Joshua 14 KJV Commentary Caleb Summary Bible Study

Now, from chapter 14 on through the end of chapter 19 we have the land of Canaan being distributed.

Joshua 14:1-5

The first 5 verses serve as an introduction to the section. Now, you may wonder how we get 12 tribes when Levi didn’t get an inheritance of land. It’s in these verses that we’re told that Ephraim and Manasseh both get a separate inheritance in Canaan. So instead of Joseph being viewed as one tribe, he was actually divided up into two tribes. That’s how we can lose one tribe and still have 12 total groups inheriting land.

So, some tribe needs to receive its land first. Who will it be? The answer is in verse 6 – Judah! And really we see Judah being discussed from 14:6 to 15:63! Almost two whole chapters devoted to Judah. And much of that we’ll skim through and get the main points. But I do want us to read the first portion here in verses 6 through 15.

Joshua 14:6-15

[Joshua 14:6 ¶ Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal: and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadeshbarnea. 7 Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadeshbarnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. 8 Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. 9 And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God. 10 And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. 11 As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in. 12 Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said. 13 ¶ And Joshua blessed him, and gave unto Caleb the son of Jephunneh Hebron for an inheritance.]

So Caleb, an 85 year old man whose strength and vigor has not abated is ready to take his land. Yes, there are Anakim there – which makes me think this happened sometime before Joshua is said to have come through and wiped them out – yes, it’s hill country terrain and difficult to penetrate. But Caleb was going to do it! “Maybe the Lord will be with me” he faithfully says. He’s looking to God’s promise to help Israel drive out the Canaanites. And he’s claiming God’s promise and putting it into action! Now, keep this scene in mind as we move on. We’ll revisit it.

Joshua 13 KJV Explanation Commentary Summary Bible Study

Let’s open our Bibles to the 13th chapter of the book of Joshua. Joshua chapter 13.

This is our tenth lesson in the book of Joshua. I suspect we’ll have maybe 3 more at most. We’ll see. And then the plan is to move on to the book of Judges.

Now by opening your Bible to the 13th chapter of the book of Joshua you’re landing right at the beginning of a brand new section. The first 12 chapters chronicled Joshua’s conquering the land. We saw Israel preparing to enter the land in chapters 1 through 5. Then in chapters 6 through 12 we saw war. War to take the land of Canaan as God commanded Moses and Moses commanded Joshua. At the end of chapter 11 all that land was taken in battle and chapter 12 then gives us a quick listing of all the kings that Joshua destroyed in the land of Canaan. And finally, last week the land had rest from war.

So the preparations to enter the land are over. The land itself is open wide before Israel. And now all Israel has to do is possess it. And that’s just what they do in chapters 13 through 19 – 7 chapters devoted to this one matter of dividing the land between the tribes of Israel. And hopefully we’ll get through all of it today.

Let’s dive into this section by reading 13:1-7.

Joshua 13:1-7

[Joshua 13:1 ¶ Now Joshua was old and stricken in years; and the LORD said unto him, Thou art old and stricken in years, and there remaineth yet very much land to be possessed.

2 This is the land that yet remaineth: all the borders of the Philistines, and all Geshuri, 3 From Sihor, which is before Egypt, even unto the borders of Ekron northward, which is counted to the Canaanite: five lords of the Philistines; the Gazathites, and the Ashdothites, the Eshkalonites, the Gittites, and the Ekronites; also the Avites: 4 From the south, all the land of the Canaanites, and Mearah that is beside the Sidonians, unto Aphek, to the borders of the Amorites: 5 And the land of the Giblites, and all Lebanon, toward the sunrising, from Baalgad under mount Hermon unto the entering into Hamath. 6 All the inhabitants of the hill country from Lebanon unto Misrephothmaim, and all the Sidonians, them will I drive out from before the children of Israel: only divide thou it by lot unto the Israelites for an inheritance, as I have commanded thee. 7 Now therefore divide this land for an inheritance unto the nine tribes, and the half tribe of Manasseh]

So even though the land was taken in a general sense, yet there was still some enemies in the land. In this case the Philistines’ land hadn’t been taken yet. Some areas in the south and the north hadn’t been taken either. Did that concern God? It sounds like it did. But he had a solution. Israel needed to possess the land. It was wide open before them. But now they needed to dwell in it and make it their own. And when they would do this, the Lord says he would drive out the inhabitants from before Israel. That’s a promise. God promised to drive out those enemies before Israel! We’ll see how that turns out as we study these seven chapters.

And then this section ends with God in verse 7 telling Joshua to divide the land for the 9 ½ tribes. But wait, I thought there were twelve tribes. What about the other 2 ½ tribes? Let’s read verses 8 through 12.

Joshua 13:8-12

[Joshua 13:8 ¶ With whom [the other ½ of Manasseh] the Reubenites and the Gadites have received their inheritance, which Moses gave them, beyond Jordan eastward, even as Moses the servant of the LORD gave them; 9 From Aroer, that is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and the city that is in the midst of the river, and all the plain of Medeba unto Dibon; 10 And all the cities of Sihon king of the Amorites, which reigned in Heshbon, unto the border of the children of Ammon; 11 And Gilead, and the border of the Geshurites and Maachathites, and all mount Hermon, and all Bashan unto Salcah; 12 All the kingdom of Og in Bashan, which reigned in Ashtaroth and in Edrei, who remained of the remnant of the giants: for these did Moses smite, and cast them out]

Oh yeah, so Reuben, Gad, and ½ of Manasseh already got their inheritance. Do you remember that happening all the way back in the Pentateuch? And this all sounds very good. Most of what we see in this book reflects very well on Joshua and all Israel. Yes, we had Achan and Gibeon. But overall, Israel is portrayed as doing well. They’re faithful and doing what God wants them to do. This has been their pattern since entering Canaan. The generation before this current one was faithless and as a result they had to wander in the wilderness. But the children of that generation were careful to listen to God and do his will. So the next verse might come as a little bit of a shock. Verse 13.

Joshua 13:13

[Joshua 13:13 Nevertheless the children of Israel expelled not the Geshurites, nor the Maachathites: but the Geshurites and the Maachathites dwell among the Israelites until this day.]

Uh-oh. That’s a phrase I kept uttering as I studied this section this week. This is one of my “uh-oh” verses. Things are going so well. The land is conquered. Now it’s being divided among the tribes and possessed by them. And God’s ideal is that Israel drive all the remaining Canaanites out. And then… Uh-oh! We get these little hints that not all is well. Verse 13 tells us that the 2 ½ tribes to the east of the Jordan River didn’t expel these two groups of Canaanites from their possession. And this was even back when they had Moses to help them. But the people didn’t do it. Well, maybe this is a one-time thing. Maybe all the other tribes did pretty well with driving the Canaanites out of the land. So, let’s move on and hope we don’t see any more of this business about not driving Canaanites out.

Joshua 13:14-33

In verses 14 through 33 we see tribes who have no inheritance or whose inheritance is outside of the land of Canaan. In verse 14 we see Levi’s inheritance. For much of this I’m not going to read it all. I’m just going to summarize what we see in various places. So Levi actually doesn’t get an inheritance of land. They do get a few cities here-and-there throughout Israel. But their main inheritance – and this is repeated throughout the Old Testament – is the Lord himself, his offerings, and his service. Serving the Lord and benefitting from such service even on a physical level was to be sufficient for Levi.

Verses 15 through 23 talk about Reuben’s inheritance. They actually did get land and it was east of the Jordan River. It formerly belonged to Sihon until Moses destroyed him and took his land. Within this little section about Reuben’s possession lies an interesting detail. Look at verse 22. Whom did Israel kill when they took the land of Sihon? They killed Balaam. Remember him? He’s the one who for the sake of money went out hoping that God would allow him to curse Israel for the Moabites. God wouldn’t do it. So Balaam gave several very Scriptural prophecies about Israel. But since Balaam couldn’t destroy Israel through cursing them, he did the next best thing in his mind. He counseled the king of Moab to seduce the Israelite men with Moabite women. If this happened, idolatry would surely be involved in the process and God would in effect have to judge Israel for disobedience. Balaam’s plan worked. God had to kill numerous Israelites. But we see here that Balaam met his end at the hands of the nation he tried to sabotage.

Then moving on in verses 24 through 28 we have Gad’s inheritance delineated. This tribe also took some of Sihon’s land east of the Jordan.

And then the last of the 2 ½ tribes is mentioned in verses 29 through 31. It’s the ½ tribe of Manasseh, Joseph’s son. They took the land that formerly belonged to Og east of the Jordan.

And then verses 32 and 33 simply summarize what we just discussed. Moses parceled out this land when he was still around.

Joshua 12 KJV, Stones, Jordan River, Devotional, Kings Defeated, Explanation

Alright. The land is Joshua’s. The strife is o’er, the battle done. Now we start approaching the second half of the book, which I might add contains very little action. But maybe action isn’t your thing. Maybe you’re more interested in geography and lists of kings, cities, and other things. Anyone like that here? Well whatever you’re interest, this is what the word of God presents us with. So let’s try to understand it as best we can. Chapter 12 is really something like a footnote for chapters 1 through 11. It kind of supplies the raw data for the narratives we saw in those first chapters. And I think this is how we’re going to do this. We’ll read the entire 12th chapter and I’ll just insert comments here and there that will hopefully help us understand the chapter. Basically, though, the 12th chapter is just a list of 33 kings that Israel killed. Two on the east of Jordan and 31 on the west. So, let’s start in 12:1.

Joshua 12:1

[12:1 ¶ Now these are the kings of the land, which the children of Israel smote, and possessed their land on the other side Jordan toward the rising of the sun, from the river Arnon unto mount Hermon, and all the plain on the east:]

OK, let me interrupt. We’re about to see the kings to the east of the Jordan River that Israel defeated. Verses 2 and 3 talk about Sihon. And verses 4 and 5 tell us about Og. Let’s continue.

Joshua 12:2-6

[2 Sihon king of the Amorites, who dwelt in Heshbon, and ruled from Aroer, which is upon the bank of the river Arnon, and from the middle of the river, and from half Gilead, even unto the river Jabbok, which is the border of the children of Ammon; 3 And from the plain to the sea of Chinneroth on the east, and unto the sea of the plain, even the salt sea on the east, the way to Bethjeshimoth; and from the south, under Ashdothpisgah:

4 And the coast of Og king of Bashan, which was of the remnant of the giants, that dwelt at Ashtaroth and at Edrei, 5 And reigned in mount Hermon, and in Salcah, and in all Bashan, unto the border of the Geshurites and the Maachathites, and half Gilead, the border of Sihon king of Heshbon.

6 Them did Moses the servant of the LORD and the children of Israel smite: and Moses the servant of the LORD gave it for a possession unto the Reubenites, and the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh.]

So to summarize verses 2 through 6, Israel destroyed Sihon and Og and then Reuben, Gad, and the half tribe of Manasseh took their land.

And now from verse 7 to the end of chapter 12 we’ll see the other 29 kings that Israel destroyed to the west of the Jordan River. We’re not given any of their names, by the way. Let’s read.

Joshua 12:7-16

[7 ¶ And these are the kings of the country which Joshua and the children of Israel smote on this side Jordan on the west, from Baalgad in the valley of Lebanon even unto the mount Halak, that goeth up to Seir; which Joshua gave unto the tribes of Israel for a possession according to their divisions; 8 In the mountains, and in the valleys, and in the plains, and in the springs, and in the wilderness, and in the south country; the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites:

9 The king of Jericho, one; the king of Ai, which is beside Bethel, one; 10 The king of Jerusalem, one; the king of Hebron, one; 11 The king of Jarmuth, one; the king of Lachish, one; 12 The king of Eglon, one; the king of Gezer, one; 13 The king of Debir, one; the king of Geder, one; 14 The king of Hormah, one; the king of Arad, one; 15 The king of Libnah, one; the king of Adullam, one; 16 The king of Makkedah, one; the king of Bethel, one;]

OK, so far we’ve seen cities either parallel to Bethel, which is in the middle of the country vertically, or south of that city. We recognize many of these from the last several weeks. Now in the last verses of this chapter we’re told of cities to the north of Bethel.

Joshua 12:17-24

[17 The king of Tappuah, one; the king of Hepher, one; 18 The king of Aphek, one; the king of Lasharon, one; 19 The king of Madon, one; the king of Hazor, one; 20 The king of Shimronmeron, one; the king of Achshaph, one; 21 The king of Taanach, one; the king of Megiddo, one; 22 The king of Kedesh, one; the king of Jokneam of Carmel, one; 23 The king of Dor in the coast of Dor, one; the king of the nations of Gilgal, one; 24 The king of Tirzah, one: all the kings thirty and one.]

Thus ends the first section of the book of Joshua. Next week, Lord-willing, we’ll see the land being divided up amongst the 9 and ½ tribes that have yet to receive their land.

Joshua 11 KJV, AMP, Explain, Message, Meaning, Study, Summary

Turn to the 11th chapter of the book of Joshua. Joshua chapter 11.

Can you believe it? We’ve been at this series in the book of Joshua for 9 lessons now. And we’re only half way through the book at this point. But never fear, the last half of the book – chapters 13 through 24 – deal mainly with dividing the land. And while that kind of content is very interesting and helpful to our overall understanding of Scripture, it’s not the kind of thing where I imagine we’ll be spending a whole lesson on one or two chapters. Maybe I’ll prove myself wrong. But that’s what I’m thinking right now.

