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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 17

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1


1. Manasseh, the firstborn of Joseph, and retaining the rights of primogeniture, is put second because of Ephraim’s political superiority. Compare note at the beginning of chap. 16. Thus the prophetic words of their grandfather Jacob are fulfilled: “Ephraim will be greater than Manasseh.” Genesis 48:5; Genesis 48:14-19. Machir designates not the man but the family. His descendants, Jair and Nobah, conquered Bashan. Numbers 32:41-42. The portion of the half tribe of Manasseh east of the Jordan is here brought in to give a complete view of the settlement of that tribe. See note on Joshua 13:29.

For he was the firstborn of Manasseh And therefore was honourably entitled to a share of the good land promised to the fathers.

The father of Gilead Literally, the father of the Gilead; that is, the country, as designated by the Hebrew article. He had a son by that name. Numbers 26:29. The term father, when followed by the name of a country, signifies lord or possessor, and is usually applied to the conqueror of the country. The Machirites had already received their portion east of Jordan. See Joshua 13:29-33.

Verse 2

2. The rest of the children of Manasseh That is, as the next two verses explain, the descendants of the five sons named, and also of the five daughters of Hepher, whose son Zelophehad had no male children. The western lot was thus divided into ten portions, (Joshua 17:5,) because there were claimants through five males and five females, the latter being descendants of Hepher. The claim of the latter had been at one time a matter of doubt, as the question of woman’s rights has been a matter of dispute in all countries. But Moses had very wisely carried the question to the Lord for his decision, who recognized their rights as inheritors. Numbers 27:6-7.

Verse 4

4. Before Eleazar As one of the commission to divide the land.

Joshua 14:1.

Verse 5

[ 5. Ten portions Or, ten measurements, alluding to the custom of measuring off land with a line or a chain. Since each of the five daughters of Zelophehad obtained a portion, neither Hepher nor Zelophehad are reckoned.

Verse 7

7. Coast of Manasseh The southern boundary from east to west. “The author gives the boundary again from east to west, as in the case of Judah, (Joshua 15:2, ff,) the sons of Joseph (Joshua 16:1, ff,) and Benjamin, Joshua 18:12, ff. So the author of the Apocalypse, also, names the gates of the New Jerusalem, beginning from the east, (Revelation 21:13,) and Ezekiel (Ezekiel 48:1, ff) designates the several tribe divisions in the like manner from east to west.” Fay. ] Asher is here not the portion of the tribe, which could not constitute a starting point for a line, but a city, probably the modern Yasir, about half way between Shechem and Beth-shean, or about fifteen miles northeast of the former city. For Michmethah and river Kanah, see on Joshua 16:6-8. Shechem is a very ancient city, called Neapolis, corrupted to Nabulus and Nablus, in the narrow valley between Mounts Ebal and Gerizim. See note and cuts at John 4:5. “The streets are narrow; the houses high and in general well built, all of stone, with domes upon the roofs, as at Jerusalem.” Robinson. En-tappuah some understand of a fountain near the city of Tappuah, (Joshua 16:8;) others, as another name of the city itself. The land of Tappuah mentioned in the next verse must mean the country in the neighbourhood of Tappuah.

Verse 9

9. Cities of Ephraim are among the cities of Manasseh Compare Joshua 16:8, note. “The line which separated the possessions of the two brothers ran to the south of the river Kenath, but the cities which were upon the river were assigned partly to Ephraim and partly to Manasseh; those upon the south being assigned to the former, and those upon the north to the latter.” Masius. In Joshua 17:10 we find Manasseh interlaced with other border tribes.

Verse 10

10. Met together in Asher Touched upon, bordered on, (literally, struck,) Asher on the north, etc.

Verse 11

11. Beth-shean House of rest; the halting place for caravans from Syria or Midian to Egypt, and the emporium for the commerce of these countries. It afterwards was called in the Greek, Scythopolis, and is identified with the modern Beisan, at the east end of the plain of Esdraelon, five miles west of the Jordan. “The site of the ancient city, as of the modern village, was a splendid one, in this vast area of plain and mountain, in the midst of abundant waters and of exuberant fertility. It must have been a city of temples.” Robinson. Ibleam was near Megiddo, (2 Kings 9:27,) but its exact site is unknown.

Dor See on Joshua 11:2.

Endor, the abode of the necromancer consulted by Saul, (1 Samuel 28:7, note,) is now a village of the same name, nearly four miles south of Mount Tabor. For Taanach and Megiddo see on Joshua 12:21. [It is noticeable that after the mention of Ibleam and her towns, in this verse, the inhabitants of the next four cities are named as a possession of Manasseh. This sudden transition, and the introduction of the accusative sign את before inhabitants, have greatly perplexed critics. It seems best, with Knobel, to suppose that the idea of possession conveyed by the English version, ( Manasseh had,) and also by ויהי ל at the beginning of the verse in the Hebrew, is carried over in the writer’s mind, and applied to the inhabitants of these towns as being Manasseh’s possession, and tendering a tribute service.

Three countries Or, a triple province, having a. sort of political combination. Others render three heights, and understand that the last three cities stood on hills, “a tripolis of mountain cities, in distinction from the places on the plain.” Fay. ]

Verse 12

12. Could not drive out See on Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10.

Verse 14

14. The children of Joseph Both tribes selfishly combine to bring to bear upon Joshua, a fellow-tribesman, the pressure of their influence to secure an addition to their portion.

One lot The intimation is, that while Joshua professes to treat them as two independent tribes, he has really given them a lot only sufficient for one.

The Lord hath blessed me hitherto A reference to their tribal supremacy. See note introductory to chap. 16.

Verses 14-18


[According to Ewald, this passage is “one of the most remarkable relics of the oldest historical composition. The narration almost stammers, as if it had yet to learn an easy flow. Its prose is as rough and hard as a stone.” The event described probably occurred some time after the Josephites had received their portion, and when Joshua was dwelling in Timnath-serah. Joshua 19:50.]

Verse 15

15. If thou be a great people Here is notable irony, but no “mockery,” as Ewald assumes. The great captain could wield cutting sarcasm as well as deadly weapons. It is the best medicine for conceit and self-adulation. Joshua, in his management of this matter, shows great breadth of view and freedom from partisan bias. His own tribe shall receive no more than even-handed justice had allotted. The wood is either the region of Mount Gilboa, west of Beth-shean, or that between Shechem and Carmel. [The ancient forests, which thickly covered these mountains and hills, are referred to in 1Sa 14:25 ; 2 Samuel 18:6. Ewald understands the wood metaphorically of the multitude of tall Perizzites and giants, whom these brave Josephites are counselled to cut down.]

And cut down Either the forests, or the gigantic foemen who have possession of them, or both. Enlarge your territories for yourselves by your bravery, and thus show that ye are really a great people.

Giants Rephaim. See on Joshua 12:4.

Mount Ephraim This complaint of the Josephites was probably not made immediately after the allotment, but some time later, when the mountainous tract of Ephraim had become commonly designated by the name of this tribe.

Verse 16

16. The hill is not enough And yet they wanted more hill. They did not wish to go into the valleys.

Chariots of iron Strengthened with iron, and possibly armed with scythes. The timidity and lack of trust in Jehovah evinced by these Josephites is most clearly seen when viewed in the light of the specific command and promise of God: “When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies, and seest horses and chariots and a people more than thou, be not afraid of them, for the Lord thy God is with thee.” Deuteronomy 20:1.

Beth-shean Joshua 17:11.

[ The valley of Jezreel That noble and beautiful plain, the richest and most celebrated in Palestine, called in its Greek form Esdraelon, and associated with many of the most famous events of sacred and of common history. It has the form of a triangle, whose base runs fifteen miles southwesterly from the foot of Mount Tabor, and whose southwest side sweeps along the base of Mount Carmel to the Mediterranean Sea. The sons of Joseph were afraid to cope with the inhabitants of this valley, and wanted more territory among the hills. The valley of Jezreel was, strictly speaking, the eastern branch of Esdraelon, running towards the Jordan along the Wady Jalud.]

Verse 17

17. Joshua spake The old hero still remains firm, and continues to answer only by yet more stinging irony.

Thou shalt not have one lot only Thy unconquered territory even in the mountains shall be another lot, if only thou art a great people enough to take it.

Verse 18

18. The mountain The same as the wood, Joshua 17:15, and referring probably to Gilboa.

The outgoings of it “The fields and the plains bordering upon the wood.” Keil. “The defiles and avenues of approach.” Bush. “Extremities.” Furst.

[ Though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong It is altogether better to translate the word כי , here twice rendered though, by its ordinary meaning, for. This particle occurs five times in this verse, and has the same causal meaning every time. Render: For the mountain is thine; for it is a forest and thou shalt cut it down, and thine shall be its outgoings; for thou shalt drive out the Canaanite; for iron chariots are his! for strong is he! The force of Joshua’s words is in the irony they contain. The meaning is, Because the Canaanite has iron chariots and is so mighty, therefore thou a great people ought to glory in driving him out. He is a foeman worthy of thy steel.]

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 17". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/joshua-17.html. 1874-1909.
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