Joshua 15, 16, 17 – The Inheritance of Judah, Ephraim and Western Manasseh
A. The inheritance of Judah.
1. (15:1-12) The borders of the province of Judah.
So this was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families: The border of Edom at the Wilderness of Zin southward was the extreme southern boundary. And their southern border began at the shore of the Salt Sea, from the bay that faces southward. Then it went out to the southern side of the Ascent of Akrabbim, passed along to Zin, ascended on the south side of Kadesh Barnea, passed along to Hezron, went up to Adar, and went around to Karkaa. From there it passed toward Azmon and went out to the Brook of Egypt; and the border ended at the sea. This shall be your southern border. The east border was the Salt Sea as far as the mouth of the Jordan. And the border on the northern quarter began at the bay of the sea at the mouth of the Jordan. The border went up to Beth Hoglah and passed north of Beth Arabah; and the border went up to the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben. Then the border went up toward Debir from the Valley of Achor, and it turned northward toward Gilgal, which is before the Ascent of Adummim, which is on the south side of the valley. The border continued toward the waters of En Shemesh and ended at En Rogel. And the border went up by the Valley of the Son of Hinnom to the southern slope of the Jebusite city (which is Jerusalem). The border went up to the top of the mountain that lies before the Valley of Hinnom westward, which is at the end of the Valley of Rephaim northward. Then the border went around from the top of the hill to the fountain of the water of Nephtoah, and extended to the cities of Mount Ephron. And the border went around to Baalah (which is Kirjath Jearim). Then the border turned westward from Baalah to Mount Seir, passed along to the side of Mount Jearim on the north (which is Chesalon), went down to Beth Shemesh, and passed on to Timnah. And the border went out to the side of Ekron northward. Then the border went around to Shicron, passed along to Mount Baalah, and extended to Jabneel; and the border ended at the sea. The west border was the coastline of the Great Sea. This is the boundary of the children of Judah all around according to their families.
a. So this was the lot of the tribe of the children of Judah: All this may seem tedious to us, but it certainly was not tedious to those who would possess this land.
2. (13-19) The land allotted to Caleb and his family.
Now to Caleb the son of Jephunneh he gave a share among the children of Judah, according to the commandment of the LORD to Joshua, namely, Kirjath Arba, which is Hebron (Arba was the father of Anak). Caleb drove out the three sons of Anak from there: Sheshai, Ahiman, and Talmai, the children of Anak. Then he went up from there to the inhabitants of Debir (formerly the name of Debir was Kirjath Sepher). And Caleb said, “He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter as wife.” So Othniel the son of Kenaz, the brother of Caleb, took it; and he gave him Achsah his daughter as wife. Now it was so, when she came to him, that she persuaded him to ask her father for a field. So she dismounted from her donkey, and Caleb said to her, “What do you wish?” She answered, “Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water.” So he gave her the upper springs and the lower springs.
a. He who attacks Kirjath Sepher and takes it, to him I will give Achsah my daughter as wife: Caleb was not only a man of great and bold deeds (the driving out of the children of Anak) but also a man who encouraged others to great and bold deeds. He did this by offering his daughter in marriage to the man who was bold enough to conquer a city to have her.
b. Give me a blessing; since you have given me land in the South, give me also springs of water: As well, Caleb’s daughter imitated her father’s boldness in asking for a blessing. She did not hesitate to ask her father for some choice springs.
3. (20-62) The cities, villages, and regions occupied by the tribe of Judah.
