Joshua 17:15
And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Joshua 17:15. If thou be a great people — Though Joshua was of their tribe he would not humour them, or abuse his authority to gratify their inclinations; but retorts their own argument: seeing thou art a great and numerous people, turn thy complaints into action, and enlarge thy borders by thy own hand, for which thou mayest confidently expect God’s assistance. The wood country — To the mountain, as it is called, (Joshua 17:17,) where among some towns there is much wood-land, which thou mayest without much difficulty possess, and so get the more room. And cut down — The wood, for thy own advantage, in building more cities and towns, and preparing the land for pasture and tillage. The Perizzites — Supposed to be a savage and brutish kind of people, that lived in woods and mountains. Giants — Who lived in caves and mountains, now especially when they were driven out of their cities. If mount Ephraim — Or, seeing mount Ephraim is too narrow for thee, as thou complainest; take to thyself the rest of that hilly and wood country. Mount Ephraim was a particular portion of the land, belonging to the tribe of Ephraim. And this seems to be here mentioned, for all the portion allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh, as appears from their complaint, which was not, that this part, but that their whole portion was too strait for 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.Joshua was himself of the tribe of Ephraim, but far from supporting the demands of his kinsmen he reproves them, and calls upon them to make good their great words by corresponding deeds of valor. He bids them clear the country of its woods and thus make room for settling their people. The "wood country" means probably the range which runs along the northern border of Manasseh, and which connects the mountains of Gilboa with Carmel. Mount Ephraim, (a name perhaps used by anticipation) called "the hill" Joshua 17:16, and "the mountain of Israel" Joshua 11:16, is the eastern portion of the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh extending toward the Jordan. This was a hilly, though by no means barren, district. 15. mount Ephraim—called so here by anticipation. The Gilboa range between Beth-shean and the plain of Jezreel is meant, anciently covered with an extensive forest. He retorts their own argument: Seeing thou art a great and numerous people, turn thy complaints into actions and valiant exploits, and enlarge thy borders by thy own hand, to which thou mayst confidently expect God’s assistance.

To the wood country; to the mountain, as it, is called, Joshua 17:18, where among some towns there is much wood land, which thou mayst without much difficulty possess, and so get the more room.

Cut down, i.e. the wood, Joshua 17:18, for thy own advantage and use; partly in building more cities and towns; and partly for preparing the land for the use of pasture and tillage.

The Perizzites; supposed to be a savage and brutish kind of people, that lived in woods and mountains.

Of the giants, who lived in caves and mountains, now especially when they were driven out of their cities.

If Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee, or, seeing Mount Ephraim is too narrow for thee, as thou complainest, take to thyself the rest of that hilly and wood country. Mount Ephraim was a particular and eminent portion of the land, belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, as appears from Joshua 19:50 20:7 21:21 Judges 4:5. And this seems to be here mentioned synecdochically, for all the portion allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh, as appears from their complaint, which was not that this part, but that their whole portion, was too strait for them.

And Joshua answered them,.... By retorting their own argument upon them:

if thou be a great people; which he does not deny, as they were for numbers and power:

then get thee up to the wood country; which was near them, and within their borders, and lay on hills and mountains, perhaps the mountains of Gilboa, and therefore are bid to go up:

and cut down for thyself there; cut down the trees of the wood, clear the ground of them, and so make it habitable, and by that means enlarge the places of their habitation:

in the land of the Perizzites, and of the giants; or Rephaim; the former of these were one of the seven nations of the Canaanites, who from their name seem to have dwelt not in the cities, and walled towns, but in villages, and scattered houses, in desert places, and among the woods, where also the giants had retired and dwelt after Joshua had driven them out of the cities; and by driving these out of their present habitations, they would gain more room to dwell in, and would find their lot sufficient for them:

if Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee; either meaning all Ephraim, and even the whole lot of the sons of Joseph, or rattler the mount particularly so called; for the words may be rendered, "for Mount Ephraim hastens for thee" (q); was clear or open for thee; ready to be delivered to thee, and thou mayest possess it at once.

(q) Vid Gusset. Ebr. Comment, p. 21.

And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, {i} if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.

(i) If this mount is not large enough, why do you not get more by destroying God's enemies, as he has commanded.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. And Joshua answered them] They expected of their fellow-tribesman a better guardianship of their interests.

If thou be a great people] There is a kind of delicate irony in Joshua’s reply. “Yes, it is true that thou art a numerous people, and hast great strength, and oughtest to have more than one share. But if thou wouldest have it, procure it for thyself! Rely on thine own power and resources!”

get thee up to the wood country] i.e. the forest of the “mountain of Ephraim.” This was a district, which extended as far south as Ramah and Bethel (1 Samuel 1:1; 1 Samuel 7:17; 2 Chronicles 13:19). It is an elevated district of limestone, consisting of rounded hills separated by valleys of denudation, but much less regular and monotonous than that part more to the south, about and below Jerusalem; with wide plains in the heart of the mountains, streams of running water, and continuous tracts of vegetation. That the “mount” was then covered with woods is clear from 1 Samuel 14:25; 2 Samuel 18:6, and even now travellers have found wooded heights, and forests of oak trees, between Carmel and the mountains of Samaria. To these mountain heights even the members of other tribes resorted for shelter and for power. “Ehud the Benjamite, when he armed his countrymen against Moab, ‘blew his trumpet in the mountain of Ephraim’ (Jdg 3:27-28); Deborah, though, as it would seem, herself of the northern tribes, ‘dwelt between Ramah and Bethel in Mount Ephraim’ (Jdg 4:5). Tola, of Issachar, judged Israel in Shamir, in Mount Ephraim (Jdg 10:1). Samuel, too, was of Ramathaim-zophim of Mount Ephraim.” Stanley, S. and P., p. 231. The name, “Mount Ephraim,” is applied here, in anticipation, to the mountain which afterward received it as a standing name, from the tribe of Ephraim, to which it was first assigned.

cut down for thyself] “Cut down for thyself there,” says the great Captain, “in the land of the Perizzites (see above, Joshua 3:10) and of the giants” or Rephaim (see above, ch. Joshua 12:4), “if Mount Ephraim is too narrow.”

Verse 15. - If thou be a great people. As though Joshua would say, "You are ready enough to boast, but unwilling to act. If your tribe be as large as you say it is, it is capable of taking care of itself. There is the vast forest of Central Palestine before you. Do not complain to me, but go and take possession of it." Get thee up into the wood country. The word "country" is not in the original, which is, strictly speaking, in the direction of the wood. Whether this be the "wood of Ephraim" mentioned in 2 Samuel 18:6 has been much disputed. For not only David is related to have crossed the Jordan, but Absalom also, in hot pursuit of his father (see 2 Samuel 17:22, 24). Neither army is mentioned as having recrossed the river; and it is a question whether it is more probable that there happened to be a "wood of Ephraim" on the other side of Jordan, or that Joab and Absalom, with their respective armies, recrossed Jordan without a word being said of the fact by the historian; the more especially as David (see 2 Samuel 19:15-17, 31) remained on the other side Jordan, while yet it was possible for the Ethiopian attendant, as well as Jonathan, to run to him with tidings of the defeat and death of Absalom. For the wood country in this neighbourhood cf. Psalm 132:6. Ewald would regard the language here as figurative, and the wood as referring to the powerful Phoenician tribes in the neighbourhood. He regards this answer as a sign of Joshua's "wit." But the interpretation seems far fetched and improbable. Cut down. Or, make a clearing, just as emigrants do now in the primeval forest. This wood, or forest, has now disappeared, though sufficient wood still remains to testify to the correctness of, the history. Perizzites and of the giants. The Rephaim (see notes on Joshua 3:10; 12:4). If Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee. This fastness in the heart of the land, the refuge of Ehud, the dwelling place of Deborah, the early home of Samuel, was well adapted to purposes of secrecy and defence, but not so well suited for a place of habitation. Joshua 17:15Joshua therefore sent them back with their petition, and said, "If thou art a strong people, go up into the wood and cut it away," i.e., make room for houses, fields, and meadows, by clearing the forests, "in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaim, if the mountain of Ephraim is too narrow for thee." The name "mountain of Ephraim" is used here in a certain sense proleptically, to signify the mountain which received its name from the tribe of Ephraim, to which it had only just been allotted. This mountain, which is also called the mountain of Israel (Joshua 11:16, Joshua 11:21), was a limestone range running from Kirjath-jearim, where the mountains of Judah terminate (see at Joshua 11:21), to the plain of Jezreel, and therefore embracing the greater part of the tribe-territory of Benjamin. The wood, which is distinguished from the mountain of Ephraim, and is also described in Joshua 17:18 as a mountainous land, is either the mountainous region extending to the north of Yasir as far as the mountains at Gilboa, and lying to the west of Beisan, a region which has not yet been thoroughly explored, or else, as Knobel supposes, "the broad range of woody heights or low woody hills, by which the mountains of Samaria are connected with Carmel on the north-west (Rob. iii. p. 189), between Taanath and Megiddo on the east, and Caesarea and Dor on the west." Possibly both may be intended, as the children of Joseph were afraid of the Canaanites in Beisan and in the plain of Jezreel (Joshua 17:16). The Rephaim were dwelling there, a tribe of gigantic stature (see at Genesis 14:5), also the Perizzites (see at Genesis 13:7).
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