Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Joshua 14:4

For the sons of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, and they did not give a portion to the Levites in the land, except cities to live in, with their pasture lands for their livestock and for their property.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Cities;   Israel;   Suburbs;   Thompson Chain Reference - Animals;   Cattle;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Holy Land;   Jews, the;   Tribes of Israel, the;  
Dictionaries:
Holman Bible Dictionary - Joshua, the Book of;   Pasture;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Joshua;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Caleb;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Conquest of Canaan;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Joshua (2);   Joshua, Book of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The children of Joseph were two tribes - This was ascertained by the prophetic declaration of their grandfather Jacob, Genesis 48:5, Genesis 48:6; and as Levi was taken out of the tribes for the service of the sanctuary, one of these sons of Joseph came in his place, and Joseph was treated as the first-born of Jacob, in the place of Reuben, who forfeited his right of primogeniture.

With their suburbs for their cattle - For the meaning of this passage the reader is referred to the note on Numbers 35:6.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/joshua-14.html. 1832.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim,.... For the birthright being forfeited by Reuben, was given to Joseph, who had the double portion, the privilege of the firstborn; by which means the number of the twelve tribes was kept up in the division of the land, though that of Levi had no share in it; and which is also a reason why they had none, that Joseph's two sons might be reckoned two tribes:

therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land; to make way for the sons of Joseph to have the double portion:

save cities to dwell in; and that only, for they might not sell them, as other Israelites could theirs:

with their suburbs, for their cattle, and for their substance; the Targum is,

"for all their beasts, and for their cattle;'that is, for convenient places to put them into, and for pasturage for, them; which Kimchi and Ben Melech interpret of their larger and lesser cattle, their herds and their flocks, their oxen and sheep.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/joshua-14.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

For the children of Joseph were b two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell [in], with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.

(b) So though Levi lacked, yet were there still twelve tribes by this means.
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Bibliographical Information
Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/joshua-14.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

The children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim — As two and a half tribes were settled on the east Jordan, and the Levites had no inheritance assigned them in land, there would have been only eight and a half tribes to provide for. But Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, had been constituted two tribes (Genesis 48:5), and although Levi was excluded, the original number of the tribes of Israel was still preserved.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/joshua-14.html. 1871-8.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.

Were two tribes — That is, had the portion of two tribes, and therefore though Levi was excluded, there remained nine tribes and a half, to be provided for in Canaan.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/joshua-14.html. 1765.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

Joshua 14:4 For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell [in], with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.

Ver. 4. For the children of Joseph were two tribes.] And so both Joseph had a double portion, the privilege of the firstborn which Reuben had forefeited, [1 Chronicles 5:1] and the number of twelve tribes was made up, notwithstanding the Levites were not reckoned. The Papists, to make up the number of ten commandments, when they have cashiered the second, as making utterly against their image worship, divide the last into two; so loath are heretics to have their asses’ ears seen. But Paul, who knew better than any of them the analysis of the law, calleth that last "the commandment," not commandments. [Romans 7:7]

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/joshua-14.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Were two tribes, i.e. had the double portion, or the portion of two tribes, 1 Chronicles 5:1,2, and therefore though Levi was excluded, there remained nine tribes and a half, was said Joshua 14:2, to be provided for in Canaan.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/joshua-14.html. 1685.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

‘For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim, and they gave no portion to the Levites in the land, except for cities to dwell in with their suburbs, for their cattle and for their substance.’

With the separation of Levi to the service of YHWH the twelve tribes had been maintained by the split of Joseph into Ephraim and Manasseh to ‘take over’ Levi’s portion. Thus the land would be fully occupied while Levi could be freed for their service. This demonstrates how important the ‘twelveness’ was seen to be. Twelve appears to have been a recognised number of covenant relationship which had to be maintained, compare Genesis 22:20-24; Genesis 25:13-16. Yet it was not said of Manasseh ‘this is the inheritance of the children of Manasseh’ although that is said of all the other tribes. They were still not seen as fully separate from Ephraim. This is an indication of the early date of the sources. They would not have thought that way later.

