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The Sun Stands Still


When King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem heard how Joshua had taken Ai, and had utterly destroyed it, doing to Ai and its king as he had done to Jericho and its king, and how the inhabitants of Gibeon had made peace with Israel and were among them, 2he became greatly frightened, because Gibeon was a large city, like one of the royal cities, and was larger than Ai, and all its men were warriors. 3So King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent a message to King Hoham of Hebron, to King Piram of Jarmuth, to King Japhia of Lachish, and to King Debir of Eglon, saying, 4“Come up and help me, and let us attack Gibeon; for it has made peace with Joshua and with the Israelites.” 5Then the five kings of the Amorites—the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon—gathered their forces, and went up with all their armies and camped against Gibeon, and made war against it.

6 And the Gibeonites sent to Joshua at the camp in Gilgal, saying, “Do not abandon your servants; come up to us quickly, and save us, and help us; for all the kings of the Amorites who live in the hill country are gathered against us.” 7So Joshua went up from Gilgal, he and all the fighting force with him, all the mighty warriors. 8The L ord said to Joshua, “Do not fear them, for I have handed them over to you; not one of them shall stand before you.” 9So Joshua came upon them suddenly, having marched up all night from Gilgal. 10And the L ord threw them into a panic before Israel, who inflicted a great slaughter on them at Gibeon, chased them by the way of the ascent of Beth-horon, and struck them down as far as Azekah and Makkedah. 11As they fled before Israel, while they were going down the slope of Beth-horon, the L ord threw down huge stones from heaven on them as far as Azekah, and they died; there were more who died because of the hailstones than the Israelites killed with the sword.

12 On the day when the L ord gave the Amorites over to the Israelites, Joshua spoke to the L ord; and he said in the sight of Israel,

“Sun, stand still at Gibeon,

and Moon, in the valley of Aijalon.”


And the sun stood still, and the moon stopped,

until the nation took vengeance on their enemies.

Is this not written in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in midheaven, and did not hurry to set for about a whole day. 14There has been no day like it before or since, when the L ord heeded a human voice; for the L ord fought for Israel.

15 Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

Five Kings Defeated

16 Meanwhile, these five kings fled and hid themselves in the cave at Makkedah. 17And it was told Joshua, “The five kings have been found, hidden in the cave at Makkedah.” 18Joshua said, “Roll large stones against the mouth of the cave, and set men by it to guard them; 19but do not stay there yourselves; pursue your enemies, and attack them from the rear. Do not let them enter their towns, for the L ord your God has given them into your hand.” 20When Joshua and the Israelites had finished inflicting a very great slaughter on them, until they were wiped out, and when the survivors had entered into the fortified towns, 21all the people returned safe to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah; no one dared to speak against any of the Israelites.

22 Then Joshua said, “Open the mouth of the cave, and bring those five kings out to me from the cave.” 23They did so, and brought the five kings out to him from the cave, the king of Jerusalem, the king of Hebron, the king of Jarmuth, the king of Lachish, and the king of Eglon. 24When they brought the kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the Israelites, and said to the chiefs of the warriors who had gone with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Then they came near and put their feet on their necks. 25And Joshua said to them, “Do not be afraid or dismayed; be strong and courageous; for thus the L ord will do to all the enemies against whom you fight.” 26Afterward Joshua struck them down and put them to death, and he hung them on five trees. And they hung on the trees until evening. 27At sunset Joshua commanded, and they took them down from the trees and threw them into the cave where they had hidden themselves; they set large stones against the mouth of the cave, which remain to this very day.

28 Joshua took Makkedah on that day, and struck it and its king with the edge of the sword; he utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining. And he did to the king of Makkedah as he had done to the king of Jericho.

29 Then Joshua passed on from Makkedah, and all Israel with him, to Libnah, and fought against Libnah. 30The L ord gave it also and its king into the hand of Israel; and he struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it; he left no one remaining in it; and he did to its king as he had done to the king of Jericho.

