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Bible Commentaries

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Joshua 16

Verse 1

1. And the lot of the children of Joseph fell, etc The sacred writer first states what the lot was which fell to the two children of Joseph, and then describes the lot of Ephraim. It is strange, however, that when the half of the tribe of Manasseh had already been settled beyond the Jordan, more words are employed in describing the remaining half than in describing the whole of the inheritance of the tribe of Ephraim, though the latter was the more populous, and justly claimed for itself a larger territory. But the longer detail given concerning the posterity of Manasseh is owing to particular circumstances. First, the writer repeats how a settlement had been given them without lot in the country of Basan. Secondly, he mentions the ratification by Joshua of the command which Moses had given by divine authority in regard to the daughters of Selophead. Seeing, then, there was no doubt in regard to the boundaries of Ephraim, and there was no danger of dispute, their allocation is only briefly glanced at.

But here a new question arises. When the right of primogeniture had passed from Manasseh to Ephraim, how did the posterity of that tribe which had precedence in rank obtain their cities among the children of Manasseh? For theirs seems in this way to have been the inferior condition. My explanation is this, When the portion of Manasseh was too extensive in proportion to the amount of population, a calculation was made, and certain cities were deducted to complete the just share of the tribe of Ephraim; not that they were mixed up with the children of Manasseh, to hold their dwellings among them by a precarious tenure, (153) but their boundaries were merely extended in the direction of the Manassites whom a narrower possession might suffice.

In the end of the chapter, Ephraim is severely censured for his effeminacy in not having expelled the Canaanites from Gezer. For had they proceeded in a manly and hearty manner to make good their right to the land which had fallen to them by lot, the victory was in their hands. There would have been no temerity in the attempt, since the decision of the lot was as valid as if the Lord himself had stretched forth his hand from heaven. But their disgraceful sloth is more clearly expressed and their culpability greatly heightened by the fact, that they made tributaries of those with whom it was not lawful to enter into any kind of arrangement. Seeing, then, God had distinctly forbidden his people to transact business of any kind with those nations, and least of all to enter into pactions with them, stipulating for their pardon and safety, the Ephraimites sinned much more grievously in exacting tribute than if they had tolerated them without paction. (154)

(153) Latin, “ Quasi precario.” French, “ Comme par emprunt ou par prieres;” “As by loan or by entreaty.” — Ed.

(154) A long clause is here added by the Septuagint, to the effect that the Canaanite continued to dwell in Ephraim till Pharaoh, king of Egypt, came up and took it, drove out the Canaanites, Perizzites, and dwellers in Gezer, and gave it as a dowry to his daughter, (who had married Solomon.) — Ed.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cal/joshua-16.html. 1840-57.