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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 11

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Joshua 11:0


Hazor Captured and BurnedThe Northern ConquestIsrael's Victories in the NorthJoshua Defeats Jabin and His AlliesThe Conquest of the North
Joshua 11:1-5Joshua 11:1-5Joshua 11:1-5Joshua 11:1-5Joshua 11:1-4
The Victory at Merom
Joshua 11:5-9
Joshua 11:6-9Joshua 11:6-9Joshua 11:6-9Joshua 11:6-9The Capture of the Other Northern Towns
Joshua 11:10-15Joshua 11:10-15Joshua 11:10-15Joshua 11:10-11Joshua 11:10-11
Joshua 11:12-151112
Joshua 11:13-14
The Orders of Moses Carried Out by Joshua
Joshua's ExploitsSummary of Joshua's ConquestsThe Territory Taken by JoshuaJoshua 11:15-16
Joshua 11:16-20Joshua 11:16-20Joshua 11:16-20Joshua 11:16-20
Joshua 11:17-20
Extermination of the Anakim
Joshua 11:21-23Joshua 11:21-23Joshua 11:21-23Joshua 11:21-22Joshua 11:21-23a
Joshua 11:23a
Joshua 11:23bJoshua 11:23b

READING CYCLE THREE (from “A Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

Verses 1-5

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 11:1-5 1Then it came about, when Jabin king of Hazor heard of it, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon and to the king of Shimron and to the king of Achshaph, 2and to the kings who were of the north in the hill country, and in the Arabahsouth of Chinneroth and in the lowland and on the heights of Dor on the west 3to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Jebusite in the hill country, and the Hivite at the foot of Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. 4They came out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5So all of these kings having agreed to meet, came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.

Joshua 11:1-15 This is the description of Joshua's northern campaign.

Joshua 11:1 “Jabin” This name means “one who is intelligent” (BDB 108). It may have been the royal title of the kings of Hazor, because another king by the same name is in control of Hazor in Judges 4:2 (like Abimelech of Palestine, Hadad of Syria).

“Hazor” This was the largest walled city of Canaan. It covered over 200 acres. Apparently the Israelis did not occupy this site because in Judges 4:0 it is a powerful Canaanite stronghold again. See the good article in NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 696-698.

“Achshaph” This term (BDB 38) means “a place of sorcery” (cf. Joshua 12:20). The VERB root (BDB 506) means “to cut,” possibly the cutting of herbs for spells or trances.

The exact location of Achshaph, and for that matter Shimron, are uncertain.

Joshua 11:2 “Arabah” This refers to the Jordan Rift Valley from south of the Sea of Galilee (here called Chinneroth) through the Dead Sea and down to the Gulf of Aqabah (BDB 787 I). It is referred to in the Septuagint as “wasteland.” See the good article in NIDOTTE, vol. 4, pp. 406-408.

“Chinneroth” This OT term could refer to (1) the Sea of Galilee, (2) the area around it, or (3) a city in that area (cf. Joshua 19:35). It is also spelled Chinnereth (cf. Deuteronomy 3:17; Joshua 13:27; Joshua 19:35). The NT term Gennesaret (cf. Matthew 14:34; Mark 6:53; Luke 5:1) is taken from the Hebrew name. The name means “harp” (BDB 409), which refers to (1) the shape of the lake or (2) the presence of many shepherds who played the harp.

“the lowlands” This term (BDB 1050) refers to the low, rolling hills (Shephelah) along the Palestinian coast. In this text it refers to the northern region of this topography (i.e., north of Mt. Carmel).

NASB“the heights of Dor” NRSV“in Naphoth-dor” TEV“the coast near Dor” NJB“on the slopes of Dor” JPSOA“in the district of Dor”

This refers to the coastal mountain ridge of which Mt. Carmel is the last rise before the Great or Upper Sea (Mediterranean). The MT has “Naphoth-dor” (CONSTRUCT of BDB 632 and 190). The first term is uncertain.

Joshua 11:3 Several Canaanite tribes are listed.

1. Canaanite

2. Amorite

3. Hittite

4. Perizzite

5. Hivite


“Mizpeh” This place name means “watch tower” (BDB 859). This was a very common name and its location is uncertain, possibly related to Joshua 11:8.

Joshua 11:4 “as the sand that is on the sea shore” This is a Semitic idiom for a large military force (cf. Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:5; 2 Samuel 17:11). It was used in Genesis (cf. Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12) to describe God's promises of many descendants to the Patriarchs.

“with very many horses and chariots” This was the author's way of describing the superior military forces of Canaan's coastal region. See Special Topic below.


Verses 6-9

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 11:6-9 6Then the LORD said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow at this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel; you shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.” 7So Joshua and all the people of war with him came upon them suddenly by the waters of Merom, and attacked them. 8The LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, so that they defeated them, and pursued them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim and the valley of Mizpeh to the east; and they struck them until no survivor was left to them. 9Joshua did to them as the LORD had told him; he hamstrung their horses and burned their chariots with fire.

Joshua 11:6 Again YHWH (emphatic personal PRONOUN) encourages Joshua (cf. Joshua 1:5, Joshua 1:9; Joshua 10:8) in the face of the overwhelming military superiority of the Canaanite chariot force. This is YHWH's battle and victory, not Israel's (cf. Judges 7:2; 1 Samuel 17:45, 1 Samuel 17:47; 2 Chronicles 32:8; Psalms 20:7; Psalms 33:16-17; Psalms 44:2-3, Psalms 44:5-7; Zechariah 4:6).

“hamstring” This (BDB 785, KB 874, Piel IMPERFECT, cf. Joshua 11:9; 2 Samuel 8:4; 1 Chronicles 18:4) involved cutting the tendons of the back legs so that the horses could not pull chariots. Joshua was not to rely on their captured weaponry (“burn the chariots with fire,” BDB 976, KB 1358, Qal IMPERFECT, cf. Joshua 11:9), but on YHWH (cf. Joshua 11:8).

Chariots were the ultimate military weapon of this period and area. Their origin and exact design are uncertain (Hyksos or Hittites). The different chariots could hold

1. the driver and a soldier

2. the driver and two soldiers

They were usually pulled by two horses. The term “iron” could refer to:

1. the sides being reinforced

2. the wheels, rims, or axles

They were effective only on relatively flat ground.

Joshua 11:8 “as far as Great Sidon” This shows the ancientness of this account. Sidon was the contemporary capital of Phoenicia, but later it was Tyre.

NASB, NRSV“Misrephoth-maim” NKJV“to the Brook Misrephoth” TEV“Misrephoth Maim” NJB“Misrephoth to the west”

The Jewish Publication Society of America's (JPSOA) translation supports the NJB's translation in a footnote. See note at Joshua 13:6.

Joshua 11:9 Why did Israel destroy these captured weapons of war? Chariots were the ultimate military weapon of that day. The theories are: (1) they were to trust in YHWH, not weaponry or (2) the chariots were only usable on the coastal plains (or other flat areas). Number 1 fits the context of Joshua best.

Verses 10-15

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 11:10-15 10Then Joshua turned back at that time, and captured Hazor and struck its king with the sword; for Hazor formerly was the head of all these kingdoms. 11They struck every person who was in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed. And he burned Hazor with fire. 12Joshua captured all the cities of these kings, and all their kings, and he struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed them; just as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded. 13However, Israel did not burn any cities that stood on their mounds, except Hazor alone, which Joshua burned. 14All the spoil of these cities and the cattle, the sons of Israel took as their plunder; but they struck every man with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them. They left no one who breathed. 15Just as the LORD had commanded Moses his servant, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the LORD had commanded Moses.

Joshua 11:11 Notice the intensity of the holy war judgment on Hazor:

1. “they struck every person,” BDB 645, KB 697, Hiphil IMPERFECT

2. “utterly destroying them,” BDB 355, KB 353, Hiphil INFINITIVE ABSOLUTE

3. “there was no one left who breathed,” BDB 451, KB 451 Niphal PERFECT

4. “he burned Hazor with fire,” BDB 976, KB 1358, Qal PERFECT

See Deuteronomy 20:16 and Exodus 23:23b.

Joshua 11:12 “Moses the servant of the LORD” This honorific title for Moses is found often in Joshua (cf. Joshua 1:7, Joshua 1:13, Joshua 1:15; Joshua 8:31, Joshua 8:33; Joshua 9:24; Joshua 11:12, Joshua 11:15; Joshua 12:6; Joshua 13:8; Joshua 18:7; Joshua 22:2, Joshua 22:4, Joshua 22:5). Moses is first called by this title in Exodus 14:31 and Numbers 12:7. It is reaffirmed in Deuteronomy 34:5 just before his death, so too, Joshua received this title close to his death in Joshua 24:17 (also in Judges 2:8).

Joshua, like Moses, represents YHWH before the people of Israel. They act on instructions from Him (cf. Joshua 11:20).

Joshua 11:13-14 Some of the cities became property of the different Israeli tribes (Joshua 11:13), while the booty or spoils (Joshua 11:14) from those cities became the property of the Israeli soldiers involved in the battle. Verse Joshua 11:13 is an eyewitness, historical detail.

mounds” This is the Hebrew term “tel” or ruin (BDB 1068). Each successive rebuilding used the same site; thus, a mound was formed or at least heightened.

Joshua 11:15 This refers to the destruction of the Canaanite population and livestock which were under the herem (BDB 355, cf. Joshua 11:20). Notice the threefold use of “command” (BDB 845, KB 1010, Piel PERFECT) in Joshua 11:15. Joshua was under strict orders from YHWH through Moses (cf. Joshua 11:20).

Verses 16-20

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 11:16-20 16Thus Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negev, all that land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel and its lowland 17from Mount Halak, that rises toward Seir, even as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon at the foot of Mount Hermon. And he captured all their kings and struck them down and put them to death. 18Joshua waged war a long time with all these kings. 19There was not a city which made peace with the sons of Israel except the Hivites living in Gibeon; they took them all in battle. 20For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, to meet Israel in battle in order that he might utterly destroy them, that they might receive no mercy, but that he might destroy them, just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Joshua 11:16 This is a summary of the different topological divisions of Canaan from the south to the north. In reality all of chapter 12 is also a summary of Joshua's victories.

“Negev” This is the dry semi-desert region in southern Canaan. It was uninhabited except for shepherds and flocks.

“land of Goshen” This refers to an area in the hill country of Judah (cf. Joshua 10:41; Joshua 11:16; Joshua 15:51).

Joshua 11:17 “Mount Halah” This (BDB 325) is a mountain or mountain range in the central Negev. It seems to be between the wilderness of Zin and Seir. It was part of the boundary between Judah's allotment and the nation of Edom (cf. Joshua 15:1).

“Baal-gad” Baal was the male fertility god of Canaan. Every town had its own worship altar. Many of the towns of Canaan had the male god Ba'al or the female Asherah or Ashtarte in their names (cf. Joshua 12:4).

The term “gad” (BDB 151) apparently meant “good fortune” (cf. Genesis 30:11, BDB 151 II) and was used of a Canaanite deity (cf. Isaiah 65:11).

Joshua 11:18 This shows how the account given in the Bible is telescoped! Verse Joshua 11:17 reveals the northern limits of Joshua's conquest. More was given by YHWH, but not taken by Israel.

Joshua 11:20 “for it was of the LORD to harden their hearts” This is a biblical metaphor of God's control over human events to accomplish His purpose. This has nothing to do with the issue of “free will.” The thrust of this context is YHWH's control of history and events (particularly redemptive events, cf. Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18; Acts 4:28). This is similar to God's actions with Pharaoh (cf. Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:3, Exodus 7:13; Exodus 8:15, Exodus 8:32; Exodus 9:12, Exodus 9:34; Exodus 10:20, Exodus 10:27; Exodus 14:4, Exodus 14:17). See Special Topic: God Hardened.

Verse Joshua 11:20 has a series of INFINITIVE CONSTRUCTS showing YHWH's purposeful actions.

1. “to harden their hearts,” BDB 304, KB 302, Piel INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

2. “to meet Israel in battle,” BDB 896, KB 1131, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

3. “in order that he might utterly destroy them,” BDB 355, KB 353, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT (the pronoun could refer to YHWH or to Israel/Joshua, but because of the end of Joshua 11:20, probably Joshua)

4. “they might receive no mercy,” BDB 224, KB 243, Qal INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

5. “that he might destroy them,” BDB 1029, KB 1552, Hiphil INFINITIVE CONSTRUCT

All of these are related to YHWH's prophecy to Abraham in Genesis 15:12-21.

Verses 21-23

NASB (UPDATED TEXT): Joshua 11:21-23 21Then Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab and from all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel. Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities. 22There were no Anakim left in the land of the sons of Israel; only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod some remained. 23So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.

Joshua 11:21 “the Anakim” This was a very tall tribe which inhabited Hebron (Arba, cf. Joshua 15:13 or Kiriath-arba). There seem to be three names used in the OT to describe these very tall people: (1) Nephilim (BDB 658, cf. Genesis 6:4); (2) Rephaim (BDB 952, cf. Genesis 14:5; Genesis 15:20; Joshua 12:4; Joshua 13:12); and (3) Anakim (BDB 778, cf. Numbers 13:22, Numbers 13:28; Deuteronomy 1:28; Deuteronomy 9:2; Judges 1:20). Anak means “long necked” (BDB 778).

Goliath and his brothers were probably related (cf. Joshua 11:22). See Special Topic: Terms Used for Tall/Powerful Warriors or People Groups (Giants).

Joshua 11:23 “So Joshua took the whole land” The book of Judges seems to tell a different story. There were two parts to an effective conquest of Canaan.

1. Joshua defeated the main military forces of the Canaanites and captured or destroyed the major walled cities.

2. Each individual tribe had to possess its allotted land by faith.

The later problems developed because (1) Israel did not kill all of the Canaanites and they reasserted themselves and recaptured some of their old fortresses or (2) the individual tribes never fully finished the task of conquest. There are hints of this failure in Joshua 13:0 and Judges 1:0.

“the land had rest from war” This VERB (BDB 1052, KB 1641, Qal PERFECT) describes the results of Joshua's conquest here and in Joshua 14:15. It also describes the temporary peace brought by the different judges (cf. Judges 3:11, Judges 3:30; Judges 5:31; Judges 8:28). It is not used in Deuteronomy. YHWH desired His covenant people (after the conquest and occupation of Canaan) to be in a restful, happy, fulfilled, covenant state of obedience and abundant peace (cf. Deuteronomy 27-28; 1 Chronicles 22:9-10; Isaiah 32:17).

Joshua 11:23 The tribes were initially about the same size. Notice the warriors (aged 20-50) from each tribe (the term “1,000” could mean military unit; see Special Topic: Thousand [eleph]) listed in Numbers 1:0.

1. Reuben - 46,500, Numbers 1:21

2. Simeon - 59,300, Numbers 1:23

3. Gad - 45,650, Numbers 1:25

4. Judah - 74,600, Numbers 1:27

5. Issachar - 54,400, Numbers 1:29

6. Zebulun - 57,400, Numbers 1:31

7. Ephraim - 40,500, Numbers 1:33

8. Manasseh - 32,200, Numbers 1:35

9. Benjamin - 35,400, Numbers 1:37

10. Dan - 62,700, Numbers 1:39

The divisions of the land (amount given) do not reflect these numbers. Judah and Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) are given the largest allotments. Apparently by Joshua's time these numbers had changed or this is another rationale to the allotment procedures.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. List the topological divisions of the Promised Land.

2. Why did the Israelis destroy the Canaanite weaponry (i.e., chariots)?

3. Why was Hazor so important?

4. Explain verse Joshua 11:20 as it relates to human responsibility.

5. Who are the Anakim?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Joshua 11". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/joshua-11.html. 2021.
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