Joshua 17 COMMENTARY (Ellicott)

Joshua 17
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(2) Shechem.—It is noteworthy that according to the boundary of Ephraim and Manasseh, described in Joshua 16, the town of Shechem appears to have lain within the border of Manasseh (Conder, p. 263), but as “the separate cities” of Ephraim were among the inheritance of Manasseh (Joshua 16:9), this may have been the case with Shechem, the first metropolis of the Israelites in Palestine.

(3) Daughters.—On the case of the daughters of Zelophehad, see Numbers 27, 36

(5) Ten portions—i.e., five for the sons named in Joshua 17:2, excepting Hepher, and five for Hepher’s five grand-daughters.

(7) From Asher to Michmethah.—Literally, from Asher-ham-Michmethah, a double name; Michmethah being taken as the plain of Mukhnah. The exact spot is not identified; but the plain of Mukhnah runs nearly due south from Shechem.

The inhabitants of En-tappuah—i.e., Yeshebi-En-tappuah, or Yasûf (sheet 14), otherwise Yeshepheh. From this place a line drawn westward will bring us into the Wâdy Kanah, and so on to the river ‘Aujeh, which falls into the sea north of Jaffa.

(10) In Asher on the north—i.e. (according to Conder) Asher-ham-Michmethah (Joshua 17:7), not the tribe of that name.

And in Issachar on the east—i.e., the tribe of Issachar. The joint border of Issachar and Manasseh is not described. But, having regard to the following verse, it seems more probable on the whole that the meaning is this: “Toward the south (of the brook Kanah) it belonged to Ephraim, and on the north to Manasseh, and the sea was his (Manasseh’s) border; and they (i.e., the Manassites) touched Asher on the north, and Issachar on the east.” For (by Joshua 19:26) the territory of Asher extended southwards as far as Carmel; and the tribe of Manasseh had in Issachar and Asher the cities specified in Joshua 17:11.

Territorially, the tribe of Manasseh had the largest share of Palestine.

(11) Even three countries.—The word for “countries” does not occur elsewhere. If taken as in our version, which follows the Targum, we may observe that the places named in this verse do happen to lie on three distinct sheets of the map—viz., Beth-shean (Beisan), Megiddo (Khurbet-el-Mujedda), and Endor (Endûr) on sheet 9; Taanach (Tana) and Ibleam (Bileam, 1 Chronicles 6:70), Wâdy Bel’ameh, on sheet 8, and Dor (Tantûra) on sheet 7. Or it may mean the triple height—viz., Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo—three cities on hills in one district, which make very nearly an equilateral triangle.

(12) Could not drive.—Note the defalcation of Manasseh.

(14, 15) Why hast thou given me but one lot . . . seeing I am a great people . . . If thou be a great people, then get thee up . . . and cut down for thyself . . . in the land of the . . . giants.—The request and the answer are both characteristic. The words of the proud Ephraimites and the deeds of the humble Joshua, the true hero of the tribe of Ephraim, should never be forgotten. Joshua’s own greatness was emphatically of that kind which is proved by deeds, and not by words. There are not many famous sayings recorded from his lips. The arrogance of the Ephraimites, on the other hand, may be abundantly illustrated from Old Testament history, by the stories of their behaviour to Gideon and Jephthah, and even to David in later times. They were constantly asserting their right to the supremacy in Israel, without exhibiting any qualification for it.

But the incident in this chapter is the key to several difficulties in the Book of Joshua. It is plain, from what is here stated, that a large portion of the centre of Palestine consisted of uncleared forest: that the cities and inhabitants of that district were far fewer than those of the valley of Esdraelon, or of the territory assigned to Judah on the south. And this fact justifies the strategy of the attack of Israel under Joshua upon the centre of the country, so that the forces of the Canaanites were necessarily divided, and the Israelites could strike first with their whole force at the southern armies, and then turn round upon their enemies in the north. It helps to explain the ease with which they set up the law on Ebal at the commencement of the invasion, and the selection of Shechem for the capital afterwards.

(15) Perizzites and . . . Rephaim (giants) are mentioned together in Genesis 15:20. It is thought that a trace of the name Perizzite may be found in the name Ferasîn (? Ferâta), west of Shechem (sheet 11).

There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh; for he was the firstborn of Joseph; to wit, for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead: because he was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan.
There was also a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh by their families; for the children of Abiezer, and for the children of Helek, and for the children of Asriel, and for the children of Shechem, and for the children of Hepher, and for the children of Shemida: these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph by their families.
But Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but daughters: and these are the names of his daughters, Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
And they came near before Eleazar the priest, and before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the princes, saying, The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brethren. Therefore according to the commandment of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among the brethren of their father.
And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side Jordan;
Because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons: and the rest of Manasseh's sons had the land of Gilead.
And the coast of Manasseh was from Asher to Michmethah, that lieth before Shechem; and the border went along on the right hand unto the inhabitants of Entappuah.
Now Manasseh had the land of Tappuah: but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the children of Ephraim;
And the coast descended unto the river Kanah, southward of the river: these cities of Ephraim are among the cities of Manasseh: the coast of Manasseh also was on the north side of the river, and the outgoings of it were at the sea:
Southward it was Ephraim's, and northward it was Manasseh's, and the sea is his border; and they met together in Asher on the north, and in Issachar on the east.
And Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher Bethshean and her towns, and Ibleam and her towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Endor and her towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns, even three countries.
Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.
Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out.
And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto?
And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.
And the children of Joseph said, The hill is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron, both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.
And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only:
But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.
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