Ephraim and Manasseh

Today’s Passage – Joshua 16 – 18 (Click on the references to listen to the audio – Click here to view the passage from Blue Letter Bible)

(Second Milers also read – Titus 1 – 3Proverbs 17Psalms 81 – 85

Listen to this morning’s Scripture song – Psalm 18:3 & 46

Read a previous post from this passage – Get to Work”

Read the “0317 Evening and Morning” devotion for today, by the late Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

“13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim in his right hand toward Israel’s left hand, and Manasseh in his left hand toward Israel’s right hand, and brought them near unto him. 14 And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the firstborn.” (Genesis 48:13-14)

Today’s post is a little longer and a bit more involved than usual. Today, we will do a Bible study on the half tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim. Chapters 16 and 17 deal with the land distribution for the Tribe of Joseph, which was made up of the two half tribes of Ephraim (Chapter 16) and Manasseh (Chapter 17).

See also Genesis 48 to help make sense of Joshua 16 and 17. I will highlight a few verses from that portion of Scripture here:

“4 And said unto me, Behold, I will make thee fruitful, and multiply thee, and I will make of thee a multitude of people; and will give this land to thy seed after thee for an everlasting possession. 5 And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.” (Genesis 48:4-5)

Note on Genesis 48:4 – 5 – Joseph’s two sons were adopted by Jacob here, and were given the right of the firstborn, but Ephraim traded place with Manasseh as the firstborn among the sons of Joseph:

“Now the sons of Reuben the firstborn of Israel, (for he was the firstborn; but, forasmuch as he defiled his father’s bed, his birthright was given unto the sons of Joseph the son of Israel: and the genealogy is not to be reckoned after the birthright. For Judah prevailed above his brethren, and of him came the chief ruler; but the birthright was Joseph’s:)” (1 Chronicles 5:1-2)

“19 And his father refused, and said, I know it, my son, I know it: he also shall become a people, and he also shall be great: but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his seed shall become a multitude of nations.” (Genesis 48:19)

Note on Genesis 48:19 – After the kingdom splits in the time of Jeroboam and Rehoboam, Ephraim becomes the more dominant tribe in the northern kingdom. Also, Shiloh would be the city within the borders of Ephraim where the Tabernacle and the Ark of the Covenant would stay for approximately 300 years. Joshua, the great leader of Israel, was from the tribe of Ephraim.

“22 Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.” (Genesis 48:22)

Note on Genesis 48:22 – Genesis does not mention this conquest, but the parcel of land that he referred to here is mentioned in John 4:5:

“Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph.” (John 4:5)

I        The Distribution of Land

         A       The Distribution for Ephraim (Joshua 16:5 – 9 See map)

Note on v. 9 – apparently Ephraim was also allotted some cities within the territory of Manasseh, perhaps because their total land area was small.

        B       The Distribution for Manasseh (Joshua 17:1 – 2; 7 – 11)

Note on Joshua 17:1

“And the children of Machir the son of Manasseh went to Gilead, and took it, and dispossessed the Amorite which was in it. And Moses gave Gilead unto Machir the son of Manasseh; and he dwelt therein.” (Numbers 32:39-40)

II       The Dereliction of Duty

“But of the cities of these people, which the LORD thy God doth give thee for an inheritance, thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them; namely, the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites; as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee: That they teach you not to do after all their abominations, which they have done unto their gods; so should ye sin against the LORD your God.” (Deuteronomy 20:16-18)

         A       The Disobedience of Ephraim (vs. 10)

They failed to drive out all the Canaanites. This was slightly different from the situation with the Gibeonites, who made a peace treaty with Joshua. This was also different from the situation in chapter 15 where we are told that Jebusites dwelled with the children of Judah. Here there was no treaty, nor was there a peaceful coexistence, but the Canaanites were apparently conquered and made slaves. This was against God’s explicit command:

Disobedience is part of our fallen human nature – We won’t get it right all of the time.

Disobedience will cause long-term problems. The Canaanites that Ephraim allowed to remain in the land would eventually cause problems for them. Idolatry was part of Canaanite culture, and eventually would become a big problem in Israel.

The things that we disobediently allow in our lives today, may one day destroy our children or grand-children.

            B       The Disobedience of Manasseh (Joshua 17:12 – 13)

Manasseh’s situation was slightly different yet. They at first could not (vs. 12); then they would not drive the Canaanites out. (v. 13)

III       The Daughters of Zelophehad (Joshua 17:3 – 6)

See Numbers 27:1 – 11

The five daughters of Zelophehad brought a unique problem before Moses that Moses took up with God. Their father had no sons to give his land inheritance to and the daughters were afraid that they were going to lose their portion of the land. The Lord said that they were entitled to the inheritance. This caused Moses to write an amendment to the Law.

But this caused another potential problem. If the daughters of Zelophehad inherit land and then marry outside of their tribe, then the land would transfer to another tribe. (See Numbers 36:1 – 13) God stated that any women receiving a land inheritance would only be permitted to marry within her tribe.

IV      The Dissatisfaction of Manasseh and Ephraim (Joshua 17:14 – 18)

Here we see presumably the two half tribes complaining to Joshua regarding the portion of land that they received. They said it was too small. They said that they were far too “great” a people to be confined to such a small piece of land. Together, their population was 82,500, which was large. Manasseh had increased in size dramatically (by approximately 20,000 men) during their wandering in the Wilderness. Ephraim had decreased by 8,000 men.

            Joshua stated that what they had was enough, but they weren’t making the most of it.

            They would have to work for it.

            They would have to fight for it.

Many times, God’s people are dissatisfied with their lives, causing them to covet things that belong to somebody else. God wants us to appreciate what we have and make the most of what we have.

Don’t covet somebody else’s home – make the most of the home that God gave you. Don’t covet somebody else’s marriage – work hard and fight to make yours the best it can be.

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Gary Geiger
Gary Geiger
1 year ago


Desiree Ann Jones
Desiree Ann Jones
1 year ago

we need to accept who we are and be with our family and encourage our family to do the best that they can. during this time of covid nineteen. and how we can get along with others in that special place and how we can choose to put ourselves second. because god comes first in your life. and thats how its suppose to be. by choosing what direction you want to go in.

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