Click here to join the effort!
THE OVERTHROW OF THE CITIES OF THE SOUTH
Joshua 10:1. Adoni-zedek] = “lord of righteousness.” Melchi-zedek was apparently king of the same place in the time of Abram. The Jebusite kings may have borne this title, as the rulers of Egypt and Rome did that of Pharaoh and Cæsar. The appellation “Jabin” was, perhaps, similarly given to the Canaanitish kings of Hazor (cf. chap. Joshua 11:1, and Judges 4:2), Jerusalem] = “possession of peace,” or “seat of peace.” This is the first time that the name occurs in the Scriptures. “There is no ground for questioning the identity of Salem (Genesis 14:18) and the city which was afterwards called Jeru-shalem. The supposition that the name Jerusalem dates from the time of David is altogether without support from history, and overthrown by the fact that the city of the Jebusites was called the city of David (2 Samuel 5:9) after David had taken it; whilst the name Jerusalem bears no relation whatever to the circumstances of David’s time. It does not follow that because Jerusalem was also called Jebus before the time of David, so long as it was in possession of the Jebusites (Joshua 18:28; Judges 19:10; 1 Chronicles 11:4), therefore it had no name besides Jebus. All that can be inferred is, that in addition to its proper name Jerusalem, contracted Salem, it was also called Jebus, from its inhabitants; just as Hebron was also called Kirjath-Arba, from the family of Arba (comp. chap. Joshua 14:15).” [Keil.]
Joshua 10:2. As one of the royal cities] Marg. = “cities of the kingdom.” Although the leading city of only a small republic which was governed by elders, Gibeon probably surpassed in dignity and power many of the cities in which a king dwelt.
Joshua 10:3. Hebron] One of the most ancient and important cities of the land. Antiquity referred to in Numbers 13:22. Nearly twenty miles south of Jerusalem. Celebrated in connection with Abraham, David, and Absalom. The Cave of Machpelah was close by. The city was given to Caleb at the distribution of the land. Jarmuth] About fifteen miles south-west of Jerusalem. There was another city of the same name in the lot which went to the tribe of Issachar (chap. Joshua 21:29). Lachish] It was afterwards fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:9). Amaziah was slain here by conspirators from Jerusalem. The city became famous by the siege which it suffered during the reign of Hezekiah, allusions to which are made in the historical and prophetical books of Scripture. The siege of the city by Sennacherib is said to be further commemorated by a remarkable bas-relief found at Nineveh. Lachish is thought to be the modern Um Lâkis, but this is opposed by Robinson. Eglon] Probably identified in Ajlan, about thirty-four miles south-west of Jerusalem, in the low country of Judah.
Joshua 10:4. Come up unto me, and help me] It does not seem clear, as several have supposed, that these words are a command, and that Adoni-zedek, as a superior monarch, had some general authority over the rest of the southern kings. It is more natural to suppose that he feared Jerusalem might be the next place attacked by Joshua and the Gibeonites. It was the nearest important city to the now common foes of Canaan, and was thus most in danger. Hence the words are probably to be taken as an entreaty, not as a command: “Come up unto me, and help me.”
Joshua 10:7. So Joshua ascended] “He drew near; not, he went up, as De Wette has wrongly translated it.” [Keil.] So the phrases “come up” and “went up,” in Joshua 10:4-5, are probably used in the “military sense” given by Rosenmüller—“come up with forces.” From Gilgal] Probably Gilgal “beside the plains of Moreh” (cf. Deuteronomy 11:29), to which the camp seems to have been removed previous to the service at Ebal. “If the reading of the Hebrew text (2 Kings 2:2; 2 Kings 2:4), ‘they went down,’ is right, then the Gilgal spoken of in Joshua 2:1 cannot be that near Jericho; and another Gilgal must be sought in the mountains north-west of Bethel; where some such place is indicated by the ancient Canaanite kingdom of the ‘nations of Gilgal, between Dor and Tirzah (Joshua 12:23), and where a modern village exists, called Jiljŭleh. But the LXX. read ἦλθον, ‘they came.’ ” [A. P. Stanley.]
Joshua 10:10. Jehovah discomfited them] Discomfited them by the Israelites. In the same manner it is said that Jehovah “slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon,” before the storm of hail came. Azekah] Near to Shochoh (1 Samuel 17:1), and probably on the road to Gaza. It was fortified by Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 11:9), was fought against by the king of Babylon (Jeremiah 34:7), and was still standing when the Jews returned from the captivity (Nehemiah 11:30). Makkedah] Groser supposes that it has been “identified by Lieut. Conder with El Mughar (the cave), between seven and eight miles from Ramleh.”
Joshua 10:11. Great stones … hailstones] Intimations of their destructive effects are given in Exodus 9:19; Exodus 9:25; Job 38:22-23; Ezekiel 13:11-14, etc. Records of several storms in the East are preserved, in which it is stated that the hailstones, or stones of ice, were found to weigh from half to three-quarters of a pound. (But cf. Revelation 16:21.)
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Joshua 10:1-11
THE DEFEAT OF THE FIVE KINGS
This chapter is full of movement and energy. It is a rapidly shifting drama, in which we see passing before us scenes of surprising vigour, ending in results of colossal magnitude. It is a kind of heroic song of the wonderful wars of the Lord, in which the poetry is made to depend on the energy of facts, rather than on the rhythm of language. The key-words of this historic canto are “speed,” “force,” “revolution.” Nothing could well be sufficiently sudden to be out of time with its quick movement, nothing mighty enough to be out of character with its overwhelming energy, nothing huge enough to be disproportionate to its gigantic results. The simple and inartistic record of Joshua fairly leaves behind it, as a thing of comparative languor and weakness, the otherwise stately historic fiction of Homer. In response to the swift messengers of the generally brave but then trembling Jebusites, five armies are rapidly concentrated on Gibeon. Ere they arrive before the city, the Gibeonite elders promptly despatch a post by way of Bethel to Joshua at Gilgal, begging him in the most fervent words to come up and save them from their enemies. The selected portion of the troops immediately strike their tents, and marching all night from near Shiloh to Gibeon, a distance of from fifteen to eighteen miles, as the sun rises they burst like a living torrent on the assembled armies of the kings. Then comes the flight down the western pass, and the fearful accompaniment of slaughter by the pursuing Israelites. After a long ascent, Upper Beth-horon is reached, and the instrument is changed, but not the slaughter. The heavens, which had rained down fire on the fathers at Sodom and Gomorrah, now pour forth upon the children destroying hail. “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.” Meanwhile the day seems to have waned towards closing. The sun was already “in the bisection of the heavens”—possibly nearing the horizon. Then, taking the record as it stands before us, come Joshua’s sudden appeal to Jehovah, and the marvellous prolongation of the day, till the people have fully “avenged themselves upon their enemies.” Nor does the record of wonders cease, even with this. The chapter which opens with such an exhibition of activity and might, ends with a rapid procession of fresh battles and new victories. Besides Makkedah, which Joshua takes on that same day, ere “the going down of the sun,” five important cities are utterly destroyed by the Israelites; Horam, king of Gezer, and his people, are also slain; and then the historian, no longer descending to details, sums up the account in a few words of general description, intended, no doubt, to indicate the fall of several minor cities and villages: “Joshua smote them from Kadesh barnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen even unto Gibeon.” So imposing, even in these brief and simple chronicles, are the mighty works of the Lord; and so easily victorious are the people whom He leads on from place to place in the train of His triumph!
This opening paragraph of the chapter sets before us four principal topics for consideration:—
I. The earnest request of the Jebusites. Through their king they sent to these four cities of the south, saying, “Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon.” In taking this course, they may have had several motives.
1. They were partly moved by fear (Joshua 10:2). The fear of the wicked has several defects. (a) It generally comes too late. Fear of God, attended to in time, is the “beginning of wisdom.” Such fear, when too long neglected, is the dark shadow of approaching ruin. (b) When it does come, it is resisted. The fear of the Lord never comes too late for pardon, when it brings men in penitence to His feet; but it does often come too late to lead them there. (c) This fear of the Lord is resisted because both it and He are misunderstood. To fear, in some instances, is no sign of wanting courage. To fear a shadow is the fear of folly; to fear the rock-bound coast in a storm, and to seek because of that fear to give it as wide a berth as safety requires, is a seaman’s wisdom. It is wise, in a sanitary point of view, to fear to live in a filthy street, to drink polluted water, or to suffer an accumulation of any of the conditions which certainly bring disease. In a social and moral point of view, he is wise who fears to sin. There are multitudes of things which no man and no number of men can resist. To resist the fear of God is to misinterpret a warning voice that speaks kindly; it is to fail to understand God.
2. They were possibly actuated by a desire for revenge. To smite the Gibeonites would, from their point of view, be to smite traitors. But those who go over to the side of God are, in reality, merely returning in true allegiance to their rightful sovereign. Those who put themselves under divine protection take no vain measures for safety. He can keep them, and loves to keep them.
