Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Inheritance of the Tribe of Joseph - Joshua 16-17
The descendants of Joseph drew one lot, that the inheritance of the half tribe of Manasseh might not be separated from that of the tribe of Ephraim. But the territory was immediately divided between the two separate tribes of the children of Joseph, Ephraim receiving the southern portion of the land that had fallen to it by lot, and half Manasseh the northern. Accordingly we find the southern boundary of the whole territory described first of all in Jos 16:1-4, both the boundary which separated it from the tribe of Benjamin (Jos 18:11.), and that which divided it from Dan (Jos 19:40.); then the territory of Ephraim is given, with a minute description of the northern boundary (Jos 16:5-10); and finally the territory assigned to the families of Manasseh (Jos 17:1-13), without any precise delineation of its northern boundaries, all that is stated being that the Manassites touched Asher and Issachar towards the north, and also received some scattered towns with their villages in the territory of both those tribes (Jos 17:10-11). To this there is appended in vv. 14-18 the complaint of the children of Joseph concerning the inheritance that had fallen to them.
Territory of the tribe of Joseph. - Jos 16:1. "And there came out the lot of the children of Joseph from Jordan by Jericho." "The lot came out," viz., from the turn (cf. Jos 19:1, Jos 19:17, Jos 19:24). The expression "came up" is used in the same sense in Jos 18:11. The connection of these two words with the rest of the sentence, "from Jordan by Jericho," may be explained on the supposition that the lot which came out of the urn determined the inheritance that fell to the tribe, so that we might paraphrase the verse in this manner: "There came out the lot to the children of Joseph, namely, the inheritance, which goes out from, or whose boundary commences at, the Jordan by Jericho," i.e., from that part of the Jordan which is opposite to Jericho, and which is still more precisely defined by the additional clause, "by the water of Jericho eastward." The water of Jericho is the present fountain of es Sultan, half an hour to the north-west of Riha, the only large fountain in the neighbourhood of Jericho, whose waters spread over the plain, and form a small brook, which no doubt flows in the rainy season through the Wady Kelt into the Jordan (see Rob. ii. pp. 283-4; Tobler, Topogr. v. Jerus. ii. pp. 558-9). "The wilderness" is in opposition to "the lot," so that the sense is, "namely, the desert going up from Jericho to the mountains to Bethel." According to Jos 18:12, the reference is to the desert of Beth-aven, which was on the east of Bethel, between the Wady Suwar (Tuwar) and Mutyah (see at Jos 7:2). Towards the east this desert terminates with the Jebel Kuruntul (Quarantana) on the north-west of Jericho, where it descends precipitously into the valley of the Jordan, or v. v., where it rises out of the Jordan valley. According to Jos 18:12, the same boundary went up by the shoulder of Jericho towards the north, i.e., along the northern range of mountains by Jericho, which cannot be any other than the "conspicuous double height, or rather group of heights," in front of the mountain of Quarantana, at the eastern foot of which lies the fountain of Ain es Sultan (Rob. ii. p. 284). In all probability, therefore, the boundary ran up towards the north-west, from the Sultan fountain to Ain Duk, and thence in a westerly direction across to Abu Seba (along which road Robinson had a frightful desert on his right hand: Pal. ii. p. 310), and then again towards the north-west to Beitin (Bethel), according to Jos 18:13, along the southern shoulder (or side) of Luz, i.e., Bethel.
"And it went out from Bethel to Luz." Bethel is distinguished from Luz in this passage, because the reference is not to the town of Bethel, which was called Luz by the Canaanites (vid., Gen 28:19), but to the southern range of mountains belonging to Bethel, from which the boundary ran out to the town of Luz, so that this town, which stood upon the border, was allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Jos 18:22). From this point the boundary went over "to the territory of the Arkite to Ataroth," We know nothing further about the Arkite than that David's friend Hushai belonged to that family (Sa2 15:32; Sa2 16:16; Ch1 27:33). Ataroth, called Ataroth-Adar in Jos 18:13, was not the present village of Atra, an hour and a half to the south of Jiljilia (Rob. iii. p. 80), as I once supposed, but the ruins of Atra, three-quarters of an hour to the south of Bireh (Beeroth, Rob. ii. p. 314), with which the expression "descended" in Jos 18:13 perfectly harmonizes. Consequently the boundary was first of all drawn in a south-westerly direction from Beitin to Bireh (Jos 18:25), and then southwards to Atrah.
From this point "it went down westward to the territory of the Japhletites to the territory of lower Beth-horon," or, according to Jos 18:13, "to the mountain (or range) which is on the south by lower Beth-horon." The Japhletite is altogether unknown as the Asherite of this name cannot possibly be thought of (Ch1 7:32-33). Lower Beth-horon is the present Beit-Ur Tachta, a village upon a low ridge. It is separated from Upper Beth-horon, which lies farther east, by a deep wady (see at Jos 10:10, and Rob. iii. p. 59). "And to Gezer," which was probably situated near the village of el Kubab (see at Jos 10:33). "And the goings out thereof are at the sea" (the Mediterranean), probably running towards the north-west, and following the Wady Muzeireh to the north of Japho, which was assigned to the Danites, according to Jos 19:46.
