Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And the lot of the children of Joseph fell from Jordan by Jericho, unto the water of Jericho on the east, to the wilderness that goeth up from Jericho throughout mount Bethel,XVI.
INHERITANCE OF JOSEPH—i.e., of Ephraim and Manasseh (Joshua 16:1 to Joshua 18:1, inclusive).
(1) The lot of the children of Joseph.—The order of precedence among the tribes of Israel was always Judah first and the sons of Joseph second. In the words of 1Chronicles 5:2, “Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s.” Accordingly in the division of the land of Canaan under Joshua, there are three successive stages: first, the settlement of the tribe of Judah in the strongholds of the south of Palestine; secondly, the establishment of Ephraim and Manasseh in the centre of the country, and in some strong positions towards the north; thirdly, the settlement of the remaining tribes, so as to fill up the gaps left between Judah and Joseph, and also upon the outskirts of their territory, so as to be, as it were, under the shadow of their wings.
In the inheritance of Ephraim and Manasseh we observe some features which distinguish this description from that of Judah’s inheritance in Joshua 15. The boundaries of the territory are given, but there is no catalogue of cities. There is also another peculiarity: the tribe of Ephraim is interlocked with the tribe of Manasseh, and the tribe of Manasseh again with Issachar and Asher, by the possession of cities in the territory of these other tribes.
(1-3) Comp. Joshua 18:12-14. The south border of Joseph was the north border of Benjamin. (See Conder’s Bible Handbook, p. 260, and Ordnance Map, sheets 14, 15, and 18)
Archi is ’Ain ’Arîk (sheet 14).
Ataroth is Ed-Dârieh (sheet 18).
Japhleti is not identified.
Beth-horon is Beit ’Ur.
Gezer is Tell Jezer.
And the separate cities for the children of Ephraim were among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.(9) The separate cities for the children of Ephraim were among the inheritance of the children of Manasseh; and Joshua 17:10-11 : “Manasseh had in Issachar and in Asher, Beth-shean,” &c. This fact would manifestly tend to produce a solidarity among the several tribes, and to prevent disunion by creating common interests. The interest of the stronger tribes would be served by completing the conquest of the territory assigned to the weaker. And the general formation thus produced would resemble that which was known by the name of the testudo, or tortoise, in Roman warfare. When a body of soldiers approached the wall of a town which it was intended to assault, they sometimes held their shields over them, overlapping like scales, each man’s shield partly sheltering his own, and partly his neighbour’s body, so that no missile could penetrate. Thus it may be said not only of Jerusalem, but of all the tribes in the land of their possession, that they were built as a city that is compact together, and at unity in itself: united by joints and bands, so that if one member of the body politic should suffer, all the members must suffer with it. For a further illustration of the same topic, see on the inheritance of Benjamin (Joshua 18:11) and of Simeon (Joshua 19:1).
And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute.(10) They drave not out.—The failure of Ephraim here is noticed, as was the failure of Judah above (Joshua 15:63).