3. They may have been impelled to attack the Gibeonites by policy. It would be dealing with their enemies in detail. Hence the suddenness of the movement. The policy is always bad, however promising it may appear, which opposes God. As Bishop Hall says: “If they had sat still, their destruction had not been so sudden. The malice of the wicked hastens the pace of their own judgment. No rod is so fit for a mischievous man as his own.”
4. Thus do fear, and revenge, and mere policy work together for destruction. All things work together for good to them that love God; all things work in the opposite way to them who do not.
II. The urgent prayer of the Gibeonites (Joshua 10:6).
1. The Gibeonites, also, were influenced by fear. Freedom from fear does not come by merely getting on the side for which God fights, but by getting to know God, and by getting into His mind and will. The Gibeonites, as yet, were a long way from this.
2. Their trust, in this emergency, was honourable rather than presumptuous. They had deceived Joshua, but seeing that he had ratified the covenant with them, they did well to conclude that he would afford his protection. The forgiven sins of our past should not hinder our trust in the present. We honour God more by our trust than by our fears lest we should presume. Great fear of our own sufficiency may go with great faith in the Lord, and with confidence in the fidelity of those who are really under His teaching and guidance.
III. The prompt fidelity of the Israelites (Joshua 10:7-9). Joshua, and all Israel with him, immediately responded to this appeal of the Gibeonites.
1. The obligation felt by a true man to defend all belonging to him. The Gibeonites were weak, compared with the host gathered against them. They were the mere servants of the Levites, and their position was the humblest in all Israel. The danger of the weak does but inspire a true man. The meanest part of the body calls, no less than the head itself, for the full strength of the defending arm.
2. The responsibility felt by a true man to honour, not merely the letter, but the very spirit of his words. Joshua had only promised to “let them live” (chap. Joshua 9:15), and not to risk the lives of his army to save theirs. Thus ran the letter of the league. But to have no occasion against them, and to have recognised them as servants of the tabernacle, was for Joshua to feel bound to defend them. “He knew little difference betwixt killing them with his own sword and the sword of an Amorite: whosoever should give the blow, the murder would be his. Some men kill as much by looking on as others by smiting. We are guilty of all the evil we might have hindered.” [Bishop Hall.]
3. The energy with which a true man is inspired when he feels himself in the way of right. “Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night.” “He gives twice, who gives quickly,” says the old Latin proverb. For Joshua not to have aided Gibeon at once, would have been to lose the opportunity altogether. We may well go promptly where righteousness bids us go at all.
4. The comfort given by God to a true man who readily undertakes what is difficult because it is right (Joshua 10:8). He who conscientiously and promptly follows the way of truth when it is dangerous, and when he might readily find excuses for being elsewhere, may always hear the “Fear not” of the Lord, if he will only listen.
IV. The gracious co-operation of Jehovah (Joshua 10:10-11).
1. The comforting words of the Lord are not merely words. The words of His encouragement are but the forerunner of Himself. They are the earnest of the future possession. The mighty hand of God is ever at the back of the gracious utterances of His lips.
2. The works of the Lord ever exceed those of His people, and sometimes visibly. It was He who discomfited the Canaanites before Israel. They were but the instrument through which He worked, even in the first part of the battle; and ere the battle closed, His hand, without theirs, slew more than all Israel together.
3. The promise of the Lord knows no limit by reason of His people’s insufficiency. Weary with the night’s march and the morning’s conflicts, many of their enemies would have fled to the walled cities, and have made good their escape, but for Divine interposition. But God had said, “I have delivered them into thine hand;” and where the hand of Joshua would have failed to smite these idolaters, “the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died.” Where our hands fail through weakness to overtake the complete measure of the promises, there may we look for help from the outstretched hand of God till all be fulfilled.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Joshua 10:1. NAMES.
This verse contains a curious conjunction of significant names, which, while worthy of passing remark, should not be pressed into fanciful extremes. “What’s in a name?” In some of the names that follow, we cannot but trace the Divine Hand and purpose, as we are so often compelled to do in the early nomenclature of Jewish history.
I. A bad man with a good name. Adoni-zedec, “Lord of Righteousness.” A pious name is no guarantee of a holy heart.
II. A good man with a good name. Joshua, “the salvation of Jehovah,” or, “he shall save.” This is a name which we cannot but feel that Providence directed to be given to the leader of Israel. A good name may well be felt by its possessor to be an incentive to a good life. A little superstition in this direction might be rather useful to some men, and lead them to “accomplish a destiny” which at least might have the merit of doing less harm to other people than that which, for want of some ideal, they finally do accomplish.
III. A great city with its greatness foreshadowed in its name. Jerusalem, “possession of peace,” or, “vision of peace.” Thus the metropolis in the Kingdom of Peace anticipates, from the first, the glory and honour which should come to it. Even the names of its early kings seemed to herald Him under whose reign its glory should be consummated.
Joshua 10:2. THE INFLUENCE OF THE GREAT.
I. The example of the wisest and bravest men in a community porvoking fear. When this free state, with its mighty men, gave up resistance as hopeless, who else might think to fight successfully?
II. The numerous instruments which God has for accomplishing His purposes and fulfilling His word. God had repeatedly said, “I will send my fear before thee” (cf. Exodus 15:14-16; Exodus 23:27; Deuteronomy 11:25). The Lord here fulfils this word
(1) by means of some of the Canaanites themselves, and
(2) by those of them esteemed to be most eminent.
Joshua 10:6-7. THE DELIVERANCE OF THE GIBEONITES.
Joshua’s rescue of the Gibeonites was:—
I. The deliverance of a people who a little while before were under sentence of death. The sentence against them had in no way differed from that against the rest of the Canaanites. But for their repentance, that sentence would have been as certainly carried out against them as against the rest.
II. The deliverance of men who had sought protection in a mean and unworthy manner.
1. They had sought pardon at the eleventh hour.
2. They had sought it by subterfuge and lying. Yet God forgave their sin even in view of so imperfect a trust and so poor a repentance.
III. The deliverance of men who in the hour of their need appealed to the covenant. On their side, that covenant was all imperfection. Touching their part of it, in it there was no good thing whatever. Yet these Gibeonites did well to believe that God’s people, and through them God Himself, would hold the other side of that covenant to be sacred. The Psalmist said, “I am Thine: save me;” so these Gibeonites dared to plead that they were servants of Israel, and though they became so unworthily, the league was recognised as binding.
“The greatest obligation, to a good mind, is another’s trust, which to disappoint were mercilessly perfidious. If Joshua’s very Israelites had been in danger, he could have done no more. How much less shall our true JOSHUA fail the confidence of our faith! O my Saviour, if we send the messengers of our prayers unto Thee into Thy Gilgal, Thy mercy binds Thee to relieve. Never any soul miscarried that trusted Thee. We may be wanting in our trust; our trust can never want success.”—Bp. Hall.
Joshua 10:8. THE LORD’S ENCOURAGEMENT OF HIS SERVANTS.
I. Divine encouragement given when unsolicited. It was needed, but apparently not asked. The right heart, from its very rectitude, is “praying always.”
II. Divine encouragement given in the way of duty. God spoke to His servant when he was respecting an oath the keeping of which had been opposed by the people.
III. Divine encouragement given when in the act of succouring the weak. He who loves our compassion for others, will not withhold His compassion from us. We are but on the errand of His own heart. Proverbs 24:11-12; Matthew 12:20.
IV. Divine encouragement pointing to absolute and complete victory. “There shall not a man of them stand before thee.” We too are told of the “last enemy” as one that shall be destroyed.
V. Divine encouragement the forerunner of omnipotent help (Joshua 10:10-11). The Lord loves to establish His words unto His servants, upon which He has “caused them to hope.”
Joshua 10:6 to Joshua 11:1. Gibeon’s need.
2. Joshua’s faithfulness.
3. God’s help.
“If men come to us for help in time of need, God gives the courage to render aid. True courage comes alone from God.
“If a man has once gained a real victory over his spiritual foes, he must boldly follow it up without indolent delay, and faithfully reap the fruits of the success given him.”—Lange.
THE MIRACULOUS PROLONGATION OF THE DAY.—Joshua 10:12-15
Whatever may have been the view adopted by expositors in the exegesis of the text of this remarkable passage, and in the explanation of the phenomena to which it refers, only one thing of a positive character seems as yet to have been fully and satisfactorily proved; and that is, the inexpediency of urging any particular view in the spirit of an over-confident dogmatism. Theories have been advocated, which, perhaps, may very confidently, and yet fairly, be pronounced erroneous; but that is a different matter. It is one thing to know that a given explanation cannot possibly be right, and another thing to know with equal certainty what is the right explanation. With so much obscurity pertaining to the character of the text, and with so much difficulty attaching to any probable explanation of the miracle itself, it is a comparatively easy course to set out with a given theory, treat very lightly all which is urged against it, render as emphatic as possible everything which can be said for it, and then consider the case proved. Such a method, however, is not ultimately helpful in the settlement of any involved question, and is certainly unworthy of the dignity of Biblical truth. Those who have read most closely, and thought most conscientiously, on this alleged miracle at Beth-horon, will probably be least inclined to dogmatise in any attempts which they may make to construct a positive theory of explanation.
It is not within the scope of a work like this to discuss the question of these verses at any considerable length. It is only proposed to examine one or two recent theories of exposition in which attempts have been made to do away, more or less fully, with the miraculous element; and then to endeavour to ascertain whether the older belief in an actual prolongation of the day by miraculous interposition, in some way or other, be not the most feasible view which can be taken of the matter.
The principal exposition on which modern opponents of the miracle have relied, may be described as
The theory of interpolation. Rejecting the unity of authorship in the book of Joshua, some commentators have held that it is a compilation from several other documents. This view, which is by no means a modern one in its leading idea, has been advocated and expanded by, among others, Tuch, Stähelin, Bleek, and notably by Ewald and Knobel. The Dutch theologian, C. H. van Herwerden, thought he found in the style of the book “ten different monumenta, from which it is compiled.” Taking the theory at the stage at which it has more recently been left by Knobel, it may be briefly summarised as follows. The book of Joshua is asserted to have been compiled by a “Jehovist,” from three sets of documents. The principal of these are termed “Elohistic” records, and are supposed to form the “ground-text” for the work. The supplementary documents are said to be two: first, the “Law Book,” which was supposed to contain laws, historical reports, and poems; the remaining documents being named the “War Book,” which is said to be alluded to in Numbers 21:14, and to have been composed of a great number of warlike narratives. Finally we are told that the “Jehovist,” or the compiler of the book of Joshua, “cannot have lived before the Assyrian period, because he has the ‘Law Book’ and the ‘War Book’ before him. Since, moreover, the ‘Law Book’ especially comes down to Hezekiah, the last years of this king are about the earliest date to which the ‘Jehovist’ can be assigned.”
All this being granted, by any who choose to grant it, the theory of Knobel as to these four verses then is, that they are “a fragment from the first document of the Jehovist;’ ” that is, that they were inserted by the compiler of the book of Joshua, as late as the last years of Hezekiah, from the documents termed the “Law Book.” While differing from Knobel in details, this is substantially the view adopted by the leading advocates of the theory of interpolation.
Let us see to what this rationalising amounts, and whether it has sufficient of “sweet reasonableness” to make it rational. First, let it be remembered that each of the three sets of documents are imaginary. The “Elohistic ground text” is nothing else. The “Law Book,” by a very free application of the phrase “Sepher Hayyashar,” here rendered “the book of Jasher,” or of “the upright,” is also imaginatively identified with a hypothetical book containing laws, historical reports, and poems. Thus, in this second case, fancy has “a wheel within a wheel.” The “War Book” also succeeds in getting a kind of Scripture name, though little more can be said in its behalf. This “book of the wars of Jehovah,” we are told, “contained a great number of warlike narratives—more, in fact, than all the others together, … and appears to have originated in the southern country, … as it agrees very nearly in matter and style with the ground-text.… The author, from his interest in religious legislation, was probably a Levite, … and wrote in the time of Jehoshaphat.” Then we find this book, so comfortably imagined and so fully described, just as easily identified with the records mentioned in Numbers 21:14. What is even more remarkable, certain passages in the book of Joshua, after having been imagined off into the separateness of belonging to a “War Book,” are just as jauntily distinguished from the Elohistic documents, notwithstanding that the said War Book “agrees very nearly in matter and style with the ground-text.” Thus the case comes to this: the ground-text in Joshua agrees very nearly in matter and style with itself; but so far from this being an argument in the direction of unity of authorship, a new set of documents is imagined out of a difference which is acknowledged to be hardly a difference; and then an author called a “Jehovist,” a country for him in which to form his style, and a suitable time in which he can write, are created with equal facility.
With very much respect for the learning and labour which have been expended in support of this theory, and in no way depreciating many valuable collateral results which the researches of those who have upheld it have produced, the theory itself is manifestly too vapid to convince many persons besides its authors. To most people, the statement of it will probably be a sufficient refutation. As has been remarked by Dr. Bliss, the English translator of Fay’s Commentary, in the Lange Series: “The fancifulness and subjectivity of such elaborate and minute specifications, and the tenuity of many of the reasons assigned, provoke laughter rather than argumentative confutation. That one should gravely split a verse into numerous passages, so as to refer the various fragments to their respective authors, and should be obliged to do it to save his theory, is, to most minds, slaughtering the theory at its birth. Our curiosity is naturally raised by such attempts to imagine what the next speculator in Biblical criticism will propose for our wonderment; nay, we inquire what even the same mind, after having dropped for a time and forgotten the particulars of his previous fabrication, would invent, if he were to take up the whole subject anew.”
Taking, then, the unity of the authorship of the book of Joshua as in no measure disproved or even shaken by this giddy theory, the date at which the book was written has an important bearing on the question of the interpolation of this passage from the book Jasher. Is the passage an interpolation made several centuries after the book was written, or is it merely a quotation made by the author himself? Not condescending to notice the sublime claim of Scripture to inspiration, Fay has adopted so much of Knobel’s theory as to enable him to proceed as follows (the italics being his own): “According to the view of the author of 13 b—15, Jehovah has performed an objective astronomical miracle, of which the poet from whom the quotation is made, had no thought, and of which we, following him (the poet), have no thought.” This sentiment has been very recently repeated by the author of the Notes on Joshua in the Speaker’s Commentary, who says, in loco: “We claim liberty to think with the poet who wrote in the book of Jasher the ode, of which a few words have come down to us, who did not dream of a literal standing still of the heavenly bodies, and to side with him rather than with the later writer who quotes him.”
This argument of Fay’s assumes that the author of the book of Joshua did not himself insert the quotation from the book Jasher. It further assumes that the person who inserted these verses in the text did not live sufficiently near to the time of the battle of Beth-horon to enable him to see, even so well as Fay sees in the nineteenth century, that the poetry had no historical basis of truth, but was merely poetry, and that of the most mythical kind, its air of fact to the contrary notwithstanding. In a word, for Fay’s argument to be worth anything whatever, even outside the doctrine of inspiration, the Jehovist who inserted the verses must have lived at least two or three centuries after the battle, when all trustworthy traditions and accounts had so far faded into obscurity, that no one could contradict or correct his revised edition of “the Elohistic records.” Looking at the tenacity with which the Jews preserved the accounts of their history, and at the exceedingly important character of this history, lying as it did at the foundation of both the national existence and the national theology, it is almost incredible to suppose that even the seven centuries which intervened before the death of Hezekiah would have been sufficient to so completely blot out the accounts of such a battle as to allow, by the misinterpretation of an ancient poet’s words, of the foisting into the sacred record of the most gigantic of all Old Testament miracles, when it was a miracle that never happened.
How then stands this other important question, touching the date of the book? Has Fay even a single century in which the battle could be so forgotten as to allow this account of a miracle, which it is said never took place, to have been written down by the author of the book of Joshua? Nothing has been advanced sufficient to prove it even probable that the book of Joshua had more than one author: did that one author of the book of Joshua live so far away from the time of the battle as to render it possible for him, irrespective of inspiration, to make so enormous an error? Till something substantial be advanced against his arguments, Keil must be held to have demonstrated that the book of Joshua was certainly written before the time of David, and probably by some member of the host which crossed the Jordan, the writer having seen at least some of the important events which he narrated (cf. chap. Joshua 5:1). It is impossible even to summarise these arguments here; those who are interested in the question should read them in full, and will probably find it no easy matter to answer them. (Cf. Keil’s “Introduction,” pp. 30–47.)
Taking it for granted, then, that the book of Joshua was written certainly as early as the days of Saul, and probably by one of the Israelites who had himself crossed the Jordan with Joshua, this interpolation theory is absolutely untenable. No writer in the time of Joshua, or even of the Judges, would have dared to foist into a history, of which the meanest Jew of the time would be sternly jealous, a story, poetical or otherwise, which gave serious impressions of a victory won mainly by means of an amazing miracle which everybody knew never took place. Thus, apart from what some still feel to be the very important considerations arising from the doctrine of Divine inspiration, this passage cannot reasonably be held to have been inserted by a more recent compiler of the book.
The only remaining view opposing the actual miracle, to which any weight seems to be attached by critics of the present time, is
The theory which regards the passage as merely a poetical quotation made by the author of the book of Joshua. This view has recently found a hearty advocate in Samuel Cox, the editor of the “Expositor,” who holds that the entire passage (Joshua 10:12-15) is a poetical quotation, and who pronounces with an apparently untroubled confidence on the whole question: “No; there is no miracle recorded here.” It is asserted by those who regard the entire passage as poetry that we must read it as poetry; and that in this light there is no more necessity for thinking of an actual prolongation of the day; because a poet has written of the sun standing still, than there is of interpreting the tropes literally when the Hebrew poets write of the hills and the mountains as “skipping,” of the waters as “fleeing,” of the trees of the field as “clapping their hands,” or of the stars in their courses “fighting against Sisera.”
