Perek Summaries

 

Credits: Journey Through Nach Neviim Volume

Introduction

In Sefer Yehoshua, Yehoshua took over the leadership of the Jewish nation from Moshe. We know that every Jewish leader had a central characteristic which defined him. For example, Avraham’s characteristic was chesed and Yitzchak’s characteristic was gevurah. So what was Yehoshua’s prime characteristic?

The Gemara says that Moshe is compared to the sun, and Yehoshua to the moon (Bava Basra 75a). The moon’s role is to reflect the sun’s light when it is night and the sun is not able to shine. So too, Yehoshua’s defining feature was that he reflected Moshe’s leadership and continued Moshe’s legacy. In this light, we see that Yehoshua is described in the Torah as ‘The helper of Moshe’ (Shemos 24:13, Bamidbar 11:28), paralleling the opening passuk of Sefer Yehoshua.

Furthermore, we find many similarities between Moshe and Yehoshua. Both are described as an ‘Eved Hashem’ (‘servant of Hashem’) when they die, and both, as the Rambam and the Netziv state, had the halachic status of a king. They also had many life events in common. Moshe split the Red Sea and Yehoshua split the Yarden. Moshe oversaw the first Korban Pesach in Egypt, as well as the sole Korban Pesach offered in the desert, and Yehoshua oversaw the next Korban Pesach in Gilgal. (When he did this, the pesukim emphasise that he did this “like Moshe” (8:30-35).)  In addition, they both married converts (Tzipporah and Rachav respectively).

Moreover, we see parallels in what Moshe and Yehoshua bequeathed to us. Moshe gave us the Torah and Yehoshua gave us Eretz Yisrael, and it is Eretz Yisrael that is supposed to reflect the Torah. Similarly, the Gemara says (Yevamos 96b) that Yehoshua did not need  to introduce the Torah that he taught to Bnei Yisrael by saying ‘This is what Moshe told me,’ since everyone knew that its source was from Moshe.

We shall see further on how in the merit of Yehoshua being a reflection of Moshe’s Torah and legacy, he was chosen to be the leader of Klal Yisrael. As the Maharal points out, Yetzias Mitzrayim and coming into Eretz Yisrael was initially supposed to be one process; just as Moshe took us out of Egypt, he would bring us into Eretz Yisrael. That plan failed, however, since the sin of the spies and Moshe hitting the rock meant that Moshe was not able to enter the Promised Land.  Nevertheless, Klal Yisrael was given Yehoshua, the person most similar to Moshe, as a replacement.

With all this in mind, we can understand a well-known Midrash in a new light. The Midrash explains that Yehoshua was chosen to lead Klal Yisrael after Moshe because he used to set up the benches in the Beis Hamedrash for Moshe to come in and teach Torah. Why should this act lead to his reward of becoming the next leader? Based on the above approach, perhaps we can suggest that Yehoshua setting up the chairs showed that he was the one to facilitate Moshe’s actions.  Yehoshua demonstrated that, to some extent, he was a partner of Moshe and this is why his reward was to continue as leader of the Jewish people after Moshe. In essence, he was the moon that shone after the sun of Moshe had set.

Perek 1:

The Haftara of Vezos Habracha is from Yehoshua Perek 1. The Haftara of Simchas Torah is from  Yehoshua 1:1-18

After Moshe’s death, Hashem reassured Yehoshua by promising him several things. First, He guaranteed him Eretz Yisrael and promised to have a similar relationship with Yehoshua as He had with Moshe. Furthermore, Hashem gave Yehoshua an assurance that he would be successful in annexing land to Eretz Yisrael that would also gain the sanctity of Eretz Yisrael (Rashi 1:3). Hashem then commanded Yehoshua to be strong, and to continue to follow in the ways of the Torah for this is the key to Klal Yisrael’s success.Once the mourning period for Moshe was over (Rashi 1:10), Yehoshua told the people to prepare to cross the River Yarden. He reminded the 2½ tribes (Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe), who had requested to live on the other side of the Yarden, of their duty to help their brothers in war, and they pledged to back his leadership.

