Exploring Joshua 16: Insights on the Promised Land

In this article, we delve into a comprehensive commentary on the Book of Joshua Chapter 16, referencing the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible. As Charismatic Christians, we perceive this book as an essential historical and spiritual text that chronicles the distribution of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel.

Chapter 16 narrates a significant part of this divine distribution, specifically related to the descendants of Joseph, with regard to Ephraim’s inheritance. A careful understanding of these historical events is key to discerning God’s profound cosmic plan for His chosen people, and ultimately, for all humanity.

We implore the Holy Spirit for wisdom and understanding as we unpack the multifaceted truths embedded within this sacred scripture.

Exploring Joshua 16: Insights on the Promised Land

Introduction to the Book of Joshua Chapter 16: A Theological Perspective

Viral Believer is reader-supported. We may earn a small fee from products we recommend at no charge to you. Read Our Affiliate Disclosuree

The land allotment sequence continues in Joshua 16 where the focus shifts to the division of Canaan among the tribes of Israel, starting specifically with the children of Joseph – Ephraim and Manasseh.

This chapter underscores the divine promise fulfillment of God where He guaranteed the Israelites a designated land of their own. This aspect carries a deep spiritual symbolism that resonates with the idea of the believer’s spiritual inheritance in Christ (Ephesians 1:11).

  • The opening verses, Joshua 16:1-4, delineate the boundaries of the land assigned to the descendants of Joseph. The mention of specific geographical markers and cities underlines this tangible land grant as an assurance of God’s covenant with His people.
  • The second part, verses 5-9, specifically focus on the land allotted to Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph. Intriguingly, the allotment is not strictly by seniority, hinting towards God’s divine providence and preference which does not conform to human norms (Matthew 20:16).
  • The closing verses, Joshua 16:10, a follow-up to chapter 15, recount the Israelites’ failure to fully drive out the Canaanites. This incomplete obedience serves as a glaring reminder of the constant struggle against sin that believers must strive for (Hebrews 12:1).

From a theological standpoint, Joshua 16 not only presents divinely guided social ethics but also reflects on the believer’s spiritual journey. The promised land thus becomes a metaphor for our promised eternal life, righteousness, and peace in Christ Jesus.

Much like the Israelites, believers today are also called to possess their promised inheritance by faith and obedience (Hebrews 11:1, Romans 4:13). The paradox of imperfect possession warns believers of falling short of God’s glory due to half-hearted obedience, just as the Israelites did with the Canaanites.

Interpretation of the Tribe of Joseph’s Inheritance in Joshua 16

The allocation of territories to the Tribe of Joseph, as described in the book of Joshua 16, carries symbolic weight and prophetic significance. This inheritance includes the lands of Ephraim and the half-tribe of Manasseh, the sons of Joseph and grandsons of Jacob. An examination of their inheritance in the light of Scripture unveils a rich tapestry of divine promises interwoven with the envisioned destiny of this tribe.

Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, received an inheritance located mainly in central Canaan, an area characterized by fertile land and strategic positioning. This is perfectly aligned with Jacob’s blessing over Ephraim in Genesis 48:19 (NKJV) where he said, “…his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.

  • The land was ideally suited for agriculture and development, facilitating prosperity and growth.
  • This central location also enabled Ephraim to play a leading role among the tribes, further evident in Judges 10:9 (NKJV) when they emerged as the head tribe in Northern Israel.

Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn, acquired an inheritance spread on both sides of the Jordan River, thus symbolically bridging Israel’s past and future. This can be seen as a reflection of Jacob’s blessing in Genesis 48:19 (NKJV) where he referred to Manasseh as “a people, and he also shall be great…

  • The eastern part inherited by Manasseh represents Israel’s past, a reminder of their life and struggles before reaching the Promised Land.
  • The western section, on the other hand, signifies Israel’s future – the land promised by God to their ancestors, an emblem of rest, fulfillment, and future promise.

In essence, Ephraim and Manasseh’s inheritance embodied both wealth and promise, power and purpose, recalling God’s covenant promises and prophetic pronouncements. Thus, the Tribe of Joseph’s inheritance, as delineated in Joshua 16, holds more than geographical implications – it opens the door to spiritual insights and prophetic understandings.

Examining the Boundaries Described in Joshua 16:1-4

The book of Joshua 16:1-4, NKJV provides detailed descriptions of the boundaries of the land given to the children of Joseph, namely the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. In studying these border definitions, we gain valuable insight not only into the ancient map of Canaan but also understand the spiritual symbolism imbued within these geographical demarcations.

Beginning at “the waters of Jericho on the east“, these boundaries extend to the “wilderness that goes up from Jericho“, traversing westwards to “Mount Bethel“. Continuing from there, it makes its way out at “Tappuah“. The boundary then descends to the “Brook Kanah“, marking the separation between Ephraim and Manasseh.

  • Waters of Jericho: Symbolizing a place of new beginnings, Jericho was the first city to be conquered by the children of Israel in the Promised Land. Its waters are indicative of the refreshing and life-giving grace of God.
  • Wilderness: Testament to seasons of testing and growth, the wilderness represents periods of refinement in the believer’s journey.
  • Mount Bethel: Bethel means “the house of God”, symbolizing the high place of worship and communion with God.
  • Tappuah: This area was known for its apple orchards, signifying provision and prosperity.
  • Brook Kanah: Kanah translates to “place of reeds”, indicative of the fragility of life and serving as a reminder for humility and reliance on God.

