Joshua 17:14
And the children of Joseph spake unto 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 blessed me hitherto?
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Joshua 17:14. Children of Joseph — That is, of Ephraim and Manasseh. Spake unto Joshua — That is, expostulated with him, when they went and saw that portion which was allotted them, and found it much short of their expectation. One portion — Either, 1st, Because they had but one lot, which was afterward divided by the arbitrators between them; or, 2d, Because the land severally allotted to them was but little enough for one of them.

17:14-18 Joshua, as a public person, had no more regard to his own tribe than to any other, but would govern without favour or affection; wherein he has left a good example to all in public trusts. Joshua tells them, that what was fallen to their share would be a sufficient lot for them, if they would but work and fight. Men excuse themselves from labour by any pretence; and nothing serves the purpose better than having rich and powerful relations, able to provide for them; and they are apt to desire a partial and unfaithful disposal of what is intrusted to those they think able to give such help. But there is more real kindness in pointing out the advantages within reach, and in encouraging men to make the best of them, than in granting indulgences to sloth and extravagance. True religion gives no countenance to these evils. The rule is, They shall not eat who will not work; and many of our cannots are only the language of idleness, which magnifies every difficulty and danger. This is especially the case in our spiritual work and warfare. Without Christ we can do nothing, but we are apt to sit still and attempt nothing. if we belong to Him, he will stir us up to our best endeavours, and to cry to him for help. Then our coast will be enlarged, 1Ch 4:9,10, and complainings silenced, or rather, turned into joyful thanksgivings.Seeing I am a great people - The assertion can hardly have been warranted by facts, for at the census Numbers 26 the two tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim together were not greatly more numerous than the single tribe of Judah; and now that half the Manassites were provided for on the eastern side of Jordan, the remaining children of Joseph could hardly be stronger than the Danites or the Issacharites. The children of Joseph seem therefore to exhibit here that arrogant and jealous spirit which elsewhere characterises their conduct (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1; 2 Samuel 19:41; 2 Chronicles 28:7 etc.). A glance at the map shows that their complaint was in itself unreasonable. Their territory, which measured about 55 miles by 70 miles, was at least as large in proportion to their numbers as that of any other tribe, and moreover comprehended some of the most fertile of the whole promised land. Jos 17:14-18. The Children of Joseph Ask for Another Lot.

14-18. the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua—The two tribes join in laying a complaint before the leader, as to the narrow boundaries of their allotment and its insufficiency to be the residence of tribes so vastly increased. But Joshua's answer was full of wisdom as well as patriotism. Knowing their character, he treated them accordingly, and sarcastically turned all their arguments against themselves. Thus he rebuked their unbelief and cowardice.

The children of Joseph, i.e. of Ephraim and Manasseh, as is manifest, partly from Joshua 17:17, where it is so explained; and partly because they mention it as an unreasonable thing, that they, being two, should have out one lot.

Spake unto Joshua, i.e. expostulated with him, when they went and saw that portion which was allotted to them, and found it much short of their expectation.

One lot, and one portion; either,

1. Because they really had but one lot, which was afterwards divided by the arbitrators between them. Or,

2. Because the land severally allotted to them was no more than was little enough for one of them.

A great people, or numerous; for so the Hebrew word oft signifies.

And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua,.... Which some understand of the children of Manasseh only; and, indeed, the complaint and arguments used, as well as some circumstances in the account, best agree with them; yet certain it is, that the children of Ephraim accompanied the children of Manasseh, and were present at this interview, as appears from Joshua 17:17; and if they did not join with them in the request and complaint expressly, they countenanced and encouraged the same by their presence:

saying, why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit: this seems to suit better with one than both; for there was a lot for the tribe of Manasseh also, as well as for Ephraim, Joshua 17:1; by which it should seem that there were two, and if both made this expostulation, it was not fact; but it may be, that the inheritance which came to them by lot was not as yet divided, and so they called it one lot and one portion, and then it might with propriety be said by them both; and their sense be, that the lot or portion assigned them was only sufficient for one of them, and not for both:

seeing I am a great people; as especially both tribes put together were:

forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto? this best agrees with the tribe of Manasseh, which, since their coming out of Egypt, was increased twenty thousand five hundred, whereas the tribe of Ephraim was decreased; compare Numbers 1:33 with Numbers 26:34. Now it might have been expected by them, that as Joshua was of the tribe of Ephraim, that he would have favoured their cause on that account, and that they should have obtained the grant of an addition by that means; but Joshua was impartial in his administration, and showed no favour and affection on that score, as appears by what follows.

And the children of Joseph spake unto 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 {h} blessed me hitherto?

(h) According to my father Jacob's prophecy, Ge 48:19.

14–18. Complaint of the Children of Joseph

14. And the children of Joseph] The descendants of Joseph, i.e. the patriarchs of the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh, were not satisfied with the portion which Joshua had assigned them. The preponderating tribe from the earliest times, and since the Egyptian period the dominant one, they did not deem it sufficient that they had been divided into two, and so obtained a double voice in the national assembly, they claimed more than “one lot and one portion to inherit.”

seeing I am a great people] At the census in the wilderness of Sinai (Numbers 1:32-33; Numbers 2:19) the numbers of Ephraim were 40,500, which placed it at the head of the children of Rachel. The number of Manasseh was 32,200. But forty years later, on the eve of the conquest, while Ephraim had decreased to 32,500, Manasseh had advanced to 52,700. How much they subsequently increased, we can form some estimate by comparing the number of warriors they sent to the coronation of David at Hebron.

forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto] Comp. the words of the dying Jacob, “And he blessed them that day, saying, In thee shall Israel bless, saying, God make thee as Ephraim and as Manasseh; and he set Ephraim before Manasseh” (Genesis 48:20); and again (Genesis 49:25-26; with which comp. Deuteronomy 33:13-17),

“The Almighty, who shall bless thee

With blessings of heaven above,

Blessings of the deep that lieth under,

Blessings of the breasts, and of the womb;

The blessings of thy father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors

Unto the utmost bound of the everlasting hills:

They shall be on the head of Joseph,

And on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren.”

