There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh; for he was the firstborn of Joseph; to wit, for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh…
No, as they were then, and as just then they were going on, they "could not" drive out the Canaanites — that was true enough.
1. Their mood was wrong. They preferred ease to energy. Josephus tells us: "After this the Israelites grew effeminate as to fighting any more against their enemies, but applied themselves to the cultivation of the land, which producing them great plenty and riches, they neglected the regular disposition of their settlement, and indulged themselves in luxury and pleasures. The Benjamites, to whom belonged Jerusalem, permitted its inhabitants to pay tribute; the rest of the tribes, imitating Benjamin, did the same; and, contenting themselves with the tributes which were paid them, permitted the Canaanites to live in peace." In such a mood of course they "could not."
2. Lapped thus in luxury, and thinking more of their own pleasant ease than of their nobler duty, these Israelites had lost practical and prevailing faith in God. And so, of course, letting the weapon of their faith rust in a bad non-use they "could not" drive these Canaanites from their strongholds.
3. Lying thus in this enervating ease, and losing thus their practical faith in God, the dangers and difficulties in the way of the extirpating these Canaanites were, to their thought, correspondingly increased. The strongholds, to their fearful ease-loving feeling, grew very strong; the fortresses perched upon the rocky hill-tops seemed very unassailable; the chariots of iron — which, drawn by maddened horses and horrible with long, sharp knives, would come dashing upon their ranks — grew awfully terrible. And thus again, of course, "they could not."
4. But think now of these Israelites marshalled and armed for their duty; as ready to obey their God's command; as determined to put Jehovah to the proof, and to go forth relying on His promise. How plain it is that the "could not" would have belonged to the Canaanites, and the "would" would have been the word for these Israelites. Then we had had Scripture of another sort, viz., And the children of Manasseh "would" drive out the inhabitants of those cities, and the Canaanites "could not" dwell in that land.
(W. Hoyt, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: There was also a lot for the tribe of Manasseh; for he was the firstborn of Joseph; to wit, for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead: because he was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan.
WEB: This was the lot for the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. As for Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, because he was a man of war, therefore he had Gilead and Bashan.