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Deeper Commentary


Jos 11:1 It happened that when Jabin king of Hazor heard of it, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph-
"Jabin" was the generic name for kings of Hazor, like "Pharaoh". The title means "the wise", and we recall Paul's description of how the wise of this world shall fall before the Lord Jesus. After the summary of the southern campaign in Josh. 10:41, we now read of the northern territories. Hazor was in Galilee, Madon is LXX Maron near mount Lebanon, Achshaph is near Tyre .

Jos 11:2 and to the kings who were on the north, in the hill country, in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, in the lowland, and in the heights of Dor on the west-
Dor was in Asher (Josh. 11:1,2; 12:23; 17:11; Jud. 1:27,28). Taanach was within either Issachar or Asher (Josh. 17:11,12,25; Jud. 5:19). But these towns were also given to Ephraim (1 Chron. 7:29). As each Israelite was promised some personal inheritance in the land, rather than some blanket reward which the whole nation received, so we too have a personal reward prepared. But the precise nature of that reward is as it were negotiable by us now, according to our spiritual ambition. Just as Caleb chose Hebron and secured it for himself.

Jos 11:3 to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite and the Jebusite in the hill country, and the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpah-
There were four places called Mizpah in the Bible. This Mizpah is in northern Israel, and is not the Mizpah in Judah (Josh. 15:38) nor that in Benjamin (Josh. 18:26).  

Jos 11:4 They went out, they and all their armies with them, many people, even as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude, with very many horses and chariots-
They are presented as a fake seed of Abraham, as the sand on the seashore. It is this fake seed of Abraham which will likewise engage with the true seed of Abraham in the battle for the land in the last days. This victory of Joshua was to be an encouragement for those of later times likewise surrounded by armies like the sand of the sea (Jud. 7:12; 1 Sam. 13:5). This is the purpose and power of Biblical history- to inspire later readers or hearers.

Jos 11:5 All these kings met together; and they came and encamped together at the waters of Merom, to fight with Israel-
Horses and chariots were mentioned in :4 for the first time. They gathered at the flat land around Merom (now known as the Huleh lakes) as this was where the chariots could best operate.

Jos 11:6 Yahweh said to Joshua, Don’t be afraid because of them; for tomorrow at this time, I will deliver them up all slain before Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire-
It had taken two days to take Lachish, so this victory over such a huge force within 24 hours... could only be due to direct Divine engagement with the enemy. We note that the idea of "tomorrow at this time" meant that Joshua was already on the march toward this formidable foe. He had gone forward in faith, and God now confirms him in it, after he has started off on the journey. The "iron chariots" of Josh. 17:18 could be burned with fire (Josh 11:6) because they were wooden but with iron wheels.

Jos 11:7 So Joshua and all the people of war with him suddenly came against them by the waters of Merom, and fell on them-
The element of surprise attack was used by Joshua. He uses human military strategy, unlike the taking of Jericho which was achieved purely by God's tactics, which made no sense in the eyes of the world. For they gave the defenders full notice of their presence and intentions, walked six times around the perimeter of the city in one day before attacking when therefore tired. And the men had just been circumcised and were weak from that, and the manna had just stopped so they had food supply issues. But that weakness was required for God's strength to be made manifest. But after the failure of Achan, God as it were compromised with Israel's weakness, and gave them battle strategies and tactics which were wise in secular terms. He does likewise with us, in accordance with our faith. 

Jos 11:8 Yahweh delivered them into the hand of Israel, and they struck them and chased them to great Sidon, to Misrephoth Maim and to the valley of Mizpeh eastward. They struck them until they left them none remaining-
"He left none remaining" may not mean that literally everyone was killed. For the phrase is used by Jeremiah of how "none escaped nor remained" in Jerusalem as a result of the Babylonian invasion (Lam. 2:22). And yet clearly some did. There was in fact a 'remnant' which remained although in a broader sense 'none remained'.. This would explain why there were still Canaanites who remained after Joshua's campaigns, and who grew up again to be thorns in Israel's side, especially in the period of the Judges.

The chasing of the enemy was done in an organized way; to the north west (Sidon), south west (Misrephoth) and east (Mizpeh). As noted on :7, strategy was being used, under God's control. Misrephoth Maim means “the salt-pits" and again we see the similarities with Abraham's earlier conquest of the land (Gen. 14:10). The people, as Abraham's seed, were being encouraged to walk in the steps of faith of Abraham, just as we are. Awareness of Abraham's life is therefore of especial importance to all today who are baptized and thereby become his seed.

