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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 11

Gray's Concise Bible CommentaryGray's Concise Commentary

Verses 1-23


Owing to the length of the last lesson no comment was made on the latter half of the previous chapter. But it will be seen that verses 16-27 gave an account of the final destruction of the five kings in the confederacy against Gibeon.

The map will show Makkedah (Joshua 10:16 ) to the west of Gibeon, near the sea and in what we know as the Philistine country. In a cave the kings hid and were imprisoned by Joshua until the rout of the warriors was complete (Joshua 10:17-21 ), when they were slain (Joshua 10:22-27 ).

Then in a rapid survey (Joshua 10:28-42 ) we get the record of the campaign through the South as far as Goshen, including victories over Libnah, Lachish, Gezer, Eglon, Hebron, Debir, Kadish-Barnea and Gaza. “All these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the Lord God of Israel fought for Israel” (Joshua 10:42 ). It was the conquest of the whole Southern Canaan, leaving Israel free to turn attention to the North, the later Galilee region, whose conquest begins in chapter 11.


As the decisive battle in the south seems to have been at Beth-horon, that in the North seems to have been at Merom (Joshua 11:5 ). Let the student trace the localities on the map if he wishes to have his interest kindled, and the facts fastened on his mind.

Notice that horses and chariots appear for the first time and it was for this reason the battle was attempted to be fought on the shores of Lake Merom, where there could be free play for such a force.

The text emphasizes the great numbers of the enemy in this encounter (Joshua 11:4 ). Josephus in his Wars of the Jews gives 300,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 20,000 war chariots. If true, this was a formidable host in every way, and Israel may well have been dispirited at the knowledge of it, but God comes with timely encouragement (Joshua 11:6 ), which He makes good (Joshua 11:7-8 ).

Inquiry may be raised as to why they should destroy the horses and chariots (Joshua 11:9 ), and not keep them for subsequent use, but Psalms 20:7-9 is a sufficient answer. What a flood of meaning is thrown on such expressions by an event like this! Then, too, not only was Israel to trust in the Lord independent of such means, but to be neither a traveling nor trading, but rather an agricultural people, which would not require accessions like these.

The following verses in this chapter give a survey of the completed conquest of the North as in the former case of the South (Joshua 11:10-14 ), and after recapitulating the Southern campaign, the story reaches a conclusion at Joshua 11:23 .


We give but little space to this chapter. In Joshua 12:1-6 we have an account of the kings overcome and the cities taken by Moses on the east of Jordan, and the distribution of their land to the two and a half tribes (see. Numbers 21:31 ; Deuteronomy 2:36 ; Deuteronomy 3:3-16 ).

Following this we have a record of the thirty-one kings overcome by Joshua on the west of Jordan in the two campaigns, already dwelt upon.


1. What was the decisive battle in the conquest of Southern Canaan?

2. Reply to a similar question about Northern Canaan.

3. Have you located Makkedah and the waters of Merom on the map?

4. Can you quote Psalms 20:7 ?

5. How many kings were overcome by Joshua in his campaign west of the Jordan?


Having come to a natural division of this book, we pause to consider some of its spiritual teachings and types.

For example, take Joshua himself, who is a type of Christ as the “Captain of our salvation” (Hebrews 2:10-11 ). It is interesting that “Joshua” is a combination of Jehoshua, which means Jehovah-Savior. The more important points in the typical relation of Joshua to Christ are indicated in the Scofield Reference Bible: (1) He comes after Moses. (Compare John 1:17 ; Romans 8:3-4 ; Romans 10:4-5 ; Hebrews 7:18-19 ; Galatians 3:23-25 .) (2) He leads to victory. (Compare Romans 8:37 ; 2 Corinthians 1:10 ; 2 Corinthians 2:14 .) (3) He is our advocate when we have suffered defeat. (Compare Joshua 7:5-9 ; 1 John 2:1 .) (4) He allots our portions. (Compare Ephesians 1:11 ; Ephesians 1:14 ; Ephesians 4:8-11 .) Though we have already spoken of Rahab as illustrating the history of redemption, we add the following:

She lived in a condemned city, and we live in a condemned world. Her character was bad, and we all are sinners.

She believed in the power of God for her deliverance, and we are justified by faith.

She received a promise for her faith to rest upon, and God has said that whosoever shall call upon His name shall be saved.

She displayed a token and seal of her faith in the scarlet cord, and we believe with the heart unto righteousness, but “with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

Her deliverance was sure and complete, and “there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus.”

