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Joshua subdues Jabin, king of Hazor, with the other kings of the northern parts of Canaan, at the waters of Merom: he destroys the Anakims, and puts the children of Israel in full possession of the land of Canaan.
Before Christ 1447.
Ver. 1. And—when Jabin king of Hazor had heard, &c.— No sooner was this king of Hazor informed of the conquests of Joshua, than he took a resolution to stop, if possible, the progress of his victorious arms, by covering the north part of the country of Canaan, of which Hazor, afterwards given to the tribe of Naphtali, was the principal city. Jabin, in all probability, was the common name of all the kings of Hazor. What inclines to this belief is, that the prince, who was subject to the Israelites for twenty years in the time of the Judges, and who was defeated by Deborah, went by this name of Jabin.
He sent to Jobab, king of Madon, &c.— This is the only place where mention is made of a king of Madon, excepting ch. Joshua 12:19. This city is entirely unknown. It was formerly held by the king of Hazor, see ver. 10. Calmet observes, that if, with the Roman edition of the LXX, we read Maron, we might find the city of Maronia or Marath, north of mount Lebanon. The name Maron is preserved ch. Joshua 12:19. I know not, says he, whether the land of Meroz, mentioned Jdg 5:23 might not be the country of Maron. Shimron is the same as that called Shimron-Meron, ch. Joshua 12:20. This city afterwards belonged to the tribe of Zebulun, south of that of Naphtali. Calmet takes Shimron to be the Symira of Pliny, which lay in Caelo-Syria. It cannot be Samaria, for this city was not then in being; and its name was given it by Omri, king of Israel, 1 Kings 16:24. Achshaph afterwards belonged to the tribe of Asher, and lay north-west, towards the extremity of that tribe, ch. Joshua 19:25. Calmet is of opinion, that Achshaph was the Eedippe of Pliny, Ptolemy, Josephus, and Eusebius.
Ver. 2. And in the borders of Dor on the west— The Vulgate, and other versions, render it, and in the country of Dor. Naphoth signifies the environs of a place, a quarter, a canton, or district: Dor was situate near the Mediterranean, in the lot of the half tribe of Manasseh. Eusebius and St. Jerome place it between Tyre and Cesarea, about nine miles from the latter. Josephus, contr. Ap. lib. 2. speaks of a city of Dora, situate near mount Carmel. See Bochart, l. i. c. 41.
Ver. 3. And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west— Among the Canaanites, properly so called, those of the east are they who dwelt along-side of the Jordan, south of the lake of Gennesareth; and the Canaanites of the west, those who dwelt on the Mediterranean coast. See Numbers 13:29. Bishop Clayton, in his Chronology of the Hebrew text, p. 66, &c. shews, that the land of the Canaanites, properly so called, was the country where Canaan had settled, from the territories of Hazor on the north, even unto Sichem on the south; Gen 12:6 and, according to this writer, it was bounded on the east by the Jordan, with the lakes Semechon and Gennesareth; on the west by the Mediterranean from Sidon to Dor; on the north by a line which crossed from Sidon to Jordan, by Hamath; and on the south by the mountains which lay south of Cinneroth, or Gennesareth. Perhaps Jabin was the chief king of the whole country; at least, in Jdg 4:24 he is called king of Canaan.
And to the Hivite under Hermon, &c.— The Hivites dwelt at the foot of mount Hermon, which lay to the north-east of the land of Canaan. Hence, as Bochart observes, they are called Kadmonites, Gen 15:19 that is to say, Orientals. See Phaleg. l. iv. c. 36. and Canaan, l. i. c. 19. There were several cities of the name of Mizpeh. We meet with one in the tribe of Judah, ch. Joshua 15:38 a second in the tribe of Benjamin, ch. Joshua 18:26 a third beyond Jordan, in the tribe of Gad; and a fourth also beyond that river, in the half tribe of Manasseh. The last gave its name to the adjacent territories; and it is that, and the country about it, of which we are now speaking. See Wells's Geog. vol. 2: p. 215.