Note the machlokes between Rashi and the Radak at the very start of Sefer Yehoshua about whether the “vav” of “Vayehi” (the first word of the sefer) somewhat adjoins Sefer Yehoshua to (the end of) Sefer Devarim. Also note the Radak’s definition of the term ‘Eved Hashem’ to refer to someone who devotes his goals and talents to Hashem, even in material matters.

 

Perek 2:

The Haftara of Shlach Lecha is from Yehoshua Perek 2

Yehoshua sent two spies,with particular focus on the heavily fortified city of Yericho. This sending of the spies occurred during the days of mourning over Moshe’s death and when Yehoshua warned the tribes of Reuven and Gad of their national responsibilities (Ri Kara, Malbim). The Ralbag (2:1) writes that sending the spies here was not an intelligence-gathering mission (that mistake had been made in Moshe’s time); rather, the spies were merely sent to assure Bnei Yisrael that the inhabitants of the land were indeed petrified of them. This explains the fact that ostensibly, the spies did not complete their mission to spy out the entire land after they were told that the people in Yericho were trembling before Bnei Yisrael. The spies had enough information and seemingly returned to Yehoshua instead of spying out the rest of the land. They stayed with Rachav (who was an innkeeper, food seller, or woman of the night, depending on different commentaries: see Rashi and Radak 2:1). The King of Yericho heard about this infiltration and instructed Rachav to hand over the spies. However, she lied about their whereabouts and the spies evaded capture by hiding on Rachav’s roof.She informed the spies that Yericho was terrified of Bnei Yisrael, and requested that the spies promise not to kill her or her family when they conquer Yericho. They acquiesced to her request, provided that all those being saved remain indoors and hang a scarlet thread from the window. The Gemara writes that Rachav ended up marrying Yehoshua. When she converted is a dispute cited in the Radak, which we shall cite later.

[1] Note the dispute cited by the Radak (1:8) as to whether the words ‘This Sefer Torah will not leave your mouth and you will delve into it day and night’ (1:8) are a command or a promise.

[2] Rashi writes that they were Calev and Pinchas.

[3]  There is a slight implication from the Radak that he disagrees with the Ralbag’s interpretation

[4] From the use of the singular form  ‘and she hid him‘, Chazal deduce that Pinchas ‘Was like an angel’ and as such could not be seen by the soldiers:  only Calev was hidden (Rashi, citing the Midrash)

Perek 3:

The Haftara for the first day of Pesach is from Yehoshua 3:5-7; 5:2-15; 6:1; 6:27

After camping at Shittim for three days, Yehoshua warned the people to follow the Aron at a distance. Once the feet of the Kohanim carrying the Aron[1] crossed over to Eretz Canaan, Yehoshua warned the people that the water will split, but did not tell them when this would occur. Yehoshua wanted to prevent Bnei Yisrael from even entertaining the possibility that he was simply aware of a forthcoming natural water-splitting phenomenon, and was waiting for it to occur.  Yehoshua told the tribes to appoint one person each and be prepared for further instructions.  The people were also told to keep a distance of two thousand Amos from the Aron. This was either so that everyone would be able to see the way (Ralbag 3:3), or because they would be besieging Yericho on Shabbos, and Yehoshua wanted everyone to be able to pray in the vicinity of the Aron (because, on Shabbos, one may  not walk further than 2,000 Amos out of a city) (Radak, Rashi 3:4).

Perek 4:

After crossing the River Yarden, Hashem instructed Yehoshua that the previously selected 12 men should take 12 stones from the Yarden to serve as a reminder of the miracle for future generations. After the stones were set up, Yehoshua replaced them with others as a monument.The original stones had been previously used for the altar in 8:32 (see Rashi there), which had actually taken place earlier. The Kohanim were flown to the other side of the river by holding on to the Aron (Rashi 4:18), and the people encamped in Gilgal,There in Gilgal, Yehoshua set up the 12 stones. After this miracle, Yehoshua’s respect among Bnei Yisrael soared.