The following remarks may be placed against this entire theory:—
1. Even if the whole of the verses were admitted to be a poetical quotation, they must still have a foundation in truth, so real as to require the miracle just as much as prosaic history would require it. Given that the book of Joshua was written by one living near to the time of these events, and there is still an amount of quietly told fact in the record, of which, with ever so liberal a margin for the figurative language of poetry, no account whatever is given. Unless we irreverently impugn the truth of the history, several things will still be left as a residuum in the crucible, which this process of poetical evaporation does not in any way touch; what is more, this residuum of insoluble fact is so important, that it will require as much miracle to account for its presence as would be required if the whole record were prosaic history. Given that the account as it stands was written, say within two or three centuries of the event, and it will still have to be felt that Joshua offered a prayer for something (Joshua 10:12; Joshua 10:14); that Joshua offered this prayer in the presence of the army; that the words, “he said in the sight of all Israel,” shew that many of the people knew of the prayer at the time when it was offered; that Joshua’s prayer was answered by God as the army might have desired; and that the Israelites had never known a day which had so witnessed to the power of prayer. These are so many facts for which the theory of poetical hyperbole in no way accounts. It does not even begin to depreciate their historical value. Indeed, this poetical theory has altogether overlooked the fact that, to the author of the book of Joshua, the most conspicuous feature of the day was, not the wonderful miracle, but the miracle as a wonderful answer to prayer. Certifying us, unconsciously to himself, of the depth of his pious perception, and thus giving us an incidental guarantee of godliness and truth, the author finds the wonder of the day even more in the graciousness of God than in the power of God. Never before in the history of Israel, not even at the Red Sea, had there been such a day for answering prayer as this day. The important fourteenth verse is in no way affected by the plea about hyperbole.
2. The claim to discount the historical value of the passage on the ground of figurative language is in itself exceedingly weak. As has been noticed above, the passage has been compared to the figures used by other Hebrew poets; and then it has been argued that as figures elsewhere are merely figurative, this is only figurative language,—which is simply a petitio principii. The difficulty, moreover, still remains, that in reading the phrases, “He bowed the heavens and came down,” “the mountains skipped,” “the stars in their courses fought against Sisera,” etc., the reader never thinks of interpreting literally, while here, till he has calculated the difficulty of the miracle, it does not so much as occur to him to explain figuratively. With far too much candour to serve his argument, Mr. Cox says successively, after his somewhat threadbare instances of comparison: “We are in no danger of insisting, or of hearing sceptical men of science insist, that these figures must be taken in a literal sense;” “We do not even pause to ask in what sense we are to understand David’s words” (Psalms 18:9; Psalms 18:16); “No such miracle (Judges 5:20) has ever been imagined.” Exactly so. But a miracle has been almost universally imagined in this matter at Beth-horon. The conclusion is unavoidable: the cases are not parallel.
3. It is very unlikely that all four of these verses are quotation. They may be all poetical, although critics are not agreed on this; it would not follow, if all were poetical, that they were necessarily from the book Jasher. The great difficulty in believing that the whole of the verses are from the book Jasher is that the formula of citation stands right in the middle of the supposed quotation. The author of the book of Joshua is thus made to awkwardly break off in the midst of a short extract to tell us from whence the extract was obtained. This is done in no other instance of a similar kind throughout the Scriptures. In 2 Samuel 1:17-27, containing the only other extract from the book Jasher, the order stands thus: a poetical stanza by David, then the formula of citation, and finally the song itself. May not this be the true order of these four verses in Joshua? If so, it would stand as follows: (a) the rhythmical introduction by the author of the book of Joshua, telling us of the prayer offered; (b) Joshua’s apostrophe to the sun, which might naturally, as an apostrophe, have been spoken in a poetic form, but if not so spoken, might have been so rendered by the author of our book, who cannot be held bound to have given the ipsissima verba of Joshua; (c) the formula of citation; (d) the poetical (or prose) quotation from the book Jasher, including Joshua 10:15, which the historian repeats exactly at Joshua 10:43. It is generally supposed that the quotation from the book Jasher is that which is given before the formula of citation, and that the historian’s comment follows; but this makes the difficulty of accounting for the fifteenth verse, and its position, almost insuperable. In view of this, the order as given above has been suggested, although this in no way affects the conclusion that the theory which regards all of the four verses as from the book of Jasher cannot be maintained. One thing seems pretty clear: that the very jubilant tone in which scientific sceptics have been bidden to hold their peace about this “enormous and exorbitant miracle,” on the ground that the Bible records no such miracle, is somewhat misplaced, and is altogether unworthy of the excellent writer who has long rendered such valuable service in Scripture exposition. Had he considered the matter with his usual care, he would probably have found reason to suspect that several of the German writers had fallen back on a theory of interpolation so late as the days of Hezekiah, because the theory of entire poetry, inserted by any one living near to the time of Joshua, was altogether too weak to be seriously argued. Probably it is, on the whole, the least satisfastory explanation of the passage which has ever been offered.
It only remains to take into consideration, as briefly as possible,
The theory of an actual prolongation of the day by the miraculous interposition of Jehovah. Did the miracle of an extension of the day actually take place? These verses seem to say so. This is the first impression we all have on reading them. If the daylight were not miraculously prolonged, there is much in the passage which is utterly inexplicable. Keil’s view—that the prayer was for a satisfactory termination of the battle before sunset, and that instead of the day being lengthened the victory was hastened—is not at all in accordance with the natural impressions arising from the narrative. Besides this, it makes the fourteenth verse not only meaningless, but false. If the only answer to prayer was an expediting of the battle, then there had been days of answering prayer obviously greater than this day. Who would hesitate to call greater the day of Abraham’s prayer for Sodom, or that of Moses’ prayer at Pi-hahiroth? The fourteenth verse plainly alludes not only to a marvellous, but also to a manifest answer to prayer. If Joshua prayed after the storm began to smite the Canaanites, and this is the order of the narrative, there was too little of manifest answer to prayer to account for the fourteenth verse.
The reality of the miracle is further thrown into prominence by a feature which seems to have escaped notice. Comparing these four verses with the immediately preceding miracle, recorded in the eleventh verse, we are driven to ask, If the day were not miraculously prolonged, how is it that the incident of Joshua 10:12-15 has so taken precedence of the incident of Joshua 10:11? There was a miracle also in the hailstorm; it was miraculously timed, and miraculously made to follow and smite down Canaanites, while it did no harm to the immediately pursuing Israelites. If the day were not prolonged, how is it that some lesser miracle, if any, has so utterly absorbed attention from what would then be this greater miracle of the hailstorm? The interest gathers round, not this marvellously guided hail, but about what was so wonderful that the lesser wonder of the hail was lost in some greater wonder. What could that greater theme for praise have been, if it were not this miraculously extended day?
Scripture elsewhere seems to give some testimony to this miraculous extension of the day. Isaiah 28:21 may or may not refer to the lengthening of the day. The reference may be to David’s victory at Gibeon (2 Samuel 5:25; 1 Chronicles 14:16); or it may be to this triumph through Joshua. But if the reference were certainly to the victory won by Joshua, the allusion to the rising up of Jehovah in wrath might be accounted for by the storm of hailstones. This passage therefore, while it harmonises well with the greater miracle, proves nothing. Very different is the force of the allusion in Habakkuk 3:11. Notwithstanding Keil’s criticism, that the historical reference is “disproved by the grammatically incorrect and really trivial arguments” advanced in support of it—an opinion since substantially adopted by Fay, Thornley Smith, and others—it is by no means proved that Habakkuk does not celebrate this wonderful work of Jehovah. The words used by Habakkuk are, “Shĕmĕsh y rçăch’ ‘âmăd z’vûlâh.” Keil says of them: “The literal meaning is, ‘Sun and moon have entered into their habitation.’ ” He adds, by way of comment, “and hence the expression denotes not even their actual setting, but a darkening of the sun and moon, resembling their setting.” But Habakkuk says nothing whatever of this “darkening;” that is simply the judgment of Keil. Accepting his translation, but not his comment, the idea of a prolongation of the day is rather established than overthrown. Gesenius renders “z’vûl,” “habitation,” “residence.” The Jews, so far as they defined the matter at all, believed in the old phenomenal view, afterwards systematised by Ptolemy, that the sun travelled round the earth. Quite in accordance with the bold hyperbole of Hebrew poetry, Habakkuk vigorously describes both sun and moon as having entered into temporary residence; i.e., they tabernacled in the heavens; they took up their abode, or habitation, in the firmament. Contrary to their supposed continual motion round the earth, they entered into habitation till the victory was won. Thus Keil’s translation simply emphasises and beautifies the poetry, and gives no room whatever for the notion that Habakkuk alludes to some darkening of the sun resembling an eclipse. Apart from the translation, the nature and order of the passage in Habakkuk strongly tend to the assurance that he alludes to the phenomenon at Beth-horon. The verses from 3 to 10 graphically depict the wonders at Sinai, at the Red Sea, in the wilderness, and at the passage of the Jordan; the Joshua 10:11-13, depict in natural order, as a continuance of the record, the overthrow of the Canaanites under Joshua. The very allusion to the sun and moon in such a connection would be strong enough to establish the reference to the battle of Beth-horon, even if the language of Habakkuk were farless clear.
