Summary: Some of the tribes of Israel had a choice of how they conquered their land. It’s a picture for us too as we seek to overcome the flesh and have victory over the enemy.
One of my favorite stories as a boy was Winnie the Pooh by A A Milne. The characters are so engaging and the stories so fun. Today I want to focus on two characters from Winnie The Pooh that we find in Joshua chapters 16 - 19.
The first is Eeyore.
To Eeyore, the sky is always black and threatening; the worst thing that could happen will happen. Quotes from Eeyore:
"After all, what are birthdays? Here today and gone tomorrow."
"One can’t complain. I have my friends. Someone spoke to me only yesterday."
"Nobody tells me. Nobody keeps me informed. I make it 17 days come Friday since anybody spoke to me." Eeyore
Then there is Winnie the Pooh
I love Pooh. He goes about life so innocently. When he wants honey he just goes and gets it without a mind to the dangers or the consequences. For Pooh the day is always sunny and everyone is always his friend.
"It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like "What about lunch?
So here in Joshua chapters 16 - 19 we need Poohs who will go in and conquer the land that God gave them. But instead we have Eeyores who don’t think they can do anything or are unwilling to put in the hard work needed to get what God has promised them.
As Christians we are faced with this same choice as we live lives in our Hundred Acre Woods. There is plenty of honey to go around but we need to have the optimism to think God can help us get it and the fortitude to go out there and do it! We can whine, or we can win. Which will it be?
What’s happening here is the allotment of Canaan to the tribes other than Judah on the west side of the Jordan. L’s look how its split up: There are 13 divisions of the land of Israel-11 sons, with one getting two shares (Joseph), and the share of one of those tribes split in two again (Manasseh). Levi is the 12th son but gets no land.
This is the allotment for Ephraim and Manasseh (east of the Jordan). These are Joseph’s sons.
The fact that Joseph gets the 2nd lot shows how important a son he was.
Verses 1 - 9
This describes in rough terms the line across the bottom of Ephraim. Then in a jagged sort of way around the borders again.
Remember the incredible battles in chapter 10? Though Joshua and the armies were decisive in conquering the cities of southern Canaan, not every Canaanite was killed. Gezer’s king was captured and killed in 10:33, but apparently not all the city was destroyed. Sometimes the cities changed hands several times. The enemy proved intractable so Ephraim put them to forced labor.
As it turns out, the Canaanite problem would surface again later for Manasseh west of the Jordan in chapter 17.
Chapter 17 is the allotment for Manasseh west of the Jordan.
Verses 1 - 6
Almost the same exact scene had taken place in Numbers 27:1-11 except that it was before Moses and Eleazar. At that time Moses asked God and the Lord told them that in the case of the father’s death and no sons that the daughters should inherit the land. It’s actually pretty amazing treatment for women in that culture. It may seem obvious to us today in a time of equal rights, but it certainly wasn’t then in a time when women were considered property.
Verses 7 - 13
It’s interesting that Ephraim could not take possession of the cities but did manage to put their inhabitants to forced labor - tribute over triumph.
It says that Manasseh could not drive out the Canaanites but that they "persisted" in staying in the land. The Hebrew word literally means to "sit down." I picture a child who just doesn’t want to obey and so sits down and dares you to move them.
Eventually when the number of Manassites became great the remaining Canaanites agreed to forced labor but this falls far short of what God directed them to do.
So what happened? They lost the will to finish the job. Before the campaign began they were all bravado and promises about the coming battle. But after the initial war is won they lose heart and accept second best. In this case second best was to allow an enemy to remain in their midst, an enemy that would quickly draw the nation away from the most important thing: serving Yahweh.
Verses 14 - 18
Joseph also had problems, or so they thought, in their allotted territory. They come to Joshua and say they need more land because they are such a numerous people. Together Ephraim and Manasseh had a huge tract of land. Their complaint wasn’t really that they didn’t have enough land, but that they didn’t have enough easy land.