Ver. 4. And they went out,—and all their hosts, &c.— Entering the field with so numerous an army, that the sacred writer does not scruple to express it by an hyperbole very familiar in Scripture, even as the sand upon the sea shore in multitude. The allied army was so much the more formidable, in that, as the host of the Israelites was wholly composed of foot-soldiers, in this there were not only cavalry, but armed chariots, in great numbers. Josephus makes it amount to 300,000 infantry, 10,000 horse, and 20,000 chariots. Hist. Jud. l. v. c. 1. Bochart, in his Hieroz. l. ii. c. 9. informs us, that Egypt supplied the Canaanites with all these horses. God forbad his people the use of them in their armies. See on Deuteronomy 17:16; Deuteronomy 20:1. With respect to the chariots of the Canaanites, they were, in all probability, armed with iron, such as were anciently used to break the enemies' battalions, and which, in fact, made the most terrible havoc in armies. They are described by the ancients as follows: "The pole to which the horses were fastened, was armed with spikes, or iron points, which advanced forward; the yokes also of the horses had points, three cubits in length; to the axletree were fixed iron spits, armed at the ends with scythes; the spokes of the wheels were armed with javelins, sticking out, and the very fellies with scythes, which tore to pieces every thing they met with; the axletree was longer, and the wheels stronger than usual, that they might be the better able to bear a shock, and the chariot be less liable so be overturned." The charioteer, who was covered all over with armour, sat in a kind of tower, made of very solid wood, about breast high, and sometimes men well armed were put into the chariot and fought from thence with darts and arrows. Hence we may judge that these machines must have made dreadful slaughter at first, when they met with the enemy's troops: but in time, when men came to find out the way of opposing them, they did not so much execution, and were of course disused. See Diod. Sic. l. ii. c. 93. Q. Curt. l. iv. c. 15. Xenoph. Cyr. l. vi. Lucret. l. vi. ver. 635. 641, &c. God Almighty forbad the Israelites the use of chariots, for the same reasons that he had prohibited that of cavalry; see Isaiah 31:1.Psalms 20:7; Psalms 20:7. Proverbs 21:31.Hosea 1:7; Hosea 1:7.
Ver. 5. They—pitched—at the waters of Merom— These waters of Merom are generally thought to be nothing but the lake of Semechon, so called from the abundance of fish it contains; Semechon, or Samachon, signifying in the Arabic fishes. Others derive the name of this lake from the word Samaka, which signifies in Arabic, to be elevated. Reland derives it from a word, which, in the Chaldee, denotes muddy waters. See Palaest. Sacr. l. i. c. 40. Joshua calls this lake the waters of Merom, or, the high waters; because, being situated toward the springs of Jordan, it was higher than the lake of Gennesareth, and much more so than the Asphaltic lake, otherwise called the Dead Sea. The general quarters of the confederate kings were there marked out, this whole district being in the kingdom of Jabin; and, according to Josephus, Hazor, his capital, bordered on the lake Semechon. See Hist. Jud. l. v. c. 6. and Calmet. However, this opinion, it must be confessed, is not without its difficulties: for, 1. It is very probable, that the confederate kings marched forward to the frontiers of their country, and did not suffer the army of the Israelites to advance fifteen or twenty leagues within their territories, and to attack them upon the Semechonite lake. 2. Deborah, in her song, praises the men of Zebulun and Naphtali, for having exposed themselves to danger in fighting against the Canaanites upon Merome, (for so the Hebrew imports,) Judges 5:18. Now this battle was certainly fought near the river Kishon, in Tahanac, by the waters of Megiddo, ver. 19. It seems natural, therefore, to suppose, that the kings in league against Joshua came to the same place, viz. to Kishon, in the country of Merom, to dispute with the Israelites an entrance into their territories. Eusebius places Meron, or Merus, at twelve miles distance from Samaria, near Dothaim; which confirms the opinion just advanced. This place was a famous and important passage. There Barak defeated the Canaanites, and there Josias was beaten. Toward the same place stood the town of Legion, mentioned by Eusebius and St. Jerome, which took its name from the troops that the Romans kept there for the security of the province.
Ver. 6. And the Lord said unto Joshua— This was spoken in the camp at Gilgal. It is difficult to conceive how this matter could have been literally accomplished; since, from Gilgal to Hazor was sixty or eighty miles; and Josephus says, that Joshua was five days going from Gilgal to the camp of the kings. The word to-morrow, therefore, must be taken in a vague sense, to signify soon, in a day or two; or else we must conclude, that Joshua was already on his march, and near the enemy's camp, when God promised him victory. But for a full discussion of this subject, we refer the reader to an excellent dissertation of Psalmanazar, Essays, p. 215.
Ver. 8. Israel—smote them, and chased them unto Great Zidon— Zidon is called great; not because there was a smaller, but on account of its extent and opulence. This city was founded by a son of Canaan, and lay northeast of the Holy Land. See Genesis 10:15.
Mizrephoth-maim— Some make this to be a city; others a spot where there arose some hot springs; and others, a place noted for ditches, where the heat of the sun prepared and produced salt. Calmet supposes it was a city, the same with Sarepta, not far from Zidon. Masius conjectures it to have been a place where there stood furnaces for the manufactory of glass, from the sand of the river Belus.
Ver. 9. And Joshua—houghed their horses, &c.— That is, he hamstrung, or disabled them by cutting the sinews of the ham: the word is derived from the Saxon [A.S.],* the hough, or lower part of the thigh. See Johnson. God would not have the Israelites preserve these animals, lest they should put their confidence in them, instead of glorifying in Him alone; Psalms 20:7. It was in consequence of this divine injunction, that David, when he had subdued Hadadezer, houghed all the chariot-horses of that prince, reserving one hundred chariots for his own use; 2 Samuel 8:4. The Jewish rabbis say, that at the death of a king of Israel, they houghed all the horses which were found in his stables, to prevent his successor from making use of them. See Schickardi Jus. Regium, cap. 6 theor. 19. & Boch. Hieroz. pars 1: lib. 2 cap. 11.
REFLECTIONS.—1. Alarmed by these increasing successes of Israel, the northern kings of Canaan, with Hazor at their head, and at his instigation, collect their forces; those in the east and west join them, so that the association becomes general, and, with these united forces, they hope to crush these cruel invaders. They become hereby the aggressors; and as they first disturb the peace of Israel's camp, they justly fall under the power of Israel's arm. Note; The strongest confederacy of sinners will only make their ruin more notorious.
2. Joshua hereupon receives encouragement from God. Though a brave man, such an army, and so accoutred, strengthened with horse, and chariots armed with scythes, which mowed down ranks of men before them, might beget some solicitude about the event of the battle. But he is commanded to attack them, and God promises to give them up to the sword, as dead men, unable to make resistance. Note; (1.) Vain are multitudes or strength against God. (2.) The greater dangers surround us, the greater supports from God we may expect.
3. Joshua immediately summons the people; and having acquainted them, no doubt, with God's promise, by a sudden march they surprise their enemies, who are broken on the first attack, and fly different ways; some westward to Zidon, others eastward to Mizpeh, leaving their chariots and horses an easy prey to their pursuers, who hewed the one, and burnt the other with fire, according to the command of God, who would not have them trust in these human supports, but on himself alone, for their success. Note; The more we are taken off from every dependance, and the more entirely our hearts are fixed on God as our strength, the more surely shall we find our spiritual enemies subdued before us.
Ver. 13. But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, &c.— The Hebrew is תלם על al tillam, which may signify a foot, or standing; and then the sense would be, that Joshua preserved all those cities which had yielded, without having obliged him to besiege them, to make breaches in their walls, or to demolish their fortifications. This sense is preserved by the LXX, Onkelos, ours, and the French version, and by several interpreters; but nothing hinders us from translating, with the Vulgate, and Joshua burned none of the cities, which were situated on high places; or, as our margin renders it, on their heap. Bochart, who prefers this exposition, thinks that Thelassar, 2Ki 19:12 and Thelabib, Eze 3:15 two cities well known, took their name from the word תל tel, thus understood. See his Canaan, lib. 1: cap. 29. We should also conceive, that instead of translating Jer 30:18 thus, Jerusalem shall be built on her own heap, the Hebrew might be very well rendered, shall be rebuilt upon her height, or high hill. It was certainly easier for Joshua to keep cities which were situate on high places, and well-defended spots, than the cities of the plain.
Note; (1.) God is just in all his judgments. (2.) It becomes us to give no more quarter to the least of our sins than did the Israelites to the infant Canaanite.
Ver. 15. Joshua—left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses— Spinosa is pleased to say, that this eulogy is too great to have fallen from the pen of Joshua; whence he concludes, that Joshua did not write this book, known by his name. What admirable reasoning is this! So that, in like manner, we are to refuse granting St. Paul to be the author of the epistles, in which he does justice to his own fidelity; and to deny that Caesar wrote those commentaries which are unanimously ascribed to him, because they specify his own great achievements.
Ver. 16. So Joshua took, &c. and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same— As this mountain of Israel with its valley, are in ver. 21 set in opposition to the mountains of Judah, some judicious interpreters conclude, that those mountains are here intended which were in the lot of Ephraim. But may it not be insisted, with the learned Pelican, that the singular is here put for the plural, and that by the mountain and valley of Israel, are to be understood all the mountains and all the vallies of the country, those excepted, which were included in the tribe of Judah? The whole country betwixt the Mediterranean and the Jordan, is, properly, nothing more than a chain of mountains. The sea-coast lies on a level: we meet there only with mount Carmel: the banks of the Jordan are so likewise.
Ver. 18. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings— Joshua did not make all these conquests in one single campaign; Josephus says, that he was five years about them; Hist. Jud. lib. 5: cap. 2 and some make him out to have employed six years in them. Caleb was forty years old when he was sent to discover the land of Canaan, in the year of the world 2514, and in the second year after the departure from Egypt. Now, at the end of the war he was eighty-five years old, according to his own account, chap. Joshua 14:10. Consequently, the war ended in 2559, and probably towards the end of the year. But it had begun the 10th day of the first month of the year 2554, by the passage over Jordan, and soon after that followed the siege of Jericho; from this date, to the end of the year 2559, we find exactly six years; the first of which Joshua seems to have employed in the conquest of south Canaan, and the five others in the conquest of all the territories situated on the north of that country.
Ver. 20. For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts— He hardened them in the same sense that he had hardened the heart of Pharaoh. Instead of inspiring them with a greater terror than that wherewith they were stricken, instead of giving them any respite, instead of opening their eyes through the agency of his Almighty Grace, he left them to the working of their own passions, Wis 10:11. Unworthy the assistance of that grace, by reason of their enormous disorders, and their perverse obstinacy in guilt, that which should naturally have softened only hardened them. God therefore, enraged at their incorrigible wickedness, abandoned them to themselves, and to a corruption which, through their own fault, drew them into utter ruin. In this sense it is that God hardened them, or rather, that, being left by him, they hardened themselves, so as to venture, after all that had happened, to come against Israel in battle, that he (Israel) might destroy them. Deuteronomy 7:2; Deuteronomy 20:16-17; Deuteronomy 20:20. See Waterland's Scrip. Vind. part 2: p. 58. This forsaking them was really a punishment of the Canaanites for their crimes, and especially because they had refused peace. The text says as much; at least it is certain that the Hebrew particle כי ki may be so translated in this place, as well as in many others; 1Sa 2:25. 1 Kings 12:25. See Noldius in כי, sect. 8.
Ver. 21, &c. Joshua—cut off the Anakims, &c.— This wild, barbarous, and gigantic people, who were of a different origin from that of the Canaanites, inhabited certain mountains of the country. It would have been dangerous to let them remain, nor were they worthy of such indulgence. Joshua, therefore, marched against them, and crowned his victories by the utter defeat of this nation, which was become as hateful as dangerous. He put to the sword all he could find, and utterly destroyed them, those excepted who fled, or who were now settled at Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod, three cities in the land of the Philistines; where some of them remained in David's time, particularly at Gath; but not at Ascalon, as some have supposed. See Bochart, Canaan, lib. 1: cap. 1.
Ver. 23. So Joshua took the whole land— All that belonged to the Amoritish kings eastward of Jordan. Innumerable Canaanites perished in this war; others, in some places, saved themselves: God did not permit the country to be too much depopulated, as it might thereby have been exposed to wild beasts; Exo 23:29 and on other accounts which the reader will find in Judges 1:4. Lastly, others left their country, went and settled in Africa, and in their flight having, according to some authors, made themselves masters of Lower Egypt, they there erected a monarchy, which subsisted under several of their kings, known in history by the name of the shepherd kings; till at length, not having forces sufficient to defend them, they were compelled to retire further on into the western parts of Africa. See Sir Isaac Newton's Chronol. p. 9. Procopius mentions two white columns, reared by them in the city of Tingis, now Tangier, a city of their founding, and capital of the province of Tingitania, on which was an inscription in the Phoenician language and character, to this purpose; "We are fugitives, who fled to save ourselves from the great robber, Joshua, the son of Nun." St. Augustin farther assures us, that the Africans boasted themselves to be descended from the ancient Canaanites, and preserved their old Phoenician language, the Punick being generally allowed to be very near the Hebrew and Phoenician. They are likewise supposed by the learned to have come in colonies into Greece, Cilicia, and Lesser Asia, and most of the islands of the AEgean and Mediterranean sea, quite to Cadiz in Spain. Arrian likewise tells us, that among the many ambassadors who waited upon Alexander the Great at Babylon, some came from Africa, who were of the Canaanitish race; and the Babylonish Gemara adds, that they came to beg of him to reinstate them in their ancient seats, whence the Israelites had driven them. See Psalmanazar's 3rd Essay.
According to their divisions by their tribes— See Numbers 26:53; Numbers 33:54.
And the land rested from war— All the potentates and nations of the land of Canaan being subdued, the Israelites, now become peaceable possessors of that fine Land of Promise, thought only how to divide it, as we shall see in chap. 13: Here begins the 7th year, reckoning from their first seed-time, after the passage over Jordan; the first sabbatical year celebrated by them after Joshua had brought them into rest; that rest which is a type of the eternal rest which the great Joshua of the New Covenant prepares for his people in heaven. Hebrews 4:8-9; Hebrews 4:16. From this same epocha we are to reckon the jubilees: see on Leviticus 25:8-10.
REFLECTIONS.—The history of this war concludes, happily for Israel, in the conquest of the whole land, north and south. Far from being warned by their neighbours' calamities, no city but Gibeon sought for peace, but, hardened as Pharaoh by the Divine judgment, came out to war with Israel, and rushed upon their own destruction. Thus still, hardness of heart drives sinners furiously to pursue those ways of sin which must end in their eternal perdition. The conquest is now completed: these dreaded foes of Israel no longer make them afraid, but fall before the devouring sword of the conquering Joshua. Note; We must not be weary of our spiritual warfare, nor count the time long; we shall finally reap, if we faint not.
The people now begin to taste the sweets of repose, and disperse themselves over the conquered country: for Joshua, as an obedient servant, had faithfully accomplished his business; and God, as a faithful God, had fulfilled to them his promises, which he spake by his servant Moses. Note; (1.) Obedience to the command, is the way to obtain the fulfilment of the promise. (2.) They who go forth with a dependance on God, shall find that they are not disappointed in their hopes.
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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Joshua 11". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany