Lesson 6: Chapters 10-12
The Israelite Conquest in Southern and Northern Canaan

Most Holy Lord,
You have bound us in covenant to You through Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  Help us to live our lives like the unhewn stones of Israel’s altar in the covenant treaty renewal ceremony—lives unadorned by materialism and self-interest.  Lord, write Jesus’ new Law of love and self-sacrifice upon our hearts as Joshua wrote the words of the old Law upon the stone pillars at Mt. Ebal.  And give us the courage to recommit our lives anew to Your Son at every Eucharistic sacred meal that we eat as a community in Your Divine Presence.  We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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… the Lord knows to extend the day when it is time for salvation and to shorten the day when it is time for tribulation and destruction.  We, however, while we have the day and the extent of light is lengthened for us, “let us walk becomingly as in the day” and let us perform the works of light.
Origen (referring to Joshua 10:12 and Matthew 24:22, and quoting from Romans 13:13), Homilies on Joshua 11.2.3

Chapter 10: The Coalition of the Five Amorite Kings and
the Conquest of Southern Canaan

Blessed are you, O Israel!  Who is like you, O victorious people?  Yahweh is the shield that protects you and the sword that leads you to triumph.  Your enemies will try to corrupt you, but you yourself will trample on their backs.
Deuteronomy 33:29

The sub-theme of covenant making and covenant keeping that began in chapter two with the story of Rahab continues in chapter 10 with the Israelites commitment to the covenant of peace they made with the Gentiles of the four Gibeonite cities.  Joshua 10:1-43 is composed of two units describing the battles that secured Israel’s control of southern Canaan:

Joshua 10:1-5 ~ A coalition of five Amorite kings make war on Gibeon
1 Now, it happened that Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem learned that Joshua had conquered Ai and put the town under the curse of destruction [herem], treating Ai and its king as he had already treated Jericho and its king; and also that the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were living with them.  2 There was consternation at this, since Gibeon was as important a town as any of the royal towns themselves (it was larger than Ai), while all its citizens were fighting men.  3 Consequently, Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish, and Debir king of Eglon.  4 ‘Join me up here and help me to conquer Gibeon, since it has made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.’  5 The five Amorite kings joined forces and went up there, that is, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish and the king of Eglon, they and all their armies; laying siege to Gibeon, they attacked it.

The alliance of kings we heard about in 9:1 now forms a separate coalition of five of the highland Amorite kings at the request of Adoni-Zedek, the king of Jerusalem, to attack the Gibeonite confederation for making a peace treaty with the Israelites:

This is the first time the place-name “Jerusalem” is found in the Bible.  Like the cities in the Gibeonite confederation that were a mixture of Hivites and Amorites, Jerusalem was also apparently a mixed population of Amorites and Hittites (Ez 16:3).  Adoni-Zedek, the title/name of the pagan king of Jerusalem, means “lord of righteousness” (or “my Lord is rightesous”).

Question: What was the title of the priest-king of Jerusalem who was a servant of God the Most High?  He blessed Abraham after his battle against the five kings of Mesopotamia and Abraham paid him a tithe of a tenth of all he had acquired.  See Gen 14:18-20?
Answer: He was called Melchi-Zedek.

Melchi-Zedek means “king of righteousness”/ “righteous king.”  Melchizedek was the priest-king of Yahweh at Salem.  According to Jewish and Christian tradition, he was Shem, the righteous son of Noah who became God’s covenant representative to the people (Gen 9:26).(1)   One line of his descendants abandoned Yahweh as their one God (Gen 10:26-31), but through another line of Shem’s descendants the “promised seed” and the relationship with God was preserved (Gen 11:10-26).  Shem is the ancestor of all Semites and the ancestor Abraham (Gen 11:26) and of Jesus Christ (Mt 1:1). The Jerusalem king named Adoni-Zedek, however, worshiped pagan gods.

Jerusalem will not become an Israelite city until it is conquered by David in c. 1000 BC,  when David will make the city his capital.  In former times it was called “Salem,” which means “peace.”  The name of the city was changed sometime after Abraham’s test of covenant obedience at Mt. Moriah near Salem in the offering up of his son, Isaac, in sacrifice at God’s command in Genesis chapter 22.  In that significant event, when Isaac asked his father “where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”, Abraham’s reply in Hebrew was “Yahweh yireh (jireh)”—“Yahweh provides/will provide.”  When the angel of the Lord stopped Abraham from sacrificing his son, Abraham saw a ram caught up in a thicket and offered it as a substitute sacrifice for Isaac (Gen 22:11-13).

Question: What did Abraham call the place after this visionary experience of the Divine?  See Gen 22:13-14 and the information on that passage in the Genesis study, lesson 11 on the website.
Answer: He called the place “Yahweh provides/will provide” from which the saying came “On the mountain Yahweh provides/will provide.”

There is no “j” in Hebrew; in English we use “j” which is the German “y.”  Hence, the city of Salem became yireh/jireh-salem = Jerusalem, meaning “will provide peace.” Jewish tradition identifies Salem as Jerusalem (Josephus, Wars of the Jews, 7.10.1 [438]).  Abraham’s naming of the site “Yahweh will provide” become prophetic.  The mountain of Moriah is where the Jerusalem Temple was built (2 Chr 3:1) and a lower elevation of the same mountain was where Jesus Christ was crucified as the sacrifice Yahweh “will provide” to establish peace with God for all mankind. 

Joshua 10:2 There was consternation at this, since Gibeon was as important a town as any of the royal towns themselves (it was larger than Ai), while all its citizens were fighting men.

The city of Gibeon was located at a strategic crossroads in the mountains above the valley of Elah, not far from Jerusalem.

Question: Why was the king of Jerusalem so angry about the Gibeonite peace treaty with Israel?  What was his interest in Gibeon?
Answer: Gibeon was not a city ruled by a king.  The Gibeonite confederation was probably a vassal people of the king of Jerusalem, and he cannot let this defection go unpunished or other vassal cities may also defect. 

For the first time in verse 2 we learn that Gibeon was a sizable city with trained fighters that could be compared to one of the “royal towns” ruled by a king—Gibeon and the three other allied cities were not ruled by kings.

Joshua 10:3 Consequently, Adoni-Zedek king of Jerusalem sent word to Hoham king of Hebron, Piram king of Jarmuth, Japhia king of Lachish, and Debir king of Eglon.

Question: What city-states formed the alliance and send armies to help the king of Jerusalem punish the Gibeonites?
Answer: The kings of Hebron, Jarmuth, Japhia and Eglon march at the head of their armies to attack Gibeon with the army of the king of Jerusalem.

The city of Hebron is one of the city-states that formed the 5 city coalition with the king of Jerusalem.  Hebron, a central city in the southern hill country about 20 miles south-southwest of Jerusalem, is situated at one of the highest points on the central mountain ridge (c. 3,040 feet—higher than Jerusalem).  It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Levant.  Numbers 13:22 records that Hebron (also called Kiriath-Abra) was where Abraham’s family burial cave was located (Gen 23:1-2, 19-20).  Scripture tells us that Hebron was founded seven years before Zoan in Egypt (Num 13:22).  Zoan was called Avaris when it was the Hyksos capital in the Egyptian Delta (1782-1570 BC); later it was renamed Tanis after the Egyptians drove out the Hyksos.

Question: What significant event happened at Hebron in 2 Samuel 2:1-4?
Answer: It was at Hebron that David of Judah first received the title “king.” 

Several of the cities of the five-king coalition are named in the Egyptian Amarna archive letters.  In one letter from Jerusalem to the Egyptians (probably written by the successor of the king killed in Joshua’s battle) the king of Jerusalem charges the king of Lachish (probably also a successor of the king killed by the Israelites in the Battle of the Long Day) with having supplied the Habiru (who may be the Hebrews/Israelites) with food and oil.  In another letter the king of Jerusalem accuses the king of Lachish of conspiring with the Habiru against him (Boiling and Wright, Joshua, page 280).  Hebron will be attacked and captured by Caleb and his Israelite forces (Josh 10:36-37; 15:15), killing the king who is the successor to the king of Hebron in the Jerusalem alliance.  Eglon and its new king will be destroyed in this same military attack (Josh 10:36-37)

Jarmuth has been identified as a site about 16 miles west of Jerusalem.  Lachish was an ancient city dating back to the eighth millennium BC and was a provincial capital of the Egyptians during the period of the 18th Dynasty.  The city was 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem and 15 miles west of Hebron.  Joshua will attack and conquer the powerful city of Lachish in second phase of the Southern Campaign, killing the successor of the king in this passage (Josh 10:28-39).

Joshua 10:6-9 ~ Joshua and the Israelites rescue Gibeon
6 The men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal, ‘Do not desert your servants; come up here quickly to save us and help us, since all the Amorite kings living in the highlands have allied themselves against us.’  7 Joshua came up from Gilgal, he, all the fighting men and all the bravest of his army.  8 Yahweh said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of these people; I have put them at your mercy; not one of them will put up any resistance.’  9 Having marched from Gilgal throughout the night, Joshua caught them unawares.

 “The highlands” in verse 6 designates the central hill country which is the core of ancient Israel (see 10:40), but three of the cities in the coalition, Jarmuth, Lachish and Eglon, are situated in north-south line in a region known as the Shephelah— the foothills separating the central mountain range from the broad coastal plain off the Mediterranean Sea.

When the Gibeonites sent messengers to Joshua that they are being attacked, Joshua and the Israelites are ready to fulfill their treaty obligation to these people.

Question: What additional encouragement do the Israelites receive?  Does it make any difference that this treaty was agreed to only because of the deception of the Gibeonites?
Answer: It does not make any difference how the treaty was made.  Evidence of that fact is supported by God’s encouragement in verse 8 that He will be with them and will give them victory in their defense of the Gibeonites.

Question: What word of assurance and what promise does God give to Joshua in verse 8 and what is significant about this?
Answer: God tells them to not be afraid of the vast army they will face, and He gives the promise that the victory will be theirs.  God approves of the Israelites coming to the aid of their Gentile vassals.

This is the second test of Joshua’s willingness to keep the covenant with the Gibeonites.
Question: What was the first test?  See Josh 9:18-19, 26.
Answer: The first test was in chapter 9 when the people wanted to kill the Gibeonites for their deception and when Joshua and the elders prevented them.

Joshua 10:9 Having marched from Gilgal throughout the night, Joshua caught them unawares.

Joshua orders a forced march that very day and through the night to reach the besieged Gibeonites.  It was a hard march at night and from lower to higher ground, but it is possible the Israelites had a full moon to help them in the march.  The city of Gibeon was about 19 miles from Gilgal.  It would have been difficult, but it was possible for a force of light infantry to arrive by morning.  In the United States army a light infantry unit or Ranger unit carrying a 60-80 pound pack is expected to march 20 km (c. 15 miles) in a day (daylight) and take up the fight upon arriving at their destination.  This estimate has been a constant for a lightly armed fighting force throughout history.  Joshua probably had at least 15 hours to make the march if he started in the afternoon before sundown.

The Battle of the Long Day

Mighty in war was Joshua son of Nun … Who had ever shown such determination as his?  He himself led the battles of the Lord.  Was not the sun held back by his hand, and one day drawn out into two?  He called on the Most High, the Mighty One while pressing the enemies from all directions, and the great Lord answered him with hard and violent hailstones.  He fell on that enemy nation, and at the Descent destroyed all resistance to make the nations acknowledge his warlike prowess and that he was waging war on behalf of the Lord.
Sirach 46:1, 3-6/4-8

Joshua 10:10-15 ~ Yahweh joins in the fight in the Battle of the Long Day
10 Yahweh threw them into disorder at the sight of Israel, defeating them completely at Gibeon; furthermore, he pursued them by way of the Descent [ascent] of Beth-Horon and harassed them as far as Azekah (and as far as Makkedah).  11 And as they fled from Israel down the Descent of Beth-Horon, Yahweh hurled huge hailstones from heaven on them all the way to Azekah, and they died.  More of them died under the hailstones than under the swords of the Israelites.  12 Joshua then spoke to Yahweh, the day Yahweh delivered the Amorites to the Israelites.  In the presence of Israel, Joshua said: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and, moon, you too, over the Vale of Aijalon!’  13 And the sun stood still, and the moon halted, until the people had taken vengeance on their enemies.  Is this not written in the Book of the Just [Book of Yashar/Jashar]?  The sun stood still in the middle of the sky and delayed its setting for almost a whole day.  14 There was never a day like that before or since.  Joshua, and all Israel with him, then went back to the camp of Gilgal.

In the literal Hebrew translation (IBHE, vol. I, page 584), verse 10 mentions the “ascent” of Beth-Horon and verse 11 the “descent” of Beth-Horon. Beth Horon was a mountain pass that one ascended from the east and then descended the pass as it led west through the mountains. It was on the descent that the hail storm took place.

Joshua attacked the armies of the 5 kings at Gibeon and then when they fled in a westerly direction toward the coastal plain, he followed them into the narrow mountain pass of Beth-Horon.  It would have been difficult terrain for a retreating army with the narrowness of the pass slowing down the retreat and the possibility of the enemy assailing them from the slopes above the road.  The Descent of Beth-Horon mentioned in verse 10 is where the main battle took place.  It is a pass that is a major route from the hill country into the region of the Shephelah to the southwest.  The towns of Azekah and Makkedah (verses 16, 17, 21, 28 and 29), were in the southern Shephelah and anticipate the second unit of the Southern Campaign.

Question: What three acts of God assisted the Israelites in the battle?

  1. God threw the armies of the five kings into panic when they saw the Israelites (verse 10).
  2. He sent hailstones to assail and kill the enemy (verse 11).
  3. In answer to Joshua’s prayer, God made the daylight last long enough to win the battle (verses 12-13). 

Trying to escape through the narrow pass there was no place for the fleeing enemy to take cover; they were at the mercy of the hail storm.

Question: When did God use hail as an instrument of Divine judgment earlier in Israel’s history?  See Ex 9:13-16.
Answer: God has used hail as an instrument of Divine judgment in the 7th Egyptian plague (Ex 9:13-19, 23-26).

For other passages where hail is an instrument of judgment see:

The hail assailed the Amorite kings and their armies as far as Azekah, a site that was 12 miles west of Jerusalem and a strategic position below the city of Jarmuth in the Shephelah south of Beth-Horon.  The hail storm hit at the most difficult section of the pass—on the descent—and more of the enemy died from the hail than from the Israelites.  The enemy may also have died from flash floods.  Many centuries later, in the 8th century BC, the prophet Isaiah refers to this act of God in Isaiah 28:17-21: But hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and floods wash away the hiding-place …Yes, as on Mount Perazim, Yahweh will rise as in the Valley of Gibeon, he will storm to do his work, his mysterious work, to do his deed, his extraordinary deed (Is 17b, 21).

Joshua 10:12 Joshua then spoke to Yahweh, the day Yahweh delivered the Amorites to the Israelites.  In the presence of Israel, Joshua said: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and, moon, you too, over the Vale of Aijalon!’ 

The Valley of Aijalon was on the western side of the Beth-Horon Pass.  It was a major entry point from the northern Shephelah into the higher hill country.  The other route was through the next big valley pass to the south, the more difficult and winding Bab-el-Wad (“valley entrance”) that figured so prominently in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.

Question: Notice that the warriors can see both the sun and the moon in the sky (verse 12).  In ancient times seeing both the sun and the moon in the sky at the same time was considered a good omen.  The battlefield was in the mountain pass between Gibeon to the east and the Valley of Aijalon to the west.  According to verses 12-13, the sun was in the east over Gibeon and “stood in the middle of the sky.”  What time of day did the beginning of the miracle occur after Joshua’s prayer?  Did the sun actually stop or did it only appear that way because of an phenomena that was not visibly evident to the Israelites?
Answer: The position of the sun indicates that it was in the morning when the miracle began and the earth stopped its rotation, leaving the sun in a visual stationary position in the sky.  If the time had been high noon, the sun would have been over the battlefield.

The moon was positioned over the Valley of Aijalon, a valley to the west.  Notice that the sun was to the east and the moon was to the west, where the moon would have been visible in the morning with the sun to the east according to the laws of nature.  This miracle is an example of God’s extraordinary answer to prayer and attests to God’s favor shown to His servant Joshua as He showed His favor to Moses, and the miracle is an example of how God fought for Israel (Josh 10:14b).  Also see Habakkuk 3:11-12 for the image of Yahweh the great avenging Warrior controlling the sun and moon and Sirach 46:4-6/5-8 which recalls this miraculous act of God.

Question: Why did Joshua ask God to extend the day?  Hint: Ancient armies did not continue the battle after sundown. 
Answer: He knew he did not have enough time to win this major battle against a much larger army before sunset.  If the enemy retreated and escaped, they would have the opportunity to regroup and rearm, and the Israelites would only have to fight them again.

Joshua 10:13b Is this not written in the Book of the Just [Book of Yashar/Jashar]?

Joshua’s poem-like petition is recorded in another book.  The Book of the Just or Righteous was apparently a collection of poetry and war songs, like the “Song of the Sea” after the Israelite crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 15 or the victory song of Deborah and Barak in Judges 5:1-31.  The book is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 1:18 where David’s lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan is said to also be written in the Book of Jashar/Yashar.  This is one of several biblical references to ancient documents that no longer exist including the Book of the Wars of Yahweh (Num 21:14).

Joshua 10:16-21 ~ The destruction of the armies of the Amorite kings
16 As regards the five kings, these had fled and hidden in the cave of Makkedah, 17 and news of this was brought to Joshua.  ‘The five kings have been found hiding in the cave at Makkedah.’  18 Joshua said, ‘Roll great stones over the mouth of the cave and post men there to keep guard.  19 You yourselves, do not stay there doing nothing; pursue the enemy, cut off their line of retreat and do not let them enter their towns, for Yahweh your God has put them at your mercy.’  20 When Joshua and the Israelites had finished inflicting a very great defeat on them, to the point of destroying them, those who had escaped alive took refuge in their fortresses.  21 The people came back to Joshua’s camp at Makkedah; they were all safe and sound, and no one dared to attempt anything against the Israelites. 

Their armies defeated and the survivors retreating to their fortified cities, the five kings fled out of the hill country into the low hills southwest of Jerusalem.  This area in western Canaan separates the coastal plains from the central mountain ridge to the east and is called the Shephelah.  Makkedah was apparently one of sixteen cities in the Shephelah.  This particular city has not been identified, but Azekah (Josh 10:10-11; 15:35) has been identified by archaeologists and lies about 12 miles west of Jerusalem and a short distance northeast of Lachish.

Question: When Joshua discovers the five kings have hidden in the cave, why does he only seal off their escape?
Answer: He does not want anything—even the capture of the kings—to slow the progress of the battle. 

Joshua makes his temporary camp at Makkedah and continues the battle.  After their victory, the Israelites return to Makkedah to deal with the imprisoned kings.

Joshua 10:22-27 ~ The fate of the five Amorite kings
22 Joshua then said, ‘clear the mouth of the cave and bring the five kings out to me.’  23 They did so, and brought the five kings out of the cave to take them to him: the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish and the king of Eglon.  24 When these kings had been brought out, Joshua assembled all the men of Israel and said to the chiefs of the warriors who had fought with him, ‘Come forward and put your feet on the necks of these kings!’  They came forward and put their feet on their necks.  25 ‘Be fearless and undaunted,’ Joshua went on, ‘be strong and stand firm, for this is how Yahweh will deal with all the enemies you fight.’  26 With this, Joshua struck and killed them and had them hanged on five trees; they hung there until evening.  27 At the hour of sunset, on Joshua’s orders, they were taken down from the trees and thrown into the cave where they had been hiding.  Great stones were laid over the mouth of the cave, and these are still there to this very day.

Joshua gives the Israelites commanders credit for the victory and rewards his officers by making them, as Israel’s representative, the ones to take the symbolic attitude of standing on the necks of the defeated kings (also see 1 Kng 5:17; Ps 110:1).  It is an act of conquest often seen on Egyptian tombs and temple reliefs of Pharaohs and also in Mesopotamian royal reliefs of kings standing with a foot on the necks and backs of a defeated and enslaved people.  It was a symbolic act of victory used widely in the ancient Near East (also see Dt 33:29; 1 Kng 5:3/17; Ps 110:1 and 1 Cor 15:25-28).

During or after the captains fulfilled the symbolic act of conquest, Joshua gives them words of encouragement: 25 ‘Be fearless and undaunted,’ Joshua went on, ‘be strong and stand firm, for this is how Yahweh will deal with all the enemies you fight.’ 

Question: Where have we seen these words before in the Book of Joshua?
Answer: These are the same words of encouragement God spoke to Joshua on several occasions (i.e., 1:6, 7, 9).

Question: This symbolic act of the Israelites, the descendants of Shem, Noah’s righteous firstborn son, recalls what prophecy God made to Shem when Shem was given authority over his brothers as God’s covenant representative?   See Gen 9:25-27 for God’s blessing on Shem.  See the list of Canaan’s descendants who will not “walk” with the Lord in Gen 10:15-19 and the list of Shem’s descendants who carry the “promised seed” in 11:10-26.
Answer: In God’s blessing of Shem, God set him over his brothers with the land as Shem’s inheritance and with Canaan serving Shem as his servant/slave.  Canaan’s descendants usurped the land of Shem’s descendants, but Canaan has now become the “servant/slave” of the descendants of Shem as God commanded in Genesis 9:26!

Joshua 10:26-27 With this, Joshua struck and killed them and had them hanged on five trees; they hung there until evening.  27 At the hour of sunset, on Joshua’s orders, they were taken down from the trees and thrown into the cave where they had been hiding.  Great stones were laid over the mouth of the cave, and these are still there to this very day.

Question: After being executed, why are the kings hung on trees?  Does this symbolic display have any meaning for rulers today?  See Dt 21:22-23.
Answer: It is a sign that they are accursed by God for allowing their people to become corrupted by sin.  It is a message not only for rulers of the past but also for rulers of the present that they will be held responsible for the actions of their people.

The kings are executed and afterward are hung on trees.  This is not death by hanging or crucifixion but is instead public exposure of the corpses to show God’s judgment against the wicked has been fulfilled.  The bodies are removed at sundown, according to the Law and are entombed in the cave.

Question: What is ironic about the cave where the five kings tried to hide from the Israelites?
Answer: Their place of refuge becomes their tomb and a memorial to their judgment.

Joshua 10:28-39 ~ The conquest of the towns of southern Canaan
28 The same day Joshua captured Makkedah, putting it and its king to the sword; he delivered them over to the curse of destruction [herem], with every living creature there, and let no one escape, and he treated the king of Makkedah as he had treated the king of Jericho.  29 Joshua, and all Israel with him, went on from Makkedah to Libnah and attacked it 30 and Yahweh put this, too, and its king at Israel’s mercy; and Israel put every living creature there to the sword, and left none alive, and treated its king like the king of Jericho.  31 Joshua, and all Israel with him, went on from Libnah to Lachish and besieged it and attacked it.  32 Yahweh put Lachish at Israel’s mercy, and Israel took it on the second day and put it and everything living creature in it to the sword, as they had treated Libnah.  33 Horam king of Gezer then marched up to help Lachish, but Joshua beat him and his people until not one was left alive.  34 Joshua, and all Israel with him, went on from Lachish to Eglon.  They besieged it and attacked it.  35 The same day they took it and put it to the sword.  That day he delivered over to the curse of destruction every living creature there, treating it as he had treated Lachish.  36 Joshua, and all Israel with him, went on up from Eglon to Hebron.  The attacked it, 37 took it and put it to the sword, with its king, its dependencies and every living creature in it.  As he had treated Eglon, so here, he left no one alive.  He delivered it over to the curse of destruction, with every living creature in it.  38 Joshua, and all Israel with him, then turned back on Debir and attacked it.  39 He took it and its king and all the places belonging to it; they put them to the sword, and every living creature there they delivered over to the curse of destruction.  He left no one alive.  As he had treated Hebron, as he had treated Libnah and its king, so he treated Debir and its king.

Phase II of the southern campaign (Josh 10:28-43) records the additional victories for the Israelites in a repeated formula that begins in verse 28 with “as they have done repeated 7 times in verses 28-39 conveying the completeness of the campaign.  The phrase “Joshua and all Israel with him…” is repeated 5 times.

Most of these cities, with the exception of Hebron, are in the Shephelah.  Hebron is located in the hill country. Makkedah where the 5 kings were discovered and where Joshua made his camp must be near Azekah (verse 10), but its exact location is disputed.  The next city mentioned is Libnah, believed to be a site about 5 miles north of Lachish that was taken by “all Israel.”  This part of the narrative again puts emphasis on the unity of Israel in the conquest (see 3:7, 17; 4:14; 7:23; 8:21, 24 and now 11:31, 34, 36 and 38).

Moving in a southerly direction, Joshua and the army of Israel advances on and besieges Lachish.   Lachish was a major city in the southern foothills of the Shephelah.  The important city-state was located about 25 miles southwest of Jerusalem and 15 miles west of Hebron.  It was also mentioned in non-biblical texts including the Egyptian Amarna letters.  Some of the cities conquered in this section belonged to the coalition of the 5 kings who attacked Gibeon, but while those kings and their armies were killed, not all their cities were captured and destroyed. The kings of cities that were part of the 5 king coalition were executed in Joshua 10:26-27, and their successors are defending the cities that Joshua is now attacking.

Question: For how many days did the city of Lachish hold out against Joshua’s army?
Answer: They held out for two days (as the ancients counted) against Joshua’s army.

Joshua 10:33 Horam king of Gezer then marched up to help Lachish, but Joshua beat him and his people until not one was left alive.

The Israelites killed the king of Gezer and all his men when he came to defend Lachish.  Gezer was about a day’s march to the north.  In the 14th century BC, Gezer was a heavily fortified city with three entry ways, a two-storied gate, and an inner stone and mud-brick wall more than 50 feet thick at one point.  It was the main city in the central Shephelah and guarded the crossroads of the “Way of the Sea” trade route and the trunk road to Jerusalem at the entrance of the Valley of Aijalon (where Joshua and his men saw the moon in 10:12).  Gezer’s king lost his entire army and his life when he came to aid Lachish in the battle with Israel (10:33; 12:12).  The citizens of Gezer were not driven out but made a treaty with the Israelites where they were obliged to do force labor (16:10).  Gezer became a Levitical city (21:21).  Later, the Israelites lost the city to the Egyptians (Judg 1:29), and in the 10th century BC the city became one of the most generous of wedding presents when it was given to King Solomon as part of the bridal dowry when he married the daughter of the Egyptian pharaoh (1 Kng 9:15-16).   The letters of three successive kings of Gezer written to the pharaohs of Egypt were found in the archives at Amarna.

Joshua 11:34 Joshua, and all Israel with him, went on from Lachish to Eglon.  They besieged it and attacked it. 

The repeated phrase “and all Israel with him” emphasizes the unity of Israel in the struggle.  Joshua then moved in a southwesterly direction and defeated Canaanite city of Eglon.  King Debir of Eglon was part of the alliance of the 5 Amorite kings in the battle of Gibeon (Josh 10:3).  Joshua killed the king who was among those who sought refuge in the cave of Makkedah (Josh 10:16-17, 26) and then captured the city (Josh 10:34-35; also see 12:12).

Joshua 10:36 Joshua, and all Israel with him, went on up from Eglon to Hebron …

Hebron’s king belonged to the 5 king coalition along with the kings of Lachish and Eglon and was killed with them at the cave of Makkedah, but Joshua faces his successor in this battle (10:36-37).  That new kings of these cities have been chosen suggests that some time has elapsed between the two parts of the Southern Campaign.  The city was captured by Joshua’s captain, the Gentile convert Caleb of Judah (Josh 15:13).

Debir, the last city mentioned in the campaign, was strategically located about 11 miles southwest of Hebron between the Negev and the Shephelah (although the site has been disputed; see Josh 10:36-39; 12:13).  Its earlier name was Kiriath-sepher, “city of books” (Josh 15:15-16; Judg 1:11-12).  It was inhabited by the giant Anakim (Num 13:33; Josh 11:21) and was captured by Caleb’s brother Othniel (Josh 15:15-17).  After the population was destroyed, the city was burned under the curse of destruction but it was rebuilt and became an administrative district headquarters (Josh 15:49) and a Levitical city (Josh 21:15).

Joshua 10:40-43 ~ The completion of the Southern Campaign
40 Thus Joshua subjugated the whole country: the highlands, the Negeb, the lowlands and watered foothills [slopes], and all their kings.  He left not one survivor and put every living thing under the curse of destruction, as Yahweh, God of Israel, had commanded.  41 Joshua conquered them from Kadesh-Barnea to Gaza, and the whole region of Goshen as far as Gibeon.  42 All these kings and their territory Joshua captured in a single campaign, because Yahweh, God of Israel, fought for Israel.  43 And then Joshua, and all Israel with him, went back to the camp at Gilgal.

Question: What four parts of the land are mentioned in verse 40?

  1. The highlands or hill country
  2. The Negeb southland
  3. The lowlands (Shephelah)
  4. The watered foothills or slopes

What is meant by the “watered foothills” of “slopes” is disputed by scholars.  On the basis of Joshua 12:8 it appears that these are the slopes going down toward the lowland of the Shephelah in the west.  The other view is that the reference is to the descent from the Judean mountain region toward the Dead Sea in the east.

Question: What is the significance of verse 41 summing up the Southern Campaign?
Answer: This verse names the extreme boundaries of the region conquered by the Israelites, making the claim in verse 40 complete.

Kadesh-Barnea is the southernmost boundary.  It is an oasis on the edge of the wilderness regions of Paran and Zin where it marked the southern border of Canaan and the western border of Edom.  Abraham dwelt near the oasis (Gen 20:1).  Kadesh became an important symbol in the early history of Israel and is mentioned frequently (Num 32:8; 33:36-37; Dt 1:2, 19, 46; 2:14; 9:23; 32:51; Josh 10:41; 14:6-7; 15:3; Judg 11:16-17).  The oasis is 11 days journey from Mt. Sinai via Mt. Seir to Kadesh (Dt 1:2).

Question: What event happened at this place after the Israelites left Mt. Sinai?  Why is the taking of Kadesh significant?  See Num 13-14; Num 13:26 identifies the site as Kadesh-Barnea.
Answer: It was from Kadesh-Barnea that the twelve Israelite spies, including Joshua and Caleb, were sent out to reconnoiter Canaan for forty days.  When the spies returned, ten of the spies convinced the people they were not powerful enough to conquer Canaan—they did not trust God to fight with them.  As judgment for their lack of faith, God condemned the Exodus generation of Israel to forty years of wilderness wandering until all the people over 20 years of age died in the desert (with the exception of Caleb and Joshua).  Now the new generation of Israel’s holy warriors have succeeded where their fathers failed.

Verse 41 then draws the line northward to Gaza, a Canaanite city about 3 miles from the Mediterranean coast.  It was part of the Philistine Pentapolis (5 city Philistine alliance).  It was the southern-most city in that alliance and is mentioned in the Amarna archive as an Egyptian administrative center for the region (see Josh 13:3 and 15:47).

The “region of Goshen” is the broad intermediate zone between the southern hill country of Gibeon and the Negev to the far south.  It is only mentioned in Joshua 10:41 and 11:16 and is the name the Israelites gave to their home in the Egyptian Delta (Gen 47:27).

In the summary verses, Joshua, as the commander of the Israelite army, is credited with all the victories.  This is typical in the historical accounts of the victories of famous leaders (i.e., Ramsese II for the victory at Kadesh, Syria; British General Wellington given credit for the victory at Waterloo; General Grant at Vicksburg, etc.), but in the Book of Joshua individual commanders also are credited.  Caleb the Gentile convert is credited for defeating and capturing Hebron (15:13) and his brother Othniel is credited with the taking of Debir (15:15-17).  At the end of the Southern Campaign, Joshua and the army of Israel returned to the camp at Gilgal (see verse 15 and 43).

The nine conquered armies/cities of the Southern Campaign listed in order of the battles:

  1. Makkedah
  2. Libnah
  3. Lachish
  4. Gezer
  5. Eglon
  6. Hebron
  7. Debir
  8. Kadesh-Barnea
  9. Gaza

Chapter 11: The Conquest of the North

Joshua 11:1-4 ~ The northern kings of Canaan form an alliance against Israel
1 When Jabin king of Hazor heard about this, he sent word to Jobab king of Merom [also called Merdon], to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph 2 and to the kings in the northern highlands, in the plain south of Chinneroth, and those in the lowlands and on the slopes of Dor [Naphoth-dor] to the west.  3 To eastward and to westward lived the Canaanites: in the highlands, the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites; the Hivites, at the foot of Hermon in the area of Mizpath.  4 They set out with all their troops, a people as numerous as the sands of the sea, with a huge number of horses and chariots.  

Question: How is this part of the narrative in 11:1-9 similar to the narrative in 10:1-27?

