It would appear that before his death, Moses had assigned land inheritance to Reuben, Gad, Judah, and part of Manasseh. Joshua assigned land to the rest of Manasseh and Ephraim. Levi received no land inheritance. That left seven tribes to receive land.
But what part of the land? How would they divide it?
The administrative scene shifts in chapter 18 from Gilgal to Shiloh, an area in the geographic center of the Promised Land. Joshua sends out cartographers of sorts to map out the land, discover how much is left, and determine boundaries to divide it into seven sections. The manner of allotment changes. Before, it was by decree: “This is the area you will receive.” Now, a “lot” is cast – like pulling a name out of a hat or flipping a coin. But the point is, the results are from the Lord. Would we be willing to entrust our future to the toss of a coin? As long as we believed the Lord was determining the result, why not?
What I find interesting about this section is Simeon’s portion. Evidently, the map makers believed Judah had entirely too much land, so their suggestion is that Judah give up some of it to be shared with the seven remaining tribes. Surprisingly, Judah agrees. Surprising because the example we have in chapter 17 is of Ephraim and Manasseh complaining they didn’t have enough land. When they were told they could clear more, they objected to having to make the effort.
Some people are never satisfied with what they have. They always want more and will not be satisfied even then. Others are generous, knowing they serve a great God who will give them whatever they need, and they are content with God meeting their needs. Judah seems to be of this latter stripe, and they serve as an example to us all of the attitude God wants us to have.