Joshua 17

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1 There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh; for he was the first-born of Joseph; to wit, 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 There was also a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh by 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 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 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, The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brethren: therefore according to the commandment of The LORD he gave them an inheritance among the brethren of their father.

5 And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side of Jordan;

6 Because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons: and the rest of Manasseh's sons had the land of Gilead.

7 And the border of Manasseh was from Asher to Michmethah, that lieth before Shechem; and the border went along on the right hand to the inhabitants of En-tappuah.

8 Now Manasseh had the land of Tappuah: but Tappuah on the border of Manasseh belonged to the children of Ephraim;

9 And the border descended to the river Kanah, southward of the river. These cities of Ephraim are among the cities of Manasseh: the border of Manasseh also was on the north side of the river, and the limits of it were at the sea:

10 Southward it was Ephraim's, and northward it was Manasseh's, and the sea is his border; and they met together in Asher on the north, and in 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 Tanach and its towns, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its towns, even three countries.

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

13 Yet it came to pass, when the children of Israel had become strong, that they subjected the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly expel them.

14 And the children of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath hitherto blessed me?

15 And Joshua answered them, If thou art a great people, then go up to the wood, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim is too narrow for thee.

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

17 And Joshua spoke to 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 mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the limits of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, 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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