  1. In this part of the narrative, as in the previous narrative, we are reminded that God the Great King is fighting for Israel against the earthly kings, and the Israelite victory is assured.
  2. Once again a coalition of city-states attempts to halt Israel’s conquest of Canaan. 
  3. Each account includes a description of a decisive battle followed by additional military activity that establishes a more permanent presence for the Israelites in Canaan.
  4. Each account mentions a single main king who initiates the coalition: the king of Jerusalem in chapter 10 and the king of Hazor in chapter 11.
  5. Israel’s victory is complete; the curse of herem is applied to all conquered cities by varying degrees and all the kings are killed.

It was Hazor’s king Jabin [Yabin] who marshaled his northern allies to meet the Israelite invaders in battle.  Jabin may have been a dynastic name; the king of Hazor who fought a war against Deborah and Barak in the Book of Judges was also called Jabin (Judg 4:2-24).  The archaeological excavation of ancient Hazor has revealed a city that covered 175 acres.  It was a major fortified Canaanite city-state about 10 miles north of the Sea of Galilee and 4 miles southwest of Lake Huleh.  Hazor was strategically situated on the major trade route, “The Way of the Sea,” which ran from Egypt up along the Mediterranean coastline to Megiddo and across the Galilee into Mesopotamia and Asia Minor.  In verse 10 the inspired writer emphasizes Hazor’s importance in the region by calling the city-state the capital [literally head] of all these kingdoms (also see Judg 4:2, 23, 24 where a King Jabin of that later period who was probably a descendant of the king in the Book of Joshua who is called “king of Canaan”)(2). Hazor is the only city in Canaan mentioned in the Mesopotamian Mari tablet archive.  Mari was an Amorite city on the middle Euphrates whose ruins date from the 18th century BC.  Hazor is also mentioned in the Amarna tablets of the 14th century BC where an accusation by the king of Tyre on the Mediterranean coast is made against the king of Hazor.

Joshua 11:1  When Jabin king of Hazor heard about this, he sent word to Jobab king of Merom [or Merdon or Madon]

Jabin sent messages to the king of Merom a city, according to the biblical text, that was located northwest of the Sea of Galilee.

Joshua 1:1b-2 … to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph 2 and to the kings in the northern highlands, in the plain south of Chinneroth …

Jabin also sent messages to the two kings of Shimron and Achshaph, who are not named.  Shimron is called Shrimon-meron in Joshua 12:20 and Achshaph is mentioned several times in extra-biblical documents including the Anastasi I Egyptian Papyrus dating to the 13th century BC, the 14th century BC Amarna tablets, and the Egyptian Execration Texts of the 14th century BC.  He also sent messages to kings in the regions to the north, south and west—kings of the north mountain district and those city-state kings in the plain south of Chinneroth.  Chinnereth is another name for the Sea of Galilee.  The plain to the south of the sea is the deep rift valley along which the Jordan River flows.

Joshua 11:2b-3 … and those in the lowlands and on the slopes of Dor to the west.  3 To eastward and to westward lived the Canaanites: in the highlands, the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites and Jebusites; the Hivites, at the foot of Hermon in the area of Mizpath. 

The lowlands comprise the area between the mountain region in the center of the country and the seacoast to the west.  The next region mentioned seems to extend from an ancient sea port and trading center on the Mediterranean coast called Dor, but since there are no hills near Dor the region mentioned probably extends to nearby Mount Carmel.  Since this is the last concerted effort on the part of the Canaanites to stop the Israelite conquest, the different residents of Canaan in this region are named again.  The Amorites, Hittites, Jebusites and Hivites are all descendants of Canaan son of Noah.  The Hittites are the descendants of Canaan’s son Heth (Gen 10:15; 23:3-20 = literally “the sons of Heth” and “the children of Heth” and 23:10 = the Hittite).  The Perizzites are also probably descendants of Canaan since they are always listed with the other resident peoples and are listed as one of the two original inhabitants of Canaan (Gen 13:7; 34:30; Judg 1:4-5).

Mount Hermon, the highest mountain in the region of northern Canaan, is north of the Sea of Galilee at the site of the source of the Jordan River.  This area is called the region of Mizpah (or Valley of Mizpah in verse 8).  The name Mizpah is from the Hebrew root sph, meaning “to look out” or “watchtower.” It is a common place-name in the Bible for an elevated location and in this case may indicate the valley was overlooked by a high point on Mount Hermon that was a well-known observation site.

Joshua 11:4 They set out with all their troops, a people as numerous as the sands of the sea, with a huge number of horses and chariots. 

The light war chariot carrying a driver and a warrior with a spear of bow and arrows had been introduced into western Asia as noted earlier near the beginning of the 18th century BC.  The Hittites developed a heavier chariot that carried in addition to the driver and the warrior a shield-bearer, making a three-man team (Boling and Wright, Joshua, page 307).  The Israelites are facing a huge army, and they did not have horses and chariots.  The Israelites were forbidden to acquire many horses (Dt 17:16).  They were to depend on God to fight for them and win their battles.

Joshua 11:5-9 ~ The battle of Merom
5 These kings, having all agreed on a meeting place, came and set up camp together at the Waters of Merom, to fight Israel.  6 Yahweh then said to Joshua, ‘Do not be afraid of them, for by this time  tomorrow I shall hand them all over, cut to pieces, to Israel; you will hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.’  7 With all his warriors Joshua caught them unawares near the Waters of Merom and fell on them.  8 Yahweh put them at Israel’s mercy and they defeated them and pursued them as far as Sidon the Great, and as far as Misrephoth to the west, and as far as the Vale of Mizpah to the east; they harried them until not one of them was left alive.  9 Joshua treated them as Yahweh had told him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots.

The northern kings chose a stream near Merom in the Galilee as a gathering point for their armies.  Merom is known from 2nd millennium Egyptian texts and also from a document of Assyrian king Tiglath-pileser III’s account of his Galilee military expedition.  The archaeological site of the city has not been positively identified.  Some have suggested it is the city of Meiron which is west-northwest of the modern city of Safed.  The northern kings have the military advantage of chariots—the most advanced fighting machine of the Late Bronze Age world.  The Hyksos introduced chariots into Egypt in the 18th century BC and by the 1500s BC, chariots became an essential (and sometimes principal) weapon in the armies of the Near East (Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel, page 222).  War chariots at this time probably only had two passengers—the driver and the warrior.  The chariots themselves could be easily taken apart and stacked for transport.  There are numerous artistic depictions of kings in battle scenes riding in war chariots, and three state-of-the-art chariots were found in the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhamen from this period in the Late Bronze Age.  The Israelites had neither horses nor chariots.

Question: According to the prophet Zechariah, how will the messianic king of the future enter Jerusalem and why is this image significant?  See Zech 9:9.
Answer: The promised Messiah will enter Jerusalem riding on the foal of an ass and not on a war horse or in a chariot.  He will come as the King of Peace and not as a conquering warrior king.

Question: How did God tell the Israelites to deal with the chariots?
Answer: God’s command was not to engage the warriors fighting from the chariots but to concentrate on disabling the chariots by attacking the legs of the horses so the chariots became useless.  After rendering the chariots useless and killing the drivers and warriors, the Israelites were to burn the chariots so they could not be used again.

This rule of warfare was also applied by King David in 2 Samuel 8:4 but not by his son, King Solomon, in 1 Kings 10:26.

Question: According to verse 6 how long will the battle last?
Answer: As in the battle of Lachish, the battle against the coalition of northern kings only lasted two days as the ancients counted—the day they arrived on the battle field and the next day.

Joshua surprised the Canaanite armies at their rendezvous point and forced the battle before they were able to formulate their strategy and array themselves on the battle field.  God caused panic among the armies of the enemy.  Joshua followed God’s orders and rendered the chariots useless.  The half the enemy fled toward the west and the Israelites pursued them as far as the Phoenician region of Sidon on the coast of the Mediterranean, and the other half fled eastward into the valley of Mizpah (verses 3 and 8).

Joshua 11:10-14 ~ The defeat of Hazor and the other northern towns
10 Joshua then turned back and captured Hazor, putting its king to the sword.  Hazor in olden days was the capital of all these kingdoms.  11 In compliance with the curse of destruction, they put every living creature there to the sword.  Not a living soul was left, and Hazor was burnt to the ground.  12 All these royal cities and all their kings Joshua put to the sword in compliance with the curse of destruction, as Moses, servant of Yahweh, had ordered.  13 Yet of all these towns standing on their mounds, Israel burned none, apart from Hazor, burnt by Joshua.  14 All the spoils of these towns, including the livestock, the Israelites took as booty for themselves.  But they put all the human beings to the sword till they had destroyed them completely; they did not leave a living soul.

Joshua 11:10 Joshua then turned back and captured Hazor, putting its king to the sword.  Hazor in olden days was the capital of all these kingdoms.

After defeating the armies of the northern kings, Joshua “turned back” or “went into action” and took Hazor.  The writer notes that at the time these events took place that Hazor was the dominant city-state in the region.

Question: All the conquered cities were put under the curse of destruction/herem, but what three cities were the only cities that were destroyed by fire?  See 6:24; 8:18; 11:11.
Answer: Only Jericho, Ai and Hazor were burned as an example.

Question: What were the different degrees of herem imposed on the cities of Canaan?
Answer: There were four degrees of herem:

  1. The total destruction of everything living (people and animals), everything material in the city (except metals that could withstand fire), the destruction of the city by fire, and a curse on anyone who attempted to rebuild and fortify the city (only Jericho in 6:26).
  2. The total destruction of everything living (people and animals), everything material in the city (except metals that could withstand fire), and the destruction of the city by fire (only Jericho and Hazor).
  3. Destruction of every person in the city and the city is burned, but God gives the animals and goods to his warriors as their reward (i.e., Ai).
  4. Destruction of every person in the city, but God gives the animals and goods to his warriors as their reward, and the city was not burned.

The burning of Hazor in the Northern Campaign was an exception.  The other northern cities “that stood on their mounds” were not burned (11:13), meaning that the Israelites took possession of them and lived in them (Dt 6:10; Josh 24:13); the booty was collected and the livestock was kept by the Israelites (Josh 11:4 and Dt 3:7).

Question: What does the gift of the livestock and loot from the conquered cities tell the Israelites?
Answer: The gift of the material goods from some of the cities is the Israelite’s reminder that God will take care of them and see to both their spiritual and material needs so they do not need to steal from him like Achan.

The cities that were not destroyed by fire were occupied by the Israelites as God promised they would occupy the towns and lands of their enemies (Dt 6:10-12) and the gift of which Joshua reminded them in his last address to the people: And now I have given you a country for which you have not toiled, towns you have not built, although you live in them… (Josh 24:13).

Archaeological excavations have revealed that the Late Bronze Age city of Hazor was destroyed by a horrific fire.  Amnon Ben-Thor, professor in the Archaeology of Eretz Israel in the Institute of Archaeology at Hebrew University wrote in the July/August 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine (page 65): At Hazor, where I have long worked (am still working), all major buildings were violently destroyed by fire.  Take the ceremonial palace in the heart of the acropolis: Our excavation revealed that, in addition to a great amount of timber placed in the walls, the façade, the floor and the roof were also made of wood.  In addition, we uncovered 20 huge pithoi (storage jars) nearby that originally contained olive oil.  When the palace went up in flames, so did the combustible oil in these vessels, as evidenced by the marks of burning liquid still discernible on the surface of the pithoi.  The combination of an enormous amount of wood with several hundred liters of oil resulted in an intense fire.  Add to this the strong winds prevailing at Hazor and the result is extraordinary: The bricks of the walls were vitrified and clay vessels were melted, indicating a fire temperature of more than 1300 degrees Celsius (a normal fire burns at 700-800 degrees).(3) The city is named in 18th century BC documents from the archive at Mari in Mesopotamia and in the 14th century BC Egyptian Amarna letters.

The first ten and a half chapters of Joshua recount the conquest of Canaan in three campaigns.  The remainder of the book, in chapters eleven to twenty-four, contains:

Joshua 11:15-20 ~ Summary of the conquest
15 What Yahweh had ordered his servant Moses, Moses in turn had ordered Joshua, and Joshua carried it out, leaving nothing undone of what Yahweh had ordered Moses.  16 In consequence, Joshua captured this entire country: the highlands, the whole Negev and the whole of Goshen, the lowlands, the Arabah, the highlands and lowlands of Israel.  17 From Mount Halak, which rises towards Seir, to Baal-Gad in the Vale of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon, he captured all their kings, struck them down and put them to death.  18 For many a day Joshua made war on all those kings; 19 no city had made peace with the Israelites except the Hivites who lived at Gibeon; all the rest had been captured in battle.  20 For Yahweh had decided to harden the hearts of these men, so that they would engage Israel in battle and thus come under the curse of destruction and so receive no quarter but be exterminated, as Yahweh had ordered Moses.

Verse 15 concludes with yet another reference to the faithfulness of Joshua which can be compared to the faithfulness of God’s servant Moses.  Joshua completed his mission, conquering Amorite and Canaanite cities from Mount Halak in the south on the border with Edom (Seir) and to the north as far as the Valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon.  Baal-gad is a shrine to the Canaanite god Baal near the source of the Jordan River.  It remained an important pagan shrine down through the centuries, and the Greeks added a shrine there to Pan and the Romans to Jupiter.  It is at this site near Philippi Caesarea that St. Peter will make his profession of faith of Jesus and will be made the Vicar of Christ of holds the authority of the keys of the Kingdom (Mt 16:13-20).

Joshua 11:18-19 For many a day Joshua made war on all those kings; 19 no city had made peace with the Israelites except the Hivites who lived at Gibeon; all the rest had been captured in battle. 

