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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 17

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Joshua 17:0


Territory of ManassehThe Other Half-Tribe of Manasseh (West)The Territory of the Joseph TribesWest ManassehThe Tribes of Manasseh
(Joshua 16:1-18)
Joshua 17:1-6Joshua 17:1-2Joshua 17:1-2Joshua 17:1-6Joshua 17:1-6
Joshua 17:3-13Joshua 17:3-6
Joshua 17:7-13Joshua 17:7-13Joshua 17:7-13Joshua 17:7-13
More Land for Ephraim and ManassehEphraim and West Manasseh Request More LandLand Reclamation by the Sons of Joseph
Joshua 17:14-18Joshua 17:14-18Joshua 17:14-18Joshua 17:14-18Joshua 17:14-18

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 17:1-6 1Now this was the lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war. 2So the lot was made for the rest of the sons of Manasseh according to their families: for the sons of Abiezer and for the sons of Helek and for the sons of Asriel and for the sons of Shechem and for the sons of Hepher and for the sons of Shemida; these were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph according to their families. 3However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. 4They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among their father's brothers. 5Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, 6because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh.

Joshua 17:1 This refers to land on the eastern side of the Jordan, north of the plains of Moab.

“because he was a man of war” Military heroes were honored and rewarded for their service.

“the father of Gilead” The name (BDB 166) has several different references.

1. an area of land on the eastern side of Jordan between the Arnon and Yarmuck rivers, Genesis 31:21, Genesis 31:23, Genesis 31:25; Genesis 37:25; Numbers 32:1, Numbers 32:26, Numbers 32:29, Numbers 32:39; Joshua 22:9

2. an Israelite of the tribe of Manasseh (apparently named after the land Moses gave his father, cf. Numbers 32:40; Deuteronomy 3:15), Numbers 26:29, Numbers 26:30

3. a clan from Gilead, son of Machir, Numbers 26:29; Numbers 27:1; Numbers 36:1; Joshua 17:1-3

Joshua 17:2 “Shechem” This term (BDB 1014), similar to Gilead, refers to a city and a person.

1. a city - Genesis 12:6; Genesis 33:18; Joshua 21:21

2. a person

a. Genesis 33:19; Genesis 34:2, Genesis 34:4, Genesis 34:6, Genesis 34:8, Genesis 34:11, Genesis 34:13, Genesis 34:18, Genesis 34:20, Genesis 34:24, Genesis 34:26; Joshua 24:32

b. Numbers 26:31; Joshua 17:2; 1 Chronicles 7:19

See “Shechem” in NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 1213-1216; or ABD, vol. 5, pp. 1174-1186

Joshua 17:3-4 See Numbers 26:33; Numbers 27:1-11; Numbers 36:2-4.

Joshua 17:5-6 This explains why the tribe of Manasseh has land on both sides of the Jordan. It was the daughters who had no brothers who settled in Canaan.

Next to Judah, the largest land allotment went to Manasseh.

Joshua 17:5

NASB, NKJV, NRSV, NJB“portions” TEV, REB, NET“shares” JPSOA“districts”

This term (BDB 286) originally meant “a rope or cord which was used to measure.” Here it takes on a metaphorical extension for the land allotted to the tribes.

Verses 7-13

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 17:7-13 7The border of Manasseh ran from Asher to Michmethath which was east of Shechem; then the border went southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the sons of Ephraim. 9The border went down to the brook of Kanah, southward of the brook (these cities belonged to Ephraim among the cities of Manasseh), and the border of Manasseh was on the north side of the brook and it ended at the sea. 10The south side belonged to Ephraim and the north side to Manasseh, and the sea was their border; and they reached to Asher on the north and to Issachar on the east. 11In Issachar and in Asher, Manasseh had Beth-shean and its towns and Ibleam and its towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its towns, the third is Napheth. 12But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 13 It came about when the sons of Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.

Joshua 17:7 “southward” This is the term “Teman” (BDB 411 I), which denotes a compass direction. Israel marked her directions based on a person facing east (the tabernacle faced east), therefore, the south was on the left hand and the north on the right hand. Not all nations give directions in the same way. Egypt based its compass directions on a person facing south (i.e., to the head waters of the Nile, the source of all life in Egypt).

The boundaries of Ephraim are found in both Joshua 16:5-10 and Joshua 17:7-12.

Joshua 17:9 The boundaries between the tribes were somewhat fluid!

Joshua 17:11

NASB“the third is Napheth” NKJV“three hill regions” NRSV“(the third is Naphath)” TEV“and their surrounding towns” NJB“the Three of the Slopes”

This phrase is uncertain in Hebrew. The NKJV and NJB assume the word is a hapax legomenon of “hill” or “height” (BDB 632, cf. Joshua 12:23). The Jewish Publication Society of America translation has “these comprised three regions.” The REB has “(The third is a district of Dor).”

Joshua 17:12-13 This is parallel to Joshua 16:10 and Judges 1:28. Moses' commands in Deuteronomy 20:10-18, to allow defeated people to become servants, only applied to cities outside of Canaan. These verses reveal the disobedience of the larger tribes (cf. Numbers 33:55). Even though the Canaanites were made servants, their fertility worship polluted and weakened the worship of YHWH. This would ultimately result in the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles.

Joshua 17:13 “they did not drive them out completely” This phrase is a combination of a Hiphil INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE and a Hiphil PERFECT (BDB 439, KB 441), which denotes completion. Here is negated (an emphatic negation).

Verses 14-18

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 17:14-18 14Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me only one lot and one portion for an inheritance, since I am a numerous people whom the LORD has thus far blessed?” 15Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16The sons of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron, both those who are in Beth-shean and its towns and those who are in the valley of Jezreel.” 17Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, “You are a numerous people and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, 18but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron and though they are strong.”

Joshua 17:14-15 This may reflect their hope of receiving more land because Joshua was from their tribe. This land was not part of the allotment, but was available for the taking. This also shows how the tribes could get more land. This may explain part of the tribe of Dan's relocation to the north.

Joshua 17:15 “Rephraim” See note at Joshua 11:21. The size of this people group is often emphasized (compare Genesis 15:20 with Deuteronomy 1:10-11 and also Deuteronomy 3:11).

Joshua 17:16-17 These tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh) describe the enemies' strength in hopes of getting an extra allotment, but Joshua reminds them that they had claimed to be strong in numbers (part of the promised blessing of Deuteronomy 27-28). See Special Topic at Joshua 11:4 for comments on “chariots of iron.”

Joshua 17:16 “Jezreel” The name means “God sows” (BDB 283). Like several names in this list it can refer to a place and a person.

1. a place

a. city - Joshua 15:56; 1 Samuel 25:43

(1) in Judah, Joshua 19:18

(2) in Issachar,

b. valley - Joshua 17:16; Judges 6:33

c. district - 1 Kings 21:23; 2 Kings 9:10, 2 Kings 9:36, 2 Kings 9:37

2. a person

a. 1 Chronicles 4:3

b. Hosea 1:4

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Joshua 17". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/joshua-17.html. 2021.
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