Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
(2) Shechem.—It is noteworthy that according to the boundary of Ephraim and Manasseh, described in Joshua 16, the town of Shechem appears to have lain within the border of Manasseh (Conder, p. 263), but as “the separate cities” of Ephraim were among the inheritance of Manasseh (Joshua 16:9), this may have been the case with Shechem, the first metropolis of the Israelites in Palestine.
(3) Daughters.—On the case of the daughters of Zelophehad, see Numbers 27, 36
(5) Ten portions—i.e., five for the sons named in Joshua 17:2, excepting Hepher, and five for Hepher’s five grand-daughters.
(7) From Asher to Michmethah.—Literally, from Asher-ham-Michmethah, a double name; Michmethah being taken as the plain of Mukhnah. The exact spot is not identified; but the plain of Mukhnah runs nearly due south from Shechem.
The inhabitants of En-tappuah—i.e., Yeshebi-En-tappuah, or Yasûf (sheet 14), otherwise Yeshepheh. From this place a line drawn westward will bring us into the Wâdy Kanah, and so on to the river ‘Aujeh, which falls into the sea north of Jaffa.
(10) In Asher on the north—i.e. (according to Conder) Asher-ham-Michmethah (Joshua 17:7), not the tribe of that name.
And in Issachar on the east—i.e., the tribe of Issachar. The joint border of Issachar and Manasseh is not described. But, having regard to the following verse, it seems more probable on the whole that the meaning is this: “Toward the south (of the brook Kanah) it belonged to Ephraim, and on the north to Manasseh, and the sea was his (Manasseh’s) border; and they (i.e., the Manassites) touched Asher on the north, and Issachar on the east.” For (by Joshua 19:26) the territory of Asher extended southwards as far as Carmel; and the tribe of Manasseh had in Issachar and Asher the cities specified in Joshua 17:11.
Territorially, the tribe of Manasseh had the largest share of Palestine.
(11) Even three countries.—The word for “countries” does not occur elsewhere. If taken as in our version, which follows the Targum, we may observe that the places named in this verse do happen to lie on three distinct sheets of the map—viz., Beth-shean (Beisan), Megiddo (Khurbet-el-Mujedda), and Endor (Endûr) on sheet 9; Taanach (Tana) and Ibleam (Bileam, 1Chronicles 6:70), Wâdy Bel’ameh, on sheet 8, and Dor (Tantûra) on sheet 7. Or it may mean the triple height—viz., Endor, Taanach, and Megiddo—three cities on hills in one district, which make very nearly an equilateral triangle.
(12) Could not drive.—Note the defalcation of Manasseh.
(14, 15) Why hast thou given me but one lot . . . seeing I am a great people . . . If thou be a great people, then get thee up . . . and cut down for thyself . . . in the land of the . . . giants.—The request and the answer are both characteristic. The words of the proud Ephraimites and the deeds of the humble Joshua, the true hero of the tribe of Ephraim, should never be forgotten. Joshua’s own greatness was emphatically of that kind which is proved by deeds, and not by words. There are not many famous sayings recorded from his lips. The arrogance of the Ephraimites, on the other hand, may be abundantly illustrated from Old Testament history, by the stories of their behaviour to Gideon and Jephthah, and even to David in later times. They were constantly asserting their right to the supremacy in Israel, without exhibiting any qualification for it.
But the incident in this chapter is the key to several difficulties in the Book of Joshua. It is plain, from what is here stated, that a large portion of the centre of Palestine consisted of uncleared forest: that the cities and inhabitants of that district were far fewer than those of the valley of Esdraelon, or of the territory assigned to Judah on the south. And this fact justifies the strategy of the attack of Israel under Joshua upon the centre of the country, so that the forces of the Canaanites were necessarily divided, and the Israelites could strike first with their whole force at the southern armies, and then turn round upon their enemies in the north. It helps to explain the ease with which they set up the law on Ebal at the commencement of the invasion, and the selection of Shechem for the capital afterwards.
(15) Perizzites and . . . Rephaim (giants) are mentioned together in Genesis 15:20. It is thought that a trace of the name Perizzite may be found in the name Ferasîn (? Ferâta), west of Shechem (sheet 11).