Chapter 17

1 The lot of Manasseh. 7 His coast. 12 The Canaanites not driven out. 14 The children of Joseph obtain another lot.

1. There was also a lot. Jacob had preferred Ephraim before Manasseh (Gen. 48:17–20), even though Manasseh was the first-born. Now Ephraim had been honored by having his lot described first. Nevertheless, Manasseh was the first-born and was to have the “double portion” (Deut. 21:17), which was his right. This chapter deals primarily with the territory allotted to Manasseh west of the Jordan, but reference is also made to that portion already allotted to the half tribe east of the Jordan.

To wit. These words are supplied, and the verse might better read, “To Machir … and to him was Gilead and Bashan.” The reason for this assignment is stated in the parenthetical clause, “because he was a man of war.” Machir himself by this time must have been dead. He had been born to Manasseh in Egypt and had he lived, he would have been about 200 years old. He had probably distinguished himself sometime in battle, or else his descendants were of a warlike spirit, and his name was retained by them. At any rate Moses and Joshua recognized the skill of this family at war, and were willing to entrust to them the defense of the frontier country of Bashan.

2. Rest of the children. In actuality the names listed are the great-grandchildren of Manasseh, for they are the sons of Gilead (Num. 26:28–34), who is the son of Machir, who is the son of Manasseh. In Num. 26:30 “Abiezer” is written “Jeezer,” probably by an error of transcription. The other names are identical. From a comparison with 1 Chron. 7:14–19, on the other hand, it may seem more reasonable to consider these six names as names of important families and not necessarily the names of brothers.

3. Zelophehad. Hepher, one of the aforementioned six sons of Gilead, had one son named Zelophehad, who died in the wilderness without any sons. Zelophehad had five daughters, however (Num. 26:33, 34; 27:1–5). The young women themselves had to be champions of their own cause before Moses so as to retain their father’s inheritance and name. The decision that Moses rendered under the direction of God was that the women should inherit their father’s inheritance on the condition that they married within their own tribe so as to keep the property in their own tribe. In point of fact, the sisters married their own cousins, and thus fulfilled the law (Num. 27:6–11; 36:10–12). This incident showed a larger regard for the rights of women than is usually conceded for that time. It established the principle that a woman was not a mere chattel, with no rights of her own. Wherever the principles of the true God have been established, there the state of womanhood has been exalted.

5. Ten portions to Manasseh. Literally, “the lots of Manasseh, ten.” Verse 2 lists six families including Hepher’s. Inasmuch as Hepher’s son Zelophehad died without leaving a son, Zelophehad’s five daughters received their father’s portion. It would seem that Hepher’s portion was divided into five. This makes ten portions in all.

7. Asher to Michmethah. The south border of Manasseh is first described, that is, the border next to Ephraim. The description begis with the town Asher, which, as nearly as we can ascertain, lay somewhere on the road between Shechem and Bethshan (Scythopolis), if in fact it was a town, rather than the territory of the tribe. From this point the border went to Michmethah, which was before Shechem, or a little to the east (see ch. 16:6). Shechem is near the modern Nablus situated between Mt. Gerizim and Mt. Ebal.

Along on the right hand. The Hebrews thought of their directions from the standpoint of facing east, which was the front side. To the right would be south, especially when the Hebrew word for “right,” yamin, is preceded by the article and the preposition Хel (toward), as here. So from Michmethah the boundary turned south to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. The city of Tappuah belonged to Ephraim, but the country adjoining belonged to Manasseh. The line evidently approached the outer limits of the city and from there turned westward.

9. Southward of the river. The word for “river” here is the word meaning “winter torrent.” Some identify this watercourse as the Abu Zabura, and others as the Nahr elРKassab, in which the old name Reedbrook is retained. It is probably the brook that flows into the Mediterranean north of Joppa.

These cities of Ephraim. It is not clear just what these cities were. They are also referred to in ch. 16:9, and it may be that Tappuah was one of them. The others are not named, but it is clear that Ephraim had cities in the territory of Manasseh, and Manasseh had cities in the territories of Issachar and Asher. These were special arrangements entered into between the tribes in order to make certain territorial adjustments to suit the population. It does indicate a degree of unity existing between the tribes mentioned, at least in the early period of their existence.

10. They met together. In view of the description of the territories of Ephraim and Manasseh in which Manasseh lies north of Ephraim across the length of Ephraim’s territory, the antecedent of “they” seems somewhat obscure. But in view of the previous description and the further statements in the 11th verse, it is probable that the “they” refers to the Manassites. Then the sentence would read, “and they [that is, the Manassites] border on Asher to the north, and on Issachar to the east.” According to ch. 19:26, the tribe of Asher extended southward as far as Mt. Carmel, and the tribe of Manasseh extended to Dor and her towns (see v. 11), which were in the vicinity of Carmel. Thus it appears that these two tribes formed a junction at the Mediterranean Sea.

11. Beth-shean. Literally, “house of rest.” This was a city in the tribe of Issachar that was assigned to Manasseh. It was in a strategic place at the junction of two important valleys, namely, the deep Jordan valley and the Valley of Jezreel. It is possible that because Manasseh was a warlike tribe, and thus an able defender for Israel, it was thought wise to allow Manasseh to man this stronghold and dwell in it. In NT times Beth-shan was one of the largest of the ten Greek cities known as the Decapolis, and was called Scythopolis. To modern Arabs it is known as Tell el Husn, near modern Beisaµn (Beth-shan), which perpetuates the ancient name.

Ibleam. Today known as Tell BelФameh. It too was a heavily fortified town, being a part of a series of fortifications that extended from Beth-shan to the Mediterranean coast. It was situated about 13 mi. (21 km.) north-northeast of Samaria on the road to Megiddo. Along with Beth-shan it was probably given to Manasseh for defense purposes as well as to provide more living space.

Dor. A Mediterranean seaport in the inheritance of Asher, but given to Manasseh. It lay between the Carmel headland and the Caesarea of NT times.

En-dor. This town was to the north of the Hill Moreh, 3 3/4 mi. (6 km.) south of Mt. Tabor and 6 1/2 mi. (10.4 km.) southeast of Nazareth. The witch to whom Saul resorted lived at Endor (1 Sam. 28).

Taanach. A city commanding one of the passes to the plain of Esdraelon. It lay about 5 mi. (8 km.) southeast of Megiddo and was the site of a fortress on the road from Mt. Carmel to the main road running from Judea to Galilee. Its ruins are known today as Tell TaФannak.

Megiddo. An important strategic city overlooking the plain of Esdraelon. Its ruins have been identified with the mound called Tell elРMutesellim. There seems to have been some military reason behind the turning over of these strategic cities to the tribe of Manasseh.

Three countries. Literally, “three of the heights.” The LXX reads, “and the third part of Mapheta, and its villages.” The Syriac has “three villages.” The RSV translates it “the third is Naphath.” A number of commentators take this expression to refer to the three cities formerly enumerated that lay on hills or three heights, namely, Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo—three mountain cities in distinction from the places on the plain.

12. Would dwell. This indicates the stubbornness of the Canaanites in refusing to be evicted from this territory. It also carries with it a reflection on the unbelief and cowardice of the Israelites. If they had put forth the requisite effort, God would have wrought with them to give them complete victory.

13. To tribute. The LXX reads, “made them obedient.” Covetousness probably led to this compromise. Money and power go a long way to ease many a conscience. Yet money without righteousness can never enrich a righteous cause. Many a man will stand condemned in the judgment because he loved riches more than God. God wants men with faith and courage who will not be bought or sold either by money, power, or honor.

14. One lot. Here Ephraim and Manasseh are regarded as one tribe, the tribe of Joseph. At least it was to their advantage to be considered so now. They probably recalled the promise and prophecy of Jacob (Gen. 48:22) in which the aged patriarch gave to Joseph one portion above his brethren. But, at the same time, they seemed conveniently to forget that their brethren had received a portion across the Jordan. A selfish, grasping spirit always forgets how much has already been received. Manasseh and Ephraim were probably comparing their portion with what Judah had received. Then, too, they may have reasoned that Joshua, being of the tribe of Ephraim, would show them special favor. But Joshua was too great a man to yield to so small and selfish a proposal as that of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.

A great people. The attitude of the children of Joseph is duplicated by many today. Those who have an exalted opinion of self often think that their greatness ought to be recognized by God and men, and if it is not recognized, then they maintain that something is wrong with either God or men. In the case under consideration, if the descendants of Joseph were a great people because of the blessing of the Lord, then they should have continued to look to Him for continued blessings rather than unfairly to request of Joshua more than their share.

There is ever a danger that when men are blessed of God they will attribute this blessing to some merit of their own. This may be the reason why they do not receive more of Heaven’s benefits. They are prone to interpret these favors wrongly, and while giving credit to God with the lips, in their hearts they are all the while giving credit to self.

15. If thou be. Joshua was too wise to dispute the assumption of the Ephraimites and Manassites. He said to them, in effect, “If you are a great people through the blessing of God, then God will continue to bless you in conquering the land. You are well able to take care of yourself. Go up into the vast forests of central Palestine and take possession of them.” It is plain from these statements that a large portion of central Palestine was at that time a great forest and thinly populated. This fact helps to explain the strategy of the attack of Israel under Joshua upon the center of the country, so that the forces of the Canaanites were divided at the beginning of the campaign. Thus the Israelites could strike with their whole force at the southern armies, and having defeated them, turn upon the armies of the north.

Perizzites. See on ch. 3:10.

Giants. Heb. rephaХim (see on ch. 12:4).

16. Not enough. Literally, “not found,” that is, “does not exist,” or, “is not acquired.” The mountain, these tribes claimed, was not for them. It would be too difficult to clear and prepare for agriculture. They wanted the valley, but that was controlled by the Canaanites who possessed powerful weapons.

Chariots of iron. Not chariots with frames of iron, but chariots with iron plating. Some have denied the existence of objects of iron at this time; however, iron objects found in King Tutankhamen’s tomb come from the same century and prove the existence and use of iron at that time (see also on Gen. 4:22). These weapons were formidable instruments of war, but the children of Joseph should have remembered that their God was greater than even the “chariots of iron.”

17. One lot only. These tribes were not to designate their inheritance as one lot only, because actually it was sufficiently large if only they would possess the whole. By going up into the woods and clearing it they would be able to double their territory. Evidently a large section of their territory was wooded in those days (see on Deut. 8:7).

18. Outgoings of it. If they would clear away the wood and occupy the mountain, they would be able to command all the valleys. Possessing all the defiles of the country, they would be able to drive out the Canaanites, despite their formidable chariots of iron.

Thou shalt drive out. This was the final command to the cowardly tribes. A similar command comes also to those who are harboring besetting sins. Not a single defilement is to be tolerated. All corrupting vice should be driven from the heart. Any pretense of tolerance or compromise is sure to bring ruin. Frequently we may look at our sins as Israel did at the chariots of iron and feel we cannot overcome them. So we ease our conscience by putting them to “tribute” and permit them to remain. The ultimate result is certain defeat. Fear and lack of faith and courage are Satan’s allies. But the command of God rings down through the ages, “Thou shalt drive them out.” See also on ch. 16:10.

Ellen G. White comments

14, 15 PP 513

16–18PP 514


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