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17 Land was allotted to the tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s firstborn. Machir, the firstborn son of Manasseh, the father of Gilead, received Gilead and Bashan because he was a warrior. Then land was allotted to the rest of the people of Manasseh by clans: Abiezerites, Helekites, Asrielites, Shechemites, Hepherites, and Shemidaites (the male descendants of Manasseh, son of Joseph, by clans).

Women don’t make many appearances in Israel’s story, mostly because women were not given a prominent role in ancient Middle Eastern cultures, but this episode is a startling example of equality and justice: although inheritance usually is passed from father to the oldest son, this family has only daughters. How will they pass down their land? Well the law of Moses, which has provided for so many things, also provides for this.

Now Zelophehad, son of Hepher, grandson of Gilead, great-grandson of Machir, great-great-grandson of Manasseh, had no sons to inherit, only five daughters: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. These daughters came before Eleazar the priest, Joshua (son of Nun), and the leaders of the people.

Zelophehad’s Daughters: In the law, the Eternal commanded Moses to give daughters an inheritance along with male relatives.

So, as the Eternal had commanded, he gave the daughters an inheritance alongside their uncles.

So Manasseh was given 10 portions (in addition to the land of Gilead and Bashan on the far side of the Jordan) since the daughters of Manasseh also received an inheritance among their male relatives. The land of Gilead itself was given to Manasseh’s other male descendants.

The territory of Manasseh reached from Asher to Michmethath, which is east of Shechem; then the boundary went southward to the inhabitants of the spring of Tappuah. (The land of Tappuah belonged to the tribe of Manasseh, but the town itself on the boundary of Manasseh belonged to the people of Ephraim.) From there, the boundary went south to the wadi of Kanah. The towns to the south of the river among the towns of Manasseh also belonged to Ephraim. Then the boundary of Manasseh went along the north side of the wadi and ended at the sea.

10 The south side was given to Ephraim, and the north to Manasseh with the sea forming the western boundary; the northern boundary was the land allotted to Asher, and the eastern was Issachar. 11 Within the territories of Issachar and Asher, Manasseh possessed these cities: 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 Megiddo and their villages, the three towns of the slopes.[a]

12 But the descendants of Manasseh could not conquer those cities because the Canaanites stubbornly continued to live among them in that region. 13 At last when the Israelites grew stronger, they made the Canaanites their servants, although they did not remove them completely.

14 Then the descendants of Joseph came to Joshua and made demands of him.

Joseph’s Descendants: Why are we only receiving one share, one portion to inherit, since we are numerous and the Eternal has always generously blessed us?

Joshua (to Joseph’s descendants): 15 If there are so many of you and the hill country of Ephraim is too crowded, then why don’t you go up into the forests? Clear more land for yourselves and spread out where the Perizzites and the Rephaim live.

Joseph’s Descendants: 16 The hill country does not have enough room for us; and what’s more, all the Canaanites who inhabit the plains in Beth-shean and its villages and in the valley of Jezreel have iron chariots to use against us.

Joshua (to Ephraim and Manasseh, Joseph’s descendants): 17 All right; it’s true that there are many of you and that you are powerful. You should not have just one share. 18 The hill country will be yours, and you can clear the forests and possess the land to its farthest borders. But you will have to defeat the Canaanites even with their iron chariots and powerful warriors.


  1. 17:11 Another possible meaning for this difficult Hebrew text is “the third in the list is Napheth.”

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