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Israel’s continuing success led her enemies to exert increasing opposition against the people of God. This chapter records the Canaanites’ first aggressive action against the Israelites.
The Jebusites lived in and around Jebus, ancient Salem (Genesis 14:18). The writer called this town Jerusalem here for the first time in Scripture. "Jerusalem" means "the founding (or possession) of peace." Adonizedek (lit. lord of righteousness) and Melchizedek (king of righteousness, Genesis 14:18) were titles of the Jebusite kings, as Pharaoh was a title of the Egyptian kings. Jerusalem lay closer to Gibeon than any of the other towns that allied with Jerusalem against Gibeon. Probably for this reason Adonizedek took the initiative in this alliance.
"The Amarna letters indicate that Jerusalem was the center of political activity in the fourteenth century B.C. and was always conscious of its own security." [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, p. 63.]
6. Victory over the Amorite alliance at Gibeon 10:1-27
Here the writer used the name "Amorites" (Joshua 10:6) generally of the Canaanites who were living in the nearby hills, including the Jebusites. The Amorites who lived in the mountains were the strongest of all the Canaanites. [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 104.]
This was the first time Israel had gone into battle against an alliance of city-states. God reassured Joshua that he would be victorious (Joshua 10:8). God’s strategy included an early morning surprise attack that caught the Amorites off guard (cf. Exodus 23:27). Israel was able to gain the advantage and pursued the fleeing Amorites for several miles. God also sent a hailstorm (cf. Exodus 9:24) as the Amorites descended from Upper Beth-horon to Lower Beth-horon along the ridge route that connects these towns (the "descent," Joshua 10:11). This storm killed many of the enemy but none of God’s people. By this the Amorites and the Israelites realized that this victory came as a result of the supernatural help of Yahweh and not simply by Israel’s own power. Yahweh as well as Israel had devoted the Amorites to destruction.
"The crossing of the Jordan at high flood and the cyclonic hail storm at Aijalon are of special theological significance, for Baal was the great Canaanite storm god who was supposed to control the rain, the hail, the snow and the floods of Palestine. These episodes proved that Baal was as powerless before Yahweh in Palestine as he had been in the episode of the plagues in Egypt." [Note: J. L. Kelso, Archaeology and Our Old Testament Contemporaries, p. 53.]
Note in Joshua 10:9-15 how the writer alternated references to the activities of the Israelites and God. He seems to have wanted to impress the reader with the fact than God and men were laboring together to secure the victory (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:9).
Joshua based his petition (Joshua 10:12) on God’s promise (Joshua 10:8). It was a public prayer that he spoke in the hearing of the Israelites.
There are two basic explanations of this miracle among evangelical scholars.
1. God slowed or stopped the earth’s rotation, or He tilted its axis thereby lengthening the period of daylight. Most of those who hold this view believe God counteracted the worldwide effects of this miracle by His supernatural power. [Note: Schaeffer, p. 142; Campbell, No Time . . ., pp. 81-83; idem, "Joshua," p. 351; et al.] The main problem with this view is its improbability. Would God (He could, of course) perform such a worldwide miracle simply to give Israel more daylight? Advocates reply that this is the normal meaning of the words the writer used.
2. This may have been a local miracle whereby God provided additional light for Israel. Some advocates of this view believe God created unusual atmospheric conditions that resulted in the refraction of sunlight after the sun had set. Others feel God provided a light for Israel that may even have looked like the sun but was a different source of light, such as the shekinah. [Note: Bush, p. 119; Davis and Whitcomb, pp. 69-70; Keil and Delitzsch, pp. 109-112; et al.] The main problem with this view is the language used in the text that seems to imply an actual alteration of the earth’s rotation. Advocates reply that this is the language of appearance and point to similar miracles in Scripture (e.g., Exodus 10:21-23; 2 Kings 20:10-11). Some also cite God’s promise to provide day and night regularly, which seems to favor this view (Genesis 8:22; cf. Jeremiah 33:20-21).
Robert Dick Wilson, a competent and conservative Hebrew scholar, believed that both the sun and the moon experienced an eclipse by other heavenly bodies. [Note: Robert Dick Wilson, "Understanding ’The Sun Stood Still,’" in Classical Evangelical Essays in Old Testament Interpretation, pp. 61-65.] He argued that the Hebrew words translated "stand still" and "stood still" can be translated "be eclipsed" and "was eclipsed." This is another possible explanation. Various writers have suggested many other views and variations of these views. [Note: See Davis and Whitcomb, pp. 66-70, for several.] For example, John Holladay Jr. believed Joshua was voicing belief in astrology and was calling for a favorable alignment of the heavenly bodies. [Note: John S. Holladay Jr., "The Day(s) the Moon Stood Still," Journal of Biblical Literature 87 (1968):167-78.] David Howard Jr. suggested that God spoke the words in Joshua 10:12 b and Jos_10:13 a rather than Joshua. [Note: Howard, An Introduction . . ., p. 88.] Most interpreters take Joshua 10:12 b and Jos_10:13 a as Joshua’s words and believe he was praying to Yahweh.