Note: Based on the way one understands and fits together certain sections of pesukim in Devarim, there is a dispute between our authorities regarding the command to conquer Eretz Yisrael. The Rambam (Hilchos Melachim 6:4-5) and the Radak (Yehoshua 9:7) maintain that first we are to offer peace to the seven nations of Eretz Yisrael, and only if they refuse to make peace, (which has certain conditions, such as abiding by the Noachide laws) we are to wage war with them and wipe them out. Thus, the Rambam writes that before entering the land, Yehoshua sent letters to the nations of the land offering either peace, a chance for them to flee, or war. However, all the nations, without exception, opted for war. Rashi, on the other hand, states that there is no option of offering peace to the seven nations of the land – they must be wiped out indiscriminately. As a result of these conflicting views, we can interpret the Givonim episode (in perek 9) in different ways.

[1] The Radak points out that this was one of the three times the Kohanim carried the Aron (normally it was the Leviim’s job).

[2] We can assume that these latter set of stones were commanded by Hashem too, even though there is no explicit mention of this in the pesukim (Radak 4:9 – an important principle which must often be used in explaining Tanach – see perek 6 for another example).

[3] This journey to Gilgal was a miracle, given that the distance between the River Yarden and Gilgal is over sixty mil (over 50km) and the nation included children (Radak 4:19).

Perek 5:

The Canaanite Kings were terrified after hearing about the miracle of the river splitting. Within four days of the miracle (10-14 Nissan according to the Radak), Hashem commanded Yehoshua to circumcise the people, as those born in the desert had been unable to have a bris until now.

The people then performed the Korban Pesach. The place where Bnei Yisrael were encamped was named Gilgal from the word galosi (to reveal), because ‘Today I have revealed the disgrace of the Egyptians from you’ (5:9). There are several interpretations of these words. One explanation is that this quote refers to Bnei Yisrael’s observance of the Korban Pesach that showed they had distanced themselves from the pagan worship of the Egyptians (Ralbag), while another explanation is that Bnei Yisrael were no longer areilim (uncircumcised people) after the bris milah (Radak). A third explanation is that our entry into Eretz Yisrael disproved the Egyptian astrological forecast that we would not survive the wilderness (Rashi).

After this episode, the Mann (the miraculous Heaven-sent food we received in the wilderness) was no longer provided, and the people ate produce from Eretz Canaan. In Yericho, an angel with a drawn sword accosted Yehoshua, and instructed him to remove his shoes in respect for the land’s holiness.The angel assured Yehoshua of victory in war (Radak 5:13).  Chazal in Gemara Megillah learn that the angel was rebuking Yehoshua for the lack of Torah study before battle. Seemingly contrary to other views, the Ralbag (5:13) asserts that this meeting with the angel was merely a vision.Also note the Gemara’s observation (Rosh Hashanah 13a) on passuk 11 ‘They ate from the produce of the land’, that the people offered the omer offering which permits the partaking of the new grain. In the merit of this omer sacrifice, Bnei Yisrael were successful in their battles for the possession of Eretz Yisrael, as were Avraham, Gidon, and others. (For the technical halachic details as to where the grain came from for this offering, see the Gemara above).

[1] This was either because there was no fixed resting period to recover from the procedure, or because there was no conducive, soothing northerly wind (Gemara Yevamos, Radak 5:2).

[2] Rav Dessler proves from the Zohar that the Mann contained the kedusha of Eretz Yisrael. Thus, as soon as the people actually entered mainland Eretz Yisrael, the Mann was not necessary and it stopped.

[3] Shoes are the garment that separates us from the earth – it is a reminder of our not being physical and completely earthly beings. On holy ground one can safely remove shoes and connect with the ground’s holiness. Similarly, the Ramban explains concerning Moshe that removing shoes refers to both the physical act in addition to the spiritual act of removing all forms of physicality and ego symbolised by shoes. This explains why in the Beis Hamikdash shoes had to be removed in order to connect with Hashem devoid of any ego or sense of self.

The Chanukas Hatorah cites a Midrash Yalkut that Yehoshua was instructed to remove his shoes to mourn over the loss of potency and clarity of the Torah. We know that Mann gave people spiritual clarity and kedusha as it says, ‘The Torah was given to those who were fed the Mann’, and so with the cessation of the Mann, the quality of Bnei Yisrael’s reception of Torah was reduced. The angel had to make up a different pretext for Yehoshua to remove his shoes because that day was Shabbos, and one may not publicly engage in acts of mourning on Shabbos.

[4] The Ran (Drush 4) asks how Yehoshua was allowed to bow down to this angel; is bowing down to any celestial power other than Hashem not idolatry?! The Ran answers that this was a special angel called Mettatron who is the angel closest to Hashem Himself. Hashem had promised this angel that he will lead Bnei Yisrael through the desert after the sin of the golden calf; in fact, this angel ‘Has the same Name as Hashem’ (Gemara Sanhedrin 38b).

[5] Refer to the Ramban at the beginning of Vayeira who cites and vehemently argues with the Rambam about whether men can see angels, and whether angels can take on human form.

 

Perek 6:

Yehoshua and Bnei Yisrael prepared for the conquest of Yericho. For 6 days, they circled the city once, blowing shofars and holding the Aron. The shofar blasts both frightened the inhabitants of Yericho, and showed them it was Hashem fighting. The final teruah blast aimed to awaken the people to Hashem’s tremendous kindness and instil fear of Heaven within them (Ralbag 6:3). On the 7th day, they circled the city 7 times and cried out (see the Radak on 6:3, who alludes to a deeper meaning of the number seven). After Yehoshua and Bnei Yisrael finished circling the city, the walls fell down, and they succeeded in capturing the entire city. As promised, the spies saved Rachav and her family, and Rachav converted to Judaism. It is not clear whether she converted now, or earlier during the spies’ ‘visit’ (Radak). Yehoshua cursed anyone who would rebuild Yericho, and banned any taking of the spoils for personal use. Although we do not find this ban being commanded by Hashem (and there is a debate whether this command originated from Yehoshua), it is clear from Achan’s punishment for taking the spoils (in Perek 7), that Hashem approved of this instruction. The reason for this ban was to preserve and publicize the miracle (Rambam cited by Radak 6:26) or as a form of a symbolic terumah on the first city they captured in Eretz Yisrael (Radak 6:17).

Perek 7:

Achan looted some spoils of Yericho, thereby transgressing Yehoshua’s commandment. Advisors told Yehoshua that only a few thousand men were required to capture Ai, a small but well fortified city. Bnei Yisrael attacked Ai, but were pursued and ultimately suffered around 36 casualties (7:5). Hashem informed Yehoshua that this calamity was due to someone having taken spoils from Yericho. The entire nation was punished because of this sin, as they did not watch one another (Metzudas David 7:1), or, because all Bnei Yisrael carry the burden of each other’s sins (Kli Yakar, Nitzavim), especially with a sin that caused Hashem to remove His direct, protective hashgacha over Bnei Yisrael (Malbim). Rav Dessler adds (M’M 2:112), that had Bnei Yisrael as a nation been on the level that taking others’ possessions would have been an anathema, Achan would never have dared to take from the spoils. A lottery was performed, and Achan was singled out. Upon being prompted by Yehoshua, he confessed to his crime. As a punishment, he was stoned and his possessions burned and destroyed. Achan’s family were killed too, because they were aware of what Achan did and nevertheless remained quiet (Rashi). Note that according to some views, Achan repented just before his death and composed the second paragraph of our Aleinu Leshabeyach prayer calling for days of Divine sovereignty and international recognition of G-d: the first three letters of “Al ken nekaveh” spell Achav.

Perek 8:

In a second attempt to capture Ai, Yehoshua commanded 30,000 warriors to ambush the city from behind, while the remaining troops would approach the city and pretend to flee. This time the entire army was called upon, to generate a noticeable retreat (Metzudas David 8:1). In response to Yehoshua’s soldiers’ retreat, the enemy chased them down, while in the meantime, the 30,000 soldiers waiting in ambush set Ai on fire. Both groups of soldiers then killed all the inhabitants of Ai, with Yehoshua hanging the king. Yehoshua offered sacrifices on an altar he built, and wrote on the stones mentioned earlier. It is disputed as to whether he wrote some mitzvos (Rav Sa’adya Gaon in Radak 8:32), or some of the Torah. He also read the ‘Blessings and Curses’ to the entire congregation on Mount Gerizim and Mount Eival as commanded in the Torah, in Parshas Ki Savo (perek 27). Passuk 30 utilizes the celebrated word “az” which connotes a joyous or upwardly spiritual moment, and means the Alef (oneness of Hashem) being prioritized over the Zayin (7 – the number which symbolizes the natural world: seven colours of the spectrum, days in a week, etc.) [Maharal, Gevuros Hashem perek 47].

Perek 9:

The 6 Emorite nations, including Giveon, heard what Yehoshua had done to Yericho and Ai. They assumed Yericho and Ai were destroyed as they were independent cities, but they, as a coalition, could not be defeated (Ralbag). Therefore, they united. The residents of Giveon dressed up as travellers from a distant city and approached Yehoshua and the Nesi’im, asking them to make a covenant of peace. Yehoshua and the Nesiim agreed to this ‘Without asking Hashem’ (9:14). When the deception was uncovered, Bnei Yisrael honored their oath and made the Giveonites water carriers and wood choppers for the congregation. Technically, this oath was not binding, since it was procured under deception, and Bnei Yisrael were obligated to wipe out this nation who had earlier declared war on them. Nevertheless, the elders kept their promise because of the chillul Hashem that could result from appearing to renege on this oath.

Perek 10:

Adoni Tzedek, king of Yerushalayim, united the five Emorite nations to fight against Giveon for making peace with Yehoshua. Giveon called on Yehoshua for help, and Yehoshua obliged, honoring Bnei Yisrael’s treaty (as a master looks after his servants [Radak]). Hashem rained down large hailstones to kill the Emorite nations, and caused the sun to stay still so they could finish the battle. The war was on Friday, and Yehoshua feared that if the battle would last too long, Bnei Yisrael would desecrate Shabbos. Thus, he lifted up his hands to make the sun stop on Friday for thirty-six hours (Radak 10:12). It is a dispute among the Midrashim whether the sun stopped only for Yehoshua or for the entire world. Yehoshua sang a shirah to Hashem for this miraculous victory. Found hiding in a cave, the five kings were killed by Yehoshua, hung on separate trees until evening and then buried in the cave with a monument established outside. Bnei Yisrael successfully captured the south of Israel – though the territory from Azah until the sea was not yet conquered (Rashi 10:41).

Perek 11:

Yavin, the King of Chatzor, heard what happened to the five kings, and combined the armies of many other nations to fight against Bnei Yisrael. Hashem had hardened their hearts in order to punish them and remove them from the land (Radak 11:20). Yehoshua launched a pre-emptive strike and massacred these enemies. Hashem commanded Yehoshua to cripple the legs of the enemies’ horses once the enemies were defeated and captured. Hashem prevented Bnei Yisrael from using these horses, lest they come to rely on their physical might instead of relying on Hashem (Ralbag 11:6). The city of Chatzor was burned (the Ralbag explains that this was because the leader there was the instigator of the attack on Klal Yisrael)  and the Bnei Yisrael were allowed to keep the spoils. Yehoshua eradicated nearly all the anakim (giants) and inhabitants of Canaan from Eretz Yisrael.

The perek then provides a brief summary of Yehoshua’s conquests, though at that time (i.e. after the anakim were killed) only the borders had been conquered. Note that the conquering took seven years and possessing the land took a further seven (see Radak 14:10).  The Radak (11:18) comments that Yehoshua had an assurance that as long as he was alive, the people would remain loyal to Hashem, and that he would not die before the land was conquered. Thus, he was in no rush to conquer the land, although he was faulted for this. However, given that Bnei Yisrael had captured the main border territories, Bnei Yisrael were already secure (Radak 11:23).

Perek 12:

This perek offers a summary of the lands which Bnei Yisrael had captured with Moshe and then with Yehoshua. Though Bnei Yisrael had killed the thirty one kings listed there, they had not yet taken possession of all their land (Malbim). Each king in the list ruled over several cities –but only their capital cities are mentioned (Radak 12:9).

 

Perek 13:

Hashem instructed Yehoshua to divide up the land. He told Yehoshua how much land there was left to conquer, and outlined the borders of Eretz Yisrael that would be divided for the 9½ tribes to live there. Yehoshua was too old to finish conquering the entire land (Ralbag 13:1) necessitating each tribe conquering his portion individually (Rashi 13:6). We are told the territories and boundaries of Reuven, Gad, and Menashe on the eastern side of the Yarden. No inheritance was given to Levi as “Hashem is their inheritance”; they learned and taught Torah to the people and were supported by the various gifts accorded to them by the Torah.

[1] The Radak writes (6:5) that given that Rachav’s house remained intact (and her house was in the wall), only the portion of the wall opposite where the Bnei Yisrael encamped actually collapsed.

 

[2] Based on the passuk’s odd wording of ‘about 36 casualties’ some authorities understand that only Yair ben Menashe was killed – he was as great as thirty-six people: a majority of the 70-member Sanhedrin (See Radak 7:5). Chazal tell us that Avraham was aware of what would occur at Ai and its catastrophic repurcussions as our first major sin upon entering Eretz Yisrael, and as such made sure to pray there when he entered Eretz Canaan: it was in the merit of these prayers that we suffered so few casualties in the war with Ai (see Rashi Bereishis 12:8).

[3] This was not the first time Achan had violated a ban on taking spoils (see Radak 7:20 based on the Achan’s confession that I have done this and that (7:20)).

I was once told a creative contemporary explanation that the people were punished for their haughtiness in choosing so few people to fight against Ai. However, this explanation is difficult for several reasons. First, why is this haughtiness: it was as a result of the spies’ accounts that so few soldiers were chosen? And why should few soldiers be considered haughtiness; did Yonasan and David not fight enemies who severely outnumbered them? Hashem promised us in the Torah (Vayikra 26:8) that ‘Five of you shall chase a hundred and a hundred shall chase ten thousand…’! Further, the passuk tells us that the people were faulted for ‘taking from the spoils’ not for a separate sin. In addition, the reason we sent the entire army in to fight in our second battle with Ai was “in order to trick the other nations into thinking that Jewish success is based on military numerical advantage” (Metzudas David 8:1). And finally, this explanation contradicts Yehoshua’s berating of the people in 22:20 that only one person, Achan, sinned, yet all were punished. Before assuredly and accurately attempting to lump faults and sins on an entire nation, one needs convincing evidence and sources; here the commentaries have other ways to explain why the people were punished, as we have seen.

[4] Shelah. The Maharal in Be’er Hagolah maintains that Yehoshua composed both paragraphs of Aleinu.

[5] The Ralbag writes (8:1) that Hashem did not perform miracles in this battle, because miracles were not necessary.

[6] See Gemara Gittin 46a, Rambam hilchos Melachim 6:5, Ralbag and Radak 9:7.

[7] Maharal in his second hakdama to Gevuros Hashem.  See the Ralbag on the topic for a different, miracle-defying approach here, as well as the Maharal’s extensive critique of the Ralbag’s approach to understanding miracles in the above hakdama.

[8] The Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva (6:3) writes that this was one of the rare instances in which people had sinned so gravely and repeatedly that Hashem removed the opportunity of Teshuva from them; the Canaanim’s sins had caused the gift of Teshuva to be removed and thus they stubbornly chose to fight the Bnei Yisrael.

[9] Moshe’s name is mentioned after the lands that he conquered because this success was in the merit of Klal Yisrael (Ralbag 12:1).

[10] See Rambam, end of hilchos Shmittah

 

 

Perek 14:

This perek outlines the way Eretz Yisrael was to be divided. Calev, flanked by the people of Yehuda, successfully requested from Yehoshua that he should be able to conquer Chevron from the anakim and keep it. This was based on Moshe’s promise that as a reward for Calev giving a fair report of Eretz Yisrael, Calev would receive a part of Eretz Yisrael. The Radak writes that Calev only received the fields surrounding the city; the city itself was reserved for the Kohanim. See the Radak (11:21) that there is a seeming contradiction in the pesukim as to who conquered Chevron, and whether it was fully conquered until Sefer Shoftim. The Radak favors the approach that it was fully conquered now (see Gemara Makkos 10a).