We’ve been through a lot in these nine weeks in our study. Lots of battles. Some failures. Some encouragements. But the end of fighting is nearly over. The last verse of chapter 11 will tell us that the land had rest from war. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to that. So let’s make our way there.

I’m going to very briefly cover what we’ve seen so far in this series. In the book of Deuteronomy, Moses charges Israel to love God and do what he commands. If they do this, they will be blessed. And then Moses passes off the scene leaving all Israel on the east of the Jordan River looking over to the land of Canaan.

The book of Joshua opens with God encouraging Joshua to be the strong and courageous leader that God’s people needed. The people themselves also encouraged their leader to be strong and courageous.

With that encouragement, Joshua led Israel through the Jordan River and on to Jericho. And this is where the conquest of the land really begins in earnest. Israel goes on to destroy Jericho, Ai, and Bethel. Rahab is saved from destruction by her faith. Achan is destroyed by his disobedience.

Then Gibeon comes and deceives Israel into a covenant, which God actually honors because the covenant was made in his name. And Israel is forced pretty soon to act on this covenant. Gibeon’s neighbors attack them. With God’s help, Joshua and Israel destroy the enemies of Gibeon and then they go on to take the rest of southern Canaan.

And now here we are. The central and southern parts of the land taken. All that’s left is the north. And it turns out there are quite a number of folks in Northern Canaan who would like to remain in their land. Let’s see what they do in 11:1-5.

Joshua 11:1-5

[KJV Joshua 11:1 ¶ 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, 2 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, 3 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. 4 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. 5 And when all these kings were met together, they came and pitched together at the waters of Merom, to fight against Israel.]

This is a lot like what happened in chapter 10 last week. Last week we had one king organize opposition to Joshua. We have the same this week. Last week it was Adoni-Zedek, the king of Jerusalem. This week we have this man named Jabin and he’s the king of Hazor. Hazor is a city just north of the Sea of Galillee – or Chinneroth as we have it in verse 2.

What prompts this man, Jabin, to act? Verse 1 says he “heard”. Heard what? We could again rehearse all that we’ve seen in this book thus far but we won’t for the sake of your sanity. But the fact that we’re told that this king was moved to act because he heard something does solidify a pattern of this in the book of Joshua. Rahab heard about Israel’s exploits in Egypt and beyond the Jordan in chapter 2 and it caused both her heart and the hearts of the Canaanites to melt. In chapter 5 the kings of the Amorites and Canaanites heard about God drying up the Jordan River and their hearts melted. Gibeon in chapter 9 heard what Israel did to Jericho and Ai and so they deceived Israel into a military alliance. But here’s what we haven’t given much thought to yet. Let’s look back at chapter 9 verses 1 and 2. Let’s read that.

[KJV Joshua 9:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof; 2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.]

This is one verse prior to the mention of the Gibeonites’ reaction to hearing about Israel. In contrast to Gibeon’s response of fear and subsequent deception, these folks in verses 1 and 2 actually gather together to fight. And that’s all we hear about them through the rest of chapters 9 and 10. And then we get to chapter 11 today and who do we see being recruited by Jabin, king of Hazor? Yes, the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite. They haven’t settled down or backed off. I suppose they’re now more determined than ever to defeat God’s people and their leader.

Why do I say that? Did you see all the people that gather against Israel? Not only these nations that we just saw. But a number of other cities were enlisted to fight – several cities are named, and then we expand out to a number of wide regions in Canaan, those nations are mentioned, and then to kind of round out our understanding we have verse 4: “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”. Like the sand on the seashore. Horses and chariots – not a few, but very many. We don’t even get the impression from this book that Israel had any horses. Can you imagine the disadvantage they were at facing many horses and chariots? And the Israelites were surely outnumbered.

Now, let’s just think about the setting. We’re at the waters of Merom. We’re not real sure where this was exactly. But it seems it was probably slightly to the west of the Sea of Galilee. Where was Israel? The narrator says that all these folks gathered together to fight against Israel. But where did we last see Israel? They weren’t up north. They were down in the south and then returned to Gilgal. So how did they connect? I think it’s likely that Israel knew their work in the south was done. And the only place to go was north. The northern coalition, led by Jabin king of Hazor, knew Israel was coming and he called all of his partners together to fight. So there’s definitely an element of aggression in Jabin’s action. But there’s also somewhat of a pathetic futility in this. This is Canaan’s last stand, if you will. Israel and Joshua are coming to get them. And the best they can do is muster a ton of troops to try to resist the oncoming forces. And to the natural man, this should do it. I mean, walled cities haven’t stopped Israel. The main river in Canaan hasn’t stopped them. Even the southern coalition of 5 kings couldn’t stop Israel. Maybe myriads of soldiers, horses, and chariots can!

Let’s see how well Jabin’s plan works in verses 6 through 9.

Joshua 11:6-9

[6 ¶ 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 [hock] their horses, and burn their chariots with fire. 7 So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them. 8 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. 9 And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed [hocked] their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.]

Do you suppose Joshua maybe was afraid of the huge army that he was about to face? Joshua is portrayed in this book as a man of war and a man of courage. And yet, do you suppose that even the bravest of leaders might have second thoughts when so obviously outnumbered? And remember, it’s not as if the Israelites have the latest military technology. They weren’t the strongest or the largest, either. Again, we don’t even know if they had horses or chariots. They had one strategy in war – the Lord. And it just so happened that this one strategy was all they needed. So God comforts Joshua and tells him not to be afraid.

Then the Lord gives Joshua encouragement to not be afraid in the form of a promise. He promises to deliver the enemy slain before Israel. He commands Joshua to hock or hamstring their horses and burn their chariots. Hamstringing a horse would render that horse incapable of any sort of speed. It would be useless for pulling a chariot or conveying Israel’s enemies in or out of the battle.

Verse 7 then starts telling us the fulfillment of this promise. Joshua comes suddenly upon the northern coalition at Merom. How did that happen? Was the northern coalition not expecting Israel? They were gathered together to fight against Israel. How did Israel surprise these myriads of soldiers? I don’t know. We’re not told. But I imagine God had some part to play in it, don’t you?

And when Israel comes they chase the northern coalition north to Sidon, which is on the coast of the Mediterranean, north of Israel’s northern border. Israel chases them northeast to Misrephoth-Maim and east to Mizpeh. And Joshua did exactly what God said he would – he hamstrung the horses and burned the chariots. Wait, why do this? Why not keep the horses and chariots for themselves? Surely they would come in handy during future battles! But haven’t we noticed throughout this book that God isn’t concerned with equipping Israel with the most advanced weapons of war? He’s not interested in Israel trusting in princes or horses or the arm of flesh. The Lord God wants his people to trust in his mighty hand and outstretched arm. So burn those chariots! Lame the horses. Israel doesn’t need them. She needs the Lord.

So the tremendous army that gathered against Israel is scattered and destroyed. Those myriads of men are reduced to nothing. And with them out of the way, Joshua completes the conquest of northern Canaan in verses 10 through 15.

Joshua 11:10-15

[10 ¶ 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. 11 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. 12 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. 13 But as for the cities that stood still in their strength [on their mounds – “tels”], Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn. 14 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. 15 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.]

Apparently either the king of Hazor escaped the battle and made it back to his city or this was a new king that Joshua killed later in that city. And Joshua didn’t attack only Hazor. He attacked all the cities of the kings who came to make war with Israel. But Joshua burned only Hazor with fire, not the other cities that stood on their tels or mounds. And take notice of the pattern of obedience here again. Moses commanded. Joshua did it. God commanded Moses. Moses commanded Joshua. And Joshua did it. He did everything God commanded Moses. What more could God’s people expect of their leadership?

And you know what? The narrator starts wrapping up the first 11 chapters right here in verses 16 through 20.

Joshua 11:16-20

[16 ¶ 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; 17 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. 18 Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19 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. 20 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.]

Israel took Mount Halak in the southeast all the way up to the valley of Lebanon which is far northeast. And from north to south Joshua destroyed all the cities and their kings. Only Gibeon made peace with Joshua. Boy, that’s pretty remarkable. Yeah, that’s what the narrator thinks, too. And that’s why he explains in verse 20 how this came about. Hundreds of years prior to the events we see here, God told Abraham that he would bring his descendants back to inherit the land of Canaan which God promised to Abraham and his seed. But God couldn’t and wouldn’t displace the Canaanites just yet, because, as God says, the iniquity of the Amorites was not yet full. God patiently waited while the Amorites continued to sin against him. They sinned. He waited. They offered their children to their demon gods. The Lord waited, giving them time to repent. And finally about 500 hundred years later, God brings Israel into the land. It was of the Lord to be patient with them for so long. But now it was of the Lord to harden their hearts. Why? So that they would attack Israel and be destroyed. God was so patient with them. But ultimately he hardened their dark unrepentant hearts so that they would finally face the justice due them.

And the narrator wants to tell us one more thing about the conquest of the land in verses 21 through 23.

Joshua 11:21-23

[21 ¶ 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. 22 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. 23 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.]

This is amazing. Do you happen to remember what for forty years kept Israel out of the land God promised to Abraham? Their disobedience at Kadesh-Barnea with the bad report of the 10 spies, right? Do you remember what the spies mentioned that melted the peoples’ hearts? One of the things was that the Anakim were in the land. That was an excuse the people used to rebel against God. But now what happens to the Anakim? Joshua cuts them off and destroys them utterly. They only existed in the Philistine areas. Wow, that sounds easy. Well, I don’t know how easy it was. But what the faithless Israelites thought was reason to disbelieve God’s promises was actually taken care of relatively quickly with God’s help.

Now, Joshua is going to partition the land starting in chapter 13. That’s what verse 23 looks forward to. And then we get this wonderful statement to end verse 23. The land rested from war. Do you feel like you’re in a war? Well, you are, if you’re a Christian. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood. No, our war is not carnal. It’s spiritual. You can’t see it. You can’t see the bullets. You can’t see the flaming arrows. You can’t see the roaring blood-thirsty adversary roaming around unhindered like a hungry lion. But that doesn’t mean all these aren’t the reality. They are and this is why we need to put on God’s full armor.

And finally someday we’ll have rest from this perpetual war. It’s not the rest that Joshua gave, according to Hebrews. If Joshua had given them rest, God wouldn’t have spoken of another day after that, like he does in the Psalms. There remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. And with God’s help, as the song says, we’ll work ‘til Jesus comes and we’ll be gathered home.

Joshua 10 KJV, Sermons, Science, About, Bible Study, Questions, Lesson

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.

Joshua 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.

Joshua 10:6-11

[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.

Joshua 10:12-15

[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.

Joshua 10:16-27

[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?

Joshua 10:28-39

[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.

Joshua 10:40-43

[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!

Joshua 9 KJV, Sermon, Bible Study, Commentary, Summary, Devotional, Gibeonites

Let’s turn to Joshua 9. And as we do for every lesson, we’ll again consider how we got to this point in the book of Joshua.

We started our series with an overview of the book of Deuteronomy. The message of that book, as I stated it, was “Success through obedience”. Moses was preaching that message to Joshua and all Israel. “Israel, you’re finally entering the land that God promised you. If you obey what God’s commanded, you will succeed. God promises it. But the opposite is true as well. If you disobey, you will be defeated in the land.”

Next we got to the first 2 chapters of Joshua where we saw Joshua being encouraged to take leadership and lead God’s people into the land of Canaan. And what could be more encouraging than – chapters 3 and 4 – the major river in Israel drying up right before their very eyes so that they could pass through on dry ground! I’ll tell you what! Following God’s commands to march around a city blowing trumpets and have the wall of that city fall down right in front of you.

And the Israelites were really on a roll, weren’t they! They were unstoppable, that is, when they were obeying the Lord. “Success through obedience”. But what happened at the end of the battle of Jericho? Achan took some of the spoil that God told them not to take. But as we saw, Israel was oblivious to this fact. And God wasn’t with them because of their disobedience. He was absolutely silent as Joshua devised the plans for attacking Ai. He let the 3,000 men go up and attack Ai. He let them be defeated before their enemies. He watched as Joshua fell before the Ark of the Covenant all day long, despairing that God had abandoned them. But God is so gracious. He pointed out the problem and the remedy that would allow God to give Israel success once more through obedience.

So Israel takes care of their sin problem and then last week we saw the destruction of Ai. There was an ambush. There was battle. Fire. Swords. Very exciting. And most exciting – God was with his people again, leading them in victory over their enemies.

And now this week. Israel is getting quite a reputation in the land of Canaan. I mean, they already had a reputation before they entered. Remember Rahab’s testimony to the spies? She heard about their victories in Egypt and across the Jordan. And news of those victories inspired fear in her. And not only her – but all of Jericho and really all of the men of the 7 wicked nations that inhabited Canaan. They all feared Israel. And this fear led people to manifest that emotion in a number of ways. Rahab, on the one hand, repented because of her fear. The rest of her city Jericho just closed itself completely up out of fear of the Israelites. Ai? Well, their fear led them to attack Israel head-on!

In today’s lesson we see two more groups who fear Israel with their two different responses. Let’s see the first group in 9:1-2.

