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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 11

Kingcomments on the Whole BibleKingcomments

Verses 1-5


Joshua 10 and Joshua 11 belong together. They describe the struggle against the kings of the south (Joshua 10) and of the north (Joshua 11). In two great wars Joshua broke the power of all those kings. A difference between the first and the second war is that in the second war, that against the kings of the north, no miracles happen.

After the conquests in the south, it is now the turn of the north. Joshua experiences again that the LORD is with him. He moves on victoriously and leaves nothing alive. On the LORD’s orders everything must be destroyed. It even says that it is of the LORD to harden the hearts of the enemies (Joshua 11:20).

Does the LORD wish then the destruction of these peoples? It says, “God our Savior, … desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:3-Numbers :) and “not wishing for any to perish” (2 Peter 3:9), doesn’t it? Yes, but the judgment only comes when the measure of sin is full and man has not wanted to repent. Then comes the judgment of the hardening and there is no more grace. This is why the following still applies to every human being today: “Today, if you would hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts” (Psalms 95:7-Ruth :).

The Kings of the North

Jabin, that means ‘the wise’ or ‘the intelligent’, the king of Hazor, is not just any king. He rules over the head of all kingdoms (Joshua 11:10). He is the king of the most powerful empire. We can therefore see in him a picture of the head of all demons, of satan himself. Satan has many instruments, henchmen, who are subject to him and execute his will. These are the evil powers, the demons, in the heavenly places. With them we have to do, not so much directly with satan himself, but with his angels. In Hazor we meet the capital of all kings, the main stronghold of demons.

Our spiritual struggle is about not only overcoming the demons, but overcoming the head of the enemy, the evil one. John says in his first letter that the young people did so. He says that they have overcome “the evil one” (1 John 2:14).

The power of Hazor lies in his crowd. He comes up with a huge alliance. Here, too, peoples are gathering who are often in conflict with each other, but who are now going up together to fight against God’s people (cf. Luke 23:12). For God’s people it is an opportunity to fight this battle, and precisely because the enemy has gathered in this way to achieve a great victory. When we see the enemy coming to us in great power, it is an opportunity to reveal God’s power.

The hostile armies gather at the waters of Merom. Here too we see a picture of the great battle in the end times, where all the kings of the earth gather to fight against God. In reality it is God who gathers them there to destroy them in one fell: “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (“Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake and keeps his clothes, so that he will not walk about naked and men will not see his shame.”) And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon” (Revelation 16:14-Nehemiah :). The battle in Har-Magedon will take place in the vicinity of the Merom mentioned here.

Verses 6-9

The Kings and Their Armies Defeated

The LORD encourages Joshua and says to him that he should not be afraid (Joshua 11:6). Often we are afraid instead of seeing the privilege of facing a large crowd. But God always wants a great victory by a few. He wants us to rely on Him (Psalms 20:8) and “striving together for the faith of the gospel” be “in no way alarmed by [the] opponents” (Philippians 1:27-Hosea :). We have to learn this. That is why God allows us to gain such experiences.

The enemy’s means of combat must be disabled and destroyed. That makes reuse impossible, both for the enemy and for Israel. God does not want His people to use the means of the world to achieve victories through which the world can claim the honor of victory. Each victory may only be attributed to Him Who actually gives it.

Verses 10-14

Judgment on the Cities

Hazor is taken. Because it is a mighty city, the human mind might reason that it could be a suitable capital for Israel. But God does not allow the seat of worldly power and influence to become the seat of His people, for His people depend solely on Him. Hazor will not become the new capital of Israel, but will be completely destroyed. God will not leave any trace of the power that has ruled before.

Unfortunately, by the unfaithfulness of God’s people this city is rebuilt. In the time of the judges it appears that this city even rules over God’s people for some time. This happens as a result of the discipline God has to impose on His people because of their unfaithfulness (Judges 4:1-Exodus :). When the people call to Him, He frees them from this enemy by Barak and Deborah. Deborah sings with Barak of that liberation in a song (Judges 5:1). In that song she mentions the downfall of this enemy (Judges 5:19-Ecclesiastes :). In Psalm 83 God is called up to do to the great northern collection of armies in the last days what He did with this king (Psalms 83:10).

Not all cities are burned. God has promised His people that they will live in cities which they themselves have not built (Deuteronomy 6:10-1 Kings :). Not everything should be destroyed. Things that are of use to them must be spared (Deuteronomy 20:19-Proverbs :). But all inhabitants are killed, according to the commandment of the LORD (Deuteronomy 7:1-Joshua :; Deuteronomy 20:16-Job :). This total extermination should not come as a surprise, as has happened so often, that a loving God commands it. Whoever accuses God of cruelty does not know Him, nor does he know himself.