Note:

Most of Sefer Yehoshua from here on discusses the borders and portions of Eretz Yisrael. Indeed, the Gemara (Nedarim 22b) writes that “Rav Ada Be’Rebbi Chaninah said ‘If the Bnei Yisrael had not sinned they would only have received the five books of Moshe and Sefer Yehoshua alone, for it conveys the value of Eretz Yisrael.’ This requires a longer discussion on the role of the other Sifrei Neviim that focus on rebuking the people and calling on them to do Teshuva (see the Rambam hilchos Megillah 2:18 and Rav Moshe Shapira’s sefer Re’eh Emunah). The concept, however, that Sefer Yehoshua is all about demarcating and splitting up Eretz Yisrael, is an important one.

How exactly the land was split up, and the acquisitions involved, is very complicated, with several Gemaras, and commentaries both on Shas and on Nach, commenting on this. (For example, there are questions on whether the land was split according to those who left Egypt or those who entered Eretz Yisrael, whether the portions were split into family plots or kept as tribal lands, and whether the goral meant the people now owned the land or whether they owned the land anyway and the goral was merely dividing up the land, etc. We shall not dwell on these topics, though the interested reader is advised to consult the eighth perek of Bava Basra, daf 42a of Kiddushin as well as the Radak (Yehoshua 7:14), the Malbim (Yehoshua 14:1) and the Gra (Yehoshua 17:14).

Perek 15:

This perek describes the territory belonging to Yehuda, including Calev’s inheritance, with all its borders and cities, and the mountainous area and the lowland. The passuk mentions the promise made by Calev that he would give his daughter to the one who conquered Kiryas Sefer: ultimately Osniel ben Kenaz conquered the city (Calev’s maternal brother).  The Yevusim were not driven out and thus still lived among Yehuda in Yerushalayim.Rashi also explains that the reason Bnei Yisrael did not expel the Yevusim was because Avraham’s pact with Avimelech (of whom the Yevusim were descendants) was still intact.

See the Radak Shoftim 17:1 at length for a discussion of the history of the conquering of Yerushalayim.

 

Perek 16:

This perek outlines Efraim’s land and cities. The Vilna Ga’on (16:1) writes that Yehuda and Efraim are mentioned first because they are the two leaders of Klal Yisrael – it is from them that Moshiach ben David (Yehuda) and Moshiach ben Yosef (Efraim) will come (indeed, note that Yehoshua was from the tribe of Efraim). Efraim is mentioned before Menashe here (despite the latter being Yosef’s firstborn), because Yaakov gave Efraim the bracha before Menashe in parshas Vayechi (Metzudas David 17:1). The Radak offers a slightly different explanation- he writes that Yehuda’s and Efraim’s portions were discussed first because their land was on the (most important) borders.

Perek 17:

This perek details Menashe’s region. Tzelofchad’s daughters requested that they receive the land Moshe promised them (in Parshas Pinchas), and Yehoshua obliged. The tribes of Yosef (Efraim and Menashe) demanded they be given more land, as they had received a small portion and were many people. They rejected Yehoshua’s solution of conquering another mountain, but Yehoshua reiterated his plan, insisting that Menashe was strong enough to conquer the mountain and clear the forest on the mountain of Efraim.

Perek 18:

In this perek, the people gathered and established the Mishkan in Shiloh (it was previously in Gilgal). The remaining seven tribes had not yet received land, and Yehoshua criticized them for delaying. Initially, the tribes were intentionally lax in dividing up the land, because they feared that once each tribe got their plot, they would be unwilling to fight for their brothers. They preferred national unity over a speedy division of Eretz Yisrael (Metzudas David 18:3). Yehoshua ensured that Bnei Yisrael appointed three people from each tribe to survey Eretz Yisrael and to map their territories. He then cast a lot for the land of the remaining seven tribes. The Radak (18:1) writes that this apportioning occurred fourteen years after the initial entry into Eretz Yisrael; this includes seven years of conquering, and seven years of dividing up the Land. Binyamin’s land is then detailed.

