Right off the bat we see what happens when you have a decision to make and you do not consult the Lord. Israel is on the move and the people of the land are terrified of their power. One of those groups of people were the Gibeonites. Gibeonites were also called Hivites. In an effort to keep themselves from being killed they developed a ruse to keep themselves safe. The Gibeonites went to great lengths to make it look like they had come from a far country. Israel was allowed to make peace treaties with people from places outside of Canaan. While Israel was initially suspicious of them, they did not check with the Lord. Instead, they made a peace treaty with them. They took an oath. Oath taking and swearing were solemn affairs. To take an oath was to give a sacred and unbreakable word to follow through on what was promised. So even though the oath was obtained under false pretenses the Israelites could not break it.
Chapter ten is one of the more fascinating chapters in the Old Testament. Joshua and the Israelites continued their March to conquer the promised land and came upon the five kings of the Amorites who were attacking the Gibeonites. Under the agreements of the treaty made with them, Israel was bound to come to their aid if they were attacked. Joshua took his entire army to fight these five kings and their combined army, and God assured Joshua He would give them over into Israel's hand. This was a miraculous day for Israel. They marched all night and ambushed the five king's army early in the morning. But it was a prolonged fight and Joshua prayed to the Lord in front of the Israelites for more time. Joshua asked that the sun stand still over Gibeon so that Israel could secure a full victory over the Amorites. Joshua's men were weary, and the task was great. They needed time to win the victory God had promised. Many ask how this could happen, but they forget that the Lord created everything and has control over it all. If He wants the earth to stop rotating on its axis for a day, He can make that happen. All of creation answers to the Lord. And once again it showed God's power and might. The other miraculous thing that happened was the hailstones. Not that they fell, because God can do whatever He wants, but that none of them hit the Israelites who were chasing the army of the Amorites. The book of Jashar, now lost, was an early account of Israel's wars.
Not only were the five Amorites kings killed, but their people were also completely destroyed. All the people were killed, leaving no survivors. The whole southern region was destroyed, and all the southern cities were captured. The Israelites had entered Canaan in the middle, at Jericho. Their campaigns went through the middle first, then moved south and finally headed north. The picture is of a complete and swift annihilation of the people throughout the entire region. But the work was not complete. A couple of notes. This is the first time Kadesh Barnea is mentioned in the book of Joshua. That was Israel's southernmost border. And the Goshen mentioned here is not the same place as in Egypt where Jacob and his family settled. This Goshen is a city located in the southern hill country of Canaan.
Once the south has been conquered Joshua moves to the northern part of Canaan. But we must remember, though Israel was doing the actual physical fighting it was the Lord who gave them the victory. Joshua was doing exactly as Moses had commanded him. He was obedient and that honored the Lord. The Gibeonites were the only exception. More than once, Joshua made a surprise attack on the enemy. He went out in battle encouraged by the promises of the Lord. Also, the geographical descriptions of the campaigns in the north are not by city but by region. Chinnerath is another name for the Sea of Galilee. The heights of Dor on the west...Dor was a seaport on the Mediterranean and there were no hills nearby. It could however be a reference to sand dunes. Also, the Jebusites were residents of a city named Jebus, later to be changed to Jerusalem.
Horses and chariots for the enemies meant Israel was very much out weaponed. They were an army of foot soldiers. But it didn’t matter because God still defeated the enemy. Only the battles of Jericho and Ai were initiated by the Israelites. In all the other battles Israel was responding to an attack of some kind. The enemy was usually well armed and in great number. God limited the size of the Israelite army so that the Israelites would not trust their own military power. Joshua struck Hazor first since it was the major city. Hazor along with Jericho and Ai were the only cities burned. Most of the other armies were destroyed in the battlefield and their cities were left alone also the Israelites had places to live once they moved into the land to settle. In Hazor as in Ai the Israelites were allowed to take spoils for themselves.
The total destruction of all these cities is a bit much for many who read this. But if we go back to Moses' instructions in Deuteronomy 7:2-11 and 20:16-18 we will find the reason for this. The Canaanites were being judged by God for their wickedness. Destruction of the Anakim was significant since their fearsome presence was part of why the spies sent from Kadesh were afraid to enter the promised land. The old generation was afraid, but the new generation had learned, had seen with their own eyes, that anything was possible with God. Joshua took the whole land. He had been obedient, and God had kept His promises. Now the people had rest from war. They would divide up the land and the people could begin to move into their new cities and towns. While war is difficult, Israel's biggest challenge lay ahead of them. Could they continue to be obedient and worship God and Him only?
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.