31 Next Joshua passed on from Libnah, and all Israel with him, to Lachish, and laid siege to it, and assaulted it. 32The L ord gave Lachish into the hand of Israel, and he took it on the second day, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and every person in it, as he had done to Libnah.

33 Then King Horam of Gezer came up to help Lachish; and Joshua struck him and his people, leaving him no survivors.

34 From Lachish Joshua passed on with all Israel to Eglon; and they laid siege to it, and assaulted it; 35and they took it that day, and struck it with the edge of the sword; and every person in it he utterly destroyed that day, as he had done to Lachish.

36 Then Joshua went up with all Israel from Eglon to Hebron; they assaulted it, 37and took it, and struck it with the edge of the sword, and its king and its towns, and every person in it; he left no one remaining, just as he had done to Eglon, and utterly destroyed it with every person in it.

38 Then Joshua, with all Israel, turned back to Debir and assaulted it, 39and he took it with its king and all its towns; they struck them with the edge of the sword, and utterly destroyed every person in it; he left no one remaining; just as he had done to Hebron, and, as he had done to Libnah and its king, so he did to Debir and its king.

40 So Joshua defeated the whole land, the hill country and the Negeb and the lowland and the slopes, and all their kings; he left no one remaining, but utterly destroyed all that breathed, as the L ord God of Israel commanded. 41And Joshua defeated them from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, and all the country of Goshen, as far as Gibeon. 42Joshua took all these kings and their land at one time, because the L ord God of Israel fought for Israel. 43Then Joshua returned, and all Israel with him, to the camp at Gilgal.

1. Now it came to pass, etc He had formerly briefly glanced at, but now more fully details the conspiracy of the kings, who dwelt both in the mountains and in the plain. For after mentioning that they were struck with fear, and leagued together to make common war, he had broken off abruptly, and proceeded to speak of the Gibeonites. But what he had previously said of the kings in general, he now applies only to one individual; not because Adoni-zedek alone was afraid, but because he stirred up all the others, and was the principal originator and leader in carrying on the war against the Israelites. This is sufficiently expressed by the plural number of the verb; for it is said, When Adoni-zedek had heard — they feared greatly. From this it appears that they were all of the same mind, but that while some of them held back from fear, he who possessed greater authority, and was nearer the danger, invited the four others to arms. 9090     French, “Appela et suscita les autres a prendre les armes;” “Called upon, and stirred up the others to take up arms.” Jerusalem was only about five miles S.S.E. from Gibeon, while the other towns, situated S.S.W., were at distances varying from twenty to thirty miles. — Ed.

In the beginning of the chapter it is again told, how the five kings formed an alliance to meet the Israelites, and ward off the overthrow with which they were all threatened. But as the Gibeonites had meanwhile surrendered, they first turned their arms against them, both that by inflicting punishment upon them, as the betrayers of their country, they might make them an example to all their neighbors, and that by striking terror into those vanquished enemies, they might also inspire their own soldiers with confidence. They resolve, therefore, to attack the Gibeonites who, by their embassy, had made a disruption and opened a passage to the Israelites. They had, indeed, a fair pretext for war, in resolving to punish the effeminacy of those who had chosen to give their sanction to strangers, about to lay the whole country waste, rather than faithfully defend their neighbors. And the Gibeonites experienced how useless their crafty counsel must have been, had they not been saved in pity by the Israelites. Meanwhile the Lord allowed them to be involved in danger, in order that, being twice freed, they might more willingly and meekly submit to the yoke.

6. And the men of Gibeon sent unto Joshua, etc The course of the narrative is inverted; for the Gibeonites certainly did not wait till they were besieged, but on seeing an army levied and prepared, and having no doubt that they would have to sustain the first onset, as they had incurred general hatred, they anticipate the attack, and hasten to have recourse to the protection of Joshua. 9191     The conjecture that the narrative is here inverted, seems somewhat gratuitous. Lachish, the most remote of the towns, was not more than thirty miles distant, and Jerusalem, as has been mentioned, was only five; and, therefore, in so far as distance merely is concerned, there is nothing to prevent us from holding in accordance with the literal purport of the narrative, that the kings had suddenly advanced against Gibeon, and were actually besieging it when the Gibeonites dispatched their embassy to Joshua. To desert those to whom life had been given, would have been at once unlawful, unjust, and inhumane. Nay, as their surrender had been consequent on the agreement, they were entitled to be defended against violence and injury. With justice, therefore, they implore the Israelites, under whose protection they were; and there is no hesitation on the part of Joshua, who judges it to be his duty to defend those whose submission he had agreed to accept. They had deceived him, it is true, but after the fraud had been detected, and they had confessed it, interposing some palliating circumstances, they had obtained pardon.

Equity and a sense of duty thus did not allow the Israelites to abandon the Gibeonites to their fate. Still, Joshua is entitled to praise for his promptitude in complying with the request, and sending assistance without delay. He is said to have marched during the whole night, and thus could not have proceeded with greater haste had the safety of the whole people been at stake. Had the same sincerity always been evinced by profane nations, they would rather have assisted their allies in due time than avenged their disasters after they had suffered them. The term suddenly ought not, however, to be confined to a single day, as if Joshua had accomplished three days’ journey in a single night, and made his appearance among the Gibeonites next morning. All that is meant to be expressed is his great speed, and his not delaying his departure till next day. 9292     Here, again, apparently from exaggerating the distance, Calvin thinks it necessary to resort to an ingenious explanation, and give a kind of coloring to the narrative. The distance from Gilgal to Gibeon was more than eighteen miles, and this might certainly be accomplished by a forced march in the course of a single night. Calvin says we are not to suppose that “Joshua accomplished three days’ journey in a single night.” But it is nowhere said that Gibeon was three days’ journey from Gilgal. The words are,
   “The Israelites journeyed and came into the cities on the third day.” (Joshua 9:17).

   In other words, the Israelites, on this particular occasion, employed three days, or rather, if we adopt the common Hebrew mode of computation, part of a first, the whole of a second, and part of a third day. Such a statement scarcely justifies the inference that the average time of making the journey between the two places was three days. — Ed.

Though the Israelites moved their camp from Ai or that neighborhood, it was the third day before they entered the confines of the Gibeonites. Granting that they then proceeded slowly in order of battle, Joshua was still at some distance when application is made to him to assist the Gibeonites. We have seen that Gilgal was the first station after crossing the Jordan, and therefore more remote than Jericho. If any one deems it absurd, that after receiving the submission of several cities, he should have turned backwards, and left an empty district, the recovery of which from the enemy might again cost new labor, I answer, there was no ground to fear that the enemy would come forward to occupy it, and engage in an expedition attended with great danger and difficulty. It is probable that when a body of troops was selected to attack Jericho, the women, children, and all others unfit for war remained in that quiet corner, where they might have the protection of those of the Reubenites, Gadites, and half tribe of Manasseh, who had been left on the opposite bank of the Jordan. For to what end would they have carried with them into their battles children and women heavy with child, or nursing babes at their breasts? How, during the incursions of the enemy, could food be found for such a multitude, or water sufficient to supply all their flocks and herds? I conclude, therefore, that Joshua and his soldiers returned to their tents that they might refresh themselves for a little with their wives and children, and there deposit the spoils with which they had been enriched.

8. And the Lord discomfited them, etc It is uncertain whether the Lord anticipated the movement, and armed Joshua by his oracle, drawing him forth from Gilgal before he had taken any step, or whether he only confirmed him after he had made his preparations for setting out. It seems to me more likely that Joshua did not rush forth as soon as he was asked without consulting God, but at length, after being informed of his will, took up arms boldly and speedily. As he had lately been chastised for excessive facility, it is at least a probable conjecture that in this case of difficulty, he attempted nothing except in so far as he had a divine command. The Lord, therefore, had respect to the wretched Gibeonites when he did not allow them to remain destitute without the assistance of his people.

Joshua is made confident of victory in order that he may succor them; for God stimulates us more powerfully to the performance of duty by promising than by ordering. That which is here promised to one belongs to all, but for the sake of honoring Joshua, it is specially deposited with him that he may afterwards be the bearer of it to his army. For God does not speak from heaven indiscriminately to all sorts of persons, but confers the honor only on excellent servants and chosen prophets.

It is moreover worthy of notice that Joshua did not abuse the divine promise by making it an excuse for sluggishness, but felt the more vehemently inflamed after he was assured of a happy issue. Many, while they ostentatiously express their faith, become lazy and slothful from perverse security. Joshua hears that victory is in his hand, and that he may gain it, runs swiftly to battle. For he knew that the happy issue was revealed, not for the purpose of slackening his pace or making him more remiss, but of making him exert himself with greater zeal. Hence it was that he took the enemy by surprise.

10. And the Lord discomfited them, etc In the first slaughter the Lord exerted his own might, but used the swords of the people. Hence we infer that whenever he works by men, nothing is detracted from his glory, but whatever is done redounds to him alone. For when he employs the co-operation of men, he does not call in allies as a subsidiary force, or borrow anything from them; but as he is able to accomplish whatever he pleases by a mere nod, he uses men also as instruments to show that they are ruled by his hand and will. Meanwhile it is said with truth in either way, that the enemy were routed and crushed by God, or by the Israelites, inasmuch as God crushed them by the instrumentality of the Israelites.

In the second slaughter the hand of God appeared more clearly, when the enemy were destroyed by hail. And it is distinctly stated that more were destroyed by hail than were slain by the sword, that there might be no doubt of the victory having been obtained from heaven. Hence again it is gathered that this was not common hail, such as is wont to fall during storms. For, in the first place, more would have been wounded or scattered and dispersed than suddenly destroyed; and secondly, had not God darted it directly, part would have fallen on the heads of the Israelites. Now, when the one army is attacked separately, and the other, kept free from injury, comes forward as it were to join auxiliary troops, it becomes perfectly clear that God is fighting from heaven. To the same effect it is said that God threw down great stones of hail from heaven: for the meaning is that they fell with extraordinary force, and were far above the ordinary size. If at any time, in common battles, a storm has suddenly arisen, and has proved useful to one of the parties, God has seemed to give that party a token of his favor and hence the line, Dearly beloved of heaven is he on whose side the elements are enlisted. 9393     The passage here inserted is a quotation from the Latin poet Claudian, who, in his panegyric on Theodosius, referring to a victory of that emperor, in which the elements seem to war in his favor, exclaims —
   O nimium dilecte Deo, tibi militat aether,
Et conjurati veniunt ad classica venti
!— Ed.
Here we have the account of a more distinguished miracle, in which the omnipotence of God was openly displayed.

12. Then spoke Joshua to the Lord, etc Such is the literal reading, but some expound it as meaning before Jehovah: for to speak to God, who, as piety dictates, is to be suppliantly petitioned, seems to be little in accordance with the modesty of faith, and it is immediately subjoined that Joshua addressed his words to the sun. I have no doubt that by the former clause prayer or vow is denoted, and that the latter is an expression of confidence after he was heard: for to command the sun to stand if he had not previously obtained permission, would have been presumptuous and arrogant. He first, then, consults God and asks: having forthwith obtained an answer, he boldly commands the sun to do what he knows is pleasing to God.

And such is the power and privilege of the faith which Christ inspires, (Matthew 17:20; Luke 17:6) that mountains and seas are removed at its command. The more the godly feel their own emptiness, the more liberally does God transfer his power to them, and when faith is annexed to the word, he in it demonstrates his own power. In short, faith borrows the confidence of command from the word on which it is founded. Thus Elias, by the command of God, shut and opened the heaven, and brought down fire from it; thus Christ furnished his disciples with heavenly power to make the elements subject to them.

Caution, however, must be used, lest any one may at his own hand presume to give forth rash commands. Joshua did not attempt to delay and check the course of the sun before he was well instructed as to the purpose of God. And although, when he is said to have spoken with God, the words do not sufficiently express the modesty and submission which become the servant of God in giving utterance to his prayers, let it suffice us briefly to understand as implied, that Joshua besought God to grant what he desired, and on obtaining his request, became the free and magnanimous herald of an incredible miracle unlike any that had previously taken place. He never would have ventured in the presence of all to command the sun so confidently, if he had not been thoroughly conscious of his vocation. Had it been otherwise, he would have exposed himself to a base and shameful affront. When, without hesitation, he opens his mouth and tells the sun and the moon to deviate from the perpetual law of nature, it is just as if he had adjured them by the boundless power of God with which he was invested. Here, too, the Lord gives a bright display of his singular favor toward his Church. As in kindness to the human race he divides the day from the night by the daily course of the sun, and constantly whirls the immense orb with indefatigable swiftness, so he was pleased that it should halt for a short time till the enemies of Israel were destroyed. 9494     One might almost suspect from this concluding sentence, that Calvin was a stranger to the Copernican system, and still continued to believe that it was not the earth but the sun that revolved. As we know, however, that he was before his age in many points, so we cannot believe that he was behind it in this. — Ed.

13. And the sun stood still, etc The question how the sun stood in Gibeon, is no less unseasonably raised by some than unskillfully explained by others. 9595     The rebuke here administered to those who attempt to explain the miracle applies with double force to those who attempt to explain it away. It is rather strange that among this number are some of the most distinguished Jewish rabbis as Levi-ben-Gerson and Maimonides, both of whom maintain that there was no miracle, but only something very like one. Their chief inducement to adopt this very extraordinary view, is zeal for the honor of Moses, which they think would be seriously impugned by admitting that a miracle which he never performed was performed by the instrumentality of his successor Joshua. — Ed. For Joshua did not subtlety place the sun in any particular point, making it necessary to feign that the battle was fought at the summer solstice, but as it was turning towards the district of Ajalon as far as the eye could discern, Joshua bids it stay and rest there, in other words, remain above what is called the horizon. In short, the sun, which was already declining to the west, is kept from setting. 9696     French “En somme, le soleil remonte estant ja commence a se coucher;” “In a word, the sun remounts after he had begun to set.” — Ed.

I do not give myself any great anxiety as to the number of the hours; because it is enough for me that the day was continued through the whole night. Were histories of that period extant, they would doubtless celebrate this great miracle; lest its credibility, however, should be questioned, the writer of this book mentions that an account of it was given elsewhere, though the work which he quotes has been lost, and expounders are not well agreed as to the term Jazar. Those who think Moses is meant, insist on referring the example which is here given to general predictions. As Moses applies this name to the chosen people, it is more congruous to hold that commentaries on the events in their history are meant. I, for my part, understand by it either God or Israel, rather than the author of a history. 9797     French, “Quant a moy, pour dire la verite, je le prends comme s’il estoit parle de Dieu ou du peuple d’Israel, plutost que de celuy qui a escrit Phistoire;” “For my part, to tell the truth, I understand it as it were spoken of God, or of the people of Israel, rather than of him who wrote the history.” The view here adopted as to the meaning of Jasher has the sanction of many expositors of eminence, both ancient and modern, who consider it to have been some record in which an account of the leading events in the history of the chosen people was regularly inserted, and which might thus come to be commonly spoken of as the Book of the Just, very much in the same way as we are accustomed to speak of the Book of Worthies, the Book of Martyrs, etc. The only other allusion to the Book of Jasher is in 2 Samuel 1:18, where it is referred to as containing, or at least in connection with David’s lament over Saul and Jonathan. Founding on this reference, De Wette and other rationalists argue that the Book of Joshua is not of the early date usually ascribed to it, and must have been written after the time of David. This argument assumes that Jasher is the name of an author living in the time, or subsequently to the time, of David, and, but for this assumption, for which no good grounds are shown, is utterly destitute of plausibility. — Ed.

14. And there was no day like that, etc We read in Isaiah and in the Sacred History, that the course of the sun was afterwards changed as a favor to King Hezekiah. (Isaiah 38:5-8) For to assure him that his life was still to be prolonged fifteen years, the shadow of the sun was carried back over ten degrees on which it had gone down. It is not, therefore, absolutely denied that anything similar had ever been conceded to any other person, but the miracle is extolled as singular. The rendering of the word שמע, by obeyed, as adopted by some, I reject as too harsh. For although it is said in the Psalm, that the Lord does according to the desire of his servants, which may be held to be equivalent to obeying, it is better to avoid anything which seems to give a subordinate office to God. 9898     French, “Neantmoins si est ce meilleur d’eviter toujours toutes facons de parler derogantes a la majeste de Dieu, comme s’il estoit question de la ranger;” “Nevertheless it is better to avoid all modes of speaking derogatory to the majesty of God, as if it were intended to make him subordinate.” — Ed. Simply, therefore, the excellence of the miracle is praised, as nothing like it had been seen before or had happened after. The second clause of the verse celebrates the kindness and condescension of God in hearing Joshua, as well as his paternal favor towards the people, for whom he is said to have fought.

15. And Joshua returned, etc This verse is not inserted in its proper place, 100100     It is altogether omitted in the Septuagint. — Ed. for shortly after the end of the battle is added, and the punishment inflicted on the kings, which was subsequent to the battle. We are then told of the encampment in Makkedah, and at last, in the end of the chapter, the return to Gilgal, which was introduced at the beginning without regard to the order of time, is repeated. Hence the narrative of the flight and concealment of the kings is connected with the former transactions. For having been informed during the heat of the battle that they were hiding in a cave, Joshua, fearing that if he were to set about capturing them, the others might escape, prudently contented himself with ordering the mouth of the cave to be blocked up with large stones, and setting sentinels over them, that being thus shut up, as it were in prison, they might at a fit time be brought forth and put to death. Hence, too, it appears that the army of the enemy was very large, because although the Israelites pressed closely upon them in their flight, and the sun himself gave an additional period for slaying them, it was impossible, notwithstanding, to prevent numbers of them from escaping into fortified cities. The divine assistance afforded to the Israelites was, however, sufficiently attested by the fact that they continued till they were wearied slaying at will all whom they met, and then returned safe. For the expression, that no one dared to move the tongue, implies that the Israelites gained a bloodless victory, 101101     “A bloodless victory.” Latin, “Incruenta victoria.” French, “De la part des Israelites ils ont acquis la victoire sans qu’il leur ait couste la vie d’un seul homme;” “On the part of the Israelites they gained the victory without its having cost them the life of a single man.” — Ed. as if they had gone forth not to fight, but merely to slay.

18. And Joshua said, Roll, etc The enemy having been completely routed, Joshua is now free, and, as it were, at leisure, to inflict punishment on the kings. In considering this, the divine command must always be kept in view. But for this it would argue boundless arrogance and barbarous atrocity to trample on the necks of kings, and hang up their dead bodies on gibbets. It is certain that they had lately been raised by divine agency to a sacred dignity, and placed on a royal throne. It would therefore have been contrary to the feelings of humanity to exult in their ignominy, had not God so ordered it. But as such was his pleasure, it behooves us to acquiesce in his decision, without presuming to inquire why he was so severe.

At the same time, we must recollect, as I formerly hinted, first, that all from the least even to the greatest were deserving of death, because their iniquity had reached the highest pitch, and the kings, as more criminal than the others, deserved severer punishment; and secondly, that it was expedient to give an example of inexorable rigor in the person of the kings, whom the people, from a perverse affectation of clemency, might have been too much disposed to pardon. It was the will of God that all should be destroyed, and he had imposed the execution of this sentence on his people. Had he not stimulated them strongly to the performance of it, they might have found specious pretexts for giving pardon. But a mercy which impairs the authority of God at the will of man, is detestable. 102102     French, “Or c’este une misericorde qui merite d’estre deteestee, quand elle derogue a l’authorite de Dieu, et qu’elle la deminue selon qu’il semble bon aux hommes;” “Now it is a mercy which deserves to be detested, when it derogates from the authority of God, and lessens it according as it seems good to men.” — Ed. Now, however, when regal honor is not spared, all handle for humanity to the plebeians and common vulgar is cut off.

By this instance, the Lord shows us the great interest he takes in his elect people; for it was an instance of rare condescension to place kings under their feet, and allow them to insult over their dignity, as if they had been petty robbers; as it is said in the Psalm, A two-edged sword is in their hand to execute vengeance on the nations, to bind their kings with fetters, and their nobles with chains of iron; to execute the judgment written: this honor have all the saints. (Psalm 149:6-9) That fearful sight had at the same time the effect of striking terror, so as to prevent the Israelites from imitating the manners of nations whose crimes they had seen so severely punished. Accordingly, we repeatedly meet in the books of Moses with this warning, You have seen how God took vengeance on the nations who were in the land of Canaan before you. Beware, therefore, of provoking the wrath of your God by their perverse doings. In one word, that God might be worshipped with greater sanctity, he ordered the land to be purged of all pollutions, and as the inhabitants had been excessively wicked, he willed that his curse should rest upon them in a new and unwonted manner.

25. And Joshua said unto them, Fear not, etc Joshua now triumphs in the persons of the five kings over all the others who remained. For he exhorts his own people to confidence, just as if those who still stood unsubdued were actually prostrate under their feet. Hence we gather, that by the trampling down of a few, the whole people were so elated, that they looked down with contempt on all the others, as if they were already overthrown. And, certainly, we have here a brighter display of the divine power, which could thus inspire confidence for the future.

It is to be observed, however, that the kings were hung up, not for the purpose of exercising greater severity upon them, but merely by way of ignominy, as they were already slain. It was expedient that this memorable act of divine vengeance should be openly displayed in the view of all. Perhaps, also, it was the divine purpose to infuriate the other nations by despair, and drive them to madness, that they might bring down swifter destruction on themselves, whetting the wrath of the Israelites by their obstinacy. The same ignominy is inflicted on the king of Makkedah, though he had not led out his forces, and a similar destruction is executed on the whole people, who had kept quiet within their walls. 103103     French, “Tout le peuple qui n’estoit point sorti de la ville n’en a pas eut meilleur conte;” “All the people who had not come out from the town did not get easier off.” — Ed. It is probable, indeed, that they had made some hostile attempt, but the special reason was, that God had passed the same sentence upon all. Why the dead bodies were thrown into the cave at evening, I have elsewhere explained. Moreover, this whole history holds up to us as in a mirror, how, when the Lord is seated on his tribunal, all worldly splendor vanishes before him, and the glory of those who seemed to excel is turned by his judgment into the greatest disgrace.

29. Then Joshua. passed, etc We have now a description of the taking of the cities, out of which the army of the enemy had been raised; and herein God displayed his power no less wonderfully than in the open field, especially when the rapidity is considered. For although those who had fled hither in trepidation might have produced some degree of panic, still, when the fear was allayed, they might be useful for defense. 104104     French, “Ils pourroyentt servir de defense pour garder les villes;” “They might serve for defense to guard the towns.” — Ed. The garrison had been increased by their numbers. When, therefore, in a short period of time, Joshua takes all the cities, and gains possession of the smaller towns, the presence of God was conspicuously manifested in a success no less incredible than unexpected. For had they, when attacked, only shut their gates, as Joshua had not brought either ladders by which he might scale the walls, or engines by which he might throw them down, each siege might have been attended with considerable fatigue and delay. Therefore, when he takes one the following day, and another the very day after attacking it, these continued, easy, and rapid victories, are evidently beyond human agency.

Not without cause, then, in the end of the chapter, is the goodness of God expressly celebrated, as it had been made manifest that he was fighting for Israel, when Joshua at once took and vanquished so many kings, with their territories. Indeed, he could never, even in a course of inspection, have passed so quickly from city to city, had not a passage been divinely opened by the removal of obstacles. The miracle was increased when the king of Geser, who had come to the help of others, doubtless with full confidence in the result, was suddenly put to rout, almost without an effort, and did not even delay the advance of the Israelites. Those who were slain in the cities represent, as in a mirror, those whose punishment the Almighty holds suspended, while he actually takes vengeance on others. For though they plume themselves on the reprieve thus afforded them, their condition is worse than if they were immediately dragged to death. 105105     Latin, “Quam si mox ad mortem traherentur.” French, “Que s’ils estoyent depeschez soudainement sur le champ;” “Than if they were dispatched suddenly on the spot.” — Ed. It looks as if it would have been a dire calamity to fall in the field of battle; and making their escape, they seek safety within their walls. But what awaited them there was much more dreadful. Their wives and their children are butchered in their sight, and their own death is more ignominious than if they had perished sword in hand. Hence there is no reason to envy the reprobate the short time which the Lord sometimes grants them, because when they have begun to promise themselves safety, sudden destruction will come upon them. (1 Thessalonians 5:3.) 106106     The original text had the reference to 2 Thessalonians 5:3, an obvious typesetting error. —fj. Meanwhile, let us learn not to abuse the patience of God when he defers to execute his judgment, and, instead of indulging in self-complacency when we seem to have been delivered from any danger, or when means of escape from it present themselves, let us reflect on the words of Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 24:2) that while the basket of early figs 107107     Latin, “Ficus praecoces.” French, “Les figues hastives;” “Precocious figs, or figs too hastily ripened.” — Ed. had at least some savor, the other was so sour that they could not be eaten.

40. So Joshua smote all the country, etc Here the divine authority is again interposed in order completely to acquit Joshua of any charge of cruelty. Had he proceeded of his own accord to commit an indiscriminate massacre of women and children, no excuse could have exculpated him from the guilt of detestable cruelty, cruelty surpassing anything of which we read as having been perpetrated by savage tribes scarcely raised above the level of the brutes. But that at which all would otherwise be justly horrified, it becomes them to embrace with reverence, as proceeding from God. Clemency is justly praised as one of the principal virtues; but it is the clemency of those who moderate their wrath when they have been injured, and when they would have been justified, as individuals, in shedding blood. But as God had destined the swords of his people for the slaughter of the Amorites, Joshua could do nothing else than obey his command.

By this fact, then, not only are all mouths stopped, but all minds also are restrained from presuming to pass censure. When any one hears it said that Joshua slew all who came in his way without distinction, although they threw down their arms and suppliantly begged for mercy, the calmest minds are aroused by the bare and simple statement, but when it is added, that so God had commanded, there is no more ground for obloquy against him, than there is against those who pronounce sentence on criminals. Though, in our judgment at least, the children and many of the women also were without blame, let us remember that the judgment-seat of heaven is not subject to our laws. Nay, rather when we see how the green plants are thus burned, let us, who are dry wood, fear a heavier judgment for ourselves. And certainly, any man who will thoroughly examine himself, will find that he is deserving of a hundred deaths. Why, then, should not the Lord perceive just ground for one death in any infant which has only passed from its mother’s womb? In vain shall we murmur or make noisy complaint, that he has doomed the whole offspring of an accursed race to the same destruction; the potter will nevertheless have absolute power over his own vessels, or rather over his own clay. 108108     French, “Car cela n’empeschera point que le potier n’ait puissance de faire de ses pots tout ce qu’il luy plaira;” “For that will not hinder the potter from having power to make of his pots whatever he pleases.” — Ed.

The last verse 109109     This verse is also omitted by the Septuagint. — Ed. confirms the observation already made, that the fixed station of the whole people was in Gilgal; and that the soldiers who had gone out to war, returned thither, both that they might rest from their fatigues, and place their booty in safety. It would not have been proper to allow them to be more widely scattered till the casting of the lot had shown where each was to have his permanent abode.

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