Perek 19:

This perek details the territories of Shimon, Zevulun, Yissachar, Asher, Naftoli, and Dan[2]. Interestingly, the territory of Dan was split into two parts, with the portions of other tribes between them (Rashi). The tribe of Dan fought with Leshem (called Layish in Sefer Shoftim 18:14; Rashi) years later because the tribe had outgrown their portion (See Shoftim 18). Yehoshua is given the city of Timnas Serach by the people. Note that Shimon did not have their own portion per se: the tribe of Shimon received land/cities within the portion of Yehuda, while the tribe of Levi also did not receive a single unified plot of land. This was a result of Yaakov Avinu’s curse to Shimon and Levi for massacring Shechem (Gra).

Perek 20:

After splitting up the land, Hashem told Yehoshua to establish the Arei Miklat, cities of refuge, for one who kills accidentally. Three Arei Miklat were designated across the Yarden, with the other three in Eretz Yisrael. The passuk repeats the laws and criteria for unintentional murder (see Parshas Massei), and identifies the cities of the Arei Miklat.

The Radak (18:28) resolves the fact that the Yevusi part of Yerushalayim seems to have been ascribed to both Binyamin and Yehuda: either Binyanim had a small strip of land which included the altar (mizbeyach) within the portion of Yehuda, or else the two shared the altar.

Mirroring the desert travelling formation, Yehuda and Dan are given the two ends of Eretz Yisrael (Gra).

Perek 21:

The heads of the families of Levi approached Yehoshua and requested that Hashem’s instructions of land to dwell in and space for their cattle be fulfilled. Their cities were distributed within the land of other tribes. This allocation signaled both the completion of the apportioning of the land and that all the Bnei Yisrael’s enemies had been delivered into their hands. We are told (21:41) that ‘Hashem delivered all He promised to our forefathers’. Although some Canaanite inhabitants still remained in the land, what was most important was that the Bnei Yisrael had defeated all those who fought against them in battle, preventing any further threat of invasion (Ralbag 21:43), as the next passuk implies.

Perek 22:

Yehoshua thanked the 2½ tribes for their military assistance, and bid them farewell, reminding them to serve Hashem properly. Upon returning home, these tribes erected an altar as a reminder for future generations that although they do not live in Eretz Yisrael, they are equally obligated to serve Hashem. The other tribes suspected the 2½ tribes of using the altar as a replacement for the Mishkan and sent a delegation of Pinchas and ten elders of the tribes and threatened civial war. The Ralbag (22:10) explains that the nine tribes initially took the severe step of threatening civil war over this illegal altar so future generations would understand the gravity of such a sin, and would not repeat this mistake. The threat of civil war ceased once Pinchas and the 10 elders of the tribes in Eretz Yisrael understood the good intentions of the 2½ tribes and praised them for it.

Perek 23:

Towards the end of Yehoshua’s life, he summoned the people (for practical reasons he only assembled the leaders [Ralbag]). He emphasized to them that the Torah must be kept precisely, and warned them not to intermingle with the nations or serve their idols. The consequences of committing these sins would be that Hashem would withdraw His Divine assistance, and they would be banished from Eretz Yisrael.

Perek 24:

Yehoshua assembled all the tribes at Shechem. Yehoshua summarized Bnei Yisrael’s history and Hashem’s kindnesses up until then. Yehoshua instructed the people to remove any idols and serve Hashem wholeheartedly. The people made a covenant with Hashem, pledged to serve Him, and agreed to be witnesses to this covenant. Yehoshua wrote the “Words of the Torah” on a large stone, and told Bnei Yisrael that the stone would act as a symbolic ‘witness’ to this covenant. Yehoshua died at 110 years of age and was buried in Har Efraim. Yosef’s bones, which were brought up from Egypt, were buried in Shechem. Elazar the son of Aharon also died and was buried in the Valley of Pinchas. Note Rashi’s explanation (24:33) that Pinchas received a portion in the land (despite being a member of the tribe of Levi) because he inherited from his wife.

The scene is now set for the beginning of the turbulent era of the Judges: Sefer Shoftim.