Joshua 17:16
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 Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.
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Joshua 17:16. The hill is not enough for us — That is, if we could get possession of the woody mountain, cut down all its trees, and destroy all its inhabitants, it would not be sufficient for us. But the Hebrew is, The hill will not be found; that is, obtained by us. Those fierce and strong people the Perizzites and the giants will easily defend themselves, and frustrate our attempts, having the advantage of the woods and mountains. The Canaanites that dwell, &c. — They seem to mean that there was another impediment in their way, that before they could come at the mountain to attack it, they would have to encounter those who lived in the valley below it, who were too strong for them. Or that, if Joshua should command them, in case the hill either could not be conquered, or would not be sufficient for them, to go down and take more land out of the pleasant and fruitful valleys, that they would meet with no less difficulty there than in the mountains. Have chariots of iron. — Not all made of iron, but armed with iron, and that not only for defence, but for offence also; having a kind of scythes, of two cubits long, fastened to long axle-trees on both wheels, which being driven swiftly through a body of men, made great slaughter, mowing them down like grass or corn.

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.The possession by the Canaanites of chariots strengthened and tipped with iron, such as were used by the Egyptians Exodus 14:7, is named here by the children of Joseph as a reason why they could not possess themselves of the plains. "The valley of Jezreel" is the broad low valley which sweeps from "Zerin" between the mountains of Gilboa and the range of little Hermon eastward down to the Jordan. It was most likely in this valley that the host of the Midianites was encamped, when attacked by Gideon Judges 7:1, Judges 7:8. The great plain of Jezreel, called the plain of Esdraelon (Esdrelom, Judith 1:8), extends from Carmel on the west to the hills of Gilboa, little Hermon, and Tabor on the east, a distance of full sixteen miles; and its breadth between the rocky mass of southern Palestine and the bolder mountains of Galilee on the north, is about twelve miles. Its position as well as its open area make it the natural battlefield of Palestine. 16. chariots of iron—unusually strengthened with that metal, and perhaps armed with projecting scythes. The hill is not enough for us; if we should invade and conquer it, and cut down both wood and men, yet it would not be sufficient for us. Heb. The hill will not be found, i.e. obtained, by us; those fierce and strong people the Perizzites and the giants will easily defend themselves, and frustrate our attempts, having the advantage of the woods and mountains.

The Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley, i.e. And if thou sayest, as we know thou wilt reply, that if the hill either cannot be conquered, or be not sufficient for us, we may go down and take more land out of the pleasant and fruitful valleys, we shall meet with no less difficulty there than in the mountains. Or thus, In going to the hills to which thou directest us, we must pass through valleys, where we shall be waylaid by powerful and armed enemies.

Chariots of iron; not all made of iron but armed with iron, not only for defence, but for offence also, having as it were scythes and swords fastened to them, to cut down all that stood in their way.

The valley of Jezreel; which was either in the tribe of Issachar, or upon the borders of it, Joshua 19:18.

And the children of Joseph said, the hill is not enough for us,.... Meaning either Mount Ephraim, and all included in it; or it may be rather the wood country on the hills and mountains they were bid to go up to; signifying, that if they could gain that out of the hands of the Perizzites and giants, and clear it of the wood, and make it habitable, even that would not be sufficient for them; or that hill and mountain cannot be "found by us" (r) or obtained and possessed by us; we are not able to get it into our hands; there being a valley between us and that:

and all the Canaanites that dwell in the land of the valley have chariots of iron; not chariots made of iron, but chariots with iron scythes fastened to the sides, or axle trees of them, which when driven with great force and fury, would cut down the infantry in battle, as grass is cut down with scythes, see Judges 4:2,

both they who are of Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel; both which belonged to the tribe of Manasseh, or were on the borders of it, though as yet they had not got possession, see Joshua 17:11; and this circumstance seems to favour the notion, that tribe of Manasseh were at least chiefly concerned in this address.

(r) "non invenietur nobis", Montanus; "non possumus montem istum assequi", Tigurine version; "non obtinebitur a nobis", Masius.

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 Bethshean and her towns, and they who are of the valley of Jezreel.
16. have chariots of iron] The iron chariots of the Canaanites were objects of terror to the Israelites, see above, ch. Joshua 11:6-9. They were the main reason why the Israelites could not establish themselves in the plain, on which Beth-shean, Taanach, and Megiddo were situated. The forest they could occupy, but the plain, where the “chariot-cavalry” of their foes were so effective though powerless in the mountains, they could not reduce. Comp. Jdg 1:19; Jdg 4:3; 1 Samuel 13:5. Compare as to the insecurity of the plains the remarks of Tristram: “No matter how wide, how rich, how well cultivated a plain may be, like Acre or Esdraelon, its tame monotony is never relieved by a single village. These are all hidden in the nooks of the mountains; for no fellâhin or cultivators would venture to dwell where any night they might be harried by a party of Bedouin troopers, and to this risk they gladly prefer an hour or two’s weary climb added to their daily toil: while no traveller would dream of encamping even for a night in the open plain.” Land of Israel, p. 421.

the valley] As the “hill” here denotes Mount Ephraim, so the valley country includes both (a) the valley or ghôr of the Jordan near Bethshean, and (b) the wide plain of Jezreel, between Gilboa and little Hermon, to which, in its widest extent, the name of Esdraelon has been applied in modern times; a name first used in Jdt 1:8. “It was only this plain of Jezreel, and that north of Lake Huleh, that was then accessible to the chariots of the Canaanites. It was in this plain of Jezreel that Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah went forth in chariots to meet the enemy (2 Kings 9:21). It was here that Jehu passed in a chariot to Samaria, to meet the faithful Jehonadab (2 Kings 10:15). And Wilson (Lands of the Bible, ii. 303), in leaving the hilly district of Judæa, wholly unfitted for vehicles, and entering the plain of Esdraelon at Jenin, was surprised to see how entirely it differed from the country which he had previously traversed, and how easily it might be crossed by excellent highways, if the custom of the country admitted of the use of vehicles. In the days of the Jews, the plain was so associated with the use of the chariot, that this term became to a certain extent an exponent of the power of the people inhabiting the plain. The chariot was the glory of Ephraim, as the horse was of Judah (Zechariah 9:9-10). Carl Ritter’s Geography of Palestine, ii. 327, 328.

Verse 16. - And the children of Joseph said. This reply justifies Joshua's sarcasm. The Ephraimites and Manassites blame Joshua when they ought to be blaming themselves. They excuse themselves from a task which they are too idle to execute, and wish Joshua to make arrangements for them which are wholly unnecessary. The hill is not enough for us. Literally, the hill is not found for us - that is, is not sufficient (see Numbers 11:9.2; Zechariah 10:10). Of the valley of Jezreel. Rather, in the valley of Jezreel. The word for valley in this verse is עֶמֶק (see note on Joshua 8:13). Jezreel abutted on the great plain of Esdraelon, a name which is but a corruption of Jezreel (see note on Joshua 19:18), where the chariots of iron could be used with effect, a thing impossible in the mountain districts. Hence the fact that the hill country of Palestine was more rapidly and permanently occupied than the plains (see Ewald, 'History,' 22 C., and Ritter's 'Geography of Palestine,' 2:328. Cf. Judges 1:19, and note on Joshua 11:6). Here, once more, we have a proof that we have real history before us, and not a collection of poetic myths. Joshua 17:16The children of Joseph replied that the mountain (allotted to them) would not be enough for them (מצא, as in Numbers 11:22; Zechariah 10:10); and that all the Canaanites who dwelt in the land of the plain had iron chariots, both those in Beth-shean and its daughter towns, and those in the valley of Jezreel. ארץ־העמק, the land of the plain or valley land, includes both the valley of the Jordan near Beisan, and also the plain of Jezreel, which opens into the Jordan valley in the neighbourhood of Beisan (Rob. iii. p. 173). The plain of Jezreel, so called after the town of that name, is called the "great field of Esdrelom" in Judith 1:4, and τὸ μέγα πεδίον by Josephus. It is the present Merj (i.e., pasture-land) Ibn Aamer, which runs in a south-westerly direction from the Mediterranean Sea above Carmel, and reaches almost to the Jordan. It is bounded on the south by the mountains of Carmel, the mountain-land of Ephraim and the range of hills connecting the two, on the north by the mountains of Galilee, on the west by the southern spurs of the Galilean highland, and on the east by the mountains of Gilboa and the Little Hermon (Jebel Duhy). Within these boundaries it is eight hours in length from east to west, and five hours broad; it is fertile throughout, though very desolate now (see v. Raumer, Pal. iii. pp. 39ff.). "Iron chariots" are not scythe chariots, for these were introduced by Cyrus, and were unknown to the Medes, Persians, and Arabians, i.e., to the early Asiatics before his time (Xen. Cyr. vi. 1, 27, 30), as well as to the ancient Egyptians (see Wilkinson, Manners and Customs, i. p. 350); they were simply chariots tipped with iron, just as the Egyptian war-chariots were made of wood and strengthened with metal nails and tips (Wilkinson, pp. 342, 348).
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