Jos 11:9 Joshua did to them as Yahweh told him. He hamstrung their horses and burnt their chariots with fire-
This was quite an act of faith, because such military technology was much sought after and considered invincible. The king of Israel had been commanded to not have horses and chariots by the law of Moses (Dt. 17:16), and Joshua is being treated as the effective king of Israel on God's behalf. This lesson was learned by David in his earlier life (Ps. 20:7), but totally not learned by his son Solomon. 

Jos 11:10 Joshua turned back at that time and took Hazor, and struck its king with the sword: for Hazor used to be the head of all those kingdoms-
He turned back from the pursuit in order to deal with Hazor. He saw it as particularly significant, because he didn't burn the other cities (:13).

Jos 11:11 They struck all the souls who were in it with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them. There was no one left who breathed. He burnt Hazor with fire-
See on Jud. 1:8. By Jud. 4:1 there was a powerful Canaanite king there, about 130 years after the death of Joshua. Again Israel did not follow up his victory. It's rather like the constant cycle of purges of idolatry throughout Israel's history. The victories of a few great individual reformers failed to touch the people. And that is perhaps the abiding tragedy of God's people.

Jos 11:12 Joshua captured all the cities of those kings, with their kings, and he struck them with the edge of the sword and utterly destroyed them; as Moses the servant of Yahweh commanded-
Joshua was very good at obedience to clear commandments (Josh. 4:10,17; 8:27; 10:40). But when he had to articulate his faith in God in unexpected situations, e.g. when the ambassadors from Gibeon arrived, or when the first attack on Ai failed, he seems to have performed poorly. Legalistic obedience is no use in those cases when principles need to be applied. Josh. 5:13,14 can be read as a rebuke of Joshua, wanting to boil everything down to black and white, wanting to see God as either personally for him or against him; when the essence is to seek to discern and do God’s will. He very strictly adhered to God’s commandments with legalistic obedience, e.g., about how to approach and deal with Jericho, or how to cross the flooded Jordan and build an altar; and time and again, we read in Joshua of how he strictly relayed and obeyed the Divine commandments given by Moses (Josh. 8:31,33,35; 11:12,15,20; 14:2,5; 17:4; 21:2,8).  Yet as with any literalistic or legally minded person, it was hard for Joshua to apply the principles behind the laws to situations which weren’t specifically addressed by Divine revelation, where legalistic obedience wasn't what was required.

Jos 11:13 But as for the cities that stood on their mounds, Israel burned none of them, except Hazor only; Joshua burned that one-
The comment of Josh. 24:13 is that the Israelites lived in such cities, in houses which they had not built. We wonder whether they simply picked up the idols they found there and began worshipping them. 

Jos 11:14 The children of Israel took all the spoil of these cities, with the livestock, as spoils for themselves; but every man they struck with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them. They didn’t leave any who breathed-
God told Israel to totally destroy the spoil from the cities they attacked. But when they failed to do this with Jericho, God told them that with Ai, the next city on the agenda, they were allowed to keep the spoil (Josh. 8:2); even though Dt. 20:14-16 said that this was how they should treat their distant enemies, but not cities like Ai which were part of their inheritance. This was an undoubted concession to human  weakness. The same concession to human weakness applied to other cities apart from Ai; it became a general policy that "all the spoil of these cities... the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves"; and yet following straight on from this we are told that Joshua "left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses" (Josh. 11:14,15). God accepted those concessions to human weakness, this living on a lower level, as total obedience. The grace of all this is marvellous.

Jos 11:15 As Yahweh had commanded Moses His servant, so Moses had commanded Joshua. Joshua did so. He left nothing undone of all that Yahweh commanded Moses-
See on Josh. 8:5; Dt. 18:18. The ‘likeness’ between Moses and the prophet like unto him was in that the prophet would also speak God’s words in a similar way. Josh. 11:15 therefore significantly comments: “As the Lord commanded Moses his servant, so did Moses command Joshua: and so did Joshua; he left nothing undone of all that the Lord commanded Moses”.  Joshua was a potential Messiah, although his native fearfulness seems to have meant he didn't fulfil the role as he could have done.

Jos 11:16 So Joshua captured all that land, the hill country, all the South, all the land of Goshen, the lowland, the Arabah, the hill country of Israel, and the lowland of the same-
We have here a summary, effectively stating that Joshua took all Canaan, and then in :18 we have the comment as to how this was achieved- by making war "a long time" with them.

Jos 11:17 from Mount Halak that goes up to Seir, even to Baal Gad in the valley of Lebanon under Mount Hermon. He took all their kings, struck them and put them to death-
"Baal Gad" suggests that Baal was worshipped through the worship of Gad, another god (Is. 65:11). Baal, we thereby learn, was worshipped through the worship of other gods. And this was exactly Israel's problem; they justified the worship of Baal by saying that it was a form of Yahweh worship. In various forms, this has been the abiding temptation for God's people of all ages. To worship their own idols in the name of worshipping Yahweh, to mix the flesh and the spirit, to mix paganism with true worship.  

Jos 11:18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings-
Perhaps five to seven years (Josh. 14:7,10). Joshua was there saying that at the point of Josh. 14:10, he has been subduing Canaan for a period of five to seven years [if we include parts of years as a year, as was the Hebrew style of reckoning, or if we consider the wilderness journeys to have been 38 and not 40 years]. 

Jos 11:19 There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon. They took all in battle-
This could imply that after what happened with the Hivites, there was the opportunity to make peace with Israel, by entering covenant with Yahweh. The destruction of the Canaanites was therefore because they had refused to accept this, and they are therefore the more culpable for it. I suggest on :21 that even Jericho had the opportunity to surrender and accept Israel's God as Rahab had done.

Jos 11:20 For Yahweh hardened their hearts, to come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, that they might have no favour, but that He might destroy them, as Yahweh had commanded Moses-
There are a number of passages which mention how "it was of the Lord" that certain attitudes were adopted by men, resulting in the sequence of events which He desired (Dt. 2:39; Josh. 11:20; 1 Sam. 2:25 ). It is tempting to read Jud. 14:4 in this context, meaning that God somehow made Samson desire that woman in order to bring about His purpose of freeing Israel from Philistine domination.

Jos 11:21 Joshua came at that time and cut off the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel: Joshua utterly destroyed them with their cities-
"Utterly destroyed" is the word used for destruction or devotion to Yahweh. It seems that all the Canaanites had the opportunity for repentance. The trumpet blasts were to be understood by the people of Jericho as a call to repentance, which they ignored (Am. 3:6; Is. 18:3). This would then explain why the cities were devoted to Yahweh in destruction, which was the punishment for a city which turned away from Yahweh (Dt. 13:12-14). 

Jos 11:22 There were none of the Anakim left in the land of the children of Israel. Only in Gaza, Gath and Ashdod did some remain-
Samson went to Gaza conscious that his people had failed to drive out the tribes (Josh. 11:22). Judah had captured it in Joshua's strength (Jud. 1:18), but had let the Philistines return. So Samson chose Gaza from spiritual motives; and yet he schemed out his plan to enable him to gratify his flesh.

We see here how absolute terms are used, "none of the Anakim...", when in fact this was not literally the case. This is a feature of Semitic writing. Thus "all" Jerusalem were baptized by John the Baptist, but not literally all of them.  

Jos 11:23 So Joshua took the whole land-
However, the land was not taken up to the Euphrates. Clearly God had recalculated the possibilities of Israel, and focused instead on giving them the land between the Jordan and Mediterranean, with a little bit to the east of Jordan. Although it seems even that was not His intention. He recalculated "the river" as not Euphrates, but Jordan. He saw how weak they were. And He does likewise with us in our weakness, recalculating at times what He expects from us, bearing in mind our weakness in not rising up to our potentials.

According to all that Yahweh spoke to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes-
But according to Josh. 11:23 13:1; 16:10; 18:3; 23:4, much land was still not possessed; does 11:23 therefore imply that the land had been possessed only in the perceptions of Israel? How responsible was Joshua for this? Or perhaps we are to see a difference between the fact Joshua "took" the land, and the way that Israel failed to "possess" it. This looks ahead to the way the Lord Jesus "took" the Kingdom for us, but so many fail to possess it.

The land had rest from war-
There is a strong Biblical connection between the land and people of Israel (e.g. "the land rested from war", Josh. 11:23, means the people did). The utter moral defilement of the people may therefore be physically expressed in the  state of the land. Thus Ezekiel's descriptions of a fertile and prosperous land are in the context of this being the outcome of a spiritual revival of Israel. The 'blossoming' of Israel's land since 1948 is not, therefore, a fulfilment of such prophecies (unless there has been an unperceived repentance of a minority).