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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 17

Garner-Howes Baptist CommentaryGarner-Howes

Verses 1-6

Joshua Chapter 17

Daughters of Zelophehad, vs. 1-6

After the allotment for Ephraim came that of his brother tribe, Manasseh, the older son of Joseph, who according to Jacob’s prediction would not be as great as Ephraim (Genesis 48:19). Manasseh’s oldest son was Machir, and it was his famous warrior descendant who had received the allotment on the east side of Jordan with Reuben and Gad. His name was Gilead, and he gave his name to a large area of that land which was conquered there before Moses’ death. Gilead is here called a man of war; he probably was a leader in the conquest of that country. The very able Jephthah, who led the eastern tribes to victory over the Ammonites, was a Gileadite (Judges, chapters 11, 12).

Six other families of the Manassites remained to whom an allotment must be made on the west side of Jordan. These six are named in verse 2. In passing we may note that Abiezer had a famous descendant among the judges also, Gideon (Judges, chapters 6-8).

An interesting fact emerges with reference to the family of Hepher. Hepher’s son, Zelophehad, who had died in the wilderness, had no sons to receive the inheritance which was his due.

Therefore his five daughters had requested of Moses that they receive their father’s portion (Numbers 26:33; Numbers 27:1-11; Numbers 36:1-12). The Lord had instructed Moses to grant their request, with the provision that they should marry within their tribe, which they did.

Now they come to Joshua and Eleazar to ask for their portion of the land, and they are duly awarded their inheritance.

Verses 7-13

Manasseh’s Lot, vs. 7-13

The starting point for the drawing of the border of Manasseh is

where his territory joined that of the tribe of Asher. Asher’s lot was along the coast of the Mediterranean, the farthest up the coast northward of the tribes.

It followed then the coast southward to the joining of Ephraim at Michmethah. Then it followed the northern border of Ephraim to the vicinity of Shechem, leaving that city to the south in Ephraim and extending to Entappuah, a spring near the city of Tappuah, which was also in Ephraim. The border then followed the valley of Kanah, Manas­seh on the north and Ephraim on the south. Many of the cities on Manasseh’s side were allotted to Ephraim. On the east the lot joined that of the tribe of Issachar to Manasseh’s north.

Manasseh was allotted six cities in the territory of Asher and Issachar. Of these Beth-shan is remembered as the place where the Philistines hung the bodies of Saul and his sons on the city walls (1 Samuel 31:10 ff).

Megiddo overlooked the valley of Armageddon. The statement "even three countries" (verse 11) is unclear in the context. It is var­iously translated in other versions, "the third is Napheth", "the third city is Napath", "where there are three cliffs." It simply designates some territory allotted Manasseh outside his regular bounds, not now identifiable.

The Manassites also exhibited the same weakness of faith as did the Judahites and Ephraimites and did not drive out the Canaanites who inhabited their cities.

Of them it is said that even when Israel could have driven them out they preferred to leave them there and take tribute from them. They loved their material profit from oppressing the Canaanites more than obedience to the command of the Lord, (James 5:1-3).

Verses 14-18

Complaint of Ephraim and Manasseh, vs. 14-18

Here occurs the first instance of a significant characteristic of the descendants of Joseph, especially Ephraim, pride. Perhaps they were justifiably proud of their heritage from the godly Joseph, and for the great predictions the patriarch Jacob made concerning them in Genesis 48:15-22; Genesis 49:22-26.

But here they exhibit selfish pride and haughtiness in their boastfulness that they deserve more than the other tribes because of their greatness. They even assert their claim on the basis of the Lord’s blessing of them through Jacob (verse 14). Other examples of their haughty pride may be found in Judges 8:1-3; Judges 12:1-6. The Lord states that He shall judge their pride (Hosea 5:5; Hosea 7:10). Here Israel, in Hosea, is equated with Ephraim, the ruling tribe. See also Proverbs 16:18.

Joshua answered the tribes of Joseph by challenging them to prove their greatness by going into the forested land within their borders and cutting down the Perizzites, thus making for themselves a more commodious area.

They complained again that this would still not be sufficient and that they could not possess all that had been given them because of the Canaanite tribes who lived in the valleys. These enemies they considered too formidable, with their military armament, such as iron chariots.

In answer to this final plea Joshua agreed that Ephraim and Manasseh were indeed a great people. (Joshua himself was an Ephraimite.) He appealed to their sense of pride by telling them they had great power and would surely acquire more than one lot.

He predicted that they would not only cut down the Perizzites, but also overcome the iron chariots of the Canaanites. Indeed they had all power through their God, whom they needed only to trust and launch out obediently against their enemies, (cf. Matthew 28:18-20).

In this chapter we see again the result of faltering faith, which allows the enemy to encroach upon the Lord’s people. We observe also the carefulness of the Lord in justly giving each tribe his due, even to the sharing of cities with other tribes where necessary. Then finally we are given a picture of the ugliness of selfish pride, while in Joshua we also get a lesson in successfully dealing with those afflicted with it.

Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Joshua 17". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/joshua-17.html. 1985.
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