Joshua 17

The Word Made Fresh

1Now we come to the territory allotted to the tribe of Manasseh (Joseph’s oldest son) for the clan of Machir the father of Gilead, Manasseh’s firstborn. The Gileadites, Gilead’s descendants, were great warriors, so they were given the region that came to be known as Gilead, and also the region known as Bashan. 2Land was also given to the other families descended from Manasseh through Gilead – Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida.

3Zelophehad, a descendant of Hepher (son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh) had daughters only. They were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 4They petitioned the priest Eleazar and Joshua, son of Nun and the other leaders. “The LORD told Moses to give us an inheritance of land along with our male cousins.” So, they were given land along with their male cousins because the LORD had told Moses they should be included in the distribution. 5That is why Manasseh was given ten portions in addition to Gilead and Bashan east of the Jordan, 6because these five daughters who were descended from Manasseh also received an inheritance of land. Gilead was thus divided among the rest of the Manassites.

7So, the land inherited by the tribe of Manasseh stretched from Asher to Michmethath east of Shechem, and the border went south from there toward En-tappuah. 8The land of Tappuah belonged to the tribe of Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on Manasseh’s border belonged to Ephraim. 9From there the line went down to the Kanah streambed. The towns to the south of the streambed belong to Ephraim, but then the borderline follows the north side of the streambed to the sea. 10The land south of it is Ephraim’s; north of it belongs to Manasseh. Manasseh’s boundary goes along the seashore up to the land given to Asher, and then goes east to the land given to Issachar. 11Also, within the boundaries of Issachar and Asher, Manasseh had Beth-Shean and its settlements, Ibleam and its settlements, Dor and its settlements, En-Dor and its settlements, Taanach and its settlements, and Megiddo and its settlements (the third among them is Naphath). 12However, the Manassites could not take possession of those settlements from the Canaanites who still lived there. 13As the Israelites became stronger, though, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor, but never completely drove them out.

14Then the descendants of Joseph complained to Joshua. “Why have you given us such a small area? The LORD has blessed us, and our tribe is very large.”

15Joshua said, “If there are so many of you and the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, then go up and clear the forest in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim.”

16The tribe of Joseph said, “The hill country isn’t big enough for us. Besides, the Canaanites who are settled in the plain have iron chariots in Beth-Shean and its surrounding settlements and in the Jezreel Valley.”

17Then Joshua said to Joseph (that is, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh), “Yes, there are a lot of you, and you are very strong. You need not have but one allotment of land. 18You can possess the hill country. Yes, it is a forest, but you can clear it and take possession of the whole of it. You can drive out the Canaanites even if they do have iron chariots and no matter how strong they are.”

Commentary

1-13: Manasseh’s allotment east of the Jordan is revisited. The intrepid daughters of Zelophehad come to Joshua and Eleazar to press the case for their own inheritance based on the ruling of Moses (see the last paragraph in Numbers). Joshua agrees, but apparently the tribe was allotted some additional land west of the Jordan to make up for what was given the five ladies! Verses 12 and 13 once again tell us that there are still a lot of Canaanites in Canaan.

14-18: The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh join together as the tribe of Joseph to register a complaint on behalf of the Ephraimites. They feel that their portion is too small, plus they haven’t been able to subdue the Canaanites who are armed with iron chariots (16:10). After some debate, Joshua gives them additional land, but they have to clear it to build towns, and Joshua refuses to give them assistance against the indigenous Canaanites. He tells them what any good leader would tell them: I have great confidence in you and I’m sure you can handle that all by yourself!

Takeaway

Real estate and moveable wealth are still the two things people argue about and fight over the most. (In Joshua’s day, of course, moveable wealth was animals and other material belongings. Money, early on in the form of gold and silver coins or pieces, gradually rose to prominence among peoples’ belongings.) Those two things – land and money – have been responsible for nearly every war ever fought on planet earth. God gave Adam and Eve responsibility for the land, but did not give them the land itself; and no cash!