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Bible Commentaries
Joshua 11

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary

Verse 1

1. Jabin (signifying he shall know, or he is wise) was probably the royal title of the kings of Hazor.

Hazor was a Phenician fortified city in the north of Palestine. It was the principal city of the whole of the North, “the head of all those kingdoms.” Joshua 11:10. [After its destruction by Joshua it was rebuilt and occupied by another Jabin, who attained vast power, and for twenty years greatly oppressed Israel, (Judges 4:2-3,) but was in turn defeated by Barak. It was subsequently fortified by Solomon, (1 Kings 9:15,) but was afterward captured by Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria. 2 Kings 15:29. Travellers are not agreed as to its site. Dr. Thomson thinks it is at the modern Hazere, about twelve miles west of the Lake Merom. Stanley locates it on an eminence just above Cesarea Philippi; Robinson at Tell Khureibeh, a rocky peak three miles west of Lake Merom; and Porter inclines to locate it a few miles south of this, on a bank of the Wady Hendaj.]

Madon was a leading city in the same vicinity, but its locality is now unknown.

Shimron, called also Shimron-Merom, (Joshua 12:20,) was the chief place in a small district afterward belonging to Zebulun, eleven miles northeast of Nazareth. Schwarz thinks that it is the same as the modern Semuniyeh, a few miles west of Nazareth.

Achshaph was in the territory of Asher. Joshua 19:25. Robinson identifies it with the ruined town now called Kasaf, ten or twelve miles northwest of Lake Merom.

Verses 1-15


[“The battle of Beth-boron is represented as the most important battle of the Conquest, because, being the first, it struck the decisive blow. But in all such struggles there is usually one last effort made for the defeated cause. This, in the subjugation of Canaan, was the battle of Merom. Round Jabin were assembled the heads of all the tribes who had not yet fallen under Joshua’s sword. As the British chiefs were driven to the Land’s End before the advance of the Saxon, so at this Land’s End of Palestine were gathered for the last struggle, not only the kings of the north, in the immediate neighbourhood, but from the desert valley of the Jordan south of the Sea of Galilee, from the maritime plain of Philistia, from the heights above Sharon, and from the still unconquered Jebus, to the Hivite who dwelt in the valley of Baal-gad under Hermon.” Stanley. ]

Verse 2

2. Kings that were on the north of the mountains Heb, on the north in the mountain. Mount Hermon and its northern extension, called Anti-Libanus, are perhaps here meant. Chinneroth was a small enclosed district north of Tiberias, and by the side of the lake to which it subsequently gave the name Genesareth. See at Numbers 34:11; notes on Matthew 4:13.

The valley The plain by the Mediterranean, the shephelah. See the note on Joshua 10:40.

Borders of Dor The word for borders is used in the Hebrew only in connexion with Dor, and it designates the plain of Sharon at the foot of Carmel. Dor, now Tantura, was probably the southern limit of Phenicia. Of its site there is no doubt. “Its situation, with its little harbour enclosed within the wild rocks rising over the shell-strewn beach, and covered by the fragments of the later city of Tantura, is still a striking feature on the desolate shore.” Stanley.

Verse 3

3. Amorite See the note on Joshua 2:10. All the tribes here named were greatly intermingled. They seem to have had no fixed boundaries. The nations of the South, over whom the five kings ruled, are called Amorites. Joshua 10:5. The Jebusites long held fast this stronghold in the mountains of Central Palestine, and from it, perhaps, went forth often to trouble Israel.

Hittite Joshua 1:4, note. For the other tribes see notes and references at Joshua 3:10.

Under Hermon This mountain, “almost the only one which deserves the name in Palestine,” is the southern extremity of the eastern range of Lebanon, called Anti-Libanus, and it is the highest point of the whole range. “From the moment that the traveller reaches the plain of Shechem in the interior, nay, even from the depths of the Jordan valley by the Dead Sea, the snowy heights of Hermon are visible. The ancient names of its double range are all significant of this position. It was ‘Sion,’ ‘the upraised;’ or ‘Hermon,’ ‘the lofty peak;’ or ‘Shenir’ and ‘Sirion,’ the glittering ‘breastplate’ of ice; or, above all, ‘Lebanon,’ the ‘Mont Blanc’ of Palestine, the White Mountain of ancient times; the Mountain of the ‘Old White-headed Man,’ or the ‘ Mountain of Ice’ in modern times.” Stanley. Hermon was probably the scene of our Lord’s transfiguration. See notes on Matthew 17:1.