The portion of Levi has previously been described as ‘the offerings of YHWH, the God of Israel, made by fire’ (Joshua 13:14) and ‘YHWH, the God of Israel’ (Joshua 13:33). Thus it represented participation in supernatural things and special closeness to and separation to YHWH Himself. Now they were to be provided with the means of sustenance, but only as ‘sojourners’ in the land. The Levites were regularly described as sojourners (e.g. Deuteronomy 18:6; Judges 17:7-9; Judges 19:1), those who dwell in but have no permanent rights in the land. This in their case was not because they were second class, but because they were super-class. In Leviticus 25:23 a similar concept was applied to all Israel demonstrating that the land belonged to YHWH and could not be sold in perpetuity but should be returned to its former owners at the year of yubile if not before.

“Cities to dwell in with their suburbs, for their cattle and for their substance.” The ‘suburbs’ were the common land round a city which were shared by all. Cities were to be set aside in the portions of all the tribes for the Levites to dwell in so that they could carry out their responsibilities to YHWH. This included the collection of tithes, watching over the covenant and the giving of guidance on matters to do with the sanctuary and the Law.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-14.html. 2013.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

4.Joseph’ two tribes — So making up the twelve tribes without reckoning the tribe of Levi, who were to have no allotment, but were to be scattered among the tribes as judicial and ecclesiastical advisers and judges among the people.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/joshua-14.html. 1874-1909.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Suburbs. A certain quantity of ground, which the Levites were not allowed to till or plant with vines. (Grotius) (Numbers xxxv. 4.) --- The tribe of Manasses, which was divided, fell heir to the portion which would have been allotted to Levi, who was also scattered among his brethren. (Haydock) --- Thus Joseph obtained the birth-right of Ruben. (Calmet) --- Twelve portions were made, as Jacob had adopted Ephraim and Manasses, Genesis xlviii. (Worthington)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/joshua-14.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.

The children of Joseph were two tribes. Since two and one-half tribes were settled [ mee`eeber (Hebrew #5676)] on the other side - i:e., on the east of Jordan (see the note at Joshua 1:14-15; Joshua 9:10; Joshua 17:5) - and the Levites had no inheritance assigned them in land, there would have been only eight tribes and a-half to provide for. But Ephraim and Manasseh, the two sons of Joseph, had been constituted two tribes (Genesis 48:5); and although Levi was excluded, the original number of the tribes of Israel was still preserved.

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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/joshua-14.html. 1871-8.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

For the children of Joseph were two tribes, Manasseh and Ephraim: therefore they gave no part unto the Levites in the land, save cities to dwell in, with their suburbs for their cattle and for their substance.
the children
Genesis 48:5; 1 Chronicles 5:1,2
save cities
21:2-42; Numbers 35:2-8; 1 Chronicles 6:54-81
Reciprocal: Genesis 48:6 - and shall be called;  Deuteronomy 12:12 - GeneralJoshua 13:12 - these did;  Joshua 13:14 - GeneralJudges 1:22 - the house

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/joshua-14.html.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

4.They gave no part unto the Levites, etc It is here repeated for the third time with regard to the Levites, that they were not included in the number, so as to have the portion of a tribe assigned to them; but it is mentioned for a different purpose, for it is immediately after added, that the sons of Joseph were divided into two tribes, and were thus privileged to obtain a double portion. Thus had Jacob prophesied, (Genesis 49:0) or rather, like an arbiter appointed by God, he had in this matter preferred the sons of Joseph to the others. God therefore assumed the Levites to himself as a peculiar inheritance, and in their stead substituted one of the two families of Joseph.

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Bibliographical Information
Calvin, John. "Commentary on Joshua 14:4". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cal/joshua-14.html. 1840-57.