Joshua 17-18: From Shiloh to Jerusalem

Joshua 17


1Then allotment was made to the people of Manasseh, for he was(BQ) the firstborn of Joseph. To(BR) Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead,(BS) were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a man of war.

When we look at the first verse we wonder about the allotment being made to Manasseh before Ephraim from the language of the ESV; however, in the Hebrew, the word “for” can also mean “though”. It would make more sense for the verse to be “though he was the first-born of Joseph”, he received these things, given the context of the blessing to Ephraim before Manasseh.

Prior to this chapter, Manasseh was already divided into two parts, one on the east and one on the west; the giving of Gilead to Manasseh is a result of acknowledging Machir, son of Manasseh, as a man of war. Gilead and Bashan being on the border, a mountainous region on the East-side of Israel facing the neighbouring pagan enemies (much like Judah in the south) is therefore fittingly given to Machir. It is one of the few times that the LORD expressly explains why he gave a particular piece of land to a particular person from a tribe. His providential allocation is by no means random and is fitting to the character of the person and tribe, justifying the importance of looking at which tribe is placed where, and for what reason we can deduce especially in accordance to Jacob’s blessing to the 12 tribes in Genesis 48.

Rest of the clans (the descendants of Manasseh)

2And allotments were made(BT) to the rest of the people of Manasseh by their clans, Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida. These were the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph, by their clans.

v.2 in particular focuses on “the male descendants of Manasseh the son of Joseph” – from Manasseh to Machir to Gilead to Hepher to Zelophehad. This is immediately juxtaposed to v.3 which focuses on the daughters of Zelophehad, a point which I have discussed in Numbers 27, concerning the freedom of men and women before the LORD as according to the eternal truth laid out in Galatians 3:28 (though there is, of course, a distinction to be made as noticeable in the predominantly allocation to the male heads so far). In the situation where there is no male head, a woman is indeed suitable though not necessarily preferred in the leadership and headship of representing the tribe.

Daughters of Zelophehad

3Now(BU) Zelophehad the 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 approached(BV) Eleazar the priest and Joshua the son of Nun and the leaders and said,(BW) “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our brothers.” So according to the mouth of the LORD he gave them an inheritance among the brothers of their father. 5Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, besides(BX) 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 people of Manasseh.

Through the allotment we learn a bit about God’s culture imposed upon the Israelites. Contemporary scholarship seems to look at the Jewish culture as unhelpful in our understanding of the Trinitarian God, but only helpful in understanding who this mysterious ‘YHWH’ is. It is important to see how the connections are played out in replacing Zelophehad and Hepher with the five daughters, and the other five sons of Gilead making up the ten portions.

Sons (5 sons of Gilead)

Daughters (5 daughters of Zelophehad)











It is therefore fitting that in present time, the five daughters fully represent the one head Hepher; if not for the daughters it is most likely that the land would have been split between the six sons of Gilead as listed in v.2. This takes me to Hebrews 7:10 – that we have paid our tithes to the King of Salem through Abraham while we were still in his loins; and here the daughters are blessed, representing Zelophehad son of Hepher. For what reason? As Numbers 26, 27 and Joshua 17 has intimated, because they are the daughters of Zelophehad and no other reason beside that. Similarly, it is because we are Abraham’s spiritual children that we are blessed through him; it is because we stand in the seed of Genesis 3:15 that we are blessed in the pre-elected Son of God. If the 5 daughters were to stand before Yeshua without the heritage and headship of their forefather, without the approval of God through Yeshua, then this land would not have been given to them. What right have we to stand before the Father without the blessings and testimony of the Son and the Spirit who represent us?


Specific boundaries


7The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to(BY) Michmethath, which is east of Shechem.


Then the boundary goes along southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8The land of(BZ) Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the people of Ephraim. 9(CA) Then the boundary went down to the brook Kanah. These cities, to the south of the brook, among the cities of Manasseh, belong to Ephraim.

West and North

Then the boundary of Manasseh goes on the north side of the brook and ends at the sea, 10the land to the south being Ephraim’s and that to the north being Manasseh’s, with the sea forming its boundary. On the north Asher is reached, and on the east Issachar. 11Also in Issachar and in Asher(CB) Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, and Ibleam and its villages, and the inhabitants of(CC) Dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, and the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages; the third is Naphath.[a]

12(CD) Yet the people of Manasseh could not take possession of those cities, but the Canaanites persisted in dwelling in that land. 13Now when the people of Israel grew strong, they put the Canaanites(CE) to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

It is unfortunate, like the other tribes mentioned before, that Israel cannot put her faith in the LORD and drive out the unbelievers. We can point at v.12-13 and look at the weakness and rebellion of Israel, but let us take the logs out of our eyes and consider the depth of our sins in our modern idols, our metropolitan affluence, which make us spiritually adulterous, as equally compromising in His eyes as the Israelites were. Should it then surprise us that the LORD decides to send calamity on our nations, on our economy, on our personal livelihood when Israel should have expected no less for failing to drive out the respective Canaanites from each tribe?

14Then(CF) the people of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but(CG) one lot and one portion as an inheritance, although I am(CH) a numerous people, since all along the LORD has blessed me?” 15And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up by yourselves to the forest, and there clear ground for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and(CI) the Rephaim, since(CJ) the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16The people of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us. Yet all the Canaanites who dwell in the plain have(CK) chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in(CL) the Valley of Jezreel.” 17Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are a numerous people and have great power. You shall not have one allotment 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,(CM) though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”

The nature of the Israelites is further explored and exposited by Calvin here:

“We are therefore led to conclude, that when the lots were cast for the two tribes, the admirable counsel of God arranged that the brothers, who had a common father, should be contiguous and neighbors to each other. It is unworthy in them, therefore, to complain and plead that only one inheritance had been given to them, because Joshua had neither such heartlessness nor so much malice as to defraud them of a clear right either through thoughtlessness or envy.160 But herein lay the falsehood of their complaint concerning narrow boundaries, that they counted all that was yet to be acquired by warlike prowess as nothing; as if the lot had assigned portions to the other tribes only in subjugated territory. Joshua, accordingly, in a single sentence, refutes and disposes of their plea, and retorts upon them a charge by which they were trying to throw obloquy upon him. If your resources and your numbers are so great, why, he asks, do you not make an inroad on the enemy, whose country has been given to you? Nor will the event disappoint you, if, trusting to the promise of God, you boldly proceed to the inheritance which he has bestowed upon you. We see how, although proper provision had been made for them, they were so blinded by sloth as to complain that they were straitened for room, because they were unwilling to move their finger to seek the full possession of their inheritance. Wherefore, this passage teaches us, that if at any time we think less is performed for us than is due, we ought carefully to shake off all delays, and not rashly throw upon others the blame which is inherent in ourselves.”

Is it so untypical of Manasseh to ask this from Joshua, especially when we have seen just how filled with fear the Israelites are? That they have chosen not to go up the mountain to meet the LORD save Moses; that despite their numbers in Egypt they did not fight for their freedom; despite the manna they still complained that the LORD is unfaithful and that Moses is leading them to death; despite Moses being on the mountain covered by miraculous cloud and fire they would still create their own gods; despite the presence of Christ in the tabernacle they would still provide their own extra offerings; despite the victory of the Israelites and Achan would still covet causing corporate harm. Indeed, what the Manassites have asked is indeed typical of this chosen nation to be light to all other nations. The LORD knows as much and the refrain at the end of the allotments referring to their failure to drive out the non-Christian nations is testament to the failures of the physical church compared to the spiritual church embedded in Israel and later proclaimed more widely in the rest of the world after the Pentecost. In the words of Adam Clarke, “God will not reverse his purpose to meet their slothfulness; they alone who overcome shall sit with Jesus upon his throne. Reader, take unto thee the whole armor of God, that thou mayest be able to stand in the evil day, and having done all – to Stand. And remember, that he only who endures to the end shall be saved.”

Joshua 18

Allotment of the Remaining Land

1Then the whole congregation of the people of Israel assembled at(CN) Shiloh and set up(CO) the tent of meeting there. The land lay subdued before them.

Joshua 18 starts out victoriously, after the reader is reminded of the failures of Israel through the shame and sloth of Manasseh, fitting to a tribe who is great in relation to the rest of Israel – but not as great as Ephraim. V.1 immediately takes us to Shiloh, named after the Messianic name first mentioned in Genesis 49:10 (in the original Hebrew it represents ‘tranquility’ and more insightfully ‘tribute’ in the ESV translation). With the tabernacle set up at this symbolic place of tranquility, “the land lay subdued before them” – this three-fold imagery of a Sabbath-like rest should be a welcome break to the succession of wars prior to these chapters of geographical allotment. In Genesis 49:10 Jacob makes this specific prophecy about Judah:

The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (KJV translation)

The danger of the ESV translation is that the word ‘tribute’ does not carry with it the theological weight as Shiloh does. It should not be a surprise that this place called Shiloh is a chosen place for the tabernacle to rest; for the people to rest; and for them to see that the land has been subdued before them. John Calvin especially looks at the Hebrew word play “Shiloh” to mean “his son” – and this type of wordplay is not devoid of its function especially in a book named “Yeshua”, which as a Hebrew noun means “salvation” (again, a fitting name, along with Shiloh, to refer to Christ the Son!):

“That which some of the Jews suppose, namely, that it denotes the place (Shiloh) where the ark of the covenant had been long deposited, because, a little before the commencement of David’s reign, it had been laid waste, is entirely destitute of reason. For Jacob does not here predict the time when David was to be appointed king; but declares that the kingdom should be established in his family, until God should fulfill what he had promised concerning the special benediction of the seed of Abraham. Besides the form of speech, “until Shiloh come,” for “until Shiloh come to an end,” would be harsh and constrained. Far more correctly and consistently do other interpreters take this expression to mean “his son,” for among the Hebrews a son is called שיל (shil.) They say also that ה (he) is put in the place of the relative ו (waw😉 and the greater part assent to this signification.205 But again, the Jews dissent entirely from the meaning of the patriarch, by referring this to David. For (as I have just hinted) the origin of the kingdom in David is not here promised, but its absolute perfection in the Messiah. And truly an absurdity so gross, does not require a lengthened refutation. For what can this mean, that the kingdom should not come to an end in the tribe of Judah, till it should have been erected? Certainly the word depart means nothing else than to cease.”

Of course, Shiloh is but a symbolic place, just as Bethel, Hebron, Sinai and the garden of Eden were. The LORD is by no means restricted to any of these areas, for all of these places intimate the meeting place between the Father and mankind – through the Son, by the power of the Spirit:

Psa 78:56-61 Yet they tested and rebelled against the Most High God and did not keep his testimonies, (57) but turned away and acted treacherously like their fathers; they twisted like a deceitful bow. (58) For they provoked him to anger with their high places; they moved him to jealousy with their idols. (59) When God heard, he was full of wrath, and he utterly rejected Israel. (60) He forsook his dwelling at Shiloh, the tent where he dwelt among mankind, (61) and delivered his power to captivity, his glory to the hand of the foe.

For all the shortcomings of the Israelites in failing to obey God, it is moreso because of their failure to understand how Canaan, how the Levites who possess no land, how Shiloh and how the tabernacle all point towards Christ. Hence “they provoked him to anger with their high places”. The Christians since the Spirit has been poured onto all flesh have no escaped from these temptations either; and why should they, when the Israelites who were equally blessed with the presence of the Spirit could not resist the heresy of the extreme iconodules – that they have begun to love the icons, the high places, the objects which symbolize the true object of worship? The sins of Eli and his household in later books has revealed the place as mere symbolism, and inherently without divine value, but it is indeed a shadow to the peaceableness of the more perfect tabernacle, Yeshua:

“Some think there was an eye to the name of the place, Shiloh being the name by which the Messiah was known in dying Jacob’s prophecy (Gen_49:10), which prophecy, no doubt, was well known among the Jews; the setting up of the tabernacle in Shiloh gave them a hint that in that Shiloh whom Jacob spoke of all the ordinances of this worldly sanctuary should have their accomplishment in a greater and more perfect tabernacle, Heb_9:1, Heb_9:11. And Dr. Lightfoot thinks that the place where the tabernacle was set up was therefore called Shiloh, because of the peaceableness of the land at this time; as afterwards in Salem was his temple, which also signifies peaceable.” (Matthew Henry)

2There remained among the people of Israel seven tribes whose inheritance had not yet been apportioned. 3So Joshua said to the people of Israel,(CP) “How long will you put off going in to take possession of the land, which the LORD, the God of your fathers, has given you?

With the huge pretext within the first verse of Joshua 18, we understand Joshua’s statement. Why should they delay to take the land? Why should the Israelites, when leaving Egypt, wait for the leavened bread which represents their unwillingness to put their faith in Christ and destroy their past life? Joshua points out the persistent sins of these tribes, even though Christ has won this land for us already. And thus the division of portions takes us back to God’s divine providence and sovereignty, symbolic seven perfect portions (the number representative of God’s perfect Sabbath-rest) decided before the LORD in Shiloh out of all the other places (v.8).

