Exploring Joshua 17: A Thoughtful Analysis

Welcome to this comprehensive commentary on the 17th chapter of the Book of Joshua — an important chapter that conveys enduring lessons on inheritance, faith, and boldness. This narrative, permeated with complex characters and intriguing plots, is not just a historical account but, more importantly, a spiritual journey.

Referencing the New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible exclusively, this article shall delve into unraveling the intricate messages that are hidden between the lines of the chapter and seek to enrich one’s understanding of God’s grand plan.

As a charismatic Christian writer and theologian, the approach taken in this commentary will underscore the active presence and the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in guiding the Israelites – reflecting the quintessence of our charismatic belief in God’s promise and power.

Exploring Joshua 17: A Thoughtful Analysis

Introduction to Joshua Chapter 17: The Land Allotment Continues

In this chapter, the distribution of the land among the tribes of Israel continues as God mandated it to Joshua. Specifically, we delve into the lot of the half-tribe of Manasseh, who were descendants of Joseph’s firstborn son, Manasseh. The division of land here represents more than just geographical delineations, it reflects God’s promises being fulfilled and His endurance in His covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12:1).

We see some noteworthy spiritual themes in this chapter as well. First, we witness the transition from Joshua’s leading hand into individual tribes taking responsibility for the lands assigned to them.

This reiterates the principle of personal responsibility in our walk with God, as each tribe had to settle, cultivate and protect their allotted portion. Second, we are reminded of God’s fairness when we see the daughters of Zelophehad receive their inheritance (Joshua 17:3-4), as God asserts the importance of equity, showing that His blessings extend beyond societal norms and restrictions.

  • “And they came near before Eleazar the priest, before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the leaders, saying, ‘The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.’ Therefore, according to the commandment of the Lord, he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.” – Joshua 17:4 (NKJV)

The third theme is the constant struggle with external and internal opposition, symbolized by the Canaanites who remained in the land. Despite receiving their inheritance, the children of Manasseh struggled to fully possess their lands due to the Canaanites who had chariots of iron (Joshua 17:16).

Similarly, in our spiritual journey, we might encounter strongholds and areas of resistance that may seem too daunting to overcome. However, we are to remember that just as the land was a gift from God to Israel, so is our spiritual inheritance. God has given it to us, and He will empower us to fully possess it.

Analyzing the Critical Themes of Joshua 17: Inheritance, Steadfastness, and Faith

The chapter of Joshua 17 delivers powerful messages centering on the themes of inheritance, steadfastness, and faith. As an inheritance from God, land allocation holds a significant position in Joshua 17.

The descendants of Joseph receive their portion, with Manasseh being apportioned a larger entity. This highlights the idea of divine selection and reward as we read in Joshua 17:4, “They came near before Eleazar the priest, before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the leaders, saying, “The LORD commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.” This underlying notion of inheritance conveys a sense of entitlement and birthright obtained from a spiritual contract with our heavenly Father.

Joshua 17 illuminates the virtue of steadfastness with the tribe of Manasseh committing to a challenging task. Maneuvering the complications and battles tied to their land allocation, they demonstrated unwavering resolve.

Despite the tribes’ complaints about hill country allocation, Joshua remained steadfast in his faith and governance, declaring thusly in Joshua 17:15…if you are a great people, then go up to the forest country and clear a place for yourself there in the land of the Perizzites and the giants, since the mountains of Ephraim are too confined for you.”

Amid adversity and strife, steadfastness emerges as a critical theme, emphasizing our need to hold firm to what God has commanded and promised in even the most challenging times.

The element of faith runs like a subtle thread throughout chapter 17. It’s encapsulated in Joshua’s unwavering belief in God to help them overcome adversities. The faith of the daughters of Zelophehad is commendable when they boldly claimed their inheritance in Joshua 17:4.

  • “They came near before Eleazar the priest, before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the leaders, saying, ‘The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.’ Therefore, according to the commandment of the Lord, he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.”

Their action clearly states that faith should not be passively held but boldly lived, reflecting the saying, faith without works is dead (James 2:17). Thus, Joshua 17 incites us to ignite our faith, even when the odds are overwhelmingly against us.

Joshua 17: Meaning and Interpretation

The passage Joshua 17 presents a challenging narrative from both historical and spiritual perspectives. It is a part of the ongoing account of the division of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel, specifically shedding light on the land allocated to the half-tribe of Manasseh.

Key points to consider from the chapter include:

  • The inheritance claims of the children of Manasseh, specifically the descendants of Manasseh’s son Joseph (Joshua 17:3-6) as per NKJV. Females were traditionally excluded from inheritance in ancient Near East, but God establishes a new standard of gender equality in His law.
  • The boundaries of Manasseh’s land (Joshua 17:7-13), emphasizing the importance of geographic landmarks in the ancient world, hinting at the detailed plans God has for His people.
  • The tribe of Manasseh’s inability to rid its allocated areas of their Canaanite inhabitants (Joshua 17:12-13), underpinning how disobedience may prevent God’s blessings from being fully enjoyed. Manasseh’s compromise also serves as a cautionary tale about the dangers of syncretism—conforming to the ways of the world rather than adhering strictly to God’s commands.

In interpreting Joshua 17, it’s important to remember the broader context of God’s covenant with His people. While the text recounts historical occurrences, the spiritual undertones illustrate the consequences of disobedience or compromise in relation to God’s directives. Thereby, serving as a reminder for Christians of their need to wholly and fervently follow God’s commandments, understanding that an attitude of partial obedience can lead to diminished blessings or spiritual progress in life.

