Joshua 11
Pulpit Commentary
And it came to pass, when Jabin king of Hazor had heard those things, that he sent to Jobab king of Madon, and to the king of Shimron, and to the king of Achshaph,
Verse 1. - And it came to pass. The political constitution of Palestine was, humanly speaking, the cause of its overthrow. The division of the country into a host of petty states, and the consequent want of cohesion and concert, made its conquest a comparatively easy task. Had the kings of the north rallied round the standard set up in Central Palestine by Adoni-zedek, a far more formidable opposition would have been offered to Joshua at Gibeon. Calvin takes us, however, at once to the fountain head, and remarks how God fitted the burden to those who had to bear it. In spite of the great things God had done to them, they might have been driven to despair (and every one knows how weak their faith was) by the overwhelming numbers of the enemy. But by reason of the slackness of their opponents they were able to meet and overcome them in detail, without any opposition but what their weak faith enabled them courageously to confront. Jabin king of Hazer. Jabin (the Hebrew meaning of this word is intelligent) was, like Pharaoh in Egypt, the usual name for the king that reigned in Hazor (see Judges 4:2, 23, 24). He was a powerful monarch, and if not before, at least after, the Israelitish invasion became the acknowledged head of the league formed among the Canaanites against the Israelites. The first mention we have of Hazor in history is before the Exodus. The temple at Karnak, in Egypt, contains an account of an expedition into Palestine by Thotmes III., in which Kedeshu, Magedi, Damesku, Khatzor or Hazara, and other places are mentioned. We may no doubt identify these with Kedesh-Naphtali, Megiddo, Damascus, and Hazor (see Palest. Expl. Quart. Paper, April, 1876). Hazor, like fort in French and German, caer in Welsh, and the termination cester in English (so also chester), signifies a castle or fortified town. Like the names above mentioned, it was by no means an uncommon name. Beside the present Hazer, which was in northern Palestine, two cities of that name are mentioned in the south (Joshua 15:23, 25). It rose from its ashes during the period of inaction which followed the death of Joshua, and though (ch. 19:36) it was assigned to the tribe of Naphtali, became once more the centre of a strong Canaanitish organisation. It was, perhaps, the city Solomon is stated to have fortified (1 Kings 9:15), though this is not expressly stated. This becomes more probable when we find this Hazer among the cities of northern Israel captured by Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29). "Yet still, in spite of the destruction by the Assyrians, the name lived on till the time of the Maccabees, and the great contest between King Demetrius and Jonathan the Maccabean took place upon the plain of Hazer" (Ritter, 2:225). Josephus also mentions the πεδίον Ἀσώρ in this connection. Robinson identifies it with Tel Khuraibeh, on the lake of Huleh, the ancient Merom. Conder regards it as represented by Jebel and Merj Hadireh, on the borders of this lake. Dean Stanley places it above the lake, while Vandevelde finds a place called Hazur, with extensive ruins, some distance westward. The names, however, Hazur and Haziri, are very common. Of Madon and Shimron nothing is known. Knobel would identify Achshaph with Aeco or Ptolemais. Robinson supposes it to be the modern Kesai. But this is not certain, for Aehshaph (ch. 19:25) formed the border of Asher, while Kesaf is in the extreme north. According to Conder, it is the present el Yasif.
And to the kings that were on the north of the mountains, and of the plains south of Chinneroth, and in the valley, and in the borders of Dor on the west,
Verse 2. - On the north of the mountains. Rather, to the northward, in the mountain district. Not necessarily the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon range, but the mountains of Galilee, which lay within the boundaries of Naphtali. The LXX. reads צדון for צְפון and therefore renders κατὰ Σιδῶνα adding τήν μεγάλην from ver. 8. The plains south of Chinneroth. Rather, the Arabah south of Chinneroth (see note on Joshua 3:16). The word Arabah is given untranslated in Joshua 18:18. This was, no doubt, the great Ghor, or depression of the Jordan, or at least the northern part of it, extending for some distance south of the town of Chinneroth (Joshua 19:35; Deuteronomy 3:17). This town gave its name to the lake or inland sea now better known to the student of Scriptures as the sea of Tiberias, or lake of Gennesareth (see Numbers 34:11). "As we enter upon the geological character of the basin which contains the sea of Galilee, we see at once that it is simply one element of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea, which extends due north and south for a distance of sixty hours. This is the Ghor, or Sunken Valley of the Arabah" (see note on Joshua 3:16)," extending from Hasbeya to the AElanitic gulf as a continuous cleft - the deepest one known to us" (Ritter, 2:241). He goes on to enumerate the various signs of volcanic agency in this region; the frequent earthquakes, the form of the basin of Gennesareth (though he denies it to be a crater), the hot springs, the frequent eaves, the naphtha deposits and springs, the hot water springs to be found even in the Dead Sea, the lofty crystalline masses of the Sinaitic peninsula, and the porphyritic dykes found at the southern end Of the Ghor, as well as the general conformation of the country east of Jordan. The sea of Chinneroth, or Tiberias, is stated by Conder (Handbook, pp. 212, 216) to be 682.5 feet below the level of the Mediterranean. And in the valley. The Shephelah, or lowland district (see above Joshua 9:1). The borders of Dot. Rather, the heights, or highlands (נָפות Vulg. regionibus) of Dor. This elevated position was a remarkable feature of the neighbourhood, though the various translations of the word (as "coast," Joshua 12:23; "region," 1 Kings 4:11) rather obscure the prominence given to this physical characteristic in the Scripture narrative. Rosenmuller would translate it the "promontory" of Dor, for Dot (now Tantura, Tortura, or Dandora) was upon the sea coast south of Carmel, and nine Roman miles north of Caesarea. Thus situated, its position on a hill, though the hill is not a lofty one, would strike the observer, and it accounts for the peculiar form of speech noticed above, which is so common that in the LXX. it is usually given as part of the proper name, Ναφεδδώρ (cf. Ναφαθδώρ, ch. 12:23; Νεφθαδώρ, 1 Kings 4:11). And behind it are still higher rocky ridges, to which the name also applies. Dor, with its excellent harbour, was a noted place of commerce in ancient times, especially in the murex coccineus, from which the far famed Tyrian dye was obtained. These are a species of mussel, and Seetzen mentions two varieties, the murex trunculus of Linnaeus, and the Helix ianthina. The latter is of a whitish green, but when taken out of the water it passes from red to purple, and after death to violet. Its use has been superseded by that of the cochineal insect, but the Tyrian purple was in great demand in early times. Its costliness may be inferred from the fact that in each insect a little pouch behind the head, not the size of a pea, contains the dye. See Ritter, 4:280, 281; Pliny, ' Nat. Hist.' 9, 36 (60 in some editions); and' Epist.' 50, 10, 26. The allusions to it by Horace, Virgil, Juvenal, and other classical authors are too numerous for quotation. We may take as instances Virgil, Georg. 3:17: "Illi victor ego, et Tyrio conspectus in ostro" (cf. AEn. 4:262): and Juvenal, Sat. 7:134; "Spondet enim Tyrio stlataria purpura filo." The ruins of the ancient city still crown the steeps of its site (see Vandevelde's Memoir, and Conder's Handbook. Also Keil in loc.). On the west. The LXX. renders, "And to the Amorites on the sea coast" (see last note), leaving out all mention of the Canaanites.
And to the Canaanite on the east and on the west, and to the Amorite, and the Hittite, and the Perizzite, and the Jebusite in the mountains, and to the Hivite under Hermon in the land of Mizpeh.
Verse 3. - To the Canaanite (see note on Joshua 3:10). This confederacy was yet more formidable than the other (ver. 5), but was as signally defeated by Joshua's promptitude (see ver. 7). We are reminded of the swift march of our own Harold, and its results at Stamford Bridge; with this difference, however, that the enemy, instead of being engaged in triumphant festivity, was preparing for an expedition against a much dreaded enemy, who was believed to be far off. Napoleon had nearly achieved a similar surprise at Quatre Bras and Ligny. The Jebusite in the mountains. Jerusalem was not yet taken. From the neighbourhood of that as yet unconquered city, and probably from itself, Jabin drew his auxiliaries, while Joshua was as yet fully occupied in the south. Hermon in the land of Mizpeh. Mizpeh, or Ham-mizpah, as it is usually called (save in ver. 8; Judges 11:29; 1 Samuel 22:3; Hosea 5:1), i.e., the watch-tower, was a common name among the Israelites. There was one in Judah (Joshua 15:38), in Benjamin (Joshua 18:26), in Gilead (Judges 11:29; cf. Genesis 31:49; Joshua 13:26), and in Moab (1 Samuel 22:3). Ritter (ii. 353) mentions the large number of watch towers, of which the ruins may still he traced, along the line of the great watershed of Judea. This one was probably far to the north, on the northwestern side of Hermon, commading a view of the plain of Coele Syria, which extended from southwest to northeast between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon. This vast plain is still known as the Bukei'a (see note on Joshua 5:8), though Robinson denies that this Bukei'a is meant, because the Bukei'a properly so called was not under Hermon. This makes it possible that Mizpeh might have been on the south. eastern side of Hermon, where also an extensive view might be had. Ritter, however, says it can be no other than "the great plain which extends north of Lake Huleh, from its narrow western margin to Banias, that is, the plain south and southwest of Hermon. Some have supposed the meaning of Mizpeh to be equivalent to Belle Vue in modern days. But the meaning "watchtower" suggests ideas more in keeping with those rude times, in which our modern appreciation of scenery was a rare quality. It was not the beauty of the view which was valued, but its extent, as giving timely notice of the approach of an enemy. Mount Hermon has already been mentioned in the note on Joshua 1:4. Some further particulars may here be added. We find in Deuteronomy 3:9 that the Amorites call the mountain Shenir, and the Sidonians Sirion. It is very remarkable, and bears on the authorship of the Song of Solomon, that the Amorite name Shenir is given to Hermon in Song of Solomon 4:8. Was the song addressed to a Hittite wife, or had Solomon an Amorite one? In Deuteronomy 4:48 Hermon is called Sion. With the former of these passages we may compare Psalm 29:6. But we must not confound (as even a writer so well informed as Bitter does) the Zion, or Tzion (sunny mount), of Psalm 133, where Hermon is mentioned, with the Sion, or "lofty mountain" (spelt with Sin, not Tzade), in Deuteronomy 4:48. Vandevelde asks why the mountain is called by so many names, and replies that it is because "it is a cluster of mountains many days' journey in circumference." A much better reason is suggested by the fact mentioned in our former note - that, as the highest ground in Palestine, it was visible from every part of it. The name Sirion, or the coat of mail, was no doubt given from its glittering, surface. It is to be feared that the reason given above for the Sidonian name diminishes the probability of the remarkable argument in Blunt's 'Coincidences,' part 2:2, derived from the Sidonian settlement (Judges 18.) at the foot of Hermon.
And they went out, they and all their hosts with them, much people, even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude, with horses and chariots very many.
Verse 4. And they went out. Dean Stanley (Lectures, 1:259) compares this "last struggle" of the Canaanites with the conflict between the Saxons and the British chiefs "driven to the Land's End." The comparison is more picturesque than accurate. In the first place, it was by no means a "last struggle" (see ver. 21; Joshua 18:3; Joshua 19:47; Judges 4. throughout). In the next, the Britons were never driven to the Land's End, but Dorsetshire, which retained its independence for 200 years, was treated by Ina as Gezer (Joshua 16:10), was treated by the Ephraimites, while Devonshire and Cornwall came very gradually and almost peacefully under the hands of the conquerors. And thirdly, even had it been otherwise, there is a vast difference between a handful of desperate men driven to bay on a tongue of land surrounded nearly on every side by the sea, and a powerful, though defeated, nation with a vast continent in its rear. Yet there are many features common to the history of the Israelites in Canaan, and of the Teutonic tribes in Britain (see Introduction). As the sand that is upon the sea shore. This poetic phrase is common in the Hebrew writings (see Genesis 22:17; Genesis 32:12; Judges 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:5; 1 Kings 4:20, etc.). Solomon's capacious intellect is compared to the sand on the sea shore, in 1 Kings 4:29. The word translated "shore" is "lip" in the original, a word which adds to the poetry of the passage. And horses and chariots very many. Literally, many exceedingly. The Israelites appear to have held cavalry and chariots in great awe (see Exodus 14:18, and the song of triumph in Exodus 15; cf. also Joshua 17:16, 18; Judges 1:19; Judges 4:3). In later times they appear to have become more used to them. See, for instance, 1 Samuel 13:5, where the historian gives their number, large as it was, instead of regarding it as past all computation. This battle must have taken place on level ground, or the chariots would have been useless. Accordingly the historian fixes its scene on the banks of "the waters of Merom," where such ground is to be found - another instance of his historical accuracy (see Vandevelde, Journey 2:413, who places the battle on the great plain southwest of the latter). The use of chariots in battle dates from an early period. Homer's heroes are described as driven to battle in them. But perhaps the scythe chariots are here meant, which are not found on early Egyptian monuments, but which Xenophon in his Cyropaedia says were introduced By Cyrus. We find them, however, in use in Britain, in the days of Julius Caesar, and they could hardly have obtained the idea from the Persians. Potter (Antiquities, bk. 3. ch. 1.) says that they were gradually abandoned when they were found more dangerous to those who used them than to the enemy. That this kind of chariot is here meant seems pretty certain from the alarm they caused. No such alarm would have been caused by chariots simply used to convey the chieftains to the fight (see Gesenius, s.v. Xenophon, Cyr. 6:4; and 2 Macc. 13:2). All their hosts. The LXX. reads מַלְכֵיהֶמ their kings, for מַחֲנֵיהֶם.
And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.
Verse 5. - The waters of Merom. Robinson and the later travellers generally identify this with the Samochonitis (Joseph, Ant. 5:01; Bell. Jud. 3.9.7; 4.1.1), now Huleh. Keil and Delitzseh deny this, but it may be regarded as established, on the authority of Ritter, Vandevelde, Tristram, in short of all who have visited Palestine during the last thirty years. But its name, "the waters of height," would seem to answer to this, the highest of the inland lakes of Palestine. The Jordan runs through it, and it is also the reservoir for numerous other streams. "In the centre of this plain, half morass, half tarn, lies the uppermost lake of the Jordan" - the little lake Phiala excepted - "about seven miles long, and at its greatest width six miles broad, the mountains slightly compressing it at either extremity, surrounded by an almost impenetrable jungle of reeds, abounding in wild fowl, the sloping hills near it scoured by herds of gazelles" (Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine,' p. 382).
And the LORD said unto Joshua, Be not afraid because of them: for to morrow about this time will I deliver them up all slain before Israel: thou shalt hough their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.
