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Bible Commentaries

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible
Joshua 10

 

 

Introduction

Commentary on Joshua Chapters 9-12. Defeat of the Southern And Northern Confederacies. Israel are Established in the Land.

Having won their initial battles Israel were now free to settle in the central hill country while maintaining Gilgal in the Jordan Rift Valley as their fighting base. The central hill country was relatively sparsely populated because of its lack of water, and the Israelites would have made plentiful use of cisterns for storing rain water. They had learned through their wilderness experiences how to preserve water. It was also heavily forested, as indeed were large parts of Canaan, which gave them further protection. Indeed when some complained to Joshua of having no land his reply was that they could clear land for themselves, advice which they then successfully followed. Meanwhile Canaan was populated mainly by peoples who lived in a multitude of small independent city states which were surrounded by such forests. But these city states had become alarmed at this large group of migrant people who had come among them and had to decide what to do about them, and that in most cases resulted in their seeking to prevent Israelite occupation, although at least one important city decided to obtain a treaty with Israel by subterfuge..

This section commences then with the mistaken treaty made with the powerful city of Gibeon as a result of the deceitful and false approach of their leaders, who pretended not to be Canaanites. This is then followed by Joshua’s defeat of a confederacy of five major Canaanite kings who came from the southern hill country and the lowlands, and this was accompanied by the smiting of a number of their cities, (although not Jerusalem itself in spite of his defeat of its king), with many of their inhabitants fleeing into the widespread forests. He was probably not, however, able to leave men in these cities to take possession of them and occupy them because he did not have enough men for the purpose, thus many of them would be repossessed by returning ‘refugees’ and would later have to be retaken. His initial intention was rather to draw the teeth of all opposition and stop their constant incursions against his people so that Israel could settle in the land. Then he returned with his forces to Gilgal.

Meanwhile the Canaanite kings of northern Palestine had heard of what had happened in the south and had raised up a further confederacy under the King of Hazor, a powerful city state. But they also fell before Joshua, with the large city of Hazor being taken and put to the sword, although once again it had to be left so that it could be repossessed. Joshua then proceeded with a slow aggressive warfare against many other kings of other cities who raised armies against him. It was not an easy task, nor one that could be accomplished quickly. ‘Joshua made war a long time with all those kings’ (Joshua 11:18). But he defeated them all with the result that in the end they ceased to oppose Israel and accepted their presence in the land, and ‘the land had rest from war’ (Joshua 11:23). This was not, however, to suggest that Israel now possessed the land. While the Canaanites were bruised and battered they still returned and repossessed many of their broken down cities and continued life as before, although in a much weaker state, having learned to leave Israel alone. Meanwhile Israel were initially permanently settling the relatively sparsely inhabited hill country by using lime plaster cisterns, with Ephraim and Manasseh settling the hill country in the middle of the land, and Judah commencing the clearing of the more populated hills in the south. This was preparatory to the tribes moving out to take possession of other parts of the land. Joshua 12 sums up Joshua’s successes up to that point. It will be noted that Joshua’s success is rated in terms of kings defeated, not in terms of cities permanently possessed. That would take longer once the land had been divided up among the tribes, and each had taken responsibility for a section (see Judges chapter 1 in respect of this). But at least his victories enabled Israelites to get a foothold in many parts of the land, often initially by clearing forest land, without their needing to fear constant attacks from belligerent enemies. The Canaanites learned to treat Israelites with respect, lest Joshua took note of their lack of such respect.

Chapter 10. Defeat of the Canaanite Confederacy - The Invasion of the South.

In this chapter we read of an alliance of five Canaanite kings against the Gibeonites, who then appeal to Joshua for assistance, in virtue of their treaty rights, something which has to Joshua grant. This is followed by the slaughter of the Canaanite armies by the forces of Israel, chiefly as a result of hailstones from heaven, and of the standing still or ‘silence’ of the sun and of the moon while vengeance was being taken on them. The five kings then hide in a cave, and we learn of what was done to them when they were taken. This is followed by the taking of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir, which indicated the initial conquest of the southern part of the hill country and lowlands.