The Canaanites regarded the sun and moon as deities. Their control by Yahweh must have deeply impressed Israel’s enemies. [Note: See Robert B. Chisholm Jr., "The Polemic against Baalism in Israel’s Early History and Literature," Bibliotheca Sacra 151:603 (July-September 1994):276-77.] The Book of "Jashar" ("righteous," Joshua 10:13) seems to have been a collection of stories of Israel’s heroes. Some of these stories, if not all of them, were in verse and commemorated God’s great acts for Israel (cf. 2 Samuel 1:18). An additional note that Yahweh fought for Israel (Joshua 10:14) reemphasized God’s initiative for His people in faithfulness to His promises.
"God fights for Israel. He also fights with and through Israel. She cannot expect the victory, however, if she does not do her part." [Note: Butler, p. 117.]
The Israelites suffered no significant losses in the mopping up operation that followed. "No one uttered a word against" (Joshua 10:21) means no one lifted a finger in resistance against the Israelites (cf. Exodus 11:7).
Putting one’s foot on the necks of one’s enemies was a symbolic act that represented complete subjugation in the ancient Near East (Joshua 10:24; cf. 1 Kings 5:3; Psalms 8:6; Psalms 110:1). The act also gave the Israelites greater confidence. Joshua strengthened the impact of this act with an encouraging exhortation (Joshua 10:25).
Israel’s leaders placed large stones over the grave of the Canaanite kings (Joshua 10:27) for the benefit of future observers (cf. Joshua 7:25). This constituted still another memorial to God’s faithfulness and power.
As believers experience increasing success in our spiritual warfare, we normally experience increasing opposition from our spiritual enemies, as Israel did. Still, the Lord fights alongside His people (2 Corinthians 12:9). We have responsibilities to secure victory (e.g., trust, obedience, using our resources, etc.; cf. Ephesians 6:14-18). The Lord also provides assistance naturally and supernaturally. He enables us to use the strength, wisdom, and endurance He has given us. He also does things we cannot possibly do for ourselves. He gave the Israelite army extra light and sent hail from the sky. He gives us material gifts, He changes the hearts of people, and He opens up new opportunities for us, to name a few of His mighty acts.
Seven other victories followed the battle at Gibeon. In the record of these encounters the writer highlighted two important facts. Israel was obedient to God’s command to exterminate the Canaanites in these cities. Second, it was Yahweh who gave Israel’s enemies into her hands (Joshua 10:30; Joshua 10:32).
". . . Yahweh has shown himself to be a God who accepts a people who follow him despite their past mistakes." [Note: Ibid., p. 119.]
The purpose of Joshua’s raids was to destroy the military capability of these city-states and to instill fear and confusion in the remaining Canaanites. Archaeology has confirmed that many of these cities did not suffer violent destruction at this time.
"Joshua, at this stage of the campaign, did not seem to be interested in completely destroying each one of the sites, or in occupying them." [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, p. 70.]
"But beyond inflicting immediate loss, this campaign achieved little else by itself-it was a sweep, not an occupation: ’Joshua returned and all Israel with him, to the camp, to Gilgal’ (Joshua 10:15; Joshua 10:43). Occupation of the land, to live in it, keep livestock and cultivate crops in it, etc., was a far slower process, visible in part later in Joshua and in Judges." [Note: Kitchen, p. 89.]
According to Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831), a philosopher of war, there are three principle military objectives in any war. First, the aggressor must destroy the military power of the enemy so he cannot continue or resume war. Second, he must conquer the land of the enemy so a new military force cannot arise from it. Third, he must subdue the will of the enemy. [Note: Carl von Clausewitz, On War, p. 101, cited by Craigie, The Problem of War . . ., p. 46.] Joshua accomplished all three of these basic objectives. [Note: See David Ussishkin, "Lachish-Key to the Israelite Conquest of Canaan?" Biblical Archaeology Review 13:1 (January-February 1987):18-39.]
7. Other conquests in southern Canaan 10:28-43
To this point Israel’s victories had taken place in central Canaan. God’s strategy was to give His people a base of operation in the middle part of the land first. From there they could then advance to the South and then to the North. The writer summarized the southern campaign in this section of verses.
These verses summarize the conquest of the whole southern portion of Canaan. As we shall see later, Israel did not defeat every town or kill every Canaanite without exception. However, Joshua effectively removed the military threat to Israel that the cities in the south posed. "All" (Joshua 10:40) has a limited meaning. In this context it means all parts of the land, all the kings of the cities that Joshua destroyed, and all who lived in those cities (cf. Joshua 13:1).
Goshen (Joshua 10:41) was a town on the southern frontier of Israel (Joshua 15:51). The reference is not to the section of Egypt that bore this name.
The writer emphasized God’s fighting for Israel again (Joshua 10:42).
God’s people do not have to engage every enemy that exists immediately, any more than the Israelites had to kill every individual Canaanite or attack every city immediately. At this stage in their national life God’s will was that they attack only certain selected targets. Sometimes we can experience discouragement when we look at the host of wicked people that surrounds us, or the many sins that plague us. We may think, "What can one individual do to stem such a tide of wickedness?" We may even think it is useless to do anything in view of the huge task we face (Matthew 28:19-20). In those situations we need to do what God puts before us to do day by day rather than taking on more responsibility than God wants us to assume immediately (cf. Matthew 6:25-34).
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Joshua 10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany