Joshua 17

Joshua 17,
Thursday, April 20, 2018

Today’s chapter begins with the allotment to the second half-tribe of Manasseh ( the first half-tribe got its turf on the east side of the Jordan from Moses, according to this history, and it’s a convenient miracle that the lot falls for the rest of the tribe in contiguity with the much earlier land grant ).  Moderns may be sceptical about the lottery but be patient, to find its salience at the end of the chapter.
 
Gilead and Bashan have already been ceded to Manassites, on the east side of the Jordan.  On one end, Asher’s territory is contiguous, and along the way, Schechem, another place familiar elsewhere in scripture, up around Kinnereth in the northeast, never really controlled, as the text admits.  Within that turf, stories are told:
 
The daughters of Zelophehad is a repeated story from Torah. When their Manassite father dies, 5 daughters with no brothers appeal to Moses that it’s not fair to take their inheritance away based on gender, and he agrees.  The issue is communal wealth of a clan or tribe, not the individual wealth of a first-born son.  Here, the daughters collect from Joshua the promises of Moses, and get land.
 
Up around Asher and Issachar borders, the Canaanites again resisted and remained in the land.  The text concedes the point, but as it has before, notes that mostly they became servants of the Manassites.  It reminds me of post-colonial admissions that slaves, racialized people, or religious minorities co-existed all along with the dominant groups, and shared the economic burdens and benefits, and formed households and parented children together – but of course, ‘the other’ were always servants to ‘us’!
 
Finally, when Joseph’s tribe(s), Ephraim and Manasseh, complain to Joshua that they are numerous, and need more patrimony, he advises them to self-help.  If they clear the land of the highlands, and displace the chariots on the plains, their geography is enough.  
 
‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected’.  Faced with the whining of the privileged, expecting entitlement, Joshua simply tells them to make something of the plenty that they’ve already got.  These exceptional stories are easily applied over millennia to issues of distributive justice among the weaker and stronger among us.
 
 
Then allotment was made to the tribe of Manasseh,
 for he was the firstborn of Joseph. 
 
To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, 
the father of Gilead, 
were allotted Gilead and Bashan,
 because he was a warrior.
 
2And allotments were made
 to the rest of the tribe of Manasseh,
 by their families,
 Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida; 
these were the male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph,
 by their families.
 
3 Now Zelophehad
son of Hepher son of Gilead
son of Machir son of Manasseh
had no sons, 
but only daughters; 
and these are the names of his daughters:
 Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.
 
 4They came before the priest Eleazar
 and Joshua son of Nun
and the leaders, 
and said,
 
 ‘The Lord commanded Moses
to give us an inheritance
along with our male kin.’ 
 
So according to the commandment of the Lord
 he gave them an inheritance
 among the kinsmen of their father.
 
 5Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, 
besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, 
which is on the other side of the Jordan,
 
 6because the daughters of Manasseh
 received an inheritance along with his sons. 
The land of Gilead was allotted
to the rest of the Manassites.
 
7 The territory of Manasseh reached
from Asher to Michmethath, 
which is east of Shechem;
 then the boundary goes along southwards
to the inhabitants of En-tappuah.
 
 8The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh,
 but the town of Tappuah
 on the boundary of Manasseh
 belonged to the Ephraimites.
 
 9Then the boundary went down to the Wadi Kanah. 
The towns here, 
to the south of the wadi, 
among the towns of Manasseh, 
belong to Ephraim. 
 
Then the boundary of Manasseh
goes along the north side of the wadi
and ends at the sea.
 
 10The land to the south is Ephraim’s
 and that to the north is Manasseh’s, 
with the sea forming its boundary;
 on the north Asher is reached, 
and on the east Issachar.
 
 11Within Issachar and Asher,
 Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages,
 Ibleam and its villages, 
the inhabitants of Dor and its villages,
 the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages,
 the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages,
 and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages
 (the third is Naphath).
 
 12Yet the Manassites could not take possession
of those towns; 
but the Canaanites
continued to live in that land.
 
 13But when the Israelites grew strong, 
they put the Canaanites to forced labour,
 but did not utterly drive them out.
 
14 The tribe of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying,
 ‘Why have you given me
but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, 
since we are a numerous people, 
whom all along the Lord has blessed?’ 
 
15And Joshua said to them, 
‘If you are a numerous people,
 go up to the forest, 
and clear ground there for yourselves
 in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, 
since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.’
 
 16The tribe of Joseph said,
 ‘The hill country is not enough for us;
 yet all the Canaanites who live in the plain
have chariots of iron, 
both those in Beth-shean and its villages
and those in the Valley of Jezreel.’
 
 17Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, 
to Ephraim and Manasseh,
 ‘You are indeed a numerous people,
 and have great power;
 you shall not have one lot only,
 18but the hill country shall be yours,
 for though it is a forest, 
you shall clear it and possess it
 to its farthest borders; 
for you shall drive out the Canaanites, 
though they have chariots of iron, 
and though they are strong.