Verse 1

Chapter 10. Defeat of the Canaanite Confederacy - The Invasion of the South.

In this chapter we read of an alliance of five Canaanite kings against the Gibeonites, who then appeal to Joshua for assistance, in virtue of their treaty rights, something which has to Joshua grant. This is followed by the slaughter of the Canaanite armies by the forces of Israel, chiefly as a result of hailstones from heaven, and of the standing still or ‘silence’ of the sun and of the moon while vengeance was being taken on them. The five kings then hide in a cave, and we learn of what was done to them when they were taken. This is followed by the taking of Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, and Debir, which indicated the initial conquest of the southern part of the hill country and lowlands.

Joshua 10:1

Now it happened that, when Adoni-zedek king of Jerusalem, heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it, for as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them.’

News soon reached surrounding city states about what had happened. One of these was Jerusalem, whose king was made aware of the full situation. Israel had captured both Jericho and Ai and had totally destroyed them and annihilated their inhabitants, and had now entered into a treaty-covenant with the Gibeonite confederacy. There is total silence about the treaty-covenant with Shechem. That is because the writer was concentrating on conveying the picture of the capture of the land by Joshua, and did not want the picture to be affected by such an idea. He was writing a record of the triumph of YHWH, not the history of the conquest. The Gibeonite treaty was a different matter as it was obtained by subterfuge and resulted in the total submission of Gibeon to slavery. However, the total picture is clear. The way into Canaan over the Jordan and the central hill country was now mainly in the hands of the Israelites, while the way had been laid open for the settling of the southern hill country and lowlands..

“Adoni-zedek”. The name means ‘my lord is righteous’ or ‘Zedek is my lord’. We can compare the former king of Jerusalem ‘Melchizedek - my king is righteous’ or ‘Zedek is my king’. There is not sufficient evidence for a god Zedek in Canaan so that the other meanings may well be the right ones. At the time of the Amarna letters the king of Jerusalem was Abdi-heba. The letters also referred to Uru-salim as the name of the city.


Verse 2

That they were deeply afraid, for Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai and all its men were mighty men.’

The shock of the capitulation of Gibeon was greater than that of the defeat of Jericho and Ai. The latter were only relatively small, but Gibeon and her confederacy were seen as powerful and militarily effective. Yet they had surrendered without a fight. It provided even greater reason to fear Israel. ‘A great city’, that is one with other cities under it and in confederacy with it. ‘As one of the royal cities’ may refer to the fact that Gibeon, which was ruled by its elders, was as great as the royal cities which had kings. Indeed there was a feeling that Gibeon had betrayed them by joining with Israel.

“They were deeply afraid.” ‘They’, that is Adoni-zedek and his advisers. Terror struck them for they recognised the fate that awaited them and the calibre of the forces they faced.

“All its men were mighty men.” Its army had a reputation for being good fighters. Gibeon is often depicted as cowardly, but some might feel that they were wise. They were right in the path of the victorious Israelite army.


Verse 3

For that reason Adonizedek, king of Jerusalem, sent to Hoham king of Hebron, and to Piram king of Jarmuth, and to Japhia king of Lachish, and to Debir king of Eglon, saying.’

In view of the disturbing situation and the capitulation of Gibeon, the king of Jerusalem connected possible allies in the southern hill country and the Shephelah (the lowlands or lower slopes). We know from the Amarna letters that Jerusalem headed a small confederacy, and with Shechem was one of the two most powerful forces in the hill country. In the time of Abraham its king had been an influential figure to whom Abraham had paid tribute (Genesis 14), because he was allowed to graze his lands.

Hebron (el-Halil) was about thirty two kilometres (twenty miles) south of Jerusalem, Yarmuth (Khirbet Yarmuk) twenty five kilometres (sixteen miles) west south west, Lachish about forty kilometres (twenty five miles) south west and Eglon (el-Hesi) thirteen kilometres (eight miles) beyond Lachish. Hebron and Lachish were major cities. Lachish is a thirty one acre tell but was unfortified at this time, although the houses on the edge possibly formed a defensive ring.


Verse 4

Come up to me, and help me, and let us smite Gibeon, for it has made peace with Joshua, and with the children of Israel.”

The first plan was to smite Gibeon. In their view what Gibeon had done had been an act of treachery against them, and their aim was to weaken the new alliance (as they saw it. They would not know the full story) and would be a warning to other cities not to ally themselves with Israel.


Verse 5

Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Yarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped against Gibeon, and made war against it.’

The five kings of the five city states gathered their combined forces for the purpose either of bringing Gibeon back into the Canaanite fold, or of punishing them severely for their treachery against their neighbours. It was an alliance forced on them by circumstances, each recognising that it was not powerful enough to face up to Gibeon and Israel on its own.

“Five kings of the Amorites.” The term ‘Amorites’ was often used as a general name for the dwellers in the hill country (and sometimes for all of Canaan), although Jerusalem was in fact inhabited by Jebusites. These kings went with their fighting men and besieged Gibeon.


Verse 6

And the men of Gibeon sent to Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, “Slack not your hands from your servants. Come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us, for all the kings of the Amorites who dwell in the hill country are gathered together against us.” ’

Seeing the forces ranged against them the Gibeonites took advantage of their treaty-covenant with Israel and sent to Joshua for assistance. By that time Joshua and his forces were back at Gilgal, but no doubt an Israelite contingent had remained in Gibeon so as to keep an eye on Israelite interests. The Gibeonites pleaded for rapid action in view of the size of the forces against them. The strength of Gibeon comes out in that it was able to hold out long enough for help to come.

“The Amorites who dwell in the hill country.” Strictly speaking only two of these cities, Jerusalem and Hebron, were in the hill country, the remainder being in the lower hills, the Shephelah. But this was a general description. ‘Those who were in the hills’.


Verse 7

So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour.’

Joshua’s response was immediate. He gathered the Israelite forces together, ascended into the hill country, and made for Gibeon. He would leave enough men of war to guard the camp, especially possibly some of the older men who would find the climb and rapid movement more difficult, but he took his main striking force.


Verse 8

And YHWH said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them for I have delivered them into your hands. There shall not a man of them stand before you.” ’

This time Joshua did not fail to consult YHWH and he received assurance from Him of complete victory with the help of YHWH. YHWH was assuring him that He would be active on his behalf. The whole of the enemy forces would be put to flight.


Verses 9-11

Joshua therefore came on them suddenly, for he went up from Gilgal all night. And YHWH discomfited them before Israel and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them by the way of the ascent of Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and to Makkedah, and so it was that as they fled from before Israel, while they were on the descent from Bethhoron, YHWH cast down great stones from heaven on them, to Azekah, and they died. They were more who died with the hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.’

Joshua made a sudden surprise attack, having travelled by forced marches through the night for the purpose, and would have caught the enemy napping, something which resulted in great slaughter and a precipitate flight They chased them up the ascent of Bethoron, while some of the Canaanite forces fought a rearguard action to allow their comrades to escape. But there was no escape from YHWH, for as their comrades sought to escape down the descent on the other side of Bethhoron, great hailstones fell from heaven and decimated the fleeing forces, so much so that more died by this means than in the actual fighting.

Note the combining of the activity of YHWH with the people of Israel. In one sense it was all the work of YHWH, in another much of it was the activity of Israel. Great hailstones the size to kill a man, especially when they were descending hazardous paths, fell on the retreating troops. Such huge hailstorms have been known in the Mediterranean region where hailstones weighing more than twelve pounds each have been known to fall (compare Revelation 16:21). Defeat in this way was devastating for the Amorites. One of their main gods was Baal, Lord of rain and of storm. Yet here he seemed unable to help them against the might of YHWH.

The site of Azekah is unknown but its signal lights could be seen from Lachish in the days of Sennacherib of Assyria.


Verses 12-14

Joshua 10:12-13 a

‘Then spoke Joshua to YHWH, in the day when YHWH delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel,

“Sun on Gibeon be silent (still),

Moon in the vale of Aijalon

So the sun was silent (still) and the moon stayed,

Until the nation was revenged on its foes.”

Is not this written in the book of Jasher?’

This poem was found in the Book of Jasher (the book of the righteous), mentioned also in 2 Samuel 1:18. The Book of Jasher was clearly a collection of songs, possibly put together over a period of time (compare The Book of the Wars of YHWH - Numbers 21:14). If the reference in Samuel refers to a poem written at that time, it was written at the time of Saul’s death. But some argue that 2 Samuel 1:18 should simply read ‘he instructed them to train the Judeans in bowmanship (‘song of’ is not in the Hebrew), the training-poem for which is written in the Book of Jasher’ and do not refer it to David’s poem at all. As we know that music was regularly used as a part of military training that is possibly the correct translation, and in that case it does not fix a date for the Book of Jasher making its appearance. Alternately this reference to the Book of Jasher here may be an added note by a copyist, the poem itself being contemporary with the event but having found its way into the Book of Jasher.

It is not quite clear from these words what happened or when it happened, and the extreme weather conditions. which must have included thick, dark clouds, must be noted. Does the reference to Gibeon mean that it happened while they were at Gibeon? If so it was while the sun was rising (Joshua 10:9), an idea supported by the fact that the moon was still visible. But why then ask for the sun to stand still at that point? If it was light that was in mind there would be plenty of time still left in the day. It is more probable therefore that he would want it to be ‘silent’, that is, not to rise so as to be able to continue the advantage of the night attack. In that case ‘be silent’ would mean, ‘let it remain dark’. This would tie in with the visibility of the moon over Aijalon and its continuing visibility, the remarkable weather conditions, and the later hailstorm that destroyed the enemy from a black sky. It should be noted that there is no suggestion in the actual historical account of an excessively long day.

Alternately the reference to Gibeon may simply indicate the direction in which the sun was from looking from Joshua’s viewpoint.

For the meaning ‘be silent’, which is the primary meaning of the verb, compare Amos 5:13; Leviticus 10:3; Psalms 4:4 (5); Psalms 31:17; Job 31:34. For the meaning ‘be still’ compare Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 47:6; 1 Samuel 14:9, but note that these latter could equally be rendered by ‘silence’, for they refer to the stillness of silence, to non-activity.

Or was it much later in the day when Joshua wanted more light to continue the battle and the moon had begun again to appear? That is how it is often taken. We must certainly recognise that weather conditions were very strange as is evidenced by the extraordinary hail. They were such as occurred very rarely indeed and must have resulted in freak weather conditions. Did such freak weather conditions result in the sun’s light reflecting even when it had gone down so that ‘the day’ (period of light) lasted longer, or result in the moon being excessively bright, so giving a continuation of a long day (period of light) which they naturally interpreted in terms of the sun? Certainly something unusual happened that was vividly remembered. But it was not such as to destroy the world’s environment. (The question here is not what God could do but what He would and did do).

We are not incidentally to see in it the literal adding of a twenty four hour period. At the most it indicates additional daylight. ‘About a whole day’ would be in terms of the period between sunrise and sunset.

Joshua 10:13-14 (13b-14)

‘And the sun stayed in the midst of heaven and hasted not to go down about a whole day. And there was no day like that before it or after it, that YHWH heard the voice of a man. For YHWH fought for Israel.’

This need not mean that they actually saw the sun stop in the heavens (which was unlikely given the known cloud cover and the hailstorm). Thus it could mean that the sun having begun to appear simply disappeared behind the thick, threatening clouds which resulted, among other things, in the hailstorm, and a big advantage for Israel. As far as they were concerned it would then have ‘stopped’ in the midst of heaven. The word in Hebrew means to stand still, stop still, thus here possibly meaning that they no longer saw its movement. As far as they were concerned it had stopped moving. It no longer produced any effect. And the day had gone very dark. They were describing what they saw. That would mean that that day there was no sun seen hasting to go down. And it was seen as all due to Joshua’s request, God’s response to the latter being seen as a unique event in history.

Many, however, follow the traditional interpretation considering that the period of daylight seemingly lasted ‘almost twice as long as usual’, although we must allow for the possible overstatement of the writer. He had no means of telling the time. It must not be seen as a strict scientific statement, but as the awed statement of a believer. God had given them additional daylight! One question is how would the Israelites know this, having no measure of time if sun and moon were not behaving normally? They certainly had no way of measuring the time accurately. One method may have been based on such things as the number of times cattle and goats had to be milked and fed linked to a general sense of passing time. But this would not be reliable for cattle and goats can be affected by extreme weather conditions, while we have all known days that have seemed interminable. And we must keep in mind that to them ‘a day’ was a period of light, not necessarily a fixed period between sunrise and sunset (which they had no way of measuring). It would not have been a fixed number of hours, because hours had not yet been invented.

In this view then we are looking at what seemed an extra long day, a day in which unusual and remarkable weather conditions applied, which very conditions may have resulted in ‘daylight’ being seen as continuing into the night in some way. But given the unusual weather conditions, the appearance of the moon, and the rare nature of the hailstorm, it seems far more probable that the reference is to a dark day not a light one.

All we can really say with certainty is that there were hugely remarkable events affecting both the weather and the heavens, which were seen as the work of YHWH in direct response to Joshua’s prayer, an event unique in history up to that time. The important thing was that YHWH fought for Israel. It is interesting that the poem concentrates on the activities of sun and moon while the prose account stresses the remarkable hailstorm. The two were clearly connected.


Verse 15

And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp to Gilgal.’

As will be noted from what follows this statement seems to be in an unusual place, for the following verses continue with the pursuit. However it follows the extract from the Book of Jasher and is therefore clearly intended to close off that section, seen as an independent insertion. Joshua 10:16 is then to be seen as following Joshua 10:11. Putting the insertion (Joshua 10:12-15) in this place probably resulted from a desire to connect it with the other unusual weather phenomena. The point here is that for Joshua and Israel the whole venture ended successfully after the miraculous weather conditions, with the return to base camp, but in the context of the whole narrative the timing connects with Joshua 10:43.


Verse 16

But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in the cave at Makkedah.’

Taken by surprise from the beginning, totally routed, their armies decimated both by sword and natural catastrophe, and totally exhausted, the five kings who had led their people into disaster took shelter in a cave in the area around the city of Makkedah. Possibly the point is that Makkedah itself refused to accept them. They were fugitives and could present a problem. Makkedah did not want to incite Joshua into attacking them. (If so it did Makkedah little good. But in such situations any attempt to prevent trouble is better than nothing). The site of Makkedah is unknown.


Verse 17

And it was told Joshua saying, “The five kings are found hidden in the cave at Makkedah.”

Capturing the kings would be looked on by the captors as a real coup. They may even have felt that now the pursuit could be relaxed while they concentrated on entering the caves, dealing with any guards, and apprehending the kings. Messengers were immediately sent to Joshua. But Joshua was a wise general and knew that what was most important was to reduce as much as possible the manpower of the Canaanite cities which had taken part in the attack.


Verse 18-19

And Joshua said, “Roll large stones over the mouth of the cave, and set men by it so as to retain them. But do not yourselves stay, pursue after your enemies and smite those who are at the rear. Do not allow them to enter into their cities. For Yahweh your God has delivered them into your hand.” ’

Joshua’s instructions were that while the kings should be held securely by trapping them in the cave the pursuit must go on. As many as possible of the armies must be killed, for there would then be less of a threat in the future. We are probably to see that the five kings had their bodyguards with them otherwise they could have been retained and bound. So they were not to waste time making the final capture but to concentrate on maximum effectiveness. The trapped kings and their bodyguards could be dealt with later. No doubt some local had been made to reveal whether there was any other way out of the caves.


Verse 20-21

And so it was that when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, until they were consumed, and the remnant who remained of them had entered into the walled (fenced) cities, all the people returned to the camp, to Joshua at Makkedah, in peace. None whetted his tongue against any of the children of Israel.’

At length the slaughter was over. All who had survived had by now reached their walled cities and taken refuge. There was no point in remaining there. So all the forces of Israel returned and gathered at Makkedah where Joshua had arranged to set up camp. They encountered no problems. No one sought to cause them trouble. ‘None whetted his tongue’ means that no one showed any belligerence against them (compare Exodus 11:7).

The various battalions of Israelite troops had dealt with the enemy who had fled to their different cities. We are not told which one Joshua himself concentrated on, but he ensured that he was back at camp in order to welcome his victorious but exhausted troops. For ‘fenced cities’ see Joshua 14:12; Joshua 19:35; Numbers 13:28; Numbers 32:17; Numbers 32:36.


Verse 22

Then said Joshua, “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.’

All being now settled Joshua turned his attention to the kings trapped in the cave at Makkedah. He commanded his men to open the caves, deal with any opposition, and bring the kings to him.


Verse 23

And they did so, and brought those five kings to him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Yarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon.’

The kings were brought out. All had been captured. Not one was missing. YHWH had defeated them all. It should be noted that at this stage Joshua’s main aim was the defeat of the armies of the Canaanites and the weakening of their power. He made no attempt to take and subdue all their cities, only such as were fairly easily accessible or those that had attacked him and had been weakened by the defeat of their armies.


Verse 24

And so it was that when they brought out these kings to Joshua, Joshua called for all the men of Israel and said to the chiefs of the men of war who went with him, “Come near. Put your feet on the necks of these kings.” And they came near, and put their feet on their necks.’

What Joshua now did was in order to give strength and encouragement to his commanders, and to their battalions. He wanted them all to feel involved. It would sustain the battalions in future battles to remember how their chiefs had been able to demonstrate their authority over these kings.

The putting of the feet on the neck was a symbolic action demonstrating overlordship. It is well witnessed on Assyrian and Egyptian representations. Compare 1 Kings 5:3; Psalms 110:1; Isaiah 51:23.


Verse 25

And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid, nor be dismayed. Be strong and of good courage. For thus shall YHWH do to all your enemies against whom you fight.’

Compare Joshua 1:6-7; Joshua 1:9; Joshua 1:18; Joshua 8:1. Joshua knew the value of encouragement. What he had done was not intended to bring glory to them, but to remind them of God’s power. It was to give them heart for the future. They had seen what God had done to these kings and their armies. Let them therefore recognise that none could stand against them. They had nothing to fear.


Verse 26

And afterwards Joshua smote them and slew them, and hung them on five trees, and they were hanging on the trees until the evening.’

The necessary executions had then to follow, for YHWH had commanded the slaying of all Canaanites who would not leave Canaan. And after they were dead their bodies were hung on trees as a warning to all around of what would be done to them if they troubled Israel. News would soon spread and fear would fill the hearts of the hearers. But in accordance with the Law the bodies were taken down at sunset lest they defile the land (Deuteronomy 21:23). Note the repetition of the idea of slaying in order to emphasise the fact to listeners.


Verse 27

And so it was that at the time of the going down of the sun, Joshua gave the command, and they took them down from the trees and cast them into the cave in which they had hidden themselves, and laid great stones on the mouth of the cave, to this very day.’

Once sunset came Joshua, in obedience to the Law, arranged for the bodies to be taken down from the trees. Then they were put in the cave where they had previously been hidden and the cave was sealed with large rocks. They were so prominent that they became a landmark and a memorial of what God had done ‘to this day’.

“To this day.” See Joshua 4:9; Joshua 5:9; Joshua 6:25; Joshua 7:26 twice; Joshua 8:28-29; Joshua 9:27; Joshua 14:14; Joshua 15:63; Joshua 16:10; Joshua 22:3; Joshua 22:17; Joshua 23:8-9, the last five included in words of Joshua. Joshua 6:25 suggests that Rahab was alive ‘to this day’, Joshua 8:28 that Ai was a heap ‘to this day, Joshua 9:27 that ‘to this day’ referred to the time prior to Jerusalem becoming the central sanctuary, Joshua 15:63 that the Jebusites dwelt among Israel ‘to this day’, Joshua 16:10 that the Canaanites dwelt among the Ephraimites in Gezer as taskworkers ‘to this day’. All this suggests an early date for the writing of the book.


Verse 28

And Joshua took Makkedah on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and its king. He utterly destroyed (devoted) them and all the souls who were in it. He left none remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.’

The same day as he executed the kings, Makkedah capitulated. It may well have been unwalled. Its site is unknown. ‘He utterly devoted them’ i.e. the city, its inhabitants and their king. All in it was ‘devoted to YHWH’ (destroyed), apart probably from the cattle and the spoils (compare Joshua 11:14). The king was slain with the sword, and hung up as the king of Jericho had been (Joshua 6:21 and Joshua 8:2 with Joshua 8:29).

What follows from here to Joshua 10:43 is a summary of the overall attack on the southern hill country and Shephelah. This refers to the initial defeat of these cities and a limiting thereby of their ability to prevent Israelite settlement and to resist later. Once Joshua had passed on to other battles the cities would be reoccupied by those who had fled and taken refuge in the forests and hills, and would have to be reduced again. But from now on they would be more vulnerable and far less strong. There was little that Joshua could do about occupying them. He could not afford to leave forces behind in order to occupy each city that he conquered.


Verse 29-30

And Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah. And YHWH delivered it also, and its king, into the hand of Israel. And he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls who were in it. He left none remaining in it. And he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.’

Libnah is another town whose site is unidentified. None of the suggestions made are really satisfactory. It was another of a series of towns in the Shephelah (lowlands). The city was captured, and its king and all its people put to the edge of the sword in the process, its king then being hung up until the evening after which he was buried, as had happened to the king of Jericho. Its cattle and spoils would be prizes to Israel. But as the reputation of Israel grew so would the number of people who would make their escape before they arrived.


Verse 31-32

And Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and encamped against it, and fought against it, And YHWH delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls who were in it, in accordance with all that he had done to Libnah.’

Lachish was a very large city and put up fierce resistance. But its king was dead and its army decimated. Nevertheless Joshua had to encamp against it before forcing his way past their defences and capturing the city on the second day. But it had no walls sufficient to resist a strong attack, being protected only by its outer layer of houses.


Verse 33

‘Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish, and Joshua smote him, and his people, until he had left him none remaining.’

When Horam, king of Gezer, heard that Lachish was being attacked (they may well have had a mutual help pact) he hastened to help them. But he arrived too late and found himself having to face Israel alone. The result was that he was slain and his army decimated. Joshua must have been a brilliant general. But Gezer was a strong city and never fully occupied by Israel, although later subjected to taskwork (Joshua 16:10). It was later captured by Merenptah of Egypt and then by the Philistines, being given by Egypt to Solomon on his marriage.

Gezer was on the northern ridge of the Shephelah, overlooking the Valley of Aijalon, a few miles from the main coastal highway between Egypt and the north. It had been taken by the Egyptians in the 15th century BC, and is mentioned as remaining loyal (if vacillating) in the Amarna letters. But at this stage it appears to have been at least semi-independent. As mentioned it was later taken by Merenptah while the Israelite occupation was still under way. It would later be occupied by the newly arriving Philistines, possibly with Egyptian consent.


Verse 34-35

And Joshua passed from Lachish, and all Israel with him, to Eglon, and they encamped against it, and fought against it. And they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls who were in it he utterly destroyed (devoted) that day, in accordance with all he had done to Lachish.’

Eglon too had no king for he had been slain at Makkedah, although someone must have been acting as regent while the next king was appointed. Eglon could be Tell el-Hesi or Tell Eitun. This too offered more than token resistance but was subdued in one day. It was much smaller than Lachish. Its inhabitants were totally destroyed.


Verse 36-37

And Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, to Hebron, and they fought against it. And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and its king, and all its cities, and all the souls who were in it. He left none remaining, in accordance with all that he had done to Eglon. But he utterly destroyed (devoted) it and all the souls who were in it.’

Hebron was a different matter. Up in the highlands and forming a confederation of cities it was a more difficult enterprise, but the victorious Joshua did not fail. It had had time to appoint a new king, but he did not enjoy his position for long. For Joshua arrived with his army, captured it and put it to the sword, and probably set it on fire. These accounts are so brief, and yet they say a lot for Joshua’s generalship.

Many would, however, escape from the confederation into the mountains, and once Joshua and his army left on their next venture they would return and re-establish the city. Thus later it would have to be reconquered by Caleb under Joshua’s command, when Judah began to claim its inheritance (Joshua 15:13-19)


Verse 38-39

And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir, and fought against it. And he took it and its king, and all its cities, and they smote them with the edge of the sword and utterly destroyed (devoted) all the souls who were in it. He left none remaining. As he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to its king, as he had done also to Libnah and to its king.’

Debir too was in the highlands and again part of a confederacy of cities. But this did not help it and once more Joshua was successful. This too was conquered and all its people put to the sword. But the same situation would arise with Debir. Once Joshua had passed on to the north Hebron and Debir were rebuilt as far as necessary (it is not said that he set fire to them) and re-inhabited, having to be captured a second time by Caleb under Joshua’s overall command (Joshua 11:21; Joshua 15:13-19; Judges 1:10-15 which was a flashback).

This was not needless slaughter. Having demonstrated their belligerence against Israel their strength had to be seriously weakened for Israel’s sake in the future. Israel could not settle in the land while there were powerful alliances against them.


Verse 40

So Joshua smote all the land, the hill country and the South (the Negeb), and the lowland (Shephelah) and the slopes and all their kings. He left none remaining, but he utterly destroyed (devoted) all that breathed as YHWH, the God of Israel, commanded.’

The purpose of Joshua’s invasion of the South was to break down resistance and to kill kings and decimate armies, and weaken the cities by destroying all the inhabitants who remained behind so that they would leave Israel alone. It was a softening up operation. In the nature of what he still had to do he could not occupy them or leave men behind in them. It was an exercise in breaking their backs so that later they would be too weak to resist when Israel finally sought to take them over. But many of the people would still have survived, and once Joshua had moved on, would return and seek to re-establish their cities and encampments.

Note the different areas involved, the southern mountains (the hill country), the south (Negeb) which was the semi-desert area on the southern borders with its oases, the low hills (the Shephelah) sloping down towards the plain, the slopes (the meaning of the word is not certain), possibly the slopes and cliffs of the Negeb and the Shephelah. But campaign went on for a long time but he could not cover every inch of ground.


Verses 41-43

And Joshua smote them, from Kadesh-barnea, even to Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even to Gibeon. And all these kings, and their land, did Joshua take at one time, because YHWH the God of Israel fought for Israel. And Joshua returned and all Israel with him to the camp at Gilgal.’

So after his victorious campaigns covering the whole of the south of Canaan Joshua returned with the army to their camp at Gilgal. Much had been done to prepare the way for conquest. But there had been no permanent occupation. That would follow later. ‘All Israel’ returned to the camp at Gilgal. It would be up to the individual tribes finally to capture and occupy their own inheritance. He may well have thought that he had destroyed most of the opposition, but there would be many people still surviving his attacks, and outlying peoples would gladly move in to occupy vacant territory. There would still be much to do.

The account had a twofold purpose. It demonstrated that YHWH was able to give the whole country into their hands, and it showed that Israel later had no excuse for their failure to take full possession of it.

“From Kadesh-barnea even to Gaza.” This is describing the limits of the country dealt with. It does not necessarily signify that Gaza itself (on the coast) was taken. See Joshua 11:22. But the Philistines were probably not yet there, arriving later as their invasion of the territory also began (Joshua 13:2-3). Kadesh-barnea was an oasis in the Negeb on the edge of the wildernesses of Paran and Zin. The city of Goshen is mentioned in Joshua 15:51, the ‘country of Goshen’ indicating widespread land connected with it. ‘Goshen to Gibeon’ possibly indicated a recognised area in the highlands bounded by these two cities.

 


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Bibliography Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Joshua 10:4". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/joshua-10.html. 2013.

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Sunday, January 19th, 2020
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