Each of these geographical features and settlements not only serves as waypoints demarcating the terrestrial bounds of the inheritances of Ephraim and Manasseh, but they also embody spiritual meanings for the believer. As we continue to explore these defined boundaries, we understand that the allocation of land was more than a simple distribution; it was steeped in divine wisdom and purpose, a grand design that reveals God’s hand in every aspect of His people’s life.

Exploring the Unique Land Allocation to Ephraim and Manasseh (Joshua 16:5-10)

The allotment of lands to Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, occupies a prominent position and plays out in a detailed narrative in Joshua 16:5-10. These two tribes were allotted a vast and fertile territory which extended from Jordan towards the west through central Palestine. Ephraim received a proportionally smaller portion than Manasseh, albeit in the central, richer, and well-watered part of the land, hence more advantageous.

The specifics of the territories allocated to each tribe are as follows:

  • The Lot of Ephraim: According to Joshua 16:5, the border of their inheritance began “At Ataroth Addar, near the hill that lies on the south side of the lower Beth Horon”. Their southern boundary lay clear from the wilderness of Beth-aven, passing Luz, to Ataroth, where it joined with Manasseh’s lot. From this point, it passed Beth-horon the Nether, Gezer, and ended up at the sea.
  • The Lot of Manasseh: Joshua 16:9 describes that in addition to the land they were already allotted, some separate towns from the land of Ephraim were given to them. The land allocated to them is detailed in Joshua 17.

Please note that, even though the border description is complex, it is vital as it relates to the dispute on the land inheritance that arose later.

However, Joshua 16:10 narrates an interesting facet – Ephraimites did not drive out the Canaanites living in Gezer. Instead, the Canaanites continued to dwell among them. This manifestation exemplifies a repeated failure among the Israelite tribes to fully claim and possess God’s promises. This incomplete occupation points to the spiritual struggle many believers encounter today, wherein the fullness of their inheritance in Christ remains partially unclaimed and their spiritual ‘Canaanites’ unconquered.

Dissecting the Challenges and Spiritual Themes in Joshua 16:10

The passage of Joshua 16:10 takes the reader through a situation from the historical past involving the Israelites and the Canaanites. The verse goes as follows: “And they did not drive out the Canaanites who dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwell among the Ephraimites to this day and have become forced laborers for them” (Joshua 16:10, NKJV). This passage presents two immediate challenges – the apparent lack of obedience from the Israelites and the perpetual subjugation of the Canaanites.

The first challenge we need to dismantle is the apparent disobedience of the Israelites. God commanded them to drive out all the inhabitants of the promised land (see Numbers 33:52).

However, in this verse, they allowed the Canaanites to live among them. Did this reflect a failure on their part? Or did it point to a divine providence, allowing for the continuation of a lineage that could play a role in God’s grand design? These are thought-provoking questions that this text stirs. The statement about the Canaanites becoming forced laborers disrupts our modern sensibilities, it makes us uncomfortable, as we contemplate the theological issues raised.

  • The spiritual theme of obedience: Was the Israelites’ failure to drive out the Canaanites entirely a lack of obedience to God’s direct command?
  • The spiritual theme of mercy and justice: Could the Israelites’ allowing the Canaanites to live, but as forced laborers, be seen as a form of mercy, protecting them from complete annihilation? And if so, how does this balance with our understanding of justice?
  • The spiritual theme of God’s overarching plan: Could the existence and treatment of the Canaanites be part of God’s larger narrative or design, the complete understanding of which might not be fully grasped by humanity?

As we contemplate the challenges and spiritual themes in the passage of Joshua 16:10, we are reminded that the Bible, particularly when viewed through a historical lens, does not always provide immediate clarity. Sometimes, it challenges us to deep introspection, questioning, and seeking to understand God’s will in matters that may seem uncomfortable or contrary to our thoughts and understanding.


In conclusion, our exploration of the sixteenth chapter of the Book of Joshua reveals a fascinating web of geographical divisions, inheritance rights and undeniable spiritual truths. Rich in symbolic lessons, it demonstrates the methodical division of territories among the Israelites, underscoring God’s faithfulness in granting the Promised Land to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Interlacing the historical narrative are powerful theological truths that resonate with us today. The Book of Joshua (NKJV) reminds us of our divine inheritance through Christ, inspiring us to seek out and claim our spiritual territories.

As we journey through this text, our comprehension deepens, and our spirituality gains robust dimensions. We observe the progress of Israel- grounded in obedience to God’s commands, and this continues to forge our faith, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4, NKJV).

Therefore, let’s continue to delve into deeper sections of this profound biblical text. Whether geographical, genealogical, or spiritual, each facet affords us an understanding of God’s meticulous design and His unerring fulfillments. Like the Book of Joshua unearths the mysteries of territorial possessions, may we, too, take possession of the rich, insightful spiritual territories hidden within the divine grid of the Word of God.

As we transition into the ensuing chapters of Joshua, may the Holy Spirit illuminate our understanding and empower us to unearth the nuggets of wisdom ingrained within. Let our voyage through Joshua 16 exhort us as charismatic believers to claim our God-given inheritance- an inheritance that transcends material possessions and extends into the realms of spiritual blessings and life eternal.

In the spirit of the unity of faith, let us collaborate in embracing the full stature of Christ, our spiritual Joshua, who leads us into the Promised Land of spiritual fulfillment and enlightenment (Ephesians 4:13; NKJV). Blessings as we all continue to explore, engage, and enrich our lives with the Word of our living God.

About The Author

Scroll to Top