Chapter 17

Joshua Chapter 17

The Land Allotted to West Manasseh

      • The next to receive their allotted territory was the half-tribe of Manasseh, the descendants of Joseph’s first born son. Makir was the first born son of Manasseh, and the father of Gilead. He had already been given the regions of Gilead and Bashan on the east side of the Jordan River because he was a great warrior. So, the allotment of territory on the west side of the Jordan River was for the clans of the rest of the tribe of Manasseh. The following are the male descendants of Joseph’s son Manasseh, by clan: Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Schechem, Hepher, and Shemida.

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible makes this interesting note on the list of names above, “These are the remaining clans other than Makir. In the Samaria ostraca of the first half of the eighth century BC, these clan names appear as regions and towns neighboring Samaria: Abiezer lies to the south; Helek is immediately southeast, Asriel is farther south than Abiezer, Schechem (Tell Balata) is farther southeast than Helek; Hepher is northeast; Shemida is west.”

Samaria ostraca- pottery fragment
        • More information on the Samaria ostraca can be found at this Wikipedia link.

      • Now Zelophehad (the son of Hepher, who was the son of Gilead, who was the son of Makir, who was the son of Manasseh) didn’t have any sons. He only had daughters. His daughters’ names were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. These women went before Eleazar the priest, Joshua (Nun’s son), and the Israelite leaders, and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an allotment of land among our relatives.” So, in accordance with what the Lord had commanded, they were given an allotment of land among their uncles.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible reminds us, “In ancient Israel, inheritance usually passed from a father to his sons. Without sons, a man’s name could pass into oblivion. However, Zelophehad’s daughters had petitioned Moses, Moses had inquired of God, and God had ruled that they should inherit their father’s portion (Numbers 27:1-11). God’s ruling established a general principle, declaring that no family would be excluded from a portion of God’s material blessings.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, referencing the Samaria ostraca mentioned above“…the names of their towns are located northeast and east of Samaria by the beginning of the eighth century BC.”

      • Therefore, 10 parcels of land went to Manasseh, in addition to the regions of Gilead and Bashan on the east side of the Jordan River, because these female descendants of Manasseh received an allotment of land along with the male descendants. The land of Gilead was allotted to the rest of the male descendants of Manasseh.

      • Manasseh’s border ran from Asher to Micmethath, which was east of Schechem. Then it went southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. The land surrounding Tappuah belonged to Manasseh. But the city of Tappuah itself, located on Manasseh’s border, belonged to the tribe of Ephraim. From there, the border went down to the brook of Kanah. Several cities southward of the brook belonged to Ephraim even though they were located inside Manasseh’s territory. The territory south of the brook belonged to Ephraim and the territory north of the brook belonged to Manasseh. Manasseh’s border ran along the north side of this brook and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. It bordered Asher on the north and Issachar on the east.

      • The following cities with their surrounding towns within the territory of Issachar and Asher were given to Manasseh: Beth-shean, Ibleam, Dor (that is, Naphoth-dor), Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo.

      • However, Manasseh’s descendants were unable to take possession of these cities because the Canaanites were determined to remain there. When the Israelites grew stronger, they imposed forced labor on the Canaanites. But, they didn’t drive them out completely.

        • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible writes, “These towns are better known, because they are larger and more prominent centers in and around the Jezreel Valley. Many of these names appear in Egyptian sources and in the Amarna letters from the Late Bronze Age. The wealth of such towns in terms of agriculture in the fertile valley and, above all, in terms of trade, made them highly desirable prizes that the Canaanites held on to, in some cases until the period of the united monarchy.”

        • ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “These towns did not become Israelite until the tenth century BC. Archaeology has shown that the material culture continued to be Canaanite (or Egyptian, in the case of Beth-shean).”

Joseph’s Additional Allotment

      • Joseph’s descendants went to Joshua and asked, “Why have you only allotted us one portion of land when the Lord has blessed us with so many people?”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Joseph’s one portion is described in 16:1-4. The descendants of Ephraim and Manasseh received portions that, when combined, were larger than the allotment of any other tribe.”

        • Barnes’ Notes on the Bible remarks, “Seeing I am a great people – The assertion can hardly have been warranted by facts, for at the census Numbers 26 the two tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim together were not greatly more numerous than the single tribe of Judah; and now that half the Manassites were provided for on the eastern side of Jordan, the remaining children of Joseph could hardly be stronger than the Danites or the Issacharites. The children of Joseph seem therefore to exhibit here that arrogant and jealous spirit which elsewhere characterises their conduct (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1; 2 Samuel 19:41; 2 Chronicles 28:7 etc.). A glance at the map shows that their complaint was in itself unreasonable. Their territory, which measured about 55 miles by 70 miles, was at least as large in proportion to their numbers as that of any other tribe, and moreover comprehended some of the most fertile of the whole promised land.”

        • Pulpit Commentary adds, “Part, however, of their complaint was no doubt caused by the idea that Joshua, as one of themselves, ought to have taken more care of the interests of his own tribe. Joshua, however, as a true servant of God ought to be, was above such petty considerations, though many who live under a higher dispensation find it impossible to emancipate themselves from such bondage.”

      • Joshua replied, “If your people are so numerous that Ephraim’s hill country is too small for you, then go to the forest where the Perizzites and the Rephaim live and clear out land for yourselves there.”

      • But Joseph’s descendants said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and the Canaanites living in the valley have iron chariots- both at Beth-shean and its surrounding towns and in the Jezreel Valley.”

        • Pulpit Commentary continues, “This reply justifies Joshua’s sarcasm. The Ephraimites and Manassites blame Joshua when they ought to be blaming themselves. They excuse themselves from a task which they are too idle to execute, and wish Joshua to make arrangements for them which are wholly unnecessary.”

      • Then Joshua said to Joseph’s family, the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous and strong people. You will not have only one portion, because the hill country will also be yours. Even though it is forest, you will clear it and it will be yours all the way to its farthest borders. You will drive out the Canaanites even though they are strong and have iron chariots.”

        • Guzik includes this comparison, “How different is their attitude than Caleb’s attitude (Joshua 14:11-12)! They want ‘easy land’ given to them, instead of taking God’s promises and going out and taking what God has given them. The principle applies just as strongly for us today; if we desire more of something, the first thing to do is to be a faithful as we can where we are.”

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