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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 16

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Children of Joseph That is, Ephraim and the western half of Manasseh. Their lots were first drawn together that these brothers might be contiguous, but there was a subsequent division of their joint territory.

The lot… fell Hebrew, went forth; that is, from the urn in which the lots were cast. See note on Joshua 13:6. “It is remarkable that of the whole inheritance assigned to the children of Joseph only the southern boundary is given. But this may be explained partly on the ground that this double tribe had no definite boundary on the north, but merely had a number of cities allotted to them within the line which formed the boundary of Asher and Issachar, (Joshua 17:10-11,) and partly from the fact that the Josephites did not expel the Canaanites from the northern part of the territory assigned them, but only gradually brought them into subjection and dwelt among them. Hence the limits of their land in this direction were not always the same; and at one time, when they expressed some discontent at the portion allotted to them, Joshua told them that they might enlarge their possessions if they could drive out the Canaanites. Joshua 17:12-18.” Keil.

From Jordan by Jericho Literally, Jordan of Jericho; that is, a part of the Jordan directly opposite Jericho, and which might therefore be regarded as belonging especially to Jericho.

The water of Jericho This has been commonly understood of the fountain Es Sultan, a mile northwest of Riha, and probably the scene of Elisha’s miracle. 2 Kings 2:19-22. As the border ran on the north side of Jericho, (Joshua 18:12,) and on the east of the wilderness, (for so the Hebrew should here be rendered,) it seems to have turned northward from the water of Jericho, and went up so far as to include in Benjamin’s territory Zemaraim, the modern Es Sumra, about five miles north of Jericho. Accordingly we understand this border between Ephraim and Benjamin to have commenced at a point of the Jordan directly opposite Jericho, perhaps at the mouth of Wady Nawaimeh, and, running westward, fetched a curve near Jericho and its great fountain, thence, passing northward along the eastern side of the wilderness that stretches east of Beth-el, it went up to Es Sumrah, and then passed westward to Ophni, the modern Jifna, which was also assigned to Benjamin. Joshua 18:24.]

The wilderness The wild region of country that lies on the east of Beth-el, and is called in Joshua 18:12, the wilderness of Beth-aven.

Mount Beth-el The mountain range on which Beth-el was situated.

Verses 1-4


[Chapters 16 and 17 belong together, and describe the allotment made to the house of Joseph, composed of the two powerful tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. “We are so familiar,” says Stanley, “with the supremacy of the tribe of Judah, that we are apt to forget that it was of comparatively recent date. For more than four hundred years a period equal in length to that which elapsed between the Norman Conquest and the Wars of the Roses Ephraim, with its two dependent tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin, exercised undisputed pre-eminence. Joshua, the first conqueror; Gideon, the greatest of the judges, whose brothers were ‘as the children of kings,’ and whose children all but established hereditary monarchy in their own line; Saul, the first king, belonged to one or the other of these three tribes.

“It was not till the close of the first period of Jewish history that God ‘ refused the tabernacle of Joseph, and chose not the tribe of Ephraim: but chose the tribe of Judah, even the Mount Zion which he loved.’ Psalms 78:67. That haughty spirit which could brook no equal or superior, which chafed against the rise even of the kindred tribe of Manasseh, in the persons of Gideon and Jephthah, (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1,) and yet more against the growing dominion of Judah in David and Solomon, till it threw off the yoke altogether and established an independent kingdom, would naturally claim, and could not rightly be refused, the choicest portion of the land. ‘Blessed of the Lord be his land; for the precious things of heaven, for the dew, and for the deep that coucheth beneath, and for the precious fruits brought forth by the sun, and for the precious things put forth by the moon, and for the chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills, and for the precious things of the earth and the fulness thereof, and for the good will of him that dwelt in the bush, let the blessing come upon the head of Joseph.’ If Judah was the wild lion that guarded the south, and couched in the fastness of Zion, so Ephraim was to be the more peaceful but not less powerful buffalo, who was to rove the rich vales of Central Palestine, and defend the frontier of the north. ‘His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns, (buffaloes;) with them shall he push the people together to the ends of the earth, and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh.’” Deuteronomy 33:13-17.

Verse 2

2. From Beth-el to Luz Beth-el and Luz were the same city. See note on Joshua 7:2. The Beth-el of the text is to be understood of the Mount Bethel named in the preceding verse.

