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Joshua Chapter Sixteen                            


Joshua 16

Chapter Contents

The sons of Joseph.

This and the following chapter should not be separated. They give the lots of Ephraim and Manasseh, the children of Joseph, who, next to Judah, were to have the post of honour, and therefore had the first and best portion in the northern part of Canaan, as Judah in the southern part. God's people now, as of old, suffer his enemies to remain. Blessed Lord, when will all our enemies be subdued? 1 Corinthians 15:26. Do thou drive them all out; thou alone canst do it. These settled boundaries may remind us, that our situation and provision in this life, as well as our future inheritance, are appointed by the only wise and righteous God, and we should be content with our portion, since he knows what is best for us, and all we have is more than we deserve.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Joshua


Joshua 16

Verse 1

[1] And the lot of the children of Joseph fell from Jordan by Jericho, unto the water of Jericho on the east, to the wilderness that goeth up from Jericho throughout mount Bethel,

Children of Joseph — That is, of Ephraim, and the half tribe of Manasseh, which are here put together in one; because in these first verses he speaks of them in common; and then of their several portions.

Verse 4

[4] So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.

Manasseh — That is, half Manasseh.

Their inheritance — Their several portions which here follow. It is said, they took their inheritance, which also Judah had done before them, because the tribes of Judah and Joseph did take their inheritances before the rest; and it was fit they should do so, for the security of the main camp, and the body of the people which were at Gilgal, chap. 18:5.

Verse 5

[5] And the border of the children of Ephraim according to their families was thus: even the border of their inheritance on the east side was Atarothaddar, unto Bethhoron the upper;

East-side — That is, the north-east side. It is no wonder, if some of these descriptions are dark to us at this distance of time; there having been so many alterations made in places, and so many circumstances, being now altogether undiscoverable. But this is certain, that all the descriptions here mentioned, were then evident to the Israelites, because these were the foundations of all the possessions which then they took, and peaceably possessed in succeeding ages.

Verse 6

[6] And the border went out toward the sea to Michmethah on the north side; and the border went about eastward unto Taanathshiloh, and passed by it on the east to Janohah;

Toward the sun — The midland sea, towards the west.

Verse 7

[7] And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naarath, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan.

To Jericho — Not to the city of Jericho, which belonged to Benjamin's lot, chap. 18:21, but to its territory.

Verse 9

[9] And the separate cities for the children of Ephraim were among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.

The separate cities — That is, besides those cities which were within Ephraim's bounds, he had some other cities, to which all of all their territories were annexed out Manasseh's portion, because his tribe was all here, and was larger than Manasseh's.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Joshua


16 Chapter 16


Verses 1-10

Joshua 16:1-10

The lot of . . . Joseph.

The inheritance of Joseph

Next to Judah, the most important tribe was Joseph; that is, the double tribe to which his two sons gave names, Ephraim and Manasseh. In perpetual acknowledgment of the service rendered by Joseph to the family, by keeping them alive in the famine, it was ordained by Jacob that his two sons should rank with their uncles as founders of tribes (Genesis 48:5). It was also prophetically ordained by Jacob that Ephraim, the younger son, should take rank before Manasseh (Genesis 48:19). The privilege of the double portion, however, remained to Manasseh as the elder son. Hence, in addition to his lot in Gilead and Bashan, he had also a portion in Western Palestine. But Ephraim was otherwise the more important tribe; and when the separation of the two kingdoms took place, Ephraim often gave his name to the larger division. And in the beautiful prophetic vision of Ezekiel, when the coming reunion of the nation is symbolised, it is on this wise (Ezekiel 37:16-17). The superiority allotted to Ephraim was not followed by very happy results; it raised an arrogant spirit in that tribe. The delimitation of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh is not easy to follow, particularly in the A.V., which not only does not translate very accurately, but uses some English expressions of uncertain meaning. The R.V. is much more helpful, correcting both classes of defects in its predecessor. Yet even the R.V. sometimes leaves us at a loss. It has been supposed, indeed, that some words have dropped out of the text. Moreover, it has not been found possible to ascertain the position of all the places mentioned. The portion of the land occupied by Ephraim and Manasseh is, however, on the whole, very clearly known, just as their influence on the history of the country is very distinctly marked. In point of fact, the lot of Joseph in Western Palestine was, in many respects, the most desirable of any. It was a fertile and beautiful district. It embraced the valley of Shechem, the first place of Abraham’s sojourn, and reckoned by travellers to be one of the most beautiful spots, some say the most beautiful spot, in Palestine. Samaria, at the head of another valley celebrated for its “glorious beauty,” and for its “fatness” or fertility (Isaiah 28:1), was at no great distance. Tirzah, a symbol of beauty, in the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 6:4) was another of its cities, as was also Jezreel, “a lovely position for a capital city.” On the other hand, this portion of the country laboured under the disadvantage of not having been well cleared of its original inhabitants. The men of Ephraim did not exert themselves as much as the men of Judah. This is apparent from what is said in verse 10, and also from Joshua’s answer to the request of Ephraim for more land (Joshua 17:15-18). In the definition of boundaries we have first a notice applicable to Joshua as a whole, then specifications applicable to Ephraim and Manasseh respectively. The southern border is delineated twice with considerable minuteness, and its general course, extending from near the Jordan at Jericho, past Bethel and Luz, and down the pass of Bethhoron to the Mediterranean, is clear enough. The border between Ephraim and Manasseh is not so clear, nor the northern border of Manasseh. It is further to be remarked that, while we have an elaborate statement of boundaries, we have no list of towns in Ephraim and Manasseh such as we have for the tribe of Judah. This gives countenance to the supposition that part of the ancient record has somehow dropped out. We find, however, another statement about towns which is of no small significance. At verse 9 we find that several cities were appropriated to Ephraim that were situated in the territory of Manasseh. And in like manner several cities were given to Manasseh which were situated in the tribes of Issachar and Asher. Of these last the names are given (Joshua 17:11). They were Bethshean, Ibleam, Dor, Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo. Some of them were famous in after-history. Bethshean was the city to whose wail the body of Saul and his sons were fixed after the fatal battle of Gilboa; Ibleam was in the neighbourhood of Naboth’s vineyard (2 Kings 9:25; 2 Kings 9:27); Endor was the place of abode of the woman with a familiar spirit whom Saul went to consult; Taanach was the battlefield of the kings of Canaan whom Barak defeated, and of whom Deborah sang (Judges 5:19). As for Megiddo, many a battle was fought in its plain. We can only conjecture why these cities, most of which were in Issachar, were given to Manasseh. They were strongholds in the great plain of Esdraelon, where most of the great battles of Canaan were fought. For the defence of the plain it seemed important that these places should be held by a stronger tribe than Issachar. Hence they appear to have been given to Manasseh. But, like Ephraim, Manasseh was not able to hold them at first. Undoubtedly these sons of Joseph occupied a position which gave them unrivalled opportunities of benefiting their country. But with the exception of the splendid exploit of Gideon, a man of Manasseh, and his little band, we hear of little in the history that redounded to the credit of Joseph’s descendants. Nobility of character is not hereditary. Sometimes nature appears to spend all her intellectual and moral wealth on the father and almost to impoverish the sons. And sometimes the sons live on the virtues of their fathers, and cannot be roused to the exertion or the sacrifice needed to continue their work and maintain their reputation. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

──The Biblical Illustrator


16 Chapter 16



This chapter gives us an account of the lot of the children of Joseph, Ephraim, and the half tribe of Manasseh, one half having settled on the other side Jordan; and first the borders of the whole lot in general are given, Joshua 16:1; and then the borders of the tribe of Ephraim in particular, Joshua 16:4; and it is observed, that this tribe had besides separate cities among the children of Manasseh, and that there were some Canaanites, particularly in Gezer, not driven out by the Ephraimites, Joshua 16:9.

Verse 1

And the lot of the children of Joseph fell,.... Or, "went out"F1ויצא "et egressa est", Pagninus, Montanus; "exivit", Piscator. ; of the pot or urn, this being the next lot that was drawn to that of Judah, the government being Judah's, and the birthright Joseph's, 1 Chronicles 5:2; and by his children are here meant the tribe of Ephraim, and the tribe of Manasseh: or the line and border according to the lot went forth

from Jordan by Jericho unto the water of Jericho on the east; by which it appears, that this was the southern border of the lot; for the tribe of Benjamin, in which Jericho was, lay between Judah and Ephraim, and the border began at Jordan, where it flowed near Jericho, and proceeded to a water which belonged to that city, and is generally thought to be the waters Elisha healed, 2 Kings 2:19,

to the wilderness that goeth up throughout Mount Bethel; this was the wilderness of Bethaven, Joshua 18:12; Jarchi interprets it of the border that went up through Mount Bethel; which is true, and so might the wilderness also, for which the Targum is express; mention is made of a mountain on the east of Bethel, Genesis 12:8.

Verse 2

And goeth out from Bethel to Luz,.... For though these two places in time became one, yet they were originally distinct. Bethel, at which Jacob stopped, and who gave it its name, was a field adjacent to the city of Luz, Genesis 38:11; and therefore with propriety may be, as they here are, distinguished:

and passeth along unto the borders Archi to Ataroth; or to Archiataroth; these two words being the name of one and the same place, and to be joined as they are, in the Greek version, and others; and is the same with Atarothaddar, Joshua 16:5. Ataroth was its proper name, but it had these additional epithets to distinguish it from another Ataroth; see Joshua 16:7; JeromF2De loc. Heb. fol. 88. G. makes mention of Atharoth by Ramma, in the tribe of Joseph, and of another in the tribe of Ephraim, now a village at the north of Sebaste, or Samaria, four miles from it, called Atharus; the former is here meant.

Verse 3

And goeth down westward to the coast of Japhleti,.... This place is now unknown, though no doubt well known to the sons of Joseph, when this lot fell to them, and its border was described:

unto the coast of Bethhoron the nether: so called to distinguish it from Bethhoron the upper, Joshua 16:5; this was about twelve miles from Jerusalem; See Gill on Joshua 10:10; and to Gezer: which was about a day's journey from Bethhoron, as appears from the passages in the Apocrypha:"39 So Nicanor went out of Jerusalem, and pitched his tents in Bethhoron, where an host out of Syria met him. 40 But Judas pitched in Adasa with three thousand men, and there he prayed, saying,... 45 Then they pursued after them a day's journey, from Adasa unto Gazera, sounding an alarm after them with their trumpets.' (1 Maccabees 7)JeromF3De loc. Heb. fol. 92. A. says in his time it was a village called Gazara, four miles from Nicopolis, or Emmaus. It is the same with Gadara, as it is sometimes called by Josephus, who saysF4Antiqu. l. 5. c. 1. sect. 22. , the tribe of Ephraim took in the land from the river Jordan to Gadara; this was a royal city; see Joshua 10:33,

and the outgoings thereof are at the sea: the Mediterranean sea.

Verse 4

So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance. As it fell to them by the lot; by Manasseh is meant the half tribe of Manasseh, one half of that tribe having been settled by Moses on the other side Jordan; and next follows an account of the borders of the inheritance of Ephraim in particular, as that of the half tribe of Manasseh is given in Joshua 17:1.

Verse 5

And the border of the children of Ephraim, according to their families, was thus,.... Or what follows is the description of it:

even the border of their inheritance on the east side was Atarothaddar, unto Bethhoron the upper; the first was on the south of the inheritance, and the latter on the north, as Masius has placed them: who has given us a type of this description, by which it appears that this lot is here described in its breadth from south to north.

Verse 6

And the border went out towards the sea,.... The Mediterranean sea:

to Michmethah on the north side; of the border, the same on which Bethhoron was, from whence the border proceeded on to this place, of which we have no other account but in Joshua 17:7; by which it appears to have been near Shechem, and in sight of it:

and the border went about eastward unto Taanathshiloh; this seems to be the same JeromF5De loc. Heb. fol. 95. C. calls Thenath in the tribe of Joseph; and who observes there was in his day a village of this name ten miles from Neapolis (or Shechem) to the east, as you go down to Jordan:

and passed by it on the east to Janohah: which the above writerF6Ibid. fol. 92. I. wrongly calls Janon, and says, that in his time a village of this name was shown in the country of Acrabatena, twelve miles to the east from Neapolis or Shechem; the border passed by Taanath on the east of it, and went on this place.

Verse 7

And it went down from Johanan to Ataroth,.... This is different from Ataroth before mentioned, Joshua 16:2; there were several places of this name, as before observed; this seems to be that which Jerom places four miles from Sebaste or Samaria; see Gill on Joshua 16:2,

and to Naarath; JeromF7De loc. Heb. fol. 93. I. says, that Naarath was in his time called Naorath, a village of the Jews, five miles from Jericho; and is the village JosephusF8Antiqu. l. 17. c. 15. sect. 1. calls Neara, where was a water, half of which Archelaus turned, and led to the field planted with palm trees, near Jericho; and, according to the Jewish writersF9Vajikra Rabba, sect. 23. fol. 164. 3. Shirhashirim Rabba, fol. 9. 3. Echa Rabbati, fol. 50. 4. : there was a place called Noaran near to Jericho, which seems to be this:

and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan; where it ended this way, which was eastward.

Verse 8

The border went out from Tappuah westward,.... Which was different from the Tappuah in the tribe of Judah, Joshua 15:34; this was in the tribe of Ephraim on the border of Manasseh, Joshua 17:8,

unto the river Kanah; supposed by some to be the brook Cherith, by which Elijah hid himself, 1 Kings 17:3; though objected to by others; it seems to have had its name from the reeds which grew in it, or on the banks of it:

and the goings out thereof were at the sea; if the river Kanah was the brook Cherith, this must be the dead or salt sea: but that is never called "the sea", rather the Mediterranean sea is meant, and consequently Kanah could not be Cherith, which was at too great a distance from this sea:

this is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Ephraim by their families; that is, this is the description of the border of it; for the cities within are not mentioned, and the descriptions in general are very obscure.

Verse 9

And the separate cities for the children of Ephraim,.... The tribe of Ephraim, being much larger than the half tribe of Manasseh, besides the lot that fell to it, described before by its boundaries, had several particular and distinct cities given to it: which

were among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh; some that were upon the borders of Ephraim, and within the territory of Manasseh, and it may be where it jetted out in a nook or corner, see Joshua 17:8,

all the cities with their villages; not the separate cities only, but the little towns adjacent to them.

Verse 10

And they drove not out the Canaanites which dwelt in Gezer,.... Which was the border of their tribe length ways, and was near the sea, Joshua 16:3; in this they did not obey the command of God, and either they did not drive them out, because they could not, God not delivering them up into their hands, because of their sins; or through their slothfulness, or it may be through covetousness, being willing to make some advantage to themselves by them, being a trading people, which seems to be intended in the next clause:

but the Canaanites dwelt among the Ephraimites unto this day; which Joshua, the writer of this book, might truly say, and be no objection to it, since the same is observed after his death, Judges 1:29; and indeed they continued to dwell there until the times of Solomon, when it was taken by Pharaoh king of Egypt, and given as a present to his daughter, the wife of Solomon, 1 Kings 9:15; and though this clause does not furnish out an argument against the writing of this book by Joshua, yet, from the instance given, it appears it must have been written before the times of Solomon, and so not by Ezra, as some:

and serve under tribute; so that they were under their power, and therefore could have driven them out, or slain them, as by the command of God they should; but they spared them for the sake of the tribute they received from them, which seems to agree with the character of the Ephraimites, Hosea 12:8.

──John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible