Joshua 16:1-4 (NIV) 1 The allotment for Joseph began at the Jordan of Jericho, east of the waters of Jericho, and went up from there through the desert into the hill country of Bethel. 2 It went on from Bethel (that is, Luz), crossed over to the territory of the Arkites in Ataroth, 3 descended westward to the territory of the Japhletites as far as the region of Lower Beth Horon and on to Gezer, ending at the sea. 4 So Manasseh and Ephraim, the descendants of Joseph, received their inheritance.
On verses 1-4: Verses 1-4 describe the territory allotted to the tribe of Joseph, which was located in the centre of Canaan. According to scholars, the land allotted to Joseph was arguably the most fertile and the most beautiful part of the promised land. In the verses that follow (verses 4-10 as well as all of Joshua 17) we read of how this land was divided between Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph’s two sons whose descendants are treated as two separate tribes of Israel named after Manasseh and Ephraim.
Why are Joseph’s sons Manasseh and Ephraim treated as two separates tribes instead of treating Joseph as just one tribe of Israel? It’s because in Genesis 48:5, Joseph’s father Jacob (later known as Israel) proclaims an unprecedent blessing over Joseph and his two sons Manasseh and Ephraim. In Genesis, Joseph had used his power as a powerful government official in Egypt to save his family during a time of famine. Were it not for Joseph, Israel’s entire family line could have been completely wiped out by famine. To acknowledge what Joseph did to save their family, Israel proclaims that Joseph’s two sons Manasseh and Ephraim would have the same status in the family as their uncles. That is why in Genesis 48:5, Jacob (Israel) says:
“Now then, your two sons born to you in Egypt before I came to you here will be reckoned as mine; Ephraim and Manasseh will be mine, just as Reuben and Simeon are mine.”
In other words, Manasseh and Ephraim, who were grandsons of Israel, would be treated for inheritance purposes as sons of Israel just like Israel’s other sons. This meant that instead of Joseph being one tribe of Israel, Manasseh and Ephraim would each be considered a tribe in Israel and would constitute two tribes in Israel. Joseph’s descendants effectively received a doubled portion compared to every other tribe of Israel.
What can we learn from this? When we are faithful with the calling on our lives as Joseph was, it results in tremendous blessing for those who come after you. In Joseph’s case, it meant that his descendants would receive a double portion of the most beautiful land the promised land had to offer.
Joshua 16:5-10 (NIV) 5 This was the territory of Ephraim, clan by clan: The boundary of their inheritance went from Ataroth Addar in the east to Upper Beth Horon 6 and continued to the sea. From Micmethath on the north it curved eastward to Taanath Shiloh, passing by it to Janoah on the east. 7 Then it went down from Janoah to Ataroth and Naarah, touched Jericho and came out at the Jordan. 8 From Tappuah the border went west to the Kanah Ravine and ended at the sea. This was the inheritance of the tribe of the Ephraimites, clan by clan. 9 It also included all the towns and their villages that were set aside for the Ephraimites within the inheritance of the Manassites. 10 They did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor.
On verse 5-10: These verses describe the land given to the tribe of Ephraim. The tribe of Ephraim was supposed to drive out the people living in their allotted land (v10; see also Deuteronomy 20:16-18). However, the tribe of Ephraim did not drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer (v10; also Judges 1:29). This would turn out to be a fatal mistake, just as Deuteronomy 20:18 predicted.
What can we learn from this? When we don’t fully obey God’s Word, we end up suffering as a result. We may think we have our reasons and our excuses, but in the end we are always better off obeying God’s Word than disobeying it.
Heavenly Father, thank You that if I am faithful with what You call me to do in this lifetime, generations after me will tremendously blessed. Please help me to be faithful to You till the end. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!