Chapter 11


Conquest of the Northern Cities

    • When King Jabin of Hazor heard about what had happened, he sent messages to the following: King Jobab of Madon; the king of Shimron; the king of Achshaph; all the kings in the northern hill country; the kings in the Jordan Valley south of Galilee; the kings in the Galilean foothills; the kings of Naphoth-dor on the west; the Canaanites in the east and west; the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, and Jebusites in the hill country; and the Hivites and the foot of Hermon in the land of Mizpah.

      • The NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Hazor lay along the international trade route and was by far the largest and most important inland city of Canaan (see 11:10).”

      • The ESV Archaeology Study Bible adds, “In 1992 a cuneiform tablet fragment was found in the excavations of Hazor, addressed to another king named Jabin, of Hazor. Hazor…is located at Tell el-Qedah in the lower Huleh Basin in Upper Galilee. This is one of the largest tells in the southern Levant, occupying over 200 acres. The ancient city is mentioned in many Egyptian documents, as well as the Mari archive.”

Tell el- Qedah (Hazor) via
      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Virtually all of northern Canaan joined the coalition of King Jabin against Israel. This region stretched from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the desert in the east and from the borders of Phoenicia in the north to the hill country and the Jordan Valley in the south. Mizpah means ‘watchtower’ or ‘lookout.’ Several places had this name; this one was the extensive region of the lower slopes of Mount Hermon, the highest peak in the Promised Land.”

    • All these kings came out with their armies, as numerous as the sand on the seashore, along with many horses and chariots. These kings joined forces and made camp together at the waters near Merom to attack Israel.

      • The ESV Archaeology Study Bible notes, “Four Canaanite cities are mentioned in this account of the battle at the waters of Merom. The cities are known also from Egyptian sources. The site of Madon is Tell el-Khureibeh. The Septuagint preserves a more accurate account of the names of the cities (e.g., Madon and Merom in the Masoretic Text are both Maron in the Septuagint). Shimron is Tel Shimron. Achshaph was a major site on the Acco Plain…Naphoth-dor was in the northern part of the plain of Sharon 12 miles south of Carmel. The city is found in numerous Egyptian and Assyrian texts.”

      • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “The presence of chariots among the northern coalition suggests a sophistication not found in the south. Here in the north, leaders had more wealth and power, such that they could afford to field the most advanced weaponry of the era. Horses were not used for transportation (or cavalry) by themselves, but only for pulling chariots. The chariots functioned as mobile fighting platforms, particularly serving to move archers swiftly across the battlefield and to aid in their effectiveness.”

      • Guzik writes, “Two things indicate that now Israel faced challenges they had never faced before. First, the size of the enemy army: as many people as the sand that is on the seashore in multitude. Second, the technological superiority of the Canaanites: with very many horses and chariotsThe challenges brought to Israel seem to increase at each step, from Jericho, to Ai, to the battle with the southern kings, now to this battle…We often find that the challenges facing us in our Christian life increase at each step. God uses each previous victory as a springboard for what we face in the future.”

    • The Lord told Joshua, “Don’t be afraid of them because at this time tomorrow I will hand them over to Israel dead. You are to hamstring their horses and burn their chariots.”

      • I’ll make note that the Septuagint differs from the Masoretic here. Instead of delivering them over to Israel dead, the Septuagint says that He will, “put them to flight before Israel.”

      • What does it mean to “hamstring” the horses? ESV Archaeology Study Bible says that it, “would have involved cutting the horses’ equivalent of the Achilles tendon, which would at the very least make the animals unfit for military use.”

      • If you’re like me, you’re cringing at what sounds like a very cruel treatment the Lord commands to be given to these horses. Was it an unnecessary cruelty? Considering the context in which the command was given, a war-time scenario, Pulpit Commentary provides a logical (albeit very unfortunate for the horses) rationale for the command. If anything, to me this becomes another example of the horrific consequences which creation became subject to due to man’s sin (Romans 8:19-23):

        • Perhaps (as Keil, following Calvin, suggests) in order that the Israelites should not put their trust in chariots or in horses (Psalm 20:7; Psalm 147:10), but in God alone (cf. Deuteronomy 17:16). But more obvious considerations of policy may have dictated the measure. God never (see Matthew 4:1-7) makes use of supernatural means when natural ones are sufficient. Now the Israelites were unacquainted with the use of horses in warfare, while their enemies were not. To retain the horses while the country was as yet unsubdued would have been a double burden to them, for they would have had not only to keep them themselves, but to prevent the enemy from regaining them. On the same principle in modern warfare do we spike guns we cannot carry off, and destroy provisions we cannot convert to our own use.”

    • So Joshua and all his forces surprised them and attacked them at the water near Merom. The Lord handed them over to Israel, and they struck them down chasing them as far as Great Sidon and Misrephoth-maim, and east as far as the valley of Mizpah. They killed them all- there were no survivors. Joshua obeyed the Lord’s commands. He hamstrung the horses and burned the chariots.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Jabin might have planned to move from Merom out of Upper Galilee to meet Israel on a more advantageous battlefield when all his forces were assembled. However, Joshua attacked suddenly, before Jabin could choose the battleground. The Canaanites scattered widely, fleeing north and west into the territory of Greater Sidon on the Mediterranean coast and eastward into the valley of Mizpah.”

