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The Other Half-Tribe of Manasseh (West)


Then allotment was made to the tribe of Manasseh, for he was the firstborn of Joseph. To Machir the firstborn of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, were allotted Gilead and Bashan, because he was a warrior. 2And allotments were made to the rest of the tribe of Manasseh, by their families, Abiezer, Helek, Asriel, Shechem, Hepher, and Shemida; these were the male descendants of Manasseh son of Joseph, by their families.

3 Now Zelophehad son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh had no sons, but only daughters; and these are the names of his daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 4They came before the priest Eleazar and Joshua son of Nun and the leaders, and said, “The L ord commanded Moses to give us an inheritance along with our male kin.” So according to the commandment of the L ord he gave them an inheritance among the kinsmen of their father. 5Thus there fell to Manasseh ten portions, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which is on the other side of the Jordan, 6because the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance along with his sons. The land of Gilead was allotted to the rest of the Manassites.

7 The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to Michmethath, which is east of Shechem; then the boundary goes along southward to the inhabitants of En-tappuah. 8The land of Tappuah belonged to Manasseh, but the town of Tappuah on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the Ephraimites. 9Then the boundary went down to the Wadi Kanah. The towns here, to the south of the wadi, among the towns of Manasseh, belong to Ephraim. Then the boundary of Manasseh goes along the north side of the wadi and ends at the sea. 10The land to the south is Ephraim’s and that to the north is Manasseh’s, with the sea forming its boundary; on the north Asher is reached, and on the east Issachar. 11Within Issachar and Asher, Manasseh had Beth-shean and its villages, Ibleam and its villages, the inhabitants of Dor and its villages, the inhabitants of En-dor and its villages, the inhabitants of Taanach and its villages, and the inhabitants of Megiddo and its villages (the third is Naphath). 12Yet the Manassites could not take possession of those towns; but the Canaanites continued to live in that land. 13But when the Israelites grew strong, they put the Canaanites to forced labor, but did not utterly drive them out.

The Tribe of Joseph Protests

14 The tribe of Joseph spoke to Joshua, saying, “Why have you given me but one lot and one portion as an inheritance, since we are a numerous people, whom all along the L ord has blessed?” 15And Joshua said to them, “If you are a numerous people, go up to the forest, and clear ground there for yourselves in the land of the Perizzites and the Rephaim, since the hill country of Ephraim is too narrow for you.” 16The tribe of Joseph said, “The hill country is not enough for us; yet all the Canaanites who live in the plain have chariots of iron, both those in Beth-shean and its villages and those in the Valley of Jezreel.” 17Then Joshua said to the house of Joseph, to Ephraim and Manasseh, “You are indeed a numerous people, and have great power; you shall not have one lot only, 18but the hill country shall be yours, for though it is a forest, you shall clear it and possess it to its farthest borders; for you shall drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and though they are strong.”

The historian returns to the tribe of Manasseh with the view of confirming what we formerly saw with regard to the daughters of Selophead. For though it was a novelty for females to succeed indiscriminately with males, yet as five of them had survived their father, they proved it to be equitable that they should be admitted to a portion, lest while he was innocent he should lie under the reproach of having died childless. God had replied to Moses by his oracle, that in regard to succession they should be counted as one head. They now demand that the decision thus given by the mouth of the Lord shall be carried into effect. As to the name of first-born, still given to Manasseh, it must be understood so as not to be at variance with the prophecy of Jacob; or rather his primogeniture is here in a manner buried, and his dignity restricted to the past. Here, however, it is to be observed, that men are so tenacious and so much devoted to their own interests, that it seldom occurs to them to give others their due. The daughters of Selophead had obtained a portion by a heavenly decree; nor had any one dared to utter a word against it; and yet if they had remained silent no regard would have been paid to them. Therefore, lest the delay should prove injurious to them, they apply to Joshua and Eleazar, and insist that they shall not be deprived of their legitimate succession. No delay is interposed by Joshua to prevent their immediately obtaining what is just, nor is there any murmuring on the part of the people. Hence we infer, that all were disposed to act equitably; but every one is occupied with his own interest, and too apt carelessly to overlook that of others.

5. And there fell ten portions to Manasseh, etc The children of Manasseh are in this passage classed under seven stems. Machir, the first-born, is placed apart; the other six follow. Here the question arises, How was the inheritance divided into ten parts? Some expositors cunningly disguise the difficulty; 155155     Latin, “Quidam astute hunc scrupulum dissimulant.” French, “Aucuns y vent a la finesse ne faisans nulle mention de ceste difficulte;” “Some have recourse to finesse, making no mention of this difficulty.” — Ed. others, because they are unable to solve it, indulge in the merest trifling. It is certainly very absurd that four portions should be given to five daughters; and it is not a whit more congruous that their share should be doubled because their father was the first-born. It is beyond all controversy, that Gilead, son of Machir, and great-grandfather of the females of whom we are now speaking, chose his settlement in mount Gilead and Bashan. Therefore, seeing he had already obtained an inheritance by privilege without lot, he ought not to have obtained one by lot in the land of Canaan, unless perhaps he settled only a part of his family beyond the Jordan. For Hepher was one of his sons, but not the only one; and likewise the offspring of five other brothers might be distinguished into several heads according to the number of which the allocation by lot might be made. For it is not known in what degree families whose portion fell in the land of Canaan were taken. And all we read here is, that ten lots were east among the sons of Manasseh in addition to the country which they had formerly acquired for themselves beyond the Jordan. It is thus vain to dispute concerning the number, which cannot be ascertained with certainty from the present narrative, because the first thing necessary to be known is the exact number of families to whom the division was common. Nay, it is not impossible that the daughters of Selophead obtained their patrimony there. They are said, indeed, to have dwelt among the brethren of their father; but the place is not given. Be this as it may, I have no doubt that mutual equity was observed, and that after provision was made for others, the land which had been submitted to lot was distributed among ten families whose names are here omitted.

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