In addition to the passage in Habakkuk, it should not be forgotten that direct reference is made to this miracle, as an historical event, in the Apocrypha. Thus we read in Sir. 46:4, of Joshua, “Did not the sun go back by his means? and was not one day as long as two?” Homer, Ovid, and other classical writers of antiquity, unless credit is to be given to them for a larger amount of imagination, not to say wilder fancy, than seems necessary or fair, must be held to have had some acquaintance, in a traditional form, with the event recorded in Joshua. Part of Dr. Kitto’s reference may be quoted. After speaking of a Chinese tradition, he remarks: “Herodotus also says that he learned from the Egyptian priests, that within the period of 341 generations the sun had four times deviated from his common course, setting twice where he usually rises, and rising twice where he usually sets. It is useless to expect minute accuracy in these old traditions; but to what else can they refer than to some derangement in the apparent course of the sun, that is, in the actual motion of the earth? The story of Phaeton, and some other classical fables, seems to have reference to the same event. In the poets, also, there are allusions of a similar character, which would probably never have been imagined but from some general tradition that such a circumstance had at one time occurred. In Homer there are not less than three passages to this purport. In one Agamemnon prays:—
“Almighty Father! glorious above all!
Cloud-girt, who dwell’st in heaven, Thy throne sublime!
Let not the sun go down, and night approach,
Till Priam’s roof fall flat into the flames,” etc.
Again, Jupiter having promised the Trojans that they should prevail until the sun went down, Juno, who was favourable to their adversaries, made the sun go down before its time:—
“Majestic Juno sent the sun,
Unwearied minister of light, although
Reluctant, down into the ocean stream.”
And, finally, Minerva retarded the rising of the sun, in order to prolong that great night in which Ulysses slew the suitors, and discovered himself to Penelope:—
Night’s almost finished course, and held, meantime,
The golden dawn close pris’ner in the deep;
Forbidding her to lead her coursers forth,
Lampas and Phaëthon, that furnish light
For all mankind.’ ”
[Illust. Fam. Bib., in loc.]
If references like these do not of themselves suggest a common tradition from which they must have originated, we who are familiar with the history in the book of Joshua can hardly avoid feeling that they are contributive towards establishing as a fact that extension of the day which the history seems to record.
Not nearly sufficient stress has been laid on the object for which the miracle was apparently wrought. Most writers on the subject have hastily concluded that the only object for this phenomenal staying of the sun and moon was to give Joshua time for a completer victory. That was part of the Divine purpose, no doubt; but did that embrace all? Did it make up even half of that which Jehovah had in view? Was not the main purpose of the miracle to dishonour the sun and moon as objects of the idolatrous worship of the Canaanites? (Cf. the closing remarks in the following outline on “The Victory of Faith.”) It is only on some such ground as this that any reason whatever can be found for Joshua’s command concerning the moon. It was certainly not essential that the moon should stay above the horizon for the purpose of giving light. The ordinary light of the sun would be sufficient without that, and would receive no perceptible addition by having the moon for an auxiliary. But if the “sun-god” Baal was to be degraded by being shewn to be subservient to the command of Joshua, it naturally followed that the “moon-goddess” Ashtoreth should be similarly degraded also.
We therefore conclude that the teaching of the Scripture is that the day was actually prolonged, and that it was prolonged in response to the prayer of Joshua, offered in an outburst of strong and simple trust, in the heat and emergency of the battle.
The question yet remains, In what manner was the miracle performed? With this feature of the case we confess we have little concern. The inquiry may be both natural and interesting, but it is not important. The day may have been extended by means of refraction, as was long since suggested by Grotius. In view of the Divine principle of economising power, this method of performing the miracle seems the most reasonable and probable. But if we grant omnipotence, and if our faith in that be real, and not the mere article of a creed, the process of staying the rotation of the earth, and of preventing all the harmful consequences which would otherwise naturally ensue, would be as easy to God as anything else. Omnipotence, if it be that at all, can know no effort. Finally, for those who are interested by this part of the question, May not the direction of the earth’s axis have been shifted? The battle probably took place in the summer, when, even in the middle of the natural night, Gibeon, as situated at nearly 32° north latitude, would not be depressed very far below the horizon. If the north pole were gradually shifted towards the sun, and made to move slightly in a circle of elevation and depression, a very small displacement would keep Gibeon above the horizon all night, and in the morning, at the time for ordinary sunrise at Gibeon, the earth would have assumed its usual position of 23½° inclination in the ecliptic. This, of course, would have the effect of dropping one night at Gibeon altogether, and of allowing the ordinary rotation of the earth to go on as usual, the only difference being the gradual shifting and return of the inclination of the earth’s axis. As to any influence which this movement might have upon the waters of the earth, that part of the question is answered by omnipotence. The suggestion is simply made in view of the feeling which must impress all careful students of Scripture, that God’s way in the working of miracles is to economise force rather than to display it; and that the entire cessation of the earth’s revolution would shew an interposition of Divine power which seems, to even believing men, so gigantic as to contradict in some measure that reservation of force usually shewn in the miraculous working of God, as set before us in other parts of the Scriptures.
It should not be forgotten that, not simply in this miracle, but in all miracles, the questions of how they are wrought, and which of any two requires most power, are utterly beyond our capacity to answer. How was life brought back into the body of dead Lazarus? How was the bread multiplied in the hands of the disciples? How was the water changed into wine? What laws had, for the time, to be suspended; what new forces set in motion? Which of these miracles was most miraculous? Even if the revolution of the earth on its axis actually ceased in response to Joshua’s prayer, which miracle was the greater, the “standing still of the sun and moon,” or the feeding of the five thousand by Christ? Which of us knows? If we are not prepared to let go our faith in the miracles altogether, we shall do well to guard against the naturally strong temptation which too readily besets most of us, to explain them away, or tone them down, as we become oppressed by what seems to us their unusual magnitude. Unfortunately this, too, is one of the temptations that are continuous; and when, driven on by sceptical laughter, we have ever so conscientiously explained away the miracles which are “enormous and exorbitant,” and have secured as the heritage left to our faith the “lesser miracles,” which we deem becoming to the Scriptures; then others will probably be tempted to take up the case where we have left it, and proceed to demonstrate that the giving of sight to the man born blind, of elasticity to the ligaments of her who was bowed with an infirmity for eighteen years, or the withering up of the barren fig tree, were even greater miracles than this phenomenal staying of the sun and moon. None of us should dare to believe, as the teaching of Scripture, what Scripture does not say; most of us have need to guard our expositions of Divine truth from the unconscious yet none the less injurious influence of our too easily weakened faith.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Joshua 10:12-15
THE VICTORY OF FAITH
John says, “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even your faith.” This triumph at Beth-horon is hardly less owing to faith than was the triumph of the Israelites at Jericho.
I. The life of faith in the greatness of its emergencies.
1. Believing men by no means escape emergencies. Life is full of them. Every realm of duty discovers them. They confront us when we seek to aid our fellows. Joshua was here aiding the Gibeonites. They meet us as we seek to obey the commands of God. So far from being exempt from them as we do the will of God, it is here that they seem most plentiful and most severe.
2. The emergencies of believing men are God-given opportunities for faith. The proverb tells us that, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Necessity which is beyond the capacity of human wit or power to meet is not seldom the mother of faith.
3. God often times and measures the necessities of His people so as to tempt their faith. Joshua was fast gaining the victory. The hail was giving witness of Divine help. Yet the light was threatening too speedy a departure to allow of complete victory. Unless Heaven helped more fully, many would escape, and to a great extent the battle would have to be fought over again. Why might not Jehovah, already so manifestly making the battle His own, help yet more? Thus the very crisis entices trust: “Then spake Joshua to the Lord,” etc.
II. The life of faith in the boldness of its requests.
1. Faith, like love, cannot wait for precedents. No prayer like this had ever been offered before. The chronicles of prayer shewed nothing approaching this. As the woman who wept on Christ’s feet, and wiped away the tears with her hair, shews us love which never thought of staying to ask if that kind of thing had ever been done before; so Joshua shews us a faith which forgets all but God’s power and love, and Israel’s need. Faith is not empirical; it acts from given principles which have been accepted by the heart, rather than from the proofs which are written in history. He who only suffers his faith to imitate that of some one else will win little renown among spiritually minded men, and obtain little blessing from God. Faith is essentially spontaneous, and independent of men, and is always weak when imitative.