Understanding the Role of Manasseh and Ephraim in Chapter 17 of Joshua

The seventeenth chapter of the Book of Joshua paints a vivid picture of the roles of the brothers, Manasseh and Ephraim. These two figures, descendants of Joseph, were held in high esteem as their tribes received a significant portion of the Promised Land. This distribution was a sign of God’s faithfulness to His promises, particularly those given to Jacob and Joseph.

An essential reference is Joshua 17:4: “They came near before Eleazar the priest, before Joshua the son of Nun, and before the rulers, saying, ‘The Lord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance among our brothers.’ Therefore, according to the commandment of the Lord, he gave them an inheritance among their father’s brothers.”

This chapter brings to light some truths about God’s nature and His plans for His people:

  • God’s promise: The allocation of land to Manasseh and Ephraim reaffirms God’s promise to their forefathers. This signifies that God is faithful to His word and His promises always come to fruition, irrespective of the span of time or circumstances.
  • God’s prophecies: Jacob had prophesied that Ephraim would be greater and his descendants would become a multitude of nations (Genesis 48:19), a prophecy that took shape as the tribe of Ephraim took possession of their inheritances in the Promised Land.
  • God’s judgement: The chapter notes that despite their large numbers, the children of Manasseh could not displace the Canaanites because they had chariots of iron (Joshua 17:16). This showcases God’s judgement and sovereignty. He allows every action to take its course till the appointed time for its fulfilment.

Despite these miraculous inheritances, the two tribes still show a lack of faith in God’s provision. When they request Joshua for more land, citing their large numbers, Joshua challenges them to clear the forest and the giants from the hill country instead of asking for readymade properties. This teaches us that God often gives us a raw material, and it is from this that He expects us to build on and maximize our blessings.

  • God’s expectation: The response of Joshua to Manasseh and Ephraim’s request suggests that God expects His people to tap into the potential that lies in what He has given to us (Joshua 17:15).
  • God’s empowerment: Joshua’s statement, “You are a great people and have great power…” (Joshua 17:17) points out that God’s promises often come with responsibilities, and He equips us to undertake whatever tasks He entrusts us with.

Relevance of Joshua 17 in Modern-Day Christianity

Reflecting on the significance of Joshua 17 to current Christian practices can enhance our understanding of God’s promise and provision. Contemporary Christians may see parallels between the historical events of Joshua 17 and their own spiritual journey. Just as the tribe of Manasseh was given a land inheritance but had to take steps to fully inhabit it (Joshua 17:12-13, NKJV), today’s Christians are promised spiritual inheritance, yet must work actively to possess it.

In this regard, Joshua 17 can be seen as a reminder of the Christian’s responsibility to possess the promises of God actively. It illustrates how the people of God are given their inheritance but are also expected to take action to claim it. Just as the tribes had to remove the Canaanites to fully inhabit their promised lands, Christians today are expected to resist sin and lead lives conforming to Christ’s teachings to fully benefit from God’s Promises.

  • Intentionality: Joshua 17 underscores the importance of intentionality in pursuing God’s promises. The Bible mentions that Manasseh couldn’t drive out Canaanites initially, but when they became more determined, they were able to settle in the land. The lesson for modern Christians is to purposefully pursue their spiritual inheritance.
  • Perseverance: Another critical lesson is the necessity of perseverance. Even when the Canaanites proved resistant, the tribes of Manasseh did not give up. Christians today ought to display this same tenacity, persisting in faith even amidst challenges.
  • Dependence on God: Above all, the narrative of Joshua 17 emphasizes the importance of reliance on God to claim His Promises. Without God’s assistance, Israelites’ efforts to inhabit their promised lands would have been in vain. This same principle applies to all Christians seeking to inhabit their spiritual inheritance.

In essence, Joshua 17 is not just a historical narrative but serves as a timeless reminder for Christians today. Its lessons on intentionality, perseverance, and dependence on God continue to carry relevance for modern-day Christianity. As Christians strive to cling to these principles, they will be better poised to inhabit the rich spiritual inheritance promised in Christ Jesus.


In conclusion, Joshua Chapter 17 offers deep insights into the distribution of the Promised Land among the tribes of Israel. It forces us to examine our understanding of faith, courage, entitlement, and responsibility. Remember, it is through understanding chapters like these that we progress in our pursuit of spiritual wisdom and enlightenment.

The chapter implores us to remember the importance of community and shared responsibility within the church today, while placing significant emphasis on the role of faith in overcoming life’s challenges. We see this in the appeals of the daughters of Zelophehad and the response of Joshua. As 1 Peter 3:15 NKJV says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”

Finally, as we travel further into the narrative of Joshua, we must remind ourselves of the dual themes of promise and fulfillment that weave throughout. Each holds lessons, not just for early Israelites, but for contemporary believers as well. We must keep the faith, step forward courageously, hold onto our God-given responsibilities, and work in unity with our brethren in the race to receive the fullness of the promises of God.

In the words of the Apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Let us therefore continue to delve deeper into God’s Word, gleaning wisdom and understanding as we unpack the rich narratives of the Book of Joshua. Faith is our journey, the Word of God our map; let us journey well, journey together, and journey with God.

About The Author

Scroll to Top