Chapter 16

1 The general borders of the sons of Joseph. 5 The border of the inheritance of Ephraim. 10 The Canaanites not conquered.

1. Children of Joseph. The order of precedence among the tribes of Israel made Judah first and the sons of Joseph second. These relative positions are suggested in 1 Chron. 5:2: “Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s.” Accordingly, in the division of the land of Canaan under Joshua, there were three successive stages: first, the settlement of the tribe of Judah in the strongholds of the south of Palestine; second, the establishment of Ephraim and Manasseh in the center of the country, and in some strong positions toward the north; third, the settlement of the remaining tribes, so as to fill up the gaps left between Judah and Joseph, and also to settle them upon the outskirts of their territory, so as to be, as it were, under the shadow of their wings. In giving the description of the territory of Joseph, the narrator does not go into so much detail as he did with the borders of Judah, and so the border is difficult to trace. Neither do we have the list of the cities given as in the case of Judah. The reason for this is not known. Some have suggested that Joshua, being of the tribe of Joseph, was left to distribute the territory of his tribe, and so the minute details were not brought into the council. Hence, the description of the border and the cities was left out of the record. Another peculiarity in the narrative is the interlocking of the tribe of Ephraim with the tribe of Manasseh by Ephraim’s possessing some of Manasseh’s cities. This seems to have been a peaceful arrangement of good will.

Fell from Jordan. Literally, “went out from Jordan.” Some have seen in the word “fell” a reference to the drawing of the lot out of the urn, but this interpretation is hardly justifiable since the Hebrew makes it clear that the writer is merely describing the beginning of the border of the children of Joseph. Starting from the Jordan directly opposite Jericho, the southern boundary ran to “the water of Jericho”—the“Sultan’s Spring”—the scene of Elisha’s miracle, passing it on the east side. From Sultan’s Spring the border continued eastward, leaving the city of Jericho to the south.

To the wilderness. The Hebrew has no preposition before the word “wilderness,” but it is necessary to supply one. Probably “by way of” would best convey the writer’s thought. The region intended here is what in ch. 18:12 is called the wilderness of Beth-aven. Beth-aven appears from ch. 7:2 to have been east of Bethel.

Throughout mount Beth-el. The Hebrew preposition be, here translated “throughout,” has rather the idea of “at,” or “in proximity to.” The mountainous area around Bethel is meant. After having passed Jericho on the east and north, the boundary ran by way of the wilderness of Beth-aven (see ch. 18:12), and up by way of one of the ravines, either the Wadi Harith or the Wadi Suweinit, and up into the hills around Bethel.

2. Beth-el to Luz. Bethel literally means “house of God,” and was so called because Jacob there received the divine vision recorded in Gen. 28. From Gen. 28:19 it appears that the site was in the vicinity of the city of Luz, but was distinct from the city itself, being in the neighboring fields, where Jacob lay all night. The two cities being so close together, it is likely that afterward the two places were looked upon in a general way as one city (see Joshua 18:13; Judges 1:23).

Borders of Archi. Literally, “border of the Archites.” Hushai, David’s friend, was an Archite (2 Sam. 15:32), but little else is known concerning his tribe or their place of residence.

Ataroth. There is considerable uncertainty about the location of this city, but it is thought to be identical with Ataroth-addar, unidentified.

3. Coast of Japhleti. Little is known of the clan of Japhleti, since there is only one other reference (1 Chron. 7:32, 33) to a man by this name. According to this reference, Japhlet was a great-grandson of Asher, and it is possible this family of the tribe of Asher early settled in this part of Ephraim’s territory and remained there. From Bethel, then, the border went in a northwesterly direction toward Ataroth, and then on down toward the southwest, touching the border of the Japhletites, to the border of Beth-horon the Lower.

Beth-horon. Beth-horon Lower was about 700 ft. (213 m.) lower than Beth-horon Upper, and yet was only 1 3/4 mi. (2.8 km.) away. These strategic towns controlled the pass leading from the plain of Aijalon to Jerusalem. Today Beth-horon the Lower is known by the name of Beit ФUr etРTahtaµ (see on ch. 10:10).

Gezer. See on ch. 10:33.

5. Ataroth-addar. The mention of this town to the east is not easy to understand. However, if this Ataroth-addar is the same as the Ataroth of v. 2, which it seems that it must be, then the border from Ataroth (see on v. 2) would run quite largely in a southerly direction down as far as Beth-horon. This section, then, could be considered as part of the east border of Ephraim.

6. Went out toward the sea. For clarity this clause ought to have been connected with the final clause in v. 5. “Beth-horon the upper” is here mentioned instead of “Beth-horon the nether” in v. 3. But the two places were very near each other, and perhaps the separate mention of both serves to indicate that both belonged to Ephraim. From here the border went out to the sea passing Gezer, as already mentioned in v. 3.

To Michmethah. The “to” is not in the original text. The writer has begun to define the north border, and the sentence should not be connected to the preceding. Michmethah is described in ch. 17:7 as being before Shechem, probably a short distance to the east or southeast.

Went about eastward. Literally, “turned eastward.” The course is thought to be from Tappuah (see v. 8) northeast to Michmethah, and then eastward to Taanath-shiloh.

Taanath-shiloh. It is thought to be the same as Khirbet TaФnah elРFoЖqaµ or ФAin Tana, a place of ruins southeast of the modern Nablus, which is near the site of ancient Shechem.

East to Janohah. Probably Khirbet YaµnuЖn, now a ruin, about 6 mi. (9.6 km.) southeast of Shechem.

7. Ataroth. Not the Ataroth of vs. 2 and 5, but a town on the north border of Ephraim near the Jordan valley. It was evidently down at the edge of the valley, for the text says, “went down from Janohah to Ataroth.” The town’s name means “crowns.”

Naarath. Called Naaran (1 Chron. 7:28). A town in the east of Ephraim, probably Khirbet el ФAuja, 5.3 mi. (8.5 km.) north-northeast of Jericho. From here the border ran south and reached to the border of Jericho, Jericho itself belonging to Benjamin.

8. From Tappuah westward. Tappuah signifies “apple.” According to ch. 17:7 Tappuah was southwest of Michmethah. The author now begins to describe in more detail the western half of the northern border. Tappuah is thought to have been almost 8 mi. (12.8 km.) southwest of Shechem. From here the boundary went westward to the river Kanah.

River Kanah. Again, the word for “river” used here is the word for “winter torrent.” It is named Kanah, “place of reeds,” from its many reeds and canes. The border followed this river to the sea.

9. The separate cities. Literally, “the cities, the separations,” that is, “the cities set apart.” These were cities set apart from the territory of Manasseh for the children of Ephraim, of which only Tappuah is mentioned (ch. 17:8). In ch. 17:11 is found a list of the cities of Asher and Issachar that were given to Manasseh. In turn Manasseh permitted Ephraim to have some of her cities. This mutual sharing and yielding of territory to each other would tend to produce a solidarity among the several tribes, and prevent disunion. The interest of the stronger tribes would be served by completing the conquest of the territory assigned to the weaker. We help ourselves when we help others. The cohesion of the ten tribes in opposition to Judah later, until the break came, may have had its beginning in the manner in which the territory was originally divided and shared. For centuries a feeling of jealousy and bitterness against Judah, because of the largeness of her territory in contrast with theirs, probably rankled in the hearts of the northern cities.

10. Drave not out. An indictment is brought against the Ephraimites for not driving out the Canaanites from Gezer. Instead they put them under tribute. The real motive was probably covetousness, so that the Ephraimites might be profited by their services. The city and its inhabitants were not destroyed until Solomon’s time, when Pharaoh, king of Egypt, took Gezer and gave it to his daughter, Solomon’s wife (1 Kings 9:16).

By allowing these foreigners to stay in their midst, the Ephraimites were endangering themselves spiritually. The future history of this tribe shows them lapsing completely into idolatry until God was forced to declare through His prophet, “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone” (Hosea 4:17). The fate of Ephraim and the associated tribes should serve as a warning to us, not to yoke ourselves together with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6:14). Such an association is almost always detrimental.

To profess fellowship with those who love the Lord, without resolutely setting about to drive out from the life those habits that bind one to this world, is to be in danger of succumbing to the evil these habits are certain to produce in the life. A Christian cannot expect to retain the friendship of the world, to continue his association with worldly-minded persons as before conversion without being influenced by them. Our only safety is to drive out from the life all that tends to evil (see on ch. 17:18).