Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This and Josh. 17 are closely connected, and assign the boundaries of "the children of Joseph," i. e of the kindred tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh. These two tribes, or more strictly speaking, the tribe of Ephraim and the half tribe of Manasseh, drew one lot only, no doubt, because it was all along intended that their inheritances should be adjacent. These chapters accordingly describe
(1) the southern boundary of the whole territory of the children of Joseph Jos 16:1-4;
(2) the limits of Ephraim in particular Jos 16:5-10)
(3); those of Manasseh Jos 17:1-13; and
(4) the discontent of the descendants of Joseph with their inheritance is recorded, together with Joshua's answer to their complaints Jos 17:14-18.
The territory allotted to these two powerful tribes comprises the central and, in every way, the choicest part of Canaan west of the Jordan. The hills of this district, making up what is called Jos 20:7 "Mount Ephraim," are less high and far less barren than those of Judah; the water supply is much larger; and the very rich and fertile plains of Sharon and Esdraelon are left between the rocky fastnesses of Benjamin on the south and the high lands of Galilee belonging to Issachar on the north.
To the wilderness - Strike out "to," for the word is in apposition to "lot." The wilderness is Jos 18:12 "the wilderness of Bethaven."
Of Archi - (Read "of the Archite," also a designation of David's friend Hushai (Sa2 15:32; Sa2 16:16, etc.). The word is derived from Erech Gen 10:10. But whether there was in the neighborhood of Bethel a place bearing this Babylonian name, or whether a colony from the East had settled in this spot and brought the name with them, is unknown.
Ataroth - Called Jos 16:5; Jos 18:13 Ataroth-adar (= "crowns of fame or greatness") perhaps to distinguish it from two other places bearing the same name but, situated on the other side of Jordan, in the territory of Gad Num 32:34. It is identified with Atara, near the road from Jerusalem to Nablous.
Of Japhleti - Rather "of the Japhletite." All history of the name is lost.
From the abrupt manner in which the statements are introduced, as well as from their imperfect character, there is probability in the conjecture that some words have, in these verses, fallen out of the text. Few of the places are known for certain.
The verb "were," introduced by the King James Version in this verse should be omitted; and the full stop after Jos 16:8 replaced by a colon. The purport of Jos 16:9 is simply to add to the inheritance of Ephraim, defined by the preceding context, "the separate cities" or more properly "single cities" which were allotted to them in addition within the borders of Manasseh. The reasons for granting these additional cities to the Ephraimites can only be conjectured. Perhaps the territory assigned to this numerous tribe proved on experiment to be too small; and therefore some towns, which are named in Ch1 7:29, were given to them from the kindred Manassites, the latter being recompensed (Jos 17:11 note) at the expense of Issachar and Asher.