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Joshua Chapter Seventeen                            


Joshua 17

Chapter Contents

The lot of Manasseh. (1-6) The boundaries of Manasseh, The Canaanites not driven out. (7-13) Joseph desires a larger portion. (14-18)

Commentary on Joshua 17:1-6

(Read Joshua 17:1-6)

Manasseh was but half of the tribe of Joseph, yet it was divided into two parts. The daughters of Zelophehad now reaped the benefit of their pious zeal and prudent forecast. Those who take care in the wilderness of this world, to make sure to themselves a place in the inheritance of the saints in light, will have the comfort of it in the other world; while those who neglect it now, will lose it for ever. Lord, teach us here to believe and obey, and give us an inheritance among thy saints, in glory everlasting.

Commentary on Joshua 17:7-13

(Read Joshua 17:7-13)

There was great communication between Manasseh and Ephraim. Though each tribe had its inheritance, yet they should intermix one with another, to do good offices one to another, as became those, who, though of different tribes, were all one Israel, and were bound to love as brethren. But they suffered the Canaanites to live among them, against the command of God, to serve their own ends.

Commentary on Joshua 17:14-18

(Read Joshua 17:14-18)

Joshua, as a public person, had no more regard to his own tribe than to any other, but would govern without favour or affection; wherein he has left a good example to all in public trusts. Joshua tells them, that what was fallen to their share would be a sufficient lot for them, if they would but work and fight. Men excuse themselves from labour by any pretence; and nothing serves the purpose better than having rich and powerful relations, able to provide for them; and they are apt to desire a partial and unfaithful disposal of what is intrusted to those they think able to give such help. But there is more real kindness in pointing out the advantages within reach, and in encouraging men to make the best of them, than in granting indulgences to sloth and extravagance. True religion gives no countenance to these evils. The rule is, They shall not eat who will not work; and many of our "cannots" are only the language of idleness, which magnifies every difficulty and danger. This is especially the case in our spiritual work and warfare. Without Christ we can do nothing, but we are apt to sit still and attempt nothing. if we belong to Him, he will stir us up to our best endeavours, and to cry to him for help. Then our coast will be enlarged, 1 Chronicles 4:9,10, and complainings silenced, or rather, turned into joyful thanksgivings.

── Matthew HenryConcise Commentary on Joshua


Joshua 17

Verse 1

[1] 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.

The first born of Joseph — The sense is, though Ephraim was to be more potent and numerous, yet Manasseh was the first-born, and had the privilege of the first-born, which was translated to Joseph, namely, a double portion; and therefore though this was but half the tribe of Manasseh, yet they are not made intimates to Ephraim, but have a distinct lot of their own, as their brethren, or other half tribe had beyond Jordan.

For Machir — The only son of Manasseh, who therefore is here, put for the whole tribe.

The first-born — So even only sons are sometimes called, as Matthew 1:25.

He — That is, Machir, had given great proof of his valour (though the particular history be not mentioned) and his posterity were no degenerate sons, but had his valiant blood still running in their veins.

Gilead and Bashan — Part of these countries; for part of them was also given to the Reubenites, and part to the Gadites. This may be added as a reason, either, 1. why he got those places from the Amorites: or 2. why they were allotted to him or his posterity, because this was a frontier country, and the out-works to the land of Canaan, and therefore required valiant persons to defend it.

Verse 2

[2] 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.

A Lot — A distinct inheritance.

The rest — Namely, those of them which had not received their possessions beyond Jordan.

Male-children — This expression is used to bring in what follows, concerning his female children.

Verse 4

[4] 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.

He — That is, Eleazar, or Joshua, with the consent of the princes appointed for that work.

Verse 5

[5] And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side Jordan;

Ten portions — Five for the sons, and five for the daughters; for as for Hepher, both he and his son Zelophehad was dead, and that without sons, and therefore had no portion; but his daughters had several portions allotted to them.

Verse 6

[6] Because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons: and the rest of Manasseh's sons had the land of Gilead.

The daughters — Not less than the son, so the sex was no bar to their inheritance.

Verse 9

[9] 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:

Three cities — Tappuah, and the cities upon the coast descending to the river, etc. last mentioned.

Among the cities of Manasseh — That is, are intermixed with their cities, which was not strange nor unfit, these two being linked together by a nearer alliance than the rest.

Verse 10

[10] 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.

His border — Manasseh's, whose portion is here described, and whose name was last mentioned.

In Asher — That is, upon the tribe of Asher; for though Zebulon came between Asher and them for the greatest part of their land; yet it seems there was some necks of land, both of Ephraim's and of Manasseh's, which jutted out farther than the rest, and touched the borders of Asher. And it is certain there were many such incursions of the land of one tribe upon some parcels of another, although they were otherwise considerably distant one from the other.

Verse 11

[11] 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.

Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher — As Ephraim had some cities in the tribe of Manasseh, and as it was not unusual, when the place allotted to any tribe was too narrow for it, and the next too large, to give away part from the larger to the less portion; nay, sometimes one whole tribe was taken into another; as Simeon's was into Judah's portion, when it was found too large for Judah.

Inhabitants of Dor — Not the places only, but the people; whom they spared and used for servants.

Three countries — The words may be rendered, the third part of that country; and so the meaning may be, that the cities and towns here mentioned are a third part of that country, that is, of that part of Issachar's and Asher's portion, in which those places lay.

Verse 14

[14] 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?

Children of Joseph — That is, of Ephraim and Manasseh. Spake unto Joshua - That is, expostulated with him, when they went and saw that portion which was allotted them, and found it much short of their expectation.

One portion — Either, 1. because they really had but one lot, which was afterwards divided by the arbitrators between them. Or, 2. because the land severally allotted to them, was but little enough for one of them.

Verse 15

[15] 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.

A great people — He retorts their own argument; seeing thou art a great and numerous people, turn thy complaints into action, and enlarge thy borders by thy own hand, to which thou mayest confidently expect God's assistance.

The wood-country — To the mountain, as it is called, verse 18, where among some towns there is much wood-land, which thou mayest without much difficulty possess, and so get the more room.

And cut down — The wood, for thy own advantage; in building more cities and towns; and preparing the land for pasture and tillage.

The Perizzites — Supposed to be a savage and brutish kind of people, that lived in woods and mountains.

Giants — Who lived in caves and mountains, now especially when they were driven out of their cities.

If mount Ephraim — Or, seeing mount Ephraim is too narrow for thee, as thou complainest; take to thyself the rest of that hilly and wood country. Mount Ephraim was a particular portion of the land, belonging to the tribe of Ephraim. And this seems to be here mentioned, for all the portion allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh, as appears from their complaint, which was not, that this part, but that their whole portion was too strait for them.

Verse 16

[16] 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.

Is not enough — Heb. the hill will not be found, that is, obtained by us; those fierce and strong people the Perizzites and the giants will easily defend themselves, and frustrate our attempts, having the advantage of the woods and mountains.

The Canaanites that dwell — That is, and if thou sayest, that if the hill either cannot be conquered, or is not sufficient for us, we may go down and take more land out of the pleasant and fruitful valleys, we shall meet with no less difficulty there than in the mountains.

Chariots of iron — Not all made of iron, but armed with iron, not only for defence, but for offence also, having as it were scythes and swords fastened to them, to cut down all that stood in their way.

