Joshua 17

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1 And this was the part marked out for the tribe of Manasseh, because he was the oldest son of Joseph. As for Machir, the oldest son of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, because he was a man of war he had Gilead and Bashan.

2 And as for the rest of the children of Manasseh, their heritage was given to them by 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, by 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 only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.

4 And they came before Eleazar the priest, and Joshua, the son of Nun, and before the chiefs, saying, The Lord gave orders to Moses to give us a heritage among our brothers: so in agreement with the orders of The Lord he gave them a heritage among their father's brothers.

5 And ten parts were given to Manasseh, in addition to the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is on the other side of Jordan;

6 Because the daughters of Manasseh had a heritage among his sons, and the land of Gilead was the property of the other sons of Manasseh.

7 And the limit of Manasseh's land was from Asher to Michmethath, which is before Shechem; the line goes on to the right hand, to the people of En-tappuah.

8 The land of Tappuah was the property of Manasseh; but Tappuah on the edge of Manasseh was the property of the children of Ephraim.

9 And the limit goes down to the stream Kanah, to the south of the stream: these towns were Ephraim's among the towns of Manasseh; Manasseh's limit was on the north side of the stream, ending at the sea:

10 To the south it is Ephraim's, and to the north it is Manasseh's, and the sea is his limit; and they are touching Asher on the north, and Issachar on the east.

11 In Issachar and Asher, Manasseh had Beth-shean and its daughter-towns, and Ibleam and its daughter-towns, and the people of Dor and its daughter-towns, and the people of En-dor and its daughter-towns, and the people of Taanach and its daughter-towns, and the people of Megiddo and its daughter-towns, that is, the three hills.

12 But the children of Manasseh were not able to make the people of those towns go out; but the Canaanites would go on living in that land.

13 And when the children of Israel had become strong, they put the Canaanites to forced work, in place of driving them out.

14 Then the children of Joseph said to Joshua, Why have you given me only one part and one stretch of land for my heritage? For through the blessing given to me by the Lord up to now, I am a great people.

15 Then Joshua said to them, If you are such a great people, go up into the woodlands, clearing a place there for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, if the hill-country of Ephraim is not wide enough for you.

16 And the children of Joseph said, The hill-country is not enough for us: and all the Canaanites living in the valley have iron war-carriages, those in Beth-shean and its towns as well as those in the valley of Jezreel.

17 Then Joshua said to the children of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, You are a great people, and have great power: you are not to have one property only,

18 For the hill-country of Gilead will be yours ... the woodland and cut down ... its outskirts will be yours ... get the Canaanites out, for they have iron war-carriages ... 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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