Here, I. The children of Joseph quarrel with their lot; if they had had any just cause to quarrel with it, we have reason to think Joshua would have relieved them, by adding to it, or altering it, which it does not appear he did. It is probable, because Joshua was himself of the tribe of Ephraim, they promised themselves that they should have some particular favour shown them, and should not be confined to the decision of the lot so closely as the other tribes; but Joshua makes them know that in the discharge of his office, as a public person, he had no more regard to his own tribe than to any other, but would administer impartially, without favour or affection, wherein he has left an excellent example to all in public trusts. It was a very competent provision that was made for them, as much, for aught that appears, as they were able to manage, and yet they call it in disdain but one lot, as if that which was assigned to them both was scarcely sufficient for one. The word for complainers (Jude 1:16) is mempsimoiroi, blamers of their lot:—1. That they were very numerous, through the blessing of God upon them (Josh. 17:14): I am a great people, for the Lord has blessed me; and we have reason to hope that he that hath sent mouths will send meat. “I am a great people, and in so small a lot shall not have room to thrive.” Yet observe, when they speak thankfully of their present increase, they do not speak confidently of the continuance of it. “The Lord has blessed me hitherto, however he may see fit to deal with me for the future.” The uncertainty of what may be must not make us unthankful for what has been and is done in kindness to us. 2. That a good part of that country which had now fallen to their lot was in the hands of the Canaanites, and that they were formidable enemies, who brought into the field of battle chariots of iron (Josh. 17:16), that is, chariots with long scythes fastened to the sides of them, or the axle-tree, which made great destruction of all that came in their way, mowing them down like corn. They urge that though they had a good portion assigned them, yet it was in bad hands, and they could not come to the possession of it, wishing to have their lot in those countries that were more thoroughly reduced than this was.
II. 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 (Josh. 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.” 1. He bids them work for more (Josh. 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. 2. He bids them fight for more (Josh. 17:17, 18), when they pleaded that they could not come at the wood-lands he spoke of because in the valley between them and it were Canaanites whom they durst not enter the lists with. “Never fear them,” said Joshua, “thou hast God on thy side, and thou shalt drive out the Canaanites, if thou wilt set about it in good earnest, though they have iron chariots.” We straiten ourselves by apprehending the difficulties in the way of our enlargement to be greater than really they are. What can be insuperable to faith and holy resolution?