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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Joshua 10

Verse 1

Now it came to pass, when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them;

Adoni-zedek - `lord of righteousness;' nearly synonymous with Melchinzedek, 'king of righteousness.' These names were common titles of the Jebusite kings.

Jerusalem. The original name, "Salem" (Genesis 14:18; Psalms 76:2), was superseded by that here given, which signifies 'a peaceful possession, or 'a vision of peace,' in allusion, as some think, to the strikingly symbolic scene (Genesis 22:14) represented on the mount whereon that city was afterward built. It is called Jebusi, Joshua 18:28, and Jebus, Joshua 15:8; Judges 19:10. 'It may be reasonably inferred that Adonizedek exercised a kind of ecclesiastical dominion over the surrounding clans, and that Jerusalem was esteemed a sacred locality even in the estimation of the pagan. It was probably even at that early period distinctively called "Holy City"' (Barclay's 'City of the Great King,' p. 110).

Inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them - i:e., the Israelites had made an alliance with that people, and, acknowledging their supremacy, were living on terms of friendly contact with them.

Verse 2

That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty.

They feared greatly. The dread inspired by the rapid conquests of the Israelites had been immensely increased by the fact of a state so populous and so strong as Gibeon having found it expedient to submit to the power and the terms of the invaders.

As one of the royal cities. Although itself a republic (Joshua 9:3), it was large and well fortified, like those places in which the chiefs of the country usually established their residence.

Verse 3

Wherefore Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying,

Wherefore Adoni-zedek ... sent... saying, Come up unto me, and help me. He saw that there must be a desperate struggle, not only for independence, but for life. A combined attack, therefore, was meditated on Gibeon, with a view not only to punish its people for their desertion of the native cause, but by its overthrow to interpose a barrier to the further inroads of the Israelites. This confederacy among the mountaineers of Southern Palestine was formed and headed by the king of Jerusalem, because his territory was most exposed to danger, Gibeon being only six miles distant, and because he evidently possessed some degree of pre-eminence over his royal neighbours.

Verse 4

Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 5

Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.

The five kings of the Amorites. The Septuagint has 'of the Jebusites.' The settlement of this powerful and warlike tribe lay within the confines of Moab; but having also acquired extensive possessions on the southwest of the Jordan, their name, as the ruling power, seems to have been given to the region generally (2 Samuel 21:2), although Hebron was inhabited by Hittites or Hivites (Joshua 11:19), and Jerusalem by Jebusites (Joshua 15:63).

Encamped before Gibeon and made war against it. Josephus says ('Antiquities,' b. 5:, ch. 1:, sec. 17) that the confederate troops pitched their camp at a certain fountain not far from the city, and were preparing for a siege when the Gibeonites found means of apprising Joshua of their perilous situation.

Verse 6

And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us.

The men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua. Their appeal was urgent, and their claim to protection irresistible, on the ground, not only of kindness and sympathy but of justice. In attacking the Canaanites, Joshua had received from God a general assurance of success (Joshua 1:5). But the intelligence of so formidable a combination among the native princes seems to have depressed his mind (Joshua 10:8) with the anxious and dispiriting idea that it was a chastisement for the hasty and inconsiderate alliance entered into with the Gibeonites. It was evidently to be a struggle for life and death, not only to Gibeon, but to the Israelites. And in this view the divine communication that was made to him was seasonable and animating. He seems to have asked the counsel of God, and received an answer, before setting out on the expedition.

Verses 7-8

So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 9

Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.

Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly. This is explained in the following clause, where he is described as having accomplished, by a forced march of picked men, in one night a distance of 26 miles, which, according to the slow pace of Eastern armies and caravans, had formerly been a three days' journey (Joshua 9:17), and he probably came upon their camp at daybreak, when they were taken by surprise.

Verse 10

And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.

The Lord discomfited them - Hebrew, terrified, confounded the Amorite allies; probably, in the first instance, by the suddenness of the Israelites' appearance, and the effect of their terrific war-shout, but afterward by a fearful storm of lightning and thunder. So the word is usually employed (Judges 4:15; Judges 5:20; 1 Samuel 7:10; Psalms 18:13-19.18.14; Psalms 144:6).

And slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon. This refers to the attack of the Israelites upon the besiegers. It is evident that there had been much hard fighting around the heights of Gibeon for the day was far spent ere the enemy took to flight.