This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Judah according to their families: The cities at the limits of the tribe of the children of Judah, toward the border of Edom in the South, were Kabzeel, Eder, Jagur, Kinah, Dimonah, Adadah, Kedesh, Hazor, Ithnan, Ziph, Telem, Bealoth, Hazor, Hadattah, Kerioth, Hezron (which is Hazor), Amam, Shema, Moladah, Hazar Gaddah, Heshmon, Beth Pelet, Hazar Shual, Beersheba, Bizjothjah, Baalah, Ijim, Ezem, Eltolad, Chesil, Hormah, Ziklag, Madmannah, Sansannah, Lebaoth, Shilhim, Ain, and Rimmon: all the cities are twenty-nine, with their villages. In the lowland: Eshtaol, Zorah, Ashnah, Zanoah, En Gannim, Tappuah, Enam, Jarmuth, Adullam, Socoh, Azekah, Sharaim, Adithaim, Gederah, and Gederothaim: fourteen cities with their villages; Zenan, Hadashah, Migdal Gad, Dilean, Mizpah, Joktheel, Lachish, Bozkath, Eglon, Cabbon, Lahmas, Kithlish, Gederoth, Beth Dagon, Naamah, and Makkedah: sixteen cities with their villages; Libnah, Ether, Ashan, Jiphtah, Ashnah, Nezib, Keilah, Achzib, and Mareshah: nine cities with their villages; Ekron, with its towns and villages; from Ekron to the sea, all that lay near Ashdod, with their villages; Ashdod with its towns and villages, Gaza with its towns and villages; as far as the Brook of Egypt and the Great Sea with its coastline. And in the mountain country: Shamir, Jattir, Sochoh, Dannah, Kirjath Sannah (which is Debir), Anab, Eshtemoh, Anim, Goshen, Holon, and Giloh: eleven cities with their villages; Arab, Dumah, Eshean, Janum, Beth Tappuah, Aphekah, Humtah, Kirjath Arba (which is Hebron), and Zior: nine cities with their villages; Maon, Carmel, Ziph, Juttah, Jezreel, Jokdeam, Zanoah, Kain, Gibeah, and Timnah: ten cities with their villages; Halhul, Beth Zur, Gedor, Maarath, Beth Anoth, and Eltekon: six cities with their villages; Kirjath Baal (which is Kirjath Jearim) and Rabbah: two cities with their villages. In the wilderness: Beth Arabah, Middin, Secacah, Nibshan, the City of Salt, and En Gedi: six cities with their villages.
4. (63) An incomplete occupation: Jerusalem remains in Canaanite hands.
As for the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day.
a. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, the children of Judah could not drive them out: We can understand why Jerusalem was a city hard to conquer. The fact that it was set on a hill made it easy to defend.
b. The Jebusites dwell with the children of Judah at Jerusalem to this day: Yet, no matter how hard the struggle, with God’s promise, and God’s help, we can triumph – there is really no good excuse as to why this city must stay in Canaanite hands until the time of David (2 Samuel 5:6-10).
B. The inheritance of the sons of Joseph.
1. (16:1-4) The borders of the province belonging to the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh settling on the west side of the Jordan.
The lot fell to the children of Joseph from the Jordan, by Jericho, to the waters of Jericho on the east, to the wilderness that goes up from Jericho through the mountains to Bethel, then went out from Bethel to Luz, passed along to the border of the Archites at Ataroth, and went down westward to the boundary of the Japhletites, as far as the boundary of Lower Beth Horon to Gezer; and it ended at the sea. So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.
2. (5-10) The borders of the province of Ephraim.
The border of the children of Ephraim, according to their families, was thus: The border of their inheritance on the east side was Ataroth Addar as far as Upper Beth Horon. And the border went out toward the sea on the north side of Michmethath; then the border went around eastward to Taanath Shiloh, and passed by it on the east of Janohah. Then it went down from Janohah to Ataroth and Naarah, reached to Jericho, and came out at the Jordan. The border went out from Tappuah westward to the Brook Kanah, and it ended at the sea. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Ephraim according to their families. The separate cities for the children of Ephraim were among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages. And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers.
a. And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer: Their failure to completely drive out the Canaanites is typical of all the tribes. Even within the Promised Land there remained important work to do and battles to fight.
b. The Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers: Perhaps the people of Ephraim were guilty of this compromise because they wanted forced laborers among them. Even this convenience does not justify their disobedience to God’s command.
i. If they had the power to make the people of Gezer forced laborers, they certainly had the power to defeat them completely, especially because Gezer was a city that Joshua had already conquered (Joshua 10:33 and Joshua 12:12).
ii. This sort of compromise seems innocent, but it became the way that much idolatry and immoral worship was adopted by the people of Israel. This is one reason why we see so many struggles in the days of the Judges.
c. They did not drive out the Canaanites: The Israelites did not fully conquer for two reasons. First, they wanted peace at any cost. Second, they wanted wealth. For the sake of ease and money, they disobeyed God and fell short of what He had for them – as we do today also.
3. (17:1-2) Distribution of the land among the remaining families of the tribe of Manasseh.
There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph: namely for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, because he was a man of war; therefore he was given Gilead and Bashan. And there was a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh according to their families: for the children of Abiezer, the children of Helek, the children of Asriel, the children of Shechem, the children of Hepher, and the children of Shemida; these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph according to their families.
4. (3-6) The inheritance of Zelophehad’s daughters.
But Zelophehad the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but only daughters. And these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they came near before Eleazar the priest, before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the rulers, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” Therefore, according to the commandment of the LORD, he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers. Ten shares fell to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side of the Jordan, because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons; and the rest of Manasseh’s sons had the land of Gilead.
a. Zelophehad…had no sons, but only daughters: This is noted in the text because it was unusual for women to receive an inheritance. It was more important that the land remain in the ancestral families than it was to follow the custom that only sons should inherit land. Therefore, the daughters of Zelophehad could inherit their father’s land.
b. The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers: This was merely the implementation of a decision arrived at by Moses in Numbers 27:1-11.
5. (7-13) The boundaries of the western half-tribe of Manasseh and their incomplete occupation of that land.
And the territory of Manasseh was from Asher to Michmethath, that lies east of Shechem; and the border went along south to the inhabitants of En Tappuah. Manasseh had the land of Tappuah, but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the children of Ephraim. And the border descended to the Brook Kanah, southward to the brook. These cities of Ephraim are among the cities of Manasseh. The border of Manasseh was on the north side of the brook; and it ended at the sea. Southward it was Ephraim’s, northward it was Manasseh’s, and the sea was its border. Manasseh’s territory was adjoining Asher on the north and Issachar on the east. And in Issachar and in Asher, Manasseh had Beth Shean and its towns, Ibleam and its towns, the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, the inhabitants of En Dor and its towns, the inhabitants of Taanach and its towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its towns; three hilly regions. Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities, but the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land. And it happened, when the children of Israel grew strong, that they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.
a. Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities: Their failure here is after the same pattern as the failure of the tribe of Ephraim in Joshua 16:10.
b. But the Canaanites were determined to dwell in that land: Of course, the Canaanites would be determined to dwell in that land. What was lacking was complete determination from the people of Israel. They were satisfied to put the Canaanites to forced labor.
6. (14-18) Joshua answers the complaint of the sons of Joseph.
Then the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given us only one lot and one share to inherit, since we are a great people, inasmuch as the LORD has blessed us until now?” So Joshua answered them, “If you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.” But the children of Joseph said, “The mountain country is not enough for us; and all the Canaanites who dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both those who are of Beth Shean and its towns and those who are of the Valley of Jezreel.” And Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph; to Ephraim and Manasseh; saying, “You are a great people and have great power; you shall not have only one lot, but the mountain country shall be yours. Although it is wooded, you shall cut it down, and its farthest extent shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots and are strong.”
a. Why have you given us only one lot and one share to inherit, since we are a great people: Manasseh and Ephraim were large tribes. Their combined number was greater than any other single tribe. Here, they complain that they have not been allotted adequate land.
b. If you are a great people: Joshua’s reply is both wise and wonderful. He tells them, “if you are a great people, then go and get the land for yourself; fully occupy what the LORD has given you.” These tribes had not completely taken the mountain country in their allotted territory, because it would be hard and dangerous work.
i. How different is their attitude from 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 as faithful as we can where we are.
ii. Perhaps they appealed to Joshua as a fellow Ephraimite, because he was a descendent of Joseph himself.
© 2022 The Enduring Word Bible Commentary by David Guzik – firstname.lastname@example.org