Summary: Part Two: deals with the fear of Ephraim and Manasseh when confronted with chariots of iron during their conquest of Canaan with applications to the Christian’s life.

A Bible Study by

Charles W. Holt



Scripture reading: Jeremiah 12:4

Scripture Text: Joshua 17:14-18

A little background on the tribes of Ephraim and Manesseh will be helpful in our understanding why the challenge to face chariots of iron was so important to them and, by extension, to us. These are the two sons of Joseph, born to him after he was elevated to a position second only in authority to the Pharaoh in Egypt (Gen. 46:20) In the Book of Joshua, these names identify the two families or "tribes" they have become, now numbering hundreds in teach group. It is the tribal leaders or elders who confront Joshua with their problem of possessing their promised inheritance (Joshua 17:14-18), and provides us with the picture and principles we are using about our confrontation with chariots of iron.

A good question to test one’s Bible knowledge is: why not say, "Manasseh and Ephraim instead of Ephraim and Manasseh?" Is anything wrong with the order of these words? Does it matter? We will find that it does matter and we will discover the reason why later. The way we order words and phrases often indicate their importance. We usually put the most important things at the top of the list. Things of less concern are reserved for a place well down the list. Is this true in the Ephraim/Manasseh equation? You should know that family life as described in the Old Testament was shaped along highly structured hierarchical lines. The rule or privilege of the firstborn was strictly observed. The firstborn had not only an exalted position within the family unit but also privilege and power that could, and often did, extend beyond the family. Such a place of privilege carried the burden of great expectation. The potential and possibilities for leadership were enormous.

What does this have to do with chariots of iron? The answer is bound up in the principle of, "For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Lk. 12:48). Let’s shine the light of this principle upon Ephraim’s and Manasseh’s reaction when they first encounter chariots of iron.

I believe Joshua was shocked at the reaction of these two when they complained that the job of taking possession of their allotted territory was made impossible by the fact that the Canaanites had chariots of iron in their arsenal. He listened to their whining complaint but his answer cut them no slack. Recall these words:


Let’s take a close look at this snippet of a sentence. Three things need to be said here.

1. Joshua spoke.

2. Joshua spoke to the house of Joseph

3. Joshua spoke to Ephraim and Manasseh

Joshua Spoke – No one could speak with more authority to the Ephraim and Manasseh dynasties than Joshua. Not only had he been appointed by God as successor of Moses to lead the Israelites across the Jordan into the Promised Land—he was one of them. He was a blood brother. He belonged to the clan of Ephraim. He was not an outsider with Ephraim and Manasseh. He was bone of their bone, flesh of their flesh. This gave him clout. You listen to one of your own.

He also spoke with authority because he had been born a slave in Egypt and was probably about 40-years old when he crossed the Red Sea. He soon rose to a position of prominence along side Moses, leading Israel in the first decisive battle against Amalek (Ex. 17:9,13) while Moses held high the God-given "rod" (Ex. 17:9,11). His name—Joshua, meaning, "Jehovah is help," (Num. 13:16)—became the key to his life and work. He was an embodiment of his name, "Jehovah is help." Joshua lived up to his name! This was demonstrated on numerous occasions. None so clearly, however, as when he and Caleb came back from spying out the land and stood so distinctly in the minority by giving a good report. They said, in essence, "we can take the land, giants notwithstanding . . . let’s go . . . the sooner the better" (Num. 13:27-14:10). He is famous for his challenge to the Nation at the end of his honorable career saying, "Chose this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD" (Joshua 24:15). He lived by that creed all the days of his life. Is it any wonder then that he would be surprised at Ephraim and Manasseh ’s reluctance to tackle their chariots of iron?

Joshua spoke to the House of Joseph. It is very significant that "the house of Joseph" is mentioned to identify Ephraim and Manasseh. These are, as mentioned, the two sons of the great Joseph. No man ever lived a more exemplary life of faith, hope, and courage than did this man. He was a trailblazer. To be of "the house of Joseph," to say, "Joseph is my father" was enough to hush a crowd, inspire awe, and give enemies pause. The "House of Joseph" was a noble house filled with enormous potential, and destined for greatness. No doubt, the two original brothers carried the name proudly and passed to succeeding generations a great and grand tradition that was strong in affirming God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness to keep His promises.

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