Joshua 17:15: Joshua’s Challenge to the Sons of Joseph

Verse 15:[1] And Joshua answered them, If thou be a great people, then get thee up to the wood country, and cut down for thyself there in the land of the Perizzites and of the giants (or, Rephaims,[2] Gen. 14:5; 15:20), if mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee.

[If thou be a great people, etc.] He retorts the argument (Bonfrerius): that is to say, Ye have abounded in the number of men, and so also in power (Masius). Question: How is it that for them he places the hope of victory in the great abundance of them, but does not direct them to fix all confidence in the help of God? Response: Joshua wanted to refute them in their own words, and to show at the same time that with the hand to the plow, as it is said, fortune, that is, the benignity of God, ought to be prayed for (Masius on verse 18).

If thou be a great people, etc.: He retorts their own argument: Seeing thou art a great and numerous people, turn thy complaints into actions and valiant exploits, and enlarge thy borders by thy own hand, to which thou mayst confidently expect God’s assistance.

[Go up into the forest, and cut down] Some take this properly, of clearing wooded places (Bonfrerius, thus Lyra). That is to say, Ascend into mount Ephraim, and cut down the woods there, and establish for thyself cities and farms (Kimchi in Masius). Go up into the wood country, that is, unto the mountain, which is full of forests: and cut down for thyself there, understanding, trees, so that thou mightest build there (Junius).

[וּבֵרֵאתָ֤ לְךָ֙[3]] And thou shalt choose (Montanus, similarly Syriac); cleanse for thyself a place (Arabic); cut down, or cut back (Septuagint, Vatablus, Junius and Tremellius); that is, make for thyself a habitable place with the forest cut down (Junius). And prepare for thyself (Munster, Tigurinus, Vatablus, Jonathan), understanding, a place of habitation (Vatablus, Osiander, Jonathan). Others maintain that this is to be explained allegorically; that is to say, make the places occupied by barbarians, with the same cut down/off, suitable for habitation; as they are wont to render wilderness places easier to cultivate with the woods cut down (thus Bonfrerius).

To the wood country; to the mountain, as it, is called, verse 18, where among some towns there is much wood land, which thou mayst without much difficulty possess, and so get the more room. Cut down, that is, the wood, verse 18, for thy own advantage and use; partly in building more cities and towns; and partly for preparing the land for the use of pasture and tillage.

[In the land of the Perizzites] These were a rustic sort of men, dwelling far from cities (for the Jews also call places not enclosed by walls פְּרָזוֹת/ perazoth), and robbers, who were living on plunder; for the Greeks render פרז by ἐνισχύειν, to be strong (Malvenda).

The Perizzites; supposed to be a savage and brutish kind of people, that lived in woods and mountains.

[And the Rephaim] These were of the race of giants, who dwelt in caves, as mentioned in Joshua 11:21; 12:4 (Masius). Those that complain of the straitness of their borders, ought to expel not their own people but enemies, or to occupy and cultivate vacant places (Grotius).

Of the giants, who lived in caves and mountains, now especially when they were driven out of their cities.

[Because it is narrow, כִּֽי־אָ֥ץ לְךָ֖ וגו״] Because (or, if [Munster, Pagnine, Tigurinus]) it is narrow (Montanus, similarly the Septuagint, Jonathan, Syriac, Arabic); if the mountain appear narrow to thee (Vatablus). Because it is narrower, that is, if it presseth and confineth thee (certain interpreters in Malvenda). If it is quite distant, if thou think that mountain to be removed farther from thee, then cast out the Perizzites, etc., and occupy their places (Kimchi in Masius). Moreover, it is called Mount Ephraim κατὰ πρόληψιν, proleptically; for it did not yet belong to Ephraim any more than to Manasseh (Masius). [But Bonfrerius denies this:] For Ephraim and Manasseh had already taken their possessions. Moreover, mount Ephraim here signifies the entire land of Ephriam, which was mountainous. See Joshua 19:50; 20:7; 21:21; 24:30; Judges 4:5 (Bonfrerius).

If Mount Ephraim be too narrow for thee, or, seeing Mount Ephraim is too narrow for thee, as thou complainest, take to thyself the rest of that hilly and wood country. Mount Ephraim was a particular and eminent portion of the land, belonging to the tribe of Ephraim, as appears from Joshua 19:50; 20:7; 21:21; Judges 4:5. And this seems to be here mentioned synecdochically, for all the portion allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh, as appears from their complaint, which was not that this part, but that their whole portion, was too strait for them.

[1] Hebrew: וַיֹּ֙אמֶר אֲלֵיהֶ֜ם יְהוֹשֻׁ֗עַ אִם־עַם־רַ֤ב אַתָּה֙ עֲלֵ֣ה לְךָ֣ הַיַּ֔עְרָה וּבֵרֵאתָ֤ לְךָ֙ שָׁ֔ם בְּאֶ֥רֶץ הַפְּרִזִּ֖י וְהָֽרְפָאִ֑ים כִּֽי־אָ֥ץ לְךָ֖ הַר־אֶפְרָֽיִם׃

[2] Hebrew: וְהָרְפָאִים.

[3] בָּרָא in the Qal signifies to create; in the Piel, to cut down.

1 thought on “Joshua 17:15: Joshua’s Challenge to the Sons of Joseph

  1. Matthew Henry: ‘Joshua endeavours to reconcile them to their lot. He owns they were a great people, and being two tribes ought to have more than one lot only (Joshua 17:17), but tells them that what had fallen to their share would be a sufficient lot for them both, if they would but work and fight. They desired a lot in which they might indulge themselves in ease and luxury. “No,” says Joshua, “you must not count upon that; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread is a sentence in force even in Canaan itself.” He retorts their own argument, that they were a great people. “If so, you are the better able to help yourselves, and have the less reason to expect help from others. If thou hast many mouths to be filled, thou hast twice as many hands to be employed; earn, and then eat.”… He bids them work for more (Joshua 17:15): “Get thee up to the wood-country, which is within thy own border, and let all hands be set to work to cut down the trees, rid the rough lands, and make them, with art and industry, good arable ground.” Note, Many wish for larger possessions who do not cultivate and make the best of what they have, think they should have more talents given them who do not trade with those with which they are entrusted. Most people’s poverty is the effect of their idleness; would they dig, they need not beg.’

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