Joshua
1-2 The Lot for Manasseh 3-6 The Daughters of Zelophehad 7-10 The Border of Manasseh 11-13 Cities of Manasseh in Issachar and Asher 14-18 The Sons of Joseph Demand More Space
The Lot for Manasseh

1Now [this] was the lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war. 2So [the lot] was [made] for the rest of the sons of Manasseh according to their families: for the sons of Abiezer and for the sons of Helek and for the sons of Asriel and for the sons of Shechem and for the sons of Hepher and for the sons of Shemida; these [were] the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph according to their families.

The one “lot” for the tribe of Manasseh, that is the one piece of land, is divided into two pieces: one piece for Ephraim and one piece for Manasseh. Although Manasseh is the first-born (Gen 41:5151Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, “For,” [he said,] “God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s household.”), first Ephraim, who is counted as the first-born (Gen 48:13-2013Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel’s left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel’s right, and brought them close to him.14But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh’s head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the firstborn.15He blessed Joseph, and said,
“The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked,
The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day,
16The angel who has redeemed me from all evil,
Bless the lads;
And may my name live on in them,
And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac;
And may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”17When Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on Ephraim’s head, it displeased him; and he grasped his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.18Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn. Place your right hand on his head.”19But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know; he also will become a people and he also will be great. However, his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”20He blessed them that day, saying,
“By you Israel will pronounce blessing, saying,
‘May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh!’”
Thus he put Ephraim before Manasseh.
) received his part of the inheritance. After that Manasseh gets his share of the inheritance. Machir seems to have been the only son of Manasseh (Gen 50:2323Joseph saw the third generation of Ephraim’s sons; also the sons of Machir, the son of Manasseh, were born on Joseph’s knees.). The other sons are then in fact those of Machir.

Some of Machir’s sons, together with the tribes of Reuben and Gad, have taken possession of the inheritance in the wilderness side of the Jordan. Reuben and Gad want that land because they have a lot of cattle (Num 32:1,51Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had an exceedingly large number of livestock. So when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that it was indeed a place suitable for livestock,5They said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession; do not take us across the Jordan.”). Machir may also have a lot of cattle, although that is not mentioned of him. But he must have had a great predilection for that many cattle. In any case, he joins Reuben and Gad. That means a welcome reinforcement for them, because he is “a man of war”.

The other sons of Manasseh choose for an inheritance in the land. Gideon belongs to the “sons of Abiëzer” (Jdg 6:11,24,3411Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save [it] from the Midianites.24Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.34So the Spirit of the LORD came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.). Zelophehad’s daughters are descended from Hepher. The ten parts that tribe gets (verse 55Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan,) consist of six parts, containing five parts for the five sons, and a sixth part, that of Hepher, which is divided into five parts for the five daughters of Zelophehad.


The Daughters of Zelophehad

3However, Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah. 4They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers. 5Thus there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan, 6because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the sons of Manasseh.

As happens more often, here too the enumeration of names is interrupted by a short history. Such histories have an important place. In this case, something is told that is present in the hearts during the distribution of the cities. We saw that with Caleb and Achsah. Here we see it with the daughters of Zelophehad.

The daughters of Zelophehad consciously choose for an inheritance “among our brothers” in the land and not in the other half of the tribe that has chosen the wilderness side of the Jordan. Women share as much in the inheritance as men. Their public conduct may be regulated by God in a different way than that of men, but their share in spiritual blessings is not.

Normally only the sons inherit. Daughters who marry share in the inheritance of the man they marry. Zelophehad has only daughters. Zelophehad died in the wilderness and can’t go to Joshua himself. His daughters can do that and they do. Before going through the Jordan, they went to Moses to ask for an inheritance (Num 27:1-111Then the daughters of Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, of the families of Manasseh the son of Joseph, came near; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah and Hoglah and Milcah and Tirzah.2They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the leaders and all the congregation, at the doorway of the tent of meeting, saying,3“Our father died in the wilderness, yet he was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah; but he died in his own sin, and he had no sons.4Why should the name of our father be withdrawn from among his family because he had no son? Give us a possession among our father’s brothers.”5So Moses brought their case before the LORD.6Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,7“The daughters of Zelophehad are right in [their] statements. You shall surely give them a hereditary possession among their father’s brothers, and you shall transfer the inheritance of their father to them.8Further, you shall speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.9If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers.10If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.11If his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his nearest relative in his own family, and he shall possess it; and it shall be a statutory ordinance to the sons of Israel, just as the LORD commanded Moses.’”). Now they come to Eleazar and Joshua to claim the promised inheritance. In the four times Joshua and Eleazar are mentioned together in this book (verse 44They came near before Eleazar the priest and before Joshua the son of Nun and before the leaders, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” So according to the command of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.; Jos 14:11Now these are [the territories] which the sons of Israel inherited in the land of Canaan, which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel apportioned to them for an inheritance,; 19:5151These are the inheritances which Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of the households of the tribes of the sons of Israel distributed by lot in Shiloh before the LORD at the doorway of the tent of meeting. So they finished dividing the land.; 21:11Then the heads of households of the Levites approached Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun, and the heads of households of the tribes of the sons of Israel.), Eleazar always comes first.

The daughters show faith. They could have said: ‘What do we need an inheritance for? When we get married, we will get it.’ But they have understood God’s thoughts that He wants to give each family an inheritance. The women show an interest in what God has in mind for their family. There is not only a general interest in the land among them, but they wish for the part of the land which God has specially destined for them. They give God the opportunity, as it were, to fulfil His purpose. They have, so to speak, a twofold faith that argues:
1. God has something for us and we don’t want to miss it.
2. We will not be prevented from asking for it because of poor conditions.

We can apply this to listening to or reading what a brother passes on from Scripture. That is good and important, but that is not yet what God has for us personally. This brother can only pass on what he has taken possession of himself. His service will encourage us to take possession of what the Lord has given us each personally. A sister should therefore read the Word herself and not leave it to her husband or the brothers of the local church.

We should not be satisfied with what others have collected for us. If we desire to receive from God what He has personally in mind as blessing for us, He will give it. Weakness and want are no reason to renounce the part God has personally assigned us.

The faith of these women gives them each an inheritance and the five sons each receive one. This way the tribe of Manasseh gets ten parts.


The Border of Manasseh

7The border of Manasseh ran from Asher to Michmethath which was east of Shechem; then the border went southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh [belonged] to the sons of Ephraim. 9The border went down to the brook of Kanah, southward of the brook (these cities [belonged] to Ephraim among the cities of Manasseh), and the border of Manasseh [was] on the north side of the brook and it ended at the sea. 10The south side [belonged] to Ephraim and the north side to Manasseh, and the sea was their border; and they reached to Asher on the north and to Issachar on the east.

Judah got the whole south and Ephraim and Manasseh get the whole north, until the later Galilee. This shows the special place of the sons of Joseph. It is a big piece. Not much remains for the other tribes. Their territory extends from the Jordan in the east to the sea in the west. In the south Manasseh borders on Ephraim, in the north it borders on Asher and Issachar, with Asher in the northwest and Issachar in the northeast.


Cities of Manasseh in Issachar and Asher

11In Issachar and in Asher, Manasseh had Beth-shean and its towns and Ibleam and its towns, and the inhabitants of Dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its towns, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its towns, the third is Napheth. 12But the sons of Manasseh could not take possession of these cities, because the Canaanites persisted in living in that land. 13It came about when the sons of Israel became strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but they did not drive them out completely.

Manasseh has cities with their towns in the territory of the tribes of Issachar and Asher. God has appointed it in such a way that each tribe has its particularly inalienable inheritance, but also that they will still mix with each other. As a result, there remains mutual familiarity and community between them. There will be an opportunity to give each other good service. All of this suits a people who, although made up of different tribes, still form one Israel and are therefore obliged to love each other as brothers.

Manasseh did not take possession of the cities due to lack of strength, that is, faith, to drive out the enemy. He did not take possession of the inheritance as a ‘church’. The extermination must be done so that the surviving enemy will not become a trap for them (Deu 20:17-1817But you shall utterly destroy them, the Hittite and the Amorite, the Canaanite and the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite, as the LORD your God has commanded you,18so that they may not teach you to do according to all their detestable things which they have done for their gods, so that you would sin against the LORD your God.).


The Sons of Joseph Demand More Space

14Then the sons of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me only one lot and one portion for an inheritance, since I am a numerous people whom the LORD has thus far blessed?” 15Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16The sons of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the valley land have chariots of iron, both those who are in Beth-shean and its towns and those who are in the valley of Jezreel.” 17Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, saying, “You are a numerous people and have great power; you shall not have one lot [only], 18but the hill country shall be yours. For though it is a forest, you shall clear it, and to its farthest borders it shall be yours; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have chariots of iron [and] though they are strong.”

The sons of Joseph turn to Joshua because they don’t know well where to live. In their opinion, the forests make it impossible to live there and there are still enemies they do not feel able to cope with. They see quite a few obstacles. They don’t say that in so many words. Their argument is that they are a great people who need more land. Joshua has the wisdom to understand this and does not allow himself to be misled by them. There is a lack of commitment and faith in them.. He points out to them the possibilities. If they make an effort, they can cut down trees, and if they have faith, they need not be afraid of the enemy. If they have faith, they will drive out their enemies.

Joshua’s proposal will make it clear what is in them. If they listen to it, they will make their home territory larger. So they don’t get more land, but they can make the land they have been given habitable by removing obstacles.

We should not raise objections or reservations against what God has given us. When we do that, we look like people “finding fault” (Jude 1:1616These are grumblers, finding fault, following after their [own] lusts; they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of [gaining an] advantage.). Our arguments like ‘no time’, ‘no strength’, ‘no possibilities’ do not hold up for the true Joshua. It is not our strength that matters, but our faith in the power of God.


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