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Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Joshua 12

Verses 13-24

C. Possession of the land 5:13-12:24

Before Israel entered the land of Canaan, God had been preparing for His people to take possession of it by sovereignly directing the political affairs of Egypt. Egypt had maintained control over Canaan for many years. However, shortly before and during the ascension of Pharaoh Amenhotep II (1417-1379 B.C.) to the throne, Egyptian interest in Canaanite affairs began to decline. Consequently some of the Canaanite kings asserted their independence from Egyptian control and began to increase their influence and to dominate their neighbors. In addition, foreigners besides the Israelites invaded portions of Canaan. Some of the victims of oppression wrote letters to Pharaoh asking for Egyptian assistance. They sent these letters to Amarna, the capital of Egypt at this time, and they are known today as the Amarna Letters. They wrote these documents in cuneiform script. Archaeologists discovered them at Amarna in A.D. 1887. They provide much valuable information on the political and military climate in Canaan during the period of Israel’s conquests. [Note: See Charles Pfeiffer, Tell El Amarna and the Bible; and Davis and Whitcomb, pp. 18-21.]

"While Akhenaten [Amenhotep III, 1379-1361 B.C., the son and successor of Amenhotep II] spent his life preoccupied with religious reform, Egyptian prestige in Asia sank to a low ebb. As the Amarna Letters abundantly show, no effort was made by the court to answer the frantic appeals for help made by some princes who still professed loyalty to Egypt. The most common complaint in these letters is that unless Egypt would send troops urgently the land would fall into the hands of the Khapiru. Some historians are inclined to see in these Khapiru the Hebrews of the Bible who at this time were overrunning Palestine." [Note: Siegfried Schwantes, A Short History of the Ancient Near East, p. 90. See also Nadav Na’aman, "Habiru and Hebrews: The Transfer of a Social Term to the Literary Sphere," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 45:4 (October 1986):271-88; and Douglas Waterhouse, "Who Are the Habiru of the Amarna Letters?" Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 12:1 (Spring 2001):31-42.]

When the Israelites began their conquest, the Canaanite city-states did not have the protection of Egypt or any other strong world power that they had enjoyed in the past.

Verses 16-24

9. Summary of Joshua’s conquests 11:16-12:24

This summary is in three parts: the land, the kings east of the Jordan, and the kings west of the Jordan.

Verses 1-6

The slaughter of the eastern kings 12:1-6

Sihon and Og were the first Canaanite kings the Israelites defeated.

Verses 7-24

The slaughter of the western kings 12:7-24

The writer identified 31 kings in the essential order in which Joshua defeated them.

"Many of the same names appear in the Amarna letters, thus confirming the historicity of our text." [Note: Davis and Whitcomb, p. 75.]

"The description was not complete. Shechem is not mentioned, and the hills of Ephraim are sparsely represented, as is the territory north of Hazor. Completeness is not the object. The writer seeks to compile a list that will impress the readers with the greatness of the feat of God in working for Israel and of the greatness of the leadership of Joshua in following the example of Moses and completing the task first given to Moses. Still, the writer is aware that much remains to be done." [Note: Butler, p. 139.]

This summary concludes the record of the conquest of the land (chs. 1-12), Joshua’s first major responsibility. He was now able to divide the land among the Israelites (chs. 13-21), his second great work (Joshua 1:6).

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Joshua 12". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/joshua-12.html. 2012.