What does it say?
Ephraim and Manasseh, the sons of Joseph, will receive the largest portion other than Judah’s. This short chapter (Jos 16) begins by giving the boundaries of Ephraim’s land in central Canaan. Remember that half the tribe of Manasseh has already received their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan. The other half tribe of Manasseh will settle immediately north of Ephraim (Jos 17). In the last part of the chapter (17:14-18), Ephraim complains that their portion is too small for them. Joshua responds with encouragement, not rebuke.
Momentarily Joshua and the people pause to establish the tabernacle at Shiloh (Jos 18). The land has been subdued but not totally divided. The people perform a survey of what is left to distribute and begin the process again with the portion for Benjamin.
What does it mean?
Notice a theme developing as the land grants are given. The tribes do not take full possession by driving out the enemies. Their lack of follow-through will result in many problems to come. Ephraim’s complaint about not having enough land evidently reflects that they only count as possession those portions that are cleared and enemy free. Like many of us who believe our lot is to be served rather than serve, Joshua challenges them to get up and clear the land and eliminate the enemies and obstacles and they would have plenty of land.
The tabernacle had been temporarily set up in Gilgal following the Jordan River crossing. It remained there until now as the people pitch it in a more central location, a portion of Ephraim’s land. Here it will remain for about 350 years until the days of Samuel. The name is probably reminiscent of Jacob’s prophecy in Genesis 49:10 looking forward to promised Messianic peace.
How will I respond?
How is the follow-through in my life? Do I finish what I start? Do I claim all the blessings that God has already bestowed on me (Eph 1:3)? Have I been faithful in sticking to this plan of reading through the Bible? What one dropped task or responsibility can I pick up today and begin to finish?