Verse 14. - And the children of Joseph. The attitude of the children of Joseph throughout the history of the twelve tribes is in precise accordance with the hint given here. They were proud of their numerical preponderance over the remaining tribes. Thus they, and they only, ventured to remonstrate with Joshua about the inadequacy of the portion allotted to them. Such a sensitiveness was likely to degenerate into insolence when the authority of the great leader was removed. And the history of Gideon (Judges 8:1-3) and of Jephthah (Judges 12:6) shows that this was actually the case. Here, again, we have a sign of that deep undercurrent of consistency which underlies our history, and is a guarantee of its authenticity. Seeing I am a great people. The tribe of Joseph, at the census described in Numbers 1, outnumbered every tribe but that of Judah. At the census in the plains of Moab (Numbers 26.) the tribe of Joseph outnumbered them all, though the relative proportions of Ephraim and Manasseh were altered, the latter being now considerably the larger of the two tribes. The whole number of the fighting men of Israel underwent a slight diminution during the passage through the wilderness. But the demand of the tribe of Joseph seems to have been a little unbecoming, since Joseph had obtained two lots and two portions, since half the tribe of Manasseh had settled on the east of Jordan. Hence no doubt the covert sarcasm of Joshua's reply, for, as Delitzsch shows, Judah, and even Dan, considerably outnumbered Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh. Part, however, of their complaint was no doubt caused by the idea that Joshua, as one of themselves, ought to have taken more care of the interests of his own tribe. Joshua, however, as a true servant of God ought to be, was above such petty considerations, though many who live under a higher dispensation find it impossible to emancipate themselves from such bondage. Forasmuch as the Lord hath blessed me hitherto. Or, hath blessed me to this extent (but see Exodus 7:16). There is doubtless here an allusion to Jacob's blessing (Genesis 48:20; Genesis 44:22-26), the fulfilment of which would naturally make a deep impression on the minds of the children of Joseph. Blessing was the word reiterated over and over again by the dying patriarch as he gazed upon the children of his best-beloved son. Here, again, we have one of those delicate touches, impossible to a writer of fiction, which show that we have here an authentic record of facts. No doubt the consciousness of the enthusiastic language of Jacob, reiterated upon an almost equally solemn occasion by Moses (Deuteronomy 33:13-17), coupled with the obvious fulfilment of these predictions, led the tribe of Joseph to demand as a right the leadership in Israel, and no doubt predisposed the other tribes to concede it. The rivalry of Judah, to which reference has already been made, and which culminated in the sovereignty of David, was calculated to produce a beach which it required the utmost tact to heal. Pity it was that the Ephraimites and Manassites forgot the fact that the blessing was conditional, and neglected to lay to heart the terrible warnings in Deuteronomy 28. But it is too often so with men. They expect the fulfilment of prophecies which predict their aggrandisement, and too often strive themselves to hasten the hand of God, while the warnings of God's Word, since they are less pleasant to the natural man, are permitted to pass by unheeded (see vers. 12, 13, which was the first step on the downward road). Joshua 17:14Complaint of the Descendants of Joseph respecting the inheritance allotted to them. - Joshua 17:14. As the descendants of Joseph formed two tribes (Ephraim and Manasseh), they gave utterance to their dissatisfaction that Joshua had given them ("me," the house of Joseph, Joshua 17:17) but one lot, but one portion (חבל, a measure, then the land measured off), for an inheritance, although they were a strong and numerous people. "So far hath Jehovah blessed me hitherto." עד־אשׁד, to this (sc., numerous people), is to be understood de gradu; עד־כּה, hitherto, de tempore. There was no real ground for this complaint. As Ephraim numbered only 32,500 and Manasseh 52,700 at the second census in the time of Moses (Numbers 26), and therefore Ephraim and half Manasseh together did not amount to more than 58,000 or 59,000, this tribe and a half were not so strong as Judah with its 76,500, and were even weaker than Dan with its 64,400, or Issachar with its 64,300 men, and therefore could not justly lay claim to more than the territory of a single tribe. Moreover, the land allotted to them was in one of the most fertile parts of Palestine. For although as a whole the mountains of Ephraim have much the same character as those of Judah, yet the separate mountains are neither so rugged nor so lofty, there being only a few of them that reach the height of 2500 feet above the level of the sea (see Ritter, Erdk. xv. pp. 475ff.; V. de Velde, Mem. pp. 177ff.); moreover, they are intersected by many broad valleys and fertile plateaux, which are covered with fruitful fields and splendid plantations of olives,vines, and fig trees (see Rob. iii. p. 78, Bibl. Res. pp. 290ff.; Seetzen, ii. pp. 165ff., 190ff.). On the west the mountains slope off into the hill country, which joins the plain of Sharon, with its invariable fertility. "The soil here is a black clay soil of unfathomable depth, which is nearly all ploughed, and is of such unusual fertility that a cultivated plain here might furnish an almost unparalleled granary for the whole land. Interminable fields full of wheat and barley with their waving ears, which were very nearly ripe, with here and there a field of millet, that was already being diligently reaped by the peasants, presented a glorious sight" (Ritter, Erdk. xvi. pp. 567-8).
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