities scattered through the lands of the others.
Yet, without counting the Levites, the number of lots assigned was twelve; for the descendants of Joseph's two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, were accounted as two separate tribes. Indeed there were in reality thirteen lots; for the tribe of Manasseh had been again divided, half of the tribe electing to remain east of the Jordan with Reuben and Gad, the remainder settling in central Palestine. Moreover, not very long after Joshua had allotted the lands, a further change was caused by the migration of a portion of the tribe of Dan from their region in the southwest, to a new region, the farthest north in Palestine. Thus this tribe was also divided like that of Manasseh, while part of Dan’s allotted territory was never occupied, but remained for centuries the home of the Philistines.
Before the coming of Christ, the Jewish priesthood had already divided their sacred books, that is, the books of the Old Testament, into three classes. First came the “Law,” the five books of Moses, the most venerated of all. Then came the “Prophets,” and then the “Hagiographa” or holy writings, such as Psalms and Proverbs. The books of the prophets were divided into the “ Former Prophets’ and the “Latter Prophets.” The historical books from Joshua through II Kings formed the “Former Prophets.” With these were later included the other historical books that immediately follow there in the modern arrangement of the Bible, from Chronicles through Esther; and this entire group are now usually called the Historical Books, though no such division is adopted in the Hebrew Bible.
The Historical Books deal with the history of the Israelites from the time of their entrance into Palestine, down through the “great captivity” at Babylon and the successful reëstablishment of the captives in their homes in Palestine. The books thus cover a period of many centuries. In so extended a history wide gaps necessarily appear, different hands take up the tale, different views are held as to Israel's past and future. There is, in short, no such strong sense of unity or of religious devotion pervading this portion of the Scriptures as impresses the reader in the books of Moses. Nor were
these historical books regarded by the Jews themselves with such reverence as they gave the earlier “Law.” Perhaps the book of Joshua was originally part of this Law; but no one of the other writings, even of the “Former Prophets,” was admitted to a place in the sacred or “inspired” Scriptures of the Hebrews until toward the close of the period of which they speak. As for the later books of Ezra and Nehemiah they can not have been “added to the canon,' that is, accepted as sacred, before the fourth century B. C., while the inspired character of the book of Esther has always continued to some extent a matter of dispute.
The main features of the history of these centuries are, first, a brief period of Israelitish conquest and settlement under Joshua, then long centuries of struggle between the scattered Israelite tribes and the other dwellers in Palestine, or invaders from beyond its borders. During this time the Israelites had no definite union or form of government. They were more or less guided by prophets, priests, "judges,” any leader who might spring up. This is sometimes called the period of the Theocracy or God's own rule. Then came the gathering of the scattered tribes under a single military chief or king. Saul began this work; David completed it. About 1000 B. C. he captured Jerusalem and made it the capital of a firmly established government. Thus the Israelites passed out of that earlier stage of civilization in which they had been but a number of disunited tribes, semi-nomadic, feeble because of their lack of harmony and discipline. They became a nation.
This nation, under the leadership of David's wisdom and the military prowess of his generals, made considerable conquests even beyond the borders of Palestine. For a moment the bounds of the Hebrew state reached to the Euphrates River, the widest marge suggested for it in the promises of Genesis. The realm which David had thus established, his son Solomon governed in peace and splendor. There existed however an unescapable element of dissension, in the superiority which the men of Judah assumed over the other Israelites. Not only was Judah much the strongest tribe, it was also the family of the kingly race. Hence its members drew a haughty distinction between themselves and the other Israelites; and less than a century after its establishment the kingdom of David was divided into two separate states. Judah, the mountain kingdom of the south, which