Joshua 16:5-8: The Lot of Ephraim, Part 1

Verse 5:[1] And the border of the children of Ephraim according to their families was thus: even the border of their inheritance on the east side was (Josh. 18:13) Ataroth-addar, (2 Chron. 8:5) unto Beth-horon the upper…

[And the border was made, etc.] These and the following things are more involved (Bonfrerius), and obscured with overmuch brevity (Masius). But yet it is not doubtful that the descriptions of the places at that time were especially perspicuous: yet, because that region, almost completely ravaged by the Romans and Barbarians, has a far different face than formerly, it is not the case that those studious of Theology trouble themselves much in tracking down the situation of the places (Osiander on Joshua 15:12). Masius alone appears to have aptly distinguished the places of this chapter; but Adrichomius errs in many things (Bonfrerius). [Concerning which consult the Author, if there is time: For I undertake the explication of matters, not the censure or defense of persons.] In this verse is not described some extreme limit, but the entire breadth in that part in which it has the greatest breadth Eastward, while concerning the rest farther toward Jordan and the East it is forced by degrees into a narrow space (Bonfrerius). Therefore, the Manassites were insinuating themselves in a certain measure between the Ephraimites and the Jordan Eastward, just as likewise the children of Issachar between the Manassites and the Jordan, Joshua 17:10 (Bonfrerius on verse 6). And so the greatest breadth is here placed between Ataroth-addar on the South, and Beth-horon the upper on the North. Moreover, it is evident that no extreme limit is here designated, because in what follows other extreme limits Eastward, Northward, Westward, are described; although one ought to have more discrimination, aptly distinguishing all things (Bonfrerius almost out of Masius).

[Over against the east, מִזְרָחָה] Toward (or, unto) the east (Junius and Tremellius). On the side of the rising of the sun, that is, he beginson the eastern side. The breadth of Ephraim is described where it looks toward the East (Vatablus). Nevertheless, it does not designate the farthest coast of the East. For there from Jordan Jericho was first occurring, then Bethel, etc. (Masius).

On the east side, that is, the north-east side. It is no wonder, if some of these descriptions are dark and doubtful to us at this distance of time and place; there having been so many alterations made in places, and so many circumstances being now altogether undiscoverable. But this is evident to every man of common sense, that this and all the descriptions here mentioned were then certain and evident to the Israelites, because these were the foundation of their present practice, and of all the possessions which then they took and peaceably possessed in succeeding ages.


Verse 6:[2] And the border went out toward the sea to (Josh. 17:7) Michmethah on the north side; and the border went about eastward unto Taanath-shiloh, and passed by it on the east to Janohah…

[They went out…unto the sea] Namely, from Beth-horon the upper (Bonfrerius). Now, the only describes vaguely the Northern Border, inasmuch as it is to be described more precisely in verse 8 (Bonfrerius almost out of Masius). Its length is described from the West, verging toward the East (Vatablus).

Toward the sea; the midland sea, towards the west.

[And it skirts the borders: It is a defect in our text, and is to be read, and the border skirts, out of the Hebrew (Bonfrerius, Serarius); וְנָסַ֧ב הַגְּב֛וּל[3]] And the border turns itself, that is, the line marking the border and boundaries (Vatablus). The border was turned toward the east, from that Beth-horon (Masius), where the line is bent, and he describes the eastern borders obliquely by proceeding toward Jericho. Now, it is sufficiently evident that the eastern borders are not enclosed on both ends [that is, both on the South and on the North] by Jordan, for the Scripture would have indicated that; neither in describing those would it have been necessary to enumerate so many places and cities, through which these borders pass (Bonfrerius).

[In Thanath-selo, תַּאֲנַ֣ת שִׁלֹ֑ה] Taanath-Shiloh (Montanus, Arabic, Junius and Tremellius); unto the fig tree of Shiloh[4] (Jonathan).

[On the east of Janohah (thus certain Hebrews in Vatablus)] On the east to Janohah (Pagnine, Junius and Tremellius, Vatablus).


Verse 7:[5] And it went down from Janohah to Ataroth, (1 Chron. 7:28) and to Naarath, and came to Jericho, and went out at Jordan.

Came to Jericho: Not to the city of Jericho, which belonged to Benjamin’s lot, Joshua 18:21, but to its territory.


Verse 8:[6] The border went out from Tappuah westward unto the (Josh. 17:9) 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.

[From Tappuah, etc.] He returns, as far as I am able to see, to complete the limits of the Northern length, from Michmethah unto the Mediterranean Sea. For, that Tappuah was there, but not near Jordan, it is certain from the description of the borders of Manasseh[7] (Masius). The return of the length toward the West is described. The border proceeds, that is, the line tracing the border and boundaries returns westward, that is, whence it had come (Vatablus).

