Numbers 26:54 specifically states that the size of land appointed to each tribe is to be determined by each tribe’s number:
“To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one. Each tribe is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those numbered among them.”
But this is not what happens when the land is allotted in Judges 13-19. The largest tribe does not receive the largest inheritance, and likewise the smaller does not receive the smaller sizes. As a visual aid, here are the numbers/sizes of each of the tribes according to the census of Numbers 26, in descending order.
So according to this list, and specifically verse 54, the tribe of Judah should receive the largest inheritance, the tribe of Dan the next largest, Issachar the next, and so forth ending in the smallest territory occupied by the tribe of Simeon. But here is a map of the allotment of the land according to Joshua 13-19. And it doesn’t support the claims of Numbers 26:54.
According to this map, that is according to Joshuah 13-19, the tribes of Judah and Manasseh clearly receive the largest portion. For Judah that makes sense with its 76,500 male individuals, but Manasseh comes in somewhere in the middle with a count of 52,700. Additionally, it looks like the tribes of Benjamin (45,600), Dan (64,400), Zebulun (60,500), and Issachar (64,300) receive the smallest inheritances, when according to Numbers 26 the four smallest allotments should have been assigned to the tribes of Reuben (43,730), Gad (40,500), Ephraim (32,500), and Simeon (22,200). So some other mechanism is being used here in Joshua 13-19 to determine the size of each tribe’s inheritance—contrary to what was announced in Numbers 26:54.
On another note, I am going to have to advocate against another contradiction that is often found in the scholarly literature, and that is the claim that there is a contradiction between assigning land “in accordance with their numbers” (Num 26:54) and “by lot” (Num 26:55). Upon closer inspection, it seems that our author is distinguishing between two separate tasks:
- The size of the apportioned territory is to be determined by the size/number of the tribe, which as we have just seen is in itself negated by the Joshua tradition.
- The location of that territory is then to be determined by lot!
Support for this assessment can be found in the beginning of Joshua 14, right before Eleazar and Joshua start apportioning the land by lot. Caleb promptly interrupts to remind Joshua that Yahweh has already assigned the location of his clan’s allotment—Hebron and its environs. This was granted to Caleb and his seed because of Caleb’s loyalty in the spying of the land episode (see #234, #235-236, #238-240). So it would seem that location, not size, is determined by lot here.
I suppose, however, that since Joshua 13-19 displays no knowledge of the decree of Numbers 26:54 that the census numbers of the tribes should be used in determining the size of each tribal allotment, read on its own then the “by lot” of Joshua 13-19 would seem to suggest both the size and location of the allotments were chosen by lot—still in contradiction to Num 26:54.