2. Faith cannot be limited by difficulties. It begins by granting a might which is omnipotent and a love which is infinite, and then simply speaks as moved by its necessities.
III. The life of faith in its prevalence with God.
1. They who trust shall never “be confounded,” no matter for what they trust. When God promises to answer prayer, He never stipulates beforehand to know the nature of the prayer. This sublime feature runs through the entire Bible. Men inquire about the thing which they are asked to promise; God simply inquires about the kind of spirit which asks.
2. What some would think the extravagancies of faith, the Scriptures occasionally guarantee God’s acceptance of, by giving us instances in kind. Christ certifies that the very mountains should be at the command of faith. If some adequate necessity required the removal of a mountain, and occasion were thus given for a faith that should deal with a reality, and not with an experiment; then, on the exercise of faith, the Saviour assures us that the mountain should be removed. So this seemingly extravagant request of Joshua’s is put before us to shew that with a need that is real, and a heart that asks unquestioningly, God answers without any respect whatever to the magnitude of our petitions.
IV. The life of faith in the thoroughness of its victories over error.
1. The idolaters themselves were utterly overthrown.
2. The objects of their idolatry were placed at the command of the enemies of idolatry. The Canaanites, like the Phœnicians, worshipped Baal and Ashtoreth. This worship was closely connected with the adoration of the heavenly bodies. Baal by some has been identified as the “Sun-god,” while Ashtoreth, it is thought, was worshipped as the “Moon-goddess.” “There can be no doubt that the general notion symbolised by Ashtoreth is that of productive power, as Baal symbolises that of generative power; and it would be natural to conclude that as the sun is the great symbol of the latter, and therefore to be identified with Baal, so the moon is the symbol of the former, and must be identified with Ashtoreth. That this goddess was so typified can scarcely be doubted. At any rate it is certain that she was by some ancient writers identified with the moon.” [Smith’s Dict.] The commanding of the sun and the moon to stand still thus becomes profoundly significant. Just as the miracles of Moses were directed “against all the gods of Egypt,” so does this miracle in answer to the prayer of Joshua demean the gods of the Canaanites before the eyes of all concerned. The sun and moon, which had so long been worshipped, were shewn to be at the command of Joshua; the deities which the idolaters had adored were bidden by a man to stay, and to give their light while the idolaters were slain. This, it may be remarked, affords, in the light of the plagues of Egypt, presumptive evidence of the reality of the miracle itself, and shews, what for the purposes of the battle is somewhat obscure, why the moon was addressed as well as the sun. As objects of worship, these symbols of idolatry should be degraded in the sight of both the Canaanites and the Israelites (cf. Deuteronomy 4:19). So thorough is the victory of truth; so complete is the triumph of the man who, in unquestioning faith, fights for the God of truth.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
ESSENTIAL ACCOMPANIMENTS OF FAITH.
I. He only believes well who works well. Joshua had hastened up against this confederacy of Canaanites as though the entire burden of the battle lay on the men who were to fight it. It is the man who labours thus diligently that believes thus fully.
II. He alone can rightly believe in God’s word, who is very jealous of his own word. Joshua had kept faith most conscientiously with the Gibeonites. In all that in which he had excited their hopes he met them with strict integrity. The hope of a trusting heart was a sacred thing to him. This is the man who, remembering that God had said, “I will not fail thee,” dared to believe that every hope which such words had encouraged would be sacredly honoured by God. A lack of integrity in our hearts towards men will assuredly work within us a proportionately weak trust in God. It is he who honours every hope which he has caused in the bosoms of others, who is best prepared to cry for himself, “Stablish Thy word unto Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused him to hope.”
III. He best believes in Divine help for the penitent, who himself has compassion for the penitent. The penitence of the Gibeonites seems to have been very poor. Whatever may have been its motives, and however low its manifestation, Joshua seems really to have been glad to spare these men who pleaded for mercy, even though they came with lies upon their lips. It was easy for such a man to feel, “Can I be more merciful than God? If I find pleasure in hastening to save them from their foes, must not God be even more interested in their deliverance?”
IV. He most fully believes in the overthrow of error, who has long learned to hate error. Joshua had long shewn far more than a mere love for the cause of the Israelites. He had shewn a hatred of unbelief as seen in the ten spies, and of sin as manifested in Achan. We seldom hear him speak without feeling how deep is his love for the truth. He who thus hates evil himself has little difficulty in believing that God hates it more, and that He will spare no work to overthrow it.
V. He who would believe that no thing is too hard for the Lord must walk very much with the Lord. Joshua had not only proved the might of the Divine arm, but the love of the Divine heart. He walked in sympathy with God, and in joy in God. This is the man who dared to say, “Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon.”
THE POETICAL CELEBRATION OF THE MIGHTY WORKS OF THE LORD.
God’s mighty works should be perpetuated in song. They should be chronicled, not only in language which can inform the mind, but in words adapted to move the heart. They should be written down in the natural language of joy and praise. Poetry is the smile of the fair face of literature, while logic, in its sterner procedure and heavier forms, more nearly resembles the frown. God’s gladdening works of deliverance are not so much things to be argued about, as mercies to be sung.
“A BELIEVING WORD OF JOSHUA
1. Spoken under what circumstances?
2. How intended?
3. How answered?
THE GREAT DAY AT GIBEON
It was great:
1. Through the mighty strife of the combatants.
2. Through the courageous faith of the general.
3. Through the victory which God gave.”—[Fay; Lange’s Com.]
“It is a good care how we may not anger God; it is a vain study how we may fly from His judgments when we have angered Him.
“God’s glory was that which Joshua aimed at: he knew that all the world must needs be witnesses of that which the eye of the world stood still to see.”—[Bp. Hall.]
Joshua 10:21. None moved his tongue] A proverbial phrase, intimating that even the most offensive and insolent should be swed into absolute silence (cf. Exodus 11:7; also Jdt. 11:19).
Joshua 10:24. Put your feet upon the necks] The customary token of the triumph of the conquerors and the humiliation of their enemies. Joshua commands it here as an earnest of the victories yet to be won (Joshua 10:25). From this custom such passages as Psalms 110:1, Isaiah 26:6, derive their meaning and force.
Joshua 10:28. And that day] On the day of the great victory just recorded. The army seems to have returned from Azekah with the intention of encamping for the night at Makkedah (Joshua 10:10; Joshua 10:21; see also maps, placing Makkedah near to Ramleh). On reaching Makkedah, the people proceeded to slay and hang the five kings (Joshua 10:22-26). While the kings were yet suspended on the trees the Israelites attacked and destroyed the city and its inhabitants (Joshua 10:28). Then, before encamping for the night, they cut down the bodies of the kings, as the law commanded, and buried them; the account of this being given in Joshua 10:27, and before the record of the destruction of Makkedah, to preserve the unity of the paragraph. Thus was the arduous work, of what might well have been a very long day, completed; the sun “going down” (Joshua 10:27), at least now, at its appointed time.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Joshua 10:16-28
AFTER THE VICTORY
I. The workers of iniquity vainly attempting to hide themselves. “The five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah.” Fancy the thoughts which must have filled their minds during the time in which they lay undiscovered. These were the first moments of quiet which they had known for at least two or three days. With what absolute amazement must they have surveyed the dreadful events of the few preceding hours! The change was positively awful both in its completeness and in its suddenness. It must have seemed like a dream. Only a few hours before, Adoni-zedec had sent out his summons for help. Hoham, and Piram, and Japhia, and Debir, had at once mustered their forces, and marched to join the king of Jerusalem. That done, they had proceeded, the evening before, to invest Gibeon. The day was too far advanced to commence operations; so they would wait till the morrow. With the morning light, the army of Joshua burst upon them. The attack was so sudden and so terrible, that panic and slaughter and flight took the place of battle. Then came the awful and destroying storm—huge hailstones which seemed hurled from the hand of an angry God, touching no Israelite, and sparing no Canaanite. Verily Jehovah must be fighting against them. At that stage their one hope must have been in the darkness. Would not the sun and moon, whom they had so often worshipped, hide their light, and thus facilitate the escape of their votaries? Alas! no. The hours passed on, but both sun and moon stood still in the heavens, as though at once to witness and aid in their destruction. How these thoughts, and many similar, must have chased through the minds of the five kings as they gained the welcome silence of the cave near Makkedah! And then, while they indulged in the hope that they had personally escaped, suddenly voices were heard at the cave’s mouth; some of their enemies appeared, and gazed on their five crouching forms; then a messenger entered, and the Israelites withdrew, rolling, however, great stones upon the cave’s mouth, and setting a guard outside. Thus once more the kings were left to darkness and silence, and this time to reflect sadly on the certainty of coming death.
