At the beginning of chapter 10 we see the firstfruits of the treaty with Gibeon. Once other regional kings discover that Gibeon has allied with Israel, rather than them, these kings try to take Gibeon before Israel can come to their defense. The leaders of Gibeon hail Joshua and beg for assistance, which Joshua is now obliged to provide.
The question of whether the LORD will help Israel in honoring their ill-conceived alliance is soon settled, and Joshua leads an all-night march to Gibeon. Listen to how much action is attributed to the LORD: throwing the enemy into a panic, throwing down hailstones out of heaven, and heeding the call of Joshua – which I’ll address later.
Whereas the first ten chapters of Joshua recount the events of a few weeks or perhaps months, time speeds up considerably after Gibeon. The conquest of the rest of the land is summed up in the lists of defeated kings and the line: “Joshua made war a long time with those kings.” Since chapter 13 marks Joshua as “very old and advanced in years,” the record of conquest of first Southern and then Northern Canaan covers many years of battle – until finally the author affirms, “the land had rest from war.”
I want to address two concerns before we read. First, the issue of the LORD destroying entire nations is revisited in 11:20: “For it was the LORD’s doing to harden their hearts that they should come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.” We’ve seen this heart hardening before – most notably with Pharaoh. If the subject of this Bible is indeed the LORD, then we have to acknowledge this aspect of His character: there was something so sinful about the Canaanites, or His insistence on Israel’s purity was so exclusive, that He saw fit to destroy them.
The other concern is over the conduct of the sun and moon during the battle of Gibeon. Joshua calls out:
“’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.”
This is great fodder for debate, and I’ve written a much more extensive discussion on our website. Here, let’s focus on the text itself. Since Gibeon is to the east of the Valley of Aijalon, Joshua called this out early in the morning – near sunrise, in fact. Furthermore, it’s nature is verse – poetry – rather than prose. And finally, the author marvels not at astronomical phenomena but that “The LORD would listen to – obey – the voice of a man.” While God can do whatever He wants with the sun, moon, and stars, the thrust of the passage is that the LORD intervened for Israel in response to Joshua’s call.
Our verse for this week is Hebrews 11:30: By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
Joshua chapters 10 through 12. Now let’s read it!
By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.