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The lot of the half tribe of Manasseh: possessions are given to the daughters of Zelophehad: the borders of the tribe of Manasseh are described. Joshua promises to the sons of Joseph, that they should not have one lot only; and commands them to inhabit the mountain, till they drive out the Canaanites.
Before Christ 1445.
Ver. 1. There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh, &c.— As if it were said, "A lot for Manasseh after Ephraim, though Manasseh was the first-born." Or, rather, these words form a parenthesis, as our version gives it, the design of which is, to show the reader that Jacob had testified some preference for Ephraim. Genesis 48:19-20. However, he did not pretend to take from Manasseh the least privilege to which he might have a right. Both being sons of Joseph, they drew but one lot, and their estates and cities were, in some degree, mixed together; but, after having described the portion of the lot which fell to Ephraim, it was proper, in like manner, to describe the portion of his brother Manasseh. Machir, the only son of Manasseh, Num 26:28-29 must have been either dead, or one hundred and eighty years of age, at the time of the division of the country by Moses. This is proved from his son Gilead's being himself born while Joseph was living. Machir, therefore, must have had the honour of passing for a man of war, by some warlike exploit performed during his stay in Egypt, and perhaps in the bloody quarrels which early subsisted between the Ephraimites and Manassites. 1 Chronicles 7:21. Others think, that the name of father is here put to signify the whole family; as if the author had said, because the children of Machir were men of war. God, on account of the valour of the Gileadites, who were as courageous as Machir from whom they descended, had settled them in a part of the country of Bashan, and in a part of that of Gilead; ch. Joshua 13:11; Joshua 13:31. The latter bore the name of Gilead so early as in the time of Jacob, Genesis 31:21. Gilead never set foot in it himself, as he was not born before the death of Joseph; but he occupied it by his posterity, who were there settled.
Ver. 3. But Zelophehad, &c.— Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, having no male issue, his share was subdivided between his five daughters. They had claimed it in the wilderness before the conquest; and God having approved of their plea, they might well plead their right, and assuredly succeed. Note; If in the wilderness of the world we secure a title to glory under the Divine promise, we shall not fail, when the conquest, at death, is completed, to possess our inheritance.
Ver. 10. They met, &c.— Or, and they are bounded by Asher on the north-west, and by Issachar on the north-east.
Ver. 12. Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out, &c.— They were unable through negligence, from a want of valour and confidence in the divine promises, and because God, to punish them, refused them that protection and success of which they had rendered themselves unworthy. Judges 2:19. See Waterland's Script. Vind. part 2: p. 69. To destroy a city, signifies often to destroy its inhabitants; and to be unable to do a thing is sometimes put for being unwilling to do so. So Genesis 29:8; Genesis 34:14; Genesis 34:31.
Note; (1.) If we lose the opportunity that God puts in our power, when we would afterwards succeed it is too late. (2.) Ephraim's conduct probably led them into this step; so easily do we follow the bad examples of others, and plead them for our exculpation.
Ver. 14. And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, &c.— The children of Ephraim and Manasseh, just spoken of, came to Joshua, and complained, that the portion which had fallen to them in common was hardly sufficient for one of their tribes, by reason of their great numbers: not that the country assigned to those tribes was so scanty; but it is remarked, that there were many forests to fell towards the mountains, and a number of Canaanites to subdue in the valley. Upon the whole, it is very probable, that the descendants of Joseph flattered themselves that Joshua, who was an Ephraimite, would have a regard for them, and treat them as brothers, without holding them rigidly to those laws which the lot seemed to prescribe in the division of the land of Canaan.
Ver. 15. And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, &c.— Joshua was not a man calculated to sacrifice his duty to the caprice of the people of his own tribe, and to abuse the authority deposited with him, in order to gratify their inclinations. He answers them, that the will of God, as specified by lot, was to be the rule of his conduct, and ought to be of their desires; and that indeed the very thing they urged, namely, their being so many in number, gave them the means of settling themselves at large, by felling down the thick forests of the country, and driving the Perizzites and the Rephaims from their residence there; and thus by their valour enlarging the portion which had fallen to them, if they were not content with mount Ephraim, and the fine country about it.
Ver. 17, 18. And Joshua spake, &c.— Joshua replies to the solicitations of the children of Joseph, by repeating, that it is not his intention that they should have but one lot, as if they were but one single tribe: nor that they should dwell pent up in a portion too much confined; but that he chose they should make use of their arms, for extending their habitations, and possessing more than the lot which had fallen to them. "Use your strength," he means to tell them; "shew a courage suited to your numbers: go, master the mountains which confine you; cut down the woods, make ye openings for going still further into all the adjacent valleys; and remember, that so long as you make not yourselves unworthy of the Divine assistance, neither the Canaanites, nor their formidable chariots, ought in the least to intimidate you: if God be for you, all shall bend before you." Thus, equally firm, just, and impartial, Joshua sends back the children of Joseph, uninfluenced by their objections, and unshaken by their complaints. The mountain here mentioned was, in all probability, mount Gilboa, which stood north of Manasseh, and reached from the country about Kishon, as far as to Beth-shean. See Calmet.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 17". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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