Let’s turn to Joshua chapter 10. We’ll study the 10th chapter of the book of Joshua this morning. And in this 10th chapter we see the Conquest of Southern Canaan.
One major theme I hope we’ve been seeing in the book of Joshua is that God keeps his promises. In the book of Deuteronomy we saw God tell Moses that he was going to lead his people into the land he promised to them under the leadership of Joshua. Then in Joshua chapters 1 and 2 we see God encouraging Joshua to go ahead and enter that very land. God promised they would do it. But how were they going to enter the land anyway? There was a river separating them from it. Would they just walk right through the Jordan River? Yeah, actually. God stopped the waters of that river and they crossed over on dry ground. That was Joshua chapters 3 and 4.
God had promised to give all the inhabitants of Canaan into Israel’s hand. And we saw that promise starting to be fulfilled in Joshua chapters 5 and 6 with the conquest of Jericho. And God’s promise of victory would have continued unabated as Israel moved on to Ai and Bethel. Except that Achan disobeyed God’s rules. And because of that God needed to act on another promise he made – namely, if Israel disobeyed, God would need to give them over to their enemies. And so God kept that promise until Israel made things right. In this case, making things right involved killing the offender. Harsh? Maybe. Hasty? Not hasty, but it was done speedily. Bottom line, it’s what God called for. And so God’s people did it. That’s Joshua chapter 7.
With the sin problem dealt with, Joshua and Israel go on to defeat Ai and Bethel with God on their side. That’s chapter 8.
Then we got to our lesson last time. The men from the city of Gibeon were afraid of Israel. So they disguised themselves and pretended to be from a far distant country. How was Israel supposed to have known that these guys were lying to them? Well, the text makes a point that Joshua and Israel didn’t seek God about their decision. And so Israel enters into a covenant with Gibeon. When Israel realizes they’d been had by the Gibeonites they seek to destroy them. But the leaders of Israel call the people off. They need to leave Gibeon alone. The leaders made a covenant in the name of the Lord with these people. They needed to be men of their word and keep the covenant they made with Gibeon. The people grumbled, but ultimately Gibeon lived.
And Gibeon probably felt pretty secure at this point. I mean, they had escaped certain death at the hands of the Israelites. Despite any security Gibeon may have thought they had, though, the very existence of this city would soon be threatened – not from the Israelites, but from their neighbors. Let’s read 10:1-5.
[KJV Joshua 10:1 ¶ Now it came to pass, when Adonizedek king of Jerusalem had heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it; as he had done to Jericho and her king, so he had done to Ai and her king; and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel, and were among them; 2 That they feared greatly, because Gibeon was a great city, as one of the royal cities, and because it was greater than Ai, and all the men thereof were mighty. 3 Wherefore Adonizedek king of Jerusalem sent unto Hoham king of Hebron, and unto Piram king of Jarmuth, and unto Japhia king of Lachish, and unto Debir king of Eglon, saying, 4 Come up unto me, and help me, that we may smite Gibeon: for it hath made peace with Joshua and with the children of Israel. 5 Therefore the five kings of the Amorites, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, the king of Eglon, gathered themselves together, and went up, they and all their hosts, and encamped before Gibeon, and made war against it.]
As you probably know, there are three basic components that make up a story like we have here in front of us. First, there’s a setting. That’s where and when the story happens and any other details the author wants us to know. And who’s the author in this case? God – indirectly so, but ultimately he’s the author. Then secondly there are the characters in the story. And thirdly the author gives us a plot – the actions the characters take in their setting.
So let’s just take a look at the characters in this story. So far we’ve heard of a few of them.
The main character thus far seems to be this man named Adoni-Zedek. His name is a combination of two Hebrew words – one meaning “lord” and the second meaning “righteousness”. Isn’t that a curious name for an unrighteous wicked Canaanite – lord of righteousness? Oh, are you wondering if he’s unrighteous? If so, consider a few things. First, he’s a member of one of the 7 wicked nations. And not just a member. He’s a king! Secondly, we’ll see later on in this story that he and his coalition are enemies of Israel – God’s people. This man dies at the hands of Joshua and all Israel. And his death is not painted by the narrator as a tragedy. It’s portrayed as a good thing. So, this man, the self-proclaimed pagan “lord of righteousness” is actually quite unrighteous, in God’s eyes. And those are the only eyes that count.
What else is said about this man that would add to our understanding of his character? Let me just mention that he feared Israel. Fear makes people do interesting things, doesn’t it? By fear the men of Jericho closed their gates tightly. By fear – and faith! – Rahab sought peace with Israel and its God. By fear the men of Ai attacked Israel head-on. By fear – and as I argued by faith as well – Gibeon deceived Israel into a treaty. And now by fear, Adoni-Zedek acts with regard to Israel.
We’ll talk about what actions he takes to contribute to the plot in a minute. But we’re still focusing on his character. So let’s ask this question. Why does he act? Yes, we’ve already said fear. But why did he fear? We’re told that he heard a few things. Like what?
Well, first, he heard how Joshua had destroyed the city of Ai. And not only that, but how does this sound to a king whose life is threatened by Joshua’s mere presence in the land? Joshua had done to Ai and her king what he had done to Jericho and her king. And now this king, the so-called “lord of righteousness” knows if he’s not next then his time is coming soon enough. His very life was in danger. So, Adoni-Zedek feared first because he feared that Israel would certainly kill him. His life was in danger.
Second, Adoni-Zedek feared this most recent turn-of-events we saw in our last lesson. Gibeon, a major city, a city filled with strong men, made peace with Israel. And obviously Israel was a de facto enemy of Jerusalem and her king. So, any friend of the enemy is their enemy. And so this is the second reason they fear. Even a very close and very important sister city has joined forces with the enemy.
So, now we can get to the plot or the action of the story. The king of Jerusalem sees that Israel has formed an alliance with Gibeon. And so he himself sets out to make his own alliance. He calls on the kings of four other cities in the hill country of Canaan. And he urges them to come and help him attack Gibeon. The four kings come and together this coalition of kings from Southern Canaan attacks Gibeon.
And before we move on, let’s just mention the setting of this story. We’re not given many specifics. But we are told of a few cities. And what part of Canaan are they in? The southern part. Israel already entered into the middle of Canaan, attacking Jericho, Ai, and Bethel. Now, by God’s providence they’re moving south. And in our lesson next week we’ll see them moving north to attack another coalition of enemy cities.
OK, now let me bring you back to our lesson last week. Joshua chapter 9. The Gibeonites got Israel to sign a treaty with them that Israel had no business signing. And if that made you a little angry, that’s alright. Israel felt the same way. If you were an Israelite, you might be tempted to want to see Gibeon destroyed somehow. I mean, God did command that all the inhabitants of Canaan be destroyed. That was God’s revealed will. And yet it was more important that the Israelites keep the covenant they made in the Lord’s name than to destroy the inhabitants of the land. Do you think some Israelites may have been wishing for a natural disaster to occur in Gibeon and wipe them out? Or maybe even better – an army to come and annihilate them? If so, then it seems like their wish had been granted. But let’s see if that’s what God wanted. Verses 6 through 11.
[6 ¶ And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua to the camp to Gilgal, saying, Slack not thy hand from thy servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us: for all the kings of the Amorites that dwell in the mountains are gathered together against us. 7 So Joshua ascended from Gilgal, he, and all the people of war with him, and all the mighty men of valour. 8 And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear them not: for I have delivered them into thine hand; there shall not a man of them stand before thee. 9 Joshua therefore came unto them suddenly, and went up from Gilgal all night. 10 And the LORD discomfited them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah. 11 And it came to pass, as they fled from before Israel, and were in the going down to Bethhoron, that the LORD cast down great stones from heaven upon them unto Azekah, and they died: they were more which died with hailstones than they whom the children of Israel slew with the sword.]
So now, who are the main characters in this section? The Gibeonites are prominent. They have a problem. Their neighbors, near and far, are attacking them. And even though this city was large and powerful in their neighbors’ estimation, yet these neighbors were threatening to destroy Gibeon. And that’s why they call on the second main character – Joshua.
Let’s talk about Joshua. What do we learn about him in this section? For one, he’s staying true to his word. And it might not have been apparent to us from chapter 9, but the covenant that Israel made with Gibeon involved not just promising to not attack one another, it also involved actively defending one another in case of attack on either party. And so Joshua goes to help his ally, Gibeon. You know, to me this seems really virtuous. Joshua could have pretended to have not received Gibeon’s cry of distress. But he didn’t. Before God he would keep that covenant he made with Gibeon.
But as long as we’re talking about characters, don’t forget the most important one – God. If there was any doubt as to how God viewed this covenant between Israel and Gibeon, this passage should end that. God promised to be with Joshua. And we discover that God would use this covenant, as ill-advised as it was at the time, to carry out his plans against the Canaanites.
And the plot here is truly incredible. It was amazing to see God stop and dry up the Jordan River. It was remarkable when he caused the walls of Jericho to collapse from seven horns and the shouting voices of men. We marveled at God’s plans for ambushing Ai. But this is unprecedented what we see here.
The coalition of five kings flee before Joshua. Joshua came from Gilgal by the Dead Sea up into the hill country. He came southwest to Gibeon and the kings fled that same direction – southwest to Makkedah. Joshua and his troops did march all night. But that’s not necessarily the incredible part. What begins to reveal how amazing this fight was starts in verse 11. God sends large hailstones down upon the Canaanite coalition. And these hailstones kill more Canaanites than the number killed by men. God is showing that he approves of Joshua upholding this covenant by slaying more men directly than his people did.
And that’s not all! God is going to do something even more amazing to show that he’s with his people in their battle to defend their new ally. Verses 12 through 15.
[12 ¶ Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel. 15 ¶ And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.]
You probably could have guessed that this is a passage that even some conservative scholars have a hard time seeing as literal history. I mean, the sun and moon don’t just stand still! Is there some other way to interpret this event?
Yes, according to some. Perhaps what happened is that the hailstones left the atmosphere in such a condition that the sun’s rays refracted and so it just looked like the sun stood still. Or how about this? Joshua is just using poetic language to described God’s awesome victory on his people’s behalf. So it just seemed like the day was longer because of the great victory God gave to his people, according to some.
I don’t think there’s any reason to doubt that this literally happened – that the sun stood still from earth’s vantage point for an extended period of time, allowing Israel to destroy their enemies. Some have advanced an idea that somehow we can tell scientifically that the earth is something like one day off its rotation. And so, they see that as evidence that we have a missing day in solar history. The commentaries I consulted – as well as various websites like Creation Ministries International – dismissed this as not really possible.
How did this happen? Our knowledge of the way things work in this galaxy is that the Earth moves around the Sun, not the Sun around the Earth. So if the Sun is to stand still in the sky somewhere over Israel then it would seem that the Earth would need to stop rotating. Could this have happened? Well, let me ask you, could a major river in Israel all-of-the-sudden dry up allowing just enough time for a whole nation to cross it? Can seven horns and the voices of men send a wall crashing down? As I’ve said before, in the book of Joshua we’re not being told of events that are completely explainable by science. We’re being told of what’s possible when God is with his people and doing battle for them. And with God, all things are possible. Therefore, yes, God could stop the Earth from rotating. He could have used other means that we’re not aware of. The narrator here doesn’t see fit to take 20 volumes and explain how God did this scientifically and mathematically. He just did it. Maybe the way that Joshua prayed to God is somewhat poetic and stylized. But then you have statements like “the sun stood still”, “the sun stood still in the midst of the sky”, “it didn’t go down for about a day”. If God wanted to communicate to us that the sun really truly actually stood still that day, how else could he have said it??
So, the sun stayed in its position in the sky from a human vantage point. And that fascinates us and captures our imaginations. But did you catch what really seemed to thrill the author? He’s thrilled that God listened to the voice of a man. He says that hadn’t happened before that day and it hasn’t happened since – from the perspective of whenever this book was written.
Do you believe that God hears prayer? Joshua prayed according to God’s will. And God heard him. And God answered. Does God promise to cause the sun to stand still when you pray? No. It’s his choice if he wants to do that. But when we pray for his will to be done, there’s really no limit as to what he can do. So if we’re convinced that God is able to answer prayers as large causing the sun to stand still, what about your small issues? What about your needs? What about your future? Do you have any doubt that the God who can choose to respond to a man and pause the course of solar history – that he’s able to meet your needs as you’re seeking first his kingdom and righteousness? Oh, we of little faith. Why do we doubt?
Alright, so Israel is attacking the enemies of its new friend, Gibeon. God is fighting for Israel, sending hailstones and stopping the Sun to give Israel more time to fight. What happens next? Verses 16 through 27.
[16 ¶ But these five kings fled, and hid themselves in a cave at Makkedah. 17 And it was told Joshua, saying, The five kings are found hid in a cave at Makkedah. 18 And Joshua said, Roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and set men by it for to keep them: 19 And stay ye not, but pursue after your enemies, and smite the hindmost of them; suffer them not to enter into their cities: for the LORD your God hath delivered them into your hand. 20 And it came to pass, when Joshua and the children of Israel had made an end of slaying them with a very great slaughter, till they were consumed, that the rest which remained of them entered into fenced [with walls] cities. 21 And all the people returned to the camp to Joshua at Makkedah in peace: none moved his tongue against any of the children of Israel. 22 ¶ Then said Joshua, Open the mouth of the cave, and bring out those five kings unto me out of the cave. 23 And they did so, and brought forth those five kings unto him out of the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24 And it came to pass, when they brought out those kings unto Joshua, that Joshua called for all the men of Israel, and said unto the captains of the men of war which went with him, Come near, put your feet upon the necks of these kings. And they came near, and put their feet upon the necks of them. 25 And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, nor be dismayed, be strong and of good courage: for thus shall the LORD do to all your enemies against whom ye fight. 26 And afterward Joshua smote them, and slew them, and hanged them on five trees: and they were hanging upon the trees until the evening. 27 And it came to pass at the time of the going down of the sun, that Joshua commanded, and they took them down off the trees, and cast them into the cave wherein they had been hid, and laid great stones in the cave’s mouth, which remain until this very day.]
So the 5 kings go and hide in a cave in the city of Makkedah. This city was south of Gibeon – I believe over 30 miles south. Joshua hears that the kings are in this cave. He tells someone to put some stones against the mouth of the cave so the kings can’t escape. But the people shouldn’t waste their time on these kings. Not yet. The people need to go fight the Canaanite soldiers. Then Joshua returns with all the people to address these kings. He has the captains of the army come and put their foot on the neck of these kings. And then Joshua encourages them all that victory is theirs because the Lord is on their side. Then Joshua himself slays these kings, hangs them on a tree and then has them taken down before sundown – that’s right, the Sun did eventually go down that day!
And Joshua and Israel don’t stop there. They take the battle to the rest of Southern Canaan. We’ll read verses 28 through 39. I’ll warn you though that there’s a good bit of repetition in these verses. But it’s all profitable, so we’ll read it. I’m giving this section the label “The conquest of the 7 cities and/or kings of Southern Canaan”. Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?
[28 ¶ And that day Joshua took Makkedah, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof he utterly destroyed, them, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain: and he did to the king of Makkedah as he did unto the king of Jericho.
29 ¶ Then Joshua passed from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, unto Libnah, and fought against Libnah: 30 And the LORD delivered it also, and the king thereof, into the hand of Israel; and he smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein; he let none remain in it; but did unto the king thereof as he did unto the king of Jericho.
31 ¶ And Joshua passed from Libnah, and all Israel with him, unto Lachish, and encamped against it, and fought against it: 32 And the LORD delivered Lachish into the hand of Israel, which took it on the second day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein, according to all that he had done to Libnah.
Let me just interrupt. Did you wonder why there was no mention of the king of Lachish? I’m guessing he’s not mentioned because their king was just killed and they apparently hadn’t appointed a new king by this time. And this also explains the next king mentioned in verse 33.
33 ¶ Then Horam king of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua smote him and his people, until he had left him none remaining.
34 ¶ And from Lachish Joshua passed unto Eglon, and all Israel with him; and they encamped against it, and fought against it: 35 And they took it on that day, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and all the souls that were therein he utterly destroyed that day, according to all that he had done to Lachish.
Just notice that here’s another city with no king mentioned. I would assume the reason he’s not mentioned is because Joshua killed him, just like he did with Lachish’s king. OK, let’s continue.
36 ¶ And Joshua went up from Eglon, and all Israel with him, unto Hebron; and they fought against it: 37 And they took it, and smote it with the edge of the sword, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof, and all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining, according to all that he had done to Eglon; but destroyed it utterly, and all the souls that were therein.
But wait! I thought Hebron’s king was killed by Joshua! But here a king is mentioned. Why? Could it be that this city in particular had an heir waiting in the wings who was ready to take possession of the throne? Very possibly. But we at least know for sure that this king in Hebron wasn’t the same one mentioned earlier. He’s dead. OK, now on to Debir.
38 ¶ And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to Debir; and fought against it: 39 And he took it, and the king thereof, and all the cities thereof; and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed all the souls that were therein; he left none remaining: as he had done to Hebron, so he did to Debir, and to the king thereof; as he had done also to Libnah, and to her king.]
And if all those details escape you, the author puts a helpful appendix on this section in verses 40 through 43.
[40 ¶ So Joshua smote all the country of the hills, and of the south, and of the vale, and of the springs, and all their kings: he left none remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the LORD God of Israel commanded. 41 And Joshua smote them from Kadeshbarnea even unto Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, even unto Gibeon. 42 And all these kings and their land did Joshua take at one time, because the LORD God of Israel fought for Israel. 43 And Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, unto the camp to Gilgal.]
Verse 42 tells us that Joshua took the land at one time. This obviously doesn’t mean that they took the land in one single day. We saw in the account of “the conquest of the 7 cities and/or kings of Southern Canaan” that there were multiple days involved in this process. That verse also tells us that this happened because the Lord fought for Israel. Why did he fight for them? Multiple reasons, but one big reason is that as we see in verse 40 Joshua and Israel were obeying the Lord and doing what he had commanded them to do even before they entered this promised land.
So, this week we saw the Conquest of Southern Canaan. And I already spoiled the surprise, but can you guess what next week’s lesson will be about? Yes, among a few other things, next week we’ll see the Conquest of Northern Canaan to finish up the conquest of Canaan, in general!