Verses 1 through 13 tell us about Manasseh’s possession of land. Let’s read about something a little unusual that the author feels he needs to explain in verses 1 through 6.
[Joshua 17:1 ¶ 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. 2 There was also a lot for the rest of the children of Manasseh by their families; for the children of Abiezer, and for the children of Helek, and for the children of Asriel, and for the children of Shechem, and for the children of Hepher, and for the children of Shemida: these were the male children of Manasseh the son of Joseph by their families. 3 ¶ But Zelophehad, the son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Machir, the son of Manasseh, had no sons, but daughters: and these are the names of his daughters, Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 4 And they came near before Eleazar the priest, and before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the princes, saying, The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brethren. Therefore according to the commandment of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among the brethren of their father. 5 And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, beside the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side Jordan; 6 Because the daughters of Manasseh had an inheritance among his sons: and the rest of Manasseh’s sons had the land of Gilead.]
What’s the point of this story? Simply to explain why it is that though there were 6 male heirs of the ½ tribe of Manasseh to the west of the Jordan, yet he has 10 portions in the land. What we saw happening is that one of those male heirs, Hepher, had a son who had 5 daughters. So it seems that those 5 daughters took the place of their grandfather’s inheritance.
Then verses 7 to 11 deal with the details of the land this ½ tribe of Manasseh received. And what would you expect in the last verse? Yep, Canaanites. Let’s read verse 12.
[Joshua 17:12 Yet the children of Manasseh could not drive out the inhabitants of those cities; but the Canaanites would dwell in that land.]
So far, every single tribe we’ve heard about has not been able to drive out the Canaanites. And Manasseh is no exception. The chapter ends on a pretty pathetic note. It involves both Ephraim and the western ½ tribe of Manasseh approaching Joshua with a request. Let’s read verses 14 through 18.
[Joshua 17:14 ¶ And the children of Joseph spake unto Joshua, saying, Why hast thou given me but one lot and one portion to inherit, seeing I am a great people, forasmuch as the LORD hath blessed me hitherto?
15 And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants, if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.
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.
17 And Joshua spake unto the house of Joseph, even to Ephraim and to Manasseh, saying, Thou art a great people, and hast great power: thou shalt not have one lot only: 18 But the mountain shall be thine; for it is a wood, and thou shalt cut it down: and the outgoings of it shall be thine: for thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, though they have iron chariots, and though they be strong.]
You may have missed the significance of these verses as you’ve read them previously. Do you see what’s going on here? The tribe of Joseph comes and asks Joshua for more land. But Joshua refuses. Why? I thought we were being liberal with the land and giving out as much as we want. Remember the story about Caleb’s daughter Achsah? She got as much land as she wanted! Ah, but remember her father’s attitude toward doing God’s will and driving out the Canaanites? He was ready to take the hill country with God’s help. In contrast, Joseph comes and asks for more land. Joshua says, what about that hill country? Joseph faithlessly points to the presence of Canaanites in the hill country. They have chariots! But do we remember what Israel did to the northern coalition of Canaanites who had soldiers like the sand on the seashore and who had many chariots? Israel destroyed them with God’s help. What we see here is another instance where we should be concerned. We’re seeing a real reticence on the part of Israel to drive out the Canaanites. They want land, sort of… Well, some of them do anyway. But they’re not willing to drive out the Canaanites to get it. Caleb was willing. Joseph was not. This is concerning.