The territory commencing at the boundary lines mentioned was allotted to Ephraim and Manasseh as their inheritance.
Territory of the tribe of Ephraim, according to its families. - Jos 16:5. "The border of their inheritance was from the east Atroth-addar and (along the line) to Upper Beth-horon," - a brief description of the southern boundary, which is more minutely described in Jos 16:1-3. Upper Beth-horon is mentioned here instead of Lower Beth-horon (Jos 16:3). This makes no difference, however, as the two places stood quite close to one another (see at Jos 10:10). In Jos 16:6-8 the northern boundary of Ephraim is given, namely, from the middle, or from "a central point near the watershed" (Knobel), first towards the east (Jos 16:6 and Jos 16:7), and then towards the west (Jos 16:8). The eastern half of the northern boundary went ימּה, i.e., when regarded from the west, or looked at towards the west, to the north side of Michmethah. According to Jos 17:7, this place was before Shechem, and therefore in any case it was not far from it, though it has not been discovered yet. Knobel supposes it to have been on the site of the present Kabate (Seetzen, ii. p. 166), Kubatiyeh, an hour and a half to the south of Jenin (Rob. iii. 154), assuming that Michmethah might also have been pronounced Chemathah, and that ב may have been substituted for מ. But Kabate is six hours to the north of Shechem, and therefore was certainly not "before Shechem" (Jos 17:7). It then turned "eastward to Taanath-shiloh" (Τηαν̀θ Σηλώ, lxx), according to the Onom. (s. v. Thenath) ten Roman miles from Neapolis (Sichem), on the way to the Jordan, most probably the Thena of Ptol. (v. 16, 5), the present Tana, Ain Tana, a heap of ruins on the south-east of Nabulus, where there are large cisterns to be found (see Rob. Bibl. Res. p. 295; Ritter, Erdk. xv. p. 471). And "then went by on the east to Janoah" (i.e., Jano in Acrabittena regione, twelve Roman miles from Neapolis: Onom.), the present ruins of Jann, a miserable village, with extensive ruins of great antiquity, about three hours to the south-east of Nabulus, three-quarters of an hour to the north-east of Akrabeh (Rob. Bibl. Res. p. 297; Van de Velde, R. ii. p. 268).
From Janoah the boundary went down "to Ataroth and Naarath," Ataroth, a different place from the Ataroth or Atroth-addar mentioned in Jos 16:3 and Jos 16:5, is apparently to be sought for on the eastern slope of the mountains by the side of the Ghor, judging from the expression "went down;" but it has not yet been discovered. Naarath, probably the same as Naaran, in eastern Ephraim (Ch1 7:28), is described in the Onom. (s. v. Naaratha) as viculus Judaeorum Naorath, five Roman miles (i.e., two hours) from Jericho, probably on the north-east. The boundary line then touched Jericho, i.e., the district of Jericho, namely on the north side of the district, as Jericho was allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Jos 18:21). At this point it also coincided with the southern boundary of the tribe of Joseph (Jos 16:1) and the northern boundary of Benjamin (Jos 18:12).
The western half of the northern boundary went from Tappuah westwards to the Cane-brook, and terminated at the sea. Tappuah, called En-tappuah in Jos 17:7, as the southern boundary of Manasseh, which is there described, and which ran from Michmethah to En-tappuah, coincides with the northern boundary of Ephraim, must not be identified with the royal town of that name mentioned in Jos 12:17, and therefore was not Kefr Kud (Capercota), on the west of Jenin (Gina). This place was so far to the north, viz., seven hours to the north of Nabulus, that the boundary from Michmethah, in the neighbourhood of Shechem (Nabulus) onwards, would have run from south to north instead of in a westerly direction. Still less can En-tappuah be found, as Van de Velde supposes, in the old well of the deserted village of Atf, five hours to the east of Nabulus. It must have been to the west of Shechem; but it has not yet been discovered, as the country to the west of Nabulus and Sebastieh has "not been examined" (Van de Velde). The Cane-brook is no doubt the brook of that name mentioned by Bohad. (vita Salad. pp. 191, 193); only it is not quite clear "whether the Abu Zabura is intended, or a brook somewhat farther south, where there is still a Nahr el Kassab."
The tribe of Ephraim also received some scattered towns in the territory of the tribe of Manasseh, in fact all those towns to which Tappuah belonged, according to Jos 17:8, with the dependent villaGes.
(Note: The reason why the Ephraimites received scattered towns and villages in the tribe-territory of Manasseh, is supposed by Calvin, Masius, and others, to have been, that after the boundaries had been arranged, on comparing the territory allotted to each with the relative numbers of the two tribes, it was found that Ephraim had received too small a possession. This is quite possible; at the same time there may have been other reasons which we cannot discover now, as precisely the same thing occurs in the case of Manasseh (Jos 17:11).)
From Gezer, however (see Jos 16:3), they could not drive out the Canaanites, so that they still dwelt among the Ephraimites, but were reduced to a state of serfdom. This notice resembles the one in Jos 15:63, and is to be interpreted in the same way.