1. They hide vainly, who seek to hide from God. (Cf. Genesis 3:8; Job 26:6; Psalms 139:7-10; Jeremiah 23:24.)
2. They hide too late, who hide after God’s hand is stretched forth against them. (Cf. Amos 9:1-3.)
3. Only they hide well, who hide IN God. The Gibeonites had done this, and though they had done it singly, and thus brought upon them a confederate army, they were perfectly safe. The five kings had tried to hide from God, and they had failed utterly. Happy is he who can seek refuge in the Rock of Ages, and there say in the joy of conscious safety, “Thou art my hiding-place.” (Cf. Psalms 17:8; Psalms 27:5.)
II. The servants of the Lord concerning themselves with tokens of Divine favour rather than with their prostrate foes (Joshua 10:19) These God-aided Israelites are calm in the very heat of a most exciting victory Joshua thinks, not of vengeance, but of fulfilling to the utmost the commandment of the Lord. More than this, Joshua looks upon the captured kings not merely as enemies to be killed, but as witnesses of God’s further help in triumphing over enemies yet left. He sees in the captive kings one more token that God will give him the victory over enemies yet unsubdued: “The Lord your God hath delivered them into your hand.”
III. The victories of the Lord as bringing to His people, sooner or later, perfect peace from their enemies. “None moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel” (Joshua 10:21). When the Lord fought for His people in Egypt, it was with the same result (Exodus 11:7). How complete will be the peace of God’s children in their final triumph! Then, indeed, “the beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety.”
IV. Men, once prominent in sin, suffering in conspicuous shame and peculiar punishment (Joshua 10:22-27).
1. The five kings were not suffered to die as their people died. No one of them fell in the battle. The hail, also, spared them each. They who lead in iniquity must expect to be foremost in punishment.
2. The five kings were made in their degradation the sign of the triumphs yet to come (Joshua 10:24-25). This was not mere cruelty. Although a customary usage of the time, it was also something more. It was significant of other victories, and was meant to encourage the Israelites: “Thus shall the Lord do,” etc.
V. The wrath of godly men displaying itself, not in vindictive passion and heedless malice, but calmly, and in view of law and justice. (Compare Joshua 10:26-27; Deuteronomy 21:22-23.) Nothing is more imposing in this terrible mission entrusted to the Israelites, than the solemn and judicial spirit in which it is continually executed. In the very heat and excitement of battle the leaders of Israel steadily maintain the character of God’s servants, and act with the calm demeanour of judges. So far is the spirit of Joshua from offering any excuse for the vindictive zeal which has sometimes been shewn by Christians, that it intensely condemns it. Joshua never forgets that judgment belongs unto the Lord, and that he is merely the Lord’s servant, charged with a terrible and unusual mission.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE VERSES
Joshua 10:16-18. THE WORKERS OF INIQUITY HIDING THEMSELVES.
I. Like the five kings, wicked men, in times of danger, hide themselves.
1. The wicked often hide themselves by seclusion. They come not to the light, lest their deeds be reproved.
2. The wicked seek to hide themselves by deceit. Although appearing among men, they strive to conceal themselves from men.
3. The wicked sometimes endeavour to hide themselves by false professions of religion. The sacred name of Christ is used as a mask. Even behind the cross, and the form of the agonised Saviour dying thereon, do the wicked try to hide, sinning without remorse so long as they seem to be sinning without danger.
4. The wicked, who have practised hiding all their lives, will still feel the need of hiding when God begins to move towards them in judgment. They will feel the need of hiding more than ever then. “The kings of the earth … hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains. And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of Him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of His wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?”
II. Like the five kings, they who seek to hide from God will utterly fail. (Cf. preceding outline.)
1. They will hide in vain, who try to hide from God. “There is a recent application of electricity, by which, under the influence of its powerful light, the body can be so illuminated that the workings beneath the surface of the skin can be distinctly seen. Lift up the hand, and it will become almost translucent, the bones and veins clearly appearing. It is so in some sort with God’s introspection of the human heart. His eye, which shines brighter than the sun, searches us and discovers all our weakness and infirmity.” [J. G. Pilkington.]
2. They hide too late, who hide after God’s hand is stretched out for judgment.
3. They only hide safely and well, who hide in God. God graciously invites us to hide in Himself (Isaiah 26:20-21). Let us respond in the trust of David, who, when hunted by Saul into another cave, cried unto his God: “In the shadow of Thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.”
Joshua 10:19. FIRST PRINCIPLES IN CHRISTIAN WARFARE.
The directions here given by Joshua for this battle with living and personal foes indicate principles which are no less appropriate and important in our conflicts with evil and sinful habits. We shall do well in the battle of life to remind ourselves of the following things:—
I. All the victory of the past should be used as an encouragement for the present. “Stay ye not, but pursue after your enemies.” Past triumphs are not merely for thanks giving. The victories of yesterday are to be strength for to-day. Sin should be pursued and smitten in the hours of its weakness. Sin should on no account be left to take up its abode within us. We may spare it in its weakness, and presently find it too strong for us. “Use is second nature;” thus sin which has become a habit is an enemy in a fortified place. Sin may entrench itself behind our holiest passions and noblest services. Pride gets behind Christian work. Love of self conceals and fortifies itself behind what we call love for souls. Victory is to be utilized for new victories.
II. All the victory of the past is by the Lord, and should assure us of the Lord’s help for the future. As Joshua thought of the help of Jehovah in the hail storm, and in the miracle which extended the day, he could not but say of the enemies which yet remained, “The Lord your God hath delivered them into your hand.” We may well argue thus in sight of our spiritual victories, and in the presence of spiritual enemies which remain unsubdued.
1. Every past triumph over sin gives evidence of Divine help. “Without me ye can do nothing.” This was true at the beginning of our conflict.
2. Every instance of Divine help in the past should assure us of God’s willingness to help in the future. God’s help yesterday is a prophecy and a promise for to-day. The Lord “changes not.”
3. The continuance of Divine help must lead to complete and final victory. Every real triumph of the soldiers of the cross should become to them “an earnest of the future possession.” Thus Joshua 10:21 indicates, so far as concerns this battle, a victory which was so complete that no one ventured in any way to molest the victors.
Joshua 10:25. THE SONG OF FAITH.
I. An old song. The “new song” is not till the battles are all ended. This is the theme with which the book opens. The song of faith is a fugue, running off, as throughout this book, now in one direction, and now in another, but continually returning to its theme. (Cf. chapters Joshua 1:6; Joshua 1:9; Joshua 8:1; Joshua 10:8; Joshua 10:25; Joshua 11:6; Joshua 23:5-6.) The song of faith is not merely the repetition of a single life, but a repetition from one life to another. This assuring utterance was repeated from Abraham (Genesis 15:1) to Isaac (Genesis 26:2-4), and Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15), and Moses (Exodus 2:12); it was reiterated by Moses to Joshua (Deuteronomy 31:6; Deuteronomy 31:23), and by Joshua, again and again, to all Israel. Thus it becomes the established song of the children of faith. It is sung now by David (1 Chronicles 23:13; 1 Chronicles 28:20), and repeatedly to or by his successors, till the angels repeat it to the trembling women at the empty tomb of the Saviour. It is sounded encouragingly into the ears of the “little flock” by Christ on earth, and, not less, is given to cheer disciples by Christ from heaven (Revelation 1:17-18). This “Fear not” of the Church of the O. T. is also the song of the Church of the N. T. It is the national anthem in the kingdom of heaven upon earth, and will only give place to the new song before the throne of God.
II. An old song, but one to be ever rendered with new meanings. The trials and triumphs in each singer’s life are to give it a new significance. To Abraham its music would be interpreted by visions and gracious words; to Moses, by mighty miracles; to Joshua, by wonderful victories; and so to every child of God, by his own peculiar mercies and triumphs. Thus, though the song is ever the same, it has its individuality of sweetness and harmony to every particular singer.
III. An old song, the meaning of which is to be more and more incorporated into our life.
1. It can only be learned by the believer. It is said of the new song, “No man could learn that song” but those who were “redeemed from the earth.” None but the heart of faith can “Fear not, and be of good courage” at all times. Not to fear is to believe.
2. It can only be learned gradually, even by him who does believe. Hence the significance of the repetition of this word throughout the book of Joshua. Every new triumph is to be turned into a little more trust.
3. He who best learns it will most, even while yet on earth, enter into the peace of heaven. “We which have believed do enter into rest.” Thus the song of faith is to contribute to a life of faith.
Joshua 10:29. Libnah] Another of the cities belonging to the Shephelah, or low country of Judah. It was besieged by Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:8), and it was probably in this neighbourhood that the 185,000 Assyrians were slain, in one night, by the angel of the Lord. Dean Stanley and Van de Velde differ as to the site of Libnah—the former placing it at Tell es-Safieh, five miles N.W. of Eleutheropolis, and the latter, with more confidence, at Arâk el-Meushȋyeh, four miles W. of Eleutheropolis.
Joshua 10:32. On the second day] On the second day of the siege. Thus, even in the days of Joshua, Lachish gave indications of the strength, as a fortified town, which was manifested in its subsequent history.