Mizpeh This appellative is commonly preceded by the article, the watch-tower. It was a name given to several localities. The land of Mizpeh is probably the same as the valley of Mizpeh, Joshua 11:8, and may be understood either of the tract of Coele (Hollow) Syria, over which Hermon rises like a watch-tower, or of the plains that stretch off east of Hermon towards Damascus.

Verse 4

4. Even as the sand that is upon the sea shore This exaggerated comparison is in perfect keeping with the style of the Oriental writers. It is to be interpreted rhetorically, and not literally. It is to be expected that an inspired writer will employ the style of his country and age. Josephus reckons this army at three hundred thousand foot, ten thousand horse, and twenty thousand chariots. Anciently chariots supplied the place of artillery in modern times, so that among the Egyptians and Syrians the number of these indicated their military power. The Hebrews, having been forbidden to multiply horses, did not to any great extent provide themselves with chariots of war till the reign of David. By reason of this lack of chariots in Joshua’s army the odds were heavily against him, so that there was occasion for the encouragement which the Lord gives in Joshua 11:6.

Verse 5

5. Waters of Merom This first lake through which the Jordan flows was the Samochonitis of Josephus. Its modern name is Huleh. Its name Merom occurs nowhere else in the Bible. It is of a triangular shape, and measures about six miles in each direction. It is surrounded by a marshy basin, which is sufficiently elevated on the southwestern margin to afford an encampment and battle-field. It was the use of “horses and chariots very many” which probably fixed the scene of the encampment on the uplands near by the plain of the lake, along whose level shores they could have full play for their force. See Joshua 11:7, note.

Verse 6

6. Be not afraid The vast multitude of enemies provided with war chariots, instruments which Joshua had probably never before encountered in battle, would naturally awaken fear in the Hebrew army and its great leader. To allay this the Lord, whose opportunity is man’s extremity, interposes words of cheer and a promise of victory. It is not said that Joshua asked for this, but it was doubtless given in answer to prayer.

Tomorrow about this time Only the God of battles can foretell the very day and hour of his people’s triumph.

Thou shalt hough their horses They were to disable their horses by cutting the sinews of their legs. For this barbarous treatment of the horse we have in modern English the verb to hamstring. As the multiplication of horses was forbidden by God, (Deuteronomy 17:16,) they would have been a useless booty.

Burn their chariots For they also would have been only a cumbrance to the Hebrews.

Verse 7

7. Suddenly Joshua’s victories were achieved by bold and unexpected strokes, appalling and disorganizing the foe by the suddenness of his assault. The Septuagint reads that he fell upon them on the “mountain slopes,” or in the hilly region, before they could deploy upon the plain by the lake and use their war chariots to any good purpose. These would only serve to obstruct their movements and impede their flight when attacked among the hills.

Verse 8

8. The Lord delivered them Jehovah is ever recognized as the arbiter of battles:

Chased them W.M. Thomson, who has repeatedly traversed this region, and who has acquired a greater familiarity with it than has any other traveller, thus describes this flight and pursuit: “Those whose homes lay beyond the mountains to the north and east sought them by the great wady of the Upper Jordan, now Wady-et-Teim, or out east of Hermon, in Hauran the land of Mizpeh. Those from the seacoast of Acre and Carmel fled over these hills and down southwest by Hazor to Misrephoth-maim, (now called Mushei-rifeh,) on the north border of the plain of Acre. Thence they dispersed along the seaboard to their homes, as far south as Dor. Joshua himself chased a third division along the base of the mountain northward, past Abel-Beth-maachah, through the plain of Ijon, down the tremendous gorge of the Litany, (ancient Leontes,) to the ford at Tamrah, or the bridge at the Khutweh, and thence over the wooded spurs of Jebel Rihan towards great Zidon, behind whose lofty walls the flying host could alone find safety.”

Great Zidon This city, one of the most ancient of the world, is situated in Phenicia, on the coast of the Mediterranean. It was formerly surrounded by towering walls, and covered a vast area. Its harbour was crowded with ships from every coast, and its magazines enriched by the treasures and luxuries of the distant East, brought to them by caravans. It had a stupendous colonial system. On its coast was built Berytus, (the modern Beyroot,) Gebel, Arvad, Dor, Accho, and many more, besides Tyre, a daughter which subsequently eclipsed the mother in power and wealth. Zidon planted colonies in Cyprus, the Grecian Isles, Libya, and in Spain. It afterward declined, but never became extinct like Tyre, and now numbers about ten thousand population.

Misrephoth-maim The Hebrew literally signifies the burnings of waters. Dr. Thomson identifies it with the modern Musheirifeh, on the coast, midway between Tyre and Mount Carmel. It is remarkable for its noble fountains. The ancient and modern names are nearly identical in form and in signification, and both were suggested by the bright and glowing colour of those magnificent cliffs which overhang the sea. The route from Merom to Dor must have been through this place. Here is a difficult pass commanded by a castle, an ancient structure corresponding to which might have afforded safety to the fugitives.

Valley of Mizpeh See note on Joshua 11:3.

Eastward That is, eastward from the scene of battle. The panic-stricken host fled northward to Zidon, westward to Misrephoth-maim, and eastward to the valley of Mizpeh.

Verse 10

10. At that time After he had utterly routed and pursued the enemy even to distant cities and villages, and had destroyed their horses and chariots. The pursuit may have lasted several days.

Turned back From pursuing the foe.

Smote the king Jabin, as soon as defeated, seems to have taken refuge in his capital. Joshua did not stop to take Hazor until after he had utterly dispersed the confederate army.

Verse 11

11. Smote all the souls For a justification of this severity see on Joshua 6:21.

Verse 13

13. The cities that stood still in their strength, that is, on mounds or eminences, (Hebrews על תלם , on their hill,) were retained, since they could be easily defended, while the cities on the plains were razed. But Hazor, the head of the confederacy, though in a strong position, must fall, as a penalty for the past and a security for the future.

Verse 14

14. All the spoil of these cities… Israel took Save “the graven images of their gods.” Deuteronomy 7:25.

Verse 15

15. He left nothing undone Joshua here evinces two cardinal virtues: (1) diligent study of the recorded precepts; (2) perfect obedience. Here is the model of all righteous living the intellect exercised in discovering God’s will, and the heart so imbued with love as to sway the will to execute every dictate of the conscience.

Verse 16

16. Took all that land The whole land of Canaan.

Hills… south country… Goshen… valley Comp. Joshua 10:40-41, notes.

The plain The Arabah, the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea.

The mountain of Israel The northern part of the great mountain range which runs through Palestine from north to south. Compare note on Joshua 9:1. In Joshua 11:21 this phrase is used in contrast with mountains of Judah, the southern part of the same range.

Valley of the same That is, valley of Israel, not merely the plain of Philistia, but that of Jezreel also.

Verses 16-23


The historian, having finished the account of Joshua’s Northern Campaign, here adds, as if concluding his record of the conquest, a general summary of all his work.

Verse 17

17. From the Mount Halak The bald mount was south of the land of Canaan, toward Seir or Edom. “It is probably a row of white cliffs, sixty to eighty feet high, which cuts the Arabah obliquely at about eight English miles to the south of the Dead Sea, and divides the great valley into two parts.” Keil. Baal-gad, fortune-bringing Baal, was evidently a well-known landmark in the time of Joshua, and designates the northern limit of his conquest, but its site has not been certainly identified. Some are disposed to identify it with Baalbek in Coele-Syria; others with Banias, near Cesarea Philippi.

Verse 18

18. Joshua made war a long time The only note of time in this book is the age of Caleb, forty when a spy to search out the land, (Joshua 14:7,) and eighty-five at the end of the war. Subtract thirty-nine years in the wilderness after the sending of the spies Calmet says thirty-eight and we have six or seven years for the length of the conquest, the first of which was spent in the subjugation of the South. One reason for the length of the war was “lest the beasts of the field increase upon thee.”

Deuteronomy 7:22. Another may have been the purpose of God to test their faith in his promises, to bind them together by the endurance of common hardships, and to awaken a strong love for the country purchased at such a cost.

Verse 20

20. It was of the Lord to harden their hearts It is a Hebraism to ascribe to direct divine agency the results of human perverseness, as in the case of Pharaoh. These nations had filled the cup of their iniquity, (Genesis 15:16,) and their idolatry and crimes demanded punishment. God therefore leaves them to judicial blindness and infatuation, and uses Israel as the rod of his anger to destroy them utterly. So their hardened hearts and consequent destruction were but the certain outcome, according to Divine arrangement, of their own, as of every sinner’s, free and wilful sinning. But we are not to understand, with Calvin, a miraculous operation of God, urging them on to blind fury. Their own self-induced perversity was a sufficient power for this.

Verse 21

21. At that time During the war, the long time mentioned in Joshua 11:18. The Anakim were a race of giants in Southern Palestine. Some escaped to the Philistines and became the progenitors of Goliath. See references in margin, especially Numbers 13:22; Numbers 13:33. On Hebron and Debir see notes on Joshua 10:3; Joshua 10:38. Anab is probably identical with the place of this name which Dr. Robinson discovered about ten miles south of Hebron. But this could hardly be said to be in the mountains of Judah, where Joshua 15:48; Joshua 15:50, also locates it.

[ Mountains of Judah and… Israel The words Judah and Israel in this passage do not, as some critics have assumed, betray the hand of a writer who lived after the nation was divided into two rival kingdoms bearing these names. The use of these expressions may easily have grown out of facts existing in Joshua’s time. The tribe of Judah first received its allotment, comprising nearly all Palestine south of Jerusalem, and some time elapsed before the rest of Israel especially seven of the tribes (Joshua 18:2) received their allotments. It was therefore perfectly natural at that early time to apply the names here used respectively to the southern and northern parts of the great mountain range of Palestine. The central part of this range, where the sons of Joseph early received their portion, (chaps. 16, 17,) was sometimes called Mount Ephraim. Joshua 17:15.]

Verse 22

22. Gath The city of the giant Goliath had been searched for in vain, till J.L. Porter in 1857 fixed upon the conspicuous hill now called Tell-es-safieh, at the side of the plain of Philistia, at the foot of the mountains of Judah, ten miles east of Ashdod and south by east of Ekron.

Hither the ark was carried during its captivity, (1 Samuel 5:8,) and hither David twice fled for refuge while persecuted by Saul. 1Sa 21:10 ; 1 Samuel 27:2.

Ashdod is the modern Esdud, on a small round hill thickly covered with trees, between Jamnia and Gaza, ten miles south of the former. This, like the two other cities here named, belonged to the Philistines, and was the chief seat of the worship of Dagon. See 1 Samuel 5:1-7, and note on Acts 8:40.

Verse 23

[ 23. Joshua took the whole land This verse and Joshua 21:43-45, seem at first sight not to agree with Joshua 13:1, and Joshua 18:3, and there have not been wanting critics to urge that these passages are irreconcilably discrepant. But the discrepancy is only apparent. The key to a proper interpretation is furnished in Joshua 23:1-5, where in one and the same passage it is assumed that all the Canaanitish enemies are subdued, and yet some nations are to be expelled and their land possessed by Israel. Plainly the author never meant to say that every Canaanite and every city and hamlet in all Palestine was destroyed by the sword of Joshua. The land was thoroughly subdued, and the Canaanitish power and dominion were utterly broken; but the Lord had expressly declared that he would not utterly expel the Canaanites at once, but gradually, lest the beasts of the field multiply against them. The possession by the enemy of a number of isolated cities and districts was not therefore inconsistent with the broad statement of this passage. Compare also notes on Joshua 21:43-45.

The land rested from war A concluding statement of the historical portion of the book, repeated at Joshua 14:15, and used for the same purpose as here, namely, to form a transition from the history of the wars of the conquest to the more peaceful work of distributing the subjugated land among the several tribes.]

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Joshua 11". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/joshua-11.html. 1874-1909.
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