Verse 17

[17] 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:

One lot only — Thou needest and deservedst more than that lot, of which thou art actually possessed, and thou hast power to get more; which if thou endeavourest to do, God will bless thee, and give thee more.

Verse 18

[18] 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.

The out-goings of it — The valleys and fields belonging or adjoining to it, for there the Canaanites were, verse 16.

── John WesleyExplanatory Notes on Joshua


17 Chapter 17


Verses 1-18

Joshua 17:1-18

Zelophehad . . . had no sons, but daughters.

The rights of women

The question decided by their case was the right of females to inherit property in land when there were no heirs male in the family. We find that the young women themselves had to be champions of their own cause. The decision was, that in such cases the women should inherit, but under the condition that they should not marry out of their own tribe, so that the property should not be transferred to another tribe. In point of fact, the five sisters married their cousins, and thus kept the property in the tribe of Manasseh. The incident is interesting, because it shows a larger regard to the rights of women than was usually conceded at the time. Some have, indeed, found fault with the decision as not going far enough. Why, they have asked, was the right of women to inherit land limited to cases in which there were no men in the family? The decision implied that if there had been one brother he would have got all the land; the sisters would have been entitled to nothing. The answer to this objection is, that had the rights of women been recognised to this extent it would have been too great an advance on the public opinion of the time. The benefit of the enactment was that, when propounded, it met with general approval. Certainly it was a considerable advance on the ordinary practice of the nations. It established the principle that woman was not a mere chattel, an inferior creature, subject to the control of the man, with no rights of her own. But it was far from being the first time when this principle obtained recognition. The wives of the patriarchs--Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel--were neither chattels, nor drudges, nor concubines. They were ladies, exerting the influence and enjoying the respect due to cultivated, companionable women. And though the law of succession did not give the females of the family equal rights with the males, it recognised them in another way. While the eldest son succeeded to the family home and a double portion of the land, he was expected to make some provision for his widowed mother and unmarried sisters. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)

Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities.--What with “could not” in the one, and “would not” in the other, the enemies of peace and purity were allowed to remain. But why was it, but because of the cowardice and unbelief of “could not”? for no rebellion and opposition of “would not” could hold out against the strength of Israel’s sword. It is not so correctly our “cannot” as our “will not” that so many hold a share in our hearts to their annoyance and pollution; for what enemies might not a Christian conquer, what achievements not make, in the spiritual warfare, who goes forth in the strength of the Lord, and in the power of His might? (W. Seaton.)

What hinders

No, as they were then, and as just then they were going on, they “could not” drive out the Canaanites--that was true enough.

1. Their mood was wrong. They preferred ease to energy. Josephus tells us: “After this the Israelites grew effeminate as to fighting any more against their enemies, but applied themselves to the cultivation of the land, which producing them great plenty and riches, they neglected the regular disposition of their settlement, and indulged themselves in luxury and pleasures. The Benjamites, to whom belonged Jerusalem, permitted its inhabitants to pay tribute; the rest of the tribes, imitating Benjamin, did the same; and, contenting themselves with the tributes which were paid them, permitted the Canaanites to live in peace.” In such a mood of course they “could not.”

2. Lapped thus in luxury, and thinking more of their own pleasant ease than of their nobler duty, these Israelites had lost practical and prevailing faith in God. And so, of course, letting the weapon of their faith rust in a bad non-use they “could not” drive these Canaanites from their strongholds.

3. Lying thus in this enervating ease, and losing thus their practical faith in God, the dangers and difficulties in the way of the extirpating these Canaanites were, to their thought, correspondingly increased. The strongholds, to their fearful ease-loving feeling, grew very strong; the fortresses perched upon the rocky hill-tops seemed very unassailable; the chariots of iron--which, drawn by maddened horses and horrible with long, sharp knives, would come dashing upon their ranks--grew awfully terrible. And thus again, of course, “they could not.”

4. But think now of these Israelites marshalled and armed for their duty; as ready to obey their God’s command; as determined to put Jehovah to the proof, and to go forth relying on His promise. How plain it is that the “could not” would have belonged to the Canaanites, and the “would” would have been the word for these Israelites. Then we had had Scripture of another sort, viz., And the children of Manasseh “would” drive out the inhabitants of those cities, and the Canaanites “could not” dwell in that land. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)

Little will, and thus no way

I. Inability in its relation to unbelief. The promises of God had been many, and the warnings urgent (Exodus 34:10-17; Numbers 33:50-56, &c.). They who begin by disbelieving God may well fear to encounter powerful enemies.

II. Inability in its relation to indisposition. The indisposition that comes--

1. Through fear of men.

2. Through love of ease.

3. Through undervaluing the importance of God’s command.

III. The inability of God-aided men presently shown to be a mere pretence and a poor excuse.

1. The revelation which comes through transgressors themselves. “When the children of Israel were waxen strong, they put the Canaanites to tribute.” “Could not” is here seen to be “would not.” That “tribute” told the entire story in its true colours. Tribute goes on telling secrets still. The tribute of Judas burned into his very soul, till he threw the thirty pieces on the temple floor, and cried over them in agony. The tribute of the craft by which Demetrius had his wealth let out the secret reason of his great love for the despised Diana (Acts 19:24-27). The dishonest merchant cannot keep his gains from preaching. Transgressors win their way to success unobserved, and then betray themselves with the very gains they have won.

2. The revelation which comes through those who succeed transgressors. Out of this very section of the tribe of Manasseh arose Gideon, of the family of the Abi-ezrites (verse 2). On this very ground of the half-tribe of Manasseh was fought the great battle which delivered Israel from the Midianites. And how was it fought? By an army from which more than thirty thousand had been sent to their homes; by a small force of three hundred men, who merely brake their pitchers, and held their torches on high, shedding light on a truth afterwards embodied in one of the famous sayings of Israel, “The battle is the Lord’s.” It was as though God were purposely reproving the faint-heartedness and idleness of these men who had lived in the days of Joshua. (F. G. Marchant.)

Why hast thou given me but one lot?--

The complaining of Ephraim

A grumbling reference seems to be made here by Ephraim to his brother Manasseh, who had received two lots, one on each side of the Jordan. Alas, how apt is the spirit of discontent still to crop up when we compare our lot with that of others! Were we quite alone, or were there no case for comparison, we might be content enough; it is when we think how much more our brother has than we that we are most liable to murmur. And, bad though murmuring and grieving at the good of our brother may be, it is by no means certain that the evil spirit will stop there. At the very dawn of history we find Cain the murderer of his brother because the one had the favour of God and not the other. What an evil feeling it is that grudges to our brother a larger share of God’s blessing; if at the beginning it be not kept under it may carry us on to deeds that may well make us shudder. Joshua dealt very wisely and fearlessly with the complaint of Ephraim, though it was his own tribe. “You say you are a great people--be it so; but if you are a great people, you must be capable of great deeds. Two great undertakings are before you now. There are great woodlands in your lot that have not been cleared--direct your energies to them, and they will afford you more room for settlements. Moreover, the Canaanites are still in possession of s large portion of your lot; up and attack them and drive them out, and you will be furnished with another area for possession.” Joshua accepted their estimate of their importance, but gave it a very different practical turn. We have all heard of the dying father who informed his sons that there was a valuable treasure in certain field, and counselled them to set to work to find it. With great care they turned up every morsel of the soil, but no treasure appeared, till, observing in autumn, what a rich crop covered the field, they came to understand that the fruit of persevering labour was the treasure which their father meant, We have heard, too, of a physician who was consulted by a rich man suffering cruelly from gout, and asked if he had any cure for it. “Yes,” said the doctor, “live on sixpence a day, and work for it.” The same principle underlay the counsel of Joshua. Of course it gratifies a certain part of our nature to get a mass of wealth without working for it. But this is not the best part of our nature. Probably in no class has the great object of life been so much lost and the habit of indolence and self-indulgence become so predominant as in that of young men born to the possession of a great fortune and never requiring to turn a hand for anything they desired. After all, the necessity of work is a great blessing. It guards from numberless temptations; it promotes a healthy body and a healthy mind; it increases the zest of life; it promotes cheerfulness and flowing spirits; it makes rest and healthy recreation far sweeter when they come, and it gives us affinity to the great Heavenly Worker, by whom, and through whom, and for whom are all things. This great principle of ordinary life has its place, too, in the spiritual economy. It is not the spiritual invalid, who is for ever feeling his pulse and whom every whiff of wind throws into a fever of alarm, that grows up to the full stature of the Christian; but the man who, like Paul, has his hands and his heart for ever full, and whose every spiritual fibre gains strength and vitality from his desires and labours for the good of others. And it is with Churches as with individuals. An idle Church is a stagnant Church, prone to strife, and to all morbid experiences. A Church that throws itself into the work of faith and labour of love is far more in the way to be spiritually healthy and strong. (W. G. Blaikie, D. D.)


I. The easy way to discontentment. Anybody can complain. Everybody is tempted to complain. Most of those who murmur think that they can show good cause for their complaints. No man is rich enough to be out of the reach of discontent. No man is poor enough to be below the possibility or: happiness.

II. The unfailing testimony of discontentment.

1. Complaints furnish no trustworthy evidence about a man’s lot. How can they, when so many murmur in every kind of lot which the world knows?

2. Complaints bear unfailing witness against the murmurer himself. Scripture often condemns the man who complains, apart from considering the cause of complaining.

III. The true answer to discontentment.

1. Joshua was too wise to dispute the assumption of greatness (verses 15-17). He who tries to argue a discontented man out of his favourite assumptions does but waste breath.

2. Joshua turned the plea of greatness back on those who used it: “If thou be a great people, then”--work, fight.

3. Joshua sought to cure the murmuring of the heart through the diligence of the hand. The energy which is absorbed in gloomy thoughts, and poured out in bitter complaints, would generally double the small inheritance, if it were rightly directed. Apart from this industry and courage ever tend to happiness.

4. Joshua encouraged these murmurers to think that to the people of God no difficulties were insuperable. He would have them think of the invincible might which had promised to support their faithful efforts (Deuteronomy 20:1-4), and make them victorious. The after history shows us that, a discontented spirit is not easily cured. These people showed the same haughty dissatisfaction again and again after the death of Joshua (Judges 8:1-3; Judges 8:12. I-6). He who has cultivated contentment through faith in God is not readily disturbed; while the man who has learned, in whatsoever state he is, to find some fault with his fellows, has given room in his heart for a demon that is not easily expelled. (F. G. Marchant.)

The self-aggrandising spirit

They did not use the power which God gave them for the execution of His commands and for driving out the Canaanites, but they misapplied it to their own self-aggrandisement, and to the indulgence of their own covetousness; and they were not content with the lot they had received, although it was the most fruitful part of Palestine; but in a boastful spirit of self-adulation they said, “I am a great people”; they claimed a larger portion for themselves, in order that they might be enriched thereby. Here is an example of that self-idolising and self-aggrandising spirit in nations and in Churches which seek to extend themselves by colonisation and conquest, and even by missionary enterprise, not so much that they may gain kingdoms for Christ, and win subjects to Him, but in order that they may have vassals and tributaries to themselves. Is there not here a solemn warning to such nations as England, which publicly and privately derives an immense revenue from her two hundred millions of subjects in India, and yet has done little hitherto to bring them into subjection to Christ? (Bp. Chris. Wordsworth.)

Discontented with our lot

When the last national census was when it would have been an interesting question to have asked just how many people were where they wanted to be. I fear that the really contented souls would have been a very small minority. Contentment with one’s spiritual condition is quite too common; and of such low-grade Christians there is not much hope of improvement. But those who are really contented with their present lot, present place of residence, present circumstances or fields of labour, are not in the majority. Take, for example, the ministers of the Gospel and see how many will say: “Well, my place of labour has peculiar difficulties; it is a hard field, and I have a great deal to encounter, and if I could get a first-rate call to some better place I would be off in a minute.” Very probably you would. But, my good brother, if you will discover any parish on this round globe that has not some “peculiar difficulties” to encounter, then you wilt have found a people so perfect that they will not need any preaching. Mary Lyon’s noble advice to her pupils at Mount Holyoke Seminary was: “When you choose your field of labour for Christ, go where nobody else is willing to go.” Heaven is the only place I have ever heard of where there is no hard work or no difficulties. (T. L. Cuyler.)

Restless discontent to be avoided

My first parish was a very discouraging one, and I was just threatening to play Jonah and leave it when the Lord poured out His Spirit on the little flock and we had a revival that taught me more than six months did in a theological seminary. Many years afterwards I was sorely harassed with doubt whether I should remain in a certain pulpit or go to a very inviting one nearly a thousand miles away. I opened Richard Cecil’s “Remains”--a volume of most valuable thought--and my eyes fell on these pithy words: “Taking new steps in life are very serious dangers, especially if there be in our motives any mixture of selfish ambition. ‘Wherefore gaddest thou about to change thy way?’” I turned up that text in the book of Jeremiah; it decided me not to gad about or change my field of labour, and I have thanked God for a decision that resulted in my happy thirty years’ pastorate in Brooklyn. There are un questionably times and circumstances in which a minister or any Christian worker should change his place of labour, but never under the promptings of a restless, discontented, or self-seeking spirit. (T. L. Cuyler.)

The Lord hath blessed me hitherto--


I. A confession: “The Lord hath blessed me hitherto.” I will not at present speak to those of you upon whom the blessing of God has never rested. Re member, that every man is either under the curse or under the blessing. They that are of the works of the law are under the curse. Faith in Him who was made a curse for us is the only way to the blessing. But I speak to as many as have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the Lord saith, “Surely, blessing I will bless thee.” You can say at this time, “God hath blessed me hitherto.”

1. He has blessed you with those blessings which are common to all the house of Israel. You and I, who are in Christ, are partakers of all covenant blessings in Christ Jesus. “If children, then heirs”; and if we are children of God, then we are heirs of all things. “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s,” and therefore “all things are yours.” Can you not say--“The Lord hath blessed me hitherto”? Has He ever denied you one of the blessings common to the covenanted family? Has He ever told you that you may not pray, or that you may not trust? Has He forbidden you to cast your burden on the Lord? Has He denied to you fellowship with Himself and communion with His dear Son? Has He laid an embargo on any one of the promises? Has He shut you out from any one of the provisions of His love?

2. But then, besides this, Ephraim and Manasseh had special blessings, the peculiar blessing of Joseph, which did not belong to Judah, or Reuben, or Issachar. Each saint may tell his fellow something that he does not know; and in heaven it will be a part of the riches of glory to hold commerce in those specialities which each one has for himself alone. I shall not be you, neither will you be me; neither shall we train be like another two, or the four of us like any other four, though all of us shall be like our Lord when we shall see Him as He is. I want you each to feel at this hour--“The Lord hath blessed me hitherto.” Personally, I often sit me down alone, and say, “Whence is this to me?” I cannot but admire the special goodness of my Lord to me.

3. I think, besides this, that these two tribes which made up the house of Joseph, also meant to say that, not only had God blessed them with the common blessings of Israel, and the special blessing of their tribe, but also with actual blessings. As far as they had gone they had driven out the Canaanites, and taken possession of the country. They had not received all that was promised; but God had blessed them hitherto. Come, we have not driven out all the Canaanites yet, but we have driven out many of them. We are not what we hope to be, but we are not what we used to be. We cannot yet see everything clearly, but we are not blind, as once we were, We have not seen our Lord as He is, but we have seen Him; and the joy of that sight will never be taken from us. Therefore, before the Lord and His assembled people, we joyfully declare that “The Lord hath blessed us hitherto.”

Let us expand this confession a little, and speak thus:

1. All the blessings that we have received have come from God. Do not let us trace any blessing to ourselves, or to our fellow-men; for though the minister of God may be as a conduit-pipe to bring us refreshing streams, yet all our fresh springs are in God, and not in men. Say, “The Lord hath blessed me hitherto.”

2. And, mark you, there has been a continuity of this blessing. God has not blessed us, and then paused; but He has blessed us “hitherto.” One silver thread of blessing extends from the cradle to the grave. There is an unconquerable pertinacity in the love of God: His grace cannot be baffled or turned aside; but His goodness and His mercy follow us all the days of our lives.

3. In addition to that continuity there is a delightful consistency about the Lord’s dealings. “The Lord hath blessed us hitherto.” No curse has intervened. He has blessed us, and only blessed us. There has been no “yea” and “nay” with Him; no enriching us with spiritual blessings, and then casting us away. He has frowned upon us, truly; but His love has been the same in the frown as in the smile. He has chastened us sorely; but He has never given us over unto death.

4. And, what is more, when my text says, “The Lord hath blessed me hitherto,” there is a kind of prophecy in it, for “hitherto” has a window forward as well as backward. You sometimes see a railway carriage or truck, fastened on to what goes before, but there is also a great hook behind. What is that for? Why, to fasten something else behind, and so to lengthen the train. Any one mercy from God is linked on to all the mercy that went before it; but provision is also made for adding future blessing. All the years to come are guaranteed by the ages past.

II. The argument: “Forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto.”

1. This is cause for holy wonder and amazement. Why should the Lord have blessed me?

2. Be full of holy gratitude. Get into the state of that poor man who was so greatly blessed to pious Tauler. He wished the man a good-day. The man replied, “Sir, I never had a bad day.” “Oh, but I wish you good weather.” Said he, “Sir, it is always good weather. If it rains or if it shines, it is such weather as God pleases, and what pleases God pleases me.” Our sorrows lie mainly at the roots of our selfishness, and when our self-hood is dug up, our sorrow to a great extent is gone. Let us, then, utter this text, “Forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto,” with hearty gratitude for His holy will. Summing up gains and losses, joys and griefs, let us say with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, and blessed be the name of the Lord.”

3. Say also, with holy confidence, “The Lord hath blessed me hitherto.” Speak as you find. If any inquire, “What has God been to you?” answer, “He hath blessed me hitherto.” The devil whispers, “If thou be the son of God”; and he then insinuates, “God deals very hardly with you. See what you suffer. See how you are left in the dark!” Answer him, “Get thee behind me, Satan, for surely goodness and mercy have followed me all the days of my life; and if God takes from me any earthly good, shall I receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall I not receive evil?” He who can stand to this stands on good ground. “In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” But he that gets away from this drifts I know not where.

4. Furthermore, if this be true, let us resolve to engage in enlarged enterprises. If the Lord has blessed us hitherto, why should He not bless us in something fresh? (C. H. Spurgeon.)

If thou be a great people, then get thee up.

Encroachments not permissible

Encroachments were not to be made upon their brethren, but new inroads upon their enemies, whom it had become their duty utterly to exterminate. This was the work which Providence had assigned to them, both for the enlargement of the portion, and for the exercise of their piety; and therefore the straitness in which they were placed, intended as it was for an excitement to diligence, fortitude, and faith, was no real crook in the lot. What employs men’s hearts and hands for God must be a work with a blessing annexed to it, and always attended with its own reward. In the cultivation of Messiah’s kingdom, the assigned inheritance of the Church, and extension of its borders in the world there are many wastes of sin to be taken in, many longstanding thickets of corruption to be hewn and cleared away. The straitened boundaries of Immanuel’s land require many spiritual, never-weary labourers in well-doing. How much ought it to be the grief of every pious mind, and the matter of his most anxious concern, in seeing those vast territories yet the possessions of enemies worse than the Perizzites and giants on the borders of Ephraim. Whatever presses on the view to desist from undertakings to which we have the Lord’s special call, or the token of His marked approbation, the considerations of His power and promise are quite sufficient to encourage exertions. In a spiritual view all the Lord’s people are a great people, and having great power are destined to mighty enterprises and achievements. In themselves and outward condition, none are more weak and contemptible; yet in their infinitely glorious Lord and Captain they are both great and powerful, so that through grace strengthening them they can do all things, even cut through the greatest obstructions, and conquer the most formidable enemies. Success was to crown action. Neither the axe nor the sword would be employed in vain; the woodland instrument nor the warlike weapon. Reward, though but in promise, sweetens labour, and the hope of triumph emboldens to conflict; but how much more the assurance of both! The Christian has no less encouragement in all the enterprises assigned him; for whether in works of faith, in labours of love, or in the toils of conflict, this is the invigorating address: “Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.” They had only to work and the way would open; to fight, and the enemy would yield to the sword, as the thicket to the axe. The possession was theirs, and needed only to be claimed. Who would not thus have his coast enlarged? for the inheritance that improves, and widens beneath its owner’s own hand and eye has far more charms, and yields higher satisfaction than the seat of ease obtained by others. Heaven will be but the sweeter, the more welcome and valued, after the labours of this mortal life, and its conquests close in eternal triumphs. (W. Seaton.)

Labour the price of excellence

This is the voice of God’s providence to every soul that has dreamed of greatness, or of the possession of unfolded powers and abilities. By labour show your talent. Express what you are by what you do. Michael Angelo once exhibited a rare specimen of his art, and it was pronounced beautiful and wonderful. Months passed, and visitors saw nothing more in his studio, and when he was asked what he had been doing Angelo answered that he had been at work on the same statue, reducing this feature and developing that; and his visitors said those were but trifles, and he should be engaged on something great. To this he replied, “Trifles make perfection, and perfection itself is no trifle.” That was a noble answer. Indeed, genius may be defined as that power which best magnifies trifles. It sees the worth of everything, it glorifies the small because of their relation to the great. The most finished actor of our age, on retiring from his profession, and on receiving a public testimonial as having made the best impression on his” age in reference to his art, made the memorable remark, “Whatever is excellent in art must spring from labour and endurance.” That sentiment may well be written on the shield of every aspiring young man. Greatness is from culture, rather than from genius; and if it had a voice for the world, it would sing of “The high endeavours and the glad success.” There are unquestionably some instances of that original intensity of a mental faculty by which the mind springs, as it were, at a leap, to the results it desires; but it is certain that many of the most remarkable men have attributed to patient labour what the world have attributed, in them, to endowment. That Newton attributed his success to greater patience with the minute is well known, and Sir Joshua Reynolds held that superiority resulted from intense and constant application of the strength of intellect to a specific purpose. “Genius,” he said, “is the art of making repeated efforts.” The first effort he made with his pencil was the perspective of a book-case from sheer idleness; but his father saw it, encouraged him, and he went on by labour to success. Benjamin West, when he drew the babe’s face as he watched it in the cradle, was kissed by his mother for the effort, and was wont to say, “That kiss made me a painter.” And to every department of artistic, mechanical, and professional life the advice of Sir Joshua Reynolds to his scholars is adapted, where he said, “Make no dependence on your own genius. If you have great talents, labour will improve them; if you have poor talents, labour will increase them. Nothing is denied to well-directed labour. Nothing is to be obtained without it.” Napoleon well said, when once asked to create a marshal out of a man who belonged to a noble family, but who had no other claim, “It is not I that make marshals, but victory.” What we attribute to some gift may be traced to the kindling and concentrating power of feeling or passion, as is illustrated in the many instances where the greatest mental effort has sprung from passion. Scorched and stung by a Scottish reviewer, Byron wrote a poem, and he who was deemed but a simple rhymester became a poet, as he himself once said,” I went to bed one night, and woke up to find myself famous.” So in sharp debates, in violent controversy, the most remarkable things have been uttered; men have gone beyond themselves and have astonished the world. A mighty intensity of thought has burned within them, and they have brought the whole stock of intellectual attainment to bear upon the matter before them. The best things of many men in all departments of effort have been unpremeditated; but this gives no argument against labour, study, and forecast, because these men have been made capable of these great or uncommon efforts, by the wealth of mind stored up. The ripe things of nature fall into hands prepared to receive them; and in a profound sense may the wise man’s words be applied beyond religion, where he says, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him.” Genius, therefore, is really intensity of thought, feeling, emotion, activity. All the faculties of the man are in earnest. The whole man is glorified by the intensity of the determined spirit, and what is done is done with every energy--with a resoluteness that means with persistence of effort to conquer if such a thing can be. Take up any man’s life who has risen to real, permanent eminence, and you see there the marks of labour; so that it may be said of many, as was said of Piso, “What he withdrew of application he deducted from glory.” Goethe said truly, “What is genius but the faculty of seeing and turning to advantage everything that strikes us?” And so thought the celebrated French landscape painter, Poussin, who, when asked how he was able to give such an effect to his paintings, simply answered, “I have neglected nothing.” The price of excellence, then, is labour. What most we need is to intensify our love of God and His gospel--to make faith more a fire--a fire that rouses up to action every inmate of the house, and shows what wonders can be wrought. A fire that demands more and more fuel, when it is rightly confined to its place, and that bids us go out of our Mount Ephraim, into the land of the giants, and cut wood. (Henry Bacon.)

The responsibility of greatness

1. It is not a brave and wholesome thing to be too eager for favours and for help from others. There are men of this class in every community. They want to rise in the world, but they would rise on the exertions and sacrifices of others--not their own. We find the same in spiritual life. There are those who sigh for holiness and beauty of character, but they are not willing to pay the price. They would make prayer a substitute for effort, for struggle, for the crucifying of self. They want a larger spiritual inheritance, but they have no thought of taking it in primeval forests which their own hands must cut down. The truth is, however, that God gives us our inheritance just as He gave Joseph’s lot to him. Our promised land has to be won, every inch of it. You must train your own faith. You must cultivate your own heart-life. You must learn patience, gentleness, and all the lessons of love yourself. No one can give you any Christian grace.

2. True friendship ofttimes declines to do for men what they can do for themselves. If you can wake up a young man, arouse his sleeping or undiscovered powers, so that he will win a fortune with his own hands and brain, that is an infinitely better thing to do for him than if you were to give him a fortune as a present. In the former case, in getting his fortune, he has gotten also trained powers, energy, strength, self-reliance, disciplined character and all the elements that belong to strong manhood. In the other case he gets nothing but the money. A little poem tells the story of two friends. One brought a crystal goblet full of water which he had dipped from flowing streams on far-off mountain heights. The hills were his, and his the bright, sweet water. But the water did not refresh his friend. The other looked upon him kindly, saw his need, and gave him--nothing. With a face severe he bade him seek his own hard quarry, hew out the way for the imprisoned waters, and find drink for himself. He obeyed, and the water gave him satisfaction. That is God’s way with us. He does not make life easy for us. Surely it is a wiser love that puts new strength into your heart and arm, so that you can go on with your hard duty, your heavy responsibility, your weight of care, without fainting, than would be the love which should take all the load away and leave you free from any burden.

3. True greatness should show itself, not in demanding favours or privileges, but in achieving great things. The way a commander honours the best regiment on the field of battle is, not by assigning it to some easy post, to some duty away from danger. He hot, ours it by giving it the most perilous post, the duty requiring the most splendid courage. So it is in all life--the place of honour is always the hardest place, where the most delicate and difficult duty must be done, where the heaviest burden of responsibility must be borne. It is never a real honour to be given an easy place. Instead of demanding a place of honour as a favour of friendship, which gets no seat of real greatness upon our brow, we should win our place of honour by worthy deeds and services. The truth is far-reaching in its applications. It should sweep out of our thought for ever all feeling that others owe us favours; all that spirit which shows itself in self-seeking, in claims for place or precedence over others. The law of love is that with whatsoever we have we must serve our fellow-men. The most highly dowered life that this world ever saw was that of Jesus Christ. Yet He demanded no recognition of men. He claimed no rank. He never said His lowly place was too small, too narrow, for the exercise of His great abilities. He used His greatness in doing good, in blessing the world. He was the greatest among men, and He was the servant of all. This is the true mission of greatness. There is no other true and worthy way of using whatever gifts God has bestowed upon us. Instead of claiming place, distinction, rank, position, and attention, because of our gifts, abilities, wisdom, or name, we must use all we have to bless the world and honour God. (J. R. Millar, D. D.)

The proof of greatness

Petty jealousies are harder to deal with than anything else. Joshua had not only to conquer but also to divide the country. It was divided into several parts. Jealousy was aroused. Some said, You have not considered my greatness as you did that of Ephraim. In the present day a worker for God has need to pray for tact to deal with others. Our text is very suggestive, and may be applied in many ways. Prove thy greatness by clearing the forest. Pretension proved by achievement; thus prove thy strength by thy actions.

1. If great, why not clear the forest? Great power demands corresponding enterprise! Some financially are great; if so, let your contributions be beyond others who are not in such a position. If possessed of a superior education, prove it by your exertions to benefit others. Some are great in position as standard-bearers in God’s army; prove it by your faith; show what faith will do; go up and clear the forest by your zeal and consecration--the more advantages we claim the more obligations we contract.

2. If cramped for room, why not clear the ground you have? Some are always asking for more scope, from the village to the town, from the town to the city, forgetting that in their own sphere they have not done all they could do. When this is done God will open up a larger sphere. Do thoroughly all that in which you are engaged. The man who looks after the ones and twos God will bless with other larger spheres for usefulness. Greatness does not lie in pretensions but in actions. (A. G. Brown.)

Cure for complaining

This, then, is the cure for our complainings--the memory of the Lord’s promises of help; and then the brave going forth against the causes of the complainings, and thus the curing of them.

1. Apply this cure for complainings to the winning of culture. How often we complain, “in our circumstances, with our limitations, with our business, &c., no chance for culture.” And we settle to the newspaper or fill up the chance moments with a hurried reading of the last novel--not the last best; too often the last worst. But the cure for such complainings is, with God’s help, to go forth and seize culture. Take up the Chautauqua scheme for reading, for example. Take it up, go through with it, put the energy into doing your work and not into complaining, and you will grow in culture surprisingly.

2. Apply this cure for complainings to the maintaining a consistent Christian profession. Think of the saints in Caesar’s household. By God’s help determine to be a saint, whatever your circumstances.

3. Apply this cure for complainings to the duty of becoming Christian. What Canaanites and Perrizzites of objections men are apt to make--e.g., do not understand whole Bible; it is a hard thing to serve God; it is gloomy to be Christian; I am afraid God will not receive me; so many hypocrites among professing Christians; I don’t know that I am one of the elect; I have not time; I am not fit; I will meet a good deal of opposition; I don’t feel; I am afraid if I do become a Christian I will not hold out; I cannot believe; I am willing to be a secret Christian, &c., illimitably. But stop complainingly conjuring such objections. Go forth in the promised help of Christ to Christ, any way. So at once get cure for your complainings and surely find the forgiveness and peace of Christ. (W. Hoyt, D. D.)

Thou shalt drive out the Canaanites.--

Driving out the Canaanites and their iron chariots

I. We must drive them out. Every sin has to be slaughtered. Not a single sin is to be tolerated.

1. They must all be driven out, for every sin is our enemy. Any pretence of friendship with iniquity is mischievous.

2. Sin is our Lord’s most cruel enemy. Saved by Jesus, will you not hate sin as He did? Would any person here lay up in his drawer as a treasure the knife with which his father was murdered? Our sins were the daggers that slew the Saviour. Can we bear to think of them?

3. Remember, also, that a man cannot be free from sin if he is the servant of even one sin. Here is a man who has a long chain on his leg--a chain of fifty links. Now, suppose that I come in as a liberator, and take away forty-nine links, but still leave the iron fastened to the pillar, and his leg in the one link which is within the iron ring, what benefit have I brought him? How much good have I done? The man is still a captive.

II. They can be driven out. I do not say that we can drive them out, but I say that they can be driven out. It will be a great miracle, but let us believe in it; for other great wonders have been wrought.

1. Note first that you and I have been raised from the dead. Is it not so? “You hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” If a dead man has been raised, then anything can be done with the man who is now made alive.

2. You have also by Divine power been led to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ as the result of Divine grace within your heart, what is there that you cannot do? If you have been enabled to believe, you can be enabled to be holy. He that led you to exert faith, can lead you, by faith, to overcome any and every iniquity.

3. You have already conquered many sins. He that has helped you so far can surely help you even to the conclusion of the fight. Do not doubt that the almighty power of Divine grace, which has achieved so much, can achieve yet more. Be strong and very courageous, for the Lord of hosts Himself is at your side.

4. Have you not seen other Christians conquer? Oh, let your memory charge you now with brethren and sisters in whom you saw great infirmities and sins at the commencement of their spiritual career; but how they have grown! How they have vanquished inbred sin! What God has done for them He can do for you.

III. They shall be driven out.

1. This is what Christ died for, to save His people, not from some of their sins, but from all their sins.

2. This is what Christ lives for. Christ in heaven is the pattern of what we shall be, and He will not fail to mould us after His own model. We shall one day be perfectly conformed to His image, and then we shall be with Him in glory. Our Lord’s honour is bound up with the presentation of all His saints in spotless purity to Himself in the day of His glorious marriage.

3. This is what the Holy Spirit is given for. He is not given to come into our hearts, and comfort us in our sins, but to deliver us from all evil, and to comfort us in Christ Jesus. He quickens, He directs, He helps, He illuminates; He does a thousand things; but, chiefly, He sanctifies us. He comes into the heart to drive out every other power that seeks to have dominion there. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

All sins to be conquered

They must all be conquered, every one. Not one single sin must be allowed to occupy the love of our heart and the throne of our nature. There are certain sins that, when we begin to war with them, we very soon overcome. These Israelites, when they were up in the mountains, and in the woods, soon got at the hill-country Canaanites and destroyed them; but down in the plain, where was plenty of room for horses and chariots, the Israelites were puzzled what to do; for some of these Canaanites had chariots of iron, which had scythes fixed to the axles, and when they drove into the ranks of an army, they mowed down the people as a reaping machine cuts down the standing corn. For a while this seems to have staggered the Israelites altogether; it was a terrible business to think about, and fear exaggerated the power of the dreadful chariots. Dread made them powerless, till they plucked up courage, and when they once plucked up courage, they found that these chariots were not nearly so terrible as they were supposed to be. There were ways of managing and mastering them, if Israel would but trust in God, and play the man. “When a man is converted by Divine grace, certain sins are readily overcome: they fly away home at once, never to return. Swearing is a kind of Canaanite that is soon settled off--driven out and slain. So it is with many other forms of evil. We get our sword at their throats quickly, and by God’s grace we are clean rid of all temptation to return to them. Such sins, though once powerful, are left dead on the field of battle. I know that some of you could bear testimony that your favoured sins became so disgusting to you that you have never had a temptation to wander in that direction; and if a desire towards them has crossed your mind, you have revolted against it, and cast it away from you with indignation. But certain other sins are much tougher to deal with. They mean fight, and some of them seem to have as many lives as a cat. There is no killing them. When you think that you have slain them, they are up and at you again. They may be said to have chariots of iron.

1. These sins are sometimes those which have gained their power--their chariots of iron-through long habit. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots?” No, he never shall, but the grace of God can work the change.

2. Some sins get their chariots of iron from being congenial to our constitution. Certain brethren and sisters are sadly quick-tempered; and as long as ever they live, they will have to be on their guard against growing suddenly angry, and speaking unadvisedly with their lips. They are quick and sensitive, and this might not in itself be a serious evil; but when sin wields that quickness and sensitiveness, evil comes of it. How many a sincere child of God has had to go for years groaning, as with broken bones, because of the quickness of his temper! As for these constitutional sins, you must not excuse them. Everything that is of nature--ay, and of your fallen nature when it is at its best--has to be put under the feet of Christ, that grace may reign over every form of evil.

3. Frequently the chariot of iron derives its force from the fact that a certain sin comes rushing upon you on a sudden, and so takes you at a disadvantage. Yet we must not say, because of this, “I cannot help it,” for we ought to be all the more watchful, and live all the nearer to God in prayer.

4. Sometimes these sins get power from the fact that, if we do not yield to them, we may incur ridicule on account of them. I would not, if I could, prevent any of you from being persecuted in your measure. Should not soldiers fight? I would stay the persecution for the sake of the persecutor; but for the sake of you who have to bear it, I would hardly lift a finger to screen you, because the trial is an education of the utmost value.

5. Perhaps one of the things that is worst of all to a Christian is, that certain sins are supposed to be irresistible. It is a popular error, and a very pernicious one. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

──The Biblical Illustrator


17 Chapter 17



This chapter gives an account of the lot that fell to the half tribe of Manasseh, to the male children of Manasseh, and to the daughters of Zelophehad, Joshua 17:1; and describes the coast of that lot, Joshua 17:7; and relates the request of the sons of Joseph, to have their lot enlarged, which was granted, Joshua 17:14.

Verse 1

There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh,.... As well as for the tribe of Ephraim:

for he was the firstborn of Joseph; and therefore ought to have his part and share in the lot of the children of Joseph, though Ephraim was preferred before him in the blessing of Jacob. Some think this is given as a reason why he had a double portion, one on the other side Jordan, and another in the land of Canaan:

to wit, for Machir, the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead; who was the only son of Manasseh, and so through him, and by his son Gilead, the whole tribe sprung from that patriarch: and

because he was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan; which were given to his posterity by Moses, and lay on the other side Jordan, see Deuteronomy 3:13. This Machir very likely had shown his warlike disposition and courage in Egypt, and had fought under the kings there against the common enemy of that country; for it is highly probable he was dead before the children of Israel came out from thence, but the same warlike spirit continued in his posterity; they had their part assigned them on the other side Jordan, to defend that country, while the tribes of Reuben and Gad attended to the care of their flocks and herds.

Verse 2

There was also a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh by their families,.... For such that had no part in Gilead and Bashan on the other side Jordan, even for the other half tribe, whose families are particularly mentioned, as follows:

for the children of Abiezer; who is called Jeezer in Numbers 26:30; and was a son of Gilead, the son of Machir, as the rest that follow were:

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; hence the families of the Jeezerites, Helekites, Asrielites, Shechemites, Hepherites, and Shemidaites, mentioned in Numbers 26:30; and for which families was the lot here spoken of:

these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph by their families; which is observed for the sake of, and to lead unto what follows, otherwise in common none but males inherited; but the following is an excepted and remarkable case.

Verse 3

But Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but daughters,.... The descent of this man is particularly given, to show the truth and reality of it, upon which his daughters made their request, and that granted and now claimed:

and these are the names of his daughters, Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah,

Milcah, and Tirzah; by the same names, and in the same order they are called in Numbers 26:33; the order is a little different in Numbers 36:11.

Verse 4

And they came near before Eleazar the priest, and before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the princes,.... The ten princes, who, with Eleazar and Joshua, were appointed to divide the land, Numbers 34:17; and were now met together for that purpose, Joshua 14:1,

saying, the Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brethren; those of the same tribe with them; for upon their application to Moses he inquired of the Lord, who ordered him to grant their request, Numbers 27:1,

therefore according to the commandment of the Lord he gave them an inheritance among the brethren of their fathers; that is, to the half tribe of Manasseh.

Verse 5

And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side Jordan,.... The lot which fell to the half tribe of Manasseh was divided into ten parts: according to the Jewish writers, the six families before mentioned had six parts, and the daughters of Zelophehad had four parts; one on the account of Zelophehad their father, two on the account of their grandfather Hepher, who they say was the firstborn, and one on account of their uncle, their father's brother, who died in the wilderness without children; so Jarchi and Kimchi relate from the TalmudF11T. Bab. Bava Bathra, fol. 118. 2. & 119. 1. ; but the true case seems to be this, there were six portions for the six families, but there being no sons in Hepher's family, his part was divided into five, and given to the five daughters of Zelophehad:

beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side Jordan: which were given to the other half tribe, as before observed, Joshua 13:29.

Verse 6

Because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons,.... Which occasioned such a number of portions; the daughters of Zelophehad are meant, who descended from Manasseh:

and the rest of Manasseh, some had the land of Gilead; that is, those besides the six families before expressed, namely, the two families of the Machirites and Gileadites, Numbers 26:29.

Verse 7

And the coast of Manasseh was from Asher,.... Not from the border of the tribe of Asher, as Kimchi, in which he is followed by Vatablus; for that was at too great a distance; but a city of the tribe of Manasseh; and in Jerom'sF12De loc. Heb. fol. 88. G. time a village of this name was shown fifteen miles from Neapolis or Shechem, as you go from thence to Scythopolis, near the public road:

to Michmethah, that lieth before Shechem; the same place mentioned in the description of the border of Ephraim; see Gill on Joshua 16:6,

and the border went along on the right hand, unto the inhabitants of Entappuah; that is, leaving this place, and its inhabitants to the right, which was a place in the land of that name, next mentioned; and seems to be so called from a fountain in it, or near it, as well as from a multitude of apples growing there, and with which perhaps the country abounded, of which in Joshua 17:8.

Verse 8

Now Manasseh had the land of Tappuah,.... The whole territory that went by that name, from a city of note in it, next mentioned; all the fields and villages in it belonged to the tribe of Manasseh:

but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the children of Ephraim; and was one of those separate cities they had among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh; though it seems they had only the city, not the territory adjacent to it, and which was named from it.

Verse 9

And the coast descended unto the river Kanah, southward of the river,.... The same mentioned in the account of the coast of Ephraim, Joshua 16:8; which was north of that river, as Manasseh was to the south of it:

these cities of Ephraim are among the cities of Manasseh; that is, the cities before mentioned, Asher, Michmethah, Entappuah, and Tappuah; though they were in the tribe of Manasseh, yet they were inhabited by the Ephraimites:

the coast of Manasseh also was on the north side of the river; of the river Kanah, as well as on the south of it; it had cities there, though possessed by the tribe of Ephraim:

and the outgoings of it were at the sea; the Mediterranean sea.

Verse 10

Southward it was Ephraim's, and northward it was Manasseh's,.... As Ephraim lay to the south of Manasseh, Manasseh lay to the north of Ephraim:

and the sea is his border; the Mediterranean sea was their boundary on the west:

and they met together in Asher on the north; that is, on the northwest towards the Mediterranean sea, as, at Mount Carmel:

and in Issachar on the east; towards Jordan.

Verse 11

And Manasseh had in Issachar, and in Asher, Bethshean, and her towns,.... As Ephraim had cities in Manasseh, so had Manasseh cities in these two tribes, which in some parts bordered on it, before described, even the cities following, and the first that is named is Bethshean: this lay in the tribe of Issachar, and was the uttermost border of Manasseh that way; it was, as JosephusF13Antiqu l. 12. c. 8. sect. 5. says, called Scythopolis; but not from the Scythians, as PlinyF14Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 18. suggests, but from Succoth, a place where Jacob resided, and which was not far from it, Genesis 33:17; it lay before the great plain of Jezreel, and was at the entrance into it,"After this went they over Jordan into the great plain before Bethsan.' (1 Maccabees 5:52)and was six hundred furlongs, or seventy five miles, from Jerusalem, according to:"From thence they departed to Scythopolis, which lieth six hundred furlongs from Jerusalem,' (2 Maccabees 12:29)and was one of the cities of Decapolis, from whence our Lord had hearers, Matthew 4:25. It was such a pleasant place, that it is said in the TalmudF15T. Bab. Eruvin, fol. 19. 1. , that if the garden of Eden was in the land of Israel, Bethshean was the gate of it; on which the gloss says, that its fruits were the sweetest in the land of Israel:

