Chapter 10


Gibeon Calls on Joshua for Help

    • Adoni-zedek, the king of Jerusalem, heard that Joshua had completely destroyed Ai and its king (just as he had done to Jericho and its king), and also that the Gibeonites had made peace with Israel and were living among them. He and his people became very afraid when they heard this because Gibeon was a large city, like one of the royal cities, larger than Ai. Also, the Gibeonite men were warriors.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible makes this interesting note, “Adoni-zedek means ‘master of righteousness’ or ‘my master is righteous.’ An earlier king of Jerusalem named Melchizedek (‘king of righteousness’ or ‘my king is righteous’) had been ‘a priest of God Most High’ and a friend of Abraham (Genesis 14:18-20). However, Adoni-zedek was not a friend to Joshua or a believer in the Lord.”

      • The same source explains why Gibeon’s alliance had such an impact on Adoni-zedek, “Gibeon and its neighboring cities occupied a plateau north of Jerusalem. With Gibeon now allied to Israel, control of the plateau and of the central hill country in the vicinity of Gibeon belonged to Israel. Throughout history, whoever has controlled the plateau has, in general, also controlled the hill country. The Canaanite kings had to conquer Gibeon or their cause was lost.”

    • So, King Adoni-zedek of Jerusalem sent a message to the following kings: Hoham of Hebron, Piram of Jarmuth, Japhia of Lachish, and Debir of Eglon. The message was, “Come up and help me attack Gibeon because they have made peace with Joshua and the Israelites.” So, those five Amorite kings united forces, went up with all their armies, camped by Gibeon and attacked it.

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “Most of these ancient cities have been excavated, each having a long history of occupation. Hebron is located at Tell er-Rumeide about 19 miles south-southeast of Jerusalem. Jarmuth is located at Tel Yarmut about 16 miles southwest of Jerusalem between the Sorek and Elah Valleys…Lachish has been extensively excavated at Tel Lachish (Tell el-Duweir). Eglon has been identified with many sites, but most scholars have settled on Tell Aitun…”

      • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible points out that messages such as these were not unusual to the period, “…Although most likely a summary of what was sent, it preserves rhetorical forms not unlike the Amarna letters from Canaan in the fourteenth century BC. The use of threefold repetition in the verbs (‘come up’, ‘help me’, ‘attack’) and in the identification of the king’s enemy (here Gibeon, Joshua, the Israelites)- all have parallels in letters from Canaanite kings of Jerusalem and Shechem. Even the manner in which ‘peace’ becomes a pretext for war has a parallel. Thus the message reflects authentic style of this period.”

“EA 161, letter by Aziru, leader of Amurru (stating his case to pharaoh), one of the Amarna letters in cuneiform writing on a clay tablet.”
    • The Gibeonite men sent a message to Joshua at the Gilgal camp, “Don’t abandon your servants! Hurry, come help us and save us! All the Amorite kings living in the hill country have joined forces against us.” So, Joshua and all his fighting men, his entire army, set out from Gilgal. The Lord told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid of them because I have handed them over to you. Not a single one of them will be able to stand against you.”

The Day the Sun Stood Still

    • Joshua set out from Gilgal, marched all night, and caught the Amorite armies by surprise. The Lord threw them into a panic and the Israelites dealt them a great blow at Gibeon. They chased them up the road ascending to Beth-horon, and struck them as far as Azekah and Makkedah. As they were running from Israel on the slope of Beth-horon all the way to Azekah, the Lord threw large stones from the heavens onto them, killing them. More of them died from the hail than the Israelites killed with their swords.

      • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible gives some insight into the geography Joshua and the Israelites traversed to come to Gibeon’s aid, “Joshua’s army walked all night to travel fifteen miles up the rugged passes and steep slopes and across the plateau. By attacking the Amorite armies from the east at sunrise, Joshua’s army came out of the sun, blinding the Amorites as they faced eastward to fight.”

      • Guzik writes, “The hailstones that killed the retreating armies of the Canaanites were obviously miraculous. The hail itself could have been a phenomenon of nature, but their aim and timing were evidence of the hand of God..” He also cites Madvig, ““The Canaanites, who worshipped nature deities, must have thought that their own gods were aiding the Israelites.”

    • On the day the Lord gave the Israel victory over the Amorites, Joshua spoke to the Lord in front of all the Israelites: “Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and moon over the valley of Aijalon.” So the sun stood still and the moon stopped until the nation of Israel had taken vengeance on their enemies. Is this not recorded in the Book of Jashar? The sun stopped in the middle of the heavens and delayed its setting for about a full day. There has not been another day like this either before or since, when the Lord listened to the voice of a man, because the Lord fought for Israel. Then, Joshua and all the Israelites went back to the camp at Gilgal.

