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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 16

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-10



Joshua 16:1

Fell. Literally came forth, i.e; out of the urn. The water of Jericho. "This is the present fountain of es Sultan, half an hour to the west of Ribs, the only large fountain in the neighbourhood of Jericho, whose waters spread over the plain and form a small brook" (or small stream, according to Von Schubert)," which flows in the rainy season through the Wady Kelt into the Jordan" (Keil and Delitzsch). This spring, which rises amid the nebek trees and the wheat fields, "springs from the earth at the eastern base of a little knoll; the water is sweet, clear, and agreeable, neither cold nor warm" (Ritter). It flows, he adds, into a basin nine feet broad, in which many fish may be seen playing. This border coincides with the northern border of Benjamin (see Joshua 18:11-20). Ritter mentions another spring, nearer to the Kuruntul or Quarantania range, and adds that, "under the wise management of an efficient government, and with the security of the district from the depredations of predatory savages, the oasis of Jericho might unquestionably resume the paradisaical aspect it once bore." To the wilderness. Or, by or along the wilderness. The Hebrew requires some preposition to be supplied. This wilderness is the same as that spoken of as the wilderness of Bethaven in Joshua 18:12. Throughout Mount Bethel. The Vulgate has, "to Mount Bethel." The LXX. renders, "unto the hill country unto Bethel." The Hebrew may be rendered, "along the hill country unto Bethel" (see Joshua 18:12). The Syriac renders, "up to the mountain which goeth unto Bethel;" but we must understand this of a range of mountains, and then we can identify the border with the double rocky ridge which stretches from the Mons quarantania, of which we have already heard (Joshua 2:1-24), and from the pool of Ain es Sultan, just mentioned, as far as Bethel.

Joshua 16:2

From Bethel to Luz. Like Jerusalem and AElia Capitolina, or old and new Carthage, the new city did not coincide precisely in its site with the old one (see Joshua 18:13; also Genesis 28:19; Genesis 35:6; Judges 1:23). Bethel was probably built, as far as could be ascertained, on the spot near the Canaanitish city where the wanderer Jacob spent the night in which the famous vision appeared to him (see Genesis 28:11). Knobel, however, renders literally, Bethel-Luzah, as though the older and later names had been here conjoined. The borders of Archi. Rather, the borders of the Archite (cf. 2 Samuel 15:32; 2 Samuel 16:16; 1 Chronicles 27:33). This is the only clue we have to the residence or tribe of Hushai.

Joshua 16:3

Japhleth. Rather, the Japhlethite; but it is unknown what this family was. Beth-horon the nether (see Joshua 10:10). In Joshua 16:5 we have Upper Beth-horon, but the places were close together. For Gezer; see Joshua 10:33.

Joshua 16:5

The border of the children of Ephraim. The Hebrew word is translated indifferently by coast and border in our translation. The border of Joseph is very slightly traced out by the historian. It is difficult to give a reason for this fact, when we remember that Joseph, consisting as it did of the preponderating tribe of Ephraim, together with half the tribe of Manasseh, constituted by far the most important portion of Jewish territory. See, however, Introduction for the bearing of this fact on the authorship of the book. It is by no means easy to define the boundaries of the tribes; but, with the utmost deference to the authority of one so long engaged in the actual survey of the Holy Land as Mr. Conder, I feel unable to accept the maps he has given us in his 'Handbook' as an accurate account of them. Sometimes, perhaps, an eager attempt at the identification of certain places may lead astray those who are most familiar with their subject. But there are certain plain statements of the Book of Joshua which cannot be lightly set aside. Thus the extremity (תֹצְאֹת) of the border of Ephraim is distinctly stated in verse 8 to be the sea. To translate "westward" would rob the expression תֹצאֹת of all meaning, even if ימה had not the article. Thus Dan can only have approached towards Joppa, but cannot have reached it. And it will be observed in Joshua 19:46, in accordance with this view, that the outgoings of the Danite border are not said to have been the sea. Next, it would seem that the Ataroth of Joshua 19:2 (not of Joshua 19:7) and Ataroth-addar are either the same place or close together, and that the present verse gives a small portion of the southeastern boundary as far as Beth-horon. Why the boundary is not traced out further ("the author only gives the western part of the southern border, and leaves out the eastern," Knobel) we cannot tell, but the natural translation of Joshua 19:6 is, "and the western border ran to Michmethah on the north" (so Knobel). There was so small a portion of Ephraim on the sea that the line of the Wady Kanah in a northeasterly direction to Michmethah, near Shechem, might be called a western, as it certainly was a northwestern, border. Then the border deflected (נָסַב) and ran in a southwesterly direction to Jericho. Manasseh seems to have been bounded by Asher on the north and Issachar on the east, from the borders of Asher to Michmethah, and its western boundary the sea from the Wady Kanah to the neighbourhood of Dor. It seems impossible, with the distinct statement that Dor was in Asher (Joshua 17:11)—it could hardly have been in Issachar—and that Carmel was part of its western border (Joshua 19:26), to thrust a wedge of Zehulun between Manasseh and Asher, as Mr. Conder has done. The invention of an Asherham-Michmethah must not be allowed to set aside the plain statement (Joshua 17:10) that Manasseh impinged (פגע) upon Asher in a northerly direction—that is, was bounded on the north by that tribe. Then, as Asher was the northern, so it would seem from the passage just cited that Issachar was, as has been suggested, the eastern boundary, and that Issachar was bounded by the Jordan eastward, Manasseh westward, and by Ephraim to the southwest, and some distance further south than is usually supposed. Yet Joshua 17:11 must not he forgotten in fixing the boundary of Issachar (see note on Joshua 19:17-23). Its northern border, comprehending Jezreel, and bounded by Tabor, was thrust in between Zebulun and Naphtali. Tabor was evidently the border of these three tribes. It is with much diffidence that I venture to offer these suggestions, hut they appear to have the sanction of the plain statements of the sacred writer. It would seem as though the comparative smallness of the territory assigned to Joseph led to the cession of some of the towns northward of the Wady Kanah by Manasseh to Ephraim, Manasseh receiving compensation by receiving Beth-shean, Ibleam, Dor, Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo from Issachar and Asher. The possession of Beth-shean by Manasseh may be due to the fact that the boundary of Manasseh ran along the chain of mountains bordering the great plain of Esdraelon, until it almost reached the Jordan. Additional reasons for entertaining these opinions will be given in the following notes. On the east side was Ataroth-addar. It is hardly possible to avoid the conclusion that a passage has been omitted here by the transcriber. If so, it must have been at a very early period, since the LXX. shows no sign of it, save that some copies add "and Gezer." But this is probably added from verse 3, and is in no sense an eastern border.

Joshua 16:6

And the border went out towards the sea. Or, "and the western border." On the north side. Or, "northward." Apparently a line is drawn from the sea, which (Joshua 16:3) is given as the termination of the southern boundary to Michmethah, near Shechem (Joshua 17:7). Knobel thinks that Michmethah (the signification of which is perhaps hiding place) was upon the watershed, and thus served as a dividing point. Went about. Rather, deflected. The border ran m a northeasterly direction to Michmethah. It then bent back and ran in a southeasterly direction to Jericho.

Joshua 16:7

Ataroth. Another Ataroth, on the northern border of Ephraim. The name, which signifies crowns is a common one (see Numbers 32:3, Numbers 32:34, Numbers 32:35; 1 Chronicles 2:54). Came to Jericho. Or perhaps skirted Jericho. The word used (see note on Joshua 16:5) is akin to the Latin pango and our impinge.

Joshua 16:8

The border went out from Tappuah westward. This would seem to be a more minute description of the border line drawn from the sea to Michmethah above. Tappuah seems to have been near Mich-methah, and on the border (Joshua 17:8) of Manasseh. According to Knobel, Tappuah signifies plain, which is a little inconsistent with his idea that Michmethah, close by, was the watershed. Tappuah elsewhere signifies apple. Unto the river Trench. The winter-bound torrent Kanah, so named from its reeds and canes, formed the border between Ephraim and Manasseh. And the goings out (literally, extremities) thereof were at the sea This is the only possible interpretation of the passage, in spite of the obscurity caused by the same word being used for "sea" and "west."

Joshua 16:9

And the separate cities. Literally, and the cities divided off. The word "were," in our version, is misplaced. It should be read thus: "And there were cities divided off and assigned to the tribe of Ephraim in the midst of the inheritance of the sons of Manasseh" (see note on verse 5). This fact, together with the compensation given to Manasseh, may serve to explain the cohesion of the ten tribes in opposition to Judah. The boundaries of the latter tribe were more strictly defined, her attitude more exclusive. We may almost discern this in the prominence given to Judah in the present book. Ephraim, already enraged at the passing away of the pre-eminence from itself, which had not merely been predicted, but, as Judges 8:1-3 and Judges 12:1 show, had been actually enjoyed, was closely allied to Manasseh, and Manasseh to Issachar and Zebulun, by the arrangement we are considering. It would naturally be able, by its position and these circumstances, to combine together the rest of the tribe against the somewhat overbearing attitude of the tribe of Judah (see 2 Samuel 19:43).

Joshua 16:10

And they drave not out. The Ephraimites soon grew slack in the fulfilment of the Divine command. There is a distinction, apparently, between this passage and Joshua 15:63. There the tribe of Judah was unable to drive out the Jebusites from their stronghold, and no mention is made of tribute. Here the Ephraimites seem deliberately to have preferred the easier task of reducing the Canaanites to tribute to the sterner and more difficult task of destroying them utterly.


Joshua 16:10

Canaanites still in the land.


(1) from weakness and indolence,

(2) from mercenary motives, thinking to make profit out of the Canaanites with their tribute.

But these Canaanites were a cause of future trouble and a constant temptation to idolatry and immorality. We shall always suffer when we neglect God's will for worldly convenience.

II. CANAANITES REMAINING IN THE LAND WERE AN INSTANCE OF THE MIXED CONDITION OF HUMAN SOCIETY. Wheat and tares grow together. The Church and the world are in close contact. It is dangerous to associate with evil company when we can avoid it (Psalms 1:1). But it is also wrong for Christians to neglect their duty to the world in order to escape the contamination of the world's wickedness.

III. CANAANITES REMAINING IN THE LAND WERE AN EXAMPLE OF A COMMON CAUSE OF NATIONAL WEAKNESS. Much of the trouble of the dark age of the Judges arose from this fact. A nation to be strong must be united as one body, and it can only be so united when there are common sympathies binding the people together. The government which is effected through the forcible subjugation of unwilling peoples must always rest on an unstable basis, and can never accomplish the highest good of the subject races. Therefore it should be the aim of a government to avoid, if possible, the conquest of new, unwilling subjects, to cultivate the affections of all classes beneath it, and to weld them together by just equality of administration, and the development of common interests. Where national assimilation is impossible it is better that a common government should not be attempted.


(1) Most of the land was conquered. The heart of the Christian is conquered by Christ. Christ sits enthroned there. Sin is dispossessed of the citadel.

(2) Canaanites still lurked in obscure corners of the land. Sin still lingers about the life of the Christian. It retains its old character unaltered, and must be regarded as dangerous (Romans 7:23).

(3) These Canaanites were so far subdued that they served under tribute. The sin that remains in the Christian's heart no longer reigns there. It is a defeated enemy. It will be ultimately exterminated. The temptation to it may be converted into an instrument of wholesome discipline.—W.F.A.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Joshua 16". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/joshua-16.html. 1897.
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