[Over against the sea unto the valley of reeds, יָ֙מָּה֙ נַ֣חַל קָנָ֔ה[8]] [Not in one way do they render it.] Toward the sea (Pagnine, Montanus, Septuagint) (from the sea [Jonathan], over against the sea [Tigurinus]) the torrent of Kanah (Montanus), unto the torrent of Kanah (Tigurinus), or of the reed (Pagnine), in Chelcana (Septuagint). [In the place of נַחַל קָנָה, the river of Kanah, they appear to have read בְּחַלְקָנָה, in Chelcana.] Others thus: Westward to the torrent, or river, of Kanah (Arabic, Junius and Tremellius, English, Dutch, Castalio, Munster). To the torren full of rushes, or reedy (Masius), where the thicket of reeds, or reed-bed, was dense. Yet to others [as we saw] Kanah is a proper name (Malvenda). Some suppose that is valley, or torrent, is that כְּרִית/Cherith, concerning which 1 Kings 17. But it hinders that Cherith is Eastward, and near Jordan; but this place is Westward, and near the sea, as it shall soon be evident (Bonfrerius).

[Unto the saltiest sea[9]] That is, the Dead Sea (Lyra, Lapide); as it is evident in Joshua 18:19;[10] Numbers 34:3[11] (Lapide). But the borders of Ephraim nowhere reach unto the Dead Sea. This is also refuted by that description of the borders of Manasseh (Masius) [concerning which in the next chapter]. Therefore, in this place the Sea is the Mediterranean (Vatablus, Masius, Bonfrerius, Menochius, Malvenda). That word, saltiest, is not present in the Hebrew, Chaldean, or Septuagint (Bonfrerius). Moreover, there is no need to describe the Southern limits of Ephraim separately, nor the western: for they are those that we said belong to Joseph all together (Masius).

[1] Hebrew: וַיְהִ֛י גְּב֥וּל בְּנֵֽי־אֶפְרַ֖יִם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָ֑ם וַיְהִ֞י גְּב֤וּל נַחֲלָתָם֙ מִזְרָ֔חָה עַטְר֣וֹת אַדָּ֔ר עַד־בֵּ֥ית חוֹרֹ֖ן עֶלְיֽוֹן׃

[2] Hebrew: וְיָצָ֙א הַגְּב֜וּל הַיָּ֗מָּה הַֽמִּכְמְתָת֙ מִצָּפ֔וֹן וְנָסַ֧ב הַגְּב֛וּל מִזְרָ֖חָה תַּאֲנַ֣ת שִׁלֹ֑ה וְעָבַ֣ר אוֹת֔וֹ מִמִּזְרַ֖ח יָנֽוֹחָה׃

[3] Joshua 16:6b:  “…and the border went about (וְנָסַ֧ב הַגְּב֛וּל) eastward unto Taanath-shiloh…”

[4] תְּאֵנָה signifies fig tree.

[5] Hebrew: וְיָרַ֥ד מִיָּנ֖וֹחָה עֲטָר֣וֹת וְנַעֲרָ֑תָה וּפָגַע֙ בִּֽירִיח֔וֹ וְיָצָ֖א הַיַּרְדֵּֽן׃

[6] Hebrew: מִתַּפּ֜וּחַ יֵלֵ֙ךְ הַגְּב֥וּל יָ֙מָּה֙ נַ֣חַל קָנָ֔ה וְהָי֥וּ תֹצְאֹתָ֖יו הַיָּ֑מָּה זֹ֗את נַחֲלַ֛ת מַטֵּ֥ה בְנֵי־אֶפְרַ֖יִם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָֽם׃

[7] Joshua 17:7-9.

[8] קָנֶה signifies reed.

[9] Thus the Vulgate.

[10] Joshua 18:19:  “And the border passed along to the side of Beth-hoglah northward:  and the outgoings of the border were at the north bay of the salt sea (יָם־הַמֶּלַח; maris salsissimi, in the Vulgate) at the south end of Jordan:  this was the south coast.”

[11] Numbers 34:3:  “Then your south quarter shall be from the wilderness of Zin along by the coast of Edom, and your south border shall be the outmost coast of the salt sea (יָם־הַמֶּלַח; mare salsissimum, in the Vulgate) eastward…”

2 thoughts on “Joshua 16:5-8: The Lot of Ephraim, Part 1

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘The border of the lot of Ephraim is set down, by which it was divided on the south from Benjamin and Dan, who lay between it and Judah, and on the north from Manasseh; for east and west it reached from Jordan to the great sea. The learned, who aim to be exact in drawing the line according to the directions here, find themselves very much at a loss, the description being short and intricate. The report of those who in these latter ages have travelled those countries will not serve to clear the difficulties, so vastly unlike is it now to what it was then; not only cities have been so destroyed as that no mark nor footstep of them remains, but brooks are dried up, rivers alter their courses, and even the mountain falling cometh to nought, and the rock is removed out of his place, Job 14:18. Unless I could hope to solve the doubts that arise upon this draught of the border of Ephraim, it is to no purpose to mention them: no doubt it was then perfectly understood, so as that the first intention of recording it was effectually answered, which was to notify the ancient landmarks, which posterity must by no means remove.’

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