Joshua 9:1-2

[KJV Joshua 9:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings which were on this side Jordan, in the hills, and in the valleys, and in all the coasts of the great sea over against Lebanon, the Hittite, and the Amorite, the Canaanite, the Perizzite, the Hivite, and the Jebusite, heard thereof; 2 That they gathered themselves together, to fight with Joshua and with Israel, with one accord.]

Who is this group? It’s a pretty all-encompassing group. 6 of the 7 wicked nations mentioned in Deuteronomy are here. The Girgashites are the ones who are left out. That’s not uncommon. Sometimes the Girgashites don’t appear with the other 6 nations in the book of Joshua. Sometimes they do. Were they left out on purpose here? Perhaps. Maybe they weren’t involved with the other 6 in this case. But from what I can tell, their exclusion here isn’t significant to the story.

What is important is that these 6 nations heard. Heard what? Heard about the battle of Ai. Heard how Israel had destroyed the city of Ai. Heard of Israel’s going to Mount Gerizim and Ebal to recite the law and kind of rekindle in themselves a knowledge of God’s covenant with them. They probably heard about Jericho and the Jordan River as well. Had they heard about Achan and the initial defeat at Ai? Maybe. Maybe that’s what emboldened them to fight Israel rather than to flee. But they heard about Israel and what they had done.

And what’s their reaction? I said it already and we read it already. They gather together to fight against Joshua and Israel. Whatever differences these folks had with each other, they laid all that aside to confront a common enemy – God’s people.

Well, that’s one way to react to the fear induced in their hearts by the Israelites. But there’s another reaction by a small sub-set of these people. Let’s read verses 3 through 5.

Joshua 9:3-5

[3 ¶ And when the inhabitants of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done unto Jericho and to Ai, 4 They did work wilily [craftily], and went and made as if they had been ambassadors, and took old sacks upon their asses [donkeys], and wine bottles, old, and rent, and bound up; 5 And old shoes and clouted [patched] upon their feet, and old garments upon them; and all the bread of their provision was dry and mouldy.]

So here’s another way to deal with fear – deception. The men of Gibeon are identified later on as Hivites. They are a sub-set of the 7 nations that God commanded Israel to utterly destroy.

And how does their deception work itself out? What did we see? They pretended to be ambassadors. I can’t imagine what’s wrong with that. Then they brought all sorts of old stuff. They put old sacks on their donkeys. Their wine bottles were old and torn and patched. They had old shoes that were patched. All their clothing looked old. Even their bread was dry and moldy!

Now, why in the world would it benefit the Gibeonites to come to Israel pretending to be ambassadors with all sorts of old things on their persons? Do they think the Israelites are going to accept their offering of moldy old bread and not destroy them? Of course, we all know what’s going to happen, but I want to help us read this story as if we’d never heard it before – as if you’re telling it to your 5 year old. So, what are these Gibeonites up to? Let’s read verse 6.

Joshua 9:6

[6 And they went to Joshua unto the camp at Gilgal, and said unto him, and to the men of Israel, We be come from a far country: now therefore make ye a league with us.]

Ah, I see. They’re trying to make Israel think that they don’t live in their land. But why? Why not just be honest with Israel and tell them that indeed they do dwell in the land, but that they want peace with Israel? Why not be like Rahab? Just come clean and ask for mercy.

Well, God had told Israel that they could make peace with other nations outside of Canaan. But the nations in Canaan would not be allowed to make peace with Israel for fear that their idolatrous practices would infect Israel and influence them toward idolatry. By the way, the Gibeonites must have known that. Right? Otherwise, I imagine they would simply present themselves to Israel as they truly were – inhabitants of the land who wanted peace. But they knew Israel could not offer terms of peace to the 7 nations. So they deceived and pretended to be from afar.

And the Gibeonites met Israel where? Gilgal. Some think this is a different Gilgal than the camp the Israelites had near the Dead Sea. I don’t think that’s necessary. The Israelites after worshipping the Lord on Mount Ebal and Gerizim could very well have come back down to their base in Gilgal. And when they got there the Gibeonites approached them.

I wonder which direction the Gibeonites would have taken to reach Gilgal. Would that have signaled that these men were indeed from the land? Maybe. We don’t know. But we do know that somehow these men came to Gilgal to seek peace, deceptively.

And the men of Israel haven’t forgotten God’s command to not offer peace to the inhabitants of the land. Let’s see how they respond to the Gibeonites’ offer to make peace with Israel. Verse 7.

Joshua 9:7

[7 And the men of Israel said unto the Hivites, Peradventure ye dwell among us; and how shall we make a league with you?]

So the men of Israel are no dummies. They ask the Gibeonites – here they are referred to as Hivites – the men ask them how they would know if they were from the land of Canaan. If that was the case they certainly could not have made peace.

What’s the answer to that question – “how do we know if you’re from the land?” Who would have known? Who was on Israel’s side that knows and knew everything? Yeah, the Lord. Do they consult him? We’ll see.

So it seems like the Gibeonites were rebuffed in a way by the men of Israel. So they turn to the leader, Joshua. Verse 8.

Joshua 9:8

[8 And they said unto Joshua, We are thy servants. And Joshua said unto them, Who are ye? and from whence come ye?]

Can you imagine this scene? The Gibeonites in their old worn clothing, standing there. The Israelite leaders on the other side. Maybe one puts his hand on his chin in contemplation and says, “suppose you live in our land…” The Gibeonites maybe thought they were caught in their deception. Exasperated, they look around and see Joshua the leader. They blurt out, “we’re your servants!”

So Joshua instead of wondering if they live in the land, Joshua asks for more information about this strange looking group. Who are they and where indeed do they come from? Let’s see the Gibeonites’ response in verses 9 through 13.

Joshua 9:9-13

[9 And they said unto him, From a very far country thy servants are come because of the name of the LORD thy God: for we have heard the fame of him, and all that he did in Egypt, 10 And all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites, that were beyond Jordan, to Sihon king of Heshbon, and to Og king of Bashan, which was at Ashtaroth. 11 Wherefore our elders and all the inhabitants of our country spake to us, saying, Take victuals with you for the journey, and go to meet them, and say unto them, We are your servants: therefore now make ye a league with us. 12 This our bread we took hot for our provision out of our houses on the day we came forth to go unto you; but now, behold, it is dry, and it is mouldy: 13 And these bottles of wine, which we filled, were new; and, behold, they be rent: and these our garments and our shoes are become old by reason of the very long journey.]

Joshua asked where they were from. Did they answer that? Sort of. They say they came from a far country. They don’t specify where. What else did Joshua ask? Who they were. Did they answer that? No. So, they barely answered one question and completely avoided the other. And yet they had a lot to say. What did most of their conversation consist of? They really focus on answering a question that Joshua didn’t ask, which is “why are you here?” They tell Joshua that they heard about what God did for Israel in Egypt. The plagues, the Red Sea, all of it. Remember, that was over 40 years ago by this point. Then more recently they heard about what Israel did to Sihon and Og… Actually, the Gibeonites don’t mention what Israel did to Sihon and Og. Their amazement came from what God himself did to those two kings. That’s what the Gibeonites said. The Gibeonites came because they heard about Israel’s God. And they’re terribly fearful of what he might do to them if they don’t make an alliance – a treaty – with Israel.

Did Joshua need any more proof of the veracity of the Gibeonites’ assertions? They point to their tattered old clothes and wine skins and everything else. Look at their moldy bread! Come on, how else do you explain this? “We’re from a long way away! Can’t you see?” Israel could see. They saw the evidence presented. And that’s really all they could see. Because there’s only one being who can see beyond appearances. And that’s the Lord, the God of the Israelites. So, surely Joshua and Israel learned their lesson from Achan and will promptly seek the Lord’s counsel. Let’s see. Verses 14 and 15.

Joshua 9:14-15

[14 And the men took of their victuals, and asked not counsel at the mouth of the LORD. 15 And Joshua made peace with them, and made a league with them, to let them live: and the princes of the congregation sware unto them.]

So the leaders of Israel make a huge mistake. A mistake that could have been avoided by seeking the counsel of the Lord. We’re led to believe that the Lord would have been happy to give his unfailing all-knowing counsel. But he allowed Israel to make its own decisions, just like he did at Ai with the Achan situation.

And I don’t know how I could pass this by without making some application to ourselves. Are you ever presented with confusing issues? Maybe you have a decision to make where the choice seems clear. And yet you feel some apprehension about it. This would be the time to seek the counsel of the Lord. Is he going to answer you audibly? No. That’s not his habit these days. But do we have any doubt that he’s able to providentially lead you to the right decision in the matter? I hope there’s no doubt about that. The Lord is able to direct you with his providence. But he does want us to seek his counsel in puzzling times – and really always.

So, the leaders of Israel didn’t do that. And they take of the Gibeonites’ victuals. What does that mean? There are two options. First, some have wondered if this was part of a covenant ceremony. The two parties of the covenant would exchange their goods with each other. But I don’t know about that. Really, would receiving moldy bread and tattered clothing really influence Israel any more to enter a covenant with these men? It seems like Israel would have no interest in their old stuff. The other option is that the leaders of Israel further used their own natural senses to inspect the Gibeonites’ claims to being from a distant country. Like maybe they sniffed the bread and verified that it indeed was moldy. Maybe they examined the cracks in the wine skins to verify that their own natural eyes weren’t playing tricks on them.

And once their own natural senses were satisfied and they came to the natural conclusion – apart from God’s counsel – that these folks – whomever they were anyway! – were from a far country – wherever that is anyway! – Joshua and the leaders made a covenant with them to let them live. This was lawful, assuming that these men were from a land outside of Canaan. To the best of their own knowledge, this was the case. But we see in verse 16 that the leaders’ own human knowledge apart from God’s counsel proved faulty. Let’s read.

Joshua 9:16

[16 ¶ And it came to pass at the end of three days after they had made a league with them, that they heard that they were their neighbours, and that they dwelt among them.]

How did the leaders of Israel hear that the Gibeonites were neighbors living in their own country? We’re not told. But it took only three days to discover this. Maybe Israel sent people after them to track where they went as they departed from Israel. At any rate, these Gibeonites lived in the area. And Israel wasn’t happy. They all get together and come against Gibeon. Let’s read about that in verses 17 and 18.

Joshua 9:17-18

[17 And the children of Israel journeyed, and came unto their cities on the third day. Now their cities were Gibeon, and Chephirah, and Beeroth, and Kirjathjearim. 18 And the children of Israel smote them not, because the princes of the congregation had sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel. And all the congregation murmured against the princes.]

The Israelites were ready to destroy the Gibeonites. They were going by the Law. The Law said that the 7 wicked nations in the land needed to be utterly destroyed. No mercy for them. So here’s a very interesting conflict. Does anyone have any doubt here that God’s Law revealed God’s will? In other words, the Law stated what God wanted to have happen, right? He wanted people to not lie or steal or commit adultery. God wanted his people to destroy the inhabitants of Canaan. This was what he wanted. And yet we also have in the Law this command. Leviticus 19:12 – “You shall not swear falsely by my name, so as to profane the name of your God.” So, the Israelites swear to not destroy one of the 7 wicked nations. But destroying the nations was God’s will. Yes, but there was a greater commandment involved here. Once Israel swore by God to do something, they needed to carry through with it. Even when it involved going against God’s stated will in another situation. That almost sounds wrong, doesn’t it? But that’s exactly what we see here. And doesn’t this communicate to us something about God’s name and how he values his name above all else? Profaning God’s name was to be avoided at all costs. Breaking the Israelite leaders’ oath to the Gibeonites would have profaned God’s name. And that would have been unimaginable.

But the people still don’t like this. I specifically remember reading this story the first time and identifying with the people. I mean, come on, the rule was to kill the nations. Just do it! After all, the Gibeonites lied to get into this covenant. They ought not to live! Away with them. Isn’t there something in our American legal code that would nullify the making of a contract when it was made under false pretenses? And the people, understandably perhaps, they grumble against their leaders. But the leaders are going to give their ruling in verses 19 through 21 in greater detail.

Joshua 9:19-21

[19 But all the princes said unto all the congregation, We have sworn unto them by the LORD God of Israel: now therefore we may not touch them. 20 This we will do to them; we will even let them live, lest wrath be upon us, because of the oath which we sware unto them. 21 And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water unto all the congregation; as the princes had promised them.]

Isn’t that interesting? The leaders sense that wrath will be upon all Israel if they break their covenant with Gibeon. Do you think the rulers are mistaken? I’ll mention this then. King Saul a few hundred years later decided in his zeal to kill some Gibeonites. Do you happen to remember what God did as a result? King David and the people were experiencing a drought at the time. And when David asked the Lord why this was, he answered that the drought was a result of King Saul’s previously killing some Gibeonites. This oath was in force even hundreds of years after it was made. God took it seriously. And in fact, the leaders were right. Wrath would be upon Israel if they broke their covenant sworn in God’s own name.

So, the Gibeonites would live and not die. However, they were made slaves for Israel perpetually because of their deceit.

So, that’s the leaders’ word to the congregation. Now let’s see what Joshua says to the Gibeonites directly. Verses 22 through 25.

Joshua 9:22-25

[22 ¶ And Joshua called for them, and he spake unto them, saying, Wherefore have ye beguiled us, saying, We are very far from you; when ye dwell among us? 23 Now therefore ye are cursed, and there shall none of you be freed from being bondmen, and hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of my God. 24 And they answered Joshua, and said, Because it was certainly told thy servants, how that the LORD thy God commanded his servant Moses to give you all the land, and to destroy all the inhabitants of the land from before you, therefore we were sore afraid of our lives because of you, and have done this thing. 25 And now, behold, we are in thine hand: as it seemeth good and right unto thee to do unto us, do.]