This verse gives information of the duration of the conquest.  The war for Canaan lasted many days in an extended campaign.

Question: In light of Caleb’s testimony in Joshua 14:12 and the 38 years of wilderness wandering stated in Deuteronomy 2:6-11, how many years can we estimate were spend securing the conquest of Canaan?
Answer:  Caleb said he was 40 years old when he was sent out to spy out the land of Canaan at Kadesh-Barnea.  Afterward God condemned the Israelites to 40 years of wandering (they spent two of those years from leaving Egypt to leaving Mt. Sinai).  At the end of the conquest it was 45 years since the wilderness judgment that lasted 38 years and now Caleb is 85 years old.  A good estimate would be 7 years.

Joshua 11:20 For Yahweh had decided to harden the hearts of these men …

God hardened the hearts of the sinful people of Canaan in the same way He hardened the heart of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the Exodus in that He ceased calling them to repentance because the time of judgment was at hand.  It was time for the holy war against the sinful people of Canaan and the Divine justice that was owed to the blood of the innocent (Dt 7:2-6 and 20:16-18).  This does not mean, however, that the individual Canaanite did not still have the free-will choice to repent and reject the sins of their people.  The free-will choice of Rahab is proof that repentance was still possible for God wants all to come to salvation (see 1 Tim 2:3-4 and 2 Pt 3:9).

Question: What did St. Paul write in his letter to the Romans concerning God’s judgment on those who in their hardness of heart refuse to renounce their sin?  How might this passage be applied to the hardness of heart of the sinful people of Canaan and their rulers?  See Rom 1:18-32.
Answer: Three times St. Paul repeated: “God abandoned them,” warning that to persist in sin may lead to a judgment that abandons the sinner to his sin.  That is not to say that God abandons the sinner or withdraws His gift of salvation.  On the contrary, God’s temporal judgments are always meant to be redemptive, but to persist in sin brings its own consequences and its own punishment and eventually, in the present age for those who reject Jesus Christ’s gift of salvation, a Divine judgment that can be eternal. 

When sin abounds and there is no movement toward repentance, God will allow that person or those people to abandon himself/themselves even more fully into sin in the hope that the resulting despair of being fully engulfed in sin will finally call that person or persons to repentance and salvation.  In the case of the inhabitants of Canaan and their rulers, God allowed their hard hearts to persist in sin as God’s Divine judgment, through His mighty acts and the conquest of the Israelites as His instruments of justice, might atone for their sins against the innocent and strip them of their delusions of worshipping false gods, convincing them, of their own free-will like Rahab, to repent and submit to the One True God, Yahweh.

Joshua 11:21-23 ~ The extermination of the giant Anakim
21 Joshua then went and wiped out the Anakim of the highlands, of Hebron, of Debir, of Anab, of all the highlands of Judah and of all the highlands of Israel; he delivered them and their towns over to the curse of Destruction.  22 No Anakim was left in the territory of the Israelites, except at Gaza, Gath and Ashdod.  23 Joshua captured the entire country, just as Yahweh had told Moses, and he gave it as a heritage to Israel, to be shared between their tribes.  And the country had rest from warfare.

The Anakim were huge people (Num 14:28, 32-33).  The word “anakim” means “long-necks,” referring to their height.  There were also giant people on the eastern side of the river Jordan who were called the Rephaim (Gen 14:5; Dt 2:10-11).  The Rephaim must have at one time resided on the western side since there was the Valley of Rephaim, or “Valley of Giants,” southwest of Jerusalem (Josh 15:8; 18:16; also see Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 7.4.1).

Question: After being driven out of highlands, where did the surviving Anakim settle along the coast?
Answer: They remained in the cities of Gaza, Gath and Ashdod.

Question: These were Philistine cities.  What famous Philistine descendant of the Anakim fought a battle against a young Israelite hero?  See 1 Sam 17:4-15, 26-54.
Answer: The giant Goliath of Gath fought young David of Judah and lost his life with a sling-stone between the eyes.

Joshua 11:23 Joshua captured the entire country, just as Yahweh had told Moses, and he gave it as a heritage to Israel, to be shared between their tribes.  And the country had rest from warfare.

The conquest is complete—the victory is won and the Israelites are at “rest” in the Promised Land.  The next phase will be the allocation of the conquered land among the ten and a half western tribes and the three and a half eastern tribes will return to their families across the Jordan River.

So long as the Israelites remain obedient to the Law and faithful to God they will have rest—peace with God and peace in the land.  When they were still on the east side of the Jordan River, God promised them peace and prosperity in the Promised Land: Listen to these ordinances, be true to them and observe them, and in return Yahweh your God will be true to the covenant and love which he promised on oath to your ancestors.  He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers; he will bless the fruit of your body and the produce of your soil, your corn, your new wine, your oil, the issue of your cattle, the young of your flock, in the country which he swore to your ancestors that he would give to you.  You will be the most blessed of all peoples (Dt 7:12-14a).  But He also warned them: Be sure if you forget Yahweh your God, if you follow other gods, if you serve them and bow down to them—I testify to you today—you will perish.  Like the nations Yahweh is to destroy before you, so you yourselves will perish. For not having listened to the voice of Yahweh your God (Dt 8:19-20).  Unfortunately, their “rest” will not last past the period of the conquest.

Questions for group discussion:

Question: How was the “rest” of the Israelites in this period only temporary and how can that be compared to our daily and weekly battles, interrupted by “rest” from our struggles?
Answer: The battle to remain obedient to God and to keep the land continued for the Israelites.  Their on-going struggles can be compared to our battles against sin and its deadly consequences that are on-going except for the temporary “rest” that revitalizes us with the very life of Christ at every celebration of the Eucharist.  We will not achieve that final “rest” until our journey is over and we “rest” in the life of the Most Holy Trinity in the Promised Land of Heaven.

Question: What do you see as your community’s and your nation’s greatest struggles against the corruption of sin?  What can you do as an individual and as a member of the Church in the war against sin?


1. For the tradition that Melchizedek is Shem see: St. Ephraim, Teachings on Genesis 14:18-20; St. Jerome, Hebrew Questons on Genesis 14:18-19; Babylonian Talmud, N’darim 32b; the Jewish Tanakh (Stone edition), note on page 29; Jewish New Testament Commentary, page 679.

2. Kings belonging to the same dynastic family often had the same name, for example the succession of Thuthmoses, Amenhoteps and Rameses in Egypt.

3. See Biblical Archaeology Review Magazine, “Excavating Hazor,” Part I (May/June 1999); Part II “Did the Israelites Destroy the Canaanite City?” written by Amon Ben-Tor and Maria Teresa Rubiato.

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2012 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Catechism references:
Sin and judgment (of nations and people) CCC 55-58