The Book Of Joshua


Allotments to Judah, Ephraim and Manasseh : Joshua 14:6-17:18

Our author gave a much longer record of the specific tribal allotments Joshua made in Cisjordan. These materials divide into six main sections.

They begin in 14:1-5 with a brief opening summary of Joshua’s actions and how they reflected what Moses had already done in Transjordan. This section also notes more than once that Joshua’s assignments of inheritances in Cisjordan were in accordance with the will of God.

They begin with Judah, Israel’s most prominent tribe, in 14:6–15:63. According to these verses, Judah received a very large inheritance, stretching southward to the Negev and toward the boundary of Edom. To the west, the border reached the land of Philistia and extended along the coast of the Mediterranean as far as the Wadi of Egypt. It reached northward along the Mediterranean coast slightly north of Jerusalem — or “Jebus” as it was called at the time — and to the east as far as the Dead Sea. 

It’s understandable why our author placed Judah’s allotment first in this list and highlighted how much Judah had received. According to Genesis 49:8-12, Judah was destined to be the royal tribe of Israel. Our author highlighted the honor given to Judah, first, by providing a short narrative about the lands given to the prominent Judahite warrior, Caleb. Then, he went on to mention by name some 126 towns and villages in Judah’s territory — far more than he listed for any other tribe. 

After the record of Judah’s southern allotment in Cisjordan, we find a second lengthy record, the prominent allotments given to the tribes of Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh in chapters 16, 17.

Ephraim and Manasseh received a great deal of land in the northern regions of Canaan. Their allotment extended from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, with Ephraim south of Manasseh. These territories were among the most fertile in all of the Promised Land. In addition to this, you’ll recall that half of the tribe of Manasseh had already been given land to the east of the Jordan. 

It’s no wonder that these tribes received the honor of possessing such a large and rich portion of Israel’s inheritance. As Genesis 48, 49 explain, Ephraim and Manasseh were Joseph’s sons. And Joseph was greatly honored because he was so faithful to God in Egypt. He replaced Reuben as Jacob’s firstborn and received the firstborn’s double inheritance through his two sons. 

Chapter 16 begins with a brief overview of all of Joseph’s lands in Cisjordan, and then gives specific details about the tribe of Ephraim. Following this, in chapter 17, the narrative moves to the tribe of Manasseh, including the story of Zelophehad’s daughters’ land inheritance from Numbers 27. And this section concludes with Joshua’s explanation of why Ephraim and Manasseh received more land due to their large numbers. 

The prominence given to the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh is striking because these tribes caused all sorts of troubles by the time our book was written. But our author indicated that, despite this history, Israel should acknowledge how God had honored the tribes of Joseph.