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Go to Bible: Joshua 10
“Adoni-zedek.” “Adoni-zedek” is a typically Semitic name, and it means “My lord is righteousness.” Interestingly, Adoni-zedek ruled Jerusalem just as Melchi-zedek (“My king is righteousness”), who is better known as “Melchizedek” ruled Jerusalem some 450 years earlier. Adoni-zedek is called, along with the other kings, an Amorite (Josh. 10:5). They probably had tribal connections as well as geographical ones. The Hivites (some of whom lived in Gibeon) were “cousins” to the Amorites. Ham gave birth to Canaan (Gen. 10:6), and Canaan then fathered his firstborn, Sidon, then Heth (the Hittites come from Heth), the Jebusites (who lived in and around Jerusalem), the Amorites (who generally lived in central Israel, in the hill country; cp. Num. 13:29, Deut. 1:7, 19, 20, 44; Josh. 5:1, 7:7), the Girgashites, the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites, the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites (Gen. 10:15-18). Over time, “the clans of the Canaanites were spread abroad” and populated a lot of the Promised Land (Gen. 10:18).
The presence of Adoni-zedek in Jerusalem is likely more than a coincidence, and demonstrates the war going on between good and evil. During the time of Abraham, it became clear that God wanted the land of Israel for His people, so the Devil went after it too. At the time of Abraham the Canaanites were already living in Israel (Gen. 13:7), but Melchizedek was a godly king. But by the time of Joshua the native Canaanite population had become so wicked and infiltrated by the Nephilim that God commanded to kill everyone that breathed (Deut. 20:16-17; Josh. 10:40; 11:11, 14).
[For more on the Nephilim and why God commanded that all the people in the Promised Land be killed, see commentary on Gen. 6:4, “Nephilim.”]
“king of Jerusalem.” This is the first time in the Bible that “Jerusalem” was called by that name. Although the name “Jerusalem” is said to mean “City of Peace,” (the ancient meaning of the name Jerusalem has been lost in history and today its meaning is debated by scholars), through the millennia, Jerusalem has been anything but a city of peace. There have been long successions of ungodly rulers and war after war in which Jerusalem is involved.(top)
“they were greatly afraid.” The verb is plural, but the sentence starts with the singular person, Adoni-zedek. This is just one of the many examples in the Bible where a leader is representative of all his people.
Adoni-zedek, king of Jerusalem, was likely “greatly afraid” of Gibeon’s covenant alliance with Israel because Gibeon sits on a hilltop, or plateau, about 5 miles north of Jerusalem, and is a good staging ground for an attack on Jerusalem. Adoni-zedek knew that a foreign, antagonistic group on his north was dangerous. But his fear, although logical, was misplaced. He feared the humans to his north, but he was not afraid of Yahweh, even though it was Yahweh that did the great miracles that had been behind the great successes of Israel and the defeat of Israel’s enemies ever since the plagues on Egypt. Christ warned us not to fear the wrong party; he said not to fear humans who can only kill the body, but fear God who can destroy one’s life in Gehenna (Matt. 10:28). In Joshua 10:8 God confirms that it is He who gives the victory.
“the royal cities.” At this time, the larger city-kingdoms.(top)
“Hebron.” With the exception of Hebron which is in the hill country of Judah, all the rest of the towns in Joshua 10:3 are in the Shephelah, the lower country toward the Mediterranean Sea.(top)
“Come up to me.” Jerusalem was higher in elevation than the other kings were, so “come up” is geographically accurate.(top)
|Jos 10:5||- (top)|
“Do not withhold your hand from your servants!” An idiomatic way of saying, “Do not abandon your servants,” but in this case retaining the idiom in the text seems to be preferable because the meaning is clear in English.
“save us.” That is, rescue us; deliver us.
“that live in the hill country.” This is a hurried communication and not precisely accurate. Lachish, for example, is not usually considered as being in the hill country, but that would be a minor consideration under these circumstances.(top)
“went up from Gilgal.” This is geographically correct: from Gilgal in the Arabah (c. 900 feet below sea level) to Gibeon in the hill country of Benjamin (c. 2,400 feet above sea level) was quite an uphill hike.(top)
“And Yahweh said.” Yahweh encouraged Joshua in the battle. Joshua 10:8 is a great example of how people work together with God. 1 Cor. 3:9 says, “For we are God’s fellow workers.” In most cases, victory takes human effort combined with God’s willingness and power.(top)
“marched up.” More literally, “having gone up,” but in this case “marched” catches the sense in English (cp. HCSB; ESV; NIC; NJB, RSV). The uphill march is between 15 and 20 miles depending on the route they took, and uphill in elevation some 3,400 feet. This is just one example in the Bible where doing the will of God is not easy. Sometimes Christians teach that if something is the will of God then it will be easy or go smoothly, but this is just one example that shows that is not always the case. Not only did Joshua march uphill all night, then he fought all day; then he stopped the sun from going down and fought even more (Josh. 10:12-13). Like the prophecy of the Messiah in Isa. 50:7, sometimes we have to set our faces like a flint in order to do the will of God. The march uphill from Gilgal at the Jordan River to Gibeon in the hill country would likely take an army in good shape seven to eight hours.(top)
“threw them into a panic.” Or perhaps, “threw them into confusion.” God often fought for Israel by causing the enemy to panic, be confused, and begin to act in a panicked way such as killing each other or madly running away. This often gave Israel an opportunity to kill them, as we see here in Joshua 10. Yahweh defeated Egypt (Exod. 14:24-25) and the Canaanites (Judg. 4:15) the same way.
“the ascent of Beth-horon...as far as Azekah and as far as Makkedah.” The “ascent of Beth-horon” is a well-known road on a ridge that runs from the hill country of Benjamin down into the Shephelah. A person can travel that ridge without having to go down into valleys, making that road an important and well-traveled one. The retreating Amorites ran down the ridge to their towns into the Shephelah. The descent down the road to Beth-horon leads to the Shephelah, and there the road splits, with one road going towards Azekah, and one going toward Makkedah. Thus the text is telling us that the fleeing enemy was in panic and people were trying to get away or get home and as they got down out of the hill country into more level ground they went different ways, so the fighters of Israel would have had to divide up too, and chase them down.(top)
“large stones from heaven.” Joshua 10:11 goes on to clarify that these were hailstones. God occasionally used weather as a force against His enemies. The hailstones in Revelation 16:21 will be about 100 pounds (45 kilograms) each. The Bible does not give us the size of these hailstones in Joshua. The work of God can certainly be seen in this hailstone attack because Israel was not far behind the Amorites so the hail had to fall only on the enemy and not on Israel. God can be a sniper when He wants to. The fact that Joshua 10:11 first says they were “stones” and only later clarifies that they were hailstones speaks to the hardness of the ice balls—they were as if God was indeed throwing “stones” from heaven.
“There were more who died from the hailstones than who the children of Israel killed.” It is a consistent theme in Joshua that God will give Israel the victory if they are obedient to Him. That is true for all believers, although sometimes we have to have an eternal perspective to see that fulfilled because it does not always happen in this life.(top)
“Then Joshua spoke to Yahweh.” Although the Bible does not say “Joshua prayed to Yahweh,” that is what this is; Joshua prayed to Yahweh. Prayer consists mainly of two things: requests and praise. This is a request to God, it is a prayer. Prayer makes a difference, and the Bible says that God’s people should pray much: “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17).
“Sun, stand still at Gibeon.” This is clearly a miracle. The God who placed the sun and moon in the heavens is fighting for Israel. As if the sniper-like hailstones were not enough, these additional cosmic signs are evidence that Yahweh fought for Israel (Josh. 10:14). We should also see in this miracle a defeat of the Canaanite religious system, which included the worship of the sun and the moon. For example, “Jericho” means “moon,” while “Beth-shemesh,” originally a Canaanite town, means “House of the Sun.” Thus the objects that the Canaanites worshiped to elicit their help were actually objects that Yahweh created and controls. So as with Egypt during the plagues, Israel’s conquest of Canaan was not only a victory over the Canaanites themselves, but over their false religious systems as well.
“the book of Jashar.” This is spelled “book of Jasher” in the King James Version. The word “Jashar” means “upright, straight, correct,” and thus perhaps it should be translated rather than transliterated, and read, “The scroll of the Upright” (“books” as we know them did not exist until after the time of Christ). The “book of Jashar” also occurs in 2 Samuel 1:18.
It is a lost work, but the way it is referred to makes it seem that it was likely some kind of epic poem or record of Israel’s history. The most common belief among scholars is that the real book of Jashar was composed over time. The fact that some events of the time of Joshua were in it, then much later material from the time of 1 Samuel was also in it indicates that it was a compilation of material, some of which corroborated the biblical account, as we see here and in 2 Samuel 1:18. Exactly what it was and what it covered is unknown because the book has been lost. Sadly, the uncertain nature of the book, and the fact that it was lost, has led to a number of attempts to fake and forge a “Book of Jashar” and publish it. One of the last “Book of Jashar” made was a Jewish publication in very good Hebrew that covered the time from Adam to the Judges. But it was written long after the time of Christ and is certainly not the book of Jashar mentioned in the Old Testament. The fact is the real book of Jashar is lost and so we really do not know much about it.
“in the middle of the sky.” So Joshua stopped the sun in the middle of the day.(top)
“no day like that before it or after it, when Yahweh listened to the voice of a man.” This verse is not saying that this was the only time Yahweh ever listened to a person, because God and Jesus listen to our prayers, and those prayers affect what they do (see commentary on John 14:13).(top)
“And Joshua returned.” Joshua does not return at this time in the battle, but this is a summary statement mirroring Joshua 10:43. This summary is following the statement that Yahweh fought for Israel.(top)
“hid themselves in the cave.” In part because of the hailstones. The Shephelah has many caves and hollowed-out places, both natural and done by man; caves in the limestone and chalk rock.(top)
|Jos 10:17||- (top)|
|Jos 10:18||- (top)|
“Pursue your enemies and attack them from the rear.” God did not say, “Attack their rear,” as if the slowest of the enemy was what God was concerned with. Israel was to “attack them,” starting with the first ones of the enemy they could reach; the men in the rear of the retreat. But God was clear that Israel was not to let the enemy get back into their walled cities. For some reason, Joshua himself stayed at Makkedah, but the reason is not clear (cp. Josh. 10:21).(top)
|Jos 10:20||- (top)|
“in peace.” The Israelite warriors went back to Joshua “in peace” because there was no one left in the open to kill.
“No one moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel.” The Hebrew translated “moved his tongue” is literally, “sharpened his tongue.” This same idiom is used in Exodus 11:7 in the context of Israel not feeling the least bit of threat as they were leaving Egypt, and the idiom has the same basic meaning here in Joshua 10:21: God and Israel were moving with such power (and obvious supernatural power) that no one moved against them and Israel felt no threat from the Canaanites at this time. In Exodus 11:7, not even a dog sharpened his tongue, while here no human did.(top)
|Jos 10:22||- (top)|
|Jos 10:23||- (top)|
“Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” This seems harsh, but war is harsh and definite: someone is going to die, and if Israel’s warriors were not determined enough, it would be them. This was not something that Joshua did regularly, so there had to be a reason to encourage the men and give them a clear idea of what God was doing in their midst as they were determined enough to get the job done. Sadly, Israel was not always determined to get the job done, and as we see in Judges 1, the Israelites did not always have the determination to obey God when it came to the hard work of taking possession of the land (Judg. 1:21, 27-35). That disobedience cost them dearly both in not having a completely Israelite country and in later wars that had to be fought, for example in the time of David.
“They came near and put their feet.” The theme in Joshua that Joshua obeyed God is picked up here as the commanders obey Joshua.(top)
|Jos 10:25||- (top)|
“put them to death and hanged them on five trees.” The hanging on the tree was a public declaration that the person had been cursed by God. As practiced by Israel, being hung on a tree was not torture because the person was already dead. Other cultures hung criminals up for public display (Gen. 40:19). The idea of crucifying a living person likely started with the Assyrians. The Assyrians “hung” people on stakes by impaling them when they were still alive, but generally, they would have died very quickly. The Assyrians portray impaling in their bas-relief sculptures. Impaling was then used by the Babylonians and much more widely by the Persians. Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) brought it to the eastern Mediterranean countries, and the Phoenicians introduced it to Rome in the third century BC. The Romans used crucifixion for torture, execution, and to cause public fear for 500 years until it was abolished by Constantine I in the fourth century AD.
“five trees.” The Hebrew word ets (#06086) has a couple of meanings and this could be “trees” or it could be five poles or upright stakes. It is similar to the Greek word xulon in that it could mean a tree or a stake.
“sunset.” Literally, “the going of the sun,” which is sunset. In this, Joshua fulfilled the Law (Deut. 21:22-23). Joshua’s action showed that these kings committed a sin worthy of death (cp. Gen. 15:16).(top)
“that remain to this very day.” The stones were still there when the book of Joshua was written, evidence that it was written fairly close to the time Joshua lived.(top)
“And Joshua took Makkedah.” Joshua had camped outside it earlier (Josh. 10:21).
“the mouth of the sword.” Used to show great destruction, as if the sword was eating its victims (see commentary on Josh. 6:21).
“devoted to destruction.” To “devote to destruction all the souls who were in it” was simply to kill the people in the city. The “soul” was the person themselves. They were killed. There was no idea that the “soul” was an immaterial thing that lived on after death; that was introduced into Christianity by the Greeks (sometimes by way of the Jews).
[For more on things “devoted” to Yahweh and devoted to destruction, see commentary on Josh. 6:17. For more on dead people being dead and not living on after death, see Appendix 4, “The Dead are Dead.” For more on the soul, see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul.’”]
“as he had done to the king of Jericho.” What Joshua did to the king of Jericho is not specifically stated, but that Joshua killed him is implied (cp. Josh. 8:2).(top)
“crossed over from Makkedah to Libnah.” The Hebrew text uses the same verb for “crossed over” that is used when speaking of Joshua and Israel crossing over the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and it uses that verb a number of times in this section. It seems that the verbs are being used purposely to tell people that the process of “crossing over” into full possession of the inheritance, the land, is still in process.(top)
“He struck it.” The “He” is purposely ambiguous. The third person masculine singular could be Yahweh, it could be Joshua as the leader of the army, or it could refer to Israel as a collective fighting group. Actually, all were involved.
“the mouth of the sword.” Used to show great destruction, as if the sword was eating its victims (see commentary on Josh. 6:21).(top)
“Libnah to Lachish.” Lachish and Libnah are only a little more than five miles apart and were both captured by the Assyrians (c. 700 BC) and are mentioned in the Assyrian annals as well as the Bible (cp. 2 Kings 18:17; 19:8).(top)
“He captured it on the second day.” Lachish was a large and well-fortified city. That Joshua and his army could conquer it on the second day is a testimony of how many of the fighting men of Lachish had been killed in the earlier battles. The Assyrians had a very efficient and powerful army, and they had to take the time to build siege ramps to conquer Lachish.
“the mouth of the sword.” Used to show great destruction, as if the sword was eating its victims (see commentary on Josh. 6:21).
“all the souls.” That is, all the people. In the Hebrew text, the word “soul” is singular, “all the soul.” This could be understood as “all the life that was in it,” but the context and scope of the conquest are about people; the animals were booty, and so the translation “all the life” could be confusing in English. “All the soul” in this case means all the life that is in all the people.(top)
“Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help.” The people of Gezer were probably Canaanites (1 Kings 9:16), a more distantly related, different tribe from the Amorites of the hill Country. Gezer sits at a strategic sentinel intersection of main routes from the Mediterranean coast up into the hill country. Horam the king of Gezer tried to help the Amorites because he knew that Israel’s successes were a threat to him.
“but Joshua struck him and his people.” There is no record that Joshua and his army went to Gezer to fight it, but Joshua 12:12 says that Joshua did kill the king of Gezer as we see here. It is somewhat of a puzzle that while Joshua struck Gezer’s king and his people, the Israelites did not settle in Gezer until Solomon’s time (1 Kings 9:16). Here, Joshua just kills the men of Gezer who came to help Lachish.(top)
|Jos 10:34||- (top)|
“captured it on that day.” The reason the sieges of walled cities went so fast now was that the fighting men of the Canaanites had been killed in the earlier battle.
“went up from Eglon to Hebron.” Going from Eglon, which was toward the Mediterranean Sea, to Hebron, was uphill; Hebron was in the hill country of Judah.(top)
“They captured it.” The conquest of Hebron is repeated in the Book of Judges, but in more detail. Here in Joshua is the overview history of the conquest of the Promised Land, while in Judges the emphasis is more on how the city was later ruled by judges and leaders (cp. Judg. 1:10-20). Hebron was a very important biblical city. Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Leah are buried there, and it was where David was first acknowledged as king of Israel.
“turned back to Debir.” Debir is somewhat west and south of Hebron, so Joshua had to turn back toward the shephelah and seacoast to fight Debir after fighting Hebron. The translations that say Joshua “returned” to Debir are incorrect; Joshua had never been to Debir. “Debir” in Joshua 15:49 is called “Kiriath-sanah,” and “Kiriath-sepher” (Josh. 15:15; Judg. 1:11). The war of Joshua against Debir is also recorded in more detail in Joshua 15:16-17; Judges 1:11-13).(top)
“and the slopes.” Joshua 10:40 is a brief summary of the areas where the majority of the Canaanites lived and where Joshua conquered. The summary is from the hill country west, and omits the Arabah, but the only major city omitted by that is Jericho. “And the slopes” refers to the area between the “hill country,” which is much more mountainous, down into the shephelah, which is much flatter but not as flat as the coastal plain.
“the Shephelah.” The geography of Israel, for most of its length, is divided into four geographical zones: the coastal plain by the Mediterranean Sea; the Shephelah, which is the area of rolling hills east of the coastal plain and between the coastal plain and the hill country; the hill country, which is the inner country that is quite mountainous; and the Jordan Valley, much of which is very arid and referred to as the Arabah.
“devoted to destruction all that breathed.” In obedience to Deuteronomy 20:16.(top)
“from Kadesh-barnea even as far as Gaza.” This is the southernmost reaches of Israel’s conquest in Joshua 10. The southern border of Judah was south of Kadesh-barnea, which is in the deep south of the Negev, and is where Moses and Israel were camped when Moses sent the spies to spy out the Promised Land (Num. 13:1-25; 32:8). Gaza is about 60 miles almost due north of Kadesh-barnea, but is on the Mediterranean Coast of Judah. Kadesh-barnea to Gaza defined the southern extent of Joshua’s conquest. However, Joshua is never said to have conquered Gaza; it is not listed in the cities he conquered in Joshua 12:9-34. It is likely that his army chased men as far as Gaza.
“Goshen.” This is not the Goshen in Egypt, but most likely the Goshen of Joshua 15:51, a town in the hill country of Judah. It is possible that it is a site in northern Judah/Benjamin from which a line could be drawn similar to the line drawn “from Kadesh-barnea even as far as Gaza.” In that case, Joshua 10:41 would be drawing two lines delineating the southern and northern borders of the conquest described in Joshua 10. Another suggestion that has been made by scholars is that the “land of Goshen” is the southern slopes toward the Negev south of Hebron, near Debir. A ruin called Khirbet Tatrit has been suggested. If so, “Goshen to Gibeon” would delineate “the Hill Country (of Judah)”
“Goshen even as far as Gibeon.” Gibeon was where this battle for the southern part of Israel started (Josh. 10:10).(top)
“one time.” Meaning, in one military campaign, not on the same day or week. This was a huge campaign that started in Joshua 10. Furthermore, some of these cities were recaptured by the Canaanites. From Joshua 10:43 we learn that the army of Israel returned to Gilgal, and that opened the door for the Canaanites to return to their cities. The army of Israel did not disband and thus begin to settle in the cities they had conquered until the whole land was conquered. Note that in Joshua 10:43 the army returns with Joshua to Gilgal after the battle; it does not split up and occupy the cities that it just conquered.
“Yahweh the God of Israel fought for Israel.” Yahweh’s fighting for Israel and thus giving them the land is one of the themes in Joshua.(top)
“returned...to the camp at Gilgal.” The army returned to Gilgal next to Jericho in the Jordan Valley. At this point in the conquest, the camp of Israel was at Gilgal, and that was where the Israelites who were not part of the army—the women, children, and elderly—stayed while the fighting men went to conquer the land. As we see here, after the battles the men went back to their families.(top)