Verse 6. - And the Lord said unto Joshua. The encouragement was not unnecessary. The task before Joshua was harder than any that had yet befallen him. The enemy was far more numerous and better equipped. And it is a well known fact that men of tried courage are often daunted by unaccustomed dangers. Therefore all Joshua's strength of mind was required to inspirit even men who had experienced God's wonderful support at the passing of the Jordan, at the siege of Jericho, at the battle before Gibeon, now that they were face to face with the unwonted spectacle of a vast host, furnished with all the best munitions of war known to that age. The Israelites had nothing to depend upon but their own tried valour, and the reliance they felt upon God's support. "Unequal in arms and tactics," says Ewald ('Hist. Israel.,' 2:2. C.), "they could oppose to the Canaanites only courage and confidence." Tomorrow about this time. The promise was made on the eve of the encounter, but not, of course, as some have supposed, while Joshua was still at Gilgal. We are not told how long Joshua was on the march. Probably (as in ch. 2.) he had sent scouts forward, who brought him intelligence on the day before the battle of the vastness of the host, and the formidable nature of its equipment. The martial spirit Joshua had infused into the host, and the spirit of faith in God begotten of His recent acts of favour, contrast remarkably with the conduct of the Israelites described in Numbers 14. To each servant of God His own special gift is vouchsafed. Moses was the man to inspire the Israelites with a reverence for law. Joshua had the special aptitudes for the leader in a campaign. It is a confirmation of this view that, in the one successful engagement recorded during the forty years' wandering in the desert, Joshua, not Moses, was the leader of the troops, while the aged law giver remained at a distance, encouraging them by his prayers (see Exodus 17:8-13). But while we thus regard the secondary influences of individual character, we must not forget that the Israelites were also sustained at this moment by the assurances of Divine protection given at Jericho, at Ai, at Beth-horon, which had not been vouchsafed to them while under Moses's leadership in the wilderness. Will I deliver up. The "I" in the original is emphatic. And the use of the present participle in the Hebrew adds vividness to the promise. Slain. LXX. and Vulg., wounded.. Thou shalt hough their horses. To hough (or hoxe, Wiclif) is to hamstring, νευροκοπεῖν, LXX., to cut the sinews behind the hoofs, the hocks, as they are called. This rendered the horse useless, for the sinew could not reunite. The effects of the horses and chariots upon the mind of Joshua and his host, who had neither, is here traceable. "Those very horses and chariots, which seem to you so formidable, will I, the Lord of hosts, be tomorrow at this time delivering into your hand. The horses shall be forever useless to your enemies, and the dreaded chariots shall cease to be." Why should Joshua have destroyed the horses? Perhaps (as Keil, following Calvin, suggests) in order that the Israelites should not put their trust in chariots or in horses (Psalm 20:7; Psalm 147:10), but in God alone (cf. Deuteronomy 17:16). But more obvious considerations of policy may have dictated the measure. God never (see Matthew 4:1-7) makes use of supernatural means when natural ones are sufficient. Now the Israelites were unacquainted with the use of horses in warfare, while their enemies were not. To retain the horses while the country was as yet unsubdued would have been a double burden to them, for they would have had not only to keep them themselves, but to prevent the enemy from regaining them. On the same principle in modern warfare do we spike guns we cannot carry off, and destroy provisions we cannot convert to our own use.
So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them.
Verse 7. - Suddenly (see remarks in Introduction on Joshua's characteristics as a general. Also Joshua 10:9). And they fell upon them. This phrase denotes the rapidity of the onset. While they deemed him to be leagues away, he suddenly appeared at the head of his army, no doubt debouching from one of the mountain passes of Upper Galilee; and before they could set themselves in battle array, his troops, without giving the enemy time to rally, or themselves a moment's breathing-time, commenced the attack. The LXX. adds "in the hill country" here, an obvious blunder. The translator must have carelessly read בהר for בהם.
And the LORD delivered them into the hand of Israel, who smote them, and chased them unto great Zidon, and unto Misrephothmaim, and unto the valley of Mizpeh eastward; and they smote them, until they left them none remaining.
Verse 8. - And the Lord delivered them (see Joshua 10:42). The issue of every battle is in God's hands. The natural man attributes it to human skill. The spiritual man, whether under the law or under the gospel, acknowledges the truth that "there is no restraint to the Lord, to save by many or by few" (1 Samuel 14:6). But if victory should ever side with numbers, if God appears not to "defend the right," it is that anxiety and sorrow may chasten the hearts of its upholders, lead them to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts," and so conduct them to a final victory when they are fitted to resist the intoxication of prosperity. Many a lesson in history has taught us that immediate success is by no means a blessing, even to those who are in the main fighting for a good cause. Great Zidon. So called, not to distinguish it from any other city, but to mark (so also Joshua 19:28) its importance as the capital of Phoenicia. This expression, "great Zidon," marks the early date of the Book of Joshua. In Homer's Iliad, Sidon is represented as the great home of the arts, though the historian Justin tells us that, even when Homer wrote, her superiority had passed to Tyre (see II. 6:290, 23. 743; Odyssey 4:618, 13:285, 15:425. Homer speaks of it as "well peopled," famous for "much brass" and the like (see Kenrick's 'Phoenicia'). In later years, Tyre, known only to the Book of Joshua as "the strong (literally, 'fortified') city." Tyre (Joshua 19:29) outstripped her rival, and from the time of David till that of Alexander the Great, in spite of her destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, retained her pre-eminence (see the vivid description of Tyre in Ezekiel 26, 27.). Sidon, now called Saida, is still a commercial city of some importance, whereas Tyre is, or was, a few years ago, little better than a collection of huts. This is not difficult to explain. The pre-eminence of Tyre was due to her military strength in a time of warlike enterprise, that of Sidon to natural, position. "This ancient city of Phoenicia, 'the eldest born of Canaan'" (see Genesis 10:15), "stood on the northwest slope of a small promontory which runs into the sea, and its original harbour was formed by three low ridges of rocks, with narrow openings between them parallel to the shore in front of the city. On these islands there are remains of massive substructions, the work of the ancient Phoenicians. There is a spacious but unprotected bay on the south of the promontory .... No traces of the ancient city can be seen on the mainland, but at a short distance to the north are sepulchral grottoes, which probably mark the necropolis." The plain of Sidon is prolonged as far as Sarepta, the Zarephath of the Old Testament, eight miles to the south, which stands on a rising ground near the sea, and shows the remains of ancient walls (Kenrick, 'Phoenicia,' pp. 17, 18). Misrephoth Maim. Literally, burnings of waters. Kimchi conjectures that these were hot springs, whereas Jarchi more reasonably supposes them to have been salt pits, in which the water was evaporated and the salt left. Masius, whom most modern commentators follow, thinks that glass houses, of which there were several near Sidon ("constat enim eas apud Sidonem fuisse plurimas"), are meant. But it is difficult to translate the Hebrew with him and Gesenins, "burning near waters," and the idea of some that water stands here for glass is absurd. Knobel regards it as equivalent to water-heights, i.e., cliffs rising from the sea, and derives the word from an Arabic root, saraph, to be high. The LXX. renders it by a proper name. Symmachus, "from the sea," reading מִיַּם for מַיִם. The Chaldee has "fossas aquarum." Misrephoth Maim (see Joshua 13:6) was not far from Sidon. Valley. The word here, Bik'a, signifies an open, wide valley between mountains (see ver. 17). Sometimes, as in Genesis 11:2, it is equivalent to plain.
And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.
And Joshua at that time turned back, and took Hazor, and smote the king thereof with the sword: for Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms.
Verse 10. - Turned back. From his march toward Sidon. For Hazor beforetime was the head of all those kingdoms (see note on ver. 1).
And they smote all the souls that were therein with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them: there was not any left to breathe: and he burnt Hazor with fire.
Verse 11. - Utterly destroying them (see note on Joshua 6:17; so below, ver. 12). There was not any left to breathe (see note on Joshua 10:40). And he burnt Hazor with fire. Comparing this verse with verses 13 and 21, there can be little doubt that Joshua had heard that the Anakim had succeeded in re-occupying the cities he had captured in the south. He resolved to prevent this in the case of Hazor, which had been the capital of the neighbourhood, though he did not think the same step necessary in the case of the inferior cities. Hazor was afterwards rebuilt and reoccupied by the Canaanites (Judges 4:2), though not in the time of Joshua. For the present, this destruction of the stronghold of Phoenician power in the north was a decisive measure, and would have been so permanently had the Israelites followed up the policy of Joshua.
And all the cities of those kings, and all the kings of them, did Joshua take, and smote them with the edge of the sword, and he utterly destroyed them, as Moses the servant of the LORD commanded.
But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn.
Verse 13. - The cities that stood still in their strength. This is the rendering of the Chaldee version. The LXX. has κεχωματισμένας, heaped up, i.e., defended with mounds. Rather, on their hill ("in collibus et in tumulis sitae," Vulg.). As many of the towns in Italy, and the castles in Germany in the middle ages, so these Phoenician cities were placed upon hills, that they might be more easily defended. The various tribes of Palestine were no doubt continually at war, and, as regards these northern tribes at least, were not accustomed to subsist by commerce. Therefore each of these cities stood (the Hebrew עמד surely implies situation here) on its own hill, a detail possibly obtained from an eyewitness, who was probably struck by this feature of the district, a feature he had not observed before. The expression is used, however, as Masius observes, by Jeremiah (Joshua 30:18). Knobel observes that all the early versions have no suffix here. What he calls the "free translation," however, of the LXX. (which has αὐτῶν) requires the suffix, though the Vulgate requires none. We must not adopt the very plausible explanation of Knobel and others that Joshua burnt the cities in the valleys, but spared the cities on the hills, because they could be more easily defended (see Joshua 17:16; Judges 1:19, 34), since we read that Hazor alone was burnt. The word here translated hill (Tell, Arabic) is one with which we are familiar in the modern name of places in Palestine (see note on Joshua 8:28).
And all the spoil of these cities, and the cattle, the children of Israel took for a prey unto themselves; but every man they smote with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, neither left they any to breathe.
Verse 14. - Took for a prey unto themselves (see Joshua 8:2, 27, and notes).
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.
Verse 15. - As the Lord Commanded Moses (see note on Joshua 10:40). So did Joshua. The implicit obedience of Joshua to all the commands he had received of God, whether directly or indirectly through Moses, is a striking feature of his character. Like most great soldiers, he possessed remarkable simplicity of disposition. He reminds us, in his rapidity of conception and execution, of Napoleon, but in his single minded eye to duty he is much more like our own Wellington. Only one instance in which he erred, that of the league with Gibeon, is recorded, and this was but an illlustration of the unsuspicious straightforwardness of his character (see notes on Joshua 19:49-51; 23:2; 24:15).
So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land of Goshen, and the valley, and the plain, and the mountain of Israel, and the valley of the same;
Verse 16. - All that land. Rather, "all this land ;" the land, that is, which has been spoken of in all the previous narrative. It must not be pressed to mean the utter destruction of all the Canaanites, and the undisturbed possession of the country. The hills. The mountain country of Judah, in the south. The same word is translated "mountain" immediately afterwards, to the confusion of the sense, which contrasts the mountains of Israel with the mountains of Judah (see ver. 21). This would seem at first sight to lead to the conclusion that the Book of Joshua was composed after the jealousy between Judah and the rest of Israel had sprung up in the time of David (see 2 Samuel 19:41-48). But Dr. Edersheim has suggested another explanation. Judah, he says (see Joshua 14:6; Joshua 15:1), entered upon their inheritance, while the other tribes were still in Gilgal. In the same way Mount Ephraim is so called because it was given to that tribe, and occupied by them shortly after. While as the remaining seven tribes remained without their inheritance (Reuben and Gad as well as Manasseh and Ephraim being now provided for), the rest of the mountains were known as the mountains of Israel. This explanation is ingenious, but hardly satisfactory. Ephraim (see Judges 8:1, 2; Judges 12:1) early acquired a preponderance over the other tribes. We should therefore expect a threefold division of the mountain district, the mountains of Judah, of Joseph, and of Israel, especially as Ephraim was the next after Judah to enter upon its inheritance. The internal evidence seems to prove that the Book of Joshua was written by one of the tribe of Judah, or by a Levite residing within the borders of that tribe. Perhaps this affords the best explanation, but is quite possible that the whole mountain district of Palestine is here meant. The south. The Negeb, or dry country (see Joshua 10:40). The valley. The Shephelah, or lowlands (see note on Joshua 9:1). This must have extended from Gaza northward to Joppa, while the Shephelah of Israel mentioned immediately below must be the lowland tract from Joppa to Mount Carmel. The plain. The Arabah (see note on Joshua 3:16). And the valley of the same. Rather, his (i.e., Israel's) lowland.
Even from the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir, even unto Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon under mount Hermon: and all their kings he took, and smote them, and slew them.
Verse 17. - The Mount Halak. The smooth mountain. Literally," monte glabro," Vulg.; λεῖον, Symmachus. This may either be interpreted "the mountain bare of foliage," as opposed to Seir, the hairy or wooded mountain, as Masius and Rosenmuller suppose, or, as the latter also suggests, it may mean the mountain which has a smooth outline, as opposed to a precipitous cliff. This falls in with the character of the hills on the south of Palestine (see note on Joshua 10:40). The LXX. renders by a proper name. But this the article forbids. The Syriac interpreter renders "the dividing mountain." But חלק rather signifies in this sense to assign by lot. Keil would identify it with "the row of white cliffs which cuts the Arabah obliquely at about eight English miles to the south of the Dead Sea," and divides the great valley into two parts, the Ghor and the Arabah. He gives up the other "smooth" or "bald" mountains, because they do not "go up to Self." Later explorers have failed to settle its situation. Seir. This mountainous region was well known as the territory of Esau (see Genesis 32:2). Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon. For valley (בִּקְעָה) see note on ver. 8. Baal-gad has been by some identified with Baalbek, or Heliopolis, a Syrian city, whose vast ruins strike the beholder with astonishment even now. But Baalbek lay considerably to the north of Palestine. It has therefore with greater probability been identified by Robinson, Von Raumer, and others, with Paneas or Caesarea Philippi. Baal-gad signifies "the lord of fortune," an aspect under which the Babylonian Baal or Bel was frequently worshipped. The word Gad, erroneously translated "troop" in our version (Genesis 30:11; Isaiah 65:11), is properly "fortune," and hence the god Fortune. The worship of Pan in later times supplanted that of Baal, but traces of both cults, in inscriptions and niches, may be found in the neighbourhood to the present day (see Tristram, 'Land of Israel'). All travellers speak with enthusiasm of the situation of Banias. Josephus says that it affords a profusion of natural gifts. Seetzen corroborates him. Dean Stanley compares it to Tivoli, and Canon Tristram thinks that in its rocks, caverns, and cascades there is much to remind the visitor of what is perhaps the loveliest place in all Italy. He continues, "The situation of Banias is indeed magnificent. With tall limestone cliffs to the north and east, a rugged torrent of basalt to the south, and a gentle slope for its western front, Banias is almost hidden till the traveller is among the ruins." Banias stands at the end of a gorge of the Hermon range with the wide range of the Huleh plain opening out before it, as the Campagna and Rome in the distance are seen from the mouth of the gorge at Tivoli. Vandevelds, however, identifies Banias with Beth-rehob, on the insufficient ground that Baal-gad is said to be in, not at, the mouth of the valley or Bik'ath of Lebanon. He prefers the castles either of Bostra or of Aisafa, the one an hour and a half, the other three hours north of Banias. It should be added that an arm of the Jordan rises and rushes through the gorge here, "praeceps," like the Anio at Tivoli. The valley of Lebanon is supposed by some not to be the valley between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon, but the country on the southern declivity of Mount Hermon. But the term בִּקְעָה here unquestionably means the well-known Bukei'a or Coele Syria, i.e., the tract between Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon (see Knobel).
Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.
Verse 18. - A long time. Hebrew, many days. The campaign in southern Israel lasted for weeks, perhaps even months. But the campaign in northern Palestine must have lasted longer. The vast host which gathered at the waters of Merom was destroyed, but the task of capturing the innumerable cities which dotted that region must have been a protracted one. We may, with Josephus, infer from Joshua 14:10 that it occupied five years, or perhaps, with other of the ancient Rabbis, seven years, since the wanderings in the wilderness after the rebellion of the Israelites lasted thirty-eight years.
There was not a city that made peace with the children of Israel, save the Hivites the inhabitants of Gibeon: all other they took in battle.
For it was of the LORD to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that he might destroy them utterly, and that they might have no favour, but that he might destroy them, as the LORD commanded Moses.
Verse 20. - To harden their hearts (cf. Exodus 4:21; Exodus 7:23). Muller, 'Christian Doctrine of Sin,' 2:412, says that "Scripture never speaks of God's hardening men's hearts, save in connection with His revelations through Moses or Christ." This passage evidently had not occurred to him when writing. His explanation of the difficulty is hardly satisfactory. We are not to suppose that the free will of the Canaanites was in any way interfered with. God no doubt left them to themselves as the due punishment of their iniquities. Sin in general, by God's own appointment, and especially the sensual sins in which the Canaanites were steeped, has a tendency to produce insensibility to moral or even prudential considerations, and to beget a recklessness which urges on the sinner to his ruin. Some have argued that had they all come, like the Gibeonites, as suppliants, they must all have been massacred in cold blood. But this is not likely. Rather we must imagine that God foresaw that they would not believe the signs He would give in favour of the Israelites, and that by meeting them in battle they brought a swift and speedy destruction on themselves.
And at that time came Joshua, and cut off the Anakims from the mountains, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the mountains of Judah, and from all the mountains of Israel: Joshua destroyed them utterly with their cities.
Verse 21. - And at that time (see ver. 18). What is meant is, during the continuance of the war in which the country above described was conquered. The destruction of the Anakim was the conclusion of the work, and was rendered necessary by their having reoccupied the places Joshua had taken (see notes on Joshua 10:36-39). The Anakims. Literally, the long-necked men. Called the "children of Anak" (Numbers 13:28, 33; also Joshua 15:13, 14). Gesenius would derive the German nacken and the English neck from this root. The word is used of the chains on the necks of camels (Judges 8:26. So also Song of Solomon 4:9, of a necklace). They were men of gigantic stature (Numbers 13:32), and were no doubt a hill tribe of the Amorites. It is worthy of remark that to the two fearless men whose faith did not fail them at the sight of the walled cities, and of the giant forms of their inhabitants, was entrusted the task of overcoming these antagonists, and thus of proving the truth of their own words. Thus it ever is in the counsels of God. "To him that hath shall be given, and from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away." To Joshua, who had confidence in God, the whole land of Canaan was given into subjection. From the Israelites, who had not that confidence, the inheritance of their fathers was taken away (cf. also Matthew 25:21, 28). Many writers suppose that these Anakim (like the Rephaim of Joshua 12:4) were the aboriginal inhabitants, and of Turanian descent (see note on next verse). Anab. A town about ten miles southwest of Hebron (cf. Joshua 15:50). It was apparently one of the daughter cities of Debir, and there is still a place of that name in the immediate vicinity of Dhaharijeh. Mountains of Judah. For this and the "mountains of Israel" see note on ver. 16.
There was none of the Anakims left in the land of the children of Israel: only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod, there remained.
Verse 22. - Only in Gaza. This statement is confirmed by what we afterwards read. In Gath especially (1 Samuel 17:4; 2 Samuel 21:18-22; 1 Chronicles 20:4-8, the last passage preserving the true text, which has become hopelessly corrupt in the second Book of Samuel) we find the race of giants remaining till David's time. But it had almost died out. Goliath and his brethren seem to have been regarded by the Philistines, as much as by the Hebrews, in the light of prodigies. It may be that the race deteriorated in size and strength, when driven from the mountain district. Gaza (Hebrew Azzah, as in Deuteronomy 2:23; 1 Kings 4:24; Jeremiah 25:20) was a stronghold of the Philistines. We first find it mentioned as the border of Canaan in Genesis 10:19. It was the scene of the exploits of Samson, related in Judges 16. It, with Gath, Ekron, Ashdod, and Ashkelon, formed the five Philistine lordships mentioned in Joshua 13:5. Gaza does not appear in the list of cities captured by David, although Gath does. Perhaps the strength of its position (Azzah signifies strength) may have enabled it to resist David and Solomon, whose dominions are said to have extended to, but not to have included, Azzah. We read little more of it in the Old Testament. Jeremiah says that Pharaoh smote it (Joshua 47:1); Amos and Zephaniah threatened it with punishment. It is mentioned in Acts 8:26 as a place of some importance. And it still exists, at about an hour's journey from the sea, and is now called Ghazzeh. (see also note on ver. 41). Gath. Also one of the five Philistine lordships. In David's time it had a king, with whom David took refuge (1 Samuel 21:10; 1 Samuel 27:2). It was afterwards conquered by David (2 Samuel 21:20; 1 Chronicles 18:1; 1 Chronicles 20:6). We find it in Solomon's jurisdiction, though under the government of one of its own royal family (1 Kings 2:39). Rehoboam fortified it (2 Chronicles 11:8). Hazael, the powerful king of Syria, wrested it from Jehoash, and was only bought air from assailing Jerusalem. Uzziah retook it once more (2 Chronicles 26:6). Hezekiah seems to have retained it (2 Kings 18:8). After this we hear no more of it. Modern travellers and commentators have identified it with Beit-Jibrin (the house of the mighty - perhaps a reminiscence of Goliath and his kindred), now Eleutheropolis (so Knobel). Others suppose it to be the Blanche Garde of the Crusaders, or Tell-es-Safieh, an opinion supported, among others, by Mr. J. L. Porter and Lieut. Conder. See, however, the note on Libnah, Joshua 10:29. Ashdod. Later Azotus, now Esdud. Here the ark was carried after the disastrous defeat related in 1 Samuel 4. It was conquered by Uzziah (no doubt it had formerly been reduced by David), who built forts to overawe it (2 Chronicles 26:6), but it fell into the hands of Sargon, king of Assyria, a little later (Isaiah 20:1). It is frequently mentioned by the prophets, and we find that Jonathan, the brother of Judas Maceabaeus, burnt the temple of Dagon there (1 Macc. 10:83, 84). It is mentioned as Azotus in Acts 8:40.
So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the LORD said unto Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance unto Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. And the land rested from war.
Verse 23. - Joshua took the whole land. The word must not be pressed to mean that every Canaanitish stronghold was razed or appropriated. The word כֹל, as has been before remarked, has a very loose signification in Hebrew. What is meant is simply this. Joshua had established an unquestioned military preponderance in Palestine. He had broken down all resistance; but before he completed his conquests to their full extent, he had to provide for the peaceable settlement of the tribes in the territory he had seized. The complete extermination of the Canaanites formed no part of his commission or his plan (Deuteronomy 7:22; cf. Exodus 23:29, 30). To have effected it would have been to throw the land out of cultivation, and to expose its possessors to the usual inconveniences of depopulated districts. Therefore it was Joshua's policy to leave the Canaanites to be extirpated by degrees, and to encourage the Israelites to cultivate the arts both of war and of peace; to nourish a martial spirit by remembering that numerous and active enemies still dwelt in their midst, while yet they were not neglectful of the importance of a settled and civilised, an agricultural and pastoral life. See also Judges 3:1, 2. This purpose was defeated, not only by the usual effects of civilisation upon hardy or savage tribes, but also by the Israelites becoming addicted to the pleasant but enfeebling vices of the races they had supplanted. We see in the Israelitish history the best exemplification of St. Paul's theory that the "law worketh wrath," although it is "holy, just, and good." The excellence of the moral precepts delivered by Moses did but serve to manifest more clearly the inherent depravity of our nature (Romans 3:20; Romans 5:20; Romans 7:7, 8), and its need of a Saviour, who should render obedience possible by the gift of regeneration, and the infusion of His own Spirit. According to their divisions. Literally, their divisions by lot, the word being derived from the same root as the word Halak in ver. 7, because a smooth stone was usually employed in casting lots. Hence it came to mean any authoritative division or distribution, as the courses of the Levites (1 Chronicles 23:6), the classification for purposes of enlistment (1 Chronicles 27:1) and the like. And the land rested from war. That is to say, the Canaanites were so thoroughly cowed and dispirited that they dared offer no further resistance to the Israelites in their task of portioning out the land. They were quite contented to be allowed to live in peace in such of their cities which remained, and had no disposition to court an overthrow such as took place at the battles of Gibeon and Merom, with its inevitable results of the absolute extermination, not only of every one who took up arms, but of every human being in the city to which they belonged. Thus the Israelites were able to give their whole attention to the survey and apportionment of the territory according to the relative size and importance of the tribes.

Pulpit Commentary

Joshua 10
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