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Scripture reading – Joshua 17-18

The tribe of Judah was assigned its inheritance in Canaan in Joshua 15 and was followed by the tribe of Ephraim, which received its land by lot in Joshua 16. Dividing and assigning the land in Canaan continued in today’s Scripture.

Joshua 17

The Half-tribe of Manasseh and Its Portion (Joshua 17:1-6)

The land boundaries assigned to the tribe of Manasseh were recorded in Joshua 17. The tribe of Manasseh, who was the firstborn son of Joseph, received a double portion inheritance. Also, remember that half of the tribe of Manasseh had already been granted land in Gilead, on the east side of the Jordan River (17:5).

We are also reminded of an uncommon appeal for an inheritance made to Moses by the five daughters of Zelophehad, whose father had no male heir (17:3-6; Numbers 27:2-11). Zelophehad’s daughters had approached Joshua and Eleazar, the high priest, and desired a portion of the land would be granted to them as their father’s heirs (17:4). When the matter was brought before the Lord, He graciously granted their request.

Manasseh’s Failure and Cowardice (Joshua 17:7-18)

Noting Manasseh’s lands on the west side of the Jordan River (17:7-11), once again, we see a failure to obey God’s command and drive the heathen nations out of the land (17:12). We read, “The children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land” (17:12).

Now the leaders of Ephraim and Manasseh came to Joshua and demanded more land for their people. They complained, “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?” (17:14)

Joshua’s response was noteworthy, for he challenged their cowardice. He declared the problem was not the need for more land. Instead, they had failed to drive the Canaanites out and claim the land the LORD had promised as their inheritance (17:15).

The “children of Joseph” (the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh) excused their failure. They complained that the Canaanites had “chariots of iron” (meaning chariots enforced with iron, 17:16). In response, Joshua challenged those tribes to finish taking the mountain. He urged them, “Thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong” (17:18).

Joshua 18

The Tabernacle Erected at Shiloh (Joshua 18:1)

The Tabernacle was erected at Shiloh, the place that would become the central place of worship and sacrifices in Israel, throughout the era of the Judges, following Joshua’s death (18:1-2).

Seven Tribes Had Failed to Claim Their Land (Joshua 18:2-7)

The narrative concerning the land division among the twelve tribes of Israel continued in Joshua 18. The Scriptures revealed that seven tribes of Israel had failed to demand and claim their inheritance (18:1-3).

Joshua rebuked those tribes and said, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land, which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you?” (18:3) The cause for their failure was not identified. Still, we can suppose their lack of zeal and passion for claiming their inheritance might be related to either cowardice or contentment with the nomad life they had followed for nearly a half-century.

Allocation and Distribution of Land by Lot (Joshua 18:8-10)

Joshua then devised a new plan for dividing the remaining territories among the seven tribes (18:4-28). First, he commanded each tribe to choose three men, twenty-one total, who would map out the land and divide it into seven portions (18:4-6). The men did as Joshua commanded, and when they returned, lots were cast to determine the portion of the lands that would be assigned to each tribe (18:8-10).

The Inheritance of the Tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:11-28)

You will notice that the balance of Joshua 18 verified the boundaries for the land assigned to the tribe of Benjamin. Recorded were the northern (18:12-13), western (18:14), southern (18:15-19), and eastern boundaries (18:20). The chapter concluded with the cities of Benjamin being named (18:21-28).

Closing thoughts:

A growing list of disappointments is seen as the tribes of Israel failed to trust God, obey His commands, and claim their inheritance. For example, the tribe of Judah failed to drive out the Jebusites, who continued to inhabit Jerusalem until the time of David (15:63). We also read that the tribe of Ephraim “drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer” (16:10). The same malady was stated of Manasseh, for the Scripture says, they “could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land” (17:12-13).

While Ephraim and Manasseh boasted they were a “great people” (17:14), they complained they had not been given enough land. So Joshua challenged them to go to war against the “Perizzites” and the “giants” in the land and claim the land for their children (17:15). Sadly, instead of trusting God’s promises and rising to the challenge, the “children of Joseph,” protested that the enemy was great (17:16-18).

We have seen that the tribes of Israel failed to trust God and claim their rightful inheritance. Yet, I wonder how many of God’s blessings we miss because we fail to trust Him, obey His Word, and claim His promises.

Questions to ponder:

1) In what did the tribe of Manasseh fail? (Joshua 17:12)

2) What was Ephraim and Manasseh’s complaint? (Joshua 17:16)

3) Where did Israel set up the Tabernacle to worship the LORD? (Joshua 18:1)

4) What had seven of the tribes failed to do? (Joshua 18:2-3)

5) What tribe did not receive land for their inheritance? (Joshua 18:7)

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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