These chapters were both short (10 and 18 verses respectively) and collectively cover the land for Joseph’s “tribe,” Ephraim and Manasseh. And since I’m so far behind where I wanted to be at this point in reading, I decided to do them together and just keep chugging onward.
It just occurred to me, as I read these chapters, that Caleb is explicitly tied to Judah, while Joshua is of the tribe of Ephraim. Both are part of the initial spy expedition; both get exempted from the rule that they have to die. Judah was the tribe of the southern kingdom, Ephraim was the tribe of the northern kingdom. Could Caleb and Joshua be based on the same person, just passed down through two different kingdoms with different tribal backgrounds?
That may be stretching it a bit, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Judah and Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) get all the attention in these four chapters (14-17), while the remaining seven tribes are covered in two chapters together (18-19).
There’s definitely a bit of a bias against the Josephites (i.e. northerners) when they complain about only getting one allotment in spite of their size. Joshua snarks back that if they’re really so numerous, they should be able to clear forest land on their own, taking it away from the neighboring tribes. The Josephites then get all timid over the prospect of facing up against neighbors with chariots of iron, though Joshua assures them they’ll win in any battle. Skimming ahead, it doesn’t look like they ever try to reclaim new land for themselves.
But they have a point, don’t they? It’s not fair to divide up the land into twelve equal parts when there aren’t twelve equal tribes. But then again, “Joseph” is actually technically getting two allotments, for Ephraim and Manasseh, so maybe we’re supposed to see this as hypocritical? The text keeps switching back and forth between Joseph and Ephraim/Manasseh, and maybe that indicates two different sources that phrased things differently, which might account for the confusion.
Chapter 17 also concludes the story of Zelophehad’s daughters as they get the land claims due to them as their father’s heirs, so it’s good to see that tale reached a positive end.
Also – yay! This is my 200th post on a chapter (i.e. not a status update)! Big round numbers are always fun.
The Japanese: jizakai “land border, boundary” (16:3), kyouseiroudou “servitude, forced labor,” fuku suru “to serve” (16:10), takeru “to have a talent for, to be gifted” (17:1), juushi saseru “to put to work,” tetteiteki ni “thoroughly” (17:13), tezema “small, confined,” chitai “area, belt of land,” kaitaku suru “to pioneer, to open up” (17:15).