and Ibleam and her towns; it seems to be the same with Bileam, by a transposition of the two first letters, 1 Chronicles 6:70; and was a place not far from Megiddo, after mentioned, as appears from 2 Kings 9:27,

and the inhabitants of Dor and her towns; this had been a royal city; see Gill on Joshua 11:2 and See Gill on Joshua 12:23,

and the inhabitants of Endor and her towns; this place became famous for a witch there in the times of Saul, 1 Samuel 28:7; in the times of JeromF16De loc. Heb. fol. 88. L. it was a large village near Mount Tabor, four miles to the south, which he calls Aeudor, of or in Jezreel; and elsewhereF17lbid. fol. 91. E. he speaks of Endor, as near the town of Nain, where our Lord raised the widow's son the dead, and is about: Scythopolis:

and the inhabitants of Taanach and her towns; this had been a royal city; see Gill on Joshua 12:22,

and the inhabitants of Megiddo and her towns: this was another royal city mentioned with the former; See Gill on Joshua 12:21; there

even three countries; the three last cities, with their towns, that are mentioned, Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo; all which perhaps belonged to Dor, and may be the Naphothdor spoken of Joshua 11:2; where the same word is used as here; so Jarchi interprets it.

Verse 12

Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of these cities,.... Mentioned in Joshua 17:11; they had not strength at first to do it, or either were negligent and slothful, and suffered them to dwell among them, and did not take the advantage they might have done; and afterwards it was too late, they became too strong and numerous for them, at least for a time:

but the Canaanites would dwell in the land; whether they would or not.

Verse 13

Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxed strong,.... Increased in numbers, and became superior to the Canaanites, not only those of the tribe of Manasseh, but of the other tribes also:

that they put the Canaanites to tribute; they did not take away their lives, as they were commanded to do, but made them tributaries to them, which seems to arise from a covetous disposition, and done for the sake of gain:

but did not utterly drive them out; which they were ordered to do, and could now have done; for if they were able to make them pay tribute to them, they had power sufficient to drive them out, or destroy them, and therefore broke the commandment of God, Deuteronomy 7:1.

Verse 14

And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua,.... Which some understand of the children of Manasseh only; and, indeed, the complaint and arguments used, as well as some circumstances in the account, best agree with them; yet certain it is, that the children of Ephraim accompanied the children of Manasseh, and were present at this interview, as appears from Joshua 17:17; and if they did not join with them in the request and complaint expressly, they countenanced and encouraged the same by their presence:

saying, why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit: this seems to suit better with one than both; for there was a lot for the tribe of Manasseh also, as well as for Ephraim, Joshua 17:1; by which it should seem that there were two, and if both made this expostulation, it was not fact; but it may be, that the inheritance which came to them by lot was not as yet divided, and so they called it one lot and one portion, and then it might with propriety be said by them both; and their sense be, that the lot or portion assigned them was only sufficient for one of them, and not for both:

seeing I am a great people; as especially both tribes put together were:

forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto? this best agrees with the tribe of Manasseh, which, since their coming out of Egypt, was increased twenty thousand five hundred, whereas the tribe of Ephraim was decreased; compare Numbers 1:33 with Numbers 26:34. Now it might have been expected by them, that as Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim, that he would have favoured their cause on that account, and that they should have obtained the grant of an addition by that means; but Joshua was impartial in his administration, and showed no favour and affection on that score, as appears by what follows.

Verse 15

And Joshua answered them,.... By retorting their own argument upon them:

if thou be a great people; which he does not deny, as they were for numbers and power:

then get thee up to the wood country; which was near them, and within their borders, and lay on hills and mountains, perhaps the mountains of Gilboa, and therefore are bid to go up:

and cut down for thyself there; cut down the trees of the wood, clear the ground of them, and so make it habitable, and by that means enlarge the places of their habitation:

in the land of the Perizzites, and of the giants; or Rephaim; the former of these were one of the seven nations of the Canaanites, who from their name seem to have dwelt not in the cities, and walled towns, but in villages, and scattered houses, in desert places, and among the woods, where also the giants had retired and dwelt after Joshua had driven them out of the cities; and by driving these out of their present habitations, they would gain more room to dwell in, and would find their lot sufficient for them:

if Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee; either meaning all Ephraim, and even the whole lot of the sons of Joseph, or rattler the mount particularly so called; for the words may be rendered, "for Mount Ephraim hastens for thee"F17Vid Gusset. Ebr. Comment, p. 21. ; was clear or open for thee; ready to be delivered to thee, and thou mayest possess it at once.

Verse 16

And the children of Joseph said, the hill is not enough for us,.... Meaning either Mount Ephraim, and all included in it; or it may be rather the wood country on the hills and mountains they were bid to go up to; signifying, that if they could gain that out of the hands of the Perizzites and giants, and clear it of the wood, and make it habitable, even that would not be sufficient for them; or that hill and mountain cannot be "found by us"F18לא ימצא לנו "non invenietur nobis", Montanus; "non possumus montem istum assequi", Tigurine version; "non obtinebitur a nobis", Masius. or obtained and possessed by us; we are not able to get it into our hands; there being a valley between us and that:

and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron; not chariots made of iron, but chariots with iron scythes fastened to the sides, or axle trees of them, which when driven with great force and fury, would cut down the infantry in battle, as grass is cut down with scythes, see Judges 4:2,

both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel; both which belonged to the tribe of Manasseh, or were on the borders of it, though as yet they had not got possession, see Joshua 17:11; and this circumstance seems to favour the notion, that tribe of Manasseh were at least chiefly concerned in this address.

Verse 17

And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh,.... From whence it is clear that some of both were present; and they being brethren, and their interests united, and their cities intermixed, it would be to their mutual advantage to have an enlargement; which the tribe of Manasseh wanted more especially, more of their cities that fell to their lot being in the hands of the Canaanites, than of any other:

saying, thou art a great people, and hast great power; were very numerous, and so able to contend with the Canaanites, and make themselves more room:

thou shalt not have one lot only; or only have what they were possessed of, but should have more; and, as they wanted more, they were able enough to get more; and if they exerted their power, relying on the providence of God, through his blessing on their endeavours, they would certainly have an increase of their portion.

Verse 18

But the mountains shall be thine,.... Or "for"F19כי "quia", Pagninus, Montanus, Junius & Tremellius, Gussetius, p. 378. it shall be thine; thou shalt get the possession of it, though attended with difficulties that seem insuperable:

for, or "if, though"F20כי "si", Junius & Tremellius, "licet", Ar. vers. Lat. .

it is a wood; the habitation of the Perizzites, and giants, and so dangerous to go un to it, and full of trees, and so seems unprofitable and useless:

and thou shalt cut it down; both the inhabitants of it, and the trees of it, and clear it of both, and make it both safe and commodious to dwell in, which would be a fine enlargement for them:

and the outgoings of it shall be thine; all it produces when cultivated, and all the parts adjacent to it:

for thou shall drive out the Canaanites; this Joshua assures them of, to encourage them to attempt it:

though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong; be not afraid of their chariots, though terrible, nor of their giants and mighty men, God will be on your side, and you have nothing to fear from them, see Joshua 11:4; whether the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh took this advice of Joshua is not said.

──John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible