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The United Kings of Northern Canaan Defeated


When King Jabin of Hazor heard of this, he sent to King Jobab of Madon, to the king of Shimron, to the king of Achshaph, 2and to the kings who were in the northern hill country, and in the Arabah south of Chinneroth, and in the lowland, and in Naphoth-dor on the west, 3to the Canaanites in the east and the west, the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites in the hill country, and the Hivites under Hermon in the land of Mizpah. 4They came out, with all their troops, a great army, in number like the sand on the seashore, with very many horses and chariots. 5All these kings joined their forces, and came and camped together at the waters of Merom, to fight with Israel.

6 And the L ord said to Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them, for tomorrow at this time I will hand over all of them, slain, to Israel; you shall hamstring their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.” 7So Joshua came suddenly upon them with all his fighting force, by the waters of Merom, and fell upon them. 8And the L ord handed them over to Israel, who attacked them and chased them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and eastward as far as the valley of Mizpeh. They struck them down, until they had left no one remaining. 9And Joshua did to them as the L ord commanded him; he hamstrung their horses, and burned their chariots with fire.

10 Joshua turned back at that time, and took Hazor, and struck its king down with the sword. Before that time Hazor was the head of all those kingdoms. 11And they put to the sword all who were in it, utterly destroying them; there was no one left who breathed, and he burned Hazor with fire. 12And all the towns of those kings, and all their kings, Joshua took, and struck them with the edge of the sword, utterly destroying them, as Moses the servant of the L ord had commanded. 13But Israel burned none of the towns that stood on mounds except Hazor, which Joshua did burn. 14All the spoil of these towns, and the livestock, the Israelites took for their booty; but all the people they struck down with the edge of the sword, until they had destroyed them, and they did not leave any who breathed. 15As the L ord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and so Joshua did; he left nothing undone of all that the L ord had commanded Moses.

Summary of Joshua’s Conquests

16 So Joshua took all that land: the hill country and all the Negeb and all the land of Goshen and the lowland and the Arabah and the hill country of Israel and its lowland, 17from Mount Halak, which rises toward Seir, as far as Baal-gad in the valley of Lebanon below Mount Hermon. He took all their kings, struck them down, and put them to death. 18Joshua made war a long time with all those kings. 19There was not a town that made peace with the Israelites, except the Hivites, the inhabitants of Gibeon; all were taken in battle. 20For it was the L ord’s doing to harden their hearts so that they would come against Israel in battle, in order that they might be utterly destroyed, and might receive no mercy, but be exterminated, just as the L ord had commanded Moses.

21 At that time Joshua came and wiped out the Anakim from the hill country, from Hebron, from Debir, from Anab, and from all the hill country of Judah, and from all the hill country of Israel; Joshua utterly destroyed them with their towns. 22None of the Anakim was left in the land of the Israelites; some remained only in Gaza, in Gath, and in Ashdod. 23So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the L ord had spoken to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their tribal allotments. And the land had rest from war.

1. And it came to pass when Jabin, etc In this new league also we have a bright manifestation of the more than paternal care of God, in warding off dangers from his people, and also in assisting their weakness by kindness and indulgence. Had Jabin, with the confederates of whom mention is now made, openly declared himself the ally of the neighboring kings, a much more formidable war would have broken out against the Israelites, and greater solicitude and anxiety must have seized their minds. It would, indeed, have been easy for the Lord, as well to put all their forces at once to the rout, as to dissipate all fear and dread of them. He was unwilling, however, to press beyond measure his own people, who were otherwise feeble, lest the excessive numbers of the enemy should strike them with terror, and drive them to despair. He therefore kept the many nations, whose interest it was to have rushed hastily to arms, in a state of lethargy and amazement, until the chosen people had been animated by signal victories, to carry on the wars which still remained. They pillage and devastate a large territory, and leave it destitute of inhabitants and stript of resources. None of the neighboring powers, who were afterwards to act on the offensive, makes the least movement. The Israelites revisit their wives and children in safety. When they had gathered courage, and were ready for a new war, suddenly a very large army appears, composed of different nations, who had hitherto, by remaining quiet, furnished opportunity for victory. Their coming thus forward at a later period, was the same as if they had entered into a truce. Thus God not only fought for his chosen people, but by dividing the enemy, increased their strength manifold.

How formidable must the onset have been, had not the Israelites been gradually trained to confidence in battle, and at the same time experienced the manifest assistance of God? First, their numbers are compared to the sand of the sea, and then they have horses and chariots. As the Israelites were altogether destitute of cavalry, it is strange that they were not terrified at this array. Therefore they were gradually brought forward till they were able to bear it. For, in their former battles, he had only exercised them by a kind of pleasing preludes. 110110     Latin, “Judundis praeludiis.” French “Escarmouches plaisantes;” “Pleasing skirmishes.” — Ed. It may be added, that the Lord had, by several victories, ever and anon borne testimony to his power, that they might not think more lightly of it than was meet. Had all their enemies been routed at once, they might, indeed, have magnificently celebrated the praises of God, but they might also have easily lost the remembrance of them. It was necessary, therefore, that repeated proofs distinct and apart from each other, should be held forth to their view, lest they might attribute one victory to a stroke of fortune.

6. And the Lord said unto, Joshua, etc The greater the labor and difficulty of destroying an army, so numerous and so well equipped, the more necessary was it to inspire them with new confidence. The Lord, therefore, appears to his servant Joshua, and promises the same success as he had previously given him on several occasions. It is to be carefully observed, that as often as he reiterates his promises men are reminded of their forgetfulness, or their sloth, or their fickleness. For unless new nourishment is every now and then given to faith, they forthwith faint and fall away. 111111     French, “Elle secoule et evanouist; “It” (faith) “melts and vanishes.” — Ed. And yet such is our perverse fastidiousness, that to hear the same thing twice is usually felt to be irksome. Wherefore let us learn, as often as we are called to engage in new contests, to recall the remembrance of the divine promises, which may correct our languor, or rouse us from our sloth. And especially let us make an application of that which is here said in general, to our daily practice; as the Lord now intimates, that that which he had declared concerning all nations would be specially sure and stable on the present occasion.

We infer from the account of the time employed, that these kings had marched a considerable distance, in order to attack Joshua and the people in Gilgal. For immediately after the divine intimation, mention is made of the expedition used by Joshua. 112112     Latin, “Oraculo enim subnectitur expeditio Josue.” French, “Car l’expedition de Josue est conjointe avec l’avertissement que Dieu luy donne;” “For the expedition of Joshua is conjoined with the intimation which God gives him.” — Ed. He is promised the victory on the following day. Hence they were not far distant. And the lake of Merom, where they had pitched their camp, is contiguous to the Jordan, and much nearer to Gilgal than Gennesaret, from which district some of the enemy had come. 113113     Latin, “Et lacus Merom, ubi castra locaverant, qui Jordani contiguns est, longe propius accedit ad Gilgal quam Gennesara ex cujus tractu pars hostium profecta erat.” French, “Et le lac de Merom ou ils s’estoyent campez, qui est contigu au Jourdain, approche beaucoup plus pres de Gilgal que ne fait Genesara, du rivage duquel ume partie des ennemis s’estoit levee;” “And the lake of Merom, where they had encamped, which is contiguous to the Jordan, approaches much nearer to Gilgal than Gennesaret does, on the shores of which a part of the enemy had been raised.” The geographical details here given, and more especially those relating to the lake of Merom, are both defective and inaccurate. The impression left by the Commentary is, that after the kings, composing this formidable league, had united their forces, they began to march southwards, and had arrived within a moderate distance of Gilgal, where they probably expected to come suddenly on Joshua, and take him by surprise. Meanwhile they encamped by the lake of Merom, and Joshua having, in consequence of a divine intimation, set out hastily with his army, gives them the surprise which they expected to have given him. According to this view, the lake of Merom was comparatively near to Gilgal, and hence this is distinctly asserted in the Latin and French quotation which commences this note. The French says plainly, that there was a shorter distance to Gilgal from the lake of Merom than from that of Gennesaret. And the Latin, though not free from ambiguity, says, either the same thing or something still more inaccurate, namely, that the lake of Merom was nearer to Gilgal than to the lake of Gennesaret. On the contrary, it is now well known that the lake of Merom, the modern El Hule, is situated ten miles to the north of the lake of Gennesaret, and consequently is exactly that number of miles farther from Gilgal than the lake of Gennesaret is, the distances of the lakes from Gilgal being respectively, for Merom, about seventy-five, and for Gennesaret sixty-five miles. Such being the fact, it is obvious that Joshua could not have been at Gilgal when he was honored with a divine communication, promising him the victory on the following day. The true state of the case seems to be, that after Joshua had conquered the central and southern parts of the country, a number of kings or chiefs, whose territories extended over the whole of the north of the promised land, entered into a common league, and appointed the lake of Merom as their place of rendezvous. Joshua, well informed of the league, and alive to its formidable nature, did not wait to give the enemy time to mature their schemes, or remain inert till they were actually within a day’s march of his camp, but set out with a determination to act on the offensive, and with this view had advanced far to the north, into the very heart of the enemy’s country, when any fears which their formidable array might have produced, either in himself or his army, were completely removed by the assurance of speedy and signal success. — Ed. It is said that this lake diminishes or increases according to the freezing of the snow on the mountains, or to its melting. Moreover, the command given to Joshua and the people, to cut the legs or thighs of the horses, and to burn the chariots, was undoubtedly intended to prevent them from adopting those more studied modes of warfare which were in use among profane nations. It was indeed necessary that they should serve as soldiers, and fight strenuously with the enemy, but still they were to depend only on the Lord, to consider themselves strong only in his might, and to recline on him alone.

This could scarcely have been the case, if they had been provided with cavalry, and an array of chariots. For we know how such showy equipment dazzles the eye, and intoxicates the mind with overweening confidence. Moreover, a law had been enacted, (Deuteronomy 17:16) that their kings were not to provide themselves with horses and chariots, obviously because they would have been extremely apt to ascribe to their own military discipline that which God claimed for himself. Hence the common saying, (Psalm 20:7)

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we will remember the name of the Lord our God.”

God wished to deprive them of all stimulants to audacity, in order that they might live quietly contented with their own limits, and not unjustly attack their neighbors. And experience showed, that when a bad ambition had impelled their kings to buy horses, they engaged in wars not less rashly than unsuccessfully. It was necessary, therefore, to render the horses useless for war, by cutting their sinews, and to destroy the chariots, in order that the Israelites might not become accustomed to the practices of the heathen.

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