The choice is yours

Today’s reading:  Joshua 16, Proverbs 16

Remember in April of 2016 when I told you I am an “accounting dork”, love using numbers to tell a story, and often can’t resist the urge to count and/or reconcile most everything?  As we started to read about how the Promised Land was divided among the tribes in Joshua 13 this week, I found myself with a familiar urge to reconcile.  In the book of Genesis we read about Jacob’s 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes amongst whom the Promised Land was divided in Joshua 13-19, who are the same 12 tribes cited in Revelation 7 where we read about the preservation of God’s people during the end times.  In theory these tribes should be the same in all three books, but they don’t reconcile exactly:

Genesis 29-30 Joshua 13-19 Revelation 7
Rueben Rueben Rueben
Simeon Simeon Simeon
Judah Judah Judah
Levi Manasseh Levi
Dan Dan Manasseh
Naphtali Naphtali Naphtali
Gad Gad Gad
Asher Asher Asher
Issachar Issachar Issachar
Zebulun Zebulun Zebulun
Joseph Ephraim Joseph
Benjamin Benjamin Benjamin

Hmm… We see inconsistencies with Levi, Joseph, Manasseh, Ephraim and Dan.  Are you curious as to why?  I certainly was, and went digging to see what I could figure out.  The three factors I think account for the inconsistency between Genesis and Joshua are:

  • In Genesis 49, Rueben, Jacob’s firstborn son, lost his birthright when he slept with his father’s concubine. Jacob gave the birthright to Joseph, firstborn of his second wife Rachel. Remember, a birthright is essentially a double portion of inheritance.
  • Jacob adopted Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim as his own sons in Genesis 48.
  • In Joshua 13:33, we also learned that no land was given to Levi, the tribe of priests. Here is how I reconciled the tribes in Genesis to Joshua:
12 Sons of Jacob in Genesis 29-30
+2 Add Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, who were adopted by Jacob (Genesis 48)
-1 Take away Joseph, as his double inheritance was accounted for by his sons
-1 Take away Levi, as this priestly tribe did not receive land (Joshua 13:33)

Reconciling the tribes in Joshua to the tribes named in Revelation was a little harder. Why were the tribes of Levi and Joseph added back?  Perhaps because land is no longer the “inheritance” of Christfollowers under the new covenant?  Perhaps just to reconcile back to 12?  I’m not totally sure.  I do, however, understand why the tribes of Dan and Ephraim were removed from the list of God’s people in Revelation 7.  It is because these tribes were worshipping idols (See Judges 18:30-31 and Hosea 4:17).  The Bible is clear, those who worship idols are not God’s people and should expect nothing but judgment from God. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God (Ephesians 5:5).

Here is how I reconciled Joshua 13-19 to Revelation 7:

12 Tribes who were allocated land (Joshua 13-19)
+2 Add back Levi and Joseph
-2 Take away Dan and Ephraim (Judges 18:30-31, Hosea 4:17)

Now we know where everyone went, and we mostly understand why. So what?  What is the benefit of this exercise?  I believe it illustrates God’s incredible patience, and willingness to use imperfect people to accomplish his purposes.   It gets messy sometimes, but don’t be deceived. God will accomplish his purposes with or without us.  We can either choose to be part of his plan, or he’ll leave us behind and move on.

The Lord works out everything to its proper end—even the wicked for a day of disaster (Proverbs 16:4).