The God of the Old Testament is no other God than the God of the New Testament, as if we had a God of love there and a God of revenge here. The New Testament God says that also “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29), while the God of the Old Testament is also a God of love.

Is it unjust that God should have all these people killed? No. There are several reasons to give that make it clear that God is right to do so:
1. God never judges without warning and sufficient time to take the warning to heart. These Canaanites have had a testimony of God in their midst in Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18). So they cannot say that they have never heard of God. They also know what He did for His people in Egypt and after.
2. The meekness of God waited four hundred years, until the iniquity of the Amorites was full (Genesis 15:16). He waits long, but not endlessly. He waited a hundred and twenty years before he let the flood come (Genesis 6:3). He has been waiting in His meekness for almost two thousand years now (2 Peter 3:8-1 Samuel :) since man has committed the greatest sin ever by killing His Son. But if the wickedness of the Canaanites goes beyond everything, God can only judge them. They do everything a person can think of and do about sins. They deserve the judgment.
3. They know that God is a Judge. They know what He has done in and with Egypt. But none of the cities behave kindly towards the Israelites (Joshua 11:19). That is the result of the hardening of their hearts. That does not undo their guilt. God hardens a heart only if someone has hardened his heart first. Hardening is a judgment from God, after man has refused to submit to God. There is a hardening of the Gentiles (Romans 1:24; Romans 1:26Romans 1:28), the Jews (Romans 11:25) and the nominal Christians (2 Thessalonians 2:11-2 Kings :).

The example of Rahab and the Gibeonites makes clear that God is unaltered in His desire to save people (Romans 10:13). Rahab and also the Gibeonites speak of the threat, of which all inhabitants of Canaan have heard (Joshua 2:9-1 Kings :; Joshua 9:9-2 Samuel :). Yet only they resort to the people of God to escape the judgment, albeit in different ways. There, they both find the salvation against judgment.

God does not assign anyone to hell. It is now still “the acceptable time”, ” behold, now is “the day of salvation”” (2 Corinthians 6:2) to escape the judgment of hell. But God does determine the time of the end of that time and that day, while He still makes the call to repentance sound. “Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all [people] everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-Obadiah :).

Verse 15

Joshua Has Been Obedient in Everything

At the end of the battle, the writer recalls that victory and blessing are the result of obedience. Joshua did everything as the LORD commanded him by Moses.

Verses 16-22

Overview of the Conquests

The “long time” of war (Joshua 11:18) is about six to seven years. This can be deducted from the times that Caleb mentions in the review of his life (Joshua 14:7; Joshua 14:10). With the “long time” that the conquest has taken, what the LORD has said about expelling the enemies has also been fulfilled: “I will not drive them out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you. I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land” (Exodus 23:29-Amos :; cf. Deuteronomy 7:22).

Also the Anakim, the giants of whom they were so afraid (Numbers 13:33), are exterminated (Joshua 11:21). Without God we are nothing and we lose to dwarves. With God we can do everything and giants are nothing. Yet there are still a few giants left (Joshua 11:22). One of their descendants will be Goliath. We should not see such individuals as little things. If we leave anything of the enemy behind, it will put us in the greatest trouble. The remaining giants find refuge in some cities of the Philistines, whose influence will soon be felt when the people become unfaithful.

Verse 23

The Land Rests From War

After a long time of war there is peace. The tranquility here is the result of faithfulness in battle. This mention of rest in the land appears three times in the book: 1. here in connection with Joshua,
2. in Joshua 14 in connection with Caleb (Joshua 14:15) and
3. in Joshua 21 in connection with the inheritance of the Levites among the people of Israel (Joshua 21:44).
You can only enjoy rest if you act faithfully according to what the LORD has said. If through the unfaithfulness of the people not all enemies are eradicated, the rest appears to be of limited duration.

The conquest of the land is complete. This means that there is no external strength left in a hostile power that can exist for them or form another kingdom. Yet there are still many enemies left. If they remain faithful, those enemies will not have to worry them. That is why rest is dangerous, it can so easily lead to laziness. Then it is forgotten that there are still enemies who keep land in their possession. There is always land to conquer.

Rest is good, but it should not lead to carelessness. It is important “having done everything, to stand firm” (Ephesians 6:13). The biggest defeat is often suffered after the biggest victory. Rest is also dangerous for older brothers and sisters. The battle never ends as long as we are still in the body.

Joshua 11:23 concludes the first part of the book, which describes the histories of Joshua’s victories. The next chapter, Joshua 12, is a postscript in which the balance of the previous chapters is, as it were, drawn up. The conquered kings and their territories are listed.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Joshua 11". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/joshua-11.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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