Borders of Archi Or, of the Archite. No trace of this name is found in the vicinity of Beth-el. Perhaps in this name we have the last faint trace of one of the original Canaanitish tribes. Ataroth is supposed by Dr. Robinson to be identical with a large village called Atara, on the summit of a hill about six miles northwest of Beth-el; [but this verse and Joshua 18:13 seem rather to place it between Beth-el and Beth-horon, so that we may rather identify it with the Atara which lies some three miles south of Beth-el. Here Robinson noticed considerable ruins of an ancient town. At Ataroth the border turned westward toward Beth-horon.]

Verse 3

3. On Japhleti, or the Japhletite, the note on Archi (Joshua 16:2) will also apply. On Beth-horon see at Joshua 10:10, and Gezer, Joshua 10:33.

The Sea The Mediterranean.

Verses 5-10

EPHRAIM’S BORDERS, Joshua 16:5-10.

[This outline of Ephraim’s borders has evidences of being merely a fragment, and much corrupted at that. All scholars have acknowledged the difficulty of reconciling its different statements, and all attempts at emendation are at best conjectural.

5. The border… on the east side was Ataroth-addar We understand Ataroth-addar to be identical with the Ataroth of Joshua 16:2; Joshua 16:7. At this point the border between Ephraim and Benjamin went northward towards Bethel, and westward towards Beth-horon, so that it was regarded as a prominent point in Ephraim’s eastern border, where it joined the western border of Benjamin.

Unto Beth-horon the upper Before these words something seems to have fallen out of the text. The words themselves evidently belong to the southern border, for the upper Beth-horon was about five miles directly west of Ataroth.

Verse 6

6. And the border went out toward the sea The Mediterranean. Here the sentence should end, for to Michmethah evidently belongs to the northern boundary, and to another sentence. Toward the sea, then, completes the account of the boundary in the southwest. We would commence a new sentence with the word Michmethah, and render, Michmethah was on the north side. Or perhaps it would be better to emend the reading by means of the parallel in Joshua 17:7, and read, The border was from Asher to Michmethah on the north. Michmethah is there said to lie before Shechem, but that is indefinite. It is generally supposed to have been northeast of Shechem, but the exact site is unknown.

Went about That is, fetched a circuit, or slightly turned its course, eastward unto Taanath-shiloh. This is not improbably identical with Ain Tana, about eight miles southeast of Shechem. Janohah is still preserved in the village of Yanun, about two miles south of Ain Tana. Van de Velde says that “entire houses and walls of the ancient city are still existing, but covered with immense heaps of earth and rubbish.”

Verse 7

7. From Janohah to Ataroth In this verse we have a confusion of the northern and southern borders, resulting doubtless from some transposition in the text. We propose to read, and it went down from Janohah, and went out at Jordan, and regard the words to Ataroth and to Naarath, and came to Jericho, as a fragment transposed from its proper place in the text, and its immediate connexion lost.

Verse 8

8. From Tappuah westward unto the river Kanah This is a completion of the northern boundary westward from the central ridge of Palestine. The site of Tappuah is unknown. The river Kanah is uncertain. Robinson identifies it with a wady still bearing the name Kanah, which rises south of Shechem and runs southwest, and empties into the Mediterranean four miles north of Joppa. But this is too far south to be a boundary between Ephraim and Manasseh. Compare Joshua 17:8-9. It is more probably identical with the Wady Kassab, (stream of reeds,) which falls into the sea nearly west of Shechem.

Verse 9

9. Separate cities That is, cities separated or selected out of Manasseh for the use of Ephraim. Of these only Tappuah is named in Joshua 17:8-9. Compare also 1 Chronicles 7:28-29. It is generally supposed, that when the boundary lines had been drawn, the territory of Ephraim was found not as large proportionally as his numbers and importance demanded. But the relation of Ephraim and Manasseh was such that they might be regarded as having one lot. Compare Joshua 17:14. Hence they held many cities in common, and hence too, perhaps, the reason why no complete enumeration of the cities of these two brother tribes is anywhere given.] 10. The Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer These held their ancient seat until the days of Solomon. 1 Kings 9:16. Compare Judges 1:29.

Under tribute This implies the power to extirpate, but instead of this a fatal compromise was made. Josephus explains the reason: “After this the Israelites grew effeminate as to fighting any more against their enemies, but applied themselves to agriculture, which producing abundance and riches, they indulged in luxury and pleasure, and, contenting themselves with the tributes that were paid them, permitted the Canaanites to live in peace.”

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/joshua-16.html. 1874-1909.
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