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Strange though it may seem, this chapter and others are not about slaughter. The slaughter certainly exists and is profoundly witnessed, but it is not the main theme. The theme is far more important and potent – the power of Almighty God, His promises to men, and His hatred of false gods. The slaughter we read of is but an aspect of this. Some have wondered why God should kill so many, or any... but the real question is why He allows ANY of us to live, given our sin!

Modern day Christians need to change their/our minds, so that they/we think as God thinks and not as we wish things to be. This is because what we think is irrelevant if it is not aligned to how and what God thinks. We can never fully think as He does, but we can certainly begin to follow His path of reasoning and desire.

Verses 1-5
  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.

News of the victories of Joshua over most of the Amorites, sent shock-waves around the region. Whilst Joshua’s army and Israel camped at Gilgal, messages were being run between the king of Hazor and other pagan kings far north of Gilgal, in the area around the Sea of Chinnereth (later named – Sea of Galilee). Yet another pagan king sought an affiliation with other pagan kings who thought their combined numbers would at last defeat this new invader. These kings ruled land in the north, roughly down as far as Dor on the west coast, to Ramoth-Gilead in the east. These kings also contacted many other pagan kings down as far as Jebus (Jerusalem). Today, we might say of such a combined force, that ‘the storm clouds were gathering’. But, to God, it was nothing! It is how we should see today’s evils.

The allies gathered their armies, with horsemen, chariots and foot soldiers; there were so many they could not be numbered. The whole force was greater than any yet encountered by Joshua. The combined army camped at Merom, which was probably about ten miles north of Chinnereth, just north-east of Hazor. God did not let them camp comfortably, for He made Joshua act swiftly.

Verses 6-9

  1. 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 their horses, and burn their chariots with fire.

  2. So Joshua came, and all the people of war with him, against them by the waters of Merom suddenly; and they fell upon them.

  3. 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.

  4. And Joshua did unto them as the LORD bade him: he houghed their horses, and burnt their chariots with fire.

Joshua came to know of the pending battle, and God spoke to him with reassurance. He was not to be afraid of their numbers, because they would die by the end of the next day. Time and again in modern days we need to be assured that despite large numbers of evil men, God is with us and can deliver a victory.

God gave further details – the soldiers would be killed, the horses would all be hamstrung, and the chariots would be burnt. Joshua made divine time, for he immediately moved his army north, travelling about 75 miles overnight and well into the next day. An impossible task for men, but a small thing to the Lord!

Israel immediately attacked the huge force at Merom, and the pagan soldiers were in disarray, running for their lives. The Israelites chased them north west as far as Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, and eastwards to Mizpeh (There are five places with the same name. But, given the details, it would appear to mean Mizpeh east of Jordan).

Israel had a very great victory, and they put all the pagan soldiers to death. As God prophesied, they also houghed the horses (cut their hamstrings, so as to be unable to run or walk in battle), and burnt the chariots. As we have already read, it was God Who gave the victory to Israel. Yes, they had to fight bravely, but it was God Who allowed them to win against overwhelming odds. Today, the same Lord will gain a victory for us in our own personal battles. Thus, we should not look upon the enemy numbers, or the apparent greatness of the circumstance, for God is with us.

Verses 10-14

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. But as for the cities that stood still in their strength, Israel burned none of them, save Hazor only; that did Joshua burn.

  5. 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.

“at that time” (either during or after the main battle) Joshua went to the city of Hazor, which was the predominant kingdom in the north, to make sure it was utterly destroyed. Cut the head off the snake and the rest of the body can do nothing. In terms of protection, survival and victory, the same tactic applies today – remove the leaders of our affliction and the rest will be made easier.

Joshua burnt Hazor to the ground before going after the affiliated kingdoms in the north. Every one of them was destroyed, but only Hazor was burnt down), as Moses had previously commanded should be done. Few leaders today would have such courage, but would offer a paltry ‘deal’ to leave enemies alive. And so the same enemies would arise later. The other cities were destroyed but not burnt down, and the Israelites took booty, including the cattle. The men were put to death.

You will rarely find this kind of commitment and courage today, as many Christians hide behind the name of ‘love’. In times of war there is no place for sentiment, only victory under God. There is nothing wrong with love – but in its place. If an enemy exists it must be destroyed. Love is held in reserve for those who seek it, and on whom God declares we may give it to.

Verses 15-18

  1. 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.

  2. So Joshua took all that land, the hills, and all the south country, and all the land

  3. 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.

  4. Joshua made war a long time with all those kings.

Here we see the secret of Joshua’s victories – God commanded Moses, Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua heeded and did everything commanded. Nothing was left out. When we do this today, we will know God’s blessings.

For Joshua this meant taking Canaan – the mountains, the lowlands (even as far as Goshen in Egypt), the north, south, west and east (“all the land”). In true war fashion, Joshua put all the kings who fought him to death. This was evidently not a fast victory, but took “a long time”. If we examine the terrain where the battles were fought, and the wide dispersal of the towns, this fact should be obvious.

How long did the entire campaign last? We cannot fully tell but common sense tells us it may be about a year or so.... first the individual battles, then destruction of each town and area, then making sure booty was kept safe in the baggage line, then a short rest to regain strength and sleep, then travel to the next destination... the battles raged over all of Canaan, so it had to take some time. The same can be said of today – we have many enemies and it may take some time to be rid of them.

Verses 19-23

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

Note the grave fact – not one king or nation tried to make peace with Joshua, except for the Hivites at Gibeon. So, the rest died in battle. In modern days Islam is at war with the West and even with itself. Islam does not make peace with anyone except those of similar murderous Islamic ways. We should not expect peace to come from that quarter! Rather, it will try to gather immense strength to attack us finally. But, it will not happen, for God is with us.

Peace will not come through these pagans, for, as with Pharaoh and the Canaanites, God hardens their hearts. This is why evil Islamists want us dead and why they vow to remove us from this earth; they do not want peace, only our total submission. As enemies, God has deliberately hardened them. They are unable to respond to peace, goodness, or even love, because they were born to attack Israel. And when they attacked they would be beaten soundly, as was prophesied to Moses.

Modern Christians might ask WHY God should do so? It was to show the world that God is in control and he looks after His people. This is acceptable because it was God’s will. Today we see the destruction of homosexuals by disease and mental torment. We also see the same judgment of charismatics, whose spirits are false, causing them anxiety and fakery. And judgment is also on Islam and Muslims for daring to say there is another god.

Because of this temerity, they will all be struck down by God. They are already – like all violent men – attacking each other. But, their evils will come to an end because God gave them life so they could be judged wicked, to receive God’s wrath.

The Israelites also destroyed all but three cities belonging to the race of giants, the Anakims/Philistines. (Anakim=‘long necked’, suggesting a genetic fault; or from an Hebrew root word referring to neck-chains. They seem to be the same as the Nephilim). After the extended war, they only lived in Gath (re Goliath), Gaza (lower south-west of Canaan) and Ashdod (west of Jerusalem on the coast).

Thus the Anakims were left on a narrow strip of land next to the sea. Only a small village, Esdûd, remains in our day. The text tells us that giants were spread out widely in Canaan, having many inhabitants. But, they were destroyed and pushed back to the sea, despite the fear the Hebrews had of their formidable size. God gave the victory... and He does so today, if we have faith and obey.

This huge defeat of the Anakims explains why they became a thorn in the Israelites’ side later... they hated their masters and the humiliation they suffered. Joshua, then, subdued and eliminated most of the people of Canaan, by the direct command of God. Then, as did Moses, he gave the whole land of former Canaan - including Jebus (Jerusalem) to the Israelites as an inheritance, divided into tribes. Finally, the new land of Israel rested from war... at least for a while... as the people consolidated what God gave them, and settled into their new lives.


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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom