March 13 Reading: Joshua 9-11 Commentary
Below is our Joshua 9-11 commentary from our Beginning to End Bible reading program. You can find an email link at the end of this page to share your thoughts or comments with us.
“Then the men of Israel took some of their provisions; but they did not ask counsel of the Lord. So Joshua made peace with them, and made a covenant with them to let them live; and the rulers of the congregation swore to them.” (Josh. 9:14-15)
“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had said to Moses; and Joshua gave it as an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Then the land rested from war.” (Josh. 11:23)
Joshua 9 – Those Tricky Gibeonites
What decision is too small that you do not ask the Lord for direction? That question faced Joshua next. In Joshua 9, a group of people known as the Gibeonites heard how the armies of Israel were conquering the land. Being in close proximity to where the armies of Israel currently were, they feared they were next. So instead of joining the alliance of kings preparing to do battle with Israel (vv. 1-2), they tried a different tactic.
Their plan was to trick Joshua and the other leaders into making peace with them. It’s a really elaborate and well thought out scheme. They,
“…took old sacks on their donkeys, old wineskins torn and mended, old and patched sandals on their feet, and old garments on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and moldy. And they went to Joshua, to the camp at Gilgal, and said to him and to the men of Israel, ‘We have come from a far country; now therefore, make a covenant with us'” (vv. 4-6).
Joshua did ask where they were from. Perhaps he sensed a ruse at work. But they continued to say they were from a far away land and wanted to make a covenant to be Israel’s servants (vv. 9-13).
Joshua’s men did inspect the men’s provisions. But “they did not ask counsel of the Lord” (v. 14). So the trickery worked. Joshua made a treaty with people he was supposed to drive out of the land (v. 15).
“We Made a Pact”
Three days after the covenant of peace was signed, Joshua found out these people actually lived nearby (v. 16). So they traveled three days (v. 17) to confront them. But they couldn’t attack them because they had sworn an oath to let them live (v. 18).
The explanation Joshua received for their actions makes sense. They had heard all that God had done for Israel, so were “very much afraid for our lives” (v. 24). So all the Gibeonites could do at that point was to hope that Joshua would stay true to his oath, no matter how much he didn’t want to (v. 25).
Joshua did stay true to his word. He did not destroy them. Instead, he “made them woodcutters and water carriers for the congregation and for the altar of the Lord” (v. 27).
It’s a great lesson for us. Whenever we don’t consult God and ask for wisdom, we end up making a bad decision. Think about it. What difficult circumstances have you found yourself in because you rushed to make a decision and did not seek counsel from the Lord?
Joshua 10 – An Impossible Sun Moment
Impossible moments can happen when God is in it. Joshua realized this in Chap. 10 when he faced the five kings of the Amorites, led by Adoni-Zedek, king of Jerusalem (v. 1). This king heard about all God had done at Jericho and Ai and that the great city of Gibeon had formed an alliance with Israel (v. 2). So he gathered five kings from the nearby region to go to war against Gibeon (vv. 3-5).
The men of Gibeon sent word to Joshua to fulfill their alliance and come save them from the Amorite kings (v. 6). Joshua had no choice but to go. But it helped that the Lord was in it saying, “Do not fear them, for I have delivered them into your hand; not a man of them shall stand before you.” (v. 8).
Unlike Jericho and Ai, we don’t know the exact battle plan at this city. But evidently, “Joshua marched all night from Gilgal” and “came upon them suddenly” (v. 9). It sounds as though the Amorite kings were unprepared and fled.
While they fled, two extraordinary things happened. First, God sent “hailstones from heaven.” That hailstorm was so bad that more of the enemy died from the hailstones than from the armies of Israel (v. 11).
Secondly though, Joshua prayed that the sun and moon would stand still to give them enough daylight to take “revenge upon their enemies” (v. 13). God listened to Joshua’s voice. We don’t know exactly how God intervened in nature. But it wasn’t the first nor the last time that would happen. All we know is that from Joshua’s perspective, the sun did not go down for a whole day (v. 14).
Aftermath of the Battle
The battle was a victory but the task wasn’t officially completed. The five Amorite kings had fled and hid in a cave. Joshua and his officers barricaded them in the cave while they pursued the rest of the enemy. Now that the task was complete, they returned to deal with the kings.
There were no plea bargains. There could be no mercy shown. These kings were the head and symbol of everything ungodly in the region.
So when they brought the kings out, Joshua had them killed and hanged on five trees until sundown (vv. 24-26). They then buried them in the cave and sealed the entrance with rocks (v. 27).
Conquest of the South Region
We’ve had three really detailed accounts of the early battles in Canaan – Jericho, Ai and Gibeon. For the rest of Chap. 10 and also in Chap. 11, we get less battle descriptions. We simply get a listing of the places Joshua went and the cities he conquered.
In the central and southern part of the country, Joshua fought and defeated these cities in this order: Makkedah (v. 28), Libnah (vv. 29-30), Lachish (vv. 31-33), Eglon (vv. 34-35), Hebron (vv. 36-37), and Debir (vv. 38-39).
An interesting theme is repeated multiple times in this narrative. The writer is sure to emphasize that Joshua left no one alive at each of these stops. And it’s emphasized at the end that Joshua “conquered all the land: the mountain country and the South and the lowland and the wilderness slopes, and all their kings; he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel had commanded” (v. 40).
Again, this may seem harsh. But God judged the people for their sin in this way. He was wiping the land clean so that His people would have a fresh start.
All of this seemed to happen swiftly because God fought for Israel (v. 42).
Note: The map below shows Joshua’s campaign in Canaan. The red line traces the central and southern campaign. The blue line highlights the northern campaign.
Joshua 11 – The Northern Campaign
With the southern area of Canaan secure, Joshua turned his sites to the north. There were strongholds there as well to conquer. Chief among them was the Hazor, a large and strategic city in northern Israel. It is described as the “head of all those kingdoms” (in the north) (v. 10).
Hazor was ruled by King Jabin. When he heard all that Joshua had done in the south, he rallied the surrounding kingdoms. A reading of verses 1-3 makes it appear that he tried to rally every kingdom in the north to his side. Indeed, verse 4 of Chap. 11 says, “So they went out, they and all their armies with them, as many people as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude, with very many horses and chariots.”
Regardless, God was fighting for Israel. He comforts Joshua yet again in verse 6: “Do not be afraid because of them, for tomorrow about this time I will deliver all of them slain before Israel. You shall hamstring their horses and burn their chariots with fire.”
The battle strategy again looks like a surprise attack in that it happened suddenly (v. 7). God delivered them into Joshua’s hand (v. 8) so that none of them remained. And he did as the Lord commanded in regards to burning the chariots and hamstringing the horses (so they could not gallop and be used in warfare again) (v. 9).
God’s Judgment on the People
With the army destroyed, Joshua attacked the city of Hazor itself “utterly destroying them. There was none left breathing. Then he burned Hazor with fire” (v. 11).
Additionally, he took all the cities of the region and struck every person with the sword (v. 12). He “left none breathing” (v. 14).
He only burned Hazor though, so that the Israelites could live in the cities they conquered (v. 13). Additionally, they took all the spoils from the cities as well as the livestock (v. 14).
We are told that Joshua “made war a long time” with the kings (v. 18). No one made peace with them, accept the Hivites who lived in Gibeon (at the hand of Joshua’s mistake – see Josh. 9). But that was all the Lord’s doing: “For it was of the Lord to harden their hearts, that they should come against Israel in battle, that He might utterly destroy them, and that they might receive no mercy, but that He might destroy them, as the Lord had commanded Moses.” (v. 20).
Joshua even cut off the people of Anakim in the northern hill country. Their destruction was especially significant since these were the mighty people the spies had feared in Numbers 13. It appears a few escaped death and settled in the Gaza, Gath and Ashbod (v. 22).
Nevertheless, Joshua conquered the entire land (v. 23) and the land rested from war. God had judged the people of Canaan for their wickedness and finally fulfilled his promise to Abraham.
Map Image courtesy of Mechanical Curator collection, at Wikipedia.org.
Questions to Consider:
Joshua was supposed to drive out all the inhabitants of the land. But because he didn’t consult with God in an important matter, he accidentally made a treaty with some enemies. That mistake would come back to haunt them later. How are you at asking God about important matters in your life?
Israel experienced an impossible sun moment in Joshua 10. The sun actually stood still for a whole day so they could defeat their enemies. What “impossible sun moment” has God done in your life?
Does God’s judgment on the people of Canaan bother you? How do you reconcile both sides of his character – his mercy and his justice?
What other points would you want to know about in our Joshua 9-11 commentary? Email us here with questions or comments.