Chased them along the way that goeth up to Beth-horon - i:e., the House of the Hollow, or the House of Caves, of which there are still traces existing. Others ascribe the name to the worship of Horus. There were two contiguous villages of that name-upper and nether. Upper Beth-horon was nearest Gibeon-about ten miles distant-and approached by a gradual ascent through a long and precipitous ravine. This was the first stage of the flight. The fugitives had crossed the high ridge of Upper Beth-horon, and were in full flight down the descent to Beth-horon the Nether. 'The road between the two places is so rocky and rugged that there, is a path made by means of steps cut in the rock' (Robinson). Down this pass, the scene of this first (as also of the last great victory that crowned the Jewish arms, at the interval of nearly 1,500 years-Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 208), Joshua continued his victorious route. Here it was that the Lord interposed, assisting his people by means of a storm-`one of the fearful tempests which from time to time sweep over the hills of Palestine' (Stanley), and which, having been probably gathering all day, burst with such irresistible fury that "they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword."

The Oriental hail-storm is a terrific agent: the hailstones are masses of ice, large as walnuts, and sometimes as two fists; their prodigious size, and the violence with which they fall, make them always very injurious to property, and often fatal to life, both in men and beasts (see Hardy's 'Notices of the Holy Land,' p. 213). 'Infidelity has ridiculed this miracle, but without reason. That single stones, and even showers of stones, of uncommon weight have frequently fallen, is proved by the most unexceptionable evidence. In 1510, near Padua, in Italy, about 1,200 stones fell, and some of them were 120 lbs. weight. On the Upper Rhine, in 1492, once stone fell, 260 lbs.; and near Verona, in 1762, one fell 200, and another 300 lbs. weight. Why, then, should it be thought incredible that God should employ such agents on the occasion before us? Does not disbelief of such a recorded fact display culpable ignorance or heartless folly? But granting that the shower was composed of hailstones, this concession does not, even supposing that it was a natural occurrence, increase the improbability of the case. In the south of France and Switzerland hailstones of large size sometimes fall in showers, and still more frequently in the countries of the Levant. Among the Arabian hills, in the vicinity of the Dead Sea, it is recorded that thirty of the soldiers of Baldwin I. perished in a tempest, described as "horrible hail, terrible frost, and indescribable rain and snow." Nor does his strong description appear much overcharged, when it is considered that thirty soldiers fell victims to the severity of the storm.

Thus, completely does history refute the infidel objection of impossibility in the present instance. Yet who, except one strangely insensible to his condition as a feeble creature, would presumptuously circumscribe the power of the Deity over universal nature? This shower, though natural in itself, was supernaturally employed, and miraculously directed, to fall where and when it did, and to do the execution prescribed' (''Azuba,' by Rev. W. Ritchie, p. 396). The miraculous feature of this tempest, which fell on the Amorite army, was the entire preservation of the Israelites from its destructive ravages.

Verse 11

And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Beth-horon, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.

No JFB commentary on this verse.

Verse 12

Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.

Then spake Joshua to the Lord ... Sun, stand thou still.... and thou, Moon - literally, 'Sun upon Gibeon,

be still (remain), and the moon in the vale of Ajalon.' The language which Joshua addressed to the Lord was evidently a prayer that the day might not close until he should have completely overthrown his enemies; and it was most natural in the circumstances that such should have been the fervent wish of his heart; because it would appear that at the time when the ejaculation was uttered, the day was far advanced.

Verse 13

And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.

The sun stood still, [ bachªtsiy (H2677) hashaamayim (H8064), in the midst, in the bisection of the heavens - i:e., noonday] (cf. Judges 16:3). Now, this passage has given use to much discussion; and while it is generally admitted that it points to a physical miracle, a difference of opinion is entertained as to the form, and consequently the extent, of its operation. Some regard the section from Joshua 10:12-6.10.15 inclusive as a continuous portion of the history; and, considering that the inspired historian has related what occurred according to the natural appearance of things, and conformably to the state of human knowledge at the time, believe that the expressions, "the sun stood still, and the moon stayed," mean, on the principles of science, that the earth was arrested in its diurnal rotation on its axis, and thereby produced the phenomena described.

