It seems a bit odd that the land would be distributed to Israel “by lot,” since it was to be distributed according to the size of each clan or tribe (Numbers 26:53). It gets weirder when we see that Judah actually got more land than she needed (19:9) and Joseph’s descendants complain they received less than they needed (17:14).
But there is a great lesson here.
There was bound to be bickering regarding the allotment of the land. Some land will be flat. Some hilly. Some fertile, some not so fertile. Who would decide gets which land?
Joshua left it up to the Lord. The division by “lot” (like drawing land grants out of a hat) left it up to God to make the decision.
Joseph’s people, however, are not happy with what they have received. They are not happy because their allotment is also inhabited by warrior people with advanced military technology. In order to settle the land, they will have to drive out the inhabitants. In addition, Joshua gives them the “hill country,” saying that if they will do the work to clear the forest of that land, there will certainly be enough room for them. The Josephites, however, don’t want to do any of this work. They would rather God give them more or different land so no extra work will be necessary.
Compare this with the attitude of Caleb (chapter 14) who asked for land particularly populated by strong warriors (the Anakites). Caleb followed the Lord “wholeheartedly” and took the land God gave him. The Josephites want to make no effort except to complain.
We can easily whine that God has not given us what He has given others – not as much, not as good. But God expects us to use His gifts to the best of our ability, trusting Him completely. Faithfulness can result in receiving more and having better – or not. But only unfaithfulness results in receiving less. That, incidently, is the lesson of Jesus in Luke 19:11-27.