      • This is one of the most incredible miracles recounted in the Bible. Every single time I read it I find myself unable to wrap my mind around it. So, it’s no surprise that this is also one of the most controversial stories in Scripture. There is an increasingly popular tendency, even within evangelical Christianity, to essentially strip the Old Testament of the miraculous. The events just seem too far fetched. Sometimes you may hear that it doesn’t really matter if these events are historical or not because the point the author is getting across is a theological truth. The specifics are incidental. For some reason, many feel the need to reconcile each and every one of these events with naturalistic possibilities in order to make the Bible more “believable” so we can convince more people of its legitimacy.

        • For example, the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible devotes an entire two page section of small point type to the discussion of these passages, which begins, “This event has motivated interpreters to seek a variety of solutions, and it remains among the most widely contested of events in the Bible.” What follows is quite an impressive compilation of intellectual pretzelizing of the text.

      • This is hands down one my biggest pet peeves. And while I understand that many feel this approach is “good apologetics” because it makes the Bible more intellectually acceptable by sanitizing all the events which surpass the boundaries of credulity, I frankly believe it is ultimately counter-productive. Our entire faith hinges on two very miraculous, naturalistically unexplainable events: the virgin conception and Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. If these two things are true, the sun and moon being Divinely stayed in the sky for the space of a day is small potatoes.

      • As the NLT Illustrated Study Bible points out, there is definitely a theological message being signaled here by the miracles themselves, “Three miracles- super-natural panic, a terrible hailstorm, and a lengthened day- demonstrated that the destruction of the Canaanites was entirely God’s doing.”

      • Therefore, I opt for the HCSB commentary contribution, “In one of the most remarkable occurrences recorded in biblical history, God responded to Joshua’s prayer by causing the sun and the moon to stop their movement. Time came to a standstill for nearly an entire day. This text is more than a record of astronomical events; it also makes a theological point. The…gods of the sun and moon were prominent in Canaanite religion; Yahweh’s greater power now divests these bodies of their religious significance and puts them to the service of His people. The Genesis account of creation offers a similar perspective; the sun and moon- the ‘two great lights’ (Genesis 1:16)- do not appear till the fourth day; they are not identified with the light of God’s first creative act (Genesis 1:3), but serve as regulators of earthly time.”

      • The same source continues, “Interpreters have proposed four major explanations of this passage: (1) the earth stopped its rotation, (2) a solar eclipse occurred, (3) an astrological omen took place, or (4) the passage is figurative, not literal. The second option is not plausible because the text does not state that the sun and moon darkened; they continued to shine but stopped moving (the verbal root dmm is best translated ‘to cease’). The third option suggests that Joshua employed a pagan form of prayer based upon the practice, found in other ancient Near Eastern cultures, of reading omens in the movement of heavenly bodies. [My inserted note: this is the route the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible takes.] This option is inconsistent with Joshua’s faithfulness to the Lord. The fourth option is not credible because vv. 13-14 state clearly that the sun and moon stopped their motion. The best way to understand these events is to accept the first option, according to the plain reading of the text. Through alteration of the earth’s rotation the apparent movement of the sun and moon across the sky was halted…The event was the act of a sovereign and omnipotent God who governs His creation. The emphasis of the passage is how, on that particular day, God listened to the prayer of Joshua in a way that had never been witnessed. The event was clear evidence that the Lord was fighting for Israel.”

      • The same source also addresses a popular, but false, argument used by some Christians, “The urban legend that Princeton scientists or NASA computers have ‘discovered’ Joshua’s long day has circulated for more than half a century. Though baseless, this fictitious ‘scientific’ explanation is still widely promoted.”

      • Another notable mention in this passage is the reference to The Book of Jashar. This is one of multiple ancient sources Biblical authors periodically cite. The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The Book of Jashar served as one of the ancient sources for Israel’s historians. While well known in ancient Israel, it did not survive as a separate document.” The ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “The Book of Jashar is mentioned again only in 2 Samuel 1:18. No longer extant, the book appears to have contained poetic accounts or songs of the deeds of heroes.” Some claim that this ancient book has been discovered and is now extant. This is a false claim. Dr. Michael Heiser has a very interesting, fact filled video for readers who are interested in the history of the false book of Jashar currently touted as original: The Book of Jasher: Is it Genuine?

Execution of the Five Kings

    • The five kings had run away and hid in the cave at Makkedah. However, they were found and it was reported to Joshua that they were hiding there. Joshua gave the following instructions: “Roll large stones in front of the mouth of the cave and station men there to guard them. But the rest of you are to pursue your enemies and attack them from behind. Don’t let them go into their cities because the Lord has handed them over to you.” When Joshua and the Israelites had finished inflicting a great slaughter on them until they were destroyed, and the few that survived had made it into their fortified cities, then all the Israelites returned safely to Joshua in the camp at Makkedah. No one spoke a word against any of the Israelites.

    • Then Joshua said, “Open the cave and bring me the five kings.” They brought the five kings to Joshua: the kings of Jerusalem, Hebron, Jarmuth, Lachish, and Eglon. Then Joshua gathered all the Israelite men and told the commanders of his army to “Come put your feet on the necks of the kings.” They obeyed and Joshua told them, “Don’t be afraid or discouraged. Be strong and courageous because the Lord will do this to all the enemies you fight.” Then Joshua killed them and hung their bodies on five trees where they remained until evening. At sunset Joshua gave the order for their bodies to be taken down from the trees and thrown into the cave in which they had hidden. Then they put large stones in front of the mouth of the cave which are still there to this day.

      • The ESV Archaeology Study Bible writes, “The cave at Makkedah is unknown, although the southern Shephelah is dotted with bell-shaped caves…In the ancient Near East, victors would often put their feet on the necks of defeated foes, symbolizing supremacy. This action underlies the notion of making one’s enemies a footstool under one’s feet (Psalm 110:1).” On hanging the kings from trees, the same source notes, “This was a sign of curse (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).”

Conquest of the Southern Cities

    • That day Joshua captured Makkedah and struck down the city and its king with the sword. He completely destroyed it and everyone in it- there were no survivors. He dealt with the king of Makkedah just as he had dealt with the king of Jericho.

    • From Makkedah, Joshua and all the Israelties went to Libnah and attacked them. The Lord handed Libnah and its king over to Israel as well. He killed everyone there also- there were no survivors. He dealt with Libnah’s king just as he had dealt with the king of Jericho.

    • From Libnah, Joshua and the Israelties went to Lachish. They besieged it and attacked it. The Lord handed Lachish over to Israel and Joshua captured it on the second day killing everyone in it just as he had at Libnah. Then Horam, the king of Gezer, went to help Lachish, but Joshua killed him and all of his people- there were no survivors.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Lachish, by far the most important of the six cities taken at this time, was defended so well that it took Joshua until the second day to capture it. Gezer was about twenty-five miles north of Lachish. Lachish and Gezer might have had a mutual aid treaty.”

    • From Lachish, Joshua and the Israelites went to Eglon. They besieged and attacked it, capturing it on that day and killing everyone. He completely destroyed it just as he had Lachish.

    • From Eglon, Joshua and the Israelites went to Hebron and attacked it. They captured it, killed the king and everyone in its towns just as he had at Eglon. He completely destroyed Hebron- there were no survivors.

    • Then Joshua and all the Israelites went to Debir. They attacked it and captured its king and all its towns. They completely destroyed everyone, there were no survivors. He dealt with Debir and its king just as he had dealt with Hebron and Libnah and its king.

    • So Joshua conquered the whole region- the hill country, the Negev, the western foothills, and the slopes, with all of their kings. He completely destroyed all who breath just as the Lord, the God of Israel, had commanded. There were no survivors. Joshua slaughtered them from Kadesh-barnea to Gaza, and all the region around the land of Goshen as far as Gibeon. Joshua captured all these kings and their land in one campaign because the Lord, the God of Israel, fought for Israel. Then Joshua and all of the Israelites went back to the camp at Gilgal.

      • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “This summarizes the whole area south of Gibeon. Hill country includes the region immediately south and dominated by sites such as Jerusalem and Hebron, with Arad and Beersheba at the southern tip. Negev, in the Bible refers to the region around the Beersheba valley at the southern end of the region of Judah. The western foothills and mountain slopes seems to describe the same area, that which is located between the coastal plain and the hill country. It is called the Shephelah (Hebrew for ‘western foothills’).”

      • The same source continues, “Kadesh Barnea [is} the place where the previous generation reached the southern border of the promised land, but was unable to enter (Numbers 11). Gaza [is] the traditional southwestern corner of the land of Canaan and the first Canaanite city that the Egyptians reached when traveling from their country across the northern Sinai. [The] region of Goshen, mentioned as a southern boundary in Canaan in 11:16 and as an otherwise unattested hill country town of Judah in 15:51. This is not the region of Egypt where the Israelites lived before the exodus; rather, it may refer to a region at the south central or southeastern edge of Canaan (and Judah).”