I need to warn you — when I told my wife what I’m about to say now, she giggled at me. I told her that I think we’re supposed to have somewhat of a soft spot in our hearts for the Gibeonites. Really, they lied and that’s of course wrong. They entered into a covenant deceitfully. But listen to their reasoning that they give to Joshua. They recognize Moses as God’s servant. They believed that the command to destroy all the nations would certainly happen. That means they also believed that God was powerful and true and living. They were afraid. They give themselves up into the Israelites’ hands to do to them whatever they think is right. In fact, as far as I could tell, in the rest of the Scripture we never really see Gibeon acting out of line. They don’t rise up against Israel. They apparently don’t tempt Israel into idolatry – at least as far as we’re told. In fact, even in the book of Nehemiah we see Gibeonites returning to Israel with the Jews and even rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem. These guys really became part of Israel.

And what was their curse that Joshua pronounced upon them as a result of their deceit? To be servants in the house of God. Isn’t that interesting? I’ve said this in a previous lesson, but I’ll restate it. It seems that the major reason God wanted to destroy the 7 nations in Canaan was because they were idolaters. And as such these people would cause Israel to commit idolatry as well. But is there any indication that Gibeon had a heart change like Rahab did? I mean, remember, they’re speaking of Moses as God’s true servant. They’re pointing to commands and promises that God made as if they truly believed they would surely come to pass. They believed God, in that sense. They believed that he was. Did they also believe that he was a rewarder of those who seek him? It’s possible. And even if they hadn’t truly repented and trusted the God if Israel, where did Joshua put them? In the service of God’s house – where they would learn of God and his ways. Where they would be reminded of their own sins by the continual sacrifices offered there. Where they would see firsthand that a man’s sin could be atoned for only with blood. They would see all of that and more. They would be in a position to hear the Law of God. Really, what Joshua describes as a curse really seems to me to be a blessing in disguise. Well, we can all agree that this is a better fate than being destroyed by Israel, right? Alright, let’s finish the chapter with verses 26 and 27.

Joshua 9:26-27

[26 And so did he unto them, and delivered them out of the hand of the children of Israel, that they slew them not. 27 And Joshua made them that day hewers of wood and drawers of water for the congregation, and for the altar of the LORD, even unto this day, in the place which he should choose.]

The narrator mentions “the place which [God] would choose.” That seems to get us ready for God finally establishing a place where his people would worship him. This doesn’t happen for a while, though, as you know.

So what do we learn from this chapter? What do we learn from the Gibeonites? We learn that we do always need to seek God in our decisions, especially major ones. We learn that God is all-knowing and wants to lead his people right if they’re open to his leading. We learn that God values his name above certain other commands that he’s given. And we learn that we need to keep our promises. As Christians in particular, our word should be our bond. By going back on promises we as Christians are in danger of profaning God’s name.

We’ll get to this next week, but in the next chapter this alliance that Israel made with Gibeon is tested. Some of Gibeon’s neighbors are angry at Gibeon for making this alliance with Israel. And so they actually start attacking Gibeon. The Gibeonites send a call for help to Joshua in Gilgal. Wow, is this a chance to get out of this poorly conceived covenant? All Joshua and Israel would need to do is to be a little late in arriving to the battle. Or they could pretend they didn’t receive the message of distress from Gibeon. They could be out of that oath forever. Is that what they do? We’ll find out next week.

Joshua 8 KJV, Sermon, Commentary, Summary, Bible Study, Ai

Today we’ll be studying Joshua chapter 8. We’ll see The Destruction of Ai.

And of course, by dropping into the 8th chapter of this book, we’re assuming that we know what’s preceded us thus far. What have we seen so far in the book of Joshua?

In the first 2 chapters of this book we saw Joshua being encouraged to take leadership of Israel and take them into God’s promised land for them. What about chapers 3 and 4? That was where Joshua and all Israel crossed the Jordan River on dry ground. What happened next in chapters 5 and 6? Well, what’s the first city that Israel captured in the land of Canaan? Jericho. That’s what we saw in those chapters. The conquest of Jericho. And then last time in chapter 7 what did we witness? Chapter 7 is sort of like the proverbial glue holding together the story of Jericho’s conquest with the story of Israel’s military activies regarding the city of Ai.

So chapters 5 through 8 are fairly closely related. Let’s think about it. Chapters 5 and 6 deal with Israel’s victory against Jericho. The Lord gave detailed commands to Joshua regarding Israel’s tactics and approach. And I believe that these tactics weren’t the “best practices” of those days. Right? They weren’t like the advised way to attack an enemy city, naturally. We have an ROTC program here at UW-Whitewater and at Maranatha Baptist University. No one is teaching those students in their military classes that to penetrate your enemy’s defenses all you need to do is just go around blowing trumpets for 7 days and that’ll do it! God gave Joshua these tactics, at least in part, to show that it wasn’t by their might or power or wisdom that they would win victories against their enemies. It was God’s invisible hand and outstretched arm that would win the victory.

So Israel defeats Jericho with God’s help. Then they just naturally move on to the next city on their way to where they’re headed. And Joshua in chapter 7 sends spies to scope out Ai. The spies return and tell him that only a few thousand troops are needed. This Ai is a small-time city. No need to have all the men of war go up against it. So Joshua (maybe?) and about 3,000 men from Israel go up and fight Ai… and they lose. But why? Achan took some stuff that God said Israel shouldn’t take. But shouldn’t God have warned his people?… I think he did. But he did so silently, not audibly. What should have warned Joshua that things weren’t the same as they were at Jericho? Well, where was God’s instructions? Where were the commanded tactics for conquering Ai like Joshua had received with Jericho? They didn’t come. The Lord was absolutely silent to Joshua.

Is it not terrifying when God is silent to us? It’s true that sometimes darkness veils his lovely face, as the song says. Behind dark clouds of harsh providence beams his loving and kind countenance toward those of us who are accepted in the Beloved one. But don’t let that reality dull you to the fact that God’s silence is meant to speak to you. And you would do well to do like Joshua did – no, don’t despair like he did. But seek the Lord. Fall before him. Plead his mercy and his son’s death on your behalf. He’s ready to make the matter known to you. And then make things right, like Israel did. And do you know what will happen? God won’t be distant. He’ll lead you with his righteous right hand. He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. Draw near to God and he’ll draw near to you. So, let’s see God doing this again with Joshua in 8:1-2.

Joshua 8:1-2

[8:1 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land: 2 And thou shalt do to Ai and her king as thou didst unto Jericho and her king: only the spoil thereof, and the cattle thereof, shall ye take for a prey unto yourselves: lay thee an ambush for the city behind it.]

Listen to those words of comfort. “Fear not.” “Don’t be dismayed.” “I have given into thy hand.” God is again with his people. They took care of the sin problem in their midst. And now he’s ready to work with them again.

Now, I want to point out a few things. First, whom did God say was supposed to go up against Ai? Joshua and all the people. That’s different from what Joshua did in his own strength, isn’t it? Joshua sent about 3,000 people up to Ai the first time. And there’s some question in my mind as to whether Joshua himself went up against Ai. I think he may have stayed behind. But God’s ways are different from ours, aren’t they? God says all the people go this time.

God also reveals that he’s given all of Ai into Joshua’s hand. And he says that Joshua will do to the king of Ai just as he did to the king of Jericho. Don’t tell me you don’t remember what happened to the king of Jericho! You don’t remember? Good. Because we weren’t actually told what happened to the king of Jericho when Israel invaded that city. So actually we’ll have to find out what Joshua and Israel did to the king of Jericho by watching what they do to Ai and its king later on in this passage. So stay tuned.

Now, do you remember what the Israelites were allowed to take when they attacked Jericho? Absolutely nothing. They had to kill and burn all living beings and give all the inanimate objects to the Lord. But what about with Ai? What could they take in Ai? They could actually take the spoil and the cattle this time. So that’s different. By the way, again, how could Joshua have known what was off-limits the first time he sent people to attack Ai? The Lord is the one who was calling the shots regarding what could and could not be taken by the Israelites for spoil. How Israel needed God’s direction! How we need his direction…

And lastly we just need to note the tactics involved in this attack. With Jericho, the battle tactic was to march around the city once a day for 6 days, march 7 times on the 7th day and blow 7 horns and shout. This time God mixes it up a little and has Joshua put men in ambush. The men were to lay in wait behind the city. We’ll see what side of the city that was on in just a little while.

So Joshua then takes what the Lord commanded him and he puts it into practice. Let’s read verses 3 through 9.

Joshua 8:3-9

3 ¶ So Joshua arose, and all the people of war, to go up against Ai: and Joshua chose out thirty thousand mighty men of valour, and sent them away by night. 4 And he commanded them, saying, Behold, ye shall lie in wait against the city, even behind the city: go not very far from the city, but be ye all ready: 5 And I, and all the people that are with me, will approach unto the city: and it shall come to pass, when they come out against us, as at the first, that we will flee before them, 6 (For they will come out after us) till we have drawn them from the city; for they will say, They flee before us, as at the first: therefore we will flee before them. 7 Then ye shall rise up from the ambush, and seize upon the city: for the LORD your God will deliver it into your hand. 8 And it shall be, when ye have taken the city, that ye shall set the city on fire: according to the commandment of the LORD shall ye do. See, I have commanded you. 9 Joshua therefore sent them forth: and they went to lie in ambush, and abode between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of Ai: but Joshua lodged that night among the people.

So Joshua and all the people start preparing to attack Ai. And how many men does Joshua choose to lie in wait behind Ai? 30,000! That’s a good bit more than the original 3,000 that went up against Ai at the beginning. And these are just the men lying in wait! Not to mention the rest who are with Joshua and will be going up to Ai with him. So, Joshua sends these 30,000 men away by night.

And actually, most of the verses we just read are Joshua’s conversation with these men he’s sending away under the cover of night. Before they leave he tells them how this is going to work. They’re going to hide themselves behind Ai. We learn that this is actually west of the city of Ai. The west side of Ai is considered its back part. So you’d assume that its front is which direction? East. We’ll consider whether that’s the case or not in a little while. So the 30,000 men go into hiding on the west of Ai between Ai and Bethel, which would have been northwest of Ai. And somehow 30,000 men are going to remain hidden there for a day or so. A number of Bible scholars have pointed to this unlikely event – hiding 30,000 men in between two cities. And they think this is unlikely to have actually happened. Some have even proposed that there are two descriptions of the conquest of Ai in this chapter and they’re contradictory or at least competing with one another. I don’t think we need to go that way. Listen, in the book of Joshua we’re not talking about what’s likely. We’re talking about what is possible. And with God, how many things are possible? Yeah, all things. The walls of Jericho falling was unlikely to have happened. This kind of thing doesn’t happen every day. The Jordan River drying up is completely unbelievable… unless you believe that there is a God who created all things and sustains all things and can do whatever he wants in heaven and on earth. So, 30,000 men hiding between two cities is unlikely. But it is possible with God.

So these 30,000 were to lie in wait. Meanwhile, Joshua and the other Israelites were going to come to Ai and pretend to flee before them as they did the first time. When the people of Ai come out to chase the fleeing Israelites that’s when the ambush arises from their position and enters the city and immediately burns it with fire.

This is the Lord’s command, Joshua says. And it’s also Joshua’s command. “See I have commanded you” he says. With that authoritative message, the 30,000 depart to the west side of Ai and Joshua spends the night with the rest of the people. I assume this is still at their camp in Gilgal, near the Dead Sea.

Let’s see what happens on the next day. Verses 10 through 13.

Joshua 8:10-13

[10 ¶ And Joshua rose up early in the morning, and numbered the people, and went up, he and the elders of Israel, before the people to Ai. 11 And all the people, even the people of war that were with him, went up, and drew nigh, and came before the city, and pitched on the north side of Ai: now there was a valley between them and Ai. 12 And he took about five thousand men, and set them to lie in ambush between Bethel and Ai, on the west side of the city. 13 And when they had set the people, even all the host that was on the north of the city, and their liers in wait on the west of the city, Joshua went that night into the midst of the valley.]

So, Joshua rises early in anticipation of the day’s battle. He and the people go up to Ai. Again, they’re starting at Gilgal which is at or below sea level. They’re traveling northwest into the hill country. They are literally “going up” – elevationally – just as the text says.

Now, verse 12 is a little confusing. Joshua already sent 30,000 men to lie in wait behind the city of Ai. But here it says he sent 5,000 men. Well, which is it? Some commentators have proposed that actually Joshua sent only 5,000 men and that the reference to 30,000 men previously is a scribal error. They say this would explain better how this number of men could be hidden for a day or two without being noticed. But there’s a problem with this. There’s no textual evidence of a scribal error here. Plus, I understand that hiding 5,000 men is going to be easier than hiding 30,000. But really, hiding 5,000 men I’m sure presents its own difficulties.

So, here’s what I think is happening in this section. Joshua orignally sent 30,000 men to hide behind Ai at night time. Then the next morning Joshua and all Israel go up to Ai from Gilgal. On the way, Joshua decides to send 5,000 more men to hide behind the city. Why send 5,000 more men? I’m really not sure. Maybe he saw that they didn’t need as many men fleeing as they needed men in ambush. But this is what happens.

Then Joshua and all Israel (minus now the 35,000 that are behind the city) come to the north side of Ai. North? I thought the front of Ai was on the east. I mean, its back was on the west. I’m not sure where the entrance to Ai was. It very well may have been on the east of the city. The text doesn’t say this isn’t the case. But Joshua and all Israel decided to camp on the north side of the city. That’s all we know. And there’s a valley on the north side of the city between Israel and Ai.

And lastly, when the 35,000 were settled on the west and the rest of Israel on the north, then Joshua went down into the valley and spent the night there. Did all Israel go with him? It doesn’t specifically say they did. It seems that he went down alone into the valley.

When the Israelites fought Jericho, do you remember what they met with as far as resistance? Israel really met with no resistance. Ai is a different story. For as small as they are, Ai proved to be fairly feisty. Let’s witness that in verses 14 through 17.

Joshua 8:14-17

[14 And it came to pass, when the king of Ai saw it, that they hasted and rose up early, and the men of the city went out against Israel to battle, he and all his people, at a time appointed, before the plain; but he wist not that there were liers in ambush against him behind the city. 15 And Joshua and all Israel made as if they were beaten before them, and fled by the way of the wilderness. 16 And all the people that were in Ai were called together to pursue after them: and they pursued after Joshua, and were drawn away from the city. 17 And there was not a man left in Ai or Bethel, that went not out after Israel: and they left the city open, and pursued after Israel.]

So the king of Ai wakes up and sees Israel again. So he gathers all his troops and they pursue Israel. And at this point, Israel is fleeing from before the Aiites (I saw that in a commentary this week) as they did before. But the secret is that there are Isralites behind the city! But, shhh, don’t tell the king of Ai! So Israel flees into the wilderness. The wilderness (or dessert) would have been east of Ai. So everyone is running to the east into the dessert. And the king of Ai wasn’t reserved about doing this. He sent not only all the people of his city after Israel. He also called up all the men in Bethel to join him and chase after the fleeing Israelites. And the result was that not a man was left in either of these two cities. In their zealous haste, they just all left and the city was wide open.

Hmm… Enemy cities left empty. Men in ambush near by. I wonder what happens next… Verses 18 through 23.

Joshua 8:18-23

[18 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, Stretch out the spear that is in thy hand toward Ai; for I will give it into thine hand. And Joshua stretched out the spear that he had in his hand toward the city. 19 And the ambush arose quickly out of their place, and they ran as soon as he had stretched out his hand: and they entered into the city, and took it, and hasted and set the city on fire. 20 And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and, behold, the smoke of the city ascended up to heaven, and they had no power to flee this way or that way: and the people that fled to the wilderness turned back upon the pursuers. 21 And when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city, and that the smoke of the city ascended, then they turned again, and slew the men of Ai. 22 And the other issued out of the city against them; so they were in the midst of Israel, some on this side, and some on that side: and they smote them, so that they let none of them remain or escape. 23 And the king of Ai they took alive, and brought him to Joshua.]

How did the men in ambush even see Joshua lifting up his spear? Have you ever wondered that? Because here’s the situation geographically. Joshua and Israel start off in the valley north of Ai. The men in ambush are on the west side of the city. Then apparently Joshua and Israel flee eastward into the wilderness. And then at some point Joshua raises his spear and the people behind the city can see it and take it as their cue to enter the city of Ai and set it on fire. Here’s my theory. Remember the mention of the valley to the north of Ai? Well, I’m not sure how deep that valley was or how high the land was on either side of that valley. But could it be that Joshua got up onto the hill on the north side of that valley so that the folks on the west of the city could see him? It’s possible. Perhaps this is why Israel didn’t start the fight on the east of the city where perhaps the gate to the city was. If Joshua was on the east of the city, the people on the west would have had a very difficult time seeing him.

In verse 26, which we haven’t read yet, we’re told that Joshua didn’t let his hand down for the entire battle. And that’s given as the reason for Israel’s victory. Does this scenario remind you of another battle scene in the Old Testament? Remember when Amalek (I’ll just mention one more time that he’s the anscestor of Haman!) came and fought against Israel after they left Egypt? At that time Joshua was actually the one leading the battle against Amalek. And what was Moses doing? He was up on a hill holding up the rod of God. As he kept his arms up Israel won. When he let his arms down, Israel started losing. And now Moses’ replacement, Joshua is in the place of his old mentor. And now he’s the one holding up the spear and seeing his people win a victory.

And isn’t it amazing again what we’re seeing here in a battle scene? It’s not military strength or ingenious man-made tactics that win the battle. God does give them tactics and plans to attack the city and they are pretty ingenious. But ultimately God sees fit to use something as typically powerless as a raised spear to win the victory. If this battle was just men against other men, that spear should be used to thrust people through, not held in the air. But the battle is the Lord’s.

Now, this is one exciting scene, isn’t it? Joshua raises the spear. The men in ambush come out and enter the city and burn it with fire. Then the fleeing Israelites see the fire and turn back against the Aiites. The men of Ai must be completely confused at this point. They look back and see their city on fire. And that’s not all. Men are issuing out of their burning city and they’re not friendly. So Ai finds itself in the middle of Israelites. And all the men of Ai are slaughtered. Except for the king of Ai. Remember, we’re still waiting to figure out what happens to him. And when we figure out what happened to him we’ll also know (at least generally) what happened to the king of Jericho.

Now, the Israelites aren’t quite finished with Ai yet. Let’s read verses 24 through 29.

Joshua 8:24-29

[24 ¶ And it came to pass, when Israel had made an end of slaying all the inhabitants of Ai in the field, in the wilderness wherein they chased them, and when they were all fallen on the edge of the sword, until they were consumed, that all the Israelites returned unto Ai, and smote it with the edge of the sword. 25 And so it was, that all that fell that day, both of men and women, were twelve thousand, even all the men of Ai. 26 For Joshua drew not his hand back, wherewith he stretched out the spear, until he had utterly destroyed all the inhabitants of Ai. 27 Only the cattle and the spoil of that city Israel took for a prey unto themselves, according unto the word of the LORD which he commanded Joshua. 28 And Joshua burnt Ai, and made it an heap for ever, even a desolation unto this day. 29 And the king of Ai he hanged on a tree until eventide: and as soon as the sun was down, Joshua commanded that they should take his carcase down from the tree, and cast it at the entering of the gate of the city, and raise thereon a great heap of stones, that remaineth unto this day.]

We have a few things to mention here. First, you maybe thought that once Israel destroyed all the men of Ai in the field and in the wilderness that that was the end of Ai. After all, the text gave us the impression that not a person was left in Ai. But the text just actually says that there wasn’t a man left. In other words, there were no men of war left in the city to defend it. Were there older men there? Possibly. Were there women? Yes, definitely. Children? They’re not mentioned specifically. But you can be pretty sure that anywhere there are men and women together, there will be children. And so these are the people still in the city that’s at least partially burning. And they’re the ones whom Israel destroys after killing the soldiers in the field.

The Israelites kill all the people according to God’s command. Likewise, they take the spoil. And that’s OK this time. And finally we see what the Israelites do to the king of Ai. They hang him. But they don’t leave his body on the tree over night. That would violate the command of God. So they take his body down from the tree and throw it into the gate of the burned city and they heap stones over his body. This is similar to what they did to Achan. And we didn’t know, but this is actually the kind of treatment that the king of Jericho received.

So, Israel entered Canaan. They took Jericho. They took Ai. And now they’ll go perhaps 20 miles north of Ai to a place where they have business to attend to. Let’s finish the chapter with verses 30 through 35.

Joshua 8:30-35

[30 ¶ Then Joshua built an altar unto the LORD God of Israel in mount Ebal, 31 As Moses the servant of the LORD commanded the children of Israel, as it is written in the book of the law of Moses, an altar of whole stones, over which no man hath lift up any iron: and they offered thereon burnt offerings unto the LORD, and sacrificed peace offerings. 32 And he wrote there upon the stones a copy of the law of Moses, which he wrote in the presence of the children of Israel. 33 And all Israel, and their elders, and officers, and their judges, stood on this side the ark and on that side before the priests the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD, as well the stranger, as he that was born among them; half of them over against mount Gerizim, and half of them over against mount Ebal; as Moses the servant of the LORD had commanded before, that they should bless the people of Israel. 34 And afterward he read all the words of the law, the blessings and cursings, according to all that is written in the book of the law. 35 There was not a word of all that Moses commanded, which Joshua read not before all the congregation of Israel, with the women, and the little ones, and the strangers that were conversant among them.]

This is an event that Moses commanded Joshua and all Israel several times. When they came into the land they need to find Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal and pronounce the blessings and curses for keeping or breaking the Law. Joshua was also supposed to write the Law on stones and recite it in front of Israel.

So, we’re at the end of the first 8 chapters of the book of Joshua. I took note of Pastor Fuller’s Wednesday night Bible Doctrines message. He encouraged us several times to read the Bible looking for God’s character and what’s true of him. Let’s try to practice that with the stories of Jericho and Ai in Joshua. What have we seen about God in this section?

We could point to so many things. Let me mention just a few. First, God keeps his promises. He promised Israel this land that they just entered. He promised it to Abraham hundreds of years prior to giving it to his descendants. God’s promise might seem slow to happen. But the Lord always keeps his promises. Not just to his people in the Old Testament. But to you, too.

And the opposite side of that coin is that God keeps his promises of punishment for disobedience. Remember Achan. Remember the failure God’s people experienced because of his sin. God doesn’t leave the guilty unpunished. We are thankful he’s punished his own son for our sins. But disobedience is still serious to the Lord, even (and especially) when it comes from his children. As New Testament believers, we should be comforted by the fact that where sin abounds, grace much more abounds. But we also need to take the advice from the apostle Paul that we shouldn’t continue in sin so that grace may increase. How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

So sin does bring consequences. And more often than not they are quite unpleasant. But what did we see today in chapter 8? We saw that once the sin is dealt with, God is happy to give his people victory. God is profuse in his assistance to his people. He really does want to bless. But sin gets in the way and prevents his blessings. Blessings that our God would otherwise be quick to show us.

Let’s get ready for next week. If Israel caused fear in the hearts of the citizens of Canaan by simply crossing the Jordan River, how do you think the inhabitants are feeling now? Well, we’ll see some more fear. Have you noticed though how many ways that fear has been manifested thus far? Jericho? They closed everything up and hid. Ai? They came out and attacked. And we’ll see yet another reaction in our next lesson – deception – with the Gibeonites.

Joshua 7 KJV Sermon, Achan, Bible, Study, Commentary, Analysis

Let’s turn to Joshua 7. We’ll be studying this chapter in the book of Joshua today. I actually originally set out to teach both chapters 7 and 8. But I had way too much material on chapter 7 to go any farther. So Lord-willing when we return from Easter we’ll continue chapter 8 of Joshua. But today we’re in chapter 7. And I’ll just give this title to the message – God Troubles Achan.

So, what’s happened so far in the book of Joshua? In the first 2 chapters we saw Joshua being encouraged to enter the Promised Land. In the next 2 chapters (3 and 4) we saw all Israel crossing the Jordan River to enter the Promised Land. And then last week in chapters 5 and 6 we saw Israel conquer the walled city of Jericho – the first city they captured in the Promised Land. And do you remember what the rules were for conquering Jericho? Let’s read 6:17-19 to remind ourselves of what Joshua had commanded right before entering Jericho.

[6:17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.]

So all human and animal life needed to be accursed. That word accursed (cherem) means something that is dedicated to God. And not dedicated in the sense that we sometimes dedicate our children to the Lord when they’re first born by having a formal religious ceremony. No, this dedication to God involved utter destruction. All human and animal life were to be dedicated to God — for his destruction of them. But the inanimate objects – gold, silver, brass, and iron – they’re holy or consecrated to the Lord. They also were to be dedicated, but not for destruction – but rather to go into the Lord’s treasury.

Joshua 7:1

And the way that chapter 6 ended made us all think that this had been carried out. The things meant for destruction were destroyed. The things meant for the treasury went there. And that was mostly the case. But, were there any exceptions? Yes. Read 7:1.

[7:1 ¶ But the children of Israel committed a trespass in the accursed thing: for Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, took of the accursed thing: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against the children of Israel.]

Again when we hear about “the accursed thing” we’re still talking about the things devoted to destruction at the hands of God… Alright. So one person took something. What’s the big deal? Well, note how God responded to this theft. His anger was kindled like a fire against whom? Achan? Certainly Achan. But was his anger limited to Achan? No, God was angry at all Israel. Why? Because of the sin of one among them.

Now, let me ask you. Does that seem fair to you? Doesn’t it seem like only Achan should have received God’s anger? It might seem unfair to us. But let’s just remember that God entered into a covenant with that entire nation. If one of the members of that nation transgressed then it’s as if all transgressed. So God’s anger burned against Israel because they as a nation – through just one of their compatriots – sinned against God.

And that’s all we hear about Achan’s sin for now. But no one else knows about this, so the story moves on to the next city that Israel is going to conquer.

But before we move on let me go back to last week’s lesson and point something out. Did you ever wonder why Israel attacked Jericho first? Why Jericho of all the cities? Maybe the answer is nothing more spectacular than that Jericho was the first city in the Israelites’ path. But wait, did they have a path? Were they on their way to some place? Yes. They’re actually headed to Mount Gerizim and Mount Ebal. They need to utter the blessings and the curses of the Law on those two mountains.

Joshua 7:2-3

But we’re not going to make it that far today. So, let’s on to the next city on the path to Gerizim and Ebal! Let’s read verses 2-3.

[2 ¶ And Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai, which is beside Bethaven, on the east side of Bethel, and spake unto them, saying, Go up and view the country. And the men went up and viewed Ai. 3 And they returned to Joshua, and said unto him, Let not all the people go up; but let about two or three thousand men go up and smite Ai; and make not all the people to labour thither; for they are but few.]

Joshua again sends spies. Apparently though they don’t enter the city like they did at Jericho. And the spies find that Ai – pronounce it like “eye” [‘ay] – is pretty tiny. And for that reason they advise Joshua to send only 2 or 3 thousand men to fight against the city. I mean, based on the wild success that Joshua and Israel had at Jericho, you can understand why the spies and even Joshua himself would think this would be a piece of cake.

But let me point out a contrast between Jericho and Ai. With Jericho, God is the one who tells Joshua how the attack is supposed to work. And we’ll see in chapter 8 that God again tells Joshua how to wage war against Ai. But who is telling Joshua how to wage war on Ai right here? God? No. Men. Fallible men. Maybe well-intentioned men. They may be wise men. But Joshua needs God’s direction. He didn’t have to ask God about it last time at Jericho, apparently. It seems that God just gave it. And this time God doesn’t give it. Should that have been a sign to Joshua to halt the attempted conquest of Ai? The text doesn’t say. But I do wonder if Joshua should have picked up on this and consulted the Lord on his apparent silence.

Joshua 7:4-5

Well, what happens to Israel when they come up against Ai? Verses 4 and 5.

[4 So there went up thither of the people about three thousand men: and they fled before the men of Ai. 5 And the men of Ai smote of them about thirty and six men: for they chased them from before the gate even unto Shebarim, and smote them in the going down: wherefore the hearts of the people melted, and became as water.]

So, I did some research and discovered that we apparently don’t know where exactly Shebarim is. If it was a city or landmark, it has since disappeared. That kind of thing happens sometimes over the course of – oh – about 3,500 years! But we’re not totally in the dark regarding the physical aspects of this scene. Israel would have come from Gilgal. Gilgal was on the north end of the Dead Sea on the east side of Canaan. Now, Ai was northwest of Gilgal. Let me fill you in on a geography fact about Israel. Its western border is the Mediterranean Sea. And it’s eastern border is the Dead Sea and Jordan River. Each of these borders are very low in their elevation. But in the middle of the country is what’s known as the Hill Country. Why? Because it’s hilly. It’s higher than Sea Level. And its in this Hill Country where the city of Ai resided.

So the people of Israel would have come from the southeast and gone northwest toward Ai – all the while, they’re going up-hill into the hill country. So when Ai starts beating Israel back, where do you think Israel goes? Yeah, they’re going back to base in Gilgal – southeast. And they’re not going up. They’re going downward. That’s why it says that the people of Ai smote Israel in “the going down” or the descent.

Joshua 7:6-9

How did Israel react to this defeat? The text says that their hearts melted. Uh-oh. That’s bad news. That sounds really similar to how the pagans were originally reacting to Israel. Now Israel is the one with melting hearts. Are their leaders experiencing a similar reaction? Let’s see what they’re doing in verses 6 through 9.

[6 ¶ And Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the eventide, he and the elders of Israel, and put dust upon their heads. 7 And Joshua said, Alas, O Lord GOD, wherefore hast thou at all brought this people over Jordan, to deliver us into the hand of the Amorites, to destroy us? would to God we had been content, and dwelt on the other side Jordan! 8 O Lord, what shall I say, when Israel turneth their backs before their enemies! 9 For the Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it, and shall environ us round, and cut off our name from the earth: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?]

What do you think about Joshua’s reaction? He starts by tearing his clothes and falling on his face. He’s devastated. What could be the explanation for God’s abandoning his people? God promised to be with Joshua. God stopped the Jordan River for Israel to cross. He overthrew Jericho. God was causing Joshua’s fame to be proclaimed abroad. And now… this. Defeat at the hands of the tiny city of Ai. I thought God promised not to fail or forsake Joshua. But to Joshua, isn’t this exactly what it looked like? It looked like God had forsaken him and all Israel. Of course Joshua doesn’t know about Achan at this point. We are given that information up front. But he still doesn’t know. So he humbles himself before God, along with all the elders of Israel.

But then what comes out of his mouth is noteworthy. Joshua surely remembers God’s promise to be with Israel and give her victory as she loves and obeys him. That was his promise. But reality is now colliding with that promise. The reality is that Israel was defeated. Israel won’t fail if she obeys. But Israel failed. So… what should Joshua have concluded? I think he should have concluded that Israel somehow did not obey. Right? Success through obedience was the message of Deuteronomy before Israel entered the Land. So… lack of success comes through… disobedience. But does Joshua conclude that? If he did, it sure isn’t what’s coming out of his mouth. What does he say to begin with? “Lord, why have you brought us here? To give us over to the Amorites so they can destroy us?” Wow! Is that really what he thought God was doing? Was that really God’s purpose? This sounds surprisingly similar to what the Isralites kept accusing God of in the wilderness. Remember? “Hey Moses, did you bring us out here to the dessert because there weren’t enough graves in Egypt?” So Joshua, in a moment of weakness, is starting to question God’s promises. Then what does he say next? He laments that Israel had been overly ambitious and crossed the Jordan in the first place. “If only we would have been content to live on the other side of the Jordan!” he says. But this was God’s plan – that Israel enter the land of Canaan and destroy the 7 wicked nations. Joshua was doubting God’s plan. And then Joshua goes on to worry out-loud about the Canaanites surounding them and cutting off their name from the earth. And – Joshua goes on to say – when that happens, then what will happen to God’s great name. If God allows his people to be cut off before their enemies then what will that do to God’s name – God’s reputation? This last concern that Joshua expresses – about God’s name – seems to be somewhat godly. I mean, Joshua is concerned that God’s name be hallowed and not profaned. And so, in this sense it’s admirable. And yet, it comes at the end of a list of other anxieties that seem to not be so admirable. So, what we see here overall in Joshua’s response is really a leader of God’s people despairing. And I’d have to say that this despair is not of faith.

So, shame on Joshua, right? I can’t believe anyone would be so faithless in the face of a trial! Really? Does anyone here think that about Joshua? Yes, we need to recognize that how Joshua responded to this difficulty in his life wasn’t really a model of how we’re to respond. But does anyone here empathize with his response? Do you know what it’s like to have a promise from God in his word? But then you’re faced with circumstances that just seem to defy that promise and God’s own faithfulness to you? When that happens to you and me, we need the Lord’s help to remember that the one thing we shouldn’t be doubting is God and his promises. Doubt your circumstance — doubt the reason you’re in the situation you’re in — before you doubt God and his promises.

Let me issue another application. Does anyone in here doubt that Joshua was a godly man? Do you think he was a good leader? Did he love God? But he was led into temptation through the act of one single disobedient covetous Israelite. Achan wasn’t even directly disobedient to Joshua himself. But his disobedience caused his godly leader to stumble. Each one of us has leadership God has placed in our lives. In most cases there is very little earthly glory these leaders receive. They – as the apostle Paul would say – are gladly spending and being spent for your sake. And oftentimes what these imperfect and yet faithful leaders receive in return from those whom they’re trying to lead is expressed by the apostle Paul when he said that the more he loved, the less he was loved. This can happen in any relationship – parent-child, husband-wife, pastor-congregation. Let’s resolve to be a blessing to our leaders wherever they’re found in our life. Let’s do our part to help them not stumble.

Joshua 7:10-15

Now, you may think I was being a little unfair with Joshua. Maybe you wonder if his statements were in fact something to emulate in your own praying to the Lord. Well, let the Lord’s own reaction inform you as to what he thought about Joshua’s statements. Let’s read verses 10 through 15.

[10 ¶ And the LORD said unto Joshua, Get thee up; wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face? 11 Israel hath sinned, and they have also transgressed my covenant which I commanded them: for they have even taken of the accursed thing, and have also stolen, and dissembled also, and they have put it even among their own stuff. 12 Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they were accursed: neither will I be with you any more, except ye destroy the accursed from among you. 13 Up, sanctify the people, and say, Sanctify yourselves against to morrow: for thus saith the LORD God of Israel, There is an accursed thing in the midst of thee, O Israel: thou canst not stand before thine enemies, until ye take away the accursed thing from among you. 14 In the morning therefore ye shall be brought according to your tribes: and it shall be, that the tribe which the LORD taketh shall come according to the families thereof; and the family which the LORD shall take shall come by households; and the household which the LORD shall take shall come man by man. 15 And it shall be, that he that is taken with the accursed thing shall be burnt with fire, he and all that he hath: because he hath transgressed the covenant of the LORD, and because he hath wrought folly in Israel.]

So the Lord just cuts to the chase and tells Joshua to get up. God asks the rhetorical question – “why are you on the ground?” He then gets right to the issue. The issue that somehow Joshua had completely overlooked. Remember, obedience = success. Therefore where there’s no success there was… what? Disobedience. It’s as if God expected Joshua to figure that out… And yet the Lord is very merciful. He lays out pretty plainly what the problem is and what Joshua needs to do to remedy the issue. The problem, of course, is that someone – God’s not saying whom yet – but someone stole something under the ban. And that’s why God is so angry. And that’s why Israel can’t stand before tiny Ai. So God gives the plan. See? If Joshua would have approached the Lord before the original battle at Ai, God would have I’m sure let him in on this to begin with. But at any rate, here’s the plan now. Tomorrow each tribe would come and one would somehow be chosen by the Lord. Then one family within that tribe would be taken. One household within that family would be taken. And finally one man within that household would be taken. And the man who was taken would be burned with fire. But not only him, but actually “all he has” would also be burned.

Is there any thought in any of us here that says that somehow God is overreacting? Is burning someone to death for stealing a few things fair, you might wonder? I think we want to move our way of thinking away from “what’s fair?” to “what’s just?” Would it be just of God to punish a sinner? Yes. We are so used to God’s grace and forgiveness and mercy and leniency in this New Testament Church era. But we all need to be brought back to the reality that God cannot allow sin to go unpunished. It might not strike us as fair. But it is most certainly just of God to do this.

Lastly, notice the punishment God prescribes. Judgement by fire. Just like the people of Jericho experienced. By disobeying the Lord, Achan proved that he was no better than those pagans that Israel had just destroyed. After all, wasn’t the reason that God destroyed Jericho ultimately because of their disobedience?

Joshua 7:16-18

So, we move to the next day. Joshua needs to find out who’s the one who caused their military defeat. Let’s read verses 16 through 18 for the details.

[16 ¶ So Joshua rose up early in the morning, and brought Israel by their tribes; and the tribe of Judah was taken: 17 And he brought the family of Judah; and he took the family of the Zarhites: and he brought the family of the Zarhites man by man; and Zabdi was taken: 18 And he brought his household man by man; and Achan, the son of Carmi, the son of Zabdi, the son of Zerah, of the tribe of Judah, was taken.]

So the tribe of Judah, the family of Zerah, the household of Zabdi, then finally Achan the son of Carmi was taken. How did this happen? We’re not told. It was likely either that Joshua was casting lots and the lot identified the guilty one. Or it could have been that the Lord himself communicated directly with Joshua to let him know which one should be taken.

Joshua 7:19-21

But however it happened, now Joshua and all Israel know who the culprit is. And Joshua converses with Achan in verses 19 through 21. Let’s read that.

[19 And Joshua said unto Achan, My son, give, I pray thee, glory to the LORD God of Israel, and make confession unto him; and tell me now what thou hast done; hide it not from me.

20 And Achan answered Joshua, and said, Indeed I have sinned against the LORD God of Israel, and thus and thus have I done: 21 When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them, and took them; and, behold, they are hid in the earth in the midst of my tent, and the silver under it.]

Give glory to the Lord. How? Confess your sins. That was Joshua’s admonition to Achan. So Achan actually confessed his sins in front of Joshua. He owned up to all that he had done… Now, as New Testament believers – what’s the promise to us as we confess our sin? God is faithful and just to forgive us. I’ll spoil the ending of the story for any who don’t know it – that’s not what happens with Achan. There’s no forgiveness and cleansing on the horizon. Just judgement and destruction.

Let’s note what Achan took. He took a “goodly Babylonish garment.” The word translated “garment” is sometimes translated elsewhere as “robe.” It’s the kind of garment that the king of Nineveh replaced with sackcloth after hearing the message of Jonah. What else does he take? Two hundred shekels of silver and 50 shekels of gold. In terms we can better understand, he took about 80 ounces of silver and 20 ounces of gold. Combined this would have weighed a bit over 6 pounds. This is less than most new born babies weigh. So, what Achan took wasn’t heavy. But it was costly – at least in our day. At about $20.00 USD per ounce of silver today ($1600) and $1318 per ounce of gold ($26,360), this is almost $28,000 USD — plus whatever the robe would have cost.

So what do we learn from this? We learn that Achan was greedy. We learn he was motivated by money and material gain. We learn he really didn’t trust the Lord. Remember, the Lord promised each one of these Israelites houses they didn’t build, cisterns they didn’t make, and lands full of good things. Did he really not trust that God would provide everything he needed? And the most important thing we learn is that Achan’s valuation of the Lord was less than $28,000 in terms of today’s currency. This is a problem.

Here’s something we might not think of either. How many Israelites lost their lives as a result of Achan’s selfishness? Verse 5 says that 36 men died in the battle. 36 lives of men who were interested in obeying God. These men perished. Their families were bereaved of their husband and father. 36 widows. Many more than 36 orphans. All created by Achan’s flippant act of selfishness.

And that’s how I view it. Achan didn’t rob Fort Knox. He didn’t come away with bars and bars of gold. He was acting like a petty thief. Well, why did God end up being so harsh to him? Think about it. Achan broke the commandment to not covet. He broke God’s command to not steal. Achan refused to listen to God’s command to devote everything in the God-forsaken city of Jericho to God. God through Joshua had just clearly stated that everything was God’s in that city. What was Achan’s problem? Did he not know of these commands? Oh, he knew. Did he not care? I think that’s probably more likely. He knew what God wanted. But he showed that he couldn’t care less about doing God’s will.

And let me say this. Achan didn’t have to be perfect. Theoretically if Achan desired that garment and the silver and the gold – and that’s all he did – and then he just walked away from those things – he would have lived. Who knows whatever other sins Achan may have committed in his heart? That wasn’t why God was condemning him. Achan let his internal desire consume him. And in the absence of any apparent vital relationship with the God of Israel, he externally acted out his internal evil desire.

So, a question that’s often asked in light of God judging sin is “why is God so harsh in response to sin sometimes?” But here’s the question I’m left asking. Why is God so merciful to us? I understand how God needs to punish sin – sometimes swiftly and immediately. Adam sinned and he and Eve were ut of the garden and condemned to eventual death. Israel sinned at Kadesh-barnea and immediately they were barred from the Promised Land. Ananias and Saphira sinned and God struck them dead on the spot. But what about when God doesn’t immediately judge sin? What about during the reign of the judges where everyone is doing whatever he feels is right? Why no swift and shocking judgement then? What about Israel’s long spiral down with their various kings? Why no immediate harsh judgement? And the only answer I have is what God said to Moses – I will be merciful to whom I will. God is just to punish sin immediately. But if he wants to delay the punishment, that also is his right.

Joshua 7:22-23

So, Achan gave Joshua his report. He confessed what he had done to Joshua. And so verses 22 and 23 tell of Joshua sending messengers to Achan’s tent to see if his report was accurate. Let’s read that.

[22 ¶ So Joshua sent messengers, and they ran unto the tent; and, behold, it was hid in his tent, and the silver under it. 23 And they took them out of the midst of the tent, and brought them unto Joshua, and unto all the children of Israel, and laid them out before the LORD.]

Notice before whom they laid these things out. Not just man. But actually, they laid them out before the Lord. It’s as if the Lord was specially present among Israel in those days. And it seems that when God’s presence is with his people in a special way that disobedience is often not overlooked. Again, think of Ananias and Saphira.

Joshua 7:24-26

Finally, let’s see what Joshua and all Israel do with Achan. Verses 24 through 26.

[24 And Joshua, and all Israel with him, took Achan the son of Zerah, and the silver, and the garment, and the wedge of gold, and his sons, and his daughters, and his oxen, and his asses, and his sheep, and his tent, and all that he had: and they brought them unto the valley of Achor. 25 And Joshua said, Why hast thou troubled us? the LORD shall trouble thee this day. And all Israel stoned him with stones, and burned them with fire, after they had stoned them with stones. 26 And they raised over him a great heap of stones unto this day.

So the LORD turned from the fierceness of his anger.

Wherefore the name of that place was called, The valley of Achor, unto this day.]

Let’s notice a word play used here. Look at the end of verse 24. The last word is… Achor. It’s talking about the Valley of Achor, which is north of Gilgal. So the Israelites came back from Ai in the Hill Country back southeast to Gilgal. They found out who troubled Israel. And then they went a little north to this Valley of Achor to execute judgement on Achan. I’m going to pronounce his name the way it would be pronounced in Hebrew – or at least I’ll try to. So here’s the word play. Achor means something like “disturbance” or “trouble” in Hebrew. So they go to the Valley of Trouble. And Joshua asks Achan – whose name is pretty similar to Achor – Joshua asks why he troubled – or achor’ed – Israel. Then Joshua says that the Lord will trouble – or achor Achan. And this is what Joshua warned Israel about in 6:18. He admonished all of Israel to keep themselves from the things devoted to destruction, lest they bring on themselves destruction and trouble (akar).

But notice the recipients of this trouble. It wasn’t just Achan – I’ll return to our typical English pronunciation of his name. It was him and his sons and daughters and all he owned. His sons and his daughters. It’s interesting that it doesn’t mention his wife specifically. I’m not quite sure where she would have been or if she would have been grouped into “all that he had.” Maybe he was divorced. Maybe she had passed away previously. I don’t know. But his sons and daughters were there. And all Israel stoned them.

I’ve tried to envision what it would be like to see someone stoned to death. It’s a very unpleasant thought to me. So much so that I have a very difficult time concentrating on the details. But let me try. Stones are plentiful in much of Israel. That’s why to this day you’ll hear even of Muslims on the Temple Mount throwing stones at the police or visitors. That’s the weapon of choice because stones are so abundant. This place of the Valley of Achor would be similar. It’s in an arrid region that has a lot of stones. So these people pick up these stones. They’d probably try to use sizeable ones. I don’t think they’re lobbing pebbles. And I can hardly bring myself to think about it. If the stone was large enough and hit someone in the head I suppose they’d be knocked unconscious. That would be merciful. But what if the people weren’t very good at aiming? They might hit the person in the face. In the torso. How many times would this need to happen before the person was dead? Did the person facing execution try to duck? Was the person tied up and unable to move? If he wasn’t, is there any way he could resist the urge to flee? There’s no easy painless way through this type of execution. It’s not like lethal injection or even the electric chair. This is a terrifying execution style.

And then when Achan and his family were finally dead, Israel burned them with fire. It’s worth noting that God explicitly called for them to be burned with fire. But for what it’s worth, he didn’t call for them to be stoned. I’m not saying that he disagreed with that punishment. I’m just saying he didn’t explicitly call for it.

Are you troubled yet by this story? The most troubling part for me is that Achan’s sons and daughters experienced Achan’s fate. We have no indication that they were a part of his crime. Maybe they were. But that’s not stated. What do we make of this? If this part of the story is anything, it’s a warning. Friends, I guarantee you that if you let yourself indulge in sin you will not be alone in suffering its consequences. You will bring trouble on yourself and on others with you. And your family is the group who will primarily suffer. This is just the way it is. God visits the iniquities of the fathers on the children and grandchilren of those who hate him.

But here’s where I’ll leave it. God also shows mercy to thousands of those who love him. And I think of my sin and I can see myself in Achan’s place. Can you? I deserve a brutal and painful punishment for my sin. But thanks be to God that where sin abounds, God’s grace much more abounds. Why is it that God seems to be so severe with some – and yet he’s extended mercy to me? Achan confessed to no avail. He still experienced punishment. And yet when I confess my sin I receive forgiveness and cleansing. God has said he’ll show mercy to whom he’ll show mercy. And he has seen fit to invite me into the New Covenant. One of the stipulations of that blessed covenant is that God will be gracious to my sins and will remember my iniquities no more.

God isn’t carefree when it comes to sin, even in the New Testament – even in your life. But Achan was troubled and ultimately destroyed for his sin. And I have been extended pardon by the Lord. And if this is the case for you as well, and I trust it is, rejoice and give thanks. Praise the Lord for the mercy and kindness he chooses to bestow upon us undone sinners. Achan received justice. And for us, because Christ received the justice that our sins deserved, we receive mercy.

Next time, we’ll see what God does with Ai now that his people have purged the evil from among them.

Joshua 6 KJV Sermon, Commentary, Bible, Jericho, Analysis

So now, all the preliminary stuff is out of the way. It’s as if Joshua and his men all now turn their sights toward Jericho.

Joshua 6:1

And what do they find? Chapter 6, verse 1.

[6:1 ¶ Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in.]

You better believe it was shut. These people were afraid. But isn’t it incredible that no one besides Rahab had turned from their sin and asked for mercy from Israel’s God?… Not really, folks. A criminal can fear the appearance of the police and yet he’ll still flee to an old abandoned house and hold a days-long shoot out with the authorities before he’s subdued. It’s not unusual that hardened sinners fear — and yet at the same time vainly try to flee — God’s judgement.

Joshua 6:2-5

So everyone in Jericho is frightened. What happens next? The Lord actually has a word for Joshua in verses 2 through 5.

2 And the LORD said unto Joshua, See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour. 3 And ye shall compass the city, all ye men of war, and go round about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. 4 And seven priests shall bear before the ark seven trumpets of rams’ horns: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow with the trumpets. 5 And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him.

So that’s the plan. The men of war were going to travel around the city one time for six days with 7 priests with rams’ horns leading the way before the Ark of the Covenant. The 7th day they would go around the city not once, but 7 times, blowing the trumpets. When the priests blew the horns with a long blast then the people would shout and the wall will fall down flat so that everyone can go straight up into the city.

Joshua 6:6-11

Next, Joshua gives the command and the people begin their first day of circling around Jericho. Let’s read verses 6 through 11.

[6 And Joshua the son of Nun called the priests, and said unto them, Take up the ark of the covenant, and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.

7 And he said unto the people, Pass on, and compass the city, and let him that is armed pass on before the ark of the LORD.

8 ¶ And it came to pass, when Joshua had spoken unto the people, that the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns passed on before the LORD, and blew with the trumpets: and the ark of the covenant of the LORD followed them. 9 And the armed men went before the priests that blew with the trumpets, and the rereward came after the ark, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 10 And Joshua had commanded the people, saying, Ye shall not shout, nor make any noise with your voice, neither shall any word proceed out of your mouth, until the day I bid you shout; then shall ye shout. 11 So the ark of the LORD compassed the city, going about it once: and they came into the camp, and lodged in the camp.]

Did Jericho have any watchmen on its walls? If so this is what they would have experienced. A number of men brandishing weapons to lead this group. Then priests in their special holy garments blowing trumpets – those eerie sounding shofars. [Show ram horn] Then some other priests in their garments carry what would have looked to the people of Jericho to be a golden box – perhaps with angels on top of it. Then there were the rest of the men of war following that group. And to both those who may have been on the wall and to those who were huddled inside the city terrified of what was to come – no one heard a sound from the individuals in this group – except of course the constant sound of the rams’ horns. The rest of Israel silently made their way around the city and back into the camp at Gilgal.

The sound of those trumpets would have fallen on the ears of the people of Jericho with two different reactions. To almost every inhabitant in that city the trumpets would have been the sound of impending doom. Except one family heard those trumpets a little differently. To Rahab and her family, those trumpets were the sound of deliverance.

Joshua 6:12-14

So, that was the first day. Verses 12 through 14 tell us what happened the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th days.

[12 ¶ And Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of the LORD. 13 And seven priests bearing seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD went on continually, and blew with the trumpets: and the armed men went before them; but the rereward came after the ark of the LORD, the priests going on, and blowing with the trumpets. 14 And the second day they compassed the city once, and returned into the camp: so they did six days.]

Joshua 6:15-21

And now the 7th day – let’s read verses 15 through 21.

[15 ¶ And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they rose early about the dawning of the day, and compassed the city after the same manner seven times: only on that day they compassed the city seven times. 16 And it came to pass at the seventh time, when the priests blew with the trumpets, Joshua said unto the people, Shout; for the LORD hath given you the city. 17 And the city shall be accursed, even it, and all that are therein, to the LORD: only Rahab the harlot shall live, she and all that are with her in the house, because she hid the messengers that we sent. 18 And ye, in any wise keep yourselves from the accursed thing, lest ye make yourselves accursed, when ye take of the accursed thing, and make the camp of Israel a curse, and trouble it. 19 But all the silver, and gold, and vessels of brass and iron, are consecrated unto the LORD: they shall come into the treasury of the LORD.

20 So the people shouted when the priests blew with the trumpets: and it came to pass, when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they took the city. 21 And they utterly destroyed all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword.]

The people go around Jericho 7 times. On the 7th time the priests blow the trumpets. When the priests blow those trumpets, the people shout. And the captain of the Lord’s host knocks down that wall. Well, the text doesn’t say that. But really, 7 horns and the voices of even 500,000 men can’t knock down a wall. Believe me. NPR did a special on this. There was no human way this wall was going to come down. This book, by the way, is not a manual for military commanders. If any such a person tried this naturally, he would fail. This was a work of God. And whether the captain of the Lord’s host was behind it or whether God used others means, God was the one responsible for knocking down this wall.

Now, the wall – which must have been mighty thick – fell down flat. Did it fall inward? Outward? However it fell, it fell down flat in such a way that the people could go up straight into the city. I imagine that’s as opposed to the wall falling and forming a bunch of rubble so that the men had to gingerly maneuver through the fallen stones… And when they did go up they killed everyone. Women? Yes. The elderly? Yes. Children? Yes. Why!? Because God told them to. God was using Israel as a judgement on these wicked nations. These nations were so bad that these children that we’re so concerned about – a number of them would have been sacrificed to their demon idols. And those who lived would grow up to emulate their fathers. They would all worship idols. God didn’t want that. He gave them time to repent. He really did. As my family is reading through Genesis we just came across this statement from God to Abraham to the effect that Abraham’s descendants needed to stay out of the land for hundreds of years because God was giving the Amorites time to fill up their iniquity. God was being very patient with the Amorites – 1 of these 7 wicked nations. He wouldn’t destroy them for another 500 years or so from Abraham’s time! Some of us in this room wouldn’t countenance rebellion against us for 500 seconds! God took it for 500 years.

Joshua 6:22-25

And don’t forget Rahab! Rahab believed God and hid the two spies when they came. And what was her reward from this faithful, patient God? Read verses 22 through 25.

[22 ¶ But Joshua had said unto the two men that had spied out the country, Go into the harlot’s house, and bring out thence the woman, and all that she hath, as ye sware unto her. 23 And the young men that were spies went in, and brought out Rahab, and her father, and her mother, and her brethren, and all that she had; and they brought out all her kindred, and left them without the camp of Israel. 24 And they burnt the city with fire, and all that was therein: only the silver, and the gold, and the vessels of brass and of iron, they put into the treasury of the house of the LORD. 25 And Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father’s household, and all that she had; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day; because she hid the messengers, which Joshua sent to spy out Jericho.]

Wow. Imagine being Rahab and her family. The Israelites are destroying the only city you’ve ever known right before your eyes. They’re killing all the people you’ve grown-up with. And you alone and your family are being securely transported by these very same Israelites to a place of safety. They’re placed outside the camp. This was perhaps so that they could be purified. But eventually at least Rahab entered the camp and she was there until the time of the writing of this book. Why? Not because she was any less wicked than the rest of her peers. But because she received God’s messengers in peace.

How was it that Rahab was kept safe in her house? Wasn’t her house on the wall? Yes, it was. Perhaps the part of the wall on which her house existed didn’t collapse. Maybe only one side of the wall fell. Maybe that’s why it was so easy for Israel to destroy all the people – they were trapped with only one way in. Whatever the case, the Lord preserved Rahab’s physical house so that she could be retrieved from there in safety.

Joshua 6:26-27

We’re near the end of the conquest of Jericho – notice I say conquest, not battle. I didn’t read about a battle here. Right? I didn’t notice the people of Jericho fighting at all. God did the heavy lifting, so to speak. But after this conquest, Joshua has some words. Let’s read verses 26 and 27.

[26 ¶ And Joshua adjured them at that time, saying, Cursed be the man before the LORD, that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: he shall lay the foundation thereof in his firstborn, and in his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it.

27 ¶ So the LORD was with Joshua; and his fame was noised throughout all the country.]

Joshua issues a curse on the one who would rebuild Jericho. This curse actually comes to pass later in the history of Israel in the book of Kings. Maybe we’ll get to that some time.

And finally the story ends with the statement of something that is by now quite obvious. God was with Joshua. He parted the Jordan River before him. God caused the wall of Jericho to fall before him. Nothing could stand in his way.

And as long as Israel kept doing what they were supposed to do, this would keep happening. Unfortunately, we see that not everyone was on board with God’s plan through Joshua. The text here says that everything was destroyed and that certain things were put into the Lord’s treasury. Well, almost everything. Everything except for what Achan stole. And, as I say each week, we’ll hear about that… next time.

Joshua 5 KJV Sermon, Bible, Commentary, Explanation, Summary

We’ll be studying Joshua chapters 5 and 6 today. The title I’m giving this message is “Jericho: Destruction and Deliverance.”

But first I feel like I need to say something about last week’s lesson. Yes, I did keep saying “Jericho” when I meant “Jordan” but that’s not what I want to address. I want to address my feeling throughout last week that those two chapters we covered lacked action and that therefore we were in danger of feeling like the story – and my lesson based upon it – was uninteresting. I had a few people come and tell me that they didn’t feel that the story or the lesson were boring at all. And that reminds me of something that I know intellectually as someone who teaches the Scripture. We’re trained to just “say what the Bible says.” And that’s an easy admonition to listen to and mentally assent to. But it’s a whole other matter when you’re left to practice it. But what I saw last week was that if we just desire to understand the Bible and have someone here teaching it as best he can and saying just what it says as best he can – then God’s people can learn and grow from it, no matter whether there’s action or excitement or whether you’re simply witnessing a quiet and somewhat repetitious retelling of a miracle – like crossing the Jordan – not the Jericho!

So, thank you for being attentive and wanting to understand better what God’s word says.

OK, now on to this week’s lesson on Joshua 5 and 6. Israel is now in the land promised to them by God. And God had already made it clear that they would need to wage war against the 7 nations that inhabitted Canaan. Israel was to act as God’s instrument of judgment on those nations. They simply needed to follow him and do what he commands. [Look at Google Map?]

Now, before we get into the fighting, we need to take care of some matters in the first 12 verses of chapter 5. Do you remember the end of the lesson last week? 12 men – one from each tribe of Israel – took a stone from the dried Jordan River bed. They brought the stones to Gilgal – where Israel lodged that night. Then Joshua revealed why God had them take those stones. The stones were to be memorials to their children, yes. But there was another reason. These stones were for the nations. Read 4:24 – “That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty…” The stones and the reality that they portrayed were supposed to let the nations know that the hand of the Lord is mighty. Did this indeed happen?

Joshua 5:1

Let’s read 5:1.

[5:1 ¶ And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites, which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites, which were by the sea, heard that the LORD had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel.]

[Map of Canaan] We’re told that the Amorites are just west of the Jordan. The Canaanites are near the sea. And from these two groups that are mentioned and their reaction we get the idea that probably any of the 7 nations who heard about Israel’s miraculous crossing over the Jordan River were experiencing the same state of mind.

Now, we need to remember something God told us back in Deuteronomy. These nations that the Lord was going to drive out before Israel – they were larger and mightier than the Israelites. The Israelites humanly-speaking were underdogs. What would cause these nations to be so fearful of Israel? Oh, just the fact that the largest river in the area decided to immediately dry up just so that they could cross over into Canaan. But even these hardened sinners could see that God was with Israel doing these things for them. He had to be. Rivers don’t just suddenly stop by themselves. And large powerful nations – like those led by Og and Sihon – don’t just get defeated by a roving band of men from the desert. That is, unless the God of the whole universe decides to get involved! So the nations are trembling. It would seem to be the time to strike! But Israel has a few things to attend to first.

Joshua 5:2-9

Let’s read about the first action they take after entering the promised land – verses 2 though 9.

2 ¶ At that time the LORD said unto Joshua, Make thee sharp knives, and circumcise again the children of Israel the second time. 3 And Joshua made him sharp knives, and circumcised the children of Israel at the hill of the foreskins. 4 And this is the cause why Joshua did circumcise: All the people that came out of Egypt, that were males, even all the men of war, died in the wilderness by the way, after they came out of Egypt. 5 Now all the people that came out were circumcised: but all the people that were born in the wilderness by the way as they came forth out of Egypt, them they had not circumcised. 6 For the children of Israel walked forty years in the wilderness, till all the people that were men of war, which came out of Egypt, were consumed, because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: unto whom the LORD sware that he would not shew them the land, which the LORD sware unto their fathers that he would give us, a land that floweth with milk and honey. 7 And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. 8 ¶ And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. 9 And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day.

So God commanded Joshua to circumcise all Israel – well, all the men, of course. And Joshua goes ahead and makes sure that happens. Other translations give the hill on which the circumcisions took place a nice name – Gibeah-HaAraloth. But this name simply means what we have in the KJV — “Hill of the Foreskins.” These were the by-products of this ritual that God instituted with Abraham centuries earlier. Circumcision was to be a sign that the person receiving this procedure was included in the covenant community. In fact, according to Genesis 17:14 any man who was not circumcised was to be “cut off from his people” because he had broken God’s covenant.

Isn’t it telling of the spiritual condition of those men who refused to believe God’s promises and were forced to wander in the wilderness? They didn’t even circumcise their boys. God truly was displeased with that generation and you can understand why. They not only refused to believe God but they also refused to pass along to their children this sign of God’s covenant with them. Well, God let each one of them die in the wilderness. And now he had a new group to work with. And he wanted them to do right. And notice — God is the one who initiates this. Do you suppose this might have been encouraging to the men at that time? I mean, by commanding this to happen God is really symbolically inviting them back in to his covenant that he made with Abraham so long ago. God promised Abraham this land that they were now actually standing in. But God didn’t promise the land merely to Abraham, but to Abraham and his offspring – namely through Isaac and then Jacob. So these men who were inheriting covenant promises also needed to physically bear the sign of that covenant. And this is why they needed to be circumcised.

And lastly we need to understand what God means when he tells Joshua he rolled away the reproach of Egypt. And that’s why they named the place Gilgal – which apparently means “rolling”. What is the reproach of Egypt? I think most likely this means that the Egyptians were reproaching the Israelites. Picture it. Israel leaves Egypt with great signs and wonders. The Egyptians try to recapture them but are stopped at the Red Sea. Israel goes to Sinai and then starts north only to have the incident at Kadesh-barnea where all of the men besides two of them are completely faithless to the Lord. So he lets them wander for 40 years. Do you suppose the Egyptians heard about that? No, the Egyptians wouldn’t want to come back up north and try to get Israel. They learned the hard way already – via the Red Sea incident –that that’s just not something they should be attempting. But Egypt could certainly mock Israel and despise them. And that’s apparently just what Egypt did. They mocked – or reproached – Israel. But now that Israel is entering the land? Well, I suppose you could say, who’s laughing now? God rolled away their reproach.

Joshua 5:10-12

So the Israelites receive the sign of circumcision in their flesh before their first military activity in the land. What else do they do? Let’s read verses 10-12.

[10 ¶ And the children of Israel encamped in Gilgal, and kept the passover on the fourteenth day of the month at even in the plains of Jericho. 11 And they did eat of the old corn of the land on the morrow after the passover, unleavened cakes, and parched corn in the selfsame day. 12 And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year.]

4:19 already told us that Israel crossed the Jordan River and camped at Gilgal on the 10th day of the 1st month. So now, 3 days later the people eat the Passover. It’s the meal that commemorates Israel’s deliverance from Egypt – the ones whose reproach was just now finally being rolled away. And what happened after the Passover? Verse 11 tells us they ate some food from the land. That’s the emphasis there. And then what happened after they started eating from the land? The manna ceased to fall for them. All those 40 plus years it fell for them. But now that they’re finally in their land they don’t need it. So God stops sending it. God always provides for his people. He’ll do it miraculously, if needed. But we shouldn’t think little of him providing for us through normal providential means, either.

Now, where did Israel eat the Passover? In the plains of? Jericho. You didn’t forget about Jericho, did you? This is the first city to be attacked. Rahab is there waiting for deliverance. And this is no small task. It is a walled city. Do you suppose Joshua might be wondering how he’ll attack the city? He seems very courageous. But do you suppose he might need a little encouragement about this next phase in his leadership of God’s people?

Joshua 5:13-15

Well, if he does need any encouragement he certainly gets it in verses 13 through 15.

[13 ¶ And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship [shachah], and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD’S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.]

Does Joshua’s reaction surprise you? In a way it should. Joshua apparently can’t tell that this man is anything other than a mere man. Right? He comes up to the man and asks if he is for Israel or for Jericho. So this man apparently looks like just a regular man. He’s brandishing a sword, but we’re in a military scene here. So that’s not unusual. The only thing that indicates that there’s something different about this man is his response to Joshua’s question. He says that he’s the captain of the Lord’s host or army. But I thought Joshua was the captain of God’s army. And it’s here where we realize even more acutely that there’s something going on behind the scenes. Israel served as God’s human army. But there’s an army behind the scenes that this man commands. This captain and his army make all the difference in the human realm. Their victory decides the victory of Israel. We don’t hear about this captain again. Did he disappear and then wage war in an invisible spiritual realm? Was he and his army silently and invisibly moving among Israel as they fought? Later on, are they the ones whom the Lord uses to throw down hailstones and stop the Sun? Any of those possibilities may very well have been the case. We can’t say for sure.

And really, who is this captain? Is he an angel? The text says Joshua worshiped him, which would of course be idolatry if this captain wasn’t God. This word translated “worship” [shachah] can also mean simply “to bow” like when Rachel and Leah bowed to Esau when they came to Canaan. But this word really can also mean “worship.” I don’t know that I can come to a dogmatic conclusion on whether this man was God – perhaps Jesus Christ before he was incarnated. But I like the thought of that. After all, who better to lead the Lord’s army than the Lord himself? Imagine Jesus – our Jesus, the Jesus of the New Testament – receiving worship from Joshua — that hero of the faith. And there’s one more reason I would lean toward thinking that this is an appearance of God the Son. Did you notice what he tells Joshua to do? Remove your sandal. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Yeah, God himself said it in Exodus 3. Whom did God say that to? Moses. Do you suppose that Joshua knew that God had used those same words with Moses, his mentor? I think the clues lead us to believe that this captain was somehow God himself. And that’s pretty exciting, isn’t it? Even if this was just an angel, it’s still exciting. And if it’s exciting for us, you know it was exciting for Joshua, too. And in that encouragement and excitement, Joshua and Israel were ready to be the human instruments of God to judge these 7 wicked nations.