Joshua 17 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of 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.