Joshua 10:33. Gezer] This city is not said to have been destroyed. Judging by 1 Kings 9:16, some have concluded that it “was not subdued till Solomon’s days.” This is obviously a mistake, for with “none remaining” of the inhabitants, what could there have been left to subdue? The city, as was the case in other instances, was no doubt speedily re-occupied by the fugitive Canaanites, and thus re-inhabited it was spared, and made to “serve under tribute” (cf. chap. Joshua 16:10; Joshua 21:21; Judges 1:28-29). Twice in the history of David’s time it is called Gazer. “Perhaps the strongest claims for identity with Gezer are put forward by a village called Yasûr, four or five miles east of Joppa, on the road to Ramleh and Lydd” [Smith’s Bib. Dict.]
Joshua 10:38. Debir] The same as Kirjath-sepher, “the city of the Oracle,” or the “Book.” Sometimes called Kirjath-sannah, from its palm trees. It was near Hebron. There were two other places called Debir.
Joshua 10:37-39. And all the cities thereof] Shewing that both Hebron and Debir had smaller cities under their respective governments.
Joshua 10:40. “The hills] i.e., the mountain country; the south] i.e., the Negeb, or land on the southern slopes toward the desert; the vale] i.e., the Shephelah or Philistine plain; the springs] i.e., the ravines on the borders between the mountain country and the Shephelah” [Crosby]. He left none remaining] Many, however, fled into Philistia and elsewhere, and returned as soon as they were able to do so.
Joshua 10:41. From Kadesh-barnea even unto Gaza] The southernmost line of the land of Canaan, from about twenty miles below the Dead Sea to Gaza, on the Mediterranean coast. The site of Kadesh-barnea is unknown. Goshen even unto Gibeon] Goshen is also unknown. It was possibly so named by the Israelites in memory of their dwelling-place in Egypt, and apparently must have been somewhere south of Hebron. It is again named in chapters Joshua 11:16; Joshua 15:51. The two lines of description, one on the extreme south, and the other through the midst of this part of the land, are evidently meant to describe Joshua’s complete conquest of all southern Canaan.
OUTLINES AND COMMENTS ON THE PARAGRAPH.—Joshua 10:29-43
Joshua 10:30. Of Makkedah and Libnah, and of the remaining cities whose destruction is recorded in this chapter, it is particularly said that Joshua smote “all the souls that were therein.” Joshua did this under the special and emphatic commandment of the Lord. In the overthrow of Jericho, in the hail storm and the miraculous extension of the day at Beth-horon, God made this war manifestly His own. These solemn records seem to have a special claim to notice, and a peculiar value at the present time. In days when so many are disposed to make the wrath of the Lord unreal, we shall do well to remember that this wrath has a history. In is not merely a doctrine of that which is to come; it is also recorded as that which has been. When the arguments which go to depreciate the anger of Jehovah have been urged to the utmost, these terrible histories will still remain. If they serve to warn any who are too prone to believe in unlimited mercy, and thus to bring them to Him through whom alone mercy is proclaimed, they will prove, a undoubtedly they will, that they also are a part of the good tidings of the God of love.
Some men are typical both in sin and punishment. They are ensamples unto them who believe not. Thus, for the second time, we read of these acts of Joshua, “as he did unto the king of Jericho.” Great grace causes some men to be known as pillars of the Church; great infamy in the rejection of grace makes the names of others to become by-words in the way of wickedness.
Joshua 10:33. It is not enough to help men; we must help them in the way of righteousness. Compassion and sympathy may be misplaced, and may but lead to ruin. Sin has its patriots and its volunteers, as well as righteousness. How hard is the yoke of Satan, under which even generous service, like this rendered by Horam, leads to death! how easy is the yoke of Christ, where even a cup of cold water, given in the name and spirit of a disciple, shall in no wise lose its reward!
Joshua 10:36-37. PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE.
I. The fame of the past has no guarantee against degradation in the present. A great history of godly names, even in these early days, already stood connected with Hebron. The city itself was famed for its antiquity (Numbers 13:22); better still, the names of holy men of old were associated with its history. Nearly four hundred and seventy years before, Abraham came and dwelt here, and fifty years after his settlement he purchased of Ephron the Hittite the field of Machpelah. Here Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebekah, and Leah, were all buried. Not far from Hebron was Mamre, beneath the famous terebinth of which Abraham had entertained the angels unawares. Near to this very Hebron Abraham had poured forth his holy prayer for Sodom, and long before that he had built in the outskirts of the city an altar to the Lord (Genesis 18:0, Genesis 13:18). Formerly the place was redolent of God; now it was the seat of an abominable idolatry. This degeneration which stands associated with a city, is no less true of individual men. No man can afford to rely on his past. That which has been offers but small assurance of that which will be.
II. The degradation of the present is no sufficient reason for despairing of an honourable future.
1. Hebron again became great. It was given as an inheritance to one of the godliest of the Israelites (chap. Joshua 15:13), and was made one of the six cities of refuge (chap. Joshua 20:7). Later in the history it became the capital from which David ruled over Judah for seven years and a half (2 Samuel 2:11). Under the guidance of men like Caleb and David, Hebron would have often resounded with the voice of prayer and praise, instead of echoing to the orgies of the old idolatry.
2. Hebron became great and honourable only through the intervention of God. It is because God is merciful, and loves to interpose His saving arm, that there is hope even for “the dark places of the earth which are full of the habitations of cruelty.” It is because of this Divine mercy that no degraded man need despair of himself, and no good man of the most degraded community.
III. The honourable history of the past should stimulate us in attempting to redeem the present. Right before these Israelites, as they pressed upon Hebron in the battle, was the cave of Machpelah, wherein lay the bodies of the fathers and mothers of all the host of Israel. Dean Stanley says, “The cave of Machpelah is concealed, beyond all reasonable doubt, by the mosque at Hebron.… And marvellous, too, to think that within the massive enclosure of that mosque lies possibly, not merely the last dust of Abraham and Isaac, but the very body—the mummy—the embalmed bones of Jacob, brought in solemn state from Egypt to this (as it then was) lonely and beautiful spot.” [Sinai and Palestine, pp. 149, 102.] At the time of this assault on the city, no mosque covered the cave; but there, close by these Israelites in their strife, was the cave, and in the cave all that was left of the bodies of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. How the very thought of that, doubtless made known to them all, must have nerved their arms for the fight! In his “Lays of Ancient Rome,” Macaulay has made Horatius ask with thrilling patriotism,
“And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds
For the ashes of his fathers
And the temples of his gods?”
Similarly must these warriors of Israel have been moved against their foes, as they pressed upon them at Hebron. Every man in the army of Joshua might feel that the grave of the fathers of all the host was almost beneath his feet; and as to the religious inspiration, the place all around was sacred by the prayers of Abraham, the altar of Mamre had stood hard by, and the very God whom Abraham had worshipped there now bade these children of Abraham to “be of good courage, and fear not.” While the history of the past is insufficient, in itself, to keep us, yet should the memories and traditions of what has been greatly honourable make us thirst to see old glory re-established. To a true heart, “Ichabod” should be nothing less than a trumpet call to earnest prayer and holy strife.
IV. The victory of to-day gives no certain promise of peace to-morrow. Caleb had this city of Hebron to take a second time (chap. Joshua 15:14; Judges 1:10). No sooner had Joshua withdrawn than the fugitive Canaanites seem to have re-established themselves in the city. This was the case in other towns taken by the Israelites. Our present victories, however apparently complete, are never more than partial. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” All our earthly victories must go with watchfulness. He who would have us to triumph finally, says, “Hold fast that which thou hast; let no man take thy crown.”
Joshua 10:40-43. THE RAPID PROWESS OF THE OBEDIENT. The secret of Joshua’s invincible prowess and rapid victories lay in the fact that he was doing the will of God, and that God was with him. So, if we fight the good fight of faith in full accord with the will of our heavenly Father, we may look for victory no less certainly, and, perhaps, no less rapidly. God Himself says, “I change not.” We have the same Heart on our side that Joshua had—a heart loving us, and hating our sins; we have, no less, the same Arm of power to contend for us. Why should we not go forth to victory with equal confidence? “Just so far as a Christian is led by the Spirit,” said F. W. Robertson, “he is a conqueror. A Christian in full possession of his privileges is a man whose very step ought to have in it all the elasticity of triumph, and whose very look ought to have in it all the brightness of victory.” It is because we so often go to our conflicts with doubting hearts and trembling steps, that our victories are so slowly won; it is because we so often go unled of God, that we have so repeatedly to mourn defeat. God is as potent in the spiritual realm as in the physical; it is only because we fail to get thoroughly into accord with His will and His aims that we fall short of Joshua’s rapid and continuous victories. The more marvellous are our victories for God, the more readily shall we give glory to God (Joshua 10:40). Those who do but little are tempted to call their triumphs their own; the man of many victories cannot but confess that in all cases the battle has been the Lord’s.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Joshua 10". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany