Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Wednesday Bible Study: Hitting the snooze button

Joshua 17 continues with the division of the land. I'm afraid I just can't work up the energy to comment in detail on this, it all seems essentially pointless and boring. I'll just make some general observations. Remember that this is completely fictitious. None of this tale is based in historic reality, although one would suppose it does reflect something about the distribution of territory in the time of King Josiah. There may be politics involved, regarding how disputed or unclear boundaries, and aspirations that some clans may have had to acquire land, including from non-Israelites. There is no way to check on any of this because there is no other documentary evidence from this time. 

This does tell us that we are talking about a tribal society, and clans within the tribes. This type of organization persists among some semitic people, but the Jewish people were obviously homogenized in the diaspora. I should think, however, that the clans did not have such sharply defined territories in reality. The acknowledgment of the continued presence of other Canaanite people must reflect reality, even though it means God failed to keep his promises. The story of the daughters of Zelophehad refers back to Numbers 27 and 36. Although it is no doubt fictional the point is to establish a law of inheritance for a man who dies with daughters, but no sons, an obvious problem in a patriarchal society.

17 This was the allotment for the tribe of Manasseh as Joseph’s firstborn, that is, for Makir, Manasseh’s firstborn. Makir was the ancestor of the Gileadites, who had received Gilead and Bashan because the Makirites were great soldiers. So this allotment was for the rest of the people of Manasseh—the clans of Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher and Shemida. These are the other male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph by their clans.

Now Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons but only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They went to Eleazar the priest, Joshua son of Nun, and the leaders and said, “The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our relatives.” So Joshua gave them an inheritance along with the brothers of their father, according to the Lord’s command. Manasseh’s share consisted of ten tracts of land besides Gilead and Bashan east of the Jordan, because the daughters of the tribe of Manasseh received an inheritance among the sons. The land of Gilead belonged to the rest of the descendants of Manasseh.

The territory of Manasseh extended from Asher to Mikmethath east of Shechem. The boundary ran southward from there to include the people living at En Tappuah. (Manasseh had the land of Tappuah, but Tappuah itself, on the boundary of Manasseh, belonged to the Ephraimites.) Then the boundary continued south to the Kanah Ravine. There were towns belonging to Ephraim lying among the towns of Manasseh, but the boundary of Manasseh was the northern side of the ravine and ended at the Mediterranean Sea. 10 On the south the land belonged to Ephraim, on the north to Manasseh. The territory of Manasseh reached the Mediterranean Sea and bordered Asher on the north and Issachar on the east.

11 Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh also had Beth Shan, Ibleam and the people of Dor, Endor, Taanach and Megiddo, together with their surrounding settlements (the third in the list is Naphoth[a]).

12 Yet the Manassites were not able to occupy these towns, for the Canaanites were determined to live in that region. 13 However, when the Israelites grew stronger, they subjected the Canaanites to forced labor but did not drive them out completely.

14 The people of Joseph said to Joshua, “Why have you given us only one allotment and one portion for an inheritance? We are a numerous people, and the Lord has blessed us abundantly.”

15 “If you are so numerous,” Joshua answered, “and if the hill country of Ephraim is too small for you, go up into the forest and clear land for yourselves there in the land of the Perizzites and Rephaites.”

16 The people of Joseph replied, “The hill country is not enough for us, and all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots fitted with iron, both those in Beth Shan and its settlements and those in the Valley of Jezreel.”

17 But Joshua said to the tribes of Joseph—to Ephraim and Manasseh—“You are numerous and very powerful. You will have not only one allotment 18 but the forested hill country as well. Clear it, and its farthest limits will be yours; though the Canaanites have chariots fitted with iron and though they are strong, you can drive them out.”


  1. Joshua 17:11 That is, Naphoth Dor

1 comment:

Don Quixote said...

Well, it's a loaded and relevant time to be reviewing land claims in the levant. Makes me as sick to read about what the Israeli government is doing to Palestinians today as it does to read about what Republican legislators are doing to the rule of law and simple human ethics.