The descendants of Manasseh were only half of the tribe of Joseph, and yet their inheritance was divided into two parts – one part on the western side of the Jordan River, in the Promised Land proper; and the other on the eastern side of the river, along with the tribes of Reuben and Gad. Nothing can be more clear and evident than the assurance that it is the Lord Who fixes the bounds of our habitations. At first glance, it may seem that people are guided by their own choices; yet when we look deeper into the matter, we find that all originated in Divine appointment. At all times, this is a sweet thought to God’s people, as they remember the Lord’s Covenant with them! (2 Sam. 23:5) Surely the language of our hearts to God ought to be, “Lord! thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations!” (Ps. 90:1)
Manasseh’s firstborn Machir had the possession of the regions of Gilead and Bashan – the half-portion of Manasseh’s inheritance that was on the eastern side of the Jordan River. There were ten family clans who were to divide the other half of Manasseh’s inheritance on the western side of the river. Five of these clans were the descendants of five of the sons of Gilead, who was the son of Machir and the grandson of Manasseh. The sixth son of Gilead, named Hepher, had a son named Zelophehad. But Zelophehad died without any male heirs; and according to the Lord’s commandment, his daughters were to receive their father’s inheritance. These Godly daughters now reaped the benefit of their pious zeal and prudent foresight in making a petition concerning this matter when they were still in the wilderness; for now, when they presented their claim before Eleazar and Joshua, they were given their rightful share of inheritance. Those who are in the wilderness of this world ought to still take care to make sure that they have a place in the inheritance of the saints in light, so that they will enjoy the comfort of it in the next world. Those who neglect it now will lose it forever. Let us pray that the Lord would teach us to believe and obey while we are here on earth, and that He would give us an inheritance among His saints when we come to everlasting glory.
In chapter 16, we learned that the Ephraimites did not destroy the Canaanites who dwelt among them – against the express command of God – and the Manassites did the same thing. Then the people from both tribes came to Joshua, expressing a dissatisfaction with the size of their inheritance. It is probable that since Joshua was an Ephraimite himself, they thought he would be inclined to show them a favor. However, Joshua had no more regard to his own tribe than to any other. He was determined to govern without showing favoritism; and in this, he has left a good example to all who are in positions of public trust. Joshua told the Ephraimites and Manassites that the land which had fallen to their share would be a sufficient lot for them, if they would only work and fight. He told them to clear the forested areas of the Perizzites and the giants, and he told them that the iron chariots of the Canaanites would not be an obstruction to them. Indeed, the Lord had already given them victory over the chariots of the Canaanites on a previous occasion, in chapter 11:1-15.
There is more real kindness in pointing out advantages that are already within reach, and in encouraging people to make the best of them, rather than in granting indulgences to sloth and extravagance. True religion shows no favor to these evils. The rule of Scripture is that those who refuse to work shall not eat, either. Many of our “cannots” are only the language of idleness, which magnifies every difficulty and danger and blows them out of proportion. This is especially the case in our spiritual work and warfare. It is true that without Christ, we can do nothing; but in the laziness of our natural flesh, we are often inclined to sit still and attempt nothing! If we are one of His people, He will stir us up to perform our best endeavors, and also to cry to Him for help. Then our complainings will be silenced – or rather, they will be turned into joyful thanksgivings!
Let us remember that our warfare is against the evil that is within us and around us, and that we shall surely win the victory in the name of our Lord Jesus! The grace of God, in its omnipotence, is put forth for the overflow of evil in every form – hence the certainty of triumph. Our sins are like chariots of iron; they are very strong, and we are very weak. Yet in the name of God, we must master them – and we will! Even if just one sin has dominion over us, we are not the Lord’s free people. Of His saints, the Lord has said, “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” Up, then! Let us slay every Canaanite, and break to shivers every chariot of iron! The Lord of hosts is with us, and who shall resist His sin-destroying power?
Lord, in the view of the various boundaries of the tribes of Israel, we behold a picture of those everlasting possessions which Jesus has purchased for us by His blood. As we see the daughters of Zelophehad pleading for their earthly inheritance, we plead for Jesus Himself to be our possession; and then He will bring with Him all temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessings. Be our portion, O Lord; and we will never desire any other! In You, we have enough, and all the chariots of the enemy will not dismay us! Amen.
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