Another way of explaining the words of Joshua has been suggested. 'Day and night are produced by the rotation of the earth upon her own axis, and that revolution is principally caused by the action of the sun upon our globe. Now, if that action be suspended at any given hour of a day, the rotation of the earth on its axis will cease, and that day will be prolonged beyond its usual length, during the time that suspension continues. Joshua's words are, on this hypothesis, interpreted thus: "Let the sun restrain his influence, or be inactive, upon the earth, that the earth may not revolve further and bring night, that his light may continue upon Gibeon as it now appears, and that the moon may continue to shine over the vale of Ajalon as at present she does." Joshua does not request the earth to cease her motion, which was merely the effect of the sun's acting upon her; but he addresses the sun, from which, as its cause, that motion proceeded, and thus he employs language which, everything considered, Sir Isaac Newton himself would have demonstrated to be correct, elegant, and sublime. Philosophically, to stop an effect, there must be removed its producing cause. Hence, in the storm, Jesus first rebuked the wind that raised the billows, and then said to the waves, "Peace, be still;" and here the sun withholds his influence upon the earth, and the earth becomes motionless' (''Azuba,' p. 397).

Doubtless it was within the compass of omnipotence to stop the movements of the great machinery of nature, or any part of it; and as the Creator cannot be bound by the laws He Himself thought fit to impose upon matter, He must be considered free to suspend them, whenever the interference may seem to His infinite wisdom necessary for the promotion of His glory or the good of His people. Such an occasion undoubtedly was the contest at Gibeon, which, by securing to the Israelites a large instalment of possession in the promised land, was really an epoch in the history of redemption; and the control exercised over the sun and moon was a visible demonstration of God's superiority over those luminaries, which were objects of worship among the idolatrous Canaanites. A believer in revelation, then, would not hesitate to admit a temporary alteration of the laws that govern the solar system, if such a meaning were demanded by the Scripture record. But a literal interpretation of the text is compassed with many and great difficulties.

Besides, a miracle which extended through the solar system-the most stupendous miracle ever performed in the material universe-must have attracted the attention of numerous observers beyond the confines of Palestine; but no notice of it occurs in the writings of pagan authors (for the passage in Herodotus, supposed to contain an allusion (b. 2:, ch. 142:) to this miracle, refers most probably to the Egyptian system of astronomical cycles), nor in any other part of Scripture (for the description in Habakkuk 3:11, where the words of the original are rendered in our version "the sun and moon stood still in their habitation," has been shown by Maurer, Keil, and Henderson, to mean that the sun and moon were obscured by tempest clouds-namely, the storm of hailstones). No astronomical miracle, therefore, having been performed, in the opinion of the writers just named-to whom may be added Grotius, Isaac Peyrerius, etc.-we are led, in consequence, to consider whether the passage may not be susceptible of another interpretation, which, though modified and restricted, is perfectly consistent with the admission of miraculous agency.

An attentive examination will discover in this passage very clear evidence of a difference in style from the context; and, accordingly, it is believed by many eminent writers (Vatablus, 'Critici Sacri,' 2:, p. 255; Levi F. Gersonis, as quoted by Masius, 'Critici Sacri,' 2:, p. 265) that the inspired author here breaks off the thread of his history of this miraculous victory to introduce a quotation from an ancient poem, in which the mighty acts of that day were commemorated. The passage, which is parenthetical, contains a poetical description of the victory, which was miraculously gained by the help of God, and forms an extract from "the book of Jasher" -

i.e., the upright-an anthology, or collection of national songs, in honour of renowned and eminently pious heroes. [A book called Jasher exists in Hebrew at the present day, and is supposed by Oriental Jews to be that referred to in this passage and 2 Samuel 1:18. No just idea can be formed of it from the English translation recently executed. A discerning criticism will perceive many indications of antiquity mixed up with what is modern in names, incidents, and allusions.] The language of a poem is not to be literally interpreted; and, therefore, when the sun and moon are personified, addressed as intelligent beings, and represented as standing still, the explanation is, that the light of the sun and moon was supernaturally prolonged by the same laws of refraction and reflection that ordinarily cause the sun to appear above the horizon when he is in reality below it.

But allowing the passage to be an extract or quotation from a collection of poems, the inspired historian, by adopting it, has asserted and recognized the miracle related in it to be a fact. Gibeon (a hill) was now at the back of the Israelites, and the height would soon have intercepted the rays of the setting sun. The valley of Ajalon (stags) was before them, and so near that it was sometimes called the valley of Gibeon (Isaiah 28:21). The incident took place soon after the equinox (cf. Joshua 3:15 with Joshua 5:10), when the days had twelve, hours light; and it occurred at noon (Joshua 10:13), because "the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day;" so that we may conclude the hours which succeeded noon were miraculously extended into a whole day, or twelve hours of light. [That this is the right interpretation of 'the standing still of the sun and the moon,' has been shown (by J. A. Macdonald, author of 'The Principia and the Bible') from an ingenious criticism on the three Hebrew words, chamaah (H2535), chedec, shemesh (H8121), promiscuously translated in our version the sun; and the two words. Yaareech and libaanaah, indiscriminately rendered moon. Chamah and Levanah are constantly associated; Shemesh and Yareach are as invariably connected: the former couple denoting, with a few instances of exception, the bodies of the sun and moon; the latter, the light that emanates from them: and these are the words used in the passage before us (cf. Exodus 16:21; Deuteronomy 4:19; Deuteronomy 33:14; 1 Samuel 11:9; Nehemiah 8:3; Psalms 121:6; Isaiah 49:10; Jonah 4:8).]

