Joshua 17

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1 And [this] was the lot for the tribe of Manasseh; for he was the first-born of Joseph. As for Machir the first-born of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, because he was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan.

2 So [the lot] was for the rest of the children of Manasseh according to 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 according to their families.

3 But Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but daughters: and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

4 And they came near before Eleazar the priest, and before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the princes, saying, Jehovah commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brethren: therefore according to the commandment of Jehovah he gave them an inheritance among the brethren of their father.

5 And there fell ten parts to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is beyond the Jordan;

6 because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons. And the land of Gilead belonged unto the rest of the sons of Manasseh.

7 And the border of Manasseh was from Asher to Michmethath, which is before Shechem; and the border went along to the right hand, unto the inhabitants of En-tappuah.

8 The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh; but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the children of Ephraim.

9 And the border went down unto 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 the goings out thereof were at the sea:

10 southward it was Ephraim's, and northward it was Manasseh's, and the sea was his border; and they reached to Asher on the north, and to Issachar on the east.

11 And Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher 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, even the three heights.

12 Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out [the inhabitants of] those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.

13 And it came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxed strong, that they put the Canaanites to taskwork, and did not utterly drive them out.

14 And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one part for an inheritance, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as hitherto Jehovah hath blessed me?

15 And Joshua said unto them, If thou be a great people, get thee up to the forest, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the Rephaim; since the hill-country of Ephraim is too narrow for thee.

16 And the children of Joseph said, The hill-country 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 in Beth-shean and its towns, and they who are in the valley of Jezreel.

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:

18 but the hill-country shall be thine; for though it is a forest, thou shalt cut it down, and the goings out thereof shall be thine; for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.


Exploring the Meaning of Joshua 17      

Napsal(a) Rev. Julian Duckworth

Joshua 17: The tribe of Manasseh receives the western half of its territory.

The previous chapter (Joshua 16) dealt with the territory given to Ephraim, Manasseh’s younger brother; this one covers the western half of Manasseh (the other half tribe of Manasseh was bound to live across the Jordan).

Interestingly, this chapter mentions many people by name, instead of only describing locations as we’ve seen before. Verses 1 and 2 list all seven of Manasseh’s sons and their families. Then verse 3 mentions Zelophehad, the great-grandson of Manasseh, who had had five daughters, but no sons. When Zelophehad died on the journey through the wilderness, his daughters came to Joshua to claim the inheritance Moses had promised them (see Numbers 27). So, both the sons and daughters of Manasseh’s family received land.

After the area given to Manasseh was outlined, the people of Ephraim and Manasseh came to Joshua and complained that they deserved more land, because of their important standing among the tribes of Israel (verse 14). They claimed that they had been specially blessed, and should receive much more.

Joshua told them that if they were such a great people, they should go to the forest country and seize land from the Perrizites and the giants living there. The people were not pleased, and told Joshua that the Canaanites who still roamed there were strong, and had chariots of iron. Even so, Joshua told them again to cut down the wood and use it, because they would eventually be able to drive out the Canaanites.

The spiritual meaning of this story is all about the relationship between good and truth. Again, there are many names to indicate the geography of the area of “West Manasseh”, and the meaning of these names very often links in with the spiritual meaning of the tribe. Beyond that, the specific area in Canaan given to a tribe is spiritually important. Ephraim and Manasseh are right in the middle of the land because they stand for truth and good, for truth leading to good, for good coming from truth.

The story about Zelophehad’s five daughters also relates to the place of truth and good. This is because sons stand for truths, often for truths which fight for us during our temptations, while daughters stand for the good in our spiritual life which bears ‘children’ (see Swedenborg’s work, Arcana Caelestia 8993 [3,4]).

Verses 5 and 6 describe this union of good and truth very beautifully: “Ten portions were given to Manasseh because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons; and the rest of Manasseh’s sons had the land of Gilead.” It is worth noting here that the spiritual meaning of the number ‘ten’ has to do with wholeness, and also ‘remains,’ or memories, which the Lord imparts to us when we are very young (Arcana Caelestia 4638).

When the people of Ephraim and Manasseh complained to Joshua, it is much like us wanting our spiritual life to be easy. We want it to be something given to us, and not something which we will need to work on and even fight for in ourselves.

Finally, the meaning of using wooden chariots to fight the Canaanites means to fight from our love of what is good. This is because wood corresponds to good, since it is alive and has grown. ‘Iron’ here stands for the harshness of truth without any good, which appears invincible, but in reality is weaker than the power of goodness and love (Arcana Caelestia 426[3]).

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