JOSHUA - CHAPTER 16
Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough
2000 James Melough
“And the lot of the children of Joseph fell from Jordan by Jericho, unto the
water of Jericho on the east, to the wilderness that goeth up from Jericho throughout
fact that each tribe received its portion by lot reminds us that it is God Who
apportions each of us his lot. The
realization that that apportionment is according to perfect love and perfect wisdom
should make us content with God’s ordering of our lives
sons were Ephraim and Manasseh, Ephraim meaning double ash-heap: I shall be doubly
fruitful, and Manasseh meaning causing to forget. It is to be remembered
that each tribe of Israel represents a special characteristic of the believer.
As Judah praise represents the truth that we ought to be a thankful, praising people, so do these two sons of Joseph declare in the
meanings of their names that we should also be a fruitful people, and that we should
be marked by the same spirit as motivated Paul as recorded in Php 3:13 “Brethren, I
count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting
those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
two meanings of Ephraim at first seem to be contradictory, but there is no
contradiction, for we will be fruitful spiritually only as we are willing to cast on
the “ash-heap” everything that would hinder us in the heavenly race, Paul again
being our example, as recorded in Php 3:7-8 “But what things were gain to me, those
I counted loss for Christ. Yea
doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of
Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count
them but dung that I may win Christ.” Nor
should we fail to note the correlation between the size of the ash-heap and the
degree of fruitfulness: both were double. The
more of the worthless things we throw on the ash-heap the more fruitful will we be
as we noted in our study of 15:63 the dwelling together of Judah and the Jebusites
portrays the truth that the flesh will be with us as long as we live, and the same
truth is indicated in connection with Joseph’s twin sons, for while Manasseh, just
as much as Ephraim, speaks of what ought to mark us as spiritual men and women, the
fact is equally true that Manasseh, the first born, also represents the flesh, see Ge
being described as “the children of Joseph” has two lessons to teach.
First, since Joseph let him add is a type of Christ, Ephraim and
Manasseh’s having sprung from Joseph, serves to remind us that our spiritual origin
goes back to Christ. And inasmuch as
Joseph speaks of increase, the second lesson is that we are to be similarly fruitful,
not only in producing the fruits of the spirit in our lives, but also in begetting
spiritual children through the Gospel.
Jordan is the Biblical symbol of death, its being designated as the beginning of
their inheritance is the symbolic declaration of the truth that the believer’s
spiritual inheritance begins with his conversion, i.e., when he sees himself as
described in Ga 2:20, “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I,
but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the
faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me,” and again, “But
God forbid that I should glory, sage in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom
the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.”
by Jericho.” Jericho, meaning place
of fragrance, represents the world as seen by the unconverted.
God, however, sees it very differently, for to Him it is associated with the
stench of sin and death. Its being
located on the plain of Jordan in close proximity to that river, reminds us that this
world is also situated spiritually on “the plain of death,” the great river of
death flowing through it, and carrying multitudes down into that dread realm every
unto the water of Jericho on the east....” The
water of Jericho appears to be the springs in the immediate vicinity, while the
mention of the east adds the further spiritual truth that the world and the men of it
are spiritually far away from God, for in Scripture the east is invariably associated
with sin and departure from God. As the
written Word is likened to springs of pure water, the mention of these springs of
Jericho reminds us that the world has its equivalent of the pure water of the Word -
its religion and its vain philosophy.
to the wilderness that goeth up from Jericho throughout mount Bethel.”
It is instructive to note that this wilderness was west of Jordan and Jericho,
for in Scripture, the west always speaks of approach to God.
The lesson is crystal clear. The
redeemed are going spiritually westward, i.e., toward God; and the world through
which they journey as pilgrims and strangers is to them a spiritual wilderness.
Confirmation of the type is found in that following their deliverance from
Egypt, Israel was also brought into the wilderness.
means house of God, and as the name of the wilderness area given Ephraim and
Manasseh, it reminds us that only those who comprise God’s house here on earth see
this world as a spiritual wilderness. Like
the literal wilderness through which Israel journeyed from Egypt to Canaan, and in
which God miraculously provided food and water, and guided them by the pillars of
cloud and fire, so in this spiritual wilderness does He also supply His own with
spiritual food and water - the written Word - and guide them by the equivalent of the
two pillars: the Holy Spirit using the written Word.