4Provide three men from each tribe, and I will send them out that they may set out and go up and down the land. They shall write a description of it with a view to their inheritances, and then come to me. 5They shall divide it into seven portions.(CQ) Judah shall continue in his territory on the south,(CR) and the house of Joseph shall continue in their territory on the north. 6And you shall describe the land in seven divisions and bring the description here to me.(CS) And I will cast lots for you here before the LORD our God. 7(CT) The Levites have no portion among you, for the priesthood of the LORD is their heritage.(CU) And Gad and Reuben and half the tribe of Manasseh have received their inheritance beyond the Jordan eastward, which Moses the servant of the LORD gave them.” 8So the men arose and went, and Joshua charged those who went to write the description of the land, saying, “Go up and down in the land and write a description and return to me. And I will cast lots for you here before the LORD in Shiloh.” 9So the men went and passed up and down in the land and wrote in a book a description of it by towns in seven divisions. Then they came to Joshua to the camp at Shiloh, 10and Joshua(CV) cast lots for them in Shiloh before the LORD. And there Joshua apportioned the land to the people of Israel,(CW) to each his portion.

The Inheritance for Benjamin [the first of the seven allotments]

11The lot of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to its clans came up, and the territory allotted to it fell between the people of Judah and the people of Joseph.


Specific boundaries


12(CX) On the north side their boundary began at the Jordan.(CY) Then the boundary goes up to the shoulder north of Jericho, then up through the hill country westward, and it ends at the wilderness of(CZ) Beth-aven. 13From there the boundary passes along southward in the direction of Luz, to the shoulder of(DA) Luz (that is, Bethel), then the boundary goes down to(DB) Ataroth-addar, on the mountain that lies south of Lower(DC) Beth-horon.


14Then the boundary goes in another direction, turning on the(DD) western side southward from the mountain that lies to the south, opposite Beth-horon, and it ends at Kiriath-baal ((DE) that is, Kiriath-jearim), a city belonging to the people of Judah. This forms the western side.


15And the southern side begins at the outskirts of Kiriath-jearim. And the boundary goes from there to Ephron,[b](DF) to the spring of the waters of Nephtoah. 16Then the boundary goes down to the border of the mountain that overlooks(DG) the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, which is at the north end of the Valley of(DH) Rephaim. And it then goes down the(DI) Valley of Hinnom, south of the shoulder of the Jebusites, and downward to En-rogel. 17Then it bends in a northerly direction going on to En-shemesh, and from there goes to Geliloth, which is opposite the ascent of Adummim. Then it goes down to(DJ) the stone of Bohan the son of Reuben, 18and passing on to the north of(DK) the shoulder of Beth-arabah[c] it goes down to the Arabah. 19Then the boundary passes on to the north of the shoulder of(DL) Beth-hoglah. And the boundary ends at the northern bay of(DM) the Salt Sea, at the south end of the Jordan: this is the southern border.


20The Jordan forms its boundary on the eastern side. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin, according to their clans, boundary by boundary all around.

Names of the Cities

21Now the cities of the tribe of the people of Benjamin according to their clans were(DN) Jericho, Beth-hoglah, Emek-keziz, 22Beth-arabah, Zemaraim, Bethel, 23Avvim, Parah, Ophrah, 24Chephar-ammoni, Ophni, Geba—twelve cities with their villages: 25Gibeon, Ramah, Beeroth, 26Mizpeh, Chephirah, Mozah, 27Rekem, Irpeel, Taralah, 28Zela, Haeleph,(DO) Jebus[d] (that is, Jerusalem), Gibeah[e] and Kiriath-jearim[f]—fourteen cities with their villages. This is the inheritance of the people of Benjamin according to its clans.

Specifically, with reference to Jebus in v.28, we understand them to be the bearers of the ancient city and name of Jerusalem also known as Salem (c.f. Psalm 76:1-2), which Melchizedek was the king of during the times of Abraham; not to mention Zela which is the place where Saul, Jonathan and the family of Kish were buried. Benjamin is not short of places which will later become landmarks in Israel’s history though not immediately clear as to why it may fit this ravenous wolf of Genesis 49:27 – unless we place it in the context of the events of the gospel which occur at the key place of Jerusalem.

Benjamin is the second (and last) son of Rachel causing the death of his mother as she called him Ben-oni – and this may give us true insight as to why Jerusalem, among other important cities, are given to such a small but important tribe. Ben-oni literally means “son of my sorrow/pain” as opposed to “Benjamin” which means son of my right hand; and it goes to wonder why Jerusalem, the place where the Son is crucified, is under Benjamin’s jurisdiction, this head initially called the “son of my sorrow/pain” and immediately transferred to being the Son at his father’s right hand, indicative of virtue, strength and Jesus Christ at the heavenly Father’s right hand. So the divine allotment continues in fitting this city to Benjamin; it is in the tribe’s jurisdiction that so many people divide the spoils like a ravenous wolf just as they divided the spoils of Jesus’ clothing (Psalm 22:18), and yet it is here that we see the Son being exalted and fully glorified.

Joshua 17-18: From Shiloh to Jerusalem

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