    • Then Joshua turned back, captured Hazor, and killed its king. Hazor had been the leader of all of these kingdoms. They completely destroyed them, killing everything that breathed- there were no survivors. Then, Joshua burned down the city of Hazor.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Archaeological excavation confirms that the city of Hazor was destroyed by fire during this period.”

    • Joshua captured and killed all of these kings, their cities, and their inhabitants. He completely destroyed them just as the Lord’s servant, Moses, had commanded. However, Israel didn’t burn any of the other cities built on mounds, except for Hazor. The Israelites completely annihilated all the people living in these cities, there were no survivors. But, they did keep all the plunder and livestock from these cities for themselves. Just as the Lord had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua. Joshua did exactly as he was told and didn’t leave anything undone that the Lord had commanded Moses.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible explains, “In the ancient Near East it was common practice to rebuild cities on the same sites after they had been destroyed. All the elements that made a city site advantageous remained after a city’s destruction. Many cities were rebuilt numerous times, slowly rising in height as more debris accumulated after each destruction.”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible addresses an oft repeated claim that there is no archaeological evidence for the conquest of many of these cities, “…there is no record of other towns of either the southern or northern coalition being burned. This may explain why archaeologists have not found destruction layers, characterized by evidence of burning, at the many other sites listed in chapters 10-11”

Summary of Joshua’s Campaigns

    • Joshua conquered the entire region: the hill country, the entire Negev, the whole land of Goshen, the western foothills, the Jordan Valley, the hill country of Israel, and the Galilean foothills, from Mount Halak which rises towards Seir in the south, as far north as Baal-gad at the foot of Mount Hermon in the valley of Lebanon. Joshua waged war with all of these kings for a long time, but ultimately he killed them all. There were no cities that made peace with Israel except for the Hivites of Gibeon, all the rest of the cities were defeated in battle. The Lord hardened their hearts so that they would go up against Israel, and be completely destroyed in battle without mercy, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Although the initial victories in both the southern and northern campaigns were quick and decisive, it took a long time to take fortified cities. After Israel crossed the Jordan River, the total campaign for Canaan lasted perhaps five years (see Joshua 14:10).”

      • On the hardening of their hearts, the same source notes, “The judgment on Canaan was God’s, not Israel’s. God had extended mercy to the Canaanites for several generations. Now, however, God determined that ‘the sins of the Amorites’ now ‘warrant their destruction’ (Genesis 15:16), and he hardened their hearts. God used Israel as the instrument and agent of his judgment, just as in later centuries God used other nations to execute judgment upon Israel and Judah for their sins.”

    • At that time, Joshua set out to exterminate the Anakim from the hill country- Hebron, Debir, Anab- the entire hill country of Judah and Israel. Joshua completely destroyed them and their cities. None of the Anakim were left in the land of the Israelites, except for some remaining in Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod.

        • The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible echoes the information we’ve already discussed in earlier chapters regarding the the identity of the Anakim, “The Bible associates the sons of Anak with the Nephilim (Numbers 13:33) and they are in turn connected to the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:11)…The thirteenth-century BC Egyptian Papyrus Anastasi I notes that among the Canaanites are ‘some of whom are four cubits or five cubits (from) their nose to foot and have fierce faces.’ Five Egyptian cubits would be a few inches/centimeters short of nine feet. Og of Bashan…and Goliath of Gath (1 Samuel 17) are examples…The towns where Anakites remained- Gaza, Gath, and Ashdod- all lay on or near the Palestinian coast.”

      • Recalling our notes for Joshua chapter 6, this is the verse that confirms the reason these campaigns required the complete destruction of all of the people, leaving none alive (Hebrew term kherem) as opposed to the instructions for other geographical locations in which the inhabitants of the land are allowed to flee or be taken as captives. Heiser writes, “Notice that the summary doesn’t say, ‘There were no more [fill in the people name] in the land of the people of Israel’ because ‘Joshua had cut off [fill in the people name].’ The conquest is defined as a success along specific lines: elimination of the Anakim from the hill country so that none of them were in Israel’s land. I also think it’s why the ‘mop up’ that occurred afterward in the days of Joshua also focused on the elimination of the Anakim by Caleb — again in the hill country (Joshua 14-15).”

    • So Joshua took control of the entire land in accordance with all that the Lord had told Moses, and he gave it to Israel as their inheritance, dividing it up among them according to their tribal allotments. After this, the land had rest from war.

      • Guzik adds, “This brings us to another section of the book of Joshua. The power of the Canaanite kings within the land has been crushed, and in this sense, Joshua took the whole land. Yet, not every small town and village had been conquered and occupied. That was up to each individual tribe to do in the land that was apportioned to them.”

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