“And goeth out from Bethel to Luz, and passeth along unto the borders of
Archi to Ataroth”
meaning perverse, was the Canaanite name of the city of Bethel, and it is
meant to remind us that those who aren’t of God’s house, that is those who are
unbelievers, are perverse in His sight, being characterized by stubborn rebellion
meaning lengthy, was the name, not of a place, but of a people who were
originally connected with Erech meaning long, a city of Babylon founded by
Nimrod, see Ge 10:10. All of this has a
bad connotation, for Nimrod was the great rebel against God, his city Babylon being
the source of every false religion on the earth. The lesson God would have us learn therefore in His mention here
of the Archi as being in the portion of Joseph’s two sons, is that our lot is cast
in a world marked by rebellion against Him, and dominated by the great apostate
system which originated in Babylon, but which for the past two thousand years has
been centered in Rome. It is in that
same world that we are to live for His glory as His witnesses.
means crowns, and surely ought to remind us that all we may endure here for
Christ’s sake will be rewarded with an eternal recompense on that soon coming day
when we shall all stand at His judgment seat, as it is written, “... they which run
in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize.
So run, that ye may obtain.... Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown;
but we an incorruptible” 1 Co 9:25.
“And goeth down westward to the coast of Japhleti, unto the coast of Beth-horon
the nether, and to Gezer: and the goings out thereof are at the sea.”
with Archi, Japhleti is the name, not of a place, but of a people about whom nothing
is known. Two things indicate that it is
to be viewed in a good light: its location and its name. It was westward, the
direction which speaks of approach to God; and its name means let him escape: God
will deliver. The lesson embodied in
this place is that we dwell in the midst of a people, who though sinners, are still
the obejects of God’s love. He desires to see them escape from their bondage to sin and Satan;
and to make their deliverance possible He has given His Son to die for the remission
of their sins. As His witnesses in the
midst of those people we are responsible to warn them of their danger, and to seek to
lead them to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
consumer’s house: cavernous house, on the other hand, has a very different
connotation. It points to the truth that
every unrepentant rebel will ultimately enter that cavernous house of the unbelieving
dead to be eternally consumed by God’s wrath, but without the relief that would
come by being annihilated. Their torment
will be eternal. This Beth-horon,
incidentally is described as “the nether” to distinguish it from another place of
the same name located about two miles further east, and on a higher elevation.
meaning a piece: a portion (as cut off), has been discussed in our study of
10:33 and 12:12, and it is suggested that the reader consult those notes, since the
spiritual application is the same here.
and the goings out thereof are at the sea.” As
noted already, the sea represents the masses of unconverted humanity in their
ceaseless rebellion against God, see Isa 57:20. The lesson therefore of the sea’s being the western border of
Ephraim and Manasseh is the same as in the case of Judah.
It is our responsibility to be God’s “fishermen” on that great sea,
seeking by every means in our power to catch some of those “fish” in the net of
the Gospel, and bring them to the Savior, as it is written, “And Jesus, walking by
the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother,
casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” Mt
“So the children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.”
placing of Manasseh here before Ephraim may be the symbolic declaration of the truth
declared explicitly in 1 Co 15:46, “That was not first which is spiritual, but that
which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.”
We were natural men before we became spiritual, but even as spiritual men we
have the flesh, the old nature, still with us, and will have until we are home in
being said that they “took” their inheritance, reminds us that we too are
responsible to make our own all the spiritual riches God has spread before us.
“And the border of the children of Ephraim according
their families was thus: even the border of their inheritance on the east side was
Ataroth-addar, unto Beth-horon the upper:”
described briefly and in a general way the inheritance of these two sons of Joseph,
God now in slightly more detail outlines the borders of the portion allotted to
Ephraim. We should note incidentally
that the borders are somewhat vaguely
a fact which assures us that the literal border points are of relatively little
consequence: the spiritual lessons lie in the meanings of their names rather than in
their geographical location, with the obvious exception of those instances where
specific compass points are mentioned, as for example the east, which speaks of sin
and departure from God; and the west, of approach to God.
See verse 3 for comments on Beth-horon
noted already the Jordan was the general eastern boundary, but now Ataroth-addar is
designated as a specific border point. It
means crowns of glory, and is the symbolic assurance that since we have been
crucified with Christ, and have thereby become dead to the world, we have also with
Christ been raised up as new creatures to walk no longer after the flesh, but after
the Spirit, the end of that walk being that we shall receive crowns of glory which
will be the eternal testimony to God’s approval of our obedience, as it is written,
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in
me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God,
who loved me, and gave himself for me” Ga 2:20.
Read also Romans chapter 6; and 2 Tim 4:8 which speaks of a crown of
righteousness; Jas 1:12 the crown of life; and 1 Pe 5:4 a crown of glory.
“And the border went out toward the sea to Michmethah on the north side; and
the border went about eastward unto Taanath-shiloh, and passed by it on the east to
means the poverty of the dead: the poverty of the reward, and as noted
already, the north speaks of human intelligence, and almost invariably of that
intelligence working in opposition to faith, and therefore to God. This place therefore appears to warn against the danger of
listening to the voice of reason instead of to God, that same warning being given
explicitly in Pr 14:12 “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end
thereof are the ways of death.” That
same way is the way of spiritual poverty for it brings the man into the place of
eternal torment where there isn’t even a drop of water to alleviate his anguish.
Luke 16 records the life and end of such a man, verse 24 of that chapter
recording his futile plea, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus,
that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am
tormented in this flame.”
means Shiloh’s opportunity: Shiloh’s fig tree; and Shiloh itself means peace
bringer: bringer of prosperity. In
Scripture the fig tree is connected with profession, e.g., when Adam and Eve clothed
themselves with fig leaves it was the symbolic profession that they hadn’t lost
their righteousness when in fact they had. In
Mt 21:19-20 the leafy fig tree without fruit is a symbolic figure of the Israel of
Christ’s day. There was much outward
profession, but no spiritual fruit. Taanath-shiloh
therefore portrays the truth that it is possible for us to be leafy but fruitless fig
trees, i.e., we may have a profession of faith, but as James warns, “... faith
without works is dead” Jas 2:20,26. Genuine faith will produce spiritual fruit, as it is also written,
“Ye shall know them by their fruits ... every good tree bringeth forth good
fruit.... Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into
the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye
shall know them” Mt 7:16-20. Shiloh,
however, is one of the biblical names of Christ, e.g., Ge 49:10.
The combined name Taanath-shiloh therefore is both a warning and an
encouragement. Even as believers we may go “eastward,” i.e., get away from
God, but genuine repentance provides the opportunity for the Lord Jesus Christ
(Shiloh to restore and bless, bringing us peace and spiritual prosperity, so that
there will be spiritual fruit to confirm the profession of our lips.
meaning he will lead to rest, was also toward the east, which continues to
speak of departure from God, but unlike Taanath-shiloh, there is no warning attached
to the meaning, but the simple assurance “he will lead to rest,” the One referred
to as He obviously being God. The lesson
is that God will never leave His own to continue going spiritually eastward.
By chastisement He will bring them back to Himself, and failing that, He will
simply take them home to heaven as in 1 Co 11:30 “For this cause many are weak and
sickly among you, and many sleep (die.”
to chastisement it is instructive to consider what is written, “My son, despise not
thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: for whom the
Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he
whom the father chasteneth not? But if
ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not
sons.... Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous:
nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them
which are exercised thereby” Heb 12:5-11.
“And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, and to Naarath, and came to
Jericho, and went out at Jordan.”
Ataroth, Jericho, and Jordan have already been discussed, leaving for consideration
Naarath, meaning maidenhood: maiden
place. In scripture a maiden speaks
of obedience and purity, so that the lesson of Naarath is that those same
characteristics are to mark those who belong to Christ.
“The border went out from Tappuah westward unto the river Kanah; and the
goings out thereof were at the sea. This
is the inheritance of the tribe of the children of Ephraim by their families.”
means thou wilt cause to breathe, and in Scripture breathing is always
associated with life, as for example in Ge 2:7 where God breathed into Adam’s
nostrils the breath of life, causing him to become a living soul. The fact that Tappuah was westward has also a good connotation,
since, as already discussed, the west is always scripturally associated with approach
to God. The lesson of this border point
therefore is that the closer we keep to God the more abundant will be our spiritual
meaning he was purchased, is the reminder that we have been purchased with
Christ’s precious blood, which indicates the value God sets upon us, and teaches
the value we ought to set upon that same blood, our estimate of its worth being
measured by our obedience. The fact that
Kanah was a river has a further truth to teach, for it speaks of the written Word as
ministered by the Holy Spirit, that Word being but the revelation of Him Who is the
living Word. Ephraim, as already noted,
speaks of fruitfulness, and his having this river as his last mentioned boundary
point declares the truth that our apprehension of Christ is directly related to the
measure of our spiritual fruitfulness. Sadly,
our enjoyment of Christ is all too often the equivalent of a mere trickle.
God’s ideal is that it should be the equivalent of a river.
“And the separate cities for the children of Ephraim were among the
inheritance of the children of Manasseh, all the cities with their villages.”
simply means that some of the cities assigned to Ephraim were located in the
territory of Manasseh, and the spiritual lesson is easily read. As already discussed, Manasseh represents not only the spirit of
forgetfulness which ought to characterize us relative to past failure, but he
portrays also the flesh (the old nature which is still very much a part of us, and
which frequently works through our bodily members, including our minds).
Ephraim’s cities located in Manasseh’s lot are designed to teach us that
our bodies, including our minds, are to be used for God’s glory, and our own
eternal profit, as it is written, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the
mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy,
acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service (spiritual worship.
And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing
of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect,
will of God” Ro 12:1-2.
“And they drave not out the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer: but the
Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites unto this day, and serve under tribute.”
Canaanite, meaning trafficker, represents one all too common in Christendom
today: the unconverted man “trafficking” in spiritual things.
It is painfully apparent that there are many willing to masquerade as
Christians in order to enrich themselves, some pretending to be the Lord’s
servants; others affiliating themselves with companies of believers only for what
temporal benefit may be available through such an association.
while it is said that “Judah could not drive them (the Canaanites out,” 15:63,
the indictment of Ephraim is that he simply did not. Nor does the failure appear to have been the result of mere apathy
on the part of Ephraim, for it is recorded that the Canaanites were made to “serve
under tribute.” Ephraim, it is clear,
choose to disobey the Lord’s command to exterminate the enemy, and instead to use
the Canaanites within their territory to acquire easy wealth from the tribute of
money or labor, of those who should have had no place within the borders of Israel.
as it was with literal Ephraim, so is it with his spiritual counterpart today.
Countless Christians, commanded by God to expel the enemy, have instead given
the “Canaanite” a place within a sphere that is exclusively the domain of
“Israel.” In many a congregation of
God’s people the “Canaanite” is welcomed because of the financial contribution
he can make; and in many another he is put to work, so that believers who should be
devoting time and talent to the development of spiritual gift, who should be building
God’s house, may be free to build their own houses, see Hag 1:3,9.
The “Canaanite” in this case is the unconverted cleric found in the pulpit
of many a church.
“Canaanite” is also spared in many an assembly playing the numbers game.
With no questions as to their spiritual condition, men and women are welcomed
into a fellowship which God has said is for believers only; and to make sure they
stay, they are immediately given something to do so that they will feel
“involved.” And as a further assurance of their being made “comfortable,”
Scriptural order is not only not insisted on, but any mention of it is avoided like
failure to drive out the Canaanite is the more deplorable in view of the potential
for good implied in the meaning of his name. Similar
delinquency on our part is equally lamentable.
may learn something too from the fact that the place of their disobedience was Gezer
(see comments on verse 3. Wherever
there is disobedience, wherever the “Canaanite” isn’t driven out, there is the
cutting off or loss of a portion of blessing.