Some parts of Scripture seem easier to preach on than others. When the Lord called Abram to leave Ur behind to go to Canaan, He practically wrote the outline: “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2). Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the ladder of Jacob in the Gospel of John (Genesis 28:12; John 1:51). Several of the parables include their interpretation (Matthew 13:1-8, 18-23; among others).
But what about those parts of Scripture that do not seem so easy? Why would it please the Holy Spirit to have those parts written down? Joshua 13-21 is a perfect example of this. The author of the book records in painstaking detail the inheritances of the tribes of Israel, down to the village. This does not seem like the sort of material that would be of much use to Christians.
However, “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Paul does not say most of Scripture, but all of Scripture is profitable, including parts like Joshua 13-21. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
Understanding the context will help understand why it pleased the Holy Spirit to record this. Joshua is near the end of his life, having spent many years wandering with Israel. The first twelve chapters of the book set out the beginning conquest of Canaan under Joshua’s leadership. The Lord commands Joshua to divide up the land among the tribes of Israel.
13:8-32 sets out the inheritance of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh. They recognized that they had come into their inheritance while Israel still stood waiting to enter the land on the west (Numbers 32:19). They received their inheritance first in Israel. Chapter 14 is the beginning of the main body of this section, and includes the inheritance of faithful Caleb among the sons of Judah. Chapters 15-19 then divides up the land in great detail to the sons of Judah, Ephraim, the other half of Manasseh, Benjamin, Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. Joshua also receives his reward among the sons of Ephraim. He then establishes the cities of refuge and gives to the sons of Levi their cities among their brothers, because the Lord was their inheritance.
All of this seems like it no longer applies to Christians. However, note well the passage at the end of chapter 21:
Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:43-45
Here is the reason for the great detail. Here is why the Holy Spirit saw fit to record every last city of the Holy Land. God is keeping His promises. The promises He had made to Abraham, the promises He had made to Isaac, the promises He had made to Jacob, the promises He had made to Israel: all of them came to pass. “And as for your little ones, who you said would become a prey, and your children, who today have no knowledge of good or evil, they shall go in there. And to them I will give it, and they shall possess it” (Deuteronomy 1:39).
This is the good news of En-hazor, the good news of Aijalon, of Hazor-hadattah, of Megiddo, of Chephar-ammoni. This is the good news of all of the cities of Israel and their pasturelands and their villages. Every last one of them is physical, tangible proof that the God of Jacob is faithful and true. They are evidence that the Lord is the Lord our God. If God kept His promises then, He will certainly keep His promises now.