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Go to Bible: Joshua 11
“when Jabin king of Hazor heard.” The emphasis on the sentence is on “heard.” Many people in the Book of Joshua “heard,” and how they respond when they hear reveals their heart (cp. Rahab (Josh. 2:10); kings of the Amorites (Josh. 5:1; 9:1); the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:3); Jabin (Josh. 11:1)). Also, when people hear, what do they do? The Gibeonites “sent” to Joshua a delegation to seek peace, while others, such as Jabin here, “sent” to form an army and fight.
“Jabin.” A dynastic name held by more than one king. “Jabin” was not a title, but a name held by more than one person in the dynasty. This is similar to “Herod” in the New Testament (“Herod the Great;” “Herod Antipas;” “Herod Agrippa I,” Acts 12, “Herod Agrippa II, Acts 25; etc.). This Jabin is different from the one in Judges 4 and 5.
“Hazor.” The largest Canaanite tel in Israel; over 200 acres. That is much bigger than Jerusalem up until at least the Roman period, certainly bigger than Jerusalem in the Old Testament.
“Jobab king of Madon.” Besides Jabin, Jobab is the only other king in the northern coalition who is named. Perhaps this indicates he was better known for some reason.
“Arabah.” The Jordan River valley. The Arabah is part of the Great Rift Valley that goes from Africa north into Syria.
“the sea of Chinneroth,” The Sea of Galilee. However, the name is plural and some scholars believe that Chinneroth refers to the name of a town by that name.
“Dor in the west.” The city of Dor is on the Mediterranean coast, on the coastal plain.(top)
“Canaanite...Amorite...Hittite...Perizzite...Jebusite.” All these tribes except the Perizzites were descendants of Noah’s son Ham via Ham’s son Canaan. Genesis says, “Canaan became the father of Sidon (his firstborn)[thus the Phoenicians], Heth [thus the Hittites], the Jebusite, the Amorite, the Girgashite, the Hivite, the Arkite, the Sinite, the Arvadite, the Zemarite, and the Hamathite” (Gen. 10:15-18).
“on the east and on the west.” This refers to Canaanites who lived in the Promised Land, but some toward the east and some toward the west. The Canaanites are described as being in the plains (cp. Num. 13:29; Josh. 5:1; 17:16), and there are plains to the west, the coastal plains or the Mediterranean Sea, and plains to the east that are in the Jordan Valley area.
The picture being painted here in Joshua 11:1-3 is that this is a large coalition, including armies from north to south, and from east to west. It was a unified front of human forces from the various inhabitants of the Promised Land, coming together to stop the Israelites. But the smaller forces of Israel defeated them because Yahweh was fighting for Israel.
“Perizzite.” A tribe of unknown origin in that by the time of Joshua lived in the hill country of Judah and Ephraim. See commentary on Joshua 9:1.(top)
“many people even as the sand that is on the seashore.” To the five senses, this is a very dangerous force, but to Yahweh they are no threat.
“with very many horses and chariots.” The enemy had a well-equipped army, but God had told Israel not to accumulate horses (Deut. 17:16), without God’s help, they were not what won the battle (Ps. 33:17). Pharaoh’s chariot force did not bring him victory over Israel either (Exod. 14:17-28). Yahweh’s help brings victory and safety (Ps. 127:1). God commanded Israel to burn the chariots and make the horses ineffective for battle (Josh. 11:6). This would prevent Israel from trusting too much in physical things.(top)
“at the waters of Merom.” The Canaanites left their cities and went to the area of Merom (the exact location is unknown; in the upper Galilee or in the Hulah Valley), likely to better use their chariot forces against Israel.(top)
“Do not be afraid because of them.” Fear would be understandable given the size of the alliance against Israel.
“I will make them all slain ones before Israel.” The Israelites had to do the fighting, but the victory was due to God’s work in the situation (cp. Josh. 11:8). The Hebrew text uses the word “give,” and reads more like “I will give them slain before Israel.” God gives the victory, which is why it is so vital for believers to serve and obey God if they want to be truly successful.
“You are to hamstring their horses.” God knew that the human tendency of a person with horses and chariots was to trust them rather than Him, so He commanded the horses be hamstrung and the chariots burned (cp. Ps. 20:7).(top)
“came against them suddenly.” The journey from Gilgal to the waters of Merom is not described, but by the time Yahweh spoke encouragement to Joshua the Israelite army was already in the north. There is no way Joshua could make it from Gilgal to Merom in one day.
“fell on them.” Idiomatic for “attack them.”(top)
“And Yahweh gave them into the hand of Israel.” Ultimately, Yahweh gives the victory. To really understand this, we must remember that the world is a spiritual place, not just a physical one. Satan and his demons are invested in certain results, and work behind the scenes to bring those results to pass. The Bible makes the point that “the race is not to the swift, nor is the battle to the strong” (Ecc. 9:11), sometimes by chance but sometimes because of the invisible spiritual forces are at play. When Israel obeyed God, and He could fight for them, He said, “Five of you will chase 100, and 100 of you will chase 10,000; and your enemies will fall before you by the sword” (Lev. 26:8; cp. Deut. 28:7; 32:30). But when Israel disobeyed God, then He could not intervene and things went terribly for Israel: “Yahweh will cause you to be struck before your enemies; you will go out one way against them and will flee seven ways before them” (Deut. 28:25). The earth is a war zone between good and evil, between God and the Devil, and the way humans behave often determines which spiritual side has the upper hand in any given conflict (see commentary on Luke 4:6). We can see the effects of both obedience and disobedience in the wars of Joshua. When Israel obeyed God, miraculous victories, like the victory at Jericho, happened. When Israel disobeyed God, stunning defeats, like the defeat at Ai in Joshua 7 occurred. Although the Bible has many examples when things did not go well for individuals who obeyed God—Job and Jeremiah are two good examples—generally things go much better when people obey God.
“as far as great Sidon.” Sidon was on the border of the tribe of Asher (Josh. 19:29), but the Israelites were never able to conquer and hold the Phoenician coast.(top)
“did to them as Yahweh had said to him.” Joshua obeyed God. It is certainly likely that there would have been people in the army that thought Israel should have kept the horses and chariots for future wars, and God’s leaders must learn to be strong and resist giving in to people who advise against following the commands of God. God’s commands do not always seem the best from a fleshly point of view, but they always are the best.(top)
“Joshua turned back at that time.” Joshua’s battles had taken him north of Hazor, now he turns back south and attacks and captures the city.(top)
“every soul.” This is the use of “soul” as an individual. The Hebrew text uses a collective singular, “all the soul” for “every soul.”
[For more on “soul” see Appendix 7, “Usages of ‘Soul.’”]
“There was not one left who breathed.” Joshua was obeying the command of Yahweh in Deuteronomy 20:16-17. This is repeated in Joshua 11:14 for emphasis.
“And he burned Hazor with fire.” Joshua burned only three cities in the conquest of Canaan; Ai, Jericho, and Hazor (Josh. 6:24; 8:28; 11:11). In this last phrase, the pronoun and verb change from plural to singular. Joshua was in charge and he gave the order (cp. Josh. 11:13).(top)
|Jos 11:12||- (top)|
“the cities that stood on their mounds.” This refers to the cities that were built on (“stood on”) the ruins, the mounds, of the previous cities. So by Joshua’s time the Canaanites had fought each other and destroyed and rebuilt their cities, building cities on top of the ruins of the city underneath. The reason for building one city on top of another in the same spot was that to be a successful and prosperous city, it needed defensibility, water, and being near a trade route. If a city had those three things, the location was favorable and cities would be built on top of one another. Many of the tels in Israel were well along by the Middle Bronze Age.
“Israel burned none of them, except Hazor only.” Jericho, Ai, and Hazor, were the only three cities that Israel burned in the conquest of the Promised Land, but Joshua 11 is about the northern conquest and Hazor was the only northern city that Israel burned so Hazor is the only city mentioned in this context to have been burned. Israel was to live in cities and houses that they did not build (Deut. 6:10-12), so in general, they did not destroy the buildings of the towns they conquered. This challenges archaeologists to be careful in trying to find evidence for the Israelite conquest of Canaan because the burn or destruction layer that is often found when one culture conquers another is often not present in the Israelite conquest of Canaan.(top)
“the mouth of the sword.” Used to show great destruction, as if the sword was eating its victims (see commentary on Josh. 6:21).
“They did not leave any who breathed.” Joshua followed God’s command (cp. Deut. 20:16-17; see commentary on Deut. 20:17).(top)
|Jos 11:15||- (top)|
“all the land of Goshen.” This is not the “land of Goshen” in Egypt, but is in the hill country of Judah; the exact area being described is not known. The word “Goshen” has no known meaning.
“the Arabah.” The Arabah is the rift valley area through which the Jordan River runs.(top)
“Mount Halak.” This could be a mountain on the south border of the Promised Land, but that is an educated guess. But this is in the south of the Promised Land. To go from Mount Halak to Seir, you have to go down and then back up.
“even to Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon.” This is in the far north of the Promised Land. Baal-gad has not yet been conclusively identified, but it must be up in the Baka Valley (of Lebanon). It is mentioned three times (Josh. 11:17; 12:7; 13:5), each time to mark the northwestern boundary of the land of Canaan.(top)
“long war.” The wars of Joshua lasted seven years (Josh. 14:7-10). Besides that, the full conquest was little by little (Exod. 23:29-30; Deut. 7:22). This in part explains how it was that when Joshua conquered a city but then he and his army left the area, Canaanites moved back into the cities. Evidence from the testimony of Caleb shows that the conquest lasted seven years. Caleb was 40 years old when he spied out the Land, spent 38 years in the wilderness (until age 78), and 85 when he was given his inheritance at Hebron. Seven years of being on the march and in war after war is a very long time.
“a long time.” The Hebrew is literally “many days.”(top)
“They took all the cities in battle.” The Hebrew simply has, “They took all in battle,” and leaving the object noun out emphasizes the word “all.”(top)
“to harden their hearts.” God allows people to harden their own hearts, but because God’s action is the cause of it, by the Semitic idiom of permission God is said to do it (see commentary on Exod. 4:21).
“that they would have no mercy.” The Hebrew text is ambiguous and can mean that the Canaanites would receive no mercy, or that Israel would show them no mercy. However, the pronouns favor the primary meaning being that the Canaanites would receive no mercy.
“as Yahweh commanded Moses.” Here we see Moses giving the command of Yahweh. Yahweh speaks and acts through His agents.(top)
“Anakim.” The Anakim were descendants of Anak, who was one of the Nephilim, as Numbers 13:33 says.
[For more on the Nephilim, see commentary on Gen. 6:4.]
“all the hill country of Judah and from all the hill country of Israel.” The division of Israel and Judah could easily come from the fact that Joshua fought his first battles in or close to Judah, and knew he would have to conquer the land given to the rest of Israel after that. It is possible but less likely that a later editor added the distinction for clarity.
“devoted them to destruction.” For more on things “devoted” to Yahweh and devoted to destruction, see commentary on Josh. 6:17.
“Joshua came at that time, and cut off the Anakim from...Hebron.” This attack is recorded in Judges 1:10.(top)
“the Anakim.” The Anakim were descendants of Anak, who was one of the Nephilim (Num. 13:33), and thus they were related to the Rephaim, the descendants of Rapha (cp. Deut. 2:11. The fact that Nephilim remained in the Philistine area explains why Goliath of Gath was there during David’s time. (Cp. Josh. 11:22; 2 Sam. 21:16, 18, 20, 22).
[For more on the Nephilim, see commentary on Gen. 6:4.](top)
“according to all that Yahweh spoke to Moses.” One of the purposes of the Book of Joshua was to show that God kept His covenant promise to the patriarchs to give the land of Canaan to their descendants. God told Abraham that he and his descendants would get the land (Gen. 12:7; 13:15-17; 15:7, 18; 17:8). He told it to Isaac (Gen. 26:3). He told it to Jacob (Gen. 28:13; 35:12; 48:4). He told others as well (see commentary on Gen. 15:18). Not one of God’s promises to Israel failed (Josh. 21:45).
“Joshua gave it for an inheritance.” This is a wonderful example of the principle of author-agent as it was used in the Semitic languages. In many places the Bible says Yahweh gave the land to Israel, but here it says Joshua did it. Joshua was God’s agent. (Lev. 25:6; Deut. 1:8; Josh. 1:6, 11, 13; 5:6). In a similar way, Jesus is said to do some things that God is also said to do. Both Joshua and Jesus were agents of God and did His work (cp. John 5:30).
“And the land had rest from war.” From God’s perspective, “the land” had rest from war (this phrase also occurs in Josh. 11:23). War does not just disrupt the lives of people, the land and everything on it is hurt by war (cp. Isa. 14:7). Nevertheless, because the enemies of God do not willingly submit to Him, it sometimes occurs that war is necessary to bring about the peace that God wants. Jesus himself will fight and win the Battle of Armageddon (cp. Isa. 63:1-6; Rev. 19:11-21). The phrase, “and the land had rest from war” is also in Joshua 14:15, when Caleb received Hebron in Judah as his inheritance.(top)