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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Joshua 17

Verses 1-2

The Lot for Manasseh

The one “lot” for the tribe of Manasseh, that is the one piece of land, is divided into two pieces: one piece for Ephraim and one piece for Manasseh. Although Manasseh is the first-born (Genesis 41:51), first Ephraim, who is counted as the first-born (Genesis 48:13-Proverbs :) received his part of the inheritance. After that Manasseh gets his share of the inheritance. Machir seems to have been the only son of Manasseh (Genesis 50:23). The other sons are then in fact those of Machir.

Some of Machir’s sons, together with the tribes of Reuben and Gad, have taken possession of the inheritance in the wilderness side of the Jordan. Reuben and Gad want that land because they have a lot of cattle (Numbers 32:1; Numbers 32:5). Machir may also have a lot of cattle, although that is not mentioned of him. But he must have had a great predilection for that many cattle. In any case, he joins Reuben and Gad. That means a welcome reinforcement for them because he is “a man of war”.

The other sons of Manasseh choose for an inheritance in the land. Gideon belongs to the “sons of Abiëzer” (Judges 6:11; Judges 6:24Judges 6:34). Zelophehad’s daughters are descended from Hepher. The ten parts that tribe gets (Joshua 17:5) consist of six parts, containing five parts for the five sons, and a sixth part, that of Hepher, which is divided into five parts for the five daughters of Zelophehad.

Verses 3-6

The Daughters of Zelophehad

As happens more often, here too the enumeration of names is interrupted by a short history. Such histories have an important place. In this case, something is told that is present in the hearts during the distribution of the cities. We saw that with Caleb and Achsah. Here we see it with the daughters of Zelophehad.

The daughters of Zelophehad consciously choose for an inheritance “among our brothers” in the land and not in the other half of the tribe that has chosen the wilderness side of the Jordan. Women share as much in the inheritance as men. Their public conduct may be regulated by God in a different way than that of men, but their share in spiritual blessings is not.

Normally only the sons inherit. Daughters who marry share in the inheritance of the man they marry. Zelophehad has only daughters. Zelophehad died in the wilderness and can’t go to Joshua himself. His daughters can do that and they do. Before going through the Jordan, they went to Moses to ask for an inheritance (Numbers 27:1-1 Kings :). Now they come to Eleazar and Joshua to claim the promised inheritance. In the four times Joshua and Eleazar are mentioned together in this book (Joshua 17:4; Joshua 14:1; Joshua 19:51Joshua 21:1), Eleazar always comes first.

The daughters show faith. They could have said: ‘What do we need an inheritance for? When we get married, we will get it.’ But they have understood God’s thoughts that He wants to give each family an inheritance. The women show an interest in what God has in mind for their family. There is not only a general interest in the land among them, but they wish for the part of the land which God has specially destined for them. They give God the opportunity, as it were, to fulfil His purpose. They have, so to speak, a twofold faith that argues:
1. God has something for us and we don’t want to miss it.
2. We will not be prevented from asking for it because of poor conditions.

We can apply this to listening to or reading what a brother passes on from Scripture. That is good and important, but that is not yet what God has for us personally. This brother can only pass on what he has taken possession of himself. His service will encourage us to take possession of what the Lord has given us each personally. A sister should therefore read the Word herself and not leave it to her husband or the brothers of the local church.

We should not be satisfied with what others have collected for us. If we desire to receive from God what He has personally in mind as blessing for us, He will give it. Weakness and want are no reason to renounce the part God has personally assigned us.

The faith of these women gives them each an inheritance and the five sons each receive one. This way the tribe of Manasseh gets ten parts.

Verses 7-10

The Border of Manasseh

Judah got the whole south and Ephraim and Manasseh get the whole north, until the later Galilee. This shows the special place of the sons of Joseph. It is a big piece. Not much remains for the other tribes. Their territory extends from the Jordan in the east to the sea in the west. In the south Manasseh borders on Ephraim, in the north it borders on Asher and Issachar, with Asher in the northwest and Issachar in the northeast.

Verses 11-13

Cities of Manasseh in Issachar and Asher

Manasseh has cities with their towns in the territory of the tribes of Issachar and Asher. God has appointed it in such a way that each tribe has its particularly inalienable inheritance, but also that they will still mix with each other. As a result, there remains mutual familiarity and community between them. There will be an opportunity to give each other good service. All of this suits a people who, although made up of different tribes, still form one Israel and are therefore obliged to love each other as brothers.

Manasseh did not take possession of the cities due to lack of strength, that is, faith, to drive out the enemy. He did not take possession of the inheritance as a ‘church’. The extermination must be done so that the surviving enemy will not become a trap for them (Deuteronomy 20:17-Job :).

Verses 14-18

The Sons of Joseph Demand More Space

The sons of Joseph turn to Joshua because they are not sure where to live. In their opinion, the forests make it impossible to live there and there are still enemies they do not feel able to cope with. They see quite a few obstacles. They don’t say that in so many words. Their argument is that they are a great people who need more land. Joshua has the wisdom to understand this and does not allow himself to be misled by them. There is a lack of commitment and faith in them. He points out to them the possibilities. If they make an effort, they can cut down trees, and if they have faith, they need not be afraid of the enemy. If they have faith, they will drive out their enemies.

Joshua’s proposal will make it clear what is in them. If they listen to it, they will make their home territory larger. So they don’t get more land, but they can make the land they have been given habitable by removing obstacles.

We should not raise objections or reservations against what God has given us. When we do that, we look like people “finding fault” (Jude 1:16). Our arguments like ‘no time’, ‘no strength’, ‘no possibilities’ do not hold up for the true Joshua. It is not our strength that matters, but our faith in the power of God.

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 17". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-17.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniƫl', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.