All these can be wrought out into a helpful discourse by a selection of the New Testament passages called for by the different divisions.

The crossing of the Jordan has always seemed an impressive type of the intercessory work of Christ on behalf of His people. The priests standing in the riverbed until every member of the host passed over, brings to mind Hebrews 7:25 .

To other teachers the passage of the Jordan is an impressive type of our death with Christ. (Compare Romans 6:1-11 ; Ephesians 2:5-6 ; Colossians 3:1-3 .) The twelve stones taken out of Jordan and erected by Joshua in Gilgal, and the other twelve left in Jordan to be overwhelmed by its waters, are memorials marking the distinction between Christ’s death under judgment in the believer’s place, and the believer’s perfect deliverance from judgment.

For the first named consider Psalms 42:7 ; Psalms 88:7 ; and John 12:31-33 . For the second, a large variety of New Testament passages will readily come to mind.

The Rev. F. B. Meyer speaks of the significance of the vision of the Captain of the Lord’s hosts:

We sometimes feel lonely and discouraged. The hosts with which we are accustomed to cooperate are resting quietly in their tents. No one seems able to enter into our anxieties and plans. Our Jerichos are so formidable the neglected parish; the empty church; the hardened congregation; the godless household. How can we ever capture these and hand them over to the Lord?

We summon all our wit and energy to solve the problem. We study the methods of others, put forth herculean exertions and questionable methods, borrowed from the world. But still we are disappointed, and have gone forth alone, confessing our helplessness, and then it is that we have seen the Captain of the Lord’s host. He will undertake our cause, and marshal His troops and win the day.

But we must be holy. “Put off thy shoes from off they feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.” We must put off the old man, with his affections and lusts, and cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit. Cleanness rather than cleverness is the prime condition of successful service. It is only out of such a heart that the faith can spring which is able to wield the forces of the unseen and spiritual and divine.

The author mentioned above uses the story of the Valley of Achor for a chapter on sin, from which the following is taken, which might be easily filed away for future reference as the basis of a Gospel address on the foulness of sin:

We should grieve more for sin than its results. Joshua smarted from the disgrace inflicted upon his people and the consequences which would ensue when the tidings were noised abroad. He was dreading the discovery more than the misdoing. But with God it was not so, and never is so. It is our sin in itself that presses Him down, as a cart groans beneath its load.

We should submit ourselves to the judgment of God. “Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” It were as if God said, “Instead of grieving for the effect, grieve for the cause.” In searching the cause of our failures we must be willing to know the worst. And that we may know the worst God traces our sin back through its genealogy, just as He did in this case.

We should hold no parley with discovered sin. God never reveals an evil which He does not require us to remove. When this is done the Valley of Achor becomes “the door of hope” (Hosea 2:15 ).

“And the land rested from war” (Joshua 11:23 ). In the use of this text Mr. Meyer compares the rest experienced by Israel in Canaan with the rest the believer may share in Christ:

There is the rest of reconciliation. The soul no longer works up towards the cross to obtain justification, but is assured that all needed to be done has been done by Jesus Christ on our behalf.

There is the rest of assured victory. When we realize all that Jesus has done, we see that Satan is a conquered foe, and that his weapon cannot reach a life hidden in God.

There is the rest of a surrendered will. When our wills move off the pivot of self on the pivot of God, our lives become concentric with the life of God, and our feet keep step to the music of His divine purpose.

There is the rest of unbroken fellowship. As Jesus is one with the Father, so we become one with Him, and through Him one with the blessed trinity. Truly “our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”

There is the rest of perfect love. When we enter into the life of the ascended Jesus, we find that our hearts become pervaded with the love of God, and there is no longer the yearning and bitterness of unsatisfied desire. We hunger no more, neither thirst any more.

There is the rest of the holy heart. It is not occupied with inbred lust nor tossed to and fro on seething passion. The flesh is crucified, the self-principle quelled, and the empire of the Holy Saviour is supreme.


1. Have you compared the New Testament Scriptures with reference to the typical character of Joshua.

2. Can you give from memory the points in which the story of Rahab illustrates that of our redemption?

3. In what two ways may the crossing of the Jordan be used symbolically?

4. What symbolical distinction is there between the two mounds of memorial stones?

5. To what spiritual use might you put the reference to Israel’s rest in the land?

Bibliographical Information
Gray, James. "Commentary on Joshua 11". Gray's Concise Bible Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jgc/joshua-11.html. 1897-1910.
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