Besides the mention of Gibeon in connection with the sun, and the valley of Ajalon to be lighted by the moon, shows that these two orbs were left in state-the moon to appear at the ordinary time, while the radiance of beth was unprecedentedly prolonged. This is the view taken by Michaelis, Schultz, Hess, Dathe, Keil, etc. It would seem, from Joshua 10:14, that the command of Joshua was in reality a prayer to God for the performance of this miracle, because the sun and the moon did not cease to give light until "the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies;" and that, although the prayers of eminently good men like Moses often prevailed with God, never was there, on any other occasion, so astonishing a display of divine power made in behalf of His people as in answer to the prayer of Joshua.

Joshua 10:15 is the end of the quotation from Jasher; and it is necessary to notice this, as the fact described in it is recorded in due course and the same words by the sacred historian, Joshua 10:43. (See, on this passage, Colenso, Part I., Preface, p. 10:; Archdeacon Pratt, "Scripture and Science not at Variance;' 'Scripture Difficulties;' 'The Hulsean Lectures' for 1853-54, by Morgan Cowie, Fellow of John's College, Cambridge.)

Verses 14-15

And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 16

But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah.

These five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave (Hebrew, the cave) at Makkedah. The pursuit was continued without interruption to Makkedah, at the foot of the western mountains, where Joshua seems to have halted with the main body of his troops, while a detachment was sent forward to Scour the country in pursuit of the remaining stragglers, a few of whom succeeded in reaching the neighbouring cities. The last act, probably the next day, was the disposal of the prisoners, among whom the five kings (see the note at Joshua 10:37) were consigned to the infamous doom of being slain (Deuteronomy 20:16-5.20.17), and then their corpses suspended on five trees until the evening.

Verses 17-23

And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 24

And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them.

Put your feet upon the necks of these kings. This barbarous act of insolence was, according to the usage of ancient war, the favourite way of a conqueror displaying his complete victory over a fallen chief of the enemy (Deut. 38:29; 2 Samuel 22:41; Psalms 110:5; Malachi 4:3). Representations of the Assyrian monarch placing his foot on the neck of a prostrate captive are exhibited on a bas-relief found at Khorsabad (Botta, plate 82:: see Layard's 'Nineveh and its Remains,' 2:, p. 376).

Verses 25-26

And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight.

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 27

And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave's mouth, which remain until this very day.

Laid great stones in the cave's mouth, which remain until this very day. This rude monument, which would stand for ages, would be a permanent record of the war of invasion. With what exultation and lively gratitude would the Israelite contemporaries of Joshua point to the gathered heap around the cave at Makkedah, and tell their children's children of the wonders of the field of Gibeon, and how on one day the gallant Joshua, by God's favour, quelled the pride of five kings.

Verse 28

And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain: and he did to the king of Makkedah as he did unto the king of Jericho.

That day Joshua took Makkedah. In this and the following verses is described the rapid succession of victory and extermination which sweat the whole of Southern Palestine into the hand of Israel. "All these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel. And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal."

Verses 29-36

Then Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, unto Libnah, and fought against Libnah:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 37

And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein. Smote ... the king thereof - i:e., of Hebron. In Joshua 10:23 it is related that the king of Hebron had fallen in battle. The people had elected a successor, whose short-lived reign is noticed, he being killed in the general overthow of Hebron and its dependencies.

Verses 38-40

And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it:

No JFB commentary on these verses.

Verse 41

And Joshua smote them from Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon.

All the country of Goshen - (cf. Joshua 11:16.) 'The southern frontier of Palestine, which almost imperceptibly loses itself in the desert of Sinai, is sometimes called the land of "Goshen," or the "frontier," doubtless for the same reason as the more famous tract between the cultivated Egypt and the Arabian desert, in which the Israelites dwelt before the exodus' (Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 